Brücke’s Physiology Of Speech -- By: Lewis B. Packard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 023:90 (Apr 1866)
Article: Brücke’s Physiology Of Speech
Author: Lewis B. Packard


Brücke’s Physiology Of Speech

Lewis B. Packard

During the last half-century the science of language has made most rapid and unexpected progress. It has, one may say, come into being within that time, and attained sufficient development to be marked off into departments, each of which covers more ground, and demands more labor for its mastery, than would before have been thought necessary for the whole field. One of these subdivisions is that which treats of the theory of the formation of the spoken sounds of language. To this but little attention has been given, until recently, in this country; and it is with a view to indicate the starting-point for it and make known more widely the method pursued by others in working out a theory, that we propose to give in the following pages some account of an excellent German work on the subject. The book, published in Vienna in 1856, is by Dr. Ernst Brücke, Professor of Physiology in the Hochschule of that city, and has the title, “Elements of the Physiology and Classification of the Sounds of Language.”1

It was written, as the title page sets forth, for the use of students of language and teachers of the deaf and dumb; and one of its chief merits is, that it combines in such a high degree the theoretical and the practical; that, while it keeps in view the needs of a teacher of deaf mutes in describing by what position of the organs sounds are produced, it also pursues so exhaustive and scientific a method that its principles may be applied to the explanation of all possible sounds of known languages, with the single avowed exception of the so-called clicks of the languages of Southern Africa. To prove

the presence of the practical element, I may quote one or two examples. Speaking of the difference between toneless and toned consonants (p. 8), he says, “Even the deaf mute understands it without difficulty, if he puts his finger on the larynx (the Adam’s apple) of his teacher, and feels how it quivers, from the vibration within, when v is pronounced, but is not moved by uttering f.” So again (p. 65):”The English th would serve as a Shibboleth for most Germans who have learned that language, but only because they have had unskilful teachers; not because they are naturally unable to utter the sound, for any one who has not lost his front teeth can with proper instruction learn to give it in a few minutes.” No single quotation could serve as evidence that the author pursues a thoroughly scientific method throughout the book; it is only by studying the system that we can satisfy ourselves whether he has realized his own conception of the work before him, as expressed in th...

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