Obrázky na stránke

“ vix ulla, quam scio, lingua hac in re huic nostræ æqui

paranda videatur : Adeo ut in una nonnunquam voce mono

syllaba (quales sunt nostræ fere omnes, si flectionem demas) “ illud signanter exprimitur, quod in linguis aliis nisi composi

&c. Neque obstat, quod in horum aliquot manifeste compareant Latinæ

originis vestigia: quippe Angli, ut ad hujusmodi sonus formant ipsi vocabula, “ ita et aliunde sic formata avidius arripiunt.

“St vires. item, sed minores, innuit: quantæ scilicet parta tuendo potius quam “ nova acquirendo sufficiant: (quasi esset ex sto desumptum:) ut to stand, a staff

, to stay, to stuff, to stifle, to stick, to stutter, stammer, to stagger, to stickle, to stick, stock, stem, a sting, to sting, a stump, to stumble, to step, to stamp, “ (unde to stamp, ferro imprimere;) a stone, steel, stem, stanch, (firmus,) to stare, steep, steeple, a standard, in quibus omnibus st firmum quid et fixum « innuit.*

Thy violentiorem motum innuunt; ut to throw, to thrust, to throng, to throb, " to threaten, &c. &c.

“ Wr obliquitatem quandam seu distortionem innuunt: ut wry, to wreathe, to wrest, to wrestle, to wring, &c. &c.

" Cr ruptum quid, saltem incurvatum seu luxatum innuit; ut to crack, to crack" le, to crow, to crowd, to cram, &c. Quæ omnia vel fractionis aliquid vel " fragoris crepitusve videntur insinuare.

“ Alia, quasi ex cruce desumerent cr decussationem innuunt; ut to cross, “ (decussare,) to cruise, a crutch, a crosier, cross-grained. Hinc Richardus “ olim Rex Angliæ dicebatur crouched-backed, non quod dorso fuerit incurvato, sed quod a tergo gesture gestiebat formam crusis.”—The Grammatica Anglicana is to be found in the third volume of the Opera Mathematica of Dr. Wallis.

Nor did Leibnitz think this view of etymology altogether unworthy of his attention. “ Ex ipsa natura soni, litera canina motum violentum notat, at K finale “ ejus obstaculum, quo sistitur. Sic in ruck (einen ruck thun) promotio violenta « est sed per gradus ubi quavis vice motus sistitur. Sic etiam adhibetur recken, “ cum subito vi magna nec sine sono intenditur filum vel aliud, ita tamen, ut non “ rumpatur, sed sistat impetum: ita habemus ex linea curva rectam, eamque in“ star cordæ tensam. Sed ubi ruptio fit, pro litera K sistente, sequitur S, vel Z, « motus exeuntis index, et fit riss, reissen, riz.' Tales detegunt sese primæ ori“ gines vocabulorum, quoties penetrari potest ad radi cem Tns orque atas “ Sed plerumque tractu temporum, crebris translationibus veteres et nativæ signi* ficationes mutatæ sunt aut obscuratæ. Neque vero ex instituto profectæ, et “ quasi lege conditæ sunt linguæ, sed naturali quodam impetu natæ hominum, " sonos ad affectus motusque aninii attemperantium.”—Miscellanea Berolin. Tom. I. p. 2.

* This combination of letters has struck our most eminent etymologists, more, perhaps, than any other; not only Wallis, but the President Des Brosses and Court de Gebelin. “ Nous ne citerons ici (says the last of these writers) qu'un " seul exemple de cette nature; mais il vaut lui seul une légion: c'est st. Ce mot désigne la propriété d'être fixé, arrêté, de rester en place; c'est le mouvement ou “ le cri de ceux qui desirent qu'on s'arrête, qu'on reste en place; d'ou vient cela, “ si ce n'est parce qu'en prononçant s, on produit un espèce de siflement qui ex“ cite l'attention de celui qui va devant; et que l'intonation t qui venant à la “ suite, est séche, briève, et fixe, indique naturellement la fixité dans laquelle on

desire que soit cette personne.

" Quoi qu'il en soit, aucune langue d'Europe, dans laquelle st ne soit la racine « d'une multitude de mots, regardés eux-mêmes comme des mots radicaux.”Monde Primitif, T. III. p. 353.



stis, aut decompositis, aut longa nonnunquam verborum peri“phrasi vix aut ne vix explicari potest.”

These, and other remarks of the same kind, which had been thrown out (chiefly, perhaps, as a curious and amusing exercise of ingenuity,) by the writers quoted below, have been pushed much farther, and reduced into a serious and systematical form by some late authors; among whom the most noted is M. Court de Gebelin, author of a work entitled Monde Primitif, Analysé et Comparé avec le Monde Moderne, considéré dans l'Histoire Naturelle de la Parole, ou Origine du Langage et de l'Ecriture. This work certainly does honour to the author's learning, and contains many ingenious and original remarks; and what adds much to its value, is the summary it exhibits of all that is important in the labours of his predeces

It must, however, be owned, that the perusal of it is tedious ; the author having spread his materials over nine quarto volumes, although they might have been compressed into two, or at most into three, with great advantage. The part of it, in particular, which relates to ancient mythology, which it is not improbable that he considered as the most valuable of the whole, might, in my opinion, have been omitted without injury to his reputation.

The most remarkable peculiarity in M. de Gebelin's system, is the attempt he makes to show, that there is, in every single letter, an expression of some idea, feeling, or sentiment: So that he considers every alphabetical letter as a kind of root of the primitive language, and, consequently, of all the languages derived from it. Vowels he considers as the painting and language of sensations ;* consonants, as the painting and language of ideas. The proofs he produces of this very bold position are some of them highly curious,-but for these I must refer to his work.

Of this theory, the germs are plainly discernible, not only in those speculations of which I have laid specimens before the reader, in my quotations from Wallis and Leibnitz, but, as I hinted in the beginning of this Section, in one of the Dialogues of Plato.t I cannot help suspecting that the late Dr.

* How is this doctrine, which represents all the vowels as so many radicals, to be reconciled with the author's fundamental position, that vowels are of no account in the comparison of words ? « Les voyelles ne sont rien dans la comparaison des mots."--Monde Primitif, Tome III. p. 47.

Cratylus, sive de Recta Nominum Ratione. Igator LEV TOLVUV TO Percorze DUVETA! WOTEC 087avoy Y44 Taons TNS XUNTEQs, &c. &c. (Platon. Op. Serrani, D. 426.) The whole passage is curious, but much too long to be quoted here. The following very succinct summary by Mr. Gray will convey a general idea of

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Murray was partly influenced by a similar train of thinking, in forming his somewhat ludicrous list of the nine monosyllables quoted below, which he gives as the basis of the European languages. * He seems, indeed, himself, to be occasionally conscious of this influence. “It is certain," he observes in one passage,

o that a natural connexion exists between the sound and sense, and that we therefore express harsh sensa66 tions by harsh articulate sounds." His manner of expressing himself, however, in general, seems rather to imply, that these radical sounds were obtained entirely by induction and analysis : but it is by no means impossible, that he may have been more under the influence of theory than he was aware ; and even supposing his own mind to have been free from any

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the scope of the doctrine which Plato puts in the mouth of Socrates concerning the “ powers of the several Greek letters, and the manner of their formation ;

viz. the P, expressive of motion, being formed by a tremulous motion of the

tongue; the 1 of smallness and tenuity; the 0, 4, 3, 2, of all noises made by the “ air; the A and T of a cessation of motion; the A of slipperiness and gliding; the

same with a I prefixed, of the adherence and tenacity of fluids; the N of any

thing internal; the A of largeness; the O of roundness; and the H expressive “ of length

It may be worth while to add, that, in the opinion of Mr. Gray, (an excellent judge) this Dialogue is “ the least considerable of all Plato's works, and was pro

probably written when he was very young.”-Gray's Works by Mathias, Vol. II. p. 376.

* “ I. To strike or move with swift, equable, penetrating, or sharp effect, was
ag! ag!
s If the motion was less sudden, but of the same species, wag.
“ If made with force, and a great effort, hwag.

“ These are varieties of one word, originally used to mark the motion of fire, 6 water, wind, darts.

“ II. To strike with a quick, vigorous, impelling force bag or bwag, of which fag and pag are softer varieties.

“ III. To strike with a harsh, violent, strong blow, dwag, of which thwag and twag are varieties.

“ IV. To move or strike with a quick, tottering, unequal impulse, gwag or “ V. To strike with a pliant slap, lag and hlag.

“ VI, To press by strong force or impulse, so as to condense, bruise, or com" pel, mag.

* VII. To strike with a crushing, destroying power, nag and hnag.
“ VIII. To strike with a strong, rude, sharp, penetrating power, rag or hrag.
“ IX. To move with a weighty strong impulse, swag.–History of the Euro-
pean Languages, &c. by the late Alexander Murray, D. D. Vol. I. pp. 31, 32.

By the help of these nine monosyllables (says Dr. Murray) all the European languages have been formed.”-Ibid. p. 39.

In a subsequent part of his work, we are told that the Sanscrit and the Persic have been formed by the help of the same nine monosyllables. “ It has been '“ shown how the original language of Europe rose from nine monosyllables and “ their varieties; all original Sanscrit and Persic verbs are either these nine words “ and their varieties, or simple compounds of these, which may be called secon“ dary verbs, or compounds of secondary verbs, with the original consignifica"s tive words, which may be called ternary compounds or derivatives.”-Ibid. Vol. II. p. 229.

66 cwag.

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speculative bias, we must still have recourse to some such theory as that of Gebelin and De Brosses, to account for the agreement of the framers of language, in so many instances, to fix on the same radical sounds to convey the same ideas.

That these theories are altogether unfounded, I am far from thinking; but I am fully convinced that they have been all carried too far, and that fancy or whim has had a large share in their formation. Nor need I scruple to hazard this remark with respect to any writer, however eminent for learning and genius, when I apply it to him in common with Gebelin and De Brosses, and with the still more illustrious names of Wallis and Leibnitz. *

Of late years, a perfectly new subject of speculation has been opened to philologers in the Sanscrit, or sacred language of the Indian Bramins; which, in the systematical regularity of its structure, as well as in its unfathomable antiquity, would appear to form an exception to every other tongue known in the history of the human race.

At first, it strongly excited the curiosity of learned and inquisitive men, from the hope held out by some distinguished members of the Asiatic Society, that the knowledge of it would furnish a key to immense stores of wisdom and of fancy locked up in the repositories of the Bramins. But as this hope has not hitherto been realized, a. suspicion has, of late, gained ground, that these artful priests have little or nothing to communicate which is likely either to enlarge the boundaries of science, or to add to the classical treasures of imagination already in our possession. The Sanscrit has, accordingly, become to philosophers an object of curiosity rather on its own intrinsic account, than from any idea of its instrumental utility. In this point of view, some information with respect to it has been, in our own times, communicated to the public, of too interesting a nature to be passed over in silence; and I shall therefore make no apology for allotting to the consideration of it a separate section.

* I had not the pleasure of knowing Dr. Murray personally, but I know well the high estimation in which his attainments as a Polyglot were held by two of the most competent judges in this island, the late Dr. Leyden and the late Mr. Hamilton of Hertford College. The opinion of the latter is recorded, along with various other testimonies to the same purpose, in the very curious, interesting, and authentic memoir prefixed to Dr. Murray's Posthumous Works, by Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood. Whatever, therefore, may be thought of the nine monosyllables above quoted, and of some of Dr. Murray's other theoretical notions, his extentive and accurate acquaintance both with European and Asiatic languages, is incontestible; and when connected with the disadvantages under which he laboured in point of education, is perhaps as extraordinary a fact as any known in the history of letters.

If, in the prosecution of this subject, I should be thought to enlarge upon it at a length disproportionate to its importance, I hope that some allowance will be made for my partiality to an hypothesis, which seems to myself to possess some plausibility as well as novelty ; while I attempt, at the same time, by varying the object of the reader's attention, to relieve a little the unavoidable uniformity of these abstract disquisitions.


Miscellaneous Observations on Language, continued.-Conjectures concerning

the Origin of the Sanscrit.

It is now a considerable time since the similarity between the Sanscrit and the Greek (and also between the Sanscrit and the Latin, which is the most ancient dialect of the Greek) was remarked by Mr. Halhed and Mr. Wilkins, the first Englishmen, it would seem, who attempted to study Sanscrit with grammatical accuracy. * They took notice particularly of the striking resemblance in many of those words, which, being necessarily co-eval with civilized society, no language could have borrowed from another, unless it was a derivative or dialect of that language. Of this kind are the names of numbers; of the members of the human body; and of family relations, such as those of father, mother, and brother. +

To Mr. Halhed we are indebted for two other very important facts, that “every Sanscrit verb has a form equivalent to the "middle voice of the Greek, used through all the tenses with

reflective sense;" I and that all the Greek verbs in " formed exactly upon the same principle with the Sanscrit “ conjugations, even in the minutest particulars." $

In addition to these facts, Mr. Wilkins remarked the coincidence of the Sanscrit with the Greek, in the composition of words with the letter a, implying a negation of the quality expressed by the word, and therefore called by the Greek grammarians the Alpha privativum. According to Mr. Wilkins, this composition is equally common in both languages.||





* See the Preface to a Grammar of the Sanskrita Language, by Charles Wil: kins, LL. D. † Ancient Metaphysics, Vol. IV. p. 326.

Grammar of the Bengal Language, printed at Hoogly, in Bengal, 1778, Ibid. p. 126.

This coincidence between Sanscrit and Greek is not, so far as I know, mentioned by Mr. Wilkins in any of his own publications ; but it is confidently sta:

p. 101.

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