Lectures on the Science of Language Delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1861 [And 1863]

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Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009 - 170 pages
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This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text, images, or index. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. 1874. Not illustrated. Excerpt: ... LECTURE XII. ODERN MYTHOLOGY What I mean by Modern Mythology is a subject so vast and so important, that in this, my last Lecture, all I can do is to indicate its character, and the wide limits within which its working may be discerned. After the definition which on several occasions I have given of Mythology, I need only repeat here that I include under that name every case in which language assumes an independent power, and reacts on the mind, instead of being, as it was intended to be, the mere realization and outward embodiment of the mind. In the early days of language the play of mythology was no doubt more lively and more widely extended, and its effects were more deeply felt, than in these days of mature speculation, when words are no longer taken on trust, but are constantly tested by means of logical definition. When language sobers down, when metaphors become less bold and more explicit, there is less danger of speaking of the sun as a horse, because a poet had called him the heavenly racer, or of speaking of Selene as enamored of Endymion, because a proverb had expressed the approach of night by the longing looks of the moon after the setting sun. Yet under a different form Language retains her silent charm; and if it no longer creates gods and heroes, it creates many a name that receives a similar worship. He who would examine the influence which words, mere words, have exercised on the minds of men, might write a history of the world that would teach us more than any which we yet possess. Words without definite meanings are at the bottom of nearly all our philosophical and religious controversies, and even the so-called exact sciences have frequently been led astray by the same Siren voice. I do not speak here of that downright abuse of la...

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