Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/826

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shown any advantage derived from this extreme perceptiveness. For making the s and z, the tongue has to be partially applied to a portion of the palate next the teeth. Not only, however, must the contact be incomplete, but its place is indefinite—may be half an inch further back. To make the sh and zh, the contact has to be made, not with the tip, but with the upper surface of the tongue; and must be an incomplete contact. Though, for making the liquids, the tip of the tongue and the sides of the tongue are used, yet the requisite is not any exact adjustment of the tip, but an imperfect contact with the palate. For the th, the tip is used along with the edges of the tongue; but no perfect adjustment is required, either to the edges of the teeth, or to the junction of the teeth with the palate, where the sound may equally well be made. Though for the t and d complete contact of the tip and edges of the tongue with the palate is required, yet the place of contact is not definite, and the tip takes no more important share in the action than the sides. Any one who observes the movements of his tongue in speaking, will find that there occur no cases in which the adjustments must have an exactness corresponding to the extreme power of discrimination which the tip possesses: for speech, this endowment is useless. Even were it useful, it could not be shown that it has been developed by survival of the fittest; for though perfect articulation is useful, yet imperfect articulation has rarely such an effect as to impede a man in the maintenance of his life. If he is a good workman, a German's interchanges of b's and p's do not disadvantage him. A Frenchman who, in place of the sound of th, always makes the sound of z, succeeds as a teacher of music or dancing, no less than if he achieved the English pronunciation. Nay, even such an imperfection of speech as that which arises from cleft palate, does not prevent a man from getting on if he is capable. True, it may go against him as a candidate for Parliament, or as an "orator" of the unemployed (mostly not worth employing). But in the struggle for life he is not hindered by the effect to the extent of being less able than others to maintain himself and his offspring. Clearly, then, even if this unparalleled perceptiveness of the tongue-tip is required for perfect speech, this use is not sufficiently important to have been developed by natural selection.

How, then, is this remarkable trait of the tongue-tip to be accounted for? Without difficulty, if there is inheritance of acquired characters. For the tongue-tip has, above all other parts of the body, unceasing experiences of small irregularities of surface. It is in contact with the teeth, and either consciously or unconsciously is continually exploring them. There is hardly a moment in which impressions of adjacent but different positions are not being yielded to it by either the surfaces of the teeth or