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or concealed, instead of an exoteric or general, meaning to each, it would form a language of impenetrable privacy—a language from which every one would be shut out excepting those who might be in possession of its key. The persons to whom we should chiefly look for learning and science in the state of the world to which I am at present adverting would be the priesthood; or that elevated order which, among all uncultivated nations, concentrates in itself the three professions of law, medicine, and theology. It is among this order, therefore, that we should chiefly expect to meet with proofs of both these kinds of visible language; and hence, both kinds might also be fairly denominated Hieroglyphic Writing, or that of Sacred Impressions. Thus, indeed, they have been denominated generally; the pure picture-writing being distinguished by the term curiologic hieroglyphs; and the allegorical, typical or symbolic hieroglyphs. Such kinds of picture-language, however, even with this improvement, must be attended with very considerable labour; and hence, from a desire to abbreviate that labour, we may readily conceive that the pictures orimitative characters would soon become simplified and contracted. The idea of a Man, formerly represented by his whole figure, might nowbe signified by his legs alone, as a simple acute angle, like a Greek A, which is the written character for a Man in the Chinese tongue, the whole figure being supposed to have been employed at first; that of Band, formerly represented by a perfect drawing of this* organ, might be contracted into a Greek 1fi, or
rather the figure of Vp, which is the old Chinese expression for this purpose, being a rude or rapid outline of the wrist, palm, and fingers; while the idea of Union or Friendship, at first denoted by two such figures conjoined, as **,
might subsequently be abbreviated into V||/, which, in like manner, is the old Chinese written sign for both these ideas. Ingenuity, thus set to work, would soon be able to form a like device for the auxiliary parts of speech; concerning which it may be sufficient to observe, that most of the prepositions might be expressed by some simple mark, whose precise meaning should be determined by its relative situation. Thus aplain horizontal stroke, as —, placed at the foot of a noun, might import Under it, and at its head Above it; which is, in fact, the very device had recourse to in the old written language of China; so that the sign for Measure, with a horizontal line over it, imports Above Measure, and below it, Under Measure; while, in the ordinary mark for Hand, as noticed above, the cross line is turned to the left to express LeftBand, as Jk., and to the right to express Right-hand, as '2*v; for both which, however, a somewhat different form is used in the present day. In this manner picture-characters or images would insensibly become converted into arbitrary characters; which, to those acquainted with the meaning of the different marks, would answer the purpose as well, and would have an incalculable advantage in the facility of writing them. We have now reached the utmost pitch of perfection which the legible language of things is, perhaps, capable of attaining. It has one superiority over that of words, or marks characteristic of sounds; namely, that when the pictures are drawn at full length, or, if abbreviated, where the key of the abbreviation is known, it is a species of writing addressed to all nations, and may be interpreted without a knowledge of their oral tongues. It speaks by painting and appeals to what all are acquainted with. And hence M. Leibnitz, and many other philosophers, have conceived an idea that a system of pasigraphy or universal writing, a language of human thoughts, might be founded* upon some such invention. It is easy to perceive, however, without any detail of facts, that such a system could never be carried into full effect among different nations: and that, plausible as it may appear at first sight, it must be loaded with inconveniences, and be equally defective and burdensome, even among people of
* See here also Northman's Panography, Repertory of Aru, il. 307, iii. 91. Langlois's Pantograph, Mich. A. vii. 207. Lodwick'a Universal Alphabet.
the same empire. It is easy to conceive, to adopt the language of Sir George Staunton, as applied to the most perfect system of the kind that has ever been actually carried into execution, that it would consist of "a plan of which it may justly be said, that the practice is no less inconvenient and perplexing than the theory is beautiful and ingenious."* If a distinct character were to be employed to represent every distinct idea, the number of distinct characters would be almostincalculable: if a few distinct or simple characters only were to be made use of to represent such ideas as are most common, and the rest were to be expressed by combinations of these, though the number of distinct characters would be in some degree diminished, the memory would still have a difficult task to retain them: and the combinations would, in a thousand instances, be embarrassing and intricate. Under this pressure of evils there can be no doubt that a contemplative mind, in whatever part of the world placed, would soon begin to reflect on the possibility of avoiding them, by making the contracted characters now in use, or any other set in their stead, significative of sounds or words rather than of things or images. By minute attention it would soon be discovered, that such an art, which would require, indeed, a general convention or agreement in order to its being generally embraced or understood, might be effected with less difficulty than would at first be imagined. It would be perceived that the distinct articulate sounds in any or in every language, as I had occasion to observe in our last lecture, are not many, and in every language are the same or nearly so: that in few languages they exceed twenty, and in none, perhaps thirty ;f and that consequently from twenty to thirty arbitrary marks or alphabetical characters might be ample to express every simple sound, and, by their combinations, to denote every separate word or intermixture of sounds:% whence a written language might be formed, addressed to the ear instead of to the eye, symbolical of oral language, and, of course, possessing the wholeof its accuracy and precision; and as much more easy of attainment as it would be more definite and comprehensive.^ I have thus drawn a sketch of what there can be but little doubt would be the case provided mankind were at this moment to be deprived by a miracle of all legible language, and reduced to the state in which we may conceive the world to have existed in its earliest ages. The art of writing would commence with imitative, and terminate in symbolical characters; it would first describe by pictures or marks of things addressed to the eye, and after having passed through various stages of improvement would finish in letters, or marks of words addressed to the ear. This is not a speculative representation; for I shall now proceed to show, as far as the period of time to which we are limited will allow me, that what we have thus supposed would take place has actually taken place: that wherever alphabetic characters exist, or have existed, we have direct proofs, or strong reasons for believing, that they have been preceded by picture or imitative characters; and that wherever picture or imitative characters, the language of things, still continue to exist, instead of having been preceded by alphabetic characters, they have a strong tendency to run into them, and probably will run into them in the upshot. And in this view of the subject I am supported by many of the most celebrated philologists of the age, as Bishop Warburton, the President de Brasses, Mr. Astle, M. Fourmont, M. Gibelin. The remains of Egyptian sculpture are but few; but they are sufficient to afford us specimens of each of the kinds of writing I have adverted to;
* Ta Tsing Leu Lee. Pref. p. xiv.
t "Mr. Sheridan says the number of simple sounds in our tongue are twenty-eight. Dr. Kenrick says, we have only eleven distinct species of articulate sounds; which, even by contraction, prolongation, and composition, are increased only to the number of sixteen; every syllable or articulate sound in our language being one of this number. Bishop Wilkius aud Dr. William llolden speak of about thirty-two or thirty-three distinct sounds."—Astle, p. 18.
t Tacquel asserts, that the various combinations of the twenty-four letters (without any repetition) wiB amount lo 62O,448,4Ol,733,239,43U,3fiO,OO0.—Artthm. Theor. p. 517, ed. Amst. 1704. Clavius makes them only 5,S52,G16,738,497,664,000. In either case, however, it is evident, "that twenty-four letters will admit of an infinity of combinations and arrangements sufficient to represent not only all the conceptions of the mind, but all words in all languages whatever."—Astle, p. 20. In like manner, ten simple marks are found sufficient for all the purposes of universal calculations which extend to infinity; and seven notes, diflerently arranged, 011 up the whole scale of music. $ De Drosses, But l'Origin de l'Alphabet.
the pure hieroglyph, or simple picture-style; the mixed, allegorical, or emblematic; the abbreviated or contracted; and the alphabetic; and the valuable relics which are to be seen in the British Museum, more especially the sarcophagi and the famous Rosetta stone (as it is called), erected in honour of Ptolemy V., contain examples of most of them. They prove to us, also, the order of succession in which the changes were effected, and clearly indicate the pure picture-style to be the most ancient. The magnificent ruins of Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia, offer monuments to the same effect. The windows, the pillars, the pilasters, and the tombs are loaded with characters of some kind or other, imitative, emblematical, or alphabetical. In many instances, the pure picture-style is as correctly adhered to as in any Egyptian specimen; in others we meet with tablets filled with what may indeed be abbreviated emblems, but which appear to be letters; and which, at any rate, afford proof that the ancient Persians had, at this period, made some advance from characters for things towards characters for words. The prophecy of the utter destruction of Babylon has been so completely fulfilled, that, although the banks of the Euphrates, on which this city stood, give evident proofs of magnificent ruins along their track, we cannot exactly ascertain its situation. On many of the bricks, however, which have been dug up from the midst of the general wreck, we find a peculiar sort of character, evincing an approach towards letters, and which are supposed to be abbreviated emblems, as emblems are often abbreviated pictures, employed by the Chaldean sages of Babylonia; who, according to Pliny, always engraved their astronomical observations on bricks.* And even in Southern Siberia, as high as the river Irbit, or Pishma, Strahlenberg asserts, that he found a variety of rude figures or emblems engraven on the rocks,f whick. seem to have preceded the use of the Tartar or Mantcheu alphabet. In America we meet with traces of picture-writing amid the most savage tribes; every leader on returning from the field endeavouring to give some account of the order of his march, the number of his adherents, the enemy whom he attacked, and the scalps and captives he brought home, by scratching with coarse red paint a certain display of uncouth figures upon the bark of a tree, stripped off for this purpose. "To these simple annals, he trusts for renown, and sooths himself with a hope, that by their means he shall receive praise from the warriors of future times."J The Mexicans are well known to have acquired such a degree of perfection in this style of writing, that on the first arrival of the Spaniards on their coasts expresses were sent off to Montezuma, the reigning monarch, containing an exact statement of the fact, together with the number and size of the different ships, by a series of pictures alone, painted on the cloth of the country. It was thus this people kept their public records, histories, and calendars. We are still in possession of several very curious specimens of Mexican picture-writing, some of which exhibit several of the very emblems I have just adverted to, as those which would probably be had recourse to in our own day, were we miraculously to be deprived of all knowledge of alphabetic writing; as, a bale of goods to represent the idea of commerce, and a rose-tree that of odour. The most valuable specimens, however, of Mexican picture-writing are those obtained by Mr. Purchas, and published in sixty-six plates, divided into three parts; the first containing a history of the Mexican empire under its ten monarchs: the second, a tribute roll, representing what each conquered town paid into the royal treasury; and the third, a code of Mexican institutions, domestic, political, and military. Various other specimens are to be met with in different parts of Spain, and especially in the Royal Library at the Escurial; and a folio volume in the Imperial Library at Vienna. Along with the full pictures, we occasionally meet, in some of these national archives, with emblems, or a prominent feature put for the whole figure, and in others with various symbols or arbitrary characters, making an approach towards
* PUn. til. 5fl. t De Vet Lit. Hun. p. 15. AsUe, p. ft,
I Robeiuou't America, vol. iii. b. vii. p. 303. Agile, p. 6. letters; and thus confirmmg the progress from pictures to arbitrary signs which I have endeavoured to establish. The written language of the Chinese, however, is carried to a still higher pitch of perfection; and is, perhaps, rendered as perfect as the system upon which it is founded will allow. It is still altogether a language of things, and was formerly very largely, if not altogether, a language of pictures. The pure picture-style is admitted by themselves to have been the oldest, or that first invented, and they expressly denominate this order of characters siang or king, "form or image." "The picture," however, observes Dr. Morrison, "does not appear to have ever been intended as an exact representation, such as the picture-writing of Mexico, or the hieroglyphics of Egypt, but only a slight outline."* This kind of style is now become obsolete, and is rarely to be met with; but of the next series, or that into which the original or siang style was first transformed, which they call Yu-tsu, probably from the name of the great emperor Yu, or Chow, in whose era the transformation is said to have occurred, it is no uncommon thing to meet with specimens on rings, seals, and other public instruments. These are strictly abbreviated pictures, such as symbols or emblems of some kind or other. But the characters now in use are abbreviations of these abbreviations ; and hence have, for the most part, the appearance of being arbitrary marks, though we can still so frequently trace the parent image, as to decipher their origin and reference. The Chinese is an extraordinary language in every respect. Its radical words do not exceed four hundred and eleven; every one of which is a monosyllable. But as it must be obvious that these can by no means answer the purpose of distinguishing every external object and mental idea, unless varied in some way or other, every one of these four hundred and eleven words is possessed of a number of different tones and combinations with other words; and every tone or combination signifies a different thing; so that the whole vocabulary, limited as it is, may be readily made to express several thousands of ideas. Thus the word fu, which enters into the well-known compound Kong-fu-tsee, or Confucius, pronounced in different manners, imports a husband or father, a town, and various other ideas. So khou imports a month; but pronounced nasally, as khoong, it denotes empty; and thus the word shu, differently uttered, means both a lord and swine. The whole of the elementary marks, or keys, as they are called, by which the ideas of this language, for it is not the language itself, are written down and communicated, are still fewer than the elementary words; for they are only two hundred and fourteen, and express such ideas alone as are most common and familiar; as those of plant, hand, mouth, word, sun, nothing, water; every other idea being denoted by compounds,or supposed compounds, of these elementary marks. Thus, the mark for a thicket, if doubled,implies awood; a union of the two characters of a man and a field signifies a farmer; the characters of a hand and staff united, import parental authority, or a father; and it is from like characters I have selected the specimen of symbols which I have mostly submitted to you as some of those which would probably be invented in the present day, if, by a miracle, we were suddenly to be deprived of all knowledge of alphabetic writing.f
By combinations of this kind, the two hundred and fourteen elementary characters, like the four hundred elementary words, are wonderfully increased, and are daily increasing; while the greater mass have so little resemblance to any one of the genuine elements, that the philologists of the present day regard many of them as primitive or independent signs, formed long subsequently to the invention of the proper elements, and combined, like themselves, in various ways. I have said that the sum total of Chinese characters derived from these * Chinese Miscellany t The following table, compared with the remarks offered in page 281, will more clearly illustraxe the) pictorial origin of the Chinese characters.
The whole are mually divided by the native philologists into six classes, the first four of which will beat serve as exemplifications.
sources is perpetually increasing; and have also hinted, that from this natural tendency, the language must at length become an intolerable burden even to the most assiduous Chinese scholar. Thus, while all the characters that occur in Confucius, in Mung, and the five Kings, or sacred books, forming together more than twenty volumes, fall considerably short of six thousand, including the numerous unusual words, found in the four volumes of the Shu (and I may add, that the scope is much the same in the celebrated ethical comment of Tung-tsee, the favourite disciple of Confucius, denominated Ta-hyoh, "The Great Sublime or Momentous Doctrine," as also in the Choong-yoong, Zun-zu, and Mun, constituting, conjointly, the four books most revered next to the Kings);—such has been the accession of new terms invented by subsequent writers, and often with a forgetfulness of the old, which have hereby,
L Images: a name given to characters which, in their antiquated form, show very clearly a rough repre- '~l of the material objects they denote: as,
Of this sort there are about 200 charactera.
a Hermit, - - - Man and Hili .
Note of a Bird, - Q Mouth and Bird.
Wen lo Hear, ... Door and Ear.
fjaU I^J*/ Tears, ... C ^ Water and Eye.
Their number is vr Koo-Un ^—|$' ** raoqnsnee," " Fluency of Speech," literally" \ y (two Up<0, being united with the mark for gold, which is the remainder of the