The World of Silence

Language and Gesture

   It is wrong to derive language from gesture
(Condillac, Maine de Biran, Bergson). Gesture belongs
to a totally different category from language. It is not
distinct from the passions by which it is caused: it is
mixed up with them. It is part of them and usually ex-
presses a desire. Language, on the other hand, expresses
a being, a whole, not merely a desire that is only a part of
being and not a whole being in itself. There is in it more
of the substance of whole being than passion and desire.
Language is in fact such an uncommon being that it
creates being itself. Gesture, on the other hand, has no
independent store of being from which it can draw to
give to other phenomena. It scurries along with no
independent existence of its own.
   Man would never have been able to reach language over
the stepping stones of gesture, for gesture has something of
the unredeemed about it, and only through a special
creative act can it give rise to something free. Language
is clear and free and sovereign, rising above itself and
leaving everything behind it except the silence from which
it comes. Gesture, on the other hand, is unfree, unre-
deemed, still completely mixed with the material it uses
in its attempts at self-representation. It is still inside the
material and bound up with it, not approaching the
material freely from outside as the spirit approaches the word.

          Gesture has the hollowness and gloom of the physiological 
          and psychological reflexes from which it is born and
          which it releases in its turn (which is the basis of its
          intelligibility); it has not the clarity and brightness of 
          language.    (Bauhofer)

It is true that gesture precedes language in the child, but
that is not the essential point at all. The essential point
is the appearance of language in the child quite independ-
ently of the gesture that precedes it, and oblivious of the
previous existence of gesture, The precedence of gesture
is not the point, but rather the fact that by a creative act
each new child is redeemed from gesture.

   Language belongs absolutely to the eternal world of
being —so much so that the genetic factor in language is
unimportant, being as it were swallowed up by the power
of being. Even if language had developed slowly, "become-
ing" would not have to be taken into account, being
completely absorbed by the world of being.

          The observant eye of any spiritual being noticing the
          gradual development and perfection of the animal world
          as we see it from form to form would, before it reached
          man, draw this conclusion: the voice that sounded so
          splendidly in the bird moves toward gradual extinction in
          the mammal, and a creature beyond the ape would
          necessarily be completely voiceless. This is, however,
          often and almost always the way of the higher creative
          power: that it scatters the blessings and wonders of a
          higher level of life and allows them to develop in those
          places where the old life seemed dead, and that it calls
          forth its new creations from the dead.    (G.H. von Schubert)

   Language belongs to human life itself, is part of it,
merged and blended with it.

          Language must, in accordance with my deepest con-
          viction, be considered part of the very constitution of
          man. In order truly to understand one single word, not
          as a merely physical stimulant but as an articulated sound
          describing a concept, language must reside in man as a
          whole and as a coherent structure.    (W. von Humboldt) 

   Language can be derived only from another being and 
from a Being that is still more powerful than the being of