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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/108

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

called the "Portrait of a Gentleman." Nobody knows anything whatever about the original, but the "gentleman" is so sad and thoughtful that we dream with him, and see the world through his melancholy eyes. In minor degrees many paintings have this kind of attraction; it is to be found in landscape as well as in portrait and history, and, if a few thoughtful works are brought together in the same room, without being neutralized by anything discordant in furniture and decoration, their effect upon the mind may be both durable and profound.—Longmarts Magazine.

 

THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE.

EVEN if the study of words, as it is carried on by the method of the natural sciences, did not furnish evidence that all language is traceable back to primordial monosyllabic elements, observation of the language-processes in children would lead to that conclusion. Gestures and physiognomical motions preceded language proper, or articulate language; and on this point it is of interest to compare man with the monkeys, which are able to express a considerable variety of feelings by the play of the muscles of the forehead and the eyebrows, the lips, nose, and jaws. If asked on what vocalization depends, we should answer that it depends solely on a particular sensation being stronger than others. With the infant, voice is provoked at first by some uneasiness or suffering; and it is not till a later period that it responds to a feeling of comfort and satisfaction. But in either case the first emissions have nothing intentional about them, and there is no link of volition between the feeling and the vocal manifestation of it. The time comes at last when the child, beginning to perceive what is going on around him, remarks that they always come to his help when he has committed the act of utterance; and he has from that time learned by experiment the use of his vocal power. He employs it at first in a very general and vague way; but, as he is taught by experience, he learns to exercise it more precisely, more in accordance with his volition, and to adapt the vocal emission to the results he wishes to bring about. He also perceives the greater facility of expression it gives him, and so goes on developing his precious faculty as he continues to exercise it. Tylor has clearly brought out the fact that savages have in a high degree the power of expressing their ideas directly by emotional tones. These tones, or interjections, are the first elements of grammatical language. The same author has also remarked another fact, that children not more than three or four years old, for example, are wont to observe the play of features, attitude, and gestures of the