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Chapter 3.—Among Signs, Words Hold the Chief Place.

4.  Of the signs, then, by which men communicate their thoughts to one another, some relate to the sense of sight, some to that of hearing, a very few to the other senses.  For, when we nod, we give no sign except to the eyes of the man to whom we wish by this sign to impart our desire.  And some convey a great deal by the motion of the hands:  and actors by movements of all their limbs give certain signs to the initiated, and, so to speak, address their conversation to the eyes:  and the military standards and flags convey through the eyes the will of the commanders.  And all these signs are as it were a kind of visible words.  The signs that address themselves to the ear are, as I have said, more numerous, and for the most part consist of words.  For though the bugle and the flute and the lyre frequently give not only a sweet but a significant sound, yet all these signs are very few in number compared with words.  For among men words have obtained far and away the chief place as a means of indicating the thoughts of the mind.  Our Lord, it is true, gave a sign through the odor of the ointment which was poured out upon His feet;17591759    John xii. 3–7; Mark xiv. 8. and in the sacrament of His body and blood He signified His will through the sense of taste; and when by touching the hem of His garment the woman was made whole, the act was not wanting in significance.17601760    Matt. ix. 20.  But the countless multitude of the signs through which men express their thoughts consist of words.  For I have been able to put into words all those signs, the various classes of which I have briefly touched upon, but I could by no effort express words in terms of those signs.


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