Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/121

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107
Origin and Early History of the Language.

When we treat of sexual selection we shall see that primeval man, or rather some early progenitor of man, probably used his voice largely, as does one of the gibbon-apes at the present day, in producing true musical cadences, that is, in singing; we may conclude from a widely spread analogy that this power would have been especially exerted during the courtship of the sexes, serving to express various emotions, as love, jealousy, triumph, and serving as a challenge to their rivals. The imitation by articulate sounds of musical cries might have given use to words expressive of various complex emotions."[1]

But on the other hand there are also Chinese writers who suppose that music had its origin in speech, the latter having passed from untoned to toned utterances, and thence to tunes made after laws sought out from nature. This recalls the similar theory which Mr. Spencer expounds and developes with his usual power in one of the most interesting of his Essays.[2]

Whatever be the immediate origin of speech, however, it is in its earliest stage natural and spontaneous, the embodiment of the original tones of Heaven and Earth. The first men spoke just as the wind blows, without any conscious effort. The feelings find vent in sounds which spring from man's mind, having their source in his constitution. Articulate utterances come from man's mind, others tell us, and are natural; their form cannot be altered by any conscious exercise of an individual's power. Not even a king can change a word, and of course no one of less influence can avail to do anything whatever in this respect. The fashions in words as in other things change from age to age, but no one can by taking thought alter the fashions. For example, the people of a place may have once called a river kong whereas their descendants may now call it kiang, but the one is as good as the other, and each is right as the working of a natural law. With these statements we many compare the emphatic declaration of the great expounder of language as a natural product. Professor Max Müller tells us "that although

  1. Vol. i., p. 56; see also his "Expression of the Emotions," p. 86.
  2. 毛詩注, the 詩疏, chap. i.; Spencer's " Essays," vol. i., pp. 210 to 238.