THE SPEECH OF THE CHILD 309
associations, to appreciate written signs. The child who recog-
nizes a triangle and calls it a triangle, can recognize the letter * s9
and call it by its sound S. This is obvious.
Let us stop talking about precocity in teaching. Let us rid
ourselves of prejudices, and confine ourselves to experience, which
shows how children actually carry on without any effort, even with
distinct signs of pleasure and gratitude, with the recognition of
written signs presented as objects.
With this preface, let us consider the relationships between the
mechanical systems employed in the two languages.
The child of three or four years old has already, according to
our diagram, begun spoken language some time before, but he is
just at the stage in which the mechanism of spoken language is
perfected—a period contemporaneous with that in which he masters
the content of language with the inheritance of perceptions.
Perhaps the child has not heard perfectly in all their compo-
nent sounds the words which he pronounces; and, if he has heard
them perfectly, they may have been badly pronounced, and there-
fore have left a wrong auditory impression. It would be a good
thing if the child, by exercising the motor tracts of spoken language,
could establish exactly the movements necessary for perfect articu-
lation, before faulty mechanism having been fixed and the age of
easy motor adaptations being past, the defects become incorrigible.
To secure this, the word must be analysed. So wishing to
perfect language, we first train the children in composition and then
pass on to grammatical studies, and wishing to improve style we
first teach them to write grammatically, and then we come to the
analysis of the style; trying thus to perfect the word, it is first of
all necessary that the word should exist, and then is the fitting
time for attacking the analysis of it. It is when the child speaks
that there has come the time for analysing the word in order to
But as grammer and style are not possible with spoken
language, but have to be referred to written language which
presents to the eye the speech to be analysed, so it is with the word.