(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Up to the very present day, the irons, the steels, direct and rule and
change life as no Alexanders, no Caesars, no Jengis Khans or Mussohms
have ever done You can see the things that arise out of iron from the
first iron spear-head and the first axe to the steel rail, the battleship and
the motor You can see them tempting and obliging and compelling men
to change their ways of life and their relations to one another There
were no particular iron-minded peoples It was a matter of quite secondary
importance to everyone but the gangs and individuals concerned, what
collection of people first got hold of the new thing But the new history
is not simply an account of the general material life of mankind .
Its subtler and more important business is the study of the develop-
ment of socially binding ideas through the medium of speech and writing.
How did language, speech and writing arise? .. The old-type historians
have done nothing to show how the imposition of a language or a blen-
ding of languages gives a new twist and often a new power to the com-
munity's mental processes. A language is an implement quite as much
as an implement of stone or steel3 its use involves social consequences,
it does things to you just as a metal or a machine does things to you It
makes new precision and also new errors possible

H   G  WELLS, In Search of Hot Water

The evolution of language has been almost as unconscious as that
ol an embryo He (man) grasps, necessarily without reflection, this
fascinating but gnarled product of evolution, neither he nor his relatives
and teachers considering at all whether the technique of communication
he is learning is modern He is in the position of a person who has
just discovered he can nde a bicycle and rushes off to buy the first he can
find, irrespective of whether it is new or of the latest design It is a
bicycle and gets him along somehow, that is enough He takes it, with
all its defects The language he learns is the unconsidered end-product
of an evolution from the sound-communications of ape-like ancestors
The immemorial words change less quickly than the entities they
represent, until to-day we find words often extremely misleading assis-
tants in complex thinking A colossal quantity of philosophizing upon
every side of life is entirely vitiated because persons use words quite
unsuited to describe the tilings they are discussing, as if men must
always sculpture with a hatchet because that was (perhaps) the first
instrument used for the purpose
J, G. CRQWTHER, Outline of the Universe