صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

contrary much speaks for it,. .... we must pay greater attention to the similarity between the two languages, than to the suppositions of Greek and Roman writers, who, in their total ignorance of the Northern nations, have tried unsuccessfully enough--to explain the Latin into a dialect of the Greek."*

The history of all languages, and of their progressive developement, conveys this important fact to us, that the older a language is, and the nearer its original, the more complete and perfect are its forms; this is so strictly true, that were two hitherto unknown words presented to him, the etymologist might decide with certainty upon their comparative antiquity by mere inspection; in working these changes, conquest and intercommunion with other nations exert no influence comparable with that of time; the New High Dutch Drechsler, would as surely have grown out of its Old High Dutch predecessor Dráh-is-al-ari, or the Anglo-Saxon Hand, out of some earlier form which the Gothic Han-d-u-s allows us to guess at, had the foot of a stranger never fallen on Germany or Britain. The true forms of these words can then in general only be found in the earliest periods of languages, and this must plead our excuse with our readers, if in the course of what we are about to say, we draw our illustrations or arguments from sources which may be new to many of them; we would take modern German and modern English to our aid, did they promise half so clearly and concisely to accomplish our end as Old High Dutch and Anglo-Saxon.†

That some part of Asia was at some time or other, long however before the earliest historical date, the dwelling place of that portion of mankind who have since occupied Himala on one side, and nearly every European country on the other, is so probable in itself, and so confirmed by tradition, that we can only get rid of it by believing that men were in the Grecian sense ἀυτοχθονες, and having grown out of the earth like mushrooms in the very lands on which they now live, afterwards conspired together to invent a story of a migration, which found itself miraculously confirmed by coincidences in laws, national customs, and religious creeds; and above all, by numberless similarities, or rather identities, of name for the objects and relations of life. A theory which, we suspect, would mend our case but little with the incredulous. But that neither tradition nor any

* See a refutation of this most inadmissible of explanations in Vans Kennedy's "Origin and Affinity," &c. p. 107, &c. on the Latin Language.

+ We must also premise that as many Old High Dutch (Theotisc) and Anglo Saxon words which we may have occasion to quote, differ materially from the incorrect forms of them given by Lye and other English students, we have adopted the amended readings of the most learned continental scholars, such as Grimm and Rask, and that we have written down none at random.

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

thing else but affinity of language assert these various tribes to have ever existed together as one, and after to have split asunder and peopled far separated lands, is equally certain; indeed, the history of all peoples being a late growth, and its origin universally made up of uncertain, and in general of poetic materials, nothing short of a record, undoubtedly belonging to the original tribe itself, and in which this very separation was described, could assure us of the fact. To some extent we do possess such a record in the early books of the Jews, who though by no means the original tribe from which all the rest have separated, have been made the depositaries of the earliest facts relative to the wanderings of the nations; but unfortunately we cannot entirely understand the documents these books contain, and in consequence a thousand different theories may be based upon one passage, and we are thrown into worse confusion than ever. A sort of necessity appears to us to hang over men in their generations, by which we are ever led to consider the races of mankind as gradually growing up like men from their cradles, and so it is with their speech also; yet when we have hunted the mystery (for a mystery it is, and a great one too,) as far as we are capable of following it; when after being left in the lurch by history, we attempt to solve the problem by means of deductions from the nature of the case itself, we find ourselves utterly precluded from every supposition but the one that man or men did exist complete from the first, complete in bodily form, complete in understanding, complete in language, every one of whose most hidden springs is a hidden spring of the understanding also; and that the original Adam, be he an individual, or a race of men, or a symbol of mankind in their worldly pilgrimage, came into the world endowed with all that panoply of gifts which makes him lord and lawgiver of the planet on which he moves. It is, perhaps, possible for men to degenerate till they get tails, both corporeal and mental, but nothing could transform savages having such tails into men, nothing at least short of the ignorant impudence of an encyclopediste: and a people who had ever been without a language, would have remained without one for ever. If then, as we believe the deepest inquiry will prove, the bodily form, and the form of speech, both having existed from the first, are sure evidences that all those who have the same bodily form and the same form of speech are of the same race, it matters little when or how the various subdivisions of that race arose, and a cognation of stock, and cognation of language are assumed in however remote periods to have existed, because without them no single phænomenon of the present

DD

VOL. X. NO. XX.

day could be accounted for at all. But neither cognation of stock, nor cognation of language, for any historical purpose, mean absolute identity in every part: the Goths and AngloSaxons, and their languages, are, and ever have been, strictly cognate; yet it is very possible that they were never absolutely one in fact, as they assuredly never were in history. No doubt, if we believe the whole human race to have actually arisen out of the loins of a single pair, we can have no difficulty upon the subject whatever; and Adelung may say, that "in the beginning Germany was waste and empty," without meriting any of the indignation which his countrymen have heaped upon him for his pains: but if we think, on the other hand, that races might have existed from the first, it is not harder to believe that those races had their subdivisions both in form of body and in tongue, than to believe that they all looked and spoke alike. It is also very possible that these similar tribes may have lived very near one another, whether in Asia or Europe, and yet they may have separated very easily from one another, whether by pressure of foreign conquest, or from other causes, and that some may have gone one way into India, others the other way into England, without having been ever absolutely one with another. If, then, we will not rest satisfied with the explanations which have been given of this marvellous unity, if we will not admit the theories by which the problem has been plausibly solved, what substitute do we offer for them, and what opinion have we of our own? This only, that there is a point, beyond which we do not presume to penetrate, and beyond which we become conscious only of our own ignorance: in this matter, as in all others, we believe that a bound exists which human knowledge never has passed, never can pass; that in investigating the laws of man's existence, of the origin of himself and his faculties, we are subject to the same necessity which weighs upon us when we examine the origin and properties of other objects daily accumulated round us; their relations to one another, and the laws of their own being, we can observe in their effects; but why they are such as they are, and not other than they are, is known only to Him who breathed the breath of life into our nostrils, and made both us and His other creatures according to the pattern which existed through His own all-comprehending wisdom. What man was at first, whether many races or a single individual was intended by the term, we know not, and need not know. This, indeed, is the sum of our knowledge, that different peoples exist in the world in different places, and with languages apparently different; that nevertheless some secret and mysterious bond does exist between them, which

evidently proves the common influence of some law working among them. They may once have been, with only potential language and understanding, or potential arms and legs, as the future tree lies in the seed of that tree, only to be developed according to one fixed and irrevocable law; they may have been, with this law already carried into effect, in the complete possession of these faculties; they may have been altogether subject to that law, or its effects may have shown themselves only after lapses of years, and at vast distances of space-all these suppositions we may make, and one will probably have as much intrinsic value as the other. But that there was ever one race from which all the rest were separated, or one language from which all the rest were derived, we cannot know; and we only assume such a race, and such a language, for the purpose of dealing more conveniently with facts which we are, whether able or not, determined to account for after our own fashion. One thing alone appears certain, that nothing in this progression of mankind, or of the tongues they speak, could result from caprice: the hidden spring is, even at this late period, found working in them too strongly to allow that; and nothing, in the essential parts at least, stands but as it ought to stand: perhaps we may be allowed to go a step farther, and say that even if we do believe men to have gone on by slow degrees to their developement as an united race, and after separated, yet the strong law that rules the forms of that developement must have accompanied them in their progress, and been itself the mighty inspiration both of the moment and the manner of their change. In this case only can we admit of a primæval tongue, from which these other tongues deflected according to laws which rendered capricious change impossible, and which, even without their being conscious of its influence, moulding and directing the energies of peoples, became to them the true and immediate inspiration of their altered language, the impulse and origin of a new existence. The whole question comprises itself, according to our view, in these two results; we have no grounds for assuming this original language but what we find in the affinity of its so-called derivatives: and the law of their variation proves indisputably that they could not be derivatives at all; that they are, on the contrary, original and individual languages of great internal strictness, and in which the observation of a common element, separated from its characteristic forms, and then the christening it by the name of the primal or mother language, is a logical finesse only, and not a very happy one. It is fortunate for us that, generally speaking, it is unimportant to press this question; by doing so we may satisfy the cravings of curiosity, and indulge the restless search after unity, which are inse

parable from man's nature; but the objects of science are the laws which do exist, historically developed in the outward world: we shall, therefore, look to languages as sisters, whose parent, and the manner of whose generation, we believe we cannot know, but the manner of whose actual being we are permitted to examine and describe.

Jäkel, in that part of his argument which we have marked A, B, C, has, we hope not intentionally, been guilty of a certain unfairness: the question of a primæval language, from which both Latin and German might be derived, he passes over almost in silence; yet his third case, C, is only such a question; for by the manner in which he has treated it he clearly shows that he means by German (in this case an arbitrarily assumed name), that primæval people and primæval language from which the peoples and languages both of Italy and Germany have sprung: and he might with equal readiness have proved his second case, B, by the same reasoning, had he chosen to call his primæval tongue Latin instead of German.

The etymological view of languages, when directed upon their comparison, leads us to these results: the human understanding, in every one of the processes, deals by generalization and distribution; there is ever a unity by which certain observed varieties are connected, and as it were, sustained. Now the common unity, by which the understanding classes the appearances of the outward world, is called a conception, as in several heavy things, the conception of heaviness, &c. But every people appears to have some peculiar and distinct appellative for these conceptions, which is found in every word classed by them under that conception, and is in reality the root of the word.* Why one particular form is appropriated to one particular conception, rather than another, is a mystery which men are never very likely to fathom, and involves the very grounds and origin of language: as such we must be permitted to believe that these forms are as much part of the original man as the understanding itself, whose conceptions they represent: words, however, beget words, and forms of all sorts are introduced by which the root is farther defined, and applied to the particular case. One deduction from these premises it is, that where two peoples are found to make use of the same form by which to express the same conception, that is, where the same roots are found, no matter how differently

Hence the root is the name of the conception, and the word the name of the presentation. It therefore follows, that wherever the same root is found in a number of words, however apparently unlike in meaning, some sense or other lies at the bottom of them, which will be found to connect them together. See Grimm, vol. ii. p. 76.

« السابقةمتابعة »