Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/539

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

SEPTEMBER, 1876.


 

VOICE IN MAN AND IN ANIMALS.[1]
By ẾMILE BLANCHARD,

OF THE PARIS ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.

II.

IN all languages there exist sounds—vowel and consonant—represented by the letters of the alphabet. This, in the opinion of some linguists, is an evidence of a common origin, while naturalists hold it to be the inevitable effect of the functions of an organ whose conformation scarcely differs in any perceptible degree between one race and another. Nevertheless languages differ very much in the number of their intonations. If, in this respect, the languages of uncivilized nations stand lowest, it does-not necessarily follow that the languages of the most highly-civilized peoples must hold the highest rank. The Hindustani is distinguished by an unparalleled abundance of consonants; the Semitic languages surpass the Greek and Latin, as also the languages of modern Europe; the dialects of Polynesia afford instances of the greatest poverty of consonant sounds. Of the Hurons and Mohawks of North America, who habitually kept the mouth open, it is asserted that they knew nothing of the use of the labials—articulations so natural to us that we might be disposed to regard them as instinctive. Sundry nations eschew the use of hissing and trilling sounds;[2] others have no gutturals. Some years ago, preferences for harshness or for softness of language seemed to us to show that neither the vocal organs nor the auditory perceptions are absolutely identical in all races of mankind;[3] this is now rendered more probable by multiplied observations and experiments. We know how great is the difficulty of rendering certain sounds in a foreign language, and hence it is that words change in migrating from place

  1. Translated from the French by J. Fitzgerald, A.M.
  2. f, s, z, l, r.
  3. "Voyage au pôle sud et dans l'Océanie;" "Anthropologie," par M. Émile Blanchard," 1854.