Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/546
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
presence. It is often said that animals possess only cries, but this statement is too general. The cat says miau, which is a very plain articulation of a labial consonant and three vowels; the word is well formed, and one might suppose it to be Chinese. The cat pronounces this word in many different ways, each having a meaning. If lie wants company, he announces his presence in a strong voice; if he wants to be fed, or to have a door opened, his voice is soft and gentle; here is the accent of entreaty. If there is any delay, the tone grows higher, showing impatience. There is a slow, weak miau, which the French translate into "Comme je m'ennuie!" ("How weary lam!") and again there is the wheedling miau, full of pretty modulations, showing plainly a wish to please. Further, the cat says very distinctly ronron, a genuine word formed of trills and nasals; here the tongue and the soft palate perform movements which we know from our own experience. This ronron now means "Thank you;" again, it expresses joy. When moved by a feeling of dislike for an individual of his own race, or of jealousy of a rival, the animal spits and growls, thus giving utterance to threats and imprecations.
The number of mammals which can articulate syllables is small. Sheep utter no sound but that monotonous ba. Some gibbons of the island of Java, when they wish to inspire fear, cry out with fury ra ra. For most animals guttural sounds appear to be uttered with greatest ease. The dog, though highly gifted as regards memory, the sentiment of affection, and intelligence, has no language, but only cries; he barks. Short, sudden expirations of air through the glottis produce this well-known voice; yelping is only a modified form of barking, expressive of joy. Howling is the result of a lengthy expiration with great resonance in the pharynx; it expresses profound grief or pain. Dogs express their wants more frequently by movements of the body, by the play of the physiognomy, and by touching with the muzzle than by the voice. They appear to communicate admirably with one another when organizing an expedition; they inform one another of the presence of objects that gratify their appetite. We once saw in the midst of a meadow, far from any house, the flayed carcass of an ox, which had lain for several days absolutely abandoned. A lonely dog, drawn no doubt by the scent, came to get a meal, and went back to the village to tell his acquaintance of what he had discovered; in less than an hour the carcass was torn in pieces by the teeth of a great troop of dogs.
Opportunities of studying the language of animals in the state of freedom are ob-; all animals flee from man, and very wisely. In captivity, and cut off from their own kind, they become silent, or merely utter a few cries or murmurs. Were a human being to be held as a prisoner in a family of chimpanzees he would be reduced to the same extremity. Travelers have sometimes observed monkeys when well within range of sight and hearing; they have always