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Letter 11074

Sayce, A. H. to Darwin, C. R.

27 July 1877

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    Having read CD's article in Mind ["Biographical sketch of an infant", Collected papers 2: 191–200], AHS questions CD about the child's first attempts at speech, hoping to throw light on the origin of language.


Queen's Coll. | Oxford.

July 27th 1877.

Dear Sir,

I hope you will forgive a stranger like myself for addressing you, but I trust that the interests of scientific knowledge will be held a sufficient excuse for my troubling you.

I shuld be very much obliged if you could give me some information on one or two points connected with your recent valuable article in Mind. For some time past I have been collecting facts relative to the first attempts of children at speaking, & after making the allowance for inherited capacities & the existence of a fully-formed language round the child it seems to me that these facts will throw much light on the origin of language.

(1) Were you able to trace the sound of mum from an inarticulate into an articulate stage of pronunciation? I gather from M. Taine that the nasalised ham, wh. in the case of the child observed by him was equivalent to your mum, was first of all inarticulate.

(2) Did you find that the child had a tendency to throw a monosyllabic word into a disyllabic one by adding to it a short vowel like β€”o orβ€”y or a nasalised one like the French β€”en?

(3) Did you find that the child paid more attention to the correct pronunciation of the vowels than to that of the consonants, or vice versa?

Please excuse my troubling you with these questions. If you could answer any of them, either wholly or in part, I should be extremly obliged.

I am, | Yours faithfully | A. H. Sayce

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