This is generally effected by means of the voice, but it is certain that gestures and expressions are to a certain extent mutually intelligible. Man not only uses inarticulate cries, gestures, and expressions, but has invented articulate language; if, indeed, the word INVENTED can be applied to a process, completed by innumerable steps, half-consciously made. Any one who has watched monkeys will not doubt that they perfectly understand each other's gestures and expression, and to a large extent, as Rengger asserts,[1] those of man. An animal when going to attack another, or when afraid of another, often makes itself appear terrible, by erecting its hair, thus increasing the apparent bulk of its body, by showing its teeth, or brandishing its horns, or by uttering fierce sounds.

As the power of intercommunication is certainly of high service to many animals, there is no _a priori_ improbability in the supposition, that gestures manifestly of an opposite nature to those by which certain feelings are already expressed, should at first have been voluntarily employed under the influence of an opposite state of feeling. The fact of the gestures being now innate, would be no valid objection to the belief that they were at first intentional; for if practised during many generations, they would probably at last be inherited. Nevertheless it is more than doubtful, as we shall immediately see, whether any of the cases which come under our present head of antithesis, have thus originated.

With conventional signs which are not innate, such as those used by the deaf and dumb and by savages, the principle of opposition or antithesis has been partially brought into play. The Cistercian monks thought it sinful to speak, and as they could not avoid holding some communication, they invented a gesture language, in which the principle of opposition seems to have been employed.[2] Dr. Scott, of the Exeter Deaf and Dumb Institution, writes to me that "opposites are greatly used in teaching the deaf and dumb, who have a lively sense of them." Nevertheless I have been surprised how few unequivocal instances can be adduced. This depends partly on all the signs having commonly had some natural origin; and partly on the practice of the deaf and dumb and of savages to contract their signs as much as possible for the sake of rapidity?[3] Hence their natural source or origin often becomes doubtful or is completely lost; as is likewise the case with articulate language.

[1] `Naturgeschichte der Saugethiere von Paraguay,' 1830, s. 55.

[2] Mr. Tylor gives an account of the Cistercian gesture-language in his `Early History of Mankind' (2nd edit. 1870, p. 40), and makes some remarks on the principle of opposition in gestures.

[3] See on this subject Dr. W. R. Scott's interesting work, `The Deaf and Dumb,' 2nd edit. 1870, p. 12. He says, "This contracting of natural gestures into much shorter gestures than the natural expression requires, is very common amongst the deaf and dumb. This contracted gesture is frequently so shortened as nearly to lose all semblance of the natural one, but to the deaf and dumb who use it, it still has the force of the original expression."

Many signs, moreover, which plainly stand in opposition to each other, appear to have had on both sides a significant origin. This seems to hold good with the signs used by the deal and dumb for light and darkness, for strength and weakness, &c. In a future chapter I shall endeavour to show that the opposite gestures of affirmation and negation, namely, vertically nodding and laterally shaking the head, have both probably had a natural beginning. The waving of the hand from right to left, which is used as a negative by some savages, may have been invented in imitation of shaking the head; but whether the opposite movement of waving the hand in a straight line from the face, which is used in affirmation, has arisen through antithesis or in some quite distinct manner, is doubtful.

If we now turn to the gestures which are innate or common to all the individuals of the same species, and which come under the present head of antithesis, it is extremely doubtful, whether any of them were at first deliberately invented and consciously performed. With mankind the best instance of a gesture standing in direct opposition to other movements, naturally assumed under an opposite frame of mind, is that of shrugging the shoulders.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 26

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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