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seen a Chinese treatise on the grammar of verb to hear is represented by an Ear and a the spoken idiom. The reason is obvious. Door. Now, if the sound or name of the The Chinese affect to ascribe every thing to wo objects represented gave the name of their system of writing, which they would the third, the characters might be said to rehave us believe to be an admirable philosophical invention, in:lependent of, and uncon present the word (or third name) intended : nected with the language, which they con- but this is as little the case in the Chinese as sider only as the oral expression of the cha- in the English ; and if bird-mouth could in racters, while the reverse is the exact truth. any shape convey the meaning of song, Thai a vain, ignorant nation should entertain would it not be in the association of ideas such notions, is not at all to be wondered at; or combination of attributes, rather than in but that grave and learned European phiio- the sound of a word? By the same associalogists should adopt them without reflection tion of ideas, Man and Desert might repre. is truly astonishing."-pp. xvii. xviii.
sent a Hermit to an English eye or sense, Without stopping to coinbat what we can.
but Man-Mountain, so efficient for this end not but consider as farther fallacies, it is to a Chinese, to a Briton, and probably an evident that, in any case, the non-connection American also, would but recall Captain between characters and words is a defect Samuel Gulliver in Lilliput-and why? Be. originating in a state of barbarism. The cause the imaginative association of Swift Chinese do not pretend to have had an al. forms an integral and sole portion of our phabet previously, and to have rejected this ideas in this combination, to the exclusion of
that conventional combination accepted in for their present characters: but it is clear that the acceptance of a sign for one sound, the Celestial Empire, and which we acquire as shan, a hill, and of a totally different sign
but subsequently for the similar sound of shang, above, must
An idea* is simply an apprehensory im. have been conventional, and was used be. cause no nearer or more satisfactory medium presented itself , to mark corresponding the explantions of his learned countryman, Doc
* Doctor Du Ponceau can scarcely object lo ly to the eye their similarity to the ear.
tor Webster, whose very complete and elaborate Our alphabet, which does this, is conse. Dictionary, rejecting the false brilliance of comquently essentially different in nature from pendious and antithetic definitions, is careful to the Chinese character system; and yet Doc- give the complete sense of each term. We quote tor Du Ponceau has not hesitated to declare part of the three definitions of character, idea,
and word. that the two represent words in one and the Character, n. (L. character ; Fr. caractère ; same manner!
Sp. caracter; It. carattere ; Gr. xaparing, from the Speaking of the fifth class of the Chinese verb xapácow, xapartw, to scrape, cut, engrave. characters, which cornbines two or more 10
“1. A mark made by cutting or engraving, as
on stone, metal, or other hard material; hence, represent a word, our author, guessing that a mark or figure made with a pen or style, on paDr. Morrison's definition, “association of per or other material used to contain writing; a ideas in compounding the cbaracters," is letter, or figure used to form words, and communbut a translation of the Chinese definition, icate ideas. Characters are : literal, as the letadds,
ters of an alphabet; numeral, as the arithmetical figures; emblematical or symbolical, which express
things or ideas, and abbreviations. “We take the liberty to define it thus : “Ž. A mark or figure, made by stamping or • The association or combining of several impression, as on coins. words in their appropriate characters to re.
3. The manner of writing; the peculiar form present another word.' Thus we combine of letters used by a particular person, &c. the letters of our alphabet to give them a Idea, n. (L. idea ; Fr. idée; Gr. idía, from meaning, which, separately, they have not. ciow, to see ; L. video.) The Chinese combine their significant cha- form, image, model of any thing in the mind;
'1. Literally, that which is seen. Hence, racters to give to the groups thus formed a that which is held or comprehended by the unmeaning which none of them possess sepa- derstanding or intellectual faculties. rately. The meaning is in the words to which the characters are applied, and that meaning ception, thought, opinion, and even purpose or
" 2. In popular use idea signifies notion, conthey only hint at by the association of other intention. words represented by their appropriate " 3. Image, in the mind. signs.”—p. xix.
"4. An opinion; a proposition, &c.
Word, n. [Sax. pond or pýnd; G. wort; D. This seems to us the strongest possible word is probably the participle of a foot in Bri
woord ; Dan. and Sw.ord; Sans, wartha. This case of a pelitio principii---and let the read. and radically the same as L. verhum ; Ir, abairim, er judge for himself. The characters ex- to speak. A word is that which is uttered or pressing the Sun and Moon stand for Light : thrown out. those of Man and Mountain signify Hermit; nation of articulate and vocal sounds, uttered by
“ 1. An articulate or vocal sound, or a combia Bird and a Mouth express Song; and the the human voice, and by custom expressing an
pression ; a perception conveying intelligence place. A lover therefore says, “ I hang the to the mind; and we express the subject of snake at the end of the falcon's bridge on the that intelligence by a word rather than the gallous of the shield"—this gives the idea it intelligence itself. The subject, or thing it. seems of " I put a ring on thy finger !" self then, furnishes the idea (or intelligence); As to the sixth and last class of characters and this creates the name or word. Now if we need merely observe, that since the Chi. the Chinese character is not a picture, but a nese admit these to be phonetic, they are sign substituting a picture, it recalls primari- capable of recognizing the connection between ly but the thing it represents; and the name form and sound : and since they thus distinof that thing it recalls only collaterally, or guish this class from the rest, it is, probably, by its connection with it. The process in because a difference exists between those and this case is—the sign, the thing signified by these ; the former being an exception to the it, and then the name. With us, it is, 1st latter. This obvious consideration seems to the alphabetic combination representing, and have been wholly overlooked by our author, the name, and through this, 3rd, the thing who goes on to consider the phonetic system named--a converse process to the former, as applied to foreign words and names, a we submit. If we take jih and yue, Sun part of his argument also. Yet Phonetic and Moon, how will any combination of these characters lose heir sense necessarily vhen names make the sound, or spoken word, ming, assuming syllabic sounds. Light ? How, then, shall we obtain this last but by the impression of the common attri.
The Chinese have other modes of employ. bute of those two planets ? And does not, ing their characters to represent the sounds therefore, the name come through the idea in of words or proper names of foreign origin; this instance ? Is not, in fact, the applica. classes. They are fully explained in the fol.
but they are not included in the above six tion of a fresh word instead of the two, com- lowing dissertation, in which I have endea. pound, terms, creating a word for the result voured to prove that the Chinese system of of that compound, i. e. for the new idea ? writing is essentially phonetic, because the
characters represent words, and words are " It very often happens that those combi- sounds ; and because, if not connected with nations are mere enigmas, and present no de- those sounds, they would present to the mind finite idea to the mind, and sometimes one no idea whatever.”—pp. xxi. xxii. entirely contrary to its object; but they serve the purpose, precisely as our groups of letters The argument or rather illustration by when they represent different sounds from our usual numerical figures, though amply those attached to the separate characters.”- sufficient for all the purposes to which it is
generally applied, is met by our learned au.
thor in a way that shows him, we strongly We do not see that this fact helps the Doctor's argument, or has anything to do suspect, to have little considered this portion with it pro or contrà. The idea resulting after, and probably in the course of the pre
of the question. We shall recur to it herefrom these enigmas arises from the impres. sent article. sion their enigmatical objects convey by jux. taposition, whether through similarity or con- as to the second object of bis publication,
It is but just to give the author's own words trast ; and this result being simply conven: and his summary of the views that actuate tional, the consequence that follows assimi.
the whole. lates to our own system, which is purely one of rules. We shall offer in illustration a sin. " Another object of this publication is, to gular instance of the Norsemen's enigmatical discover what ground there is for the popular mode of conveying ideas pictorially by words. notion that several nations entirely ignorant A snake is the symbol of a circle, which is of each other's oral language, communicate the form of a ring : the hand is the bridge with each other in writing by means of the that carries the fulcon—the end of that bridge Chinese characters. As it regards nations is the finger—the gallows on which a shield whose languages, like the Japanese, are polyis nung must be the arm—and to hang is to cal forms, I think I have sufficiently proved
syllabic, and have inflections and grammati
that it is impossible that they should underidea or ideas; a single component part of humam stand the Chinese writing, unless they have speech or language.
learned the Chinese language, though they "A., in English, is a word; but few words con: may not be in the habit of speaking it. But sist of one letter only. Most words consist of it may be otherwise with respect to those natwo or more letters, as go, do, shall, called mono- tions whose languages are monosyllabic, and syllables; or of two or more syllables, as honor, formed on the same model with the Chinese, goodness, amiable.
“2. The letter or letters, written or printed, and who have adopted the same system of which represent a suund or combination of sounds, writing. It cannot be denied, that to a cer. &c."
tain extent, that is to say, as far as words,
having the same meaning in both languages, I would not wish it supposed that a man of his are represented by the same characters, they confessed talents, judgment, and acquiremay so far, but no farther, communicate with ments, will go wrong generally and upon an each other in writing. How far that can be the case, can only be shown by a comparison enlarged scale; but that his error lies in the of their languages, and of the manner in misapplication of general principles to a which they make use of their written signs.” particular case.
The following passage
from his first section, will illustrate, we « On the whole, by the publication of this conceive, both his general acuteness and the book, I have had in view to establish the fol- particular error: lowing propositions :
“1. That the Chinese system of writing is “ When in the last century the Chinese not, as has been supposed, ideographic ; that language, through the writings of the Cathoits characters do not represent ideas, but lic missionaries, became known to the learn. words, and therefore I have called it lexigru.ed of Europe, great astonishment was es. phic.
cited by its simple, ungrammatical structure, “2. That ideographic writing is a creature by its complicated graphic system, and by the of the imagination, and cannot exist, but for small number of its monosyllables, compared very limited purposes, which do not entitle it with the immense quantity of the characto the name of writing.
ters employed in writing. Every new and “3. That among men endowed with the extraordinary object must, with the mass of gift of speech, all writing must be a direct re- mankind, be a monsler or a miracle; the lat. presentation of the spoken language, and can- ter was preferred. Admiration succeeded not present ideas to the mind abstracted from surprise, and then innagination did its work. it.
The Chinese writing was called hieroglyphic, “4. That all writing, as far as we know, ideographic, and said to represent ideas en represents language in some of its elements, tirely independent of speech. It was almost which are words, syllables and simple sounds. exclusively considered as the language, and In the first case it is lexigraphic, in the se. the spoken words were called its pronunciacond syllabic, and in the third alphabetical or tion, as as if they were only a secondary elementary.
mode of communicating ideas, and dependent “5. That the lexigraphic system of the upon the ocular method. At last, it was said Chinese cannot be applied to a polysyllabic that the Chinese characters were read and language, having inflections and grammatical understood as in China, by nations entirely forms; and that there is no example of its be ignorant of the spoken idiom. In short those ing so applied, unless partially or occasionally, visible signs were held up by enthusiasts as or as a special elliptical and enigmatical a model for an universal language which mode of communication, limited in its uses; should reach the mind through the eyes, but not as a general system of writing intend without the aid of articulate sounds."-p. 7. ed for common use.
“6. That it may be applied to a monosyl In the course of his argument our inge. labic language, formed on the model of the nious author has occasion to touch upou l'a. Chinese ; bul that it will necessarily receive rious opinions of previous writers. He is duce material differences in the value and especially severe upon the Quarterly and significations of the characters between dif- Edinburgh Revie:rs; the former, for imaginferent languages, however similar in their ing "that a language was made and words original structure; and therefore,
invented for the purpose" of giving a pro57. That nations, whose languages like the nunciation to the characters after they were Japanese, and as is said, the Loo-chooan, are framed; and the latter for stating that polysyllabic, and have inflections and gram. matical forms, although they may employ
""The Chinese have for ages employed a Chinese characters in their alphabet
, cannot multitude of ideagraphic (sic) characiers, de. possibly understand Chinese books and ma- rived by composition and otherwise from a nuscripts, unless they have learned the Chi limited number of elementary pictures or renese language; and that if those nations presentations of external objects called keys, whose languages are monosyllabic, and who without making the least step towards an use the Chinese characters, lexigraphically, alphabet.' And further : " The Egyptians can understand Chinese writings without seem likewise to have remained contented knowing the language, it can only be to a with their hieroglyphic system, or at least limited extent, which it is one of the objects not to have advanced a step beyond it.'"of this publication to ascertain.
" Although strongly impressed with the conviction of the truth of these propositions,
Our periodical brethren are sufficiently it is nevertheless with great deference that able, and ive doubt not willing to defend their I submit them to the judgment of the learn- own opinions, and we shall nol therefore un. ed.”—pp. xxxi. xxxii.
dertake so gratuitous a task farther than by
observing that the opinion of the Edinburgh In differing widely, as we regret to do, Review here quoted, is that of all sinolo. from Doctor Du Ponceau's opinion, we gists, and that the non-progression of the
Egyptians beyond a certain point arose, in must have attended, toties quoties, any other all probability, from the reluctance of their system in its formation. Will any scholar pries:ly scribes to simplify their system for doubt that the Sanscrit or the Abyssinian the vulgar, as well as from the (in part at grammatical systems bear evident marks of least) contemporary existence of an alpha- being formed by design? The former betic system, applicable of course to the especially rejecting so many accidental imcommoner purposes of life. The hypothe- perfections and redundancies of other sis of the Quarterly is also less stariling tongues, and completing, evidently by dethan might be supposed at a first glance; sign, the auxiliary tenses, left imperfect in for though it is not possible to believe speech all other tongues—and could its wonderful itself discovered after writing, yet this is precision have been the work of a single not the sense of the passage, as the Doc- mind? Whence came Hermesian, Secret, tor's quotation might induce us to suppose ; Masonic, and Cypher Alphabets ? How nor could the able journal in question have worse than idle or childish then to sneer at fallen, by any possibility, into such an ab- the idea of “ sages in deep divan,” which surdity ; but that a system of spoken sounds, could only be incomprehensible to a writer that is to say, monosyllables, as contradis. so superficial as Marshman often proved; tinguished from polysyllabic words, should and he, after all, offered nothing better or have been simplified from words of exist. more satisfactory. ing languages expressly to meet the exigen We are far from wishing to detract from cies of this artificial Chinese character is the real merits of Doctor Marshman, who surely no extravagant theory, and scarcely, | lived long enough, we believe, to retract if at all, less credible than the opinion enter. some material errors, and whose Clavis Si. tained by many of the artificial construc- nica may be considered the most complete tion of the Sanscrit language.
popular view of the Chinese language. With regard to the opinions of Remusat, Still less would we desire to lessen the justFourmont, and Adelung, we must be per- ly.earned fame of M. de Rémusat, whose mitted here to observe of the first, that the name as a scholar can be emulated but by inference he draws respecting Fourmont's few. Still the truth must be admitted, that reputed assertion is, for aught we can see, on several occasions, where means perhaps altogether gratuitous and unfounded. The of due examination were wanting, he tried statement of the latter that the Chinese to supply their place by theories,* ingenicharacters were anterior to the words, by no ous indeed, and learned, but hastily adopted ineans bears out, as our immediate argu- and superficial to a degree not easily conment has shown, M. Reinusat's apparent conceivable in a linguist of such undoubted clusion that Fourmont considered Speech talents, erudition, and research : and on this itself subsequent to Writing. The pro- point he forms the strongest possible con. found learning and careful investigations of trast with his great rival Silvestre de Sacy. Fourmont have most materially smoothed Of Adelung who lived, unfortunately for the path of Chinese literature for subse. his own fame, at a time when philology was quent scholars; and the seriously recorded yet in its infancy, but to whom that nascent opinion of such a man,-viz. that the Chi- science owes so much for his invaluable, nese writing was the invention of philoso. though imperfect work, the Mithridates; phers, who subsequently communicated it to of him we must be permitted to observe the nation at large,-is not to be lightly that, wide as was the extent of his own sneered down by the far humbler authority knowledge of tongues, yet the universal of Marshman, yet.
nature of his scheme was beyond the ac
complishment of any single faculty; and “We can hardly imagine," says Dr. Marsh- that consequently he was often reduced to man, “ that while most of the languages, formed on the alphabetic plan, bear evident quote the opinions of others, not always the marks of being formed rather by accident best authorities, on points to which his own than design, a number of Chinese sages researches had not extended; and that should have sat in deep divan, in order to se- therefore many, thus unavoidable, errors are lect certain objects as the basis of the imita- mixed up in his account of the connection tive system; yet we shall find that these ele- and grammatical structure of languages. ments include most of the objects of sense, Like all other sinologists, however, he is of which are remarkably obvious, few being the opinion assailed by Doctor Du Ponceau, omitted which from their form or frequent use might be likely to attract notice.”—p. 11. as the following passage from his work
evinces distinctly: The difficulties pointed out by this last writer as attending the formation, or more
* For one instance see Foreign Quarterly Reprobably, selection of the 214 characters | view, Oct. 1836, David's Turkish Grammar.
“It differs from all others in this; that it Had Doctor Du Ponceau previous to disneither consists of natural or symbolic hiero.cussing the subject defined the meaning of glyphics, nor of an alphabet of syllables or syllable and word, it would have saved the letters, but represents whole ideas, each idea confusion that everywhere embarrasses the being expressed by its own appropriate sign; reader throughout bis argument. Now without being connected with speech. It speaks to the eyes as the arithmetical figures there are obviously two kinds of syllables of Europe, which every one understands, referred to above, and the distinction between and pronounces after his own manner. Thus them is unnoticed. What we generally it may be learned, without knowing a word understand by the term syllable is, a sound of the language.”
created by a vowel, or by the combination But we must return to our author; and of a consonani and a vowel—and such a extract a specimen of his reasoning: syllable, generally speaking, has no mean
ing with us—it is but a part of a word. “ The Chinese language with a few ex. The Chinese syllable, on the contrary, is ceptions that do not at all bear upon my ar- usually a complete word, and is expressed gument, is essentially monosyllabic. I do in writing, not by a letter or combination of not mean that by the junction of its coinpo- letters, but by an arbitrary sign; therefore, nent monosyllables polysyllabic words can. not be formed; but I think I may safely say,
it does not form the sound by combining its that, with few exceptions, every syllable is own several elements into one, but merely significant, and constitutes what we call a represents the combination already formed. word. These syllables may be united in In our alphabetic system, p, e, would form speech, as in welcome, welfare, household, or pe, and the two letters would in any other in the French word bienfait ; or they may be combination each bear always its own pro. separated, as in well done, well made, bad work, or in the French phrase, C'est bien fait
. per sound. In the syllabary system, (AbysThe difference does not appear in the rapi: sinian, for instance,) pe would always remain dity of speech, we are only aware of it by pe, for it knows no division of syllables into the typographical arrangement of the sylla- letters; but in the Chinese or character bles. It is therefore of no consequence system, pe combined with another sign whether the Chinese language, as spoken, be would lose entirely the sound of pe, and the called monosyllabic or polysyllabic, but it is second sign its own proper sound also, and important to know that every one of its syl- the combination of these two signs would lables is a word, and as each character re. presents a syllable, which is called its pro- not one sound in common with either of its
represent a third monosyllable possessing nunciation, it necessarily follows that each character represents a word.”—pp. 18, 19. component signs. Thus the monosyllable
wei is composed of the five monosyllables, This opening is inmediately followed by she, urh, ho, yew, and sin, in Chinese ; and this curious nonsequitur : unless connecting is not this wholly different from the inwith, is representing.
stances quoted where wel.come. wel-fare, " It is not true, therefore, that the Chinese house-hold, bien fait, combine the sound as characters are unconnected with sounds, un well as sense of the components. less it should be contended that a syllable Doctor Du Ponceau seems also to bave is not a sound.”—p. 19.
overlooked the difference of conventional One great pervading defect of our author's forms, as primary and secondary. Of the argument is, as we have mentioned before. primary are Letters: it is obvious that in the want of definition, and here we con- selecting one to represent the sound of B ceive the defect to be very obvious; but be- and another of G, we (or our forefathers) fore entering at large upon this point, we did this conventionally, granting a basis, will quote the completion of the para- that a system may be formed from it. This graph:
conventional understanding has not every"But the syllabic alphabets of Japan and
where existed the same, for the Ethiopic, of Citra-Gangetic India have never been con
Armenian, Georgian, Pelasgic, Runic, and sidered otherwise than as the representa- other systems often use one particnlar letter tion of sounds, and it has never been pretend- as a different sound in the several languaed they were not phonetic. A syllable, in- ges: thus the English U in the Armenian deed, may by analysis be reduced to more expresses S; in the Ethiopic syllabary Hoi: simple elements; but though composed of the Egyptian e, was the old Persian a; the those elements, it is still a reverberation of Zend kh, is the Egyptian S; the Gothic th, the human voice, produced at once and in the is the Greek psi; &c. Yet wherever one same breath by the organs of speech. If, then, syllables are sounds, monosyllabic particular alphabet was known and used, words are so likewise ; and the characters the U, e, kh, or y, of that alphabet retained which represent them cannot be said not to its sound, however combined; and thus U be connected with them as such."-p. 19. and G form the first syllable of ugly; of