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two figures together, we should have the word boyhood.
Again ; if, instead of drawing the figure of a boy, and of the hood, we should exhibit only the outlines of these two objects, we should still preserve to each of them separately the expressions of boy and of hood, and when joined together, we should still call the group boyhood, to mean the young age of a boy.
The same must be said if we should alter the outlines, and by degrees adopt, first, a very abridged figure of these two objects, and then an arbitrary mark. To each of these abridged figures, and these arbitrary marks, we should give separately the name of boy, and of hood; and to both together the appellation of boyhood: which marks, and which sounds, whether in seeing them painted, or hearing them pronounced, would convey to our minds the same idea as if we had seen the primitive figures of a boy and of a hood.
Again ; we also call buoy, though differently spelt, the conical floating barrel which marks the situation of the anchor at sea. And, therefore, for this second expression of buoy, we could not draw the figure of a young man, but the figure of a barrel tied to a rope ; and, to mark the use to which we employ it, we should draw the figure of a ship, which, being joined to the figure of the barrel, would give the word ship-buoy; and this appellation would be continued even after the figure of
the ship and the barrel had been turned into an arbitrary mark.
In this way we should have two marks, or signs, to express the same sound. At first, no doubt, as long as we recollected the originals of these marks, we should know the difference between the one and the other, and employ each accordingly; but it is evident that after a lapse of years, when people had forgotten the originals of both these two arbitrary marks, they would find two different signs to express the same sound; and if they were obliged to write down boyhood, or shipbuoy, they would be not a little confused, especially if they had but a slight knowledge of the English language, to know which mark should be employed in writing boyhood, and which shipbuoy.
What has been said of the words boy and buoy, must be applied to all other monosyllables beginning with the letter B, which would considerably increase the number of signs that might be used to express this letter. This multiplication would then produce a terrible confusion ; for whatever care mankind might have taken to reduce the number of symbols, and to employ skilfully the same character, or the same form of characters, to signify a great number of things, which might have a resemblance, however trifling, to one another, whatever care they might have taken, not to imagine new characters, but preserve the old ones by
altering their form, either by adding to, or taking away, some trifle from them; yet the number of these signs would increase to such a prodigious quantity, as to require an infinite number of variations, to express not only the multitude of objects which were to be represented, but also to convey the diversity of ideas which they were intended to excite. The inconvenience, therefore, arising from their number would be immense, and this is precisely what is experienced in the writing of the Chinese. Their characters amount to not less than 24,000, a number so prodigiously extensive as to require, may to exceed, the labour of a long and industrious life. Fortunately, however, for the Egyptians, they avoided falling into this terrible labyrinth, by adopting another mode, which ultimately proved a safer and shorter way of writing, and that was the invention and use of symbols. Here, I hope, you remember what I stated in a former Lecture, about the nature of symbolical hieroglyphics, which are of three sorts. By these symbols the Egyptians expressed ideas; and the sound or words which they had attached to each of them did not express a thing by its figure, but by an abstract principle, which had attached an idea to the sign or character, by a mere convention, or by some known or supposed qualities belonging to the object which was expressed by the sign. Thus, two arms, one holding an arrow, and the other a bow, represented a battle; the moon was employed to signify the months; a reed and a vase containing ink, or colour, the action of writing; the beetle, the world; the bee, an obedient people; the hare, openness and timidity; the lion, strength; the wings of a bird to signify the wind; and so on. To these symbols we must add those which were employed to exhibit the names of their several gods and goddesses; and they sometimes consisted of the figure of the animals which were sacred to them. Thus, a hawk represented the god Phre; a ram, Jupiter Ammon; a crocodile, the god Suchus; an ibis, the god Thoth; and the like. At other times, we find the same deities represented by symbols which might be considered perfectly enigmatical: for instance, the figure of an eye was used to designate Osiris; the nilometer, the god Phtha ; an obelisk, Jupiter Ammon; and, you remember, I hope, all the other symbols which I exhibited in a former Lecture, by which the Egyptians signified their gods. Thus then, it is evident, that the Egyptians, in writing, when they could no longer represent the figure of a thing, employed symbols, which by themselves expressed an idea, and to which they had attached a particular sound; that is, had a word attached to each of them; and these symbols being joined to a figurative character, produced another word, which was made up by the monosyllable that expressed the figurative character, joined to the sound which expressed the symbol. I shall explain myself by an example of the
manner in which they made their plural. We have seen that the vulture was employed to give the idea of a mother, which in this spoken language was called mou; and that the half circle, which was called te, expressed the idea of the feminine article. Therefore, by joining the figure of a vulture to that of the half circle, they made the compound word tmou ; that is, the mother. Now it is clear, that in this group the figure of the vulture was symbolic, and that it excited the idea of a mother, merely by convention; for there is not the least similarity between the figure of this bird and the idea of a mother. The sound, however, which they had attached to this figure, was precisely the same as that by which they called mother.
You also remember, I hope, that the Egyptians in speaking formed the 'plural by the addition of the syllable oue, or rather nuoe, and that this idea was conveyed in writing by three perpendicular lines (Table 6, fig. 11.), to which sometimes the figure of a quail, or of a horn, was attached. In the spoken language, therefore, the word tmounoue, or tmoue, expressed the idea of the mothers, being composed of three monosyllables, te, the article ; mou, the mother; and noue, the termination of the plural. And from the same principle, the picture of the half of a circle, of a vulture, and of three perpendicular lines, actually excited the same idea of the mothers. Now again, it appears to me, that, taken in the abstract, these three perpendicular lines