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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/443

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439
THE INADEQUACY OF SPEECH

conditions. They depart from their usual routine. In the child, thought and speech are developed, pari passu, but after a while the latter is no longer indispensable. They need a support just as they do in learning to walk. That thought and reason are not identical may thus be judged in its lowest forms by the conduct of certain animals and from the lowest races such as the Euegians and Bushmen, since the reasoning powers of the latter always remain at the puerile stage, but also from those persons who have risen into an intellectual region where words are inadequate to express their ideas.

The generally accepted explanation of this tendency to abbreviate words spoken of before is that it is due to laziness, or a well-nigh irresistible impulse to follow the law of least effort. It is, however, more probably owing to the incapacity of adults to apprehend sounds correctly. Even with the utmost care on the part of the teacher and the learner, persons who have reached the age of maturity seldom succeed in acquiring the correct pronunciation of a foreign language. One may continue to add a reading knowledge of languages to one's repertoire as long as his mental faculties are unimpaired, but the capacity to imitate a correct pronunciation seldom continues beyond the age of about twenty. What is done by the child without thought and without effort is impossible to the "grown-ups."[1]

That the psychic life of man can not be fully expressed by language is further evinced by the predisposition manifested everywhere and at all times by mankind to come to its aid with the hands. Hence we have the plastic and pictorial arts together with music. The artistic instinct is nowhere wholly lacking; prehistoric man made rude carvings. A mere daub or a coarse wood-cut gives the beholder a clearer conception of an object than pages of description. The same may be said of a piece of statuary. Words set to music and rhythm in a simple air are more impressive than a mere recitation. When then it is supported by a musical instrument, or better still by an orchestra, the effect is greatly heightened. Even without words emotion can be forcibly expressed by instruments alone or by gestures alone. The orator Cicero is reputed to have said that the actor Eoscius could portray the feelings more accurately in pantomime than he was himself able to describe them with words. The instinct or impulse that leads men to endeavor to give utterance to their feeling by rhythm and tones, often very unmusical to a cultivated taste, is almost as old as the


  1. A curious and amusing instance once occurred in my own experience. I was talking with an Englishman who dealt with the h-sound after the somewhat usual manner of his countrymen. Upon my alluding to his weakness in a jocular way, he became very angry, declaring that I had taken up a false charge. Yet in the very words of his defense he committed the peccadilloes against which he was defending his countrymen. On the other hand, I have known several Englishmen who admitted the bad habit and strove assiduously to avoid it.