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in this way. The method of communicating thoughts by means of paintings, as among the Mexicans, and which, undoubtedly, existed among the Egyptians, previous to the invention of Hieroglyphicks, was found inconvenient. The work was difficult in the execution, and bulky when it was completed; and there was, accordingly, very soon an attempt at the abridgment of that method.

Thus, the head might be used to designate a man ; two or more hands with weapons opposed, a battle; a scaling ladder, set against a wall, a siege; a leafless tree, the winter. But when those, who depended upon this mode of expressing their thoughts, came to certain classes of the passions, the moral qualities, and a variety of abstract truths, they were under the necessity of finding out certain sensible objects, which bore or were supposed to bear some resemblance to such ideas, and, consequently, to go further in such instances, than a mere abridgment of pictorial delineations.

The eye was selected, in reference to such analogies, to signify wisdom; ingratitude was expressed by a viper, biting the hand, that gave it food; courage, by a lion; imprudence, by a fly; cunning, by a serpent.

On the temple of Minerva at Sais, there were the following hieroglyphical characters, an infant, an old man, a hawk, a fish, and a river horse, expressing this moral idea; ALL YOU, WHO COME INTO THE WORLD, AND GO OUT of it, KNOW THIS, THAT IMPUDENCE IS HATEFUL; a plain and practical truth, quite worthy to be read and understood by the people.

As the number of ideas among the people increased, and became more and more abstract, greater ingenuity was required in the invention of hieroglyphical characters to express them. Thus; a winged globe, with a serpent issuing from it, came to denote the universe, or universal


The opinion has been often expressed, that the knowledge, wrapt up in the hieroglyphical characters of the Egyptians, and which embraced history, laws, and civil polity, was limited wholly to the priests, and that the com

mon people were made acquainted with it, only as they received it from the priests. This might from some causes have been the fact ultimately; but probably hieroglyphicks were at first designed not more for the priests than for the people, not to conceal knowledge, but to preserve and to communicate it.

We come now briefly to consider the written characters of the Chinese.

§. 111. Of the written characters of the Chinese.

It is a peculiarity of the Chinese language, that it employs CHARACTERS, i. e., artificial and arbitrary delineations, to express ideas, instead of words. Thus, for the idea, expressed by the English word, PRISONER, we have this delineation, which is less complicated than many others, viz. a figure, approaching in its form to a square with another figure nearly in the shape of an equilateral triangle, placed in the centre of it. The character, which, as it is articulated, is EUL, and answers to the English word, EAR, is somewhat in the shape of a PARALLELOGRAM, crossed at nearly equal distances from the ends by lines, drawn at right angles to the sides.

As every separate idea must have a distinct, separate character, standing for it, they are of course numerous. The elaborate Chinese work, called by way of distinction, THE GREAT DICTIONARY, contains sixty thousand of them; although an acquaintance with a far less number, it is supposed, with no more than two thousand, will enable one to read, that number being found sufficient for the understanding of treatises on common topicks and for the ordinary transactions of business.

8. 112. The Chinese character an improvement on the hieroglyphical.

As hieroglyphicks are an improvement on the mode of expressing ideas by painting, the characters employed by the Chinese may with good reason be considered the next

step in advance of hieroglyphicks. It is a proof of this, that many of the characters, particularly those called elementary, bore originally an analogy or resemblance to the objects, for which they stand. They were of course anciently hieroglyphicks, although now arbitrary characters. The fact, on which this conclusion is founded, is ascertained by consulting ancient inscriptions on cups of serpentine stone, on vases of porcelain, on seals of agate, and the characters used in editions of very ancient books. The characters, which at present stand for the sun, moon, a field, and the mouth, are quite arbitrary, and we discover no analogy between then and the object; but it was otherwise at first.

The sun was originally represented by a circle with a dot in the centre; the moon, by the segment of a circle; a field by a figure resembling a square, set off into smaller divisions by two lines intersecting each other at right angles in the centre; a mouth by a figure, intended to resemble the projection of the lips.

The Chinese character, then, may be considered to be the connecting link between hieroglyphicks and alphabetical languages. And its comparative value, as a means of expressing thought, seems to be indicated by the place, which it holds, viz. greater than that of the purely hieroglyphical system, and less than that of the languages, formed of alphabets.

Note. The progress of the system of the Chinese from a hieroglyphical to a purely arbitrary character may be illustrated by the following story.

A taveru-keeper in Hungary, unable to write, kept account of the surns due to him by strokes chalked on his door, to each series of strokes was annexed a figure to denote the customer, to whom they applied. The soldier was represented by the figure of a musket; the carpenter by a saw, the smith by a ham. In a short time for convenience, the musket was reduced to a straight line, the saw to a zig zag line, the hammer to a cross; and thus began to be formed a set of characters, gradually receding from the original figure. The resemblance night, at last, be entirely lost sight of, and the figures become mere arbituary marks.


5. 113. The invention of alphabetick language a subject of dispute.

There is a great distance between the arbitrary characters of the Chinese, which are employed as the signs of ideas merely, and alphabetical language.-Nor is it very easy to see, how the latter could flow out of the former, or what reciprocal connection of any kind they possess. Indeed it has been strenuously contended by many persons, that no progress of the human mind whatever, as it went forward from its barbarous to its more enlightened conditions, could have arrived at this wonderful invention. They consider it the gift of God.

The arguments on both sides of the question, Whether alphabetick language be of human, or of divine origin, are numerous and ingenious. But as the nature of our design requires us to avoid, as much as possible, long discussions, this must be our apology for declining an inquiry, which is certainly interesting, and not unimportant. Of those, who maintain, that language is of divine origin are Warburton, Johnson, and Blair; of the opposite opinion are Richard Simon and Condillac, with others on both sides.

Note. We subjoin in this note the remark, which may possibly be of use to future inquirers on the subject treated of in this chapter, that there was anciently among the Peruvians something like the arbitrary characters of the Chinese. That people early contrived the following method of expressing and preserving their thoughts, viz. by means of cords of different colours and by knots on these of various sizes and differently arranged.

Something similar seems to have been practised among a North American tribe of savages, the Osages; as appears from the journal of one of the missionaries among them under date of Aug. 8, 1925.

"Proposed to White Hair to assemble his people to hear preaching. He declined, alledging, that I gave him no tobacco. Sans Nerf said, it was had to assemble the people; they did not understand well; but if I would tell what I had to say, he would tell it to the people. He then seated himself with his bundle of sticks, and I expressed to him twelve or fifteen ideas respecting God, his government, &c. For every idea he laid down a stick, which is his manner of writing. After I had finished, he asked various questions, soliciting further explanations, until he was satisfied. He then counted all his sticks and said, I understand it all.”




§. 114. Superiour excellence of alphabetical language.

In whatever way we may have come by alphabetical language, whether God himself were directly its author, or whether he early raised up some happy inventor, whose remembrance is now passed away, it is truly, if we may be allowed a scriptural allusion, a price, put into our hands, for the getting of wisdom. The single circumstance, that it is fitted to be employed, as a sign both of things and of vocal sounds, renders it greatly superiour to the afore-mentioned modes of expressing thought, gestures, symbolick actions, hieroplyphicks, paintings, Chinese characters, or other methods, which may have been at any time used.

As mental exertions are intimately connected with those means, by which they become obvious or are made known to others, one proof, and by no means a small one, of the superiour excellence of this over other methods may be found in the intellectual degradation of Savages and even of the Chinese themselves, compared with the nations of Europe. To whatever other causes this difference may be ascribed, the superiority of the latter in the signs of thought, which they employ, is undoubtedly one cause.

It may be said of alphabetical language in one sense, that it not only expresses our ideas, but multiplies them; at least, the facility of expressing and communicating thought by means of it sets men upon renewed thinking, and the result is wider views, more correct principles, sounder policy; moral, civil, and scientifick improvement.

§. 115. Words are artificial and arbitrary signs.

Words, whether we consider them, as written or spoken, for, as they are thus respectively considered, they form the

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