Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/124

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110
Origin and Early History of the Language.

supposed to resemble that of a human being. Another ape-like creature supposed to be able to talk and laugh is the Fei-fei (狒狒 — and other ways). It also assumes various forms, appearing sometimes as a bear or an ape, and often as a man or woman. It has a wicked laugh and by this it lures unwise wayfarers into the wood, where it eats them. The wise, however, can distinguish between the Fei-fei's voice and that of a human being by the shrill squeaking character of the former. The Tortoise, ancient and mystical, which inhabits the fifth stage of the fabled Sumeru Mountain, is also credited with the possession of human speech. Among birds, the mainah, parrot, and others, are known to the Chinese as able to talk. In the country of the Tiao-chi (), near the Caspian sea, is a monstrous bird called the Chi-chio (), that is, perhaps, the Tiao-chi Magpie. This bird is said to understand human speech but, we are not told that it can talk. There is no doubt, however, that the mainah can talk, but its tongue must first be cut or pared down, and it is of great importance that this should be done on the 5th day of the 5th moon. So also the parrot should have its tongue cut in order that it may make the mimicry which our pious poet calls, "That odious libel on a human voice." The parrot can speak, it is true, without having this operation performed, but his power of speaking is not persistent, and he can be made dumb by rubbing him gently down the back.

Now though the above creatures can use man's words they cannot be said to have the faculty of speech. The parrot, as one author says, can speak but he cannot carry on a conversation, because he has only the capacity to speak, not the faculty of speech; he follows the lead of others and cannot take the lead himself. As another author puts it, the parrot learns man's speech but cannot originate new expressions, because it has not any high intelligence. It learns the words which man utters, but not the

"Pen-ts'ao," chap, li., f; IS" il SE. chaps, vi. and x. In the "Poh-wu-

chih " we are told that the Sing-sing is Uke a yellow dog with a man's face, and that it can speak (® ?H ^ ^ ^^j A tlQ f^ W). chap. iii. Another way of writing Sing-sing is