An essay towards a real character, and a philosophical language by John Wilkins ...
Wilkins, John, 1614-1672., Wilkins, John, 1614-1672. Alphabetical dictionary.
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CHAP. I. I. The Introduction. II. The Original of Languages. III. The first Mother-tongues. IV. Their several Off-springs.

IN the handling of that subject,* I have here proposed to treat of, I shall digest the things which to me seem most proper and material to be said upon this occasion, into four parts; according to this following Method.

In the first Part I shall premise some things as Pracognita, concerning such Tongues and Letters as are already in being, particularly concerning those various defects and imperfe∣ctions in them, which ought to be supplyed and provided against, in any such Language or Character, as is to be invented according to the rules of Art.

The second Part shall contein that which is the great foundation of the thing here designed, namely a regular enumeration and description of all those things and notions, to which marks or names ought to be assigned according to their respective natures, which may be styled the Scientifical Part, comprehending Vniversal Philosophy. It being the pro∣per end and design of the several branches of Philosophy to reduce all things and notions unto such a frame, as may express their natural order, dependence, and relations.

The third Part shall treat concerning such helps and Instruments, as are requisite for the framing of these more simple notions into continued Speech or Discourse, which may therefore be stiled the Organical or In∣strumental Part, and doth comprehend the Art of Natural or Philoso∣phical Grammar.

In the fourth Part I shall shew how these more generall Rules may be applyed to particular kinds of Characters, and Languages, giving an instance of each. To which shall be adjoyned by way of Appendix, a Discourse shewing the advantage of such a kind of Philosophical Chara∣cter and Language, above any of those which are now known, more par∣ticularly above that which is of most general use in these parts of the World; namely, the Latine.

Lastly, There shall be added a Dictionary of the English tongue, in which shall be shown how all the words of this Language, according to Page  2 the various equivocal senses of them, may be sufficiently expressed by the Philosophical Tables here proposed.

I begin with the first of these.

*The design of this Treatise being an attempt towards a new kind of Character and Language, it cannot therefore be improper to premise some∣what concerning those already in being; the first Original of them, their several kinds, the various changes and corruptions to which they are ly∣able, together with the manifold defects belonging to them. This I shall endeavour to do in the former part of this Discourse.

There is scarce any subject that hath been more throughly scanned and debated amongst Learned men, than the Original of Languages and Letters. 'Tis evident enough that no one Language is natural to mankind, because the knowledge which is natural would generally re∣main amongst men, notwithstanding the superinduction of any other particular Tongue, wherein they might be by Art. Nor is it much to be wondred at, that the ancient Heathen, who knew nothing of Scri∣pture-revelation, should be inclined to believe, that either Men and Languages were eternal; or, that if there were any particular time when men did spring out of the Earth, and after inhabit alone and dispersedly in Woods and Caves, they had at first no Articulate voice, but only such rude sounds as Beasts have; till afterwards particular Families increasing, or several Families joyning together for mutual safety and defence, under Government and Societies, they began by degrees and long practice to consent in certain Articulate sounds, whereby to communicate their thoughts, which in several Countries made several Languages, according to that in the Poet,

Cùm prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
*Mutum & turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter
Vnguibus & pugnis, dein fustibus, atque ita porro
Pugnabant armis, quae post fabricaverat usus,
Donec verba quibus voces sensúsque notarent
Nomináque invenêre; dehinc absistere bello,
Oppida coeperunt munire, & ponere leges,
Ne quis fur esset, neu latro, neu quis adulter, &c.

But to us, who have the revelation of Scripture, these kind of scru∣ples and conjectures are sufficiently stated. And 'tis evident enough that the first Language was con-created with our first Parents, they immedi∣ately understanding the voice of God speaking to them in the Garden. And how Languages came to be multiplyed, is likewise manifested in the Story of the Confusion of Babel.* How many Languages, and which they were that sprang up at that Confusion, is altogether uncertain; whe∣ther many of them that were then in being, be not now wholly lost; and many others, which had not the same original, have not since arisen in the world, is not (I think) to be doubted.

The most received Conjecture is, that the Languages of the Confusi∣on were according to the several Families from Noah, which were 70 or 72. though there be very strong probabilities to prove that they were not so many, and that the first Dispersion did not divide mankind into so Page  3 many Colonies. But now the several Languages that are used in the world do farre exceed this number.*Pliny and Strabo do both make mention of a great Mart-Town in Colchos named Dioscuria, to which men of three hundred Nations, and of so many several Languages, were wont to resort for Trading. Which, considering the narrow compass of Traf∣fick before the invention of the magnetic Needle, must needs be but a small proportion, in comparison to those many of the remoter and un∣known parts of the world.

Some of the American Histories relate,* that in every fourscore miles of that vast Country, and almost in every particular valley of Peru, the Inhabitants have a distinct Language. And one who for several years travelled the Northern parts of America about Florida,* and could speak six several Languages of those people, doth affirm, that he found, upon his enquiry and converse with them, more than a thousand different Lan∣guages amongst them.

As for those Languages which seem to have no derivation from, or de∣pendance upon, or affinity with one another,* they are styled Linguae ma∣trices, or Mother-tongues. Of these Ioseph Scaliger affirms there are ele∣ven, and not more, used in Europe;* whereof four are of more general and large extent, and the other seven of a narrower compass and use. Of the more general Tongues.

1. The Greek was anciently of very great extent, not onely in Europe, but in Asia too, and Afric,* where several Colonies of that Nation were planted; by which dispersion and mixture with other people it did de∣generate into several Dialects. Besides those four that are commonly noted, the Doric, Ionic, Aeolic, Attic, Herodotus doth mention four several Dialects of the Ionic. The inhabitants of Rhodes, Cyprus, Crete, had each of them some peculiarity in their Language. And the present Coptic or Aegyptian seems, both from the words and the character, to be a branch of this family, and was probably spred amongst that people in the days of Alexander the Great, upon his conquering of them: Though some conceive that there were at least 30000 families of Greeks planted in that Country long before his time.

2. The Latin, though this be much of it a derivation from the Greek, (of which the now French, Spanish, and Italian are several off-springs and derivations) had anciently four several Dialects,* as Petrus Crinitus shews cut of Varro.

3. The Teutonic or German is now distinguished into Vpper and Low∣er. The Vpper hath two notable Dialects. 1. The Danish, Scandian,* or perhaps the Gothic, to which belongs the Language used in Denmark, Norway, Swedeland, and Island. 2. The Saxon, to which appertain the several Languages of the English, the Scots, the Frisians, and those on the North of Elve.

4. The Slavonic is extended, though with some variation, through many large Territories, Muscovia, Russia, Poland, Bohemia, Vandalia, Croa∣tia, Lithuania, Dalmatia;* and is said to be the vulgar Language used a∣mongst 60 several Nations.

The Languages of lesser extent are, 1. The Albanese, or old Epirotic, now used in the mountainous parts of Epirus.

2. The Europaean Tartar, or Scythian, from which some conceive our Page  4Irish to have had its original. As for the Turkish Tongue, that is original∣ly no other but the Asiatic Tartar, mixed with Armenian and Persian, some Greek, and much Arabic.

3. The Hungarian, used in the greatest part of that Kingdom.

4. The Finnic, used in Finland and Lapland.

5. The Cantabrian, used amongst the Biscainers, who live near the Ocean on the Pyrene hills, bordering both upon France and Spain.

6. The Irish, in Ireland, and from thence brought over into some parts of Scotland. Though Mr. Camden would have this to be a derivation from the Welsh.

7. The old Gaulish or British, which is yet preserved in Wales, Corn∣wall, and Britain in France.

*To this number Mr. Brerewood doth add four others, viz.

  • 1. The Arabic, now used in the steep mountains of Granata; which yet is a Dialect from the Hebrew, and not a Mother-tongue.
  • 2. The Cauchian, in East-Friseland.
  • 3. The Illyrian, in the Isle of Veggia.
  • 4. The Iazygian, on the North side of Hungary.

Besides this difference of Languages in their first derivation, every particular Tongue hath its several Dialects.* Though Iudaea were a re∣gion of a very narrow compass, yet was it not without its varieties of this kind: witness the story concerning Shibboleth and Sibboleth; and that of the Levite,* who was discovered by his manner of speech; and S. Pe∣ter's being known for a Galilaean. 'Tis so generally in other Countries, and particularly with us in England, where the Northern and Western inhabitants do observe a different dialect from other parts of the Nati∣on, as may appear from that particular instance mentioned by Verstegan. Whereas the inhabitants about London would say, I would eat more cheese if I had it. A Northern man would speak it thus, Ay sud eat mare cheese gyn ay had et. And a Western man thus, Chud eat more cheese an chad it.

Every one of these reputed Mother-tongues, except the Arabic, (and perhaps the Hungarian) was used in Europe during the time of the Ro∣man Empire. But whether they were all of them so ancient as the Con∣fusion of Babel, doth not appear; there wants not good probability to the contrary for some of them.

*It hath been the opinion of some, particularly Boxhornius, that the Scythian Tongue was the common mother from which both the Greek, Latin, German and Persian were derived, as so many Dialects; and 'tis said that Salmasius did incline to the same judgment. And Philip Cluverius conjectures, that both Germans, Gauls, Spaniards, Britans, Swedes and Norwegians, did anciently use one and the same Language. One princi∣pal argument used for this is, the agreement of those remote Nations in some radical words. Ioseph Scaliger observes that the words, Father, Mother, Brother, Bond, &c. are used in the Persian tongue, with some lit∣tle variety, in the same sense and signification as they are used with us. And Busbequius relates, that the inhabitants of Taurica Chersonesus have divers words in the same sense common with us,* as Wine, Silver, Corn, Salt, Fish, Apple, &c. But this might be merely casual, or else occasioned by a mixture of Colonies, and will not argue a derivation of one from Page  5 another. So there are several words common to the Turks, Germans,*Greeks, French, sometimes of the same, and sometimes of several signifi∣cations; which is not sufficient to argue that all these were of the same Original.

Besides these Europaean, there is likewise great variety of Languages in other parts of the world. As for the Hebrew Tongue, which is by many learned men supposed to be the same that Abraham learnt when he came into Canaan, to which that expression Isai. 19.18. The language of Ca∣naan, is thought to allude; this is supposed to be the first Mother tongue amongst all those that are now known in the world, from which there are sundry derivations, as the Chaldee, Syriac, Punic, Arabic, Persian▪ Aethiopic.

When the Iews were in Captivity at Babylon, mixed with the Chalde∣ans for 70 years,* in that tract of time they made up a Language distinct from both, which is sometimes called Syriac, and sometimes Chaldee, and sometimes Hebrew. Those passages in the Gospel, which are said to be in the Hebrew tongue, as Talitha Kumi; Elohi, Elohi, Lamma sabachthani,* are properly Syriac; onely they are called Hebrew, because that was the Language which the Hebrews then used. A great part of this Syriac tongue is for the substance of the words Chaldee, and Hebrew for the fa∣shion, so degenerating much from both. After the Captivity the pure Hebrew ceased to be vulgar, remaining onely amongst learned men, as appears by that place in Nehem. 8.7, 8. where we find the Priests, upon reading of the Law to the people after their coming out of Babylon, were fain to expound it distinctly to them, and to make them understand the meaning of it; the common people, by long disuse, being grown strangers to the Language wherein 'twas written. So in our Sa∣viour's time, the unlearned Iews, whose vulgar Tongue the Syriac was, could not understand those parts of Moses and the Prophets read to them in Hebrew every Sabbath-day. Which was the reason of those public speeches and declarations of any learned men, who occasionally came into the Synagogues, after the reading of the Law:* though neither Priests, nor Levites, nor Scribes, yet was it ordinary for them to expound unto the people the meaning of those portions of Scripture that were appointed to be read out of the Hebrew, which the people did not un∣derstand; and to render their meaning in Syriac, which was their vul∣gar Tongue.

As for so much of the pure Hebrew as is now in being, which is onely that in the old Testament, though it be sufficient to express what is there intended, yet it is so exceedingly defective in many other words requi∣site to humane discourse, that the Rabbins are fain to borrow words from many other Languages, Greek, Latin, Spanish, &c. as may appear at large in Buxtorf's Lexicon Rabbinicum, and a particular Discourse written to this very purpose by David Cohen de Lara. And, from the several defects and imperfections which seem to be in this Language, it may be guessed not to be the same which was con-created with our first Parents, and spoken by Adam in Paradise.

What other varieties of Tongues there have been, or are, in Asia, Afric, or America, I shall not now enquire.

Page  6

CHAP. II. I. Concerning the various changes and corruptions to which all vulgar Languages are obnoxious. II. Particularly concerning the changes of the English tongue. III. Whether any Language, formerly in use, be now wholly lost. IV. Concerning the first rise and occasion of new Languages.

THere are three Queres which may deserve some farther disquisiti∣on.* 1. Whether the purest of those Mother-tongues, which yet remain, be not now much changed from what they were at the first Con∣fusion. 2. Whether and how any of the Mother-tongues have been quite lost since the Confusion. 3. Whether and how other new Langua∣ges have since arisen in the world.

1. To the first, Besides the common fate and corruption to which Lan∣guages as well as all other humane things are subject, there are many other particular causes which may occasion such a change: The mix∣ture with other Nations in Commerce; Marriages in Regal Families, which doth usually bring some common words into a Court fashion; that affectation incident to some eminent men in all ages, of coining new words, and altering the common forms of speech, for greater elegance; the necessity of making other words, according as new things and in∣ventions are discovered. Besides, the Laws of forein Conquests usually extend to Letters and Speech as well as Territories; the Victor com∣monly endeavouring to propagate his own Language as farre as his Dominions; which is the reason why the Greek and Latin are so uni∣versally known. And when a Nation is overspread with several Colo∣nies of foreiners, though this do not alwaies prevail to abolish the former Language, yet if they make any long abode, this must needs make such a considerable change and mixture of speech as will very much alter it from its original Purity.

Those learned Languages which have now ceased to be vulgar, and remain onely in Books, by which the purity of them is regulated, may, whilst those Books are extant and studied, continue the same without change. But all Languages that are vulgar, as those learned ones for∣merly were, are upon the fore-mentioned occasions, subject to so many alterations, that in tract of time they will appear to be quite another thing then what they were at first.

*The Liturgies of S. Basil and S. Chrysostom, which are yet used in the Greek Churches in their publick worship, the one for solemn, the other for common days, have been a long time unintelligible to that people; so much is the vulgar Greek degenerated from its former purity.

*And Polibius testifies, that the Articles of truce betwixt the Romans and Carthaginians could scarce be understood by the most learned Ro∣man Antiquaries 350 years after the time of their making.

*If any English man should now write or speak as our forefathers did about six or seven hundred years past,* we should as little understand him as if he were a foreiner; of which it were easie to give several proofs Page  7 by instance, if it were not inconsistent with my present design of brevity. What the Saxons Language was at their first arrival into England about the year 440, doth not appear; but 'tis most probable that the changes and differences of it, have been somewhat proportionable in several Ages.

About the year of Christ 700 the Lord's Prayer in English was thus rendred:

Uren fader thic arth in heofnas, sic gehalgud thin noma:* to cymeth thin ric: sic thin willa sue is in heofnas and in eortho. Uren hlaf ofer wirtlic sel us to daeg; and forget us scylda urna, sue we forgefen scyld∣gum urum; and no inlead usith in custnung. Ah gefrig urich from ifle. Amen.

About 200 years after, it was changed thus:

Thu ure fader the eart on heofenum. Si thin nama gehalgod. Cum thin ric. Si thin willa on eorthen swa, swa on heofenum.* Syle us to daeg urn daegthanlican hlaf. And forgif us ure gyltas swa, swa we forgifath tham the with us agyltath. And ne led the us on costnung. Ac alys us from yfle. Si it swa.

About the same time it was rendred in the Saxon Gospels, said to be Translated by King Alfred, after this manner.

Faeder ure thu the earth on heofenum, si thin nama Gehalgod to be cume thin Rice, Gewurthe thin willa on eorthan swa swa on heofnum, urne ge daeghwanlican hlaf syle us to daeg. And forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgivath urum gyltendum. And ne gelaedde thu us on cost∣nung. Ac Alyse us of yfle.

About 260 years after, in the time of King Henry the 2d, it was ren∣dred thus, and sent over by Pope Adrian, an English-man, turned into meter, that the people might more easily learn and remember it.

Ure fadyr in heaven rich,
Thy name be hallyed ever lich,
Thou bring us thy michell blisse:
Als hit in heaven y. doe,
Evar in yearth beene it also.
That holy bread that lasteth ay,
Thou send it ous this ilke day,
Forgive ous all that we have don,
As we forgivet uch other mon:
Ne let ous fall into no founding,
Ac shield ous fro the fowle thing. Amen.

And about a hundred years after, in the time of Henry the third, it was rendred thus:

Fader that art in heavin blisse,
Thin helge nam it wurth the blisse,
Cumen and mot thy kingdom,
Thin holy will it be all don,
In heaven and in erdh also,
So it shall bin full well Ic tro.
Gif us all bread on this day,
And forgif us ure sinnes,
As we do ure wider winnes:
Let us not in fonding fall,
Oac fro evil thu syld us all. Amen.

Page  8About two hundred years after this in the time of Henry the VI. (as appears by a large manuscript Velume Bible in the Oxford-Library, said to have been this Kings, and by him to have been given to the Carthusi∣ans in London;) It was rendred thus.

Oure fadir that art in hevenes, halewid be thi name, thi kingdom come to thee, be thi wil don in eerthe, as in hevene, give to us this day oure breed over othre substanc, and forgive to us oure dettis, as we forgiven oure dettouris, and lede us not into temptation, but delivere us from ivel. Amen.

In another M. S. of Wickliffes Translation, who lived in Richard the 2ds time, it is rendred with very small difference from this.

About a hundred years after this, In a Bible set forth with the Kings licens, translated by Thomas Mathew, and printed in the year 1537, it was rendered thus:

O oure father which arte in heven halowed be thy name. Let thy kingdome come. Thy will be fulfilled, as well in erth, as it is in heven. Geve us this daye oure dayly bred. And forgeve us our treaspases, even as we forgeve oure trespacers. And lead us not into temptacion, but de∣lyver us from evyll. Amen.

After the same manner it is rendered in the Translation of William Tyndall, with some little differences in the spelling.

This one instance may sufficiently manifest by what degrees this Lan∣guage did receive its several Changes, and how much altered it is now from what it hath been, and consequently what is to be expected in fu∣ture times. Since Learning began to flourish in our Nation, there have been more then ordinary Changes introduced in our Language: partly by new artificial Compositions; partly by enfranchising strange forein words, for their elegance and significancy, which now make one third part of our Language; and partly by refining and mollifying old words, for the more easie and graceful sound: by which means this last Centu∣ry may be conjectured to have made a greater change in our Tongue, then any of the former, as to the addition of new words.

And thus, in all probability, must it have been with all other vulgar Languages. So that 'tis not likely that any of these Mother-tongues now in being, are the same that they were at the first Confusion. So true is that of the Poet:

*Vt sylvae foliis pronos mutantur in annos,
Prima cadunt; ita verborum vetus interit aetas,
Et, juvenum ritu, florent modò nata vigéntque.
Debemur morti nos nostráque—
And a little after,
Multa renascentur quae jam cecidere, cadéntque
Quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus,
Quem penes arbitrium est, & vis, & norma loqundi.

2. As to the second Quere, Whether any of the Ancient Languages be now quite lost;* it may be answered, That if in some few hundreds of years a Language may be so changed as to be scarce intelligible; then, in a much longer tract of time it may be quite abolished, none of the most radical and substantial parts remaining: For every change is a gradual corruption.

Page  9Before the flourishing of the Roman Empire, there were several native Languages used in Italy, France, Spain.* In Italy we read of the Messapi∣an, the Hetruscan, the Sabine, the Oscan, the Hetrurian or Tuscan Langua∣ges; which are now thought by Learned men to be utterly lost, and no∣where to be found in the World.

'Tis probable that there was not onely one Language in so vast a Ter∣ritory as France, but that several Provinces spake several Languages:* But what those Languages were, or whether yet extant, is uncertain. As for the Celtae, who, inhabiting the inner part of the Country, were less sub∣ject to forein mixtures, 'tis most probable that their Language might be the British or Welsh, which is yet spoken in some parts of France.*Caesar reports that the Gauls were wont often to pass over into Britain, to be instructed by the Druids, amongst whom there was then no use of Books or Writing, and therefore they must communicate by Discourse. And Tacitus affirms that the Speech of the British and Gauls, differed but little.

It is conceived that one of the ancient Tongues of Spain was the Cantabrian, which doth now there remain in the more barren mountain∣ous, inaccessible parts, where Conquerors are less willing to pursue, or desirous to plant; as our British doth in Wales. But 'tis probable that there might be several other Languages besides this in so great a Continent, as well as in Italy, which are now wholly lost and unknown.

3. As to the third Quere, concerning the first Rise and occasion of new Languages,* that may be sufficiently answered by what was before suggested, concerning those many particular emergencies which may contribute to the introducing a change in Languages.

Some think that the Italians, Spaniards and French, after they were to∣tally subdued by the Romans, and planted with their Colonies, did, after a certain space of time, receive the Latin Tongue as their most vulgar Speech, and retained it; till afterwards, being several times overrun by the Northern barbarous Nations, the Goths and Vandals, and other Tribes of the Germans, who mixed with them, and after several Conquests resi∣ded amongst them, sometimes 20, 60, 200 years together; this afford∣ed time enough for such a thorough coalition betwixt them and the Na∣tives, as could not but introduce a great change in the common Lan∣guage, whilst the Nations were forced to attemper their Speech for the mutual understanding of one another.

Others conceive that those Countries did not at first perfectly receive the Latin from the Romans, but did onely make use of the most principal radical words; neglecting the Grammatical rules of composition and in∣flection, and withall varying the way of pronunciation, according to the unusualness and difficulty of several sounds to several Countries: And that this was the first and chief occasion of those various Medleys or se∣veral Dialects now in use; which were afterwards somewhat farther changed from their Originals, by those several Inundations of the Bar∣barians

'Tis not much material to dispute, which of these causes had the prin∣cipal influence in the extraction of these modern Tongues, so long as 'tis granted that both of them might contribute and suffice for this effect. As for our present English, this seems to be a mixture of the British, Ro∣man, Page  10 Saxon, Danish, Norman, according to the several vicissitudes of Plantations and Conquests,* that this Nation hath undergone. And ac∣cording as such Conquests have been more or less compleat and abso∣lute, so have the Languages been more or less generally altered: which is the reason why the Saxon Tongue was by our progenitors more fully introduced in England, then either that of the Franks amongst the Gauls, or that of the Goths or Lumbards in Italy, or that of the Goths, Vandals or Moors in Spain.

*That which seems to be the newest Language in the World, is the Ma∣layan, which is now as general and common amongst the Natives of the East-Indies, as Latin or French is in these parts of the World. 'Tis said to be but of late invention, occasioned by the concourse of Fishermen from Pegu, Siam, Bengala, and several other Nations, who meeting toge∣ther at a place convenient for Fishing, and finding that it was by situati∣on exceeding commodious for Traffick from several parts, did agree to settle there a Plantation; and accordingly built the Town of Malacca, which hath since, for many years, been governed by the Portuguez, and is now under the power of the Hollander. And, for the more facil con∣verse with one another, they agreed upon a distinct Language, which pro∣bably was made up by selecting the most soft and easy words belonging to each several Nation. And this is the onely Language (for ought I know) that hath ever been at once invented; if it may properly be styled a distinct Language, and not rather a Medley of many. But this being invented by rude Fishermen, it cannot be expected that it should have all those advantages, with which it might have been furnished by the rules of Philosophy.

*I know that the Learned Golius doth affirm the China Language to be invented by Art; but, upon the best discovery to be made of it at this distance, from those who have lived many years in that Country, and pre∣tend to understand the Language, it appears to be so exceedingly equivo∣cal, and in many respects so very imperfect, that there is little reason to be∣lieve it had any such Original.

CHAP. III. I. The Original of Letters and Writing. II. That all Letters were de∣rived from the Hebrew. III. The use of Letters is less ancient, and the kinds of them less numerous, then of the Languages themselves. IV. Of Notes for Secrecy or Brevity. V. Of real Characters. VI. Of Alphabets in general.

HAving laid down this brief and general View of Languages, 'tis re∣quisite that something should be also premised concerning Letters,* the Invention of which was a thing of so great Art and exquisiteness, that Tully doth from hence inferr the divinity and spirituality of the hu∣mane soul,* and that it must needs be of a farr more excellent and abstract∣ed Essence then mere Matter or Body, in that it was able to reduce all articulate sounds to 24 Letters.

Page  11Though the Scripture doth not mention any thing concerning the in∣vention of these; yet 'tis most generally agreed, that Adam, (though not immediately after his Creation, yet) in process of time, upon his ex∣perience of their great necessity and usefulness, did first invent the anci∣ent Hebrew Character: whether that which we now call the Hebrew, or else the Samaritan, is a question much debated by several Learned men, which I shall not now inquire into, or offer to determine.

As for those particular Alphabets which are by some ascribed to Adam, Enoch and Noah, mentioned by several Authors,* and in a late Discourse by Thomas Bangius, they have so little foundation in any probable reason or story, that I shall not so much as make any farther mention of them.

It hath been abundantly cleared up by many Learned men, that the ancient Hebrew Character hath the priority before any other now known;* which is confirmed by the concurrent testimony of the best and most an∣cient Heathen Writers. And 'tis amongst rational arguments none of the least, for the Truth and Divine Authority of Scripture,* to consider the general concurrence of all manner of evidence for the Antiquity of the Hebrew, and the derivation of all other Letters from it.

Pliny affirms in one place,* that the first invention of Letters ought to be ascribed unto the Assyrians; and in another place he saith, that under the name of Syria he understands the Regions which were styled Pale∣stine, Iudaea and Phoenicia; and in the same Chapter he ascribes the inven∣tion of Letters to the Phoenicians. So doth Lucan likewise;*

Phoenices primi (famae si credimus) ausi
Mansuram rudibus vocem signare figuris.

With these agree aHerodotus, Strabo,bPlutarch,cCurtius, Mela, &c. who all consent, that the Grecians did first receive their Letters from the Phoenicians by Cadmus, who lived about the time of Ioshua. And that the Punic or Phoenician Tongue was the Canaanitish or the Hebrew, though somewhat altered from its original pronunciation,* (as is wont in tract of time to befall Colonies planted far from home, amongst stran∣gers,) is sufficiently manifested from the remainders of it that are ex∣tant in Plautus and other prophane Authors, as they are cited by the learned Bochart. And that the Phoenicians were Canaanites hath proof also in Scripture, because the same woman who in Mark 7.26. is styled a Syrophoenician, is said Matth. 15.22. to be a Canaanite.

That the ancient Greek Character was of very near affinity to the Samaritan, and that the Latin Letters were of such an affinity to the Greek, and derived from them, being in a manner the same with the an∣cient Ionic Letters, is made very plain by Scaliger,* and owned by Pliny and Dionysius Halicarnassensis. And Tacitus doth acknowledge that the ancient Latin Characters were in their shape and figure almost the same with the Greek. And as for the other Letters that are known, namely, the Syriac, Arabic, Aethiopic, Armenian, Coptic, Illyric, Georgian, Gothic, there is this cogent Argument to prove them to be of the same Origi∣nal, because their Alphabets do generally observe the same order of Let∣ters, which, being in it self exceedingly irrational, cannot probably have any other reason but imitation. Except onely that of the Arabs,* saith Her∣mannus Hugo, who, that they might not seem to have borrowed Letters Page  12 from others, did purposely disturb the order of the Alphabet; to which he might have added the Aethiopic and Armenian.

*There are two general things to be observed concerning these deri∣ved Letters. 1. That they are not of so great Antiquity. 2. That they are not so numerous as Languages are.

1. They are not so ancient, many Nations remaining a long while be∣fore they grew so far civilized as to understand the use of Letters, which to this day are not known amongst many of the American Nations, nor the Inhabitants of Lapland: and after they have been known, and of some public use, it hath been yet a considerable space, before persons have written any Discourse in their own Language. 'Tis observed by Tschudas of the German,* and by Genebrard of the French Tongue, (saith Mr. Brerewood) that 'tis not much above 400 years, since Books began to be written in those Languages.

2. And because the use of Letters in particular Countries is not so an∣cient as Language, therefore are they not of so numerous kinds; several Nations taking up the use of Letters from their neighbours, and adapting them to their own Tongue. Thus the Spanish, French, Italian, German, British, English, Irish, &c. do all of them use the same Latine Character, it being probable that they had none of their own, before they learnt this of the Romans. The Coptic or Egyptian Character, ever since Egypt came under the Dominion of Macedon, hath been the Greek, excepting only seven Letters proper to their Tongue, which the Greek Alphabet did not sufficiently express; The Muscovites likewise and the Russians, the Georgians and Iacobins, do use the Greek Character; the Persians and Turks use the Arabick: though the Letters of any Tongue do not al∣waies remain the same, but are subject to the like fate and mutability, to which Languages are exposed.

Besides this common way of Writing by the ordinary Letters, the An∣cients have sometimes used to communicate by other Notes,* which were either for Secrecy, or Brevity.

1. For Secrecy: such were the Egyptian Hieroglyphicks, (as they are commonly esteemed) being the representation of certain living Crea∣tures, and other Bodies, whereby they were wont to conceal from the vulgar the Mysteries of their Religion. But there is reason to doubt whether there be any thing in these worth the enquiry, the discoveries that have been hitherto made out of them being but very few and in∣significant. They seem to be but a slight, imperfect invention, sutable to those first and ruder Ages;* much of the same nature with that Mexi∣can way of writing by Picture, which was a mere shift they were put to for want of the knowledge of Letters. And it seems to me questionable, whether the Egyptians did not at first use their Hieroglyphicks upon the same account, namely, for the want of Letters.

Those waies of writing treated of by the Abbot Trithemius, were likewise for occult or secret communication: And though some Learn∣ed men have suspected and accused him to have thereby delivered the Art of Magic, or Conjuring; yet he is sufficiently cleared and vindicated from any such prejudice in that very learned and ingenious Discourse de Cryptographia, under the feigned name of Gustavus Selenus,Page  13 by which the noble Author, the Duke of Lunenburg, did disguise his true name of Augustus Lunaeburgicus.

2. For Brevity: There were single Letters or marks, whereby the Ro∣mans were wont to express whole words. Ennius is said to have inven∣ted 1100 of these; to which number Tullius Tyro, Cicero's Libertus, (o∣thers say Cicero himself,) added divers others,* to signifie the particles of speech; after whom Philargyrus the Samian and Macaenas, added yet more. After these Annaeus Seneca is said to have laboured in the regu∣lating and digesting of those former notes; to which adding many of his own, he augmented the whole number to 5000, published by Ianus Gruterus; though amongst his there are divers of a later invention, re∣lating to Christian institutions, which have been added since (as 'tis said) by S. Cyprian the Martyr. The way of writing by these did require a vast memory and labour; yet it was far short of expressing all things and Notions, and besides, had no provision for Grammatical varia∣tions.

Of this nature is that Short-hand-writing by Characters so fre∣quent with us in England, and much wondered at by Foreiners; which hath a great advantage for speed and swiftness in writing; those who are expert in it being able this way to take any ordinary discourse verbatim.

Besides these, there have been some other proposals and attempts a∣bout a Real universal Character, that should not signifie words,* but things and notions, and consequently might be legible by any Nation in their own Tongue; which is the principal design of this Treatise. That such a Real Character is possible, and hath been reckoned by Learned men amongst the Desiderata, were easie to make out by abundance of Testi∣monies. To this purpose is that which Piso mentions to be somewhere the wish of Galen,* That some way might be found out to represent things by such peculiar signs and names as should express their natures; ut Sophistis eriperetur decertandi & calumniandi occasio. There are se∣veral other passages to this purpose in the Learned Verulam, in Vossius,* in Hermannus Hugo, &c. besides what is commonly reported of the men of China, who do now, and have for many Ages used such a general Chara∣cter, by which the Inhabitants of that large Kingdom, many of them of different Tongues, do communicate with one another, every one understanding this common Character, and reading it in his own Lan∣guage.

It cannot be denied, but that the variety of Letters is an appendix to the Curse of Babel, namely, the multitude and variety of Languages. And therefore, for any man to go about to add to their number, will be but like the inventing of a Disease, for which he can expect but little thanks from the world. But this Consideration ought to be no discourage∣ment: For supposing such a thing as is here proposed, could be well established, it would be the surest remedy that could be against the Curse of the Confusion, by rendring all other Languages and Characters useless.

It doth not appear that any Alphabet now in being, was invented at once or by the rules of Art; but rather that all, except the Hebrew,* were Page  14 taken up by Imitation, and past by degrees through several Changes; which is the reason that they are less complete, and liable to several ex∣ceptions. The Hebrew Character, as to the shape of it, though it appear solemn and grave, yet hath it not its Letters sufficiently distinguished from one another, and withall it appears somewhat harsh and rugged. The Arabic Character, though it shew beautiful, yet is it too elaborate, and takes up too much room, and cannot well be written small. The Greek and the Latin are both of them graceful and indifferent easie, though not without their several imperfections.

As for the Aethiopic, it hath no less then 202 Letters in its Alphabet; namely, 7 Vowels, which they apply to every one of their 26 Conso∣nants, to which they add 20 other aspirated Syllables. All their Cha∣racters are exceedingly complicated and perplexed, and much more dif∣ficult then those proposed in this following Discourse for the expressing of things and notions.

*This is said likewise of the Tartarian, that every Character with them is a Syllable, having each of the Vowels joyned to its Consonant, as La, Le, Li, &c. which must needs make a long and troublesome Alphabet.

But it is not my purpose to animadvert upon these Tongues that are less known, so much as those with which these parts of the world are bet∣ter acquainted.

CHAP. IV. I. The Defects in the common Alphabets, as to their true Order. II. Iust Number. III. Determinate Powers. IV. Fitting Names. V. Pro∣per Figures of the Letters. VI. The Imperfections belonging to the Words of Language, as to their Equivocalness, variety of Synonymous words, uncertain Phraseologies, improper way of Writing.

ONe special Circumstance which adds to the Curse of Babel is that difficulty which there is in all Languages,* arising from the various Imperfections belonging to them, both in respect of 1. their first Elements or Alphabets, 2. their Words.

1. For Alphabets, they are all of them, in many respects, liable to just exception.

1. As to the Order of them, they are inartificial and confused, without any such methodical distribution as were requisite for their particular na∣tures and differences; the Vowels and Consonants being promiscuously huddled together, without any distinction: Whereas in a regular Alpha∣bet, the Vowels and Consonants should be reduced into Classes, according to their several kinds, with such an order of precedence and subsequence as their natures will bear; this being the proper end and design of that which we call Method, to separate the Heterogeneous, and put the Homo∣geneous together, according to some rule of precedency.

The Hebrew Alphabet, (the order of which is observed in several Scriptures, Psal. 119. and in the Book of Lamentations) from whence the others are derived, is not free from this Imperfection.

Page  152. For their Number, they are in several respects both Redundant, and Deficient.*

1. Redundant and superfluous; either 1. By allotting several Let∣ters to the same power and sound. So in the Hebrew (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) and so perhaps (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉.) So in the ordinary La∣tin, (C & K) (F & Ph.) Or 2. by reckoning double Letters amongst the most simple elements of Speech: as in the Hebrew〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; in the Greek ξ and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; in the Latin (Q. Cu) (X. cs.) and I Consonant or Jod which is made up of (dzh) by assigning several Letters to represent one sim∣ple power, as th, sh, &c. So that none of these can regularly be rec∣koned amongst the simple elements of Speech.

2. Deficient in other respects, especially in regard of Vowels, of which there are 7 or 8 several kinds commonly used, (as I shall shew after∣wards) though the Latin Alphabet take notice but of five, whereof two, namely (i and u.) according to our English pronunciation of them, are not properly Vowels, but Diphthongs. And besides, that gradual difference amongst Vowels of long and short is not sufficiently provided for. The Ancients were wont to express a long Vowel by doubling the Character of it; as Amaabam, Naata, Ree, Seedes, Sanctissimiis, Mariinas:* though oftentimes the Vowel I, instead of being doubled, was onely pro∣longed in the figure of it; as AEDILIS, PISO, VIVUS. For the ways used by us English for lengthning and abbreviating Vowels, viz. by adding E quiescent to the end of a word for prolonging a Syllable, and doubling the following Consonant for the shortning of a Vowel, as Wane, Wann; Ware, Warr, &c. or else by inserting some other Vowel, for the lengthning of it, as Meat, Met; Read, Red, &c. both these are upon this account improper, because the sign ought to be where the sound is. Nor would it be so fit to express this by a distinct Character, because it denotes onely an accidental or gradual difference, as by an Accent; the chief use of Accents, for which they are necessary in ordinary speech, being to sig∣nifie Quantities and Elevations of voice.

3. For their Powers, they are very uncertain, not alwaies fixed and de∣termined to the same signification:* which as to our English pronunciati∣on may be made to appear by abundance of Instances both in the Vow∣els and Consonants.

1. As to thVowels: It is generally acknowledged that each of them have several sounds. Vocales omnes plurisonae, saith Lipsius. And the learn∣ed Vossius doth assure us,* that the Ancients did use their Vowels in very different wayes, aliquando tenuiùs exiliúsque, nunc crassiùs, nunc inter∣medio sono.

The power of the Vowel () treated of afterwards, is expressed in writing no less then six several waies; by

  • e. He, me, she, ye.
  • ee. Thee, free, wee.
  • ie. Field, yield, shield, chief.
  • ea. Near, dear, hear.
  • eo. People.
  • i. Privilege.

So is the Power of the Vowel (α;) as in All, aul, aw, fault, caught, Page  16 brought. These are all various waies of writing the same long Vowel; besides which there are other distinct waies of expressing the same Vowel when it is used short, as in the words of, for, &c.

And for the Power of the Vowel () that is likewise written five se∣veral waies.

  • o. To, who, move.
  • oe. Doe.
  • oo. Shoo, moon, noon.
  • ou. Could, would.
  • wo. Two.

And as for the Power of the Vowel () this also is written five seve∣ral waies; namely, by the Letters

  • i. Sir, stir, firmament, &c.
  • o. Hony, mony, come, some, love, &c.
  • oo. Blood, flood.
  • u. Turn, burn, burthen.
  • ou. Country, couple.

2. As to the Consonants, these likewise are of very uncertain Powers: witness the different pronunciation of the letter (C) in the word Circo, and (G) in the word Negligence. I know 'tis said that the letter (C) before the Vowels a, o, u, must be pronounced like (K,) as in the words cado, coram, cudo; and before the Vowels e, i, as S, as in the words cedo, cilium. But there is no reason why it should be so. Upon which account our learned Country man,* Sir Tho. Smith, doth justly censure it as mon∣strum literae, non litera; ignorantiae specimen, non artis; modò serpens, modo cornix.

*The letters C, S, T, are often used alike, to denote the same Power, and that both in English and French; and the letter (S) is most frequent∣ly used for (Z) which must needs be very improper. And, which is yet more irrational, some Letters of the same name and shape are used sometimes for Vowels, and sometimes for Consonants; as I▪ V, W, Y; which yet differ from one another sicut corpus & anima, and ought by no means to be confounded.*

To which may be added, that from this equivocal power of Letters, it so falls out, that

1. Some words are distinguished in writing, and not in pronunciation: as Sessio, Cessio; Sera, Cera; Servus, Cervus; Syrus, Cyrus; Boar, Bore; Come, Lat. Cum; Done, Dun; Dear, Deer; Hear, Here▪ Heart, Hart; Meat, Mete; Son, Sun; Some, Lat. Sum; Toes, Toze; Toe, Towe; To, Too, Two.

2. Some words are distinguished in pronunciation, but not in writing; as the words Give, i. Dare, Give, i. Vinculum; Get. i. Acquirere, Get, i. Ga∣gates; is and his in English, and is and his in Latin. So the Latin word Malè, i. evilly, is a dissyllable; whereas the English word Male, which signifies the masculine Sex, is but a monosyllable. All which are very great incongruities, and such as ought to be avoided in any regular esta∣blishment of Letters.

4. Their Names in most Alphabets, are very improperly expressed by words of several syllables;* as Aleph, Beth, Gimel, &c. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, &c. And thus it is in 15 several Alphabets mentioned by Her∣mannus Page  17 Hugo. In which respect the Roman Alphabet, and our English,* which follows it very near, are much more convenient then the rest, where each Letter is named simply by its Power. Though herein like∣wise there be some defects: for the letter C should not be named See, but Kee; and G, not, as usually we do, Iee, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉: and so R, to con∣form it with the rest, should be called er, not ar; and Z should be styled ez, not zad.

5. Their Figures have not that correspondency to their Natures and Powers which were desirable in an artificially-invented Alphabet,* wherein the Vowels ought to have something answerable in their Chara∣cter unto the several kinds of Apertion which they have in their sound. And so for the Consonants, they should have some such affinity in their Figures as they have in their Powers. 'Tis so in some of them, whether purposely or casually, I know not; as BP. bp. CG. SZ. and perhaps TD, td: but not in others.

To this may be added, the manner of writing as to the Oriental Tongues, from the right hand to the left, which is as unnatural and incon∣venient, as to write with the light on the wrong side. The Iews them∣selves write their particular strokes of Letters from the left to the right hand; and therefore it would be much more rational,* that their words should be written so too.

Besides these Defects in the usual Alphabets or Letters, there are seve∣ral others likewise in the Words of Language,* and their Accidents and Constructions.

1. In regard of Equivocals, which are of several significations, and therefore must needs render speech doubtful and obscure; and that ar∣gues a deficiency, or want of a sufficient number of words. These are ei∣ther absolutely so, or in their figurative construction, or by reason of Phra∣seologies.

Of the first kind there are great variety in Latin. So the word

  • LIBER apud Literatos significat Codicem.
  • LIBER apud Politicos significat Libertate fruentem.
  • LIBER apud Oratores significat Filium.
  • LIBER apud Rusticos significat Arboris corticem.

So the word Malus signifies both an Apple-tree, and Evil, and the Mast of a ship; and Populus signifies both a Poplar-tree, and the People, &c. Besides such Equivocals as are made by the inflexion of words: as Lex, legis, legi; Lego, legis, legi: Sus, suis; Suo, suis; Suus, suis: Amarè the Adverb; Amo, amas, amavi, amare; and Amor, amaris vel amare: with abundance of the like of each kind.

Nor is it better with the English Tongue in this respect, in which there is great variety of Equivocals. So the word Bill signifies both a Weapon, a Bird's Beak, and a written Scroul: The word Grave signifies both So∣ber, and Sepulcher, and to Carve, &c.

As for the ambiguity of words by reason of Metaphor and Phraseology, this is in all instituted Languages so obvious and so various, that it is need∣less to give any instances of it; every Language having some peculiar phrases belonging to it, which, if they were to be translated verbatim in∣to another Tongue, would seem wild and insignificant. In which our Page  18 English doth too much abound, witness those words of Break, Bring, Cast, Cleare, Come, Cut, Draw, Fall, Hand, Keep, Lay, make, Pass, Put, Run, Set, Stand, Take, none of which have less then thirty or forty, and some of them about a hundred several senses, according to their use in Phra∣ses, as may be seen in the Dictionary. And though the varieties of Phra∣ses in Language may seem to contribute to the elegance and ornament of Speech; yet, like other affected ornaments, they prejudice the native simplicity of it, and contribute to the disguising of it with false appearan∣ces. Besides that, like other things of fashion, they are very changeable, every generation producing new ones; witness the present Age, espe∣cially the late times, wherein this grand imposture of Phrases hath almost eaten out solid Knowledge in all professions; such men generally being of most esteem who are skilled in these Canting forms of speech, though in nothing else.

2. In respect of Synonymous words, which make Language tedious, and are generally superfluities, since the end and use of Speech is for hu∣mane utility and mutual converse;*magìs igitur refert ut brevis, & rectus, & simplex sit quàm longus & varius. And yet there is no particular Lan∣guage but what is very obnoxious in this kind. 'Tis said that the Arabic hath above a thousand several names for a Sword,* and 500 for a Lion, and 200 for a Serpent, and fourscore for Hony. And though perhaps no other Language do exceed at this rate, as to any particular; yet do they all of them abound more then enough in the general. The examples of this kind, for our English, may be seen in the following Tables. To this may be added, that there are in most Languages several words that are mere Expletives, not adding any thing to the Sense.

3. For the Anomalisms and Irregularities in Grammatical constructi∣on, which abound in every Language, and in some of them are so nu∣merous, that Learned men have scrupled whether there be any such thing as Analogy.

4. For that Difference which there is in very many words betwixt the writing and pronouncing of them, mentioned before. Scriptio est vocum pictura: And it should seem very reasonable, that men should either speak as they write, or write as they speak. And yet Custom hath so ri∣vetted this incongruity and imperfection in all Languages, that it were an hopeless attempt for any man to go about to repair and amend it. 'Tis needless to give instances of this, there being in divers Languages as ma∣ny words whose sounds do disagree with their way of writing, as those are that agree. What is said of our English Tongue is proportionably true of most other Languages, That if ten Scribes (not acquainted with the particular Speech) should set themselves to write according to pronunciation, not any two of them would agree in the same way of spelling.

'Tis an observation of a Learned man concerning the French Tongue, that it is ineptissimè confusa, aliàs ad fastidium otiosis suffarcta literis; ali∣às ad mendicitatem inops & jejuna;*nunquam sibi constans, & raro rationi consona. 'Tis said that Peter Ramus did labour much in reducing it to a new Orthography, but met with much discouragement in this attempt from Learned men; besides the invincibleness of general Custom, a∣gainst which (for the most part) men strive in vain. What better suc∣cess those Learned ingenuous persons of the French Academy may have, Page  19 who have been for several years ingaged in this Work,* I cannot conje∣cture. 'Tis related of Chilperick King of France, that he did, for the com∣pendiousness of writing, add to the French Alphabet these five Letters, θ. χ. ο. ξ. ψ. injoyning by a strict and solemn Edict the reception and use of them through his Dominions; and that in all Schools Youths should be instituted in the use of them. And yet, notwithstanding his Authority in imposing of them, they were presently after his death laid aside and disused.

As to our own Language, several persons have taken much pains a∣bout the Orthography of it. That Learned Knight Sir Thomas Smith, Se∣cretary to Queen Elizabeth, and sometime her Embassador into France, hath published an elegant Discourse in Latin, De recta & emendata Lin∣guae Anglicanae scriptione. After him, this Subject was in another Discourse prosecuted by one of the Heralds, who calls himself Chester; who was followed by one Wade, that writ to the same purpose. After these, Bul∣laker endeavoured to add to, and alter divers things in those others that preceded him; who was succeeded in the same attempt by Alexander Gill, in his English Grammar. And yet so invincible is Custom, that still we retain the same errors and incongruities in writing which our Fore∣fathers taught us.

CHAP. V. I. That neither Letters nor Languages have been regularly established by the rules of Art. II. The natural Ground or Principle of the several ways of Communication amongst men. III. The first thing to be pro∣vided for in the establishing of a Philosophical Character or Language, is a just enumeration of all such things and notions to which names are to be assigned.

FRom what hath been already said it may appear, that there are no Letters or Languages that have been at once invented and established according to the Rules of Art; but that all, except the first,* (of which we know nothing so certain as, that it was not made by human Art upon Experience) have been either taken up from that first, and derived by way of Imitation; or else, in a long tract of time, have, upon several emergencies, admitted various and casual alterations; by which means they must needs be liable to manifold defects and imperfections, that in a Language at once invented and according to the rules of Art might be easily avoided. Nor could this otherwise be, because that very Art by which Language should be regulated, viz. Grammar, is of much la∣ter invention then Languages themselves, being adapted to what was al∣ready in being, rather then the Rule of making it so.

Though the Hebrew Tongue be the most ancient, yet Rabbi Iudah Chiug of Fez in Afric,* who lived A. D. 1040. was the first that reduced it to the Art of Grammar. And though there were both Greek and Latin Grammarians much more ancient; yet were there none in either, till a long time after those Languages flourished: which is the true reason of Page  20 all those Anomalisms in Grammar; because the Art was suted to Lan∣guage,* and not Language to the Art. Plato is said to be the first that con∣sidered Grammar: Aristotle the first that by writing did reduce it into an Art: and Epicurus the first that publickly taught it amongst the Grecians.

And for the Latin, Crates Mallotes, Embassador to the Roman Senate from King Attalus, betwixt the second and third Punic War, presently af∣ter the death of Ennius, U. C. 583. was the first that brought in the Art of Grammar amongst the Romans, saith Suetonius.

These being some of the Defects or Imperfections in those Letters or Languages, which are already known, may afford direction, what is to be avoided by those who propose to themselves the Invention of a new Character or Language, which being the principal end of this Discourse, I shall in the next place proceed to lay down the first Foundations of it.

As men do generally agree in the same Principle of Reason, so do they likewise agree in the same Internal Notion or Apprehension of things.*

The External Expression of these Mental notions, whereby men com∣municate their thoughts to one another, is either to the Ear, or to the Eye.

To the Ear by Sounds, and more particularly by Articulate Voice and Words.

To the Eye by any thing that is visible, Motion, Light, Colour, Figure; and more particularly by Writing.

That conceit which men have in their minds concerning a Horse or Tree, is the Notion or mental Image of that Beast, or natural thing, of such a nature, shape and use. The Names given to these in several Lan∣guages, are such arbitrary sounds or words, as Nations of men have agreed upon, either casually or designedly, to express their Mental notions of them. The Written word is the figure or picture of that Sound.

So that if men should generally consent upon the same way or man∣ner of Expression, as they do agree in the same Notion, we should then be freed from that Curse in the Confusion of Tongues, with all the unhap∣py consequences of it.

Now this can onely be done, either by enjoyning some one Language and Character to be universally learnt and practised, (which is not to be expected, till some person attain to the Vniversal Monarchy; and per∣haps would not be done then:) or else by proposing some such way as, by its facility and usefulness, (without the imposition of Authority) might invite and ingage men to the learning of it; which is the thing here attempted.

In order to this, The first thing to be considered and enquired into is, Concerning a just Enumeration and description of such things or notions as are to have Marks or Names assigned to them.*

The chief Difficulty and Labour will be so to contrive the Enumera∣tion of things and notions, as that they may be full and adaequate, without any Redundancy or Deficiency as to the Number of them, and regular as to their Place and Order.

Page  21If to every thing and notion there were assigned a distinct Mark, to∣gether with some provision to express Grammatical Derivations and In∣flexions; this might suffice as to one great end of a Real Character, name∣ly, the expression of our Conceptions by Marks which should signifie things, and not words. And so likewise if several distinct words were assigned for the names of such things, with certain in variable Rules for all such Grammatical Derivations and Inflexions, and such onely, as are natural and necessary; this would make a much more easie and conveni∣ent Language then is yet in being.

But now if these Marks or Notes could be so contrived, as to have such a dependance upon, and relation to, one another, as might be sutable to the nature of the things and notions which they represented; and so likewise, if the Names of things could be so ordered, as to contain such a kind of affinity or opposition in their letters and sounds, as might be some way answerable to the nature of the things which they signified; This would yet be a farther advantage superadded: by which, besides the best way of helping the Memory by natural Method, the Vnderstanding likewise would be highly improved; and we should, by learning the Character and the Names of things, be instructed likewise in their Na∣tures, the knowledg of both which ought to be conjoyned.

For the accurate effecting of this, it would be necessary, that the Theo∣ry it self, upon which such a design were to be founded, should be exact∣ly suted to the nature of things. But, upon supposal that this Theory is defective, either as to the Fulness or the Order of it, this must needs add much perplexity to any such Attempt, and render it imperfect. And that this is the case with that common Theory already received, need not much be doubted; which may afford some excuse as to several of those things which may seem to be less conveniently disposed of in the follow∣ing Tables, or Schemes proposed in the next part.

The End of the First Part.