— 432 —
Whereof the intranslatable Words of divers Languages are a proof.       §8. A moderate skill in different Languages, will easily satisfie one
of the truth of this, it being so obvious to observe great store of
Words in one Language, which have not any that answer them in another.
Which plainly shews, that those of one Country, by their customs
— 433 —
and manner of Life, have found occasion to make several complex
Ideas, and give names to them, which others never collected into
specifick Ideas. This could not have happened, if these Species were
the steady Workmanship of Nature; and not Collections made and
abstracted by the Mind, in order to naming, and for the con-
venience of Communication. The terms of our Law, which are not
empty Sounds, will hardly find Words that answer them in the
Spanish, or Italian, no scanty Languages; much less, I think, could
any one translate them into the Caribee, or Westoe Tongues: And
the Versura of the Romans, or Corban of the Jews, have no Words in
other Languages to answer them: The reason whereof is plain,
from what has been said. Nay, if we will look a little more nearly
into this matter, and exactly compare different Languages, we shall
find, that though they have Words, which in Translations and
Dictionaries, are supposed to answer one another; yet there is
scarce one of ten, amongst the names of complex Ideas, especially of
mixed Modes, that stands for the same precise Idea, which the
Word does that in Dictionaries it is rendred by. There are no
Ideas more common, and less compounded, than the measures of
Time, Extension, and Weight, and the Latin Names Hora, Pes,
Libra, are, without difficulty, rendred by the English names, Hour,
Foot, and Pound: But yet there is nothing more evident, than that
the Ideas a Roman annexed to these Latin Names, were very far
different from those which an English-man expresses by those
English ones. And if either of these should make use of the measures
that those of the other Language design’d by their Names, he
would be quite out in his account. These are too sensible proofs to
be doubted; and we shall find this much more so, in the names of
more abstract and compounded Ideas; such as are the greatest part
of those which make up Moral Discourses: Whose Names, when
Men come curiously to compare, with those they are translated
into, in other Languages, they will find very few of them exactly
to correspond in the whole extent of their Significations.
Locke Hum III, 5, §8, pp. 432-433