Page images
PDF
EPUB

our senses are really incapable, without assistance, of distinguishing the various constituents of the objective impressions produced from without. We know, for instance, that white light is a vibration of ether, and that it is a compound of the single colors of the solar spectrum. A prism will at once analyze that compound, and divide it into its com. ponent parts. To our apprehension, however, white light is something simple, and our senses are too coarse to distinguish its component elements by any effort whatsoever.

We now shall be better able to understand what I consider a most important discovery of Professor Helmboltz. It had been proved by Professor G. S. Ohm 2 that there is only one vibration without harmonics, viz., the simple pendulous vibration. It had likewise been proved by Fourier, Ohm, and other mathematicians, that all compound vibrations or sounds can be divided into so many simple or pendulous vibrations. But it is due to Professor Helmholtz that we can now determine the exact configu. ration of inany compound vibrations, and determine the presence and absence of the harmonics which, as we saw, caused the difference in the quality, or color, or timbre of sound. Thus he found that in the violin, as compared with the guitar or pianoforte, the primary note is strong, the secondary tones from two to six are weak, while those from seven to ten are much more distinct. In the clarinet b the odd harmonics only are perceptible, in the hautboy the even har. monics are of equal strength. i Helmholtz, l. c. p. 82.

3 l. c. p. 38. 8L c. p. 54.

4 l. c. p. 143. l. c. p. 162.

Let us now see how all this tells on language. When we are speaking we are in reality playing on a musical instrument, and a more perfect instrument than was ever invented by man. It is a wind-instrument, in which the vibrating apparatus is supplied by the chordæ vocales, while the outer tube, or bells, through which the waves of sound pass, are furnished by the different configurations of the mouth. I shall . try, as well as I can, to describe to you, with the help of some diagrams, the general structure of this instrument, though in doing so I can only retail the scant information which I gathered myself from our excellent Professor of Physiology at Oxford, Dr. Rolleston. He kindly showed and explained to me by actual dissection, and with the aid of the newlyinvented laryngoscope (a small looking-glass, which enables the observer to see as far as the bifurcation of the windpipe and the bronchial tubes), the bones, the cartilages, the ligaments and muscles, which together form that extraordinary instrument on which we play our words and thoughts. Some parts of it are extremely complicated, and I should not venture to act even as interpreter of the different and sometimes contradictory views held by Müller, Brücke, Czermak, Funke, and other distinguished physiologists, on the mechanism of the various cartilages, the thyroid, cricoid, and arytenoid, which together constitute the levers of the larynx. It fortunately happens that the most important organs which are engaged in the formation of letters lie above the larynx, and are so simple in their structure, and so open to constant inspection and examination, that, with the diagrams placed before you, there will be

little difficulty, I hope, in explaining their respective functions.

There is, first of all, the thorax (1), which, by alternately compressing and dilating the lungs, performs the office of bellows.

Fig. 1.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

1. Larynx.

6. External intercosials 2. Pectoralis minor.

6. Rectus abdominis. 3. Latissimus dorsi.

7. Internal oblique. 4. Serratus magnus. The next diagram (2) shows the trachea, a carti.

[ocr errors]

laginous and elastic pipe, which terminates in the lungs by an infinity of roots or bronchial tubes, its upper extremity being formed into a species of head called the larynx, situated in the throat, and composed of five cartilages.

Fig. 2.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

The uppermost of these cartilages, the epiglottis (3), is intended to open and shut, like a valve, the aperture of the glottis, i. e. the superior orifice of the

Fig. 3.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

larynx (fissura laryngea pharyngis). The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped elastic cartilage, attached by its nar

« PreviousContinue »