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de illo as the exponent of the genitive ; and change it into the Italian dello, del, and the French du.
The attempts of single grammarians and purists to improve language are perfectly bootless ; and we shall probably hear no more of schemes to prune languages of their irregularities. It is very likely, however, that the gradual disappearance of irregular declensions and conjugations is due, in literary as well as in illiterate languages, to the dialect of children. The language of children is more regular than our own.
I have heard children say badder and baddest, instead of worse and worst. Children will say, I gaed, I coomd, I catched; and it is this sense of grammatical justice, this generous feeling of what ought to be, which in the course of centuries has eliminated many so-called irregular forms. Thus the auxiliary verb in Latin was very irregular. If sumus is we are, and sunt, they are, the second person, you are, ought to have been, at least according to the strict logic of children, sutis. This, no doubt, sounds very barbarous to a classical ear accustomed to estis. And we see how French, for instance, has strictly preserved the Latin forms in nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont. But in Spanish we find somos, sois, son; and this sois stands for sutis. We find similar traces of grammatical levelling in the Italian siamo, siete, sono, formed in analogy of regular verbs such as crediamo, credete, credono. The second person, sei, instead of es, is likewise infantine grammar. So are the Wallachian súntemu, we are, sunteti, you are, which owe their origin to the third person plural súnt, they are. And what shall we say of such monsters as essendo, a gerund derived on principles of strict justice from an infinitive essere, like credendo from credere!
However, we need not be surprised, for we find similar barbarisms in English. Even in Anglo-Saxon, the third person plural, sind, has by a false analogy been transferred to the first and second
persons ; and instead of the modern English,
in Old Norse. in Gothic.
sijuth they are
sind. Dialectically we hear I be, instead of I am ; and if Chartism should ever gain the upper hand, we must be prepared for newspapers adopting such forms as I says, , I knows.
These various influences and conditions under which language grows and changes, are like the waves and winds which carry deposits to the bottom of the sea, where they accumulate, and rise, and grow, and at last appear on the surface of the earth as a stratum, perfectly intelligible in all its component parts, not produced by an inward principle of growth, nor regulated by invariable laws of nature; yet, on the other hand, by no means the result of mere accident, or the production of lawless and uncontrolled agencies. cannot be careful enough in the use of our words. Strictly speaking, neither history nor growth is applicable to the changes of the shifting surface of the earth. History applies to the actions of free agents ; growth to the natural unfolding of organic beings. We speak, however, of the growth of the crust of the earth, and we know what we mean by it; and it is in this sense,
1 The Gothic forms sijum, sijuth, are not organic. They are either derived by false analogy from the third person plural sind, or a new base sij was derived from the subjunctive sijau, Sanskrit syâm.
but not in the sense of growth as applied to a tree, that we have a right to speak of the growth of language. If that modification which takes place in time by continually new combinations of given elements, which withdraws itself from the control of free agents, and can in the end be recognized as the result of natural agencies, may be called growth; and if so defined, we may apply it to the growth of the crust of the earth; the same word, in the same sense, will be applicable to language, and will justify us in removing the science of language from the pale of the historical to that of the physical sciences.
There is another objection which we have to consider, and the consideration of which will again help us to understand more clearly the real character of language. The great periods in the growth of the earth which have been established by geological research are brought to their close, or very nearly so, when we discover the first vestiges of human life, and when the history of man, in the widest sense of the word, begins. The periods in the growth of language, on the contrary, begin and run parallel with the history of man. It has been said, therefore, that although language may not be merely a work of art, it would, nevertheless, be impossible to understand the life and growth of any language without an historical knowledge of the times in which that language grew up. We ought to know, it is said, whether a language which is to be analyzed under the microscope of com
tive grammar, has been growing up wild, among wild tribes, without a literature, oral or written, in poetry or in prose; or whether it has received the cultivation of poets, priests, and orators, and retained the
78 CONNECTION BETWEEN LANGUAGE AND HISTORY.
impress of a classical age. Again, it is only from the annals of political history that we can learn whether one language has come in contact with another, how long this contact has lasted, which of the two nations stood higher in civilization, which was the conquering and which the conquered, which of the two established the laws, the religion, and the arts of the country, and which produced the greatest number of national teachers, popular poets, and successful demagogues. All these questions are of a purely historical character, and the science which has to borrow so much from historical sources, might well be considered an anomaly in the sphere of the physical sciences.
Now, in answer to this, it cannot be denied that among the physical sciences none is so intimately connected with the history of man as the science of language. But a similar connection, though in a less degree, can be shown to exist between other branches of physical research and the history of man. In zoology, for instance, it is of some importance to know at what particular period of history, in what country, and for what purposes certain animals were tamed and domesticated. In ethnology, a science, we may remark in passing, quite distinct from the science of language, it would be difficult to account for the Caucasian stamp impressed on the Mongolian race in Hungary, or on the Tatar race in Turkey, unless we knew from written documents the migrations and settlements of the Mongolic and Tataric tribes in Europe. A botanist, again, comparing several specimens of rye, would find it difficult to account for their respective peculiarities, unless he knew that in some parts of the world this plant has been cultivated for centuries,
whereas in other regions, as, for instance, in Mount Caucasus, it is still allowed to grow wild. Plants have their own countries, like races, and the presence of the cucumber in Greece, the orange and cherry in Italy, the potatoe in England, and the vine at the Cape, can be fully explained by the historian only. The more intimate relation, therefore, between the history of language and the history of man is not sufficient to exclude the science of language from the circle of the physical sciences.
Nay, it might be shown, that, if strictly defined, the science of language can declare itself completely independent of history. If we speak of the language of England, we ought, no doubt, to know something of the political history of the British Isles, in order to understand the present state of that language. Its history begins with the early Britons, who spoke a Celtic dialect; it carries us on to the Saxon conquest, to the Danish invasions, to the Norman conquest : and we see how each of these political events contributed to the formation of the character of the language. The language of England may be said to have been in succession Celtic, Saxon, Norman, and English. But if we speak of the history of the English language, we enter on totally different ground. The English language was never Celtic, the Celtic never grew into Saxon, nor the Saxon into Norman, nor the Norman into English. The history of the Celtic language runs on to the present day. It matters not whether it be spoken by all the inhabitants of the British Isles, or only by a small minority in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. A language, as long as it is spoken by anybody, lives and has its substantive existence. The last