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heard in some of those villages and pronounced to be “Chal
The deacon above named is from a village about fifteen miles distant from Mosul. He states that the inhabitants of that village and others in the vicinity usually speak corrupt Syriac instead of the Arabic. His own dialect differs but little from that spoken here.f
Of the difference between the ancient Chaldaic language and the Syriac, you are of course better qualified to judge than
I feel quite clear, however, in reference to the points which I have stated above, viz. that the ancient language of both the Nestorians and the present“ Chaldeans" is the same, -and that, the ancient Syriac; also, that the spoken language of the Nestorians and of these “Chaldeans" is the same, (except so far as the Arabic prevails among the latter,) and that it is derived directly from the ancient Syriac. I
I have almost constant occasion to notice the very strong relationship which exists between all these cognate Semitic languages, as the Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, etc. The Nestorian ecclesiastics, for example, very easily learn the Hebrew language, from its resemblance to their own. I have, at present, a class of these ecclesiastics in Hebrew, whose proficiency, with
* Niebuhr, however, calls it Syrianisch; see the Note on p. 456, above. R.
† The very same statements respecting the language of the papal Nestorians in the villages around Mosul, were made to the writer at Constantinople in 1838, by Mr. Rassam, now British Consulat Mosul, himself a native" Chaldean” from that city or the vicinity. R.
I In the article above referred to, (Am. Bib. Repos. Jan. 1841, p. 12,) Mr. Perkins remarks that he and his colleague, Mr. Holladay," have taken some pains to compare the language of the Nestorians with the Chaldaic, as exhibited in the books of Daniel and Ezra, and at the same time with the ancient Syriac of those portions of Scripture ; and the result has been a most decided preponderance in favor of deriving the modern language directly from the Syriac.” I cite this in order to subjoin the remark, that the Chaldaic of Daniel and Ezra is hardly a fair standard of comparison, since it approaches much nearer to the Hebrew than does the ordinary Chaldee dialect. The comparison should rather have been made with some portion of the Chaldee translations exhibited in the Targums. R.
very little effort, is such as would do honor to an Andover lecture-room. There are also Jews in this city who speak a corrupt dialect of the Hebrew; and their language so nearly resembles that spoken by the Nestorians, that individuals of the two nations can readily understand each other.
The spoken language of the Nestorians has scarcely been reduced to writing by themselves. Hence, as I have said above, the epistolary correspondence is still conducted in their ancient language, the Syriac. I find, too, by referring to Mr. Smith's “Researches,” that the manuscripts which he procured here, were the only works, as he supposed, existing in the spoken language.* I have found no other manuscripts prepared in the vulgar tongue in this region. I obtained, some time since, from the vicinity of Mosul, what purported to be a translation of a part of the Gospels, into the spoken language. It proved to me that the “ Chaldeans” of the villages in that region speak a corrupted Syriac; but the preparation of the work was so entirely without rule or standard in construction, orthography, etc., as to prove, also, that the spoken language of the Nestorians and Chaldeans has been as little cultivated on the western, as on the eastern side of the Kurdish mountains.
We regard the necessity of cultivating the spoken language of the Nestorians as so obvious and great, in order to reach the mass of the people with religious and intellectual matter, that I long since commenced reducing it to writing. I have made a translation of some parts of the Scriptures, of a small geography, and of some other things, into the language. Our translations are doubtless still imperfect in orthography as well as in other respects; as I have had no standard to aid me, but the Syriac language. In the hope, however, that they may gratify you and your German friends, and afford you some light, I will send you a few specimens of which we have duplicates. We have as yet printed nothing. Our press is now on the way to this country.f As I send by the English post, I can forward
• Vol. II. p. 192. See above, p. 456.
+ In consequence of many delays, the press did not reach Ooroomiah until Nov. 1840. The following entries in Mr. Perkins' journal of that month, show the joy with which it was welcomed.
“Nov. 7th, 1840.-Our printer, Mr. Breath, arrived. His coming with the press is, we believe, the dawn of a new era on the Nestorians.--9th. We took the press from the boxes in
but few manuscripts at this time; but will endeavor to send more, together with some manuscripts in the ancient language, when an opportunity for transportation shall occur. Lying on my table are two letters which I lately received ; one from the Patriarch and one from a bishop. I send you these also with a translation. They are in the ancient language, i. e. the ancient Syriac.
You are doubtless aware that the British and Foreign Bible Society has published the entire Scriptures in the Syriac language. Only the four Gospels, however, are in the Nestorian character. These were published in the year 1829. The type is very perfect. Have you seen a copy of these Gospels ?
The idea is sometimes sugested, that these corrupt languages, —such for instance as the modern Greek, the modern Armenian, the modern Syriac, etc.—ought not to be reduced to writing; that only the ancient languages should be cultivated; and that thus, by general education, the people of these nations may be led back to the re-adoption of their respective ancient tongues. What is your opinion on this subject ?
It has appeared to us obviously impossible ever to effect the object which the theory proposes in reference to the Nestorians. The mass of the people understand almost none of the pure Syriac, unmodified by vulgar contractions and inversions, and by the importation of barbarisms. We, however, encourage the cultivation of the old Syriac, as well as of the spoken language. We wish the Nestorians to contrive to study and use it in some measure; and we hope that by regarding it and using it as their classical language, they may be able to cultivate and enrich their vulgar tongue. Can we do better than adopt such a course ?
When our press and type reach us, we design to print an
which it was brought, and set it up. It appears like an exotic in this dark and distant land ; and, at the samie time, like a familiar old acquaintance, whose arrival is inexpressibly welcome to us.—21st. We put our press in operation by printing on small scraps, a few copies of the Lord's Prayer in ancient Syriac, merely to gratify the curiosity of the natives, who have never before seen any thing of the kind. The press is now the lion here. Numbers call daily to visit it. The Nestorians are greatly delighted with it." See Mission. Herald, Sept. 1841, p. 351. R.
edition of the entire Syriac Scriptures in the Nestorian character. From this you will infer, that we do not wish the Nestorians to cease cultivating that noble language.
With my kind regards to Prof. Roediger, please assure him that it will ever afford me great pleasure, to do all in my power to facilitate his inquiries in reference to these eastern languages.
Yours, most truly,
P.S. Nov. 23d. I have just found among my papers two other letters from the Patriarch, both in the ancient Syriac, which I send, with translations.
From the reply made to this letter, Mr. Perkins has given the following extracts :* “ The views contained in your letter, leave no room to doubt of the character of the language; por that the Chaldean, so called, of Mesopotamia, is the same. I have myself had no doubt of this before ; although on inquiring of Mr. Rassam and others in Constantinople, I could get no satisfactory information. The prevailing view among scholars, at present, is that the ancient Chaldee and Syriac are, at the bottom, the same dialect; the former having developed itself in a more Jewish form, and adopted the Hebrew alphabet, and the latter having been diffused among Christians with a different alphabet; i. e. one being a Hebraizing Aramæan and the other a Christian Aramæan. A similar fact exists at this day, in relation to the Servian and Illyrian languages. They are the same, or nearly so, as spoken ; but the Servians are Greek Christians, and use a peculiar alphabet; while the Illyrians are Catholics, and write with the Latin letters.t
“There can be no doubt, I think, as to the propriety and necessity of cultivating the modern Syriac, in the manner you mention, any more than there is in the case of the modern Greek. It is the language, and the only language of the people, and must remain so; though it should be purified and refined, by a reference to the ancient language, so far as possible.
* Amer. Bibl. Repos., Jan. 1841, pp. 11, 12.
† Very recently an alphabet has been proposed by Mr. Gai, an Illyrian scholar, adapted to both his own and the Servian lanThe preceding letter of Mr. Perkins was accompanied by a small package, containing five or six scriptural tracts in the modern language of the Nestorians, and the four letters there mentioned in ancient Syriac. The tracts comprised translations of the Sermon on the Mount, and some of the minor epistles. Three of the letters were from the Patriarch of the mountains, who always takes the name or rather the title of Mar Shimon, i. e., Lord Simeon. He resides not far from Jûlamerk in the Hakkary district, one of the most inaccessible parts of the Kurdish mountains. One of the letters bears his great seal; the other two have only his smaller private seal. All were written by amanuenses; one of them by the priest Abraham of Ashita, who was afterwards visited by Dr. Grant, and is described as the most learned Nestorian now living. The contents of all the letters are unimportant and even trivial; consisting chiefly of high-flown oriental compliments and expressions of thanks, under which the all-pervading oriental feeling of self-interest is not always concealed. Their chief value is as proofs of the good soil into which the missionary seed has here been cast.
The arrival of these literary documents in Berlin, from the wild and almost unapproachable mountains of Kurdistan, the fierce seats of robbery and bloodshed, where the traveller Schulz a few years before had been foully murdered on attempting to enter the region, awakened great interest among the German literati. The celebrated and excellent Ritter, who since the death of Rennell occupies the geographical throne, drew up with the help of these papers an account of the country and the people, which he read before one or two literary societies, and also before the present king of Prussia, then crown prince; and afterwards inserted the substance of it in his great published work, accompanied by translations of two of the Syriac letters sent by Mr. Perkins.* The documents were ultimately all placed in the hands of Prof. Roediger of Halle, where they yet remain; and he has since succeeded in obtaining a few others from different sources. He has as yet made public only the Creed, printed in the common Syriac character, with a commentary and remarks on the language, and then later, two of
guages, which would do away almost the only distinction between the two. It has been readily adopted by the Illyrians, but seems to find little favor with the Servians. R.
Ritter's Erdkunde, Th. IX. pp. 670—687, Berlin, 1840.