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Thought And Language
by [?]

Turning from thought to language, we observe that the word is derived from the French langue, or tongue. Strictly, therefore, it means tonguage. This, however, takes account of but a very small part of the ideas that underlie the word. It does, indeed, seize a familiar and important detail of everyday speech, though it may be doubted whether the tongue has more to do with speaking than lips, teeth and throat have, but it makes no attempt at grasping and expressing the essential characteristic of speech. Anything done with the tongue, even though it involve no speaking at all, is tonguage; eating oranges is as much tonguage as speech is. The word, therefore, though it tells us in part how speech is effected, reveals nothing of that ulterior meaning which is nevertheless inseparable from any right use of the words either “speech” or “language.” It presents us with what is indeed a very frequent adjunct of conversation, but the use of written characters, or the finger- speech of deaf mutes, is enough to show that the word “language” omits all reference to the most essential characteristics of the idea, which in practice it nevertheless very sufficiently presents to us. I hope presently to make it clear to you how and why it should do so. The word is incomplete in the first place, because it omits all reference to the ideas which words, speech or language are intended to convey, and there can be no true word without its actually or potentially conveying an idea. Secondly, it makes no allusion to the person or persons to whom the ideas are to be conveyed. Language is not language unless it not only expresses fairly definite and coherent ideas, but unless it also conveys these ideas to some other living intelligent being, either man or brute, that can understand them. We may speak to a dog or horse, but not to a stone. If we make pretence of doing so we are in reality only talking to ourselves. The person or animal spoken to is half the battle–a half, moreover, which is essential to there being any battle at all. It takes two people to say a thing–a sayee as well as a sayer. The one is as essential to any true saying as the other. A. may have spoken, but if B. has not heard, there has been nothing said, and he must speak again. True, the belief on A.’s part that he had a bona fide sayee in B., saves his speech qua him, but it has been barren and left no fertile issue. It has failed to fulfil the conditions of true speech, which involve not only that A. should speak, but also that B. should hear. True, again, we often speak of loose, incoherent, indefinite language; but by doing so we imply, and rightly, that we are calling that language which is not true language at all. People, again, sometimes talk to themselves without intending that any other person should hear them, but this is not well done, and does harm to those who practise it. It is abnormal, whereas our concern is with normal and essential characteristics; we may, therefore, neglect both delirious babblings, and the cases in which a person is regarding him or herself, as it were, from outside, and treating himself as though he were some one else.

Inquiring, then, what are the essentials, the presence of which constitutes language, while their absence negatives it altogether, we find that Professor Max Muller restricts them to the use of grammatical articulate words that we can write or speak, and denies that anything can be called language unless it can be written or spoken in articulate words and sentences. He also denies that we can think at all unless we do so in words; that is to say, in sentences with verbs and nouns. Indeed he goes so far as to say upon his title-page that there can be no reason–which I imagine comes to much the same thing as thought–without language, and no language without reason.