Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/382

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ogy of anything else. But our analysis of the main language problems must at last rest, I think, on the following observation: Language, the joint creation of the organs of speech and the hearing ear, became, by the invention of writing, a thing of written tracings addressed to the eye. Mere speech is not, in the nature of things, an object of study. The child learns it by ear, but his ear no more studies it than the eye studies optics to improve the sight. What we really want to know, and what we study in school, is written language, and we must always bear in mind the artificiality inherent in the strange medium. It can matter nothing to the infant who hears it whether he hear Greek or Zulu or English. He learns what he hears as unconsciously as a dog wags his tail. The conditions under which one tries to learn how to speak a foreign tongue are usually quite abnormal. That involves some conscious effort, doubtless, but whether the learner be a prince or the boots in a hotel, his most effective means of learning will be by ear, he must let himself be taught to hear. The rest is easy, provided he is young and has not been made self-conscious by a half-knowledge of grammar. Learning to speak a foreign language is, however, not a school problem, and I can foresee no conditions in the near future under which it is likely to become one. It would be well if those who prate of the practical value of the modern language would candidly add that for use as speech the French, German or Spanish that they recommend are, under the conditions that obtain, practically—if not potentially—as dead as Greek or Latin. It would be instructive, too, to get a statement from a thousand random men, who studied a modern language at school ten years ago, as to how many times it has been necessary, or would even have been convenient, to speak the language. Not but I would have persons learn to read or, if they could, to speak several modern languages, but if the Latin grounding has been thorough the acquisition of a reading knowledge of a modern language—and this is for people in general the practical thing—is a mere bagatelle. Again let me repeat it, for school purposes language study means the study of written languages, which is artificial and secondary. But though written language has developed habits and turns of its own; and writing has given to the registered phrase stability, variety, intricacy, whence the written word has acquired a special psychology of its own: yet it has never lost its inherited traits as speech.

This observation brings us to consider the order of words in language, a point on which Professor Hill betrays, sit venia verbo, some aplomb. He likes not an arrangement of thought in a different sequence from his own. Taking "amabo" for his instance, he rethinks it as "love, future, I," with some cavil at the relegation of his personality to the rear. In "Lucretiam amabo" the beloved, as he hints himself, might happen to prefer the Latin emphasis: if there were any emphasis. The truth is amabo is a crystal, a synthesis, and it appeals to the mind