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; 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. 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.