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THE COURSE OF NATURE IN LANGUAGE.
freedom, she has given him, in language, the means of making the experience of past ages available, in every age, for the guidance of the generations to
It is the teacher's business to trace out for his pupil that direct road, by which he may ensure to him, both a rapid progress and a comprehensive knowledge of things.”
The course of nature in the development of language is farther pursued by Pestalozzi in the following manner:
Language begins froin the formation of sound, and proceeds from this to the creation of the word, and to the structure of the sentence. Nature has employed centuries to develop the power of speech in our species; whilst it is but the work of a few months for the child to acquire the results of that development. And yet, in teaching the child language, we ought to follow the same course which nature took. Nature undoubtedly began with intuition. The first simple sound by which man attempted to communicate the impression produced upon him by some object, was the expression of an intuition. The language of man was for a long period no more than an imitation with his voice, of the animate and inanimate sounds of nature, accompanied by pantomime. The pantomime led to hieroglyphics, and the sound to the word; still language was a mere designation of single objects by unconnected
This state of language is beautifully expressed in Gen. ii. 19 and 20: “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.”
“ From this point language gradually advanced: man began to observe the characteristic features of those objects to which he had given names, and to form words to designate their proportions, their actions, their powers. It was not until a much later period that he invented the art of modifying one and the same word according to number, time, and so on.”
In this view of the subject our author has, as in many other instances, betrayed too much attention to the external facts of the case, and, consequently, fallen into errors which obstructed his progress, so far as it was possible, considering the experimental character of his pursuits. Above all, the passage from Genesis seems, in every respect ill chosen to support the supposition that the language of man arose from “an imitation of the animate and inanimate sounds of nature.” When we consider that man was made a living soul, after the image of the Creator, which image he had not
THE ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE.
yet lost at the period alluded to; it is difficult indeed to conceive that he should have been reduced to become the
of creation, in the expression of his own thoughts and feelings. How much more consistent with his then condition is it to suppose
that there was in his bosom a living voice, inspiring his mind with the ideal conception of that universe which was, as a reality, displayed before his eyes, and that the impulse of that voice, moving his organs of speech to outward utterance, was the originator and regulator of his language. We must not forget that the language of man, which is the expression of his being, must have been strangely affected by two subsequent events; the fall, which completely altered his internal state, as well as his outward position in the world, and the confusion of tongues at Babel, which put a stop to the universal validity of the existing signs of communication. Language, as it has since been, though it must of necessity bear some traces of its origin and primitive condition, cannot afford conclusive evidence as to its first creation, at a time when man himself was in an essentially different state. As regards the character of the names first given to the different objects in nature, there can be no doubt that they were expressive of the most characteristic features of those objects, as manifested to man in their appearance and their various motions. It was only to the living creatures that Adam gave names, and to them only when they were brought before him, that is to say, when their nature was displayed before him in action. The immoveable, i. e. apparently lifeless object, would have presented no inducement for language, which, in its first origin, can only be the result of a motion or action outwardly witnessed, or of an emotion, or wish for action, inwardly felt. The first bursting forth of the faculty of speech, is, therefore, a sentence, though it may be a sentence consisting of one word only, subject and attribute being as it were involved in one intuition, and, accordingly, in one sound. Thus, hearing the lion's voice, man would exclaim—“roars;" he sees the hare, and calls“runs;" he perceives the bird, and says—“flies.” The same
objects come again before him with different actions, in different positions; and the joint idea, gradually formed, of the whole being, calls for the creation of a noun, which, nevertheless, is often exclusively derived from the name of that striking action, by which the object first excited his attention. On the other hand, new objects come before him in the same position, with the same action; the same exclamation repeated, becomes the abstract name of that position or action, i. e. a verb. Hence it is, that in all primitive languages verbs are generally the roots, and nouns the derivatives; and that the most ancient form of the verb is not the infinitive, but according to the nature of the action, or the circumstances under which the verb was created, either the third person singular indicative present, or the second person singular imperative present. Thus it appears, that, contrary to Pestalozzi's supposition, the modifications of number, time, and so on, are coeval with the creation of the word itself. The fact is clear; when a verb is created, it is in consequence of a certain feeling or perception, which, as it stands modified by number, time, &c. in the consciousness of the person who creates the word, must inevitably impart the character of that modification to the term designated to express it. Suppose a savage wishes his companion to stop; the feeling which dictates a corresponding word to the organs of his voice, evidently involves the ideas of imperative, of present, of singular, of the person addressed, and the word, whatever it be, will not be the expression of the abstract idea of stopping, but will, of necessity, imply all the accessory ideas with which the act of stopping first presents itself to the mind. In the same manner if he behold his companion at a distance, and call out to him “come;" or if he present to him fruit, and add "take,” it is obvious that in all such cases the expression used is not the drawling infinitive, but that short and strongly accented modification, the imperative.
The erroneous views which Pestalozzi took of the origin and development of language, betrayed him in practice into the mistake of deferring the formation of the sentence, which
SUBSTANTIVE AND ADJECTIVE.
is the very life of language, and ought to be the starting point of instruction, until a variety of exercises had been gone through with unconnected words. This is the more surprising, as it appears from the specimens he has given, that the end he had in view would have been much more easily and much better answered, if he had at once put them into the form of a sentence. The subjects of his exercises were to be taken from a book of “pictures for the earliest childhood," which, along with the “Mothers' Manual," described in the last chapter, was intended to facilitate the introduction of his method into the nursery.
“Those pictures,” he says,
are selected with a view to present to the child's mind all the chief varieties of objects and their properties, so far as they fall within the reach of our five senses. As to those properties which become known to us only by the intervention of judgment and imagination, I exclude them from my plan of instruction at this period. I am aware that many words denoting such properties will necessarily be caught up by children from the conversation of others, which may have the advantage of setting their imaginations to work, and awakening their curiosity. For the express purposes of instruction, however, we should confine ourselves to such objects as are immediately perceptible by our senses, with a view to bring the child as early as possible to a clear and precise expression, in language, of whatever may be the result of his observations.
“I extract from the dictionary the names of such objects as distinguish themselves by any striking properties, the names of which I place along with those of the substantives; for instance:
“ Acorn-Oval, green, brown, bitter.
We have preserved in the translation the alphabetical order on which Pestalozzi's selection is founded: at the same time it is obvious that the nature of the objects would have suggested a much more instructive arrangement. It ought further to be observed, that the operation of enumerating the different properties of given objects is far more difficult than that of finding objects possessing a given property, which Pestalozzi introduces next in order.
ADJECTIVE AND SUBSTANTIVE.
“I afterwards invert this exercise, by selecting adjectives expressive of striking properties perceptible by our senses, and place by the side of them the names of objects to which they belong; for instance: “ Round—Ball, plate, moon, sun.
Light-Feather, down, air.
Heavy-Gold, lead, oak. “ Warm-Fire, summer-days, tea. “ High-Towers, mountains, trees. Deep-Sea, lakes, pits, mines.
Soft-Butter, wax, snow. “ Elastic—Steel-springs, whalebone, strings.
“It is by no means my intention to make these tables complete, so as to preclude the child from an opportunity of discovering some things of himself. A few instances in each case are sufficient, and the teacher may immediately proceed to the question: "What else do you know that is round, or light,' &c. The children generally find new examples within the sphere of their own experience, and very frequently such as the teacher would never have thought of; and being repeatedly called upon to give an account of their knowledge, they acquire a facility and distinctness of expression, which no Socratic conversations, unless conducted with an hundredfold degree of skill and labour, can ever produce.”
It is difficult to understand how Pestalozzi could imagine that these exercises were rendered more elementary, that is to say, easier, by the apparent omission of the word “is;" apparent, we say, because his question, “What else do you know that is round?” necessarily includes that word, and because, if the child be called upon, as he ought, to connect the name of each object that occurs to him, with that of the property on which the exercise turns, the easiest and most obvious way to do this, is the insertion of the same word in the answer, which was used to denote that connexion in the question. It would be most unnatural for the child to say:
Round:-saucer: on the contrary, nothing is more natural than that he should say,
A hat is round,