Séances Et Travaux De L’académie Des Sciecnes Morales Et Politiques


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[At the age of ten Marie was placed in the institution at Larnay, near Poitiers.] As soon as she realized that she had been left by her father she became like an enraged maniac, scratching, striking, dashing herself against the walls and uttering inhuman cries. That lasted for three whole months.

Sister Sainte-Marguerite, who watched her day and night, noticed that she had a particular affection for a little pocketknife which she carried. She took it, and Marie was furious. She gave it back a moment and placed Marie’s hands together, one cutting the other, which is the deaf-mute sign for knife. Then she took the knife again. The child was irritated, but as soon as she got the idea of making the sign herself the knife was given her once for all. The first step was taken. The child had realized that there was a connection between the sign and the object.

From that point progress was astonishingly rapid. . . . At present Marie Heurtin is a girl of twenty-three, with fine features, open countenance, energetic movements, on an elevated mental and moral level. Her French spelling is faultless, the fables of La Fontaine charm her especially, she writes letters, her impressions, and stories. She knows arithmetic, the elements of natural history, history, and geography as I could wish to find the knowledge of them uniformly among candidates for the bachelor’s degree.2

There are two contrasted modes of transmission of qualities and values to the individual. The one is a biological-hereditary process by which the germ plasm is transmitted from ancestors to descendants and represented in physical and mental traits. The other is the transmission by communication, or social heredity, of the data of experience accumulated and socially inherited by the group which incorporates the individual. The characteristic human mind is attained only by this social communication, and for this language is an essential requirement. The hereditarily defective child may be unable to grasp language and thus be inaccessible to communication, but the normal child with which no communication is held remains also an incompleted human. There have been a number of reports of "wolf children" found in India.1 These are children who disappeared in infancy and were found running on all fours with wolves. They probably owed their survival to the fact that wolves recognize one another partly through body odor, and presumably a wolf from time to time snatched away a child by its breechcloth or otherwise and made off to its den, but by this time the child was saturated with wolf odor, smelt like the cubs, and was not devoured. These children are when found practically idiotic. I think we need not be skeptical about these reports. I have myself talked with a resident of a mission to which one of these recovered boys was brought. He could, of course, not talk, he could stand erect comfortably only by leaning against a wall. He learned to smoke cigarettes and at the time was learning to use some words.

The development of language in the abstract direction is further seen in the stretching of meanings and their transfer to other fields of application, thus making it possible to represent all the intellectual concepts and emotional tones arising in the experiences of men. Thus "light" means concretely "firelight," "sunlight," "candlelight," etc., but "light in dark corners," "the light that lies in woman’s eyes," "sweetness and light," "the light that never was on sea or land," "lead, kindly light," are examples of this stretching of meaning. When Latimer was burned at the stake and said to his companion in the flames, "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out," he referred to an "illumination" of the minds of men. Goethe’s dying words are popularly supposed to have been, "more light," as if "truth" were "light." As a matter of fact, the poet had said to his house servant, Frederick, some days before his death: "Open the other window shutter and let in more light." The symbolic turn was given to the words by Goethe’s admirers, as appropriate to a man who hated all kinds of "darkness."

This symbolic elaboration of language may be seen to advantage in the sign language of the American Indians1 and in the greatly conventionalized Chinese pictorical characters, where, for example, a mouth and a bird mean "singing"; woman and bird, "beautiful"; man, woman, mouth, "surfeited"; woman and child, "love"; woman, broom, storm, "wife"; woman, two mouths, "quarrelsome"; woman, mouth, sign for deflected, "dangerous"; a hand and a woman, "safe"; man in a square, "prisoner"; man in a box, "unfortunate"; a heart and sign for death, "forgetfulness"; the number 8 (able to be divided) and knife, "dividend."2

This extension of meaning is seen also when such terms as "attraction," "repulsion," "resistance," "current," "body," "law," originating in ordinary human relations, are adopted by the science of physics. And the same term may have many applications. Thus "balance" is (1) a machine for weighing (metaphorically the balance of justice—"weighed in the balance and found wanting"); (2) mental equipoise; (3) subjective uncertainty; (4) harmony between parts; (5) adjustment of accounts; (6) amount on hand; (7) a remainder.

2Arnould, L.n/an/an/an/an/a, "L’École française des Sourdes-muettes-aveugles," , 171: 620–621.

1 Kellogg, W. N., "More about the ’Wolf Children’ of India," Amer. Jour. Psych., 43: 508–509.

1 Mallery, G., Bur. Amer. Ethnol., Ann. Rep., 1: 269–552; 4: 3–256; 10: 3–807.

2 Mason, W. P., History of the Art of Writing, 158–161.

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Chicago: Séances Et Travaux De L’académie Des Sciecnes Morales Et Politiques in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ZK433T2J4ZMCFUI.

MLA: . Séances Et Travaux De L’académie Des Sciecnes Morales Et Politiques, Vol. 171, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ZK433T2J4ZMCFUI.

Harvard: , Séances Et Travaux De L’académie Des Sciecnes Morales Et Politiques. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ZK433T2J4ZMCFUI.