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Müller, Friedrich. Lectures on the Science of Language. Second Series – T02

Lecture II.
Language and Reason.

The division of my subject which I sketched out
at the end of my last lecture is liable, I am aware,
to some grave objections. To treat of sound as independent
of meaning, of thought as independent of
words, seems to defy one of the best established principles
of the science of language. Where do we ever
meet in reality, I mean in the world such as it is, with
articulate sounds — sounds like those that form the
body of language, existing by themselves, and independent
of language? No human being utters articulate
sounds without an object, a purpose, a meaning.
The endless configurations of sound which are collected
in our dictionaries would have no existence at
all, they would be the mere ghost of a language, unless
they stood there as the embodiment of thought, as the
realisation of ideas. Even the interjections which we
use, the cries and screams which are the precursors,
or, according to others, the elements, of articulate
speech, never exist without meaning. Articulate
sound is always an utterance, a bringing out of something
that is within, a manifestation or revelation of
something that wants to manifest and to reveal itself.
It would be different if language had been invented
by agreement; if certain wise kings, priests, and
44philosophers had put their heads together and decreed
that certain conceptions should be labelled and ticketed
with certain sounds. In that case we might speak of
the sound as the outside, of the ideas as the inside of
language; and no objection could be raised to our
treating each of them separately.

Why it is impossible to conceive of living human
language as having originated in a conventional agreement,
I endeavoured to explain in one of my former
lectures. But I should by no means wish to be
understood as denying the possibility of framing some
language in this artificial manner, after men have
once learnt to speak and to reason. It is the fashion
to laugh at the idea of an artificial, still more of a
universal language. But if this problem were really so
absurd, a man like Leibniz would hardly have taken
so deep an interest in its solution. That such a
language should ever come into practical use, or that
the whole earth should in that manner ever be of one
language and one speech again, is hard to conceive.
But that the problem itself admits of a solution, and
of a very perfect solution, cannot be doubted.

As there prevails much misconception on this subject,
I shall devote part of this lecture to a statement
of what has been achieved in framing a philosophical
and universal language.

Leibniz, in a letter to Remond de Montmort, written
two years before his death, expressed himself with the
greatest confidence on the value of what he calls his
Spécieuse Générale, and we can hardly doubt that he
had then acquired a perfectly clear insight into his
ideal of a universal language. *1 ‘If he succeeded,’
45he writes, ‘in stirring up distinguished men to
cultivate the calculus with infinitesimals, it was
because he could give palpable proofs of its use;
but he had spoken to the Marquis de L'Hôpital and
others, of his Spécieuse Générale, without gaining
from them more attention than if he had been telling
them of a dream. He ought to be able, he adds, to
support his theory by some palpable use; but for
that purpose he would have to carry out a part of his
Characteristics — no easy matter, particularly circumstanced
as he then was, deprived of the conversation of
men who would encourage and help him in this work.’

A few months before this letter, Leibniz spoke
with perfect assurance of his favourite theory. He
admits the difficulty of inventing and arranging this
philosophical language, but he maintains that, if
once carried out, it could be acquired by others
without a dictionary, and with comparative ease. He
should be able to carry it out, he says, if he were
younger and less occupied, or if young men of talent
were by his side. A few eminent men might complete
the work in five years, and within two years they
might bring out the systems of ethics and metaphysics
in the form of an incontrovertible calculus.

Leibniz died before he could lay before the world
the outlines of his philosophical language, and many
even among his admirers have expressed their doubts
whether he ever had a clear conception of the nature
of such a language. It seems hardly compatible,
however, with the character of Leibniz to suppose
that he should have spoken so confidently, that he
should actually have placed this Spécieuse Générale
on a level with his differential calculus, if it had been
a mere dream. It seems more likely that Leibniz
46was acquainted with a work which, in the second half
of the seventeenth century attracted much attention
in England, ‘The Essay towards a Real Character
and a Philosophical Language,’ *2 by Bishop Wilkins
(London, 1668), and that he perceived at once that
the scheme there traced out was capable of much
greater perfection. This work had been published by
the Royal Society, and the author's name was so well
known as one of its founders, that it could hardly
have escaped the notice of the Hanoverian philosopher,
who was in such frequent correspondence with
members of that society.

Now, though it has been the fashion to sneer at
Bishop Wilkins and his Universal Language, his work
seems to me, as far as I can judge, to offer the best
solution that has yet been offered of a problem which,
if of no practical importance, is of great interest from
a merely scientific point of view; and though it is
impossible to give an intelligible account of the
Bishop's scheme without entering into particulars
which will take up some of our time, it will help us,
I believe, towards a better understanding of real
language, if we can acquire a clear idea of what an
artificial language would be, and how it would differ
from living speech.

The primary object of the Bishop was not to invent
a new spoken language, though he arrives at that in
the end, but to contrive a system of writing or representing
our thoughts that should be universally intelligible.
We have, for instance, our numerical
figures, which are understood by people speaking
47different languages, and which, though differently pronounced
in different parts of the world, convey everywhere
the same idea. We have besides such signs as
+ plus, – minus, × to be multiplied, ÷ to be divided,
= equal, < greater, > smaller, ⊙ sun,  moon,
 earth,  Jupiter,  Saturn,  Mars,  Venus, &c.,
which are intelligible to mathematicians and astronomers
all over the world. ‘Now if to every thing
and notion,’ — I quote from Bishop Wilkins (p. 21),
‘there were assigned a distinct mark, together with
some provision to express grammatical derivations
and inflexions, this might suffice as to one great end
of a real character, namely, the expression of our
conceptions by marks, which shall signify things, and
not words. And so, likewise, if several distinct words
(sounds) were assigned to the names of such things,
with certain invariable rules for all such grammatical
derivations and inflexions, and such only as are
natural and necessary, this would make a much more
easy and convenient language than is yet in being.’

This suggestion, which, as we shall see, is not the
one which Bishop Wilkins carried out, has lately been
taken up by Don Sinibaldo de Mas, in his Idéographie. *3
He gives a list of 2,600 figures, all formed after the
pattern of musical notes, and he assigns to each a
certain meaning. According to the interval in which
the head of such a note is placed, the same sign is to
be taken as a noun, an adjective, a verb, or an adverb.
48Thus the same sign might be used to express
love, to love, loving, and lovingly, by simply moving
its head on the lines and spaces from f to e, d, and
c. Another system of signs is then added to express
gender, number, case, person, tense, mood, and other
grammatical categories, and a system of hieroglyphics
is thus formed, by which the author succeeds in
rendering the first 150 verses of the Æneid. It is
perfectly true, as the author remarks, that the difficulty
of learning his 2,000 signs is nothing in comparison
with learning several languages; it is perfectly
true, also, that nothing can exceed the simplicity of
his grammatical notation, which excludes by its very
nature everything that is anomalous. The whole
grammatical framework consists of thirty-nine signs,
whereas, as Don Sinibaldo remarks, we have in
French 310 different terminations for the simple
tenses of the ten regular conjugations, 1,755 for the
thirty-nine irregular conjugations, and 200 for the
auxiliary verbs, a sum total of 2,165 terminations,
which must be learnt by heart. *4 It is perfectly true,
again, that few persons would ever use more than
4,000 words, and that by having the same sign used
throughout as noun, verb, adjective, and adverb, this
number might still be considerably reduced. There is,
however, this fundamental difficulty, that the assignment
of a certain sign to a certain idea is purely arbitrary
in this system, a difficulty which, as we shall now
proceed to show, Bishop Wilkins endeavoured to overcome
in a very ingenious and truly philosophical way.

‘If these marks or notes,’ he writes, ‘could be so
contrived as to have such a dependence upon, and
relation to, one another, as might be suitable to the
49nature of the things and notions which they represented
; and so, likewise, if the names of things could
be so ordered as to contain such a kind of affinity or
opposition in their letters and sounds, as might be
some way answerable to the nature of the things
which they signified; this would yet be a farther
advantage superadded, by which, besides the best
way of helping the memory by natural method, the
understanding likewise would be highly improved;
and we should, by learning the character and the
names of things, be instructed likewise in their
natures, the knowledge of both of which ought to be
conjoined.’ *5

The Bishop, then, undertakes neither more nor less
than a classification of all that is or can be known, and
he makes this dictionary of notions the basis of a
corresponding dictionary of signs, both written and
spoken. All this is done with great circumspection,
and if we consider that it was undertaken nearly two
hundred years ago, and carried out by one man single-handed,
we shall be inclined to judge leniently of
what may now seem to us antiquated and imperfect
in his catalogue raisonné of human knowledge. A
careful consideration of his work will show us why
this language, which was meant to be permanent,
unchangeable, and universal, would, on the contrary,
by its very nature, be constantly shifting. As our
knowledge advances, the classification of our notions
is constantly remodelled; nay, in a certain sense, all
advancement of learning may be called a corrected
classification of our notions. If a plant, classified according
to the system of Linnæus, or according to that
50of Bishop Wilkins, has its own peculiar place in their
synopsis of knowledge, and its own peculiar sign in
their summary of philosophical language, every change
in the classification of plants would necessitate a
change in the philosophical nomenclature. The whale,
for instance, is classified by Bishop Wilkins as a fish,
falling under the division of viviparous and oblong.
Fishes, in general, are classed as substances, animate,
sensitive, sanguineous, and the sign attached to the
whale, by Bishop Wilkins, expresses every one of
those differences which mark its place in his system of
knowledge. As soon, therefore, as we treat the whale
no longer as a fish, but as a mammal, its place is completely
shifted, and its sign or name, if retained, would
mislead us quite as much as the names of rainbow,
thunderbolt, sunset, and others, expressive of ancient
ideas which we know to be erroneous. This would
happen even in strictly scientific subjects.

Chemistry adopted acid as the technical name of
a class of bodies of which those first recognised in
science were distinguished by sourness of taste. But
as chemical knowledge advanced, it was discovered
that there were compounds precisely analogous in
essential character, which were not sour, and consequently
acidity was but an accidental quality of some
of these bodies, not a necessary or universal character
of all. It was thought too late to change the name,
and accordingly in all European languages the term
acid, or its etymological equivalent, is now applied to
rock-crystal, quartz, and flint.

In like manner, from a similar misapplication of
salt, in scientific use, chemists class the substance of
which junk-bottles, French mirrors, windows, and
opera glasses are made, among the salts, while analysts
51have declared that the essential character, not only of
other so-called salts, but of common kitchen salt, the
salt of salts, has been mistaken; that salt is not salt,
and, accordingly, have excluded that substance from
the class of bodies upon which, as their truest representative,
it had bestowed its name. *6

The Bishop begins by dividing all things which may
be the subjects of language, into six classes or genera,
which he again subdivides by their several differences.
These six classes comprise: —

A. Transcendental Notions.
B. Substances.
C. Quantities.
D. Qualities.
E. Actions.
F. Relations.

In B to F we easily recognise the principal predicaments
or categories of logic, the pigeon-holes in
which the ancient philosophers thought they could
stow away all the ideas that ever entered the human
mind. Under A we meet with a number of more
abstract conceptions, such as kind, cause, condition, &c.

By subdividing these six classes, the Bishop arrives
in the end at forty classes, which, according to. him,
comprehend everything that can be known or imagined,
and therefore everything that can possibly claim expression
in a language, whether natural or artificial.
To begin with the beginning, we find that his transcendental
notions refer either to things or to words.
Referring to things, we have: —

I. Transcendentals General, such as the notions
52of kind, cause, differences, end, means, mode. Here,
under kind, we should find such notions as being,
thing, notion, name, substance, accident, &c. Under
notions of cause, we meet with author, tool, aim,
stuff, &c.

II. Transcendentals of Mixed Relation, such
as the notions of general quantity, continued quantity,
discontinued quantity, quality, whole and part Under
general quantity the notions of greatness and littleness,
excess and defect; under continued quantity
those of length, breadth, depth, &c., would find their

III. Transcendental Relations of Actions, such
as the notions of simple action (putting, taking),
comparate action (joining, repeating, &c.), business
(preparing, designing, beginning), commerce (delivering,
paying, reckoning), event (gaining, keeping, refreshing),
motion (going, leading, meeting).

IV. The Transcendental Notions of Discourse,
comprehending all that is commonly comprehended
under grammar and logic; ideas such as noun, verb,
particle, prose, verse, letter, syllogism, question, affirmative,
negative, and many more.

After these general notions, which constitute the
first four classes, but before what we should call the
categories, the Bishop admits two independent classes
of transcendental notions, one for God, the other for
the World, neither of which, as he says, can be treated
as predicaments, because they are not capable of any
subordinate species.

V. The fifth class, therefore, consists entirely of the
idea of God.

VI. The sixth class comprehends the World or
universe, divided into spiritual and corporeal, and
53embracing such notions as spirit, angel, soul, heaven,
planet, earth, land, &c.

After this we arrive at the five categories, subdivided
into thirty-four subaltern genera, which, together
with the six classes of transcendental notions,
complete, in the end, his forty genera. The Bishop
begins with substance, the first difference of which
he makes to be inanimate, and distinguishes by the
name of

VII. Element, as his seventh genus. Of this there
are several differences, fire, air, water, earth, each comprehending
a number of minor species.

Next comes substance inanimate, divided into
vegetative and sensitive. The vegetative again he subdivides
into imperfect, such as minerals, and perfect,
such as plants.

The imperfect vegetative he subdivides into

VIII. Stone, and

IX. Metal.

Stone he subdivides by six differences, which, as
he tells us, is the usual number of differences that he
finds under every genus; and under each of these
differences he enumerates several species, which seldom
exceed the number of nine under any one.

Having thus gone through the imperfect vegetative,
he comes to the perfect, or plant, which he says is a
tribe so numerous and various, that he confesses he
found a great deal of trouble in dividing and arranging
it. It is in fact a botanical classification, not based on
scientific distinctions like that adopted by Linnæus,
but on the more tangible differences in the outward
form of plants. It is interesting, if for nothing else,
at least for the rich native nomenclature of all kinds
of herbs, shrubs, and trees, which it contains.54

The herb lie defines to be a minute and tender plant,
and he has arranged it according to its leaves, in
which way considered, it makes his

X. Class, Leap-herbs.

Considered according to its flowers, it makes his

XI. Class, or Flower-herbs.

Considered according to its seed-vessels, it makes

XII. Class, or Seed-herbs.

Each of these classes is divided by a certain number
of differences, and under each difference numerous
species are enumerated and arranged.

All other plants being woody, and being larger and
firmer than the herb, are divided into

XIII. Shrubs, and

XIV. Trees.

Having thus exhausted the vegetable kingdom, the
Bishop proceeds to the animal or sensitive, as he calls
it, this being the second member of his division of
animate substance. This kingdom he divides into

XV. Exsanguineous.

XVI., XVII., XVIII. Sanguineous, namely, Fish,
Bird, and Beast.

Having thus considered the general nature of vegetables
and animals, he proceeds to consider the parts
of both, some of which are peculiar to particular plants
and animals, and constitute his

XIX. Genus, Peculiar Parts;

while others are general, and constitute his

XX. Genus, General Parts.

Having thus exhausted the category of substances,
he goes through the remaining categories of quantity,
quality, action, and relation, which, together with the
preceding classes, are represented in the following
55table, the skeleton, in fact, of the whole body of human

image General; namely, those universal notions, whether belonging more properly to | Things; called Transcendental | General. I. | Relation Mixed. II. | Relation of Action. III. | Words; Discourse. IV. | Special; denoting, either | Creator. V. | Creature; namely, such things as were either created or concreated by god, not excluding several of those notions which are framed by the minds of men, considered either | Collectively; World. VI. | Distributively; according to the several kinds of beings, whether such as do belong to | Substance. | Inanimate; Element. VII. | Animate; considered according to their several | Species; whether | Vegetative; | Imperfect; as Minerals | Stone. VIII. | Metal. IX. | Perfect; as Plant | Herb, considered according to | Leaf. X. | Flower. XI. | Seed-Vessel. XII. | Srrub. XIII. | Tree. XIV. | Sensitive | Exsanguineous. XV. | Sanguineous | Fish. XVI. | Bird. XVII. | Beast. XVIII. | Parts | Peculiar. XIX. | General. XX. | Accident. | Quantity; | Magnitude. XXI. | Space. XXII. | Measure. XXIII. | Quality; | Natural Power. XXIV. | Habit. XXV. | Manners. XXVI. | Sensible Quality. XXVII. | Sickness. XXVIII. | Action; | Spiritual. XXIX. | Corporeal. XXX. | Motion. XXXI. | Operation. XXXII. | Relation; | whether more | Private | Œconomical. XXXIII. | Possessions. XXXIV. | Provisions. XXXV. | Public | Civil. XXXVI. | Judicial. XXXVII. | Military. XXXVIII. | Naval. XXXIX. | Ecclesiastical. XL.56

The Bishop is far from claiming any great merit for
his survey of human knowledge, and he admits most
fully its many defects. No single individual could
have mastered such a subject, which would baffle even
the united efforts of learned societies. Yet such as it
is, and with all its imperfections, increased by the destruction
of great part of his manuscript in the fire of
London, it may give us some idea of what the genius
of a Leibniz would have put in its place, if he had
ever matured the idea which was from his earliest
youth stirring in his brain.

Having completed, in forty chapters, his philosophical
dictionary of knowledge, Bishop Wilkins proceeds
to compose a philosophical grammar, according
to which these ideas are to be formed into complex propositions
and discourses. He then proceeds, in the
fourth part of his work, to the framing of the language,
which is to represent all possible notions, according as
they have been previously arranged. He begins with
the written language or Real Character, as he calls it?
because it expresses things, and not sounds, as the
common characters do. It is, therefore, to be intelligible
to people who speak different languages, and
to be read without, as yet, being pronounced at
all. It were to be wished, he says, that characters
could be found bearing some resemblance to the
things expressed by them; also, that the sounds of a
language should have some resemblance to their
objects. This, however, being impossible, he begins
by contriving arbitrary marks for his forty genera.
The next thing to be done is to mark the differences
under each genus. This is done by affixing little
lines at the left end of the character, forming with
the character angles of different kinds, that is, right,
57obtuse, or acute, above or below; each of these
affixes, according to its position, denoting the first,
second, third, and following difference under the
genus, these differences being, as we saw, regularly
numbered in his philosophical dictionary.

The third and last thing to be done is to express
the species under each difference. This is done by
affixing the like marks to the other end of the
character, denoting the species under each difference,
as they are numbered in the dictionary.

In this manner all the several notions of things
which are the subject of language, can be represented
by real characters. But, besides a complete dictionary,
a grammatical framework, too, is wanted
before the problem of an artificial language can be
considered as solved. In natural languages the grammatical
articulation consists either in separate particles
or in modifications in the body of a word, to
whatever cause such modifications may be ascribed.
Bishop Wilkins supplies the former by marks denoting
particles, these marks being circular figures, dots, and
little crooked lines, or virgulæ, disposed in a certain
manner. The latter, the grammatical terminations,
are expressed by hooks or loops, affixed to either
end of the character above or below, from which we
learn whether the thing intended is to be considered as
a noun, or an adjective, or an adverb; whether it be
taken in an active or passive sense, in the plural or
singular number. In this manner, everything that
can be expressed in ordinary grammars, the gender,
number, and cases of nouns, the tenses and moods of
verbs, pronouns, articles, prepositions, conjunctions,
and interjections, are all rendered with a precision
unsurpassed, nay unequalled, by any living language.58

Having thus shaped all his materials, the Bishop
proceeds to give the Lord's Prayer and the Creed,
written in what he calls his Real Character; and it
must be confessed by every unprejudiced person that
with some attention and practice these specimens are
perfectly intelligible.

Hitherto, however, we have only arrived at a written
language. In order to translate this written into a
spoken language, the Bishop has expressed his forty
genera or classes by such sounds as ba, be, bi, da, de,
di, ga, ge, gi, all compositions of vowels, with one or
other of the best sounding consonants. The differences
under each of these genera he expresses by adding to
the syllable denoting the genus one of the following
consonants, b, d, g, p, t, c, z, s, n, according to the
order in which the differences were ranked before in
the tables under each genus, b expressing the first
difference, d the second, and so on.

The species is then expressed by putting after
the consonant which stands for the difference one
of the seven vowels, or, if more be wanted, the

Thus we get the following radicals corresponding
to the general table of notions, as given above:

tableau I | II | III | Transcendentals | General | Bɑ | Relation Mixed | Ba | Relation of Action | Be | IV | Discourse | Bi | V | God | Dɑ | VI | World | Da | VII | Element | De | VIII | Stone | Di | IX | Metal | Do | X | XI | XII | Leaf | Flower | Seed-Vessel | Herbs | Gɑ | Ga | Ge | XIII | Shrub | Gi | XIV | Tree | Go59

tableau XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | Animals | Exsanguineous | Zɑ | Fish | Za | Bird | Ze | Beast | Zi | XIX | XX | Parts | Peculiar | Pɑ | General | Pa | XXI | XXII | XXIII | Quantity | Magnitude | Pe | Space | Pi | Measure | Po | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | Quality | Natural Power | Tɑ | Habit | Ta | Manners | Te | Quality, Sensible | Ti | Sickness | To | XXIX | XXX | XXXI | XXXII | Action | Spiritual | Cɑ | Corporeal | Ca | Motion | Ce | Operation | Ci | XXXIII | XXXIV | XXXV | XXXVI | XXXVII | XXXVIII | XXXIX | XL | Relation | Œconomical | Co | Possessions | Cy | Provisions | Sɑ | Civil | Sa | Judicial | Se | Military | Si | Naval | So | Ecclesiastical | Sy

The differences of the first genus would be expressed

Bαb, bαd, bαg, bαp, bαt, bαc, bαz, bαs, bαn.

The species of the first difference of the first genus
would be expressed by,

Bαbα, bαba, bαbe, bαbi, bαbo, bαbɞ, bαby, bαbyi, bαbyɞ.

Here bαbα. would mean being, bαba thing, bαbe
notion, bαbi name, bαbo substance, bαbɞ quantity, bαby
action, bαbyi relation.

For instance, if De signify element, he says, then
Deb must signify the first difference, which, according
to the tables, is fire; and Debα will denote the first
species, which is flame. Det will be the fifth difference
under that genus, which is appearing meteor; Detα
60the first species, viz. rainbow; Deta the second,
viz. halo.

Thus if Ti signify the genus of Sensible Quality,
then Tid must denote the second difference, which
comprehends colours, and Tida must signify the second
species under that difference, viz. redness, &c.

The principal grammatical variations, laid down in
the philosophical grammar, are likewise expressed by
certain letters. If the word, he writes, is an adjective,
which, according to his method, is always derived
from a substantive, the derivation is made by the
change of the radical consonant into another consonant,
or by adding a vowel to it. Thus, if signifies
God, duα. must signify divine; if De signifies element,
then due must signify elementary; if Do signifies stone,
then duo must signify stony. In like manner voices
and numbers and such-like accidents of words are
formed, particles receive their phonetic representatives
; and again, all his materials being shaped, a
complete grammatical translation of the Lord's Prayer
is given by the Bishop in his own newly-invented
philosophical language.

I hardly know whether the account here given of
the artificial language invented by Bishop Wilkins
will be intelligible, for, in spite of the length to which
it has run, many points had to be omitted which
would have placed the ingenious conceptions of its
author in a much brighter light. My object was
chiefly to show that to people acquainted with a real
language, the invention of an artificial language is by
no means an impossibility, nay, that such an artificial
language might be much more perfect, more regular,
more easy to learn, than any of the spoken tongues of
man. The number of radicals in the Bishop's language
61amounts to not quite 3,000, and these, by a judicious
contrivance, are sufficient to express every possible
idea. Thus the same radical, as we saw, expresses
with certain slight modifications, noun, adjective, and
verb. Again, if is once known to signify God,
then idα must signify that which is opposed to God,
namely, idol. If dab be spirit, odab will be body; if
dad be heaven, odad will be hell. Again, if saba is
king, sava is royalty, salba is reigning, samba to be
governed, &c.

Let us now resume the thread of our argument.
We saw that in an artificial language, the whole
system of our notions, once established, may be
matched to a system of phonetic exponents; but we
maintain, until we are taught the contrary, that no
real language was ever made in this manner.

There never was an independent array of determinate
conceptions waiting to be matched with an independent
array of articulate sounds. As a matter
of fact, Ave never meet with articulate sounds except
as wedded to determinate ideas, nor do we ever, I
believe, meet with determinate ideas except as bodied
forth in articulate sounds. This is a point of some importance
on which there ought not to be any doubt or
haze, and I therefore declare my conviction, whether
right or wrong, as explicitly as possible, that thought,
in one sense of the word, i. e. in the sense of reasoning,
is impossible without language. After what I
stated in my former lectures, I shall not be understood
as here denying the reality of thought or mental activity
in animals. Animals and infants that are without language,
are alike without reason, the great difference
between animal and infant being, that the infant possesses
the healthy germs of speech and reason, only
62not yet developed into actual speech and actual reason,
whereas the animal has no such germs or faculties,
capable of development in its present state of existence.
We must concede to animals ‘sensation, perception,
memory, will, and judgment,’ but we cannot allow to
them a trace of what the Greek called lógos, i. e.
reason, literally, gathering, a word which most rightly
and naturally expresses in Greek both speech and
reason. *7 Lógos is derived from légein, which, like
Latin legere, means, originally, to gather. Hence
Katálogos, a catalogue, a gathering, a list; collectio,
a collection. In Homer 8, légein is hardly ever used
in the sense of saying, speaking, or meaning, but
always in the sense of gathering, or, more properly, of
telling, for to tell is the German Zählen, and means
originally to count, to cast up., Lógos, used in the
sense of reason, meant originally, like the English tale,
gathering; for reason, ‘though it penetrates into the
depths of the sea and earth, elevates our thoughts as
high as the stars, and leads us through the vast spaces
and large rooms of this mighty fabric,’ 9 is nothing
more or less than the gathering up of the single by
means of the general. §10 The Latin intelligo, i. e. interligo,
63expresses still more graphically the interlacing of
the general and the single, which is the peculiar province
of the intellect. But Lógos used in the sense of
word, means likewise a gathering, for every word, or,
at least, every name is based on the same process; it
represents the gathering of the single under the
general. As we cannot tell or count quantities without
numbers, we cannot tell or recount things without
words. There are tribes that have no numerals
beyond four. Should we say that they do not know
if they have five children instead of four? They
certainly do, as much as a cat knows that she has five
kittens, and will look for the fifth if it has been taken
away from her. But if they have no numerals beyond
four, they cannot reason beyond four. They would
not know, as little as children know it, that two and
three make five, but only that two and three make
many. Though I dwelt on this point in the last lectures
of my former course, a few illustrations may not
be out of place here, to make my meaning-quite clear.

Man could not name a tree, or an animal, or a river,
or any object whatever in which he took an interest,
without discovering first some general quality that
seemed at the time the most characteristic of the
object to be named. In the lowest stage of language,
an imitation of the neighing of the horse would have
been sufficient to name the horse. Savage tribes are
great mimics, and imitate the cries of animals with
wonderful success. But this is not yet language.
There are cockatoos who, when they see cocks and
hens, will begin to cackle as if to inform us of what
64they see. This is not the way in which the words of
our languages were formed. There is no trace of
neighing in the Aryan names for horse. In naming
the horse, the quality that struck the mind of the
Aryan man as the most prominent was its swiftness.
Hence from the root as *11, to be sharp or swift (which
we have in Latin acus, needle, and in the French
diminutive aiguille, in acuo, I sharpen, in acer, quick,
sharp, shrewd, in acrimony and even in 'cute), was
derived aśva, the runner, the horse. This aśva,
appears in Lithuanian as aszva (mare), in Latin
as ekvus, i. e. equus, in Greek as ἴκκος, 12 i. e. ἴππος,
in Old Saxon as ehu. Many a name might have
been given to the horse besides the one here mentioned,
but whatever name was given it could only
be formed by laying hold of the horse by means
of some general quality, and by thus arranging the
horse, together with other objects, under some general
category. Many names might have been given to
wheat It might have been called eared, nutritious,
graceful, waving, the incense of the earth, &c. But it
was called simply the white, the white colour of its
grain seeming to distinguish it best from those plants
with which otherwise it had the greatest similarity.
For this is one of the secrets of onomatopoësis, or name-poetry,
that each name should express, not the most
important or specific quality, but that which strikes
our fancy, 13 and seems most useful for the purpose of
65making other people understand what we mean. If
we adopted the language of Locke, we should say that
men were guided by wit rather than by judgment, in
the formation of names. Wit, he says, lies most in the
assemblage of ideas, and putting those together with
quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance
or congruity, thereby to make up pleasant
pictures, and agreeable visions, in the fancy: judgment,
on the contrary, lies quite on the other side, in
separating carefully, one from another, ideas wherein
can be found the least difference, thereby to avoid
being misled by similitude, and by affinity, to take
one thing for another. *14 While the names given to
things according to Bishop Wilkins' philosophical
method would all be founded on judgment, those
given by the early framers of language repose chiefly
on wit or fancy. Thus wheat was called the white
plant, hvaiteis in Gothic, in A. S. hvœte, in Lithuanian
kwetys, in English wheat, and all these words point to
the Sanskrit śveta, i.e. white, the Gothic hveits, the A. S.
hvît. In Sanskrit, śveta, white, is not applied to
wheat (which is called godhûma, the smoke or incense
of the earth), but it is applied to many other herbs
and weeds, and as a compound (śvetaśunga, white-awned),
it entered into the name of barley. In Sanskrit,
silver is counted as white, and called śveta, and
the feminine śvetî, was once a name of the dawn, justas
the French aube, dawn, which was originally alba.
We arrive at the same result whatever words we examine;
they always express a general quality, supposed
to be peculiar to the object to which they are attached.
In some cases this is quite clear, in others it has to be
66brought out by minute etymological research. To
those who approach these etymological researches with
any preconceived opinions, it must be a frequent source
of disappointment, when they have traced a word
through all its stages to its first starting point, to
find in the end, or rather in the beginning, nothing
but roots of the most general powers, meaning to go,
to move, to run, to do. But on closer consideration,
this, instead of being disappointing, should rather
increase our admiration for the wonderful powers
of language, man being able out of these vague and
pale conceptions to produce names expressive of the
minutest shades of thought and feeling. It was
by a poetical fiat that the Greek próbata, which
originally meant no more than things walking forward,
became in time the name of cattle, and particularly
of sheep. In Sanskrit, sarit, meaning goer, from
sar, to go, became the name of river; sara, meaning
the same, what runs or goes, was used for sap, but not
for river. Thus dru, in Sanskrit, means to run, dravat,
quick; but drapsa is restricted to the sense of a drop,
gutta. The Latin œvum, meaning going, from i, to go,
became the name of time, age; and its derivative æviternus,
or æternus, was made to express eternity. Thus
in French, meubles means literally anything that is
moveable, but it became the name of chairs, tables, and
wardrobes. Viande, originally vivenda, that on which
one lives, came to mean meat. A table, the Latin
tabula, is originally what stands, or that on which
things can be placed (stood); it now means what
dictionaries define as ‘a horizontal surface raised above
the ground, used for meals and other purposes.’ The
French tableau, picture, again goes back to the Latin
tabula, a thing stood up, exhibited, and at last to the
67root stâ of stare, to stand. A stable, the Latin stabulum,
comes from the same root, but it was applied to
the standing-place of animals, to stalls or sheds.
That on which a thing stands or rests is called its
base, and basis in Greek meant originally no more
than going, the base being conceived as ground on
which it is safe to walk. What can be more general
than facies, originally the make or shape of a thing,
then the face? Yet the same expression is repeated
in modern languages, feature being evidently a mere
corruption of factura, the make. On the same principle
the moon was called luna, i. e. lucna or lucina,
the shining; the lightning, fulmen from fulgere, the
bright; the stars stellæ, i. e. sterulæ, the Sanskrit staras
from stṛî, to strew, the strewers of light. All these
etymologies may seem very unsatisfactory, vague,
uninteresting, yet, if we reflect for a moment, we shall
see that in no other way but this could the mind, or
the gathering power of man, have comprehended the
endless variety of nature *15 under a limited number of
categories or names. What Bunsen called ‘the first
poesy of mankind,’ the creation of words, is no doubt
very different from the sensation poetry of later days:
yet its very poverty and simplicity render it all the
more valuable in the eyes of historians and philosophers.
For of this first poetry, simple as it is, or of this
first philosophy in all its childishness, man only is capable.
He is capable of it because he can gather the
single under the general; he is capable of it because
68he has the faculty of speech; he is capable of it — we
need not fear the tautology — because he is man.

Without speech no reason, without reason no speech.
It is curious to observe the unwillingness with which
many philosophers admit this, and the attempts they
make to escape from this conclusion, all owing to the
very influence of language which, in most modern
dialects, has produced two words, one for language, the
other for reason; thus leading the speaker to suppose
that there is a substantial difference between the two,
and not a mere formal difference. Thus Brown says:
‘To be without language, spoken or written, is almost
to be without thought.’ *16 But he qualifies this almost
by what follows: ‘That man can reason without language
of any kind, and consequently without general
terms — though the opposite opinion is maintained by
many very eminent philosophers — seems to me not to
admit of any reasonable doubt, or, if it required any
proof, to be sufficiently shown by the very invention of
language which involves these general terms, and still
more sensibly by the conduct of the uninstructed deaf
and dumb 17 — to which also the evident marks of reasoning
in the other animals — of reasoning which I
cannot but think as unquestionable as the instincts
that mingle with it — may be said to furnish a very
striking additional argument from analogy.’

The uninstructed deaf and dumb, I believe, have
never given any signs of reason, in the true sense of
the word, though to a certain extent all the deaf and
dumb people that live in the society of other men
catch something of the rational behaviour of their
neighbours. When instructed, the deaf and dumb
69certainly acquire general ideas without being able in
every case to utter distinctly the phonetic exponents
or embodiments of these ideas which we call words.
But this is no objection to our general argument.
The deaf and dumb are taught by those who possess
both these general ideas and their phonetic embodiments,
elaborated by successive generations of rational
men. They are taught to think the thoughts of
others, and if they cannot pronounce their words,
they lay hold of these thoughts by other signs, and
particularly by signs that appeal to their sense of
sight, in the same manner as words appeal to our
sense of hearing. These signs, however, are not the
signs of things or their conceptions, as words are:
they are the signs of signs, just as written language
is not an image of our thoughts, but an image of the
phonetic embodiment of thought. Alphabetical writing
is the image of the sound of language, hieroglyphic
writing the image of language or thought.

The same supposition that it is possible to reason
without signs, that we can form mental conceptions,
nay, even mental propositions, without words, runs
through the whole of Locke's philosophy. *18 He maintains
over and over again, that words are signs added
to our conceptions, and added arbitrarily. He imagines
a state ‘in which man, though possessed of a great
variety of thoughts, and such from which others, as
well as himself, might receive profit and delight, was
unable to make these thoughts appear. The comfort
and advantage of society, however, not being to be
had without communication of thoughts, it was
necessary that man should find out some external
70sensible signs, whereby those invisible ideas of which
his thoughts are made up might be made known
to others. For this purpose, nothing was so fit,
either for plenty or quickness, as those articulate
sounds, which, with so much ease and variety, he
found himself able to make. Thus we may conceive
how words, which were by nature so well adapted to
that purpose, came to toe made use of by men as the
signs of their ideas; not by any natural connexion
there is between particular articulate sounds and
certain ideas; for then there would be but one
language amongst all men; but by a voluntary composition,
whereby such a word is made arbitrarily the
mark of such an idea.’

Locke admits, indeed, that it is almost unavoidable,
in treating of mental propositions, to make use of
words. ‘Most men, if not all,’ he says (and who
are they that are here exempted?) ‘in their thinking
and reasoning within themselves, make use of words,
instead of ideas, at least when the subject of their
meditation contains in it complex ideas.’ *19 But this is
in reality an altogether different question; it is the
question whether, after our notions have once been
realized in words, it is possible to use words without
reasoning, and not whether it is possible to reason
without words. This is clear from the instances given
by Locke. ‘some confused or obscure notions,’ he
says, ‘have served their turns; and many who talk very
much of religion and conscience, of church and faith,
of power and right, of obstructions and humours,
melancholy and choler, would, perhaps, have little
left in their thoughts and meditations, if one should
71desire them to think only of the things themselves,
and lay by those words, with which they so often confound
others, and not seldom themselves also.’ *20

In all this there is, no doubt, great truth; yet,
strictly speaking, it is as impossible to use words
without thought, as to think without words. Even
those who talk vaguely about religion, conscience, &c.,
have at least a vague notion of the meaning of the
words they use: and if they ceased to connect any
ideas, however incomplete and false, with the words
they utter, they could no longer be said to speak,
but only to make noises. The same applies if we invert
our proposition. It is possible, without language,
to see, to perceive, to stare at, to dream about things;
but, without words, not even such simple ideas as
white or black can for a moment be realized.

We cannot be careful enough in the use of our words.
If reasoning is used synonymously with knowing
or thinking, with mental activity in general, it is
clear that we cannot deny it either to the uninstructed
deaf and dumb, or to infants and animals. A child
knows as certainly before it can speak the difference
between sweet and bitter (i.e. that sweet is not bitter),
as it knows afterwards (when it comes to speak) that
wormwood and sugar-plums are not the same thing. 21
A child receives the sensation of sweetness; it enjoys
it, it recollects it, it desires it again; but it does not
know what sweet is; it is absorbed in its sensations,
its pleasures, its recollections; it cannot look at them
from above, it cannot reason on them, it cannot tell
of them. 22 This is well expressed by Schelling.
72‘Without language,’ he says, ‘it is impossible to
conceive philosophical, nay, even any human consciousness:
and hence the foundations of language
could not have been laid consciously. Nevertheless,
the more we analyse language, the more clearly we
see that it transcends in depth the most conscious
productions of the mind. It is with language as with
all organic beings; we imagine they spring into being
blindly, and yet we cannot deny the intentional
wisdom in the formation of every one of them.’ *23

Hegel speaks more simply and more boldly, ‘It is
in names,’ he says, ‘that we think.’ 24

It may be possible, however, by another kind of
argument, less metaphysical, perhaps, but more convincing,
to show clearly that reason cannot become
real without speech. Let us take any word, for
instance, experiment. It is derived from experior.
Perior, like Greek perân, 25 would mean to go through.
Perītus is a man who has gone through many things;
perîculum, something to go through, a danger. Experior
is to go through and come out (the Sanskrit,
vyutpad); hence experience and experiment. The
Gothic faran, the English to fare, are the same
words as perân; hence the German Erfahrung, experience,
and Gefahr, periculum; Wohlfahrt, welfare, the
Greek euporía. As long then as the word experiment
expresses this more or less general idea, it has a real
existence. But take the mere sound, and change
73only the accent, and we get experíment, and this is
nothing. Change one vowel or one consonant, exporiment
or esperiment, and we have mere noises,
what Heraclitus would call a mere psóphos, but no
words. Cháracter, with the accent on the first syllable,
has a meaning in English, but none in German or
French; charácter, with the accent on the second
syllable, has a meaning in German, but none in
English or French; charactère, with the accent on the
last, has a meaning in French, but none in English or
German. It matters not whether the sound is articulate
or not; articulate sound without meaning is
even more unreal than inarticulate sound. If, then,
these articulate sounds, or what we may call the body
of language, exist nowhere, have no independent
reality, what follows? I think it follows that this
so-called body of language could never have been
taken up anywhere by itself, and added to our conceptions
from without; from which it would follow
again that our conceptions, which are now always
clothed in the garment of language, could never
have existed in a naked state. This would be perfectly
correct reasoning, if applied to anything else;
nor do I see that it can be objected to as bearing on
thought and language. If we never find skins except
as the teguments of animals, we may safely conclude
that animals cannot exist without skins. If colour
cannot exist by itself ἅπαν γὰρ χρώμα έν σώματι),
it follows that neither can anything that is coloured
exist without colour. A colouring substance may be
added or removed; but colour without some substance,
however ethereal, is, in rerum naturâ, as impossible
as substance without colour, or as substance without
form or weight.74

Granting, however, to the fullest extent, the one
and indivisible character of language and thought,
agreeing even with the Polynesians, who express
thinking by speaking in the stomach, *26 we may yet, I
think, for scientific purposes, claim the same liberty
which is claimed in so many sciences, namely, the
liberty of treating separately what in the nature of
things cannot be separated. Though colour cannot
be separated from some ethereal substance, yet the
science of optics treats of light and colour as if they
existed by themselves. The geometrician reasons on
lines without taking cognizance of their breadth, of
plains without considering their depth, of bodies
without thinking of their weight. It is the same in
language, and though I consider the identity of language
and reason as one of the fundamental principles
of our science, I think it will be most useful to begin,
as it were, by dissecting the dead body of language,
by anatomizing its phonetic structure, without any
reference to its function, and then to proceed to a
consideration of language in the fulness of life, and to
watch its energies, both in what we call its growth
and its decay.

I tried to show in my first course of lectures, that
if we analyse language, that is to say, if we trace
words back to their most primitive elements, we arrive,
not at letters, but at roots. This is a point which has
not been sufficiently considered, and it may almost
be taken as the general opinion that the elements of
language are vowels and consonants, but not roots.
If, however, we call elements those primitive substances
the combination of which is sufficient to
75account for things as they really are, it is clear that
we cannot well call the letters the elements of language;
for we might shake the letters together ad infinitum,
without ever producing a dictionary, much less
a grammar. It was a favourite idea of ancient philosophers
to compare the atoms the concurrence of
which was to form all nature, with letters. Epicurus
is reported to have said that — ‘The atoms come together
in different order and position, like the letters,
which, though they are few, yet, by being placed
together in different ways, produce innumerable
words.’ *27

Aristotle, also, in his ‘Metaphysics,’ when speaking
of Leucippus and Democritus, illustrates the
different effects produced by the same elements by a
reference to letters. ‘Α,’ he says, ‘differs from Ν by
its shape; ΑΝ from ΝΑ by the order of the letters;
Ζ from Ν by its position.’ 28

It is true, no doubt, that by putting the twenty-three
or twenty-four letters together in every possible
variety, we might produce every word that has ever
been used in any language of the world. The number
of these words, taking twenty-three letters as the
basis, would be 25,852,016,738,884,976,640,000; or,
if we take twenty-four letters, 620,448,401,733,
239,439,360,000. 29 But even then these trillions,
billions, and millions of sounds, would not be words,
76for they would lack the most important ingredient,
that which makes a word to be a word, namely, the
different ideas by which they were called into life,
and which are expressed differently in different

‘Element.’ Aristotle says, ‘we call that of which
anything consists, as of its first substance, this being
as to form indivisible; as, for instance, the elements
of language (the letters) of which language is composed,
and into which as its last component parts, it
can be dissolved; while they, the letters, can no longer
be dissolved into sounds different in form; but, if
they are dissolved, the parts are homogeneous, as a
part of water is water; but not so the parts of a

If here we take phōnḗ as voice, not as language,
there would be nothing to object to in Aristotle's
reasoning. The voice, as such, may be dissolved
into vowels and consonants, as its primal elements.
But not so speech. Speech is preeminently significant
sound, and if we look for the elements of
speech, we cannot on a sudden drop one of its two
characteristic qualities, either its audibility or its
significancy. Now letters as such are not significant;
a, b, c, d, mean nothing, either by themselves or if
put together. The only word that is formed of mere
letters is ‘Alphabet’ (ό άλϕάβητος), the English
ABC; but even here it is not the sounds, but the
names of the letters, that form the word. One other
word has been supposed to have the same merely
alphabetical origin, namely, the Latin elementum. As
elementa is used in Latin for the ABC, it has been
supposed, though I doubt whether in real earnest,
that it was formed from the. three letters l, m, n.77

The etymological meaning of elementa is by no
means clear, nor has the Greek stoicheîon, which in
Latin is rendered by elementum, as yet been satisfactorily
explained. We are told that stoicheîon is a
diminutive from stoîchos, a small upright rod or post,
especially the gnomon of the sundial, or the shadow
thrown by it; and under stoîchos, we find the meaning
of a row, a line of poles with hunting nets, and are
informed that the word is the same as stíchos, line,
and stóchos, aim. How the radical vowel can change
from i to o and oi, is not explained.

The question is, why were the elements, or the
component primary parts of things, called stoicheîa
by the Greeks? It is a word which has had a long
history, and has passed from Greece to almost every
part of the civilised world, and deserves, therefore,
some attention at the hand of the etymological genealogist.
Stoîchos, from which stoicheîon, means a row
or file, like stíx and stíches in Homer. The suffix
eios is the same as the Latin eius, and expresses what
belongs to or has the quality of something. Therefore,
as stoîchos means a row, stoicheîon would be
what belongs to or constitutes a row. Is it possible
to connect these words with stóchos, aim, either in
form or meaning? Certainly not. Roots with i
are liable to a regular change of i into oi or ei,
but not into o. Thus the root lip, which appears
in élipon, assumes the forms leípo and léloipa, and
the same scale of vowel-changes may be observed in

liph, aleípho, ḗloipha, and
pith, peíthō, pépoitha.

Hence stoichos presupposes a root stich, and this
root would account in Greek for the following derivations: —78

1, stíx, gen. stickós, a row, a line of soldiers.
2, stíchos, a row, a line; distich, a couplet.
3, steíchō, éstichon, to march in order, step by step;
to mount.
4, stoîchos, a row, a file; stoicheîn, to march in a line.

In German, the same root yields steigen, to step, to
mount, and in Sanskrit we find stigh, to mount.

Quite a different root is presupposed by stóchos.
As tómos points to a root tam (témno, étamon), or
bólos to a root bal (bélos, ébalon), thus stóchos points
to a root stach. This root does not exist in Greek in
the form of a verb, and has left behind in the classical
language this one formation only, stóchos, mark, point,
aim, whence stocházomai, I point, I aim, and similar
derivatives. In Gothic, a similar root exists in the
verb stiggan, the English to sting.

A third root, closely allied with, yet distinct from,
stach, has been more prolific in the classical languages,
namely, stig, to stick. *30 From it we have stizō, éstigmai,
I prick; in Latin, in-stigare, stimulus, and stilus (for
stiglus, like palus for paglus); Gothic stikan, to stick,
German stechen.

The result at which we thus arrive is that stoicheion
has no connection with stóchos, and hence that it
cannot, as the dictionaries tell us, have the primary
meaning of a small upright rod or pole, or of the
gnomon of the sundial. Where stoicheîon (as in
δεκάπουν στοιχεϊον, i.e. noon) is used with reference
to the sundial, it means the lines of the shadow following
each other in regular succession; the radii, in
fact, which constitute the complete series of hours
described by the sun's daily course. And this gives
79us the key to stoicheîon, in the sense of elements.
Stoicheîa are the degrees or steps from one end to the
other, the constituent parts of a whole, forming a
complete series, whether as hours, or letters, or numbers,
or parts of speech, or physical elements, provided
always that such elements are held together by a
systematic order. This is the only sense in which
Aristotle and his predecessors could have used the
word for ordinary and for technical purposes; and it
corresponds with the explanation proposed by no less
an authority than Dionysius Thrax. The first grammarian
of Greece gives the following etymology of
stoicheîa in the sense of letters (§ 7): *31 — ‘The
same are also called stoicheîa, because they have a
certain order and arrangement.’ 32 Why the Romans,
who probably became for the first time acquainted
with the idea of elements through their intercourse
with Greek philosophers and grammarians, should
have translated stoicheîa by elementa is less clear. In
the sense of physical elements, the early Greek philosophers
used rizṓmata, roots, in preference to stoicheîa,
and if elementa stands for alimenta, in the sense of
feeders, it may have been intended originally as a
rendering of rizṓmata.

From an historical point of view, letters are not the
stoicheîa or rizṓmata of language. The simplest parts
into which language can be resolved are the roots, and
these themselves cannot be further reduced without
80destroying the nature of language, which is not mere
sound, but always significant sound. There may be
roots consisting of one vowel, such as i, to go, in
Sanskrit, or one, in Chinese; but this would only
show that a root may be a letter, not that a letter
may be a root. If we attempted to divide roots like
the Sk. chi, to collect, or the Chinese tchi, many, into
tch and i, we should find that we had left the precincts
of language, and entered upon the science of

Before we do this — before we proceed to dissect the
phonetic skeleton of human speech, it may be well to
say a few words about roots. In my former Lectures
I said, intentionally, very little about roots; at least
very little about the nature or the origin of roots,
because I believed, and still believe, that in the science
of language we must accept roots simply as ultimate
facts, leaving to the physiologist and the psychologist
the question as to the possible sympathetic or reflective
action of the five organs of sensuous perception
upon the motory nerves of the organs of speech. It
was for that reason that I gave a negative rather than
a positive definition of roots, stating *33 that, for my own
immediate purposes, I called root or radical whatever,
in the words of any language or family of languages,
cannot be reduced to a simpler or more original

It has been pointed out, however, with great logical
acuteness, that if this definition were true, roots
would be mere abstractions, and as such unfit to
explain the realities of language. Now, it is perfectly
true that, from one point of view, a root may be
81considered as a mere abstraction. A root is a cause,
and every cause, in the logical acceptation of the word,
is an abstraction. As a cause it can claim no reality,
no vulgar reality; if we call real that only which can
become the object of sensuous perception. In real
language, we never hear a root; we only meet with
their effects, namely, with words, whether nouns, adjectives,
verbs, or particles. This is the view which
the native grammarians of India have taken of Sanskrit
roots; and they have taken the greatest pains to
show that a root, as such, can never emerge to the
surface of real speech; that there it is always a word,
an effect, a substance clothed in the garment of grammatical
derivatives. The Hindus call a root dhâtu,
which is derived from the root dhâ *34 to support or
nourish. They apply the same word to their five
elements, which shows that, like the Greeks, they
looked upon these elements (earth, water, fire, air,
ether), and upon the elements of language, as the
supporters and feeders of real things and real words.
It is known that, in the fourth century B.C., the
Hindus possessed complete lists, not only of their
roots, but likewise of all the formative elements, which,
by being attached to them, raise the roots into real

Thus from a root vid, to know, they would form by
82means of the suffix ghañ, Veda, i. e. knowledge; by
means of the suffix tṛich, vettar, a knower, Greek kístōr
and ḯstōr. Again, by affixing to the root certain
verbal derivatives, they would arrive at vedmi, I
know, viveda, I have known, or veda, I know. Besides
these derivatives, however, we likewise find in Sanskrit
the mere vid, used, particularly in compounds, in the
sense of knowing; for instance, dharmavid, a knower
of the law. Here then the root itself might seem to
appear as a word. But such is the logical consistency
of Sanskrit grammarians, that they have actually
imagined a class of derivative suffixes, the object of
which is to be added to a root for the sole purpose of
being rejected again. Thus only could the logical
conscience of Panini be satisfied. *35 When we should
say that a root is used as a noun without any change
except those that are necessitated by phonetic laws
(as, for instance, dharmavit, instead of dharmavid),
Panini says (iii. 3, 68), that a suffix (namely, viṭ)
is added to the root vid. But if we come to inquire
what this suffix means and why it is called viṭ, we
find (vi. 1, 67) that a lopa, i. e. a lopping off, is to
carry away the v of viṭ; that the final is only
meant to indicate certain phonetic changes that take
place if a root ends in a nasal (vi. 4, 41); and that
the vowel i serves merely to connect these two algebraic
symbols. So that the suffix viṭ is in reality
83nought. This is certainly strict logic, but it is rather
cumbersome grammar, and from an historical point of
view, we are justified in dropping these circumlocutions,
and looking upon roots as real words.

With us, speaking inflectional and highly refined
languages, roots are primarily what remains as the
last residuum after a complete analysis of our own
dialects, or of all the dialects that form together
the great Aryan mass of speech. But if our analysis
is properly made, what is to us a mere residuum must
originally, in the natural course of events, have been
a real germ; and these germinal forms would have
answered every purpose in an early stage of language.
We must not forget that there are languages which
have remained in that germinal state, and in which
there is to the present day no outward distinction
between a root and a word. In Chinese, *36 for instance,
ly means to plough, a plough, and an ox, i. e. a
plougher; ta means to be great, greatness, greatly.
Whether a word is intended as a noun, or a verb, or
a particle, depends chiefly on the position which it
occupies in a sentence. In the Polynesian 37 dialects,
almost every verb may, without any change of form,
be used as a noun or an adjective; whether it is
meant for the one or the other must be learnt from
certain particles, which are called particles of affirmation
(kua), and the particles of the agent (ko). In
Egyptian, as Bunsen states, there is no formal distinction
between noun, verb, adjective, and particle, and
a word like an'h might mean life, to live, living, lively. 38
What does this show? I think it shows that there
84was a stage in the growth of language, in which that
sharp distinction which we make between the different
parts of speech had not yet been fixed, and when
even that fundamental distinction between subject
and predicate, on which all the parts of speech are
based, had not yet been realized in its fulness, and
had not yet received a corresponding outward expression.

A slightly different view is propounded by Professor
Pott, when he says: ‘Roots, it should be observed,
as such, lack the stamp of words, and therefore their
real value in the currency of speech. There is no
inward necessity why they should first have entered
into the reality of language, naked and formless; it
suffices that, unpronounced, they fluttered before the
soul like small images, continually clothed in the
mouth, now with this, now with that form, and
surrendered to the air to be drafted off in hundred-fold
cases and combinations.’ *39

It might be said, that as soon as a root is pronounced — as
soon as it forms part of a sentence — it
ceases to be a root., and is either a subject or a predicate,
or, to use grammatical language, a noun or a
verb. Yet even this seems an artificial distinction.
To a Chinese, the sound ta, even when pronounced,
is a mere root; it is neither noun nor verb, distinctions
which, in the form in which we conceive them, have
no existence at all to a Chinese. If to ta we add fu,
man, and when we put fu first and ta last, then, no
doubt, fu is the subject, and ta the predicate, or, as
our grammarians would say, fu is a noun, and ta a
verb; fu ta would mean, ‘the man is great.’ But if
85we said ta fu, ta would be an adjective, and the phrase
would mean ‘a great man.’ I can here see no real
distinction between ta, potentially a noun, an adjective,
a verb, an adverb, and ta in fu ta, used actually
as an adjective or verb.

As the growth of language and the growth of the
mind are only two aspects of the same process, it is
difficult for us to think in Chinese, or in any radical
language, without transferring to it our categories of
thought. But if we watch the language of a child,
which is in reality Chinese spoken in English, we see
that there is a form of thought, and of language, perfectly
rational and intelligible to those who have
studied it, in which, nevertheless, the distinction between
noun and verb, nay, between subject and predicate,
is not yet realized. If a child says Up, that up
is, to his mind, noun, verb, adjective, all in one. It
means, ‘I want to get up on my mother's lap.’ If an
English child says to, that to is both a noun, thanks,
and a verb, I thank you. Nay, even if a child learns to
speak grammatically, it does not yet think grammatically;
it seems, in speaking, to wear the garments of
its parents, though it has not yet grown into them. A
child says ‘I am hungry,’ without an idea that I is
different from hungry, and that both are united by an
auxiliary verb, which auxiliary verb again was a compound
of a root as, and a personal termination mi,
giving us the Sanskrit asmi, I am. A Chinese child
would express exactly the same idea by one word, shi,
to eat, or food, &c. The only difference would be
that a Chinese child speaks the language of a child,
an English child the language of a man. If then it
is admitted that every inflectional language passed
through a radical and an agglutinate stage, it seems
86to follow that at one time or other, the constituent
elements of inflectional languages, namely, the roots,
were, to all intents and purposes, real words, and used
as such both in thought and speech.

Roots, therefore, are not such mere abstractions as
they are sometimes supposed to be, and unless we
succeed in tracing each word in English or in any inflectional
language back to its root, we have not
traced it back to its real origin. It is in this analysis
of language that comparative philology has achieved
its greatest triumphs, and has curbed that wild spirit
of etymology which would handle words as if they had
no past, no history, no origin. In tracing words back
to their roots we must obey certain phonetic laws.
If the vowel of a root is i or u, its derivatives will be
different, from Sanskrit down to English, from what
they would have been if that radical vowel had been a.
If a root begins with a tenuis in Sanskrit, that tenuis
will never be a tenuis in Gothic, but an aspirate; if
a root begins with an aspirate in Sanskrit, that aspirate
will never be an aspirate in Gothic, but a media; if a
root begins with a media in Sanskrit, that media will
not be a media in Gothic, but a tenuis.

And this, better than anything else, will, I think,
explain the strong objection which comparative philologists
feel to what I called the Bow-wow and the
Pooh-pooh theories, names which I am sorry to see
have given great offence, but in framing which, I
can honestly, say, I thought of Epicurus *40 rather
than of living writers, and meant no offence to
87either. ‘Onomatopœic’ is neither an appropriate
nor a pleasant word, and it was absolutely necessary
to distinguish between two theories, the onomatopœic,
which derives words from the sounds of animals
and nature in general, as imitated by the framers
of language, and the interjectional, which derives
words, not from the imitation of the interjections
of others, but from the interjections themselves, as
wrung forth, almost against their will, from the
framers of language. I did not think that the weapons
of ridicule were necessary to combat theories which,
since the days of Epicurus, had so often been combated,
and so often been defended. I may have
erred in choosing terms which, while they expressed
exactly what I wished to express, sounded rather
homely and undignified; but I could not plead for
the terms I had chosen a better excuse than the name
now suggested by the supporters of the onomatopœic
theory, which, I am told, is Imsonic, from im instead
of imitation, and son instead of sonus, sound.

That there is some analogy between the faculty
of speech and the sounds which we utter in singing,
laughing, crying, sobbing, sighing, moaning, screaming,
whistling, and clicking, was known to Epicurus
of old, and requires no proof. But does it require to
be pointed out that even if the scream of a man who
has his finger pinched should happen to be identically
the same as the French hélas, that scream would be
an effect, an involuntary effect of outward pressure,
whereas an interjection like alas, hélas, Italian lasso,
to say nothing of such words as pain, suffering,
agony, &c., is there by the free will of the speaker,
meant for something, used with a purpose, chosen as
a sign?88

Again, that sounds can be rendered in language by
sounds, and that each language possesses a large stock
of words imitating the sounds given out by certain
things, who would deny? And who would deny that
some words, originally expressive of sound only, might
be transferred to other things which have some analogy
with sound?

But how are all things that do not appeal to the
sense of hearing — how are the ideas of going, moving,
standing, sinking, tasting, thinking, to be expressed?

I give the following as a specimen of what may be
achieved by the advocates of ‘painting in sound.’
Hooiaioai is said in Hawaian to mean to testify; and
this, we are told, was the origin of the word: *41

‘In uttering the i the breath is compressed into the
smallest and seemingly swiftest current possible. It
represents therefore a swift, and what we may call a
sharp movement.

Of all the vowels o is that of which the sound
goes farthest. We have it therefore in most words
relating to distance, as in holo, lo, long, &c.

In joining the two, the sense is modified by their
position. If we write oi, it is an o going on with an i.
This is exemplified in oi, lame. Observe how a lame
man advances. Standing on the sound limb, he puts
the lame one leisurely out and sets it to the ground:
this is the o. But no sooner does it get there, and
the weight of the body begin to rest on it, than, hastening
to relieve it of the burden, he moves the other leg
rapidly forward, lessening the pressure at the same
time by relaxing every joint he can bend, and thus
letting his body sink as far as possible; this rapid
sinking movement is the i.89

Again, oi a passing in advance, excellency. Here
o is the general advance, i is the going ahead of some
particular one.

If, again, we write io, it is an i going on with an o.
That is to say, it is a rapid and penetrating movement
—i, and that movement long continued. Thus
we have in Hawaian io, a chief's forerunner. He would
be a man rapid in his course —i; of good bottom —o.
In Greek, ios, an arrow, and Io, the goddess who went
so fast and far. Hence io is anything that goes quite
through, that is thorough, complete, real, true. Like
Burns, “facts are chiels that winna ding,” that is,
cannot be forced out of their course. Hence io, flesh,
real food, in distinction to bone, &c., and reality or
fact, or truth generally.

Ia is the pronoun that, analogous to Latin is, ea, id.
Putting together these we have o, ia, io — Oh that is
fact. Prefixing the causative hoo, we have “make
that to be fact;” affix ai, completive of the action, and
we have, “make that completely out to be a fact,” that
is “testify to its truth.”

It is to be remarked that the stress of the voice is
laid on the second i, the oia being pronounced very
lightly, and that in Greek the i in oíomai, I believe,
is always strongly accented, a mark of the contraction
the word has suffered.’

Although the languages of Europe, with their
well-established history, lend themselves less easily to
such speculations, yet I could quote similar passages
from French, German, and English etymologists.
Dr. Bolza, in his Vocabolario Genetico-Etimologico
(Vienna, 1852), tells us, among other things, that in
Italian a expresses light, o redness, u darkness; and
he continues, ‘Ecco probabilmente le tre note, che in
90fiamma, fuoco, e fumo, sono espresse dal mutamento
della vocale, mentre la f esprime in tutti i tre il movimento
dell' aria
’ (p. 61, note). And again we are
told by him that one of the first sounds pronounced
by children is m: hence mamma. The root of this is
ma or am, which gives us amare, to love. On account
of the movement of the lips, it likewise supplies the
root of mangiare and masticare; and explains besides
muto, dumb, muggire, to low, miagolare, to mew, and
mormorio, murmur. Now, even if amare could not
be protected by the Sanskrit root am, to rush forward
impetuously (according to others, kâm, to love), we
should have thought that mangiare and masticare
would have been safe against onomatopœic interference,
the former being the Latin manducare, to
chew, the latter the post-classical masticare, to chew.
Manducare has a long history of its own. It descends
from mandere, to chew, and mandere leads us back to
the Sanskrit root mard, to grind, one of the numerous
offshoots of the root mar, the history of which
will form the subject of one of our later lectures.
Mûtus has been well derived by Professor A. Weber
(Kuhn's Zeitschrift, vi. p. 318) from the sanskrit ,
to bind (Pâṇ. vi. 4, 20), so that its original meaning
would have been ‘tongue-bound.’ As to miagolare,
to mew, we willingly hand it over to the onomatopœic

The onomatopœic theory goes very smoothly as
long as it deals with cackling hens and quacking
ducks; but round that poultry-yard there is a dead
wall, and we soon find that it is behind that wall
that language really begins.

But whatever we may think of these onomatopœic
and interjectional theories, we must carefully distinguish
91between two things. There is one class of
scholars who derive all words from roots according to
the strictest rules of comparative grammar, but who
look upon the roots, in their original character, as
either interjectional or onomatopœic. There are
others who derive words straight from interjections
and the cries of animals, and who claim in their
etymologies all the liberty the cow claims in saying
booh, mooh, or ooh, or that man claims in saying pooh,
fi, pfui. *42 With regard to the former theory, I should
wish to remain entirely neutral, satisfied with considering
roots as phonetic types till some progress has
been made in tracing the principal roots, not of Sanskrit
only, but of Chinese, Bask, the Turanian, and
Semitic languages, back to the cries of man or the
imitated sounds of nature.

Quite distinct from this is that other theory which,
without the intervention of determinate roots, derives
our words directly from cries and interjections. This
theory would undo all the work that has been done
by Bopp, Humboldt, Grimm, and others, during the
last fifty years; it would with one stroke abolish all
the phonetic laws that have been established with so
much care and industry, and throw etymology back
into a state of chaotic anarchy. According to Grimm's
law, we derive the English fiend, the German feind,
the Gothic fijand, from a root which, if it exists at all
in Sanskrit, Latin, Lithuanian, or Celtic, must there
begin with the tenuis p. Such is the phonetic law that
holds these languages together, and that cannot be
violated with impunity. If we found in Sanskrit a
92word fiend, we should feel certain that it could not be
the same as the English fiend. Following this rule
we find in Sanskrit the root pîy, to hate, to destroy,
the participle of which pîyant would correspond exactly
with Gothic fijand. But suppose we derived fiend
and other words of a similar sound, such as foul,
filth, &c., from the interjections fi, and pooh (faugh!
fo! fie! Lith. pui, Germ, pfui), all would be mere
scramble and confusion; Grimm's law would be
broken; and roots, kept distinct in Sanskrit, Greek,
Latin, and German, would be mixed up together.
For besides pîy, to hate, there is another root in
Sanskrit, pûy, to decay. From it we have Latin pus,
puteo, putridus; Greek pýon, and pý́thō; Lithuanian
pulei, matter; and, in strict accordance with Grimm's
law, Gothic fuls, English foul. If these words were
derived from fi! then we should have to include all
the descendants of the root bhi, to fear, such as
Lithuanian bijau, I fear; biaurus, ugly.

In the same manner, if we looked upon thunder as a
mere imitation of the inarticulate noise of thunder, we
could not trace the A. S. thunor back to the root tan,
which expresses that tension of the air which gives
rise to sound, but we should have to class it together
with other words, such as to din, to dun, and discover
in each, as best we could, some similarity with some
inarticulate noise. If, on the contrary, we bind ourselves
by definite rules, we find that the same law which
changes tan into than, changes another root dhvan into
din. There may be, for all we know, some distant relationship
between the two roots tan and dhvan, and that
relationship may have its origin in onomatopϕa; but
from the earliest beginnings of the history of the
Aryan language, these two roots were independent
93germs, each the starting point of large classes of words,
the phonetic character of which is determined throughout
by the type from which they issue. To ignore
the individuality of each root in Sanskrit, Greek, and
Latin, would be like ignoring the individuality of the
types of the animal creation. There may be higher,
more general, more abstract types, but if we want to
reach them, we must first toil through the lower and
more special types; we must retrace, in the descending
scale of scientific analysis, every step by which, in an
ascending scale, language has arrived at its present

The onomatopœic system would be most detrimental
to all scientific etymology, and no amount of
learning and ingenuity displayed in its application
could atone for the lawlessness which is sanctioned
by it. If it is once admitted that all words must be
traced back to definite roots, according to the strictest
phonetic rules, it matters little whether these roots are
called phonetic types, more or less preserved in all the
innumerable impressions that are taken from them, or
whether we call them onomatopœic and interjectional.
As long as we have definite forms between ourselves
and chaos, we may build our science like an arch of a
bridge, that rests on the firm piles fixed in the rushing
waters. If, on the contrary, the. roots of language
are mere abstractions, and there is nothing to separate
language from cries and interjections, then we may
play with language as children play with the sands of
the sea, but we must not complain if every fresh tide
wipes out the little castles we had built on the beach.94

1* Guhrauer, G. W. Freiherr von Leibnitz, 1846, vol. i. p. 328.

2* The work of Bishop Wilkins is analysed and criticised by
Lord Monboddo, in the second volume of his Origin and Progress
of Language
, Edinburgh, 1774.

3* Idéographie. Mémoire sur la possibilité et la facilité de
former une écriture générale au moyen de laquelle tous les peuples
puissent s'entendre mutuellement sans que les uns connaissent la
langue des autres; écrit par Don Sinibaldo de Mas, Envoyé Extraordinaire
et Ministre Plénipotentiaire de S.M.C. en Chine.
Paris: B. Duprat, 1863.

4* Page 99.

5* Page 21.

6* Marsh, History of the English Language, p. 211; Liebig,
Chemische Briefe, 4th edit., i. p. 96.

7* Cf. Farrar, p. 125; Heyse, p. 41.

8 Od. xiv. 197, οὔ τι διαπρήξαιμι λέυων έμὰ κήδεα ϑυμού.
Ulysses says he should never finish if he were to tell the sorrows
of his heart, i.e. if he were to count or record them, not simply
if he were to speak of them.

9 Locke On the Understanding, iv. 17, 9.

10§ This, too, is well put by Locke (iii. 3, 20) in his terse and
homely language: ‘I would say that all the great business of
genera and species, and their essences, amounts to no more but this;
that men making abstract ideas, and settling them in their minds,
with names annexed to them, do thereby enable themselves to
consider things, and discourse of them, as it were, in bundles, for
the easier and readier improvement and communication of their
knowledge, which would advance but slowly were their words
and thoughts confined only to particulars.’

11* Cf. Sk. âśu, quick, ώκύς, άκωκή, point, and other derivatives
given by Curtius, Griechische Etymologie, i. 101. The Latin
catus, sharp, has been derived from Sk. śo (śyati), to whet.

12 Etym. Magn., p. 474, 12., ἴκκος σημαίνει τὸν ἴππον. Curtius,
G. E. ii. 49.

13 Pott, Etym. F., ii. 139.

14* Locke, On the Human Understanding, ii. 11, 2.

15* Cf. Sankaṛa on Vedânta-Sûtra, 1, 3, 28 (Muir, Sanskrit Texts,
iii. 67), âkritibhiś cha śabdânâm sambandho na vyaktibhiḥ,
vyaktînâm ânantyât sambandhagrahaṇânupapatteḥ. ‘The relation
of words is with the genera, not with individuals; for, as individuals
are endless, it would be impossible to lay hold of relations.’

16* Works, i. p. 475.

17 l. c. ii. p. 446.

18* Locke, On the Human Understanding, iii. 2, 1.

19* l. c., iv. 5, 4.

20* l. c., iv. 5, 4.

21 l. c., i. 2, 15.

22 A child certainly knows that a stranger is not its mother;
that its sucking-bottle is not the rod, long before he knows that
it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be. — Locke,
On the Human Understanding, iv. 7, 9.

23* Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie, p. 52; Pott,
Etymologische Forschungen, ii. 261.

24 Carrière, Die Kunst im Zusammenhang der Culturentwickelung,
p. 11.

25 Curtius, G. E., i. 237.

26* Farrar, p. 125.

27* Lactantius, Divin. Inst., lib. 3, c. 19. Vario, inquit (Epicurus),
ordine ac positione conveniunt atomi sicut literae, quae cum sint
paucae, varie tamen collocatae innumerabilia verba conficiunt.

28 Metaph., i. 4, 11. Διαϕέρει γὰρ μὲν Α τσυ Ν σχήματι, τὸ δὲ
ΑΝ τσυ ΝΑ τάξει, τὸ δὲ Ζ τσυ Ν ϑέσει

29 Cf. Leibniz, De Arte combinatoria, Opp. t. ii. pp. 387-8, ed.
Dutens; Pott, Etym. Forsch. ii. p. 9.

30* Grimm, Deutsche Sprache, p. 853.

31* Τά δὲ αὐτὰ καὶ στοιχεἵα καλεἵται διὰ τὸ ἕχειν στοἵχόν τινα
καὶ τάξιν

32 The explanation here suggested of stoicheîon is confirmed by
some remarks of Professor Pott, in the second volume of his
Etymologische Forschungen, p. 191, 1861. The same author
suggests a derivation of elementum from root , solvere, with the
preposition ê. — l. c., p. 193.

33* p. 256.

34* Uṇâdi Sûtras, i. 70, dudhâñ dhâraṇaposhaṇayoḥ. Hetû, the
Sanskrit word for cause, cannot be referred to the same root from
which dhâtu is derived; for though dhâ forms the participle hita,
the i of hi-ta would not be liable to guṇa before tu. Hetû
(Unâdi Sûtras, i. 73) is derived from hi, which Bopp identifies
with κίω (Bopp, Glossarium, s. v. hi.) This κίω and κίνέω are
referred by Curtius to the Latin cio, cieo, citus, excito, not however
to the Sanskrit hi, but to root śi, to sharpen. — Cf. Curtius,
G. E. i. p. 118.

35* In earlier works the meaning of dhâtu is not yet so strictly
defined. In the Prâtiśâkhya of the Rigveda, xii. 5, a noun is defined
as that which signifies a being, a verb as that which signifies
being, and as such the verb is identified with the root (Tan nâma
yenâbhidadhâti sattvam, tad âkhyâtam yena bhâvam, sa dhâtuḥ).
In the Nirukta, too, verbs with different verbal terminations are
spoken of as dhâtus. — Nighanṭu, i. 20.

36* Endlicher, Chinesische Grammatik, § 123.

37 Cf. Hale, p. 263.

38 Bunsen's Aegypten, i. 324.

39* Etymologische Forschungen, ii. 95.

40* Ο γὰρ Έπίκουρος ἔλεγεν ὄτι ούχὶ ἐπιστημόνως ούτοι ἔθεντο τὰ
ὀνόματα, άλλὰ ϕυσικώς κινούμενοι, ώς οι βήσσντες καὶ κταίροντες
καὶ μυκώμενοι καὶ ύλακτούντες καὶ στενάζοντες
. — Proclus, ad Plat.
p. 9.

41* The Polynesian, Honolulu, 1862.

42* On the uncertainty of rendering inarticulate by articulate
sounds, see Marsh (4th ed.), p. 36; Sir John Stoddart's Glossology,
p. 231; Mélanges Asiatiques (St. Petersbourg) iv. 1.