Philosophical Grammar, Or The Laws Of Thought As Applied To Syntax By Dr. Karl Ferdinand Becker -- By: N. Porter

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 012:48 (Oct 1855)
Article: Philosophical Grammar, Or The Laws Of Thought As Applied To Syntax By Dr. Karl Ferdinand Becker
Author: N. Porter

Philosophical Grammar, Or The Laws Of Thought As Applied To Syntax By Dr. Karl Ferdinand Becker1

N. Porter

What is language?’ Few questions occur to the philosopher more frequently than this. Few questions have in fact been discussed more frequently or in a greater variety of forms by

thinking men in all ages. What is that in man which makes it possible for him to give expression to spiritual states by corporeal sounds? How is it that one man can interpret these corporeal sounds, employed by another; can know what are the thoughts and feelings which they express; can discern through these media the realities which lie behind?

What is it which prompts man to select one sound rather than another, to express a particular thought? What is it that teaches the man who hears the sound, that it expresses one thought rather than another? Are these sounds natural or arbitrary symbols? Were they originally selected by convention, or suggested by instinct, or taught by revelation, or miraculously evolved through inspiration?

Again, What is the relation of language to thought? Can man think without words? Does language itself constitute or originate thought? What is the exact measure of the aid which the one renders to the other? What the mutual dependence of the two? How is it that man is forced to express his thoughts, in order fully to appreciate their truth; to define their limits, in order to retain and reproduce them with precision? How far is science indebted to language, and how far does science form and control language?

Questions still more curious and intricate, are such as these: Is language a purely spiritual attainment, so that it can be put off with the body, and is learned by the soul by means of its accidental and temporary connection with the material world — does it grow out of a special provision of nature which will cease, when the body ceases; or does the power of language indicate that the soul shall always need a body and always communicate by corporeal symbols?

These questions, and others which might be given, have been earnestly agitated by almost every school of philosophers and in every age. Perhaps none of them can be satisfactorily answered. To discuss them, it may be, furnishes neither profit nor promise of good.

There are questions of another sort, in respect to language, which it is worth while to ask. Language is known at the first glance to be the expression of mental states by physical sounds. These sounds may be eked out or assisted by written characters or expressive pantomime. But, whatever the symbol o...

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