Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I.: MODES OR FORMS OF WHICH DISCOURSE OR LANGUAGE HAS BEEN FOUND SUSCEPTIBLE, VIZ. AUDIBLE, VISIBLE, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE SUBSTITUTES. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 8 (Chrestomathia, Essays on Logic and Grammar, Tracts on Poor Laws, Tracts on Spanish Affairs)
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CHAPTER I.: MODES OR FORMS OF WHICH DISCOURSE OR LANGUAGE HAS BEEN FOUND SUSCEPTIBLE, VIZ. AUDIBLE, VISIBLE, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE SUBSTITUTES. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 8 (Chrestomathia, Essays on Logic and Grammar, Tracts on Poor Laws, Tracts on Spanish Affairs) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). In 11 vols. Volume 8.
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MODES OR FORMS OF WHICH DISCOURSE OR LANGUAGE HAS BEEN FOUND SUSCEPTIBLE, VIZ. AUDIBLE, VISIBLE, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE SUBSTITUTES.
The word Language is wont to be regarded in three different senses.
I. As an instrument employed in and for the interchange, or say, communication of ideas between man and man; and this without distinction as between [different societies among men] or regard had to the particular occasion on which, or the particular purpose for which, it is employed,—call this the information-regarding sense.
II. As considered with a view to certain particular occasions, and to the several purposes for which it is employed or employable on these several occasions. Call this the occasion and purpose-regarding sense.
III. As employed to designate the different collections of signs which have been or are employed by different societies among men for giving expression to these same ideas. In this sense it is employed for the purpose of bringing to view the difference between languages ancient and modern, and the languages employed in and by the different nations by which the earth is inhabited, as, for instance, the English, the French, the German, and so on.
Language, considered in the most extensive sense of the word, is the aggregate of the matter of discourse actually employed, or capable of being employed, by all individuals of the human kind taken in the aggregate.
Considered in its next most extensive sense it is the aggregate of the matter of discourse actually employed by all the individuals of this or that portion of human kind taken in the aggregate. In this sense, when spoken of, it is spoken of by the name of a language.
To constitute a language, a portion of the matter of discourse must suffice for the purpose of whatsoever intercourse between individual and individual, is necessary for the continuance of the existence of each individual, and that of the species.
In general, language† is seldom considered in any other point of view than that of an instrument of communication,—an instrument employed by one mind in making communication of its contents to another mind.
But, upon an attentive view, it will be found that, when perception has been excepted, of all the several distinguishable faculties of the human mind there is scarcely one in the use of which it is not habitually employed,—scarcely one, which without it, would be exercised with any considerable advantage to any considerable extent.
Signs employed in Discourse—audible, visible, and their respective Substitutes.
At a stage a certain degree advanced in the career of civilisation, man has two perfectly distinct and different modes or instruments for the fixation of thought and the conveyance of it from mind to mind. The one, that in which,—on the part of him whose design it is to make the communication, the instruments employed are measured, or, as they are termed, articulate, sounds, produced by organs which, in man, are, in a peculiar degree, adapted to that purpose,—on the part of him by whose senses it is the intention of the utterer of these sounds that the communication so made of them should be received, and on his mind the requisite impression should be made, the corresponding organs of hearing: these, accordingly, may be termed audible signs. The other, that in which, on the part of the author of it, the instruments employed are perceptible characters, and, on the part of the intended receiver, (with the exception of the particular case in which the appropriate organ is deficient,) the instruments put in exercise are the organs of sight. These, accordingly, are termed visible signs.
That the signs which address themselves to the ear were the first in use, several considerations concur in rendering manifest.
One is, that the audible form is alike natural to mankind and to the inferior animals. The visible, though, as experience testifies, not altogether incapable of being employed by man in his intercourse with some of the most intelligent species of animals, is not, as far as appears, at any rate, in a degree approaching to that in which the audible is, natural to any of them. Another proof is, that of all the denominations by which, in any of the civilized languages, this mode of communication is designated, the organs of speech are the only ones by which it is ever, in any direct way, designated. Witness this very word language, derived, as it is, from the Latin name for a tongue, lingua. Witness, also, the other word, speech, by which, from what root soever derived, the audible form, and that to the exclusion of the visible, never fails to be presented.
True it is that, for the designation of both alike, there exists in the English the word discourse, which word is moreover derived from the Latin word discursus, having, for its logical conjugate, the verb discurro. But of the verb discurro, the original import is by far, more extensive, and, at the same time, less appropriate. By it is meant, to run over, or to run on, and, accordingly, so far is it from being, in any sufficient degree, on all occasions appropriate, that, on many occasions, notwithstanding the seeming contradiction, even in speaking of discourse in its visible form, it has been found necessary to put aside that appellation, and, instead of it, to employ the word speech or the word language.*
For two purposes, it was necessary that, at this early period, the distinction between these two forms should be brought to view.
One is, that of making out and rendering complete the list—that list so important in a practical point of view,—the list of the properties desirable in language. Among these some will be seen, or, at any rate, one, the application of which is confined to the audible signs of language.
Another is, that of being necessary to the purpose of forming and conveying a distinct conception of the solitary use of language, this being, as to a considerable portion of it, confined, as already intimated, to the visible signs of language.
Hence, in answer to the question,—what is meant by language?—necessarily included is the answer to the question, what is meant by signs?—for signs are the elements of which language is composed.
These signs, then, are, in the first place, either, 1. Evanescent, or, 2. Permanent. Into the two classes thus designated, may be divided the whole aggregate of these signs.
This is the primary distinction to which those others, which there will be occasion to bring to view, are subordinate.
Evanescent signs are those of which words pronounced by the mouth are composed, those which address themselves to the ear. Permanent, are those which address themselves to the eye.
For the most part, that is to say, in the language of most nations, the permanent visible signs are themselves but signs, as it were, of the second order,—signs of those same audible signs which, in the language of these countries at any rate, were the sole primary signs of which language, at its origin, and for an immeasureable extent of time thereafter, was composed.
I say in most languages, for an exception there is, viz. that which is consituted by the Chinese language.
Principal and subsidiary,—into the two classes thus designated, may be divided the whole aggregate of these signs. By principal, understand those which, in the ordinary state of the human senses, are employed; by subsidiary, those which, in the case of the extinction of any of those senses, are employed as substitutes to the above principal ones. Of the latter class, the signs chiefly in use, if not the only ones that have ever been in use, are those of which the finger language is composed.
Partly for their own sake, partly in respect of the light capable of being thrown thereby upon the field of language, considered as applied to ordinary purposes, three particular topics, which may be considered either as subordinate, or as collateral, with reference to that principal topic, present a claim to notice. These are, 1. short-hand; 2. signals; 3. cyphers; 4. signs,—employed, or employable, in the government of brutes.
Short-hand has for its object the reducing to such a degree the time necessary for the committing to written signs the words of an oral discourse, as to enable a man thus to give fixity to the whole of it without loss.
Signals, cyphers, and signs, have for their objects one or other, or more, of the following results, viz. 1. producing despatch; 2. surmounting distance; 3. preserving secrecy.
Subjects of Discourse.
Of discourse, the only immediate subject, is the state of the communicator’s mind; in other words, of some one or more of the faculties belonging to it. Of this proposition, the truth, it is believed, will presently be made apparent.
The faculty, the state of which is thus declared, may be either the active faculty, (to which belongs the volitional faculty,) or the passive faculty.
If it be the volitional branch of the active faculty, the discourse, in and by which expression is given to it, will be—a wish, a command, a request, or a petition.
If it be a branch of the passive faculty, that branch will be—the perceptive faculty, the retentive faculty or memory, or the judicial faculty or judgment.
If it be the perceptive faculty—(in every case except that of a sensation produced by an external body, by operating on the touch)—the object or subject by which the sensation is produced,—the object, the action of which is the exciting cause, cannot but be present and in action at the time of the expression, at the time of the declaration made; for if that object be not present, the faculty, the state of which is declared, cannot, if the declaration be true, be any other than the memory.
Of the cases in which the faculty, the state of which is declared, is the perceptive faculty, or of the case in which it is the retentive faculty, no separate consideration need be made; for seldom, indeed, is either the perceptive or the retentive faculty in exercise, or operated upon, but an act or exercise of the judicial faculty is mixed with it.
There remains for consideration the judicial faculty: when concerning the state of the judicial faculty, a declaration is expressed,—the existence of a persuasion in some shape or other,—an opinion, a belief in relation to some object or other, is thereby expressed.
This object, the declared subject of this persuasion, will be the state either of the communicator’s own mind, or of some exterior object or aggregate of exterior objects,—exterior, viz. in relation to his own mind.
The portion of time, in or in relation to which, the state of this exterior object, or aggregate of objects, is considered and declared, will, with reference to the portion of time in which the declaration is made, be either present, past, or future; or all those, or any two of those portions of relative time.
The exterior objects, concerning which such declaration is made, will belong either to the class of persons, or that of things, or to both these classes.
In regard to motion and rest, the state in which, at any such given point of time, they are thus considered as spoken of as existing, will be either a quiescent state, i. e. a state of rest, or a moving state, i. e. a state of motion.
The objects in question, any such as are considered as appertaining to the class of things, will either be such as are endowed with the volitional faculty, or such as are destitute of that faculty.
When considered as the result of motion, any state of things is termed an event.
Considered as having had for its cause an exertion of the volitional faculty, whether on the part of a person or of a thing, an event is itself termed an action, or is considered as having action,—an action for its cause.
It is only through some sense or senses, external or internal, i. e. physical or psychical, that anything can be known to a man; or, (to speak more correctly,) that, concerning any object, or aggregate of objects, any persuasion can be obtained.
In so far as it is from his own sense or senses, external or internal, that the persuasion which, on the occasion in question, is expressed by the communicator on the question, is represented by him as obtained, the persuasion is said to be indigenous; in so far as it is from a declaration made, or supposed to have been made, by any other person, that the persuasion so expressed is represented as being derived, it may be styled an adoptive persuasion.
The existence of any expressible state of things, or of persons, or of both, whether it be quiescent, or motional, or both, at any given point or portion of time, is what is called a fact, or a matter of fact.
In so far as the act of the perception, the memory, or the judgment, the existence of which is, in and by the discourse delivered by the communicator in question, represented as being the result of the exercise, not of his own faculties, but of the faculties of some other person, the declaration so made by the communicator in question, is termed a report,—a report made concerning the state of the things or persons which is therein and thereby averred and declared.
In this case, and thus far, the whole of the subject of the report as declared by the reporter,—the only matter of fact of the existence of which, by such his communication, the communicator as such declares the existence,—is the matter of fact that to the purport in question, at the time in question, (if mentioned,) a declaration was by this other person made.
At the time of the communication made, that which is declared as being present to the mind of the communicator, is neither more nor less than a recollection, or rather, more correctly, the persuasion of the existence of a recollection,—a work of the memory, by which, the fact of his having, at the time in question, by means of one or more of his senses, received and obtained a perception of the matter of fact so described as above, the description of which is,—the fact that at the time in question, by the person in question, a declaration to the purport or effect in question was made.
To the declaration of the existence of such recollection, or rather, of the existence of a persuasion of the existence of such recollection, may, or may not, be added as it may happen, a persuasion affirmative or disaffirmative of the supposed matter of fact, the existence of which was the subject of the report in question, supposing such report to have been made, as according to the recollection it was made.*
[† ] This name is not properly applicable to any but audible signs. Letters are visible signs of audible signs; not so all Chinese characters.
To a deaf man there exists not any audible language; to a man born blind, as well as deaf and in consequence dumb, there would not exist any means of mental intercourse. In respect of intelligence, he would be inferior to the most meanly endowed among quadrupeds.
[* ] For example, in speaking of the instrument of communication in the forms in which it exhibits itself in different nations; you cannot say—the English discourse, the French discourse,—you find yourself under the obligation of saying, the English language, the French language.
[* ] Inference,—1. The impropriety, folly, and insolence of the communicators representing any such communication as being anything more than a persuasion,—an opinion of his own. 2. That discourse is nothing but a persuasion; that human persuasion is fallible, and, moreover, all declarations by which the existence of a persuasion to any effect is affirmed, more or less probably false, such falsity being either accompanied or not with self-consciousness; these are among the truths which, whether it be for the exclusion of obstinate error, or for the exclusion of arrogance, over-bearingness, obstinacy, and violence, ought never to be out of mind.