Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/409

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



AUGUST, 1876.



VOICE IN MAN AND IN ANIMALS.[1]
By EMILE BLANCHARD,
OF THE PARIS ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.
I.

MAN possesses language, and makes large use of it, while, on the other hand, not even the most intelligent animals have the power of designating objects, or of translating sensations into articulate speech. In this respect the distinction between man and beast is very marked. It has at all times been cited as an evidence of man's exceptional place in Nature. The physiologist, however, discovers an articulate voice in many animals. Some mammals give utterance to vowels and consonants, but the result is only one syllable repeated without variation. Birds, better gifted than the mammals, can sing, and also possess a brief vocabulary: the goldfinch pronounces several words, which it repeats again and again in moments of pleasure. It has a word to express its ill-humor, as also a word for calling attention. In all this we see faint traces of language, notable witnesses of the unity of a phenomenon the gradations of which are wanting.

Some animals live in society, others travel in flocks. In such aggregations there is plainly developed a sort of language adapted for establishing concert of action among the individuals. In building their lodges, how could beavers make a regular division of labor, and so perfectly coordinate their work, if they were unable to understand one another? The marmot, acting as a sentinel, could not warn its fellows of the approach of danger, if it did not possess the power of giving a signal, the meaning of which they understood. When swallows are about to migrate, some of them appear to be concerned about the performance of the periodical voyage some time before the rest: they flock together and utter their call; they flit hither and

  1. Translated from the French by J. Fitzgerald, A. M.