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JAMES C. FERNALD, L.H.D.
AUTHOR OF "ENGLISH SYNONYMS AND ANTONYMS, "CONNECTIVES OF ENGLISH
COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
[Printed in the United States of America]
of the Pan-American Republics and the
Published, August, 1918
It is often held to be a sufficient description or definition of language to speak of it as “a medium of communication among intelligent beings.” Language is that, indeed, and can never be less than that. But that is its lowest office. The hen calls her brood by a glad cluck to a fine bit of grain, or warns them by a terrifying note of the sweep of a hawk. But she has soon gone round the circle of ideas appropriate to her species, and the “medium of communication” has no place in the realm beyond, where for her and hers there is nothing to communicate. In all human beings, however, beyond the most degraded, there is a demand for communication of thought and feeling from one to another beyond what language as used by them can yet convey. With all mental advance the reach and range and delicacy of thought and feeling evermore outstrip the capacity of words to utter them. Language is under a constant impulsion to express ideas and emotions which are still beyond its power.
It is true that a decaying civilization may shrivel up, as it were, within a language, until it has no use for many words and phrases which were full of meaning to men of a nobler day. Such a language is in process of becoming a “dead language,” as the Greek and Latin were becoming in Europe five centuries ago. Then, if the civilization is really alive, new languages will arise to express the thought and feeling of the new time, as the languages of modern Europe arose when hu