Letter | Published:

[Letters to Editor]

Naturevolume 79page8 (1908) | Download Citation



I FEAR I must think that the crucial instances which Dr. Bastian mentions are merely cases in which the observer, having a preconceived theory, has preferred an improbable interpretation to an obvious and simple one. The muscles of the limbs atrophy when disused through joint disease as well as when the injury is in the spinal cord. At the same time the nails, which do not develop under the stimulus of use, continue to grow. It is always difficult to prove the excessively obvious in a few words; and to me—if anyone ever learns anything—children as obviously learn to walk and speak as to write and swim. Dr. Bastian would have us believe that people who have never heard a word would still be able to express their thoughts in language. But in what language? How does it happen that children always speak the language of the people with whom they are reared? My parents were English. My first language was Hindustani. Which of the two was innate? Structures (e.g. external ears), which do not develop under the stimulus of use, do not atrophy through disuse. So also instincts never atrophy—are never forgotten—through disuse. How does it happen that I have forgotten my first language?

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  1. Netherby, Victoria Road, S., Southsea



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