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In the third class we shall find that one of the two consonants is always a semivowel, nasal, or sibilant, these being more variable than the other consonants; and we can almost always point to one consonant as of later origin, and added to a biconsonantal root in order to render its meaning more special. Thus we have, besides spas, the root pas, and even this root has been traced back by Pott to a more primitive as. Thus vand, again, is a mere strengthening of the root vad, like mand of mad, like yu-na-j and yu-n-j of yuj. The root yuj, to join, and yudh, to fight, both point back to a root yu, to mingle, and this simple root has been preserved in Sanskrit. We may well understand that a root, having the general meaning of mingling or being together, should be employed to express both the friendly joining of hands and the engaging in hostile combat ; but we may equally understand that language, in its progress to clearness and definiteness, should have desired a distinction between these two meanings, and should gladly have availed herself of the two derivatives, yuj and yudh, to mark this distinction.
Sanskrit grammarians have reduced the whole growth of their language to 1706 roots, that is to say, they have admitted so many radicals in order to derive from them, according to their system of grammatical derivation, all nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, and conjunctions, which
1 Benfey, Grammatik, $ 147:
Roots of the 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 classes
1706, including 143 of the 10th class.
occur in Sanskrit. According to our explanation of a root, however, this number of 1706 would have to be reduced considerably, and though a few new roots would likewise have to be added which Sanskrit grammarians failed to discover, yet the number of primitive sounds, expressive of definite meanings, requisite for the etymological analysis of the whole Sanskrit dictionary would not amount to even one third of that number. Hebrew has been reduced to about 500 roots, and I doubt whether we want a larger number for Sanskrit. This shows a wise spirit of economy on the part of primitive language, for the possibility of forming new roots for every new impression was almost unlimited.
Even if we put the number of letters only at twenty-four, the possible number of biliteral and triliteral roots would amount together to 14,400; whereas Chinese, though abstaining from composition and derivation, and therefore requiring a larger number of radicals than any other language, was satisfied with about 450. With these 450 sounds raised to 1263 by various accents and intonations, the Chinese have produced a dictionary of from 40,000 to 50,000 words.2
1 Renan, Histoire des Langues sémitiques, p. 138. Benloew estimates the necessary radicals of Gothic at 600, of inodern German at 250, p. 22. Pott thinks that each language has about 1000 roots.
2 The exact number in the Imperial Dictionary of Khang-hi amounts to 42,718. About one-fourth part has become obsolete; and one-half of the rest may be considered of rare occurrence, thus leaving only about 15,000 words in actual use." The exact number of the classical characters is 42,718. Many of them are no longer in use in the modern language, but they occur in the canonical and in the classical books. They may be found sometimes in official documents, when an attempt is made at imitating the old style. A considerable portion of these are names of persons, places, mountains, rivers, &c. In order to compete for the place of imperial historian, it was necessary to know 9,000, which were collected in a separate manual." - Stanislas Julien.
It is clear, however, that in addition to these predicative roots, we want another class of radical elements to enable us to account for the full growth of language. With the 400 or 500 predicative roots at her disposal, language would not have been at a loss to coin names for all things that come under our cognizance. Language is a thrifty housewife. Consider the variety of ideas that were expressed by the one root spas, and you will see that with 500 such roots she might form a dictionary sufficient to satisfy the wants, however ertravagant, of her husband - the human mind. If each root yielded fifty derivatives, we should have 25,000 words. Now, we are told, on good authority, by a country clergyman, that some of the laborers in his parish had not 300 words in their vocabulary. The vocabulary of the ancient sages of Egypt, at least as far as it is known to us from the hieroglyphic inscriptions, amounts to about 685 words.2 The libretto of an Italian opera seldom displays a greater variety of words.3 A well-educated person in England, who has
1 The study of the English language by A. D'Orsey, p. 15.
2 This is the number of words in the Vocabulary given by Bunsen, in the first volume of his Egypt, pp. 453-491. Several of these words, however, though identical in sound, must be separated etymologically, and later researches have still further increased the number. The number of hieroglyphic groups in Sharpe's “ Egyptian Hieroglyphics,” 1861, amounts to 2030.
8 Marsh, Lectures, p. 182. M. Thommerel stated the number of words in the Dictionaries of Robertson and Webster as 43,566. Todd's edition of Johnson, however, is said to contain 58,000 words, and the later editions of Webster have reached the number of 70,000, counting the participles of the present and perfect as independent vocables. Flügel estimated the number of words in his own dictionary at 94,464, of which 65,085 are simple, 29,379 compound. This was in 1813; and he then expressed a hope that in his next edition the number of words would far exceed 100,000. This is the number fixed upon by Mr. Marsh as the minimum of the copia vocabulorum in English. See Saturday Review, Nov. 2, 1861.
been at a public school and at the university, who reads his Bible, his Shakespeare, the “ Times," and all the books of Mudie's Library, seldom uses more than about 3000 or 4000 words in actual conversation. Accurate thinkers and close reasoners, who avoid vague and general expressions, and wait till they find the word that exactly fits their meaning, employ a larger stock; and eloquent speakers may rise to a command of 10,000. Shakespeare, who displayed a greater variety of expression than probably any writer in any language, produced all his plays with about 15,000 words. Milton's works are built up with 8000; and the Old Testament says all that it has to say with 5,642 words.
Five hundred roots, therefore, considering their fertility and pliancy, was more than was wanted for the dictionary of our primitive ancestors. And yet they wanted something more. If they had a root expressive of light and splendor, that root might have formed the predicate in the names of sun, and moon, and stars, and heaven, day, morning, dawn, spring, gladness, joy, beauty, majesty, love, friend, gold, riches, &c. But if they wanted to express here and there, who, what, this, that, thou, he, they would have found it impossible to find any predicative root that could be applied to this purpose. Attempts have indeed been made to trace these words back to predicative roots ; but if we are told that the demonstrative root ta, this or there, may be derived from a predicative root tan, to extend, we find that even in our modern languages, the demonstrative pronouns and particles are of too primitive and independent a nature to allow of so artificial an interpretation. The sound ta or sa, for this or there, is as involuntary, as natural, as independent an expression as any
1 Renan, Histoire, p. 138.
of the predicative roots, and although some of these demonstrative, or pronominal, or local roots, for all these names have been applied to them, may be traced back to a predicative source, we must admit a small class of independent radicals, not predicative in the usual sense of the word, but simply pointing, simply expressive of existence under certain more or less definite, local or temporal prescriptions.
It will be best to give one illustration at least of a pronominal root and its influence in the formation of words.
In some languages, and particularly in Chinese, a predicative root may by itself be used as a noun, or a verb, or an adjective or adverb. Thus the Chinese sound ta means, without any change of form, great, greatness, and to be great." If ta stands before a substantive, it has the meaning of an adjective. Thus ta jin means a great man.
If ta stands after a substantive, it is a predicate, or, as we should say, a verb. Thus jin ta (or jin ta ye) would mean the man is great. Or again, gia ngõ, li pu ngõ,
man bad, law not bad. Here we see that there is no outward distinction whatever between a root and a word, and that a noun is distinguished from a verb merely by its collocation in a sentence.
In other languages, however, and particularly in the
1 Endlicher, Chinesische Grammatik, $ 128.
If two words are placed like jin ta, the first may form the predicate of the second, the second being used as a substantive. Thus jin ta might mean the greatness of man, but in this case it is more usual to say jin tci ta.
** Another instance, chen, virtue; Ex.jin tchi chen, the virtue of man; chen, virtuous; Ex. chen jin, the virtuous man; chen, to approve; Ex. chen tchi, to find it good; chen, well; Ex. chen ko, to sing well." — Stanislas Julien.