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Books on Language and Philosophy from the
Arnold Semeiology Collection



ANTOINE COURT DE GEBELIN (1725-1784)
Monde Primitif, Analysé et Comparé avec le Monde Moderne.
Paris, L'Auteur [etc.] 1773-82. 9 vols.

Pastor of the Reformed Church and a supporter in France of the American Revolution, Court de Gebelin spent many years labor in researching and writing Monde Primitif. He argues in favor of the existence, in primitive times, of a universal, or commonly shared language, developed out of primitive man's organization. This language might be recovered, argues Court de Gebelin, by a study of the idioms of existing languages, whose dialectic variations are only accidental. This language, he claims, was hieroglyphic. Vowels, he argues, were used to represent sensations, consonants to represent mental conceptions. He Maintains that once such hieroglyphs are found and deciphered, it will be possible to unmask the secrets of the ancient world. Monde Primitif demonstrates an encyclopaedic knowledge on the part of the author. It concludes with etymological dictionaries of Greek, English, and French. A portion of Monde Primitif was published separately in Paris in 1776 under the title Histoire Naturelle de la Parole. (Bibliothèque Nationale XXXIII:422-424; Galland p. 48-49; Guyot p. 423)


OTSUKI GENKAN (1785-1837)
Waon Toin taichu Seion hatsubi.
[Tokyo] Seireikaku, Kankado [1826] (In Japanese characters) 2 vols., in a case.

Physician and son of Otsuki Bansui, noted promoter of Dutch studies in Japan, Genkan here offers the reader a manual on the pronunciation of the Dutch language. Employing the Japanese syllabary and Chinese characters, he indicates the manner in which western languages would be pronounced. He also compares the pronunciation of Japanese and western languages. Appended to the second volume is an essay on the origin of the Roman alphabet. Genkan's works include Ran'en nissho, Rangakuhan among others. (KoS 5:68)


JAMES HARRIS (1709-1780)
Hermes; or, A Philosophical Inquiry concerning Universal Grammar. The third edition, revised and corrected.
London, John Nourse and Paul Vaillant, 1771.

Classical scholar and Member of Parliament for Christchurch, Harris is best known for his Hermes. It is meaning, claims the author, more complex and developed the ideas of a people are, the more complex and developed will be its language. Harris divides all works into one of two categories, those having significance of themselves, and those having significance only in association with other words. Hermes first appeared in 1751. It was translated into French by François Thurot (1768-1832) by order of the French Directory in 1796. (Alston III (2) : 812; Guyot p. 426; NUC 232:32 (NH 0131569))


JOHANN DAVID MICHAELIS (1717-1791)
A Dissertation on the Influnce of Opinions on Language, and of Language on Opinions.
London, W. Owen and W. Bingley, 1769.

Theologian and orientalist, Michaelis first issued Dissertation in German at Bremen in 1762. His principal interest is the interrelationship of language and thought. Point of view, says Michaelis, is that which gives language its form. Moreover, he maintains that the name given to a thing can inspire love or hatred toward it, insofar as it represents that thing as good or evil. The work concludes with a section on the possibilities of developing a universal, artificial language. Michaelis is quite sceptical of such a project. He maintains that an artificial language would not only be jejune and lacking in grace, but also that it would be subject to the same problems as any natural language, such as the tendency to split into dialects.

The ideas held by Michaelis have obtained a currency in the twentieth century under the term "General Semantics." Developed by Alfred Korzybski (1869-1950) in his Science and Sanity (Lancaster, Pa., 1933), "General Semantics" has a wide following in the United States. The views of its advocates may be found in ETC., A Review of General Semantics (Bloomington, Ill., 1943- ), published by the International Society for General Semantics. (Alston III (2) : 837; Guyot p. 420; LC 99:548)


JAMES BURNETT, LORD MONBODDO (1714-1799)
Of the Origin and Progress of Language.
Edinburgh, J. Balfour [etc.] 1774-1809. 6 vols.

Scottish judge and anthropologist, Lord Monboddo in this work clearly reflects his own preference for ancient learning and contempt for that of more modern date. In Origin he traces man's development into a social state. Language is the consequence of this social state, he claims; it is not natural to man. Included in the work are such topics as rhetoric, comparative essays on Greek, Latin, English, French, and Italian, and on the arrangement of words. Among the more curious theories here presented by Monboddo is the view that orangutang is a class of human species, its inability to speak being a mere accident. He advocated studying man as one of the animals, and looking at savage tribes to learn the origins of civilization. He thus foreshadows Darwinism and shows points of contact with neo-Kantianism.

Because the publishers failed to print a sufficient number of copies, volumes 1 and 3 were reprinted as a "second edition". This set is mixed, having the second edition of volumes 1 and 3. (Alston III (2) : 842; Guyot p. 424; LC 102:63; Stojan 244)


JOHN WALLIS (1616-1703)
Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae. Editio quarta, prioribus auctior.
Oxford, L. Lichfield, 1674.

English Grammarian, cryptographer, and mathematician, Wallis first published work in 1653. Demonstrating an acute philosophic intellect, the work aims at describing the English language, its forms and origin. Prefixed to the work is the short tract "De Loquela," describing in detail the various methods of producing articulate sounds. The tract led him to devise a method for teaching the deaf to speak, tested successfully on two patients. Wallis is also known for his decipherment of royalist papers intercepted in 1642. He himself describes this in sections inserted in An Essay on the Art of Decyphering (London, 1737) by John Davys. (LC 159:157; Wing W586)


JOHN WILKINS, BISHOP OF CHESTER (1614-1672)
An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language.
London, Sa. Gellibrand and John Martyn, 1668.

One of the founders of the Royal Society and its first secretary John Wilkins has been characterized by Thomas De Quincey as "a learned man, but with a vein of romance about him." Real Character was suggested to Wilkins by George Dalgarno's Ars Signorum (London, 1661). The first half of this work deals with the origin of written discussion of the origin of living things. The second half proposes and describes a new universal language. Wilkins' scheme employs both actions, and relationships. Its chief shortcoming, according to Charles Kasiel Bliss, is the excessive demands placed on the memorization by the use of symbols bearing no relationship to that for which they stand. Wilkins is also known for his Mercury; or, The Secret and Seift Messenger (Londond, 1641), on methods of rapid and secret correspondence. (Alston VII:290; Galland p. 202; Guyot p. 428; Stojan 87; Westby-Gibson p. 235; Wing W2196)



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