Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/359

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
345
THE ARYAN QUESTION AND PREHISTORIC MAN.

cause it is common; so it is quite possible that it may be equally wrong to call the people who spoke the primitive Aryan dialects and inhabited the primitive home, the Aryan race. "Aryan" is properly a term of classification used in philology. "Race" is the name of a subdivision of one of those groups of living things which are called "species" in the technical language of zoology and botany; and the term connotes the possession of characters distinct from those of the other members of the species, which have a strong tendency to appear in the progeny of all members of the races. Such race-characters may be either bodily or mental, though in practice, the latter, as less easy of observation and definition, can rarely be taken into account. Language is rooted half in the bodily and half in the mental nature of man. The vocal sounds which form the raw materials of language could not be produced without a peculiar conformation of the organs of speech; the enunciation of duly accented syllables would be impossible without the nicest co-ordination of the action of the muscles which move these organs; and such co-ordination depends on the mechanism of certain portions of the nervous system. It is therefore conceivable that the structure of this highly complex speaking apparatus should determine a man's linguistic potentiality; that is to say, should enable him to use a language of one class and not another. It is further conceivable that a particular linguistic potentiality should be inherited and become as good a race-mark as any other. As a matter of fact, it is not proved that the linguistic potentialities of all men are the same. It is affirmed, for example, that, in the United States, the enunciation and the timbre of the voice of an American-born negro, however thoroughly he may have learned English, can be readily distinguished from that of a white man. But, even admitting that differences may obtain among the various races of men, to this extent, I do not think that there is any good ground for the supposition that an infant of any race would be unable to learn, and to use with ease, the language of any other race of men among whom it might be brought up. History abundantly proves the transmission of languages from some races to others; and there is no evidence, that I know of, to show that any race is incapable of substituting a foreign idiom for its native tongue.

From these considerations it follows that community of language is no proof of unity of race, is not even presumptive evidence of racial identity.[1] All that it does prove is that, at some


  1. Canon Taylor (Origin of the Aryans, p. 31) states that "Cuno... was the first to insist on what is now looked on as an axiom in ethnology that race is not coextensive with language," in a work published in 1871. I may be permitted to quote a passage from a lecture delivered on the 9th of January, 1870, which brought me into a great deal of trouble. "Physical, mental, and moral peculiarities go with blood and not with language.