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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/433

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THE INADEQUACY OF SPEECH

THE INADEQUACY OF SPEECH
By Dr. CHAS. W. SUPER

ATHENS, OHIO

ALMOST all the sounds that the human voice is capable of producing are used to express thought, feeling, or will. Many of these sounds are incorporated in articulate speech; but not all. It is to be remarked further that the term "articulate speech" includes many sounds that are not vocal, in fact the large majority are only modifications of vocal utterance. The most peculiar of those occurs in the language of the Hottentots: they employ sounds produced by inspiration or by means of the air in the mouth. These sounds are four in number and have been described as the "interjection of annoyance on the part of the owner when the china falls, the drawing of a cork, the giving of a kiss, and the sound of encouragement to a tired horse." They can be learned only from the natives by direct communication, since it is as impossible to represent them graphically as it is the croaking of a frog or the wail of a hyena. At least one writer maintains that they are the bridge over the gulf between the speech of man and the cries of animals, and are the primeval utterance out of which language was developed. No one tongue employs all the sounds which the human voice is able to produce, or even a majority. The instruction books for English place the number at about forty; but this is far from being all that are in use. Some languages, like the classical Italian and especially the Finnish, in both of which the vowels are numerous compared with the consonants, have few sounds and such as are easy of utterance. Conversely, the Russian employs combinations of consonants that it is almost impossible for adult foreigners to produce.

It must be remembered that a literary language is an artificial creation. Even the best instructed people do not speak as they write. The national adjective by which a language is designated is a much misunderstood word. England is a comparatively small country, yet to the ear there is much diversity in English speech. Tins diversity grows slowly less and less with the advance of national education, since by this means each rising generation is gradually led to conform to a common type. Appleton Morgan, the president of the New York Shakespeare Society, affirms that the members of Queen Elizabeth's parliament could not understand one another. This statement does not mean that the dialects of the different counties were as diverse as if they had been foreign tongues, but only that the diversities were of such a nature