Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/250

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introduction of new sound-words tends to make it practically of less and less consequence to a language what its original stock of words at starting may have been; and the philologist's extension of his knowledge of such direct formations must compel him to strip off more and more of any language, as being possibly of later growth, before he can set himself to argue upon such a residuum as may have come by direct inheritance from times of primæval speech.

In concluding this survey, some general considerations suggest themselves as to the nature and first beginnings of language. In studying the means of expression among men in stages of mental culture far below our own, one of our first needs is to clear our minds of the kind of superstitious veneration with which articulate speech has so commonly been treated, as though it were not merely the principal but the sole means of uttering thought. We must cease to measure the historical importance of emotional exclamations, of gesture-signs, and of picture-writing, by their comparative insignificance in modern civilized life, but must bring ourselves to associate the articulate words of the dictionary in one group with cries and gestures and pictures, as being all of them means of manifesting outwardly the inward workings of the mind. Such an admission, it must be observed, is far from being a mere detail of scientific classification. It has really a most important bearing on the problem of the Origin of Language. For as the reasons are mostly dark to us, why particular words are currently used to express particular ideas, language has come to be looked upon as a mystery, and either occult philosophical causes have been called in to explain its phenomena, or else the endowment of man with the faculties of thought and utterance has been deemed insufficient, and a special revelation has been demanded to put into his mouth the vocabulary of a particular language. In the debate which has been carried on for ages over this much-vexed problem, the saying in the 'Kratylos' comes back to