Page images
PDF
EPUB

ears.

sology. In France it has received the convenient, but somewhat barbarous, name of Linguistique. If we must have a Greek title for our science, we might derive it either from mythos, word, or from logos, speech. But the title of Mythology is already occupied, and Logology would jar too much on classical

We need not waste our time in criticising these names, as none of them has as yet received that universal sanction which belongs to the titles of other modern sciences, such as Geology or Comparative Anatomy; nor will there be much difficulty in christening our young science after we have once ascertained its birth, its parentage, and its character. I myself prefer the simple designation of the Science of Language, though in these days of high-sounding titles, this plain name will hardly meet with genera! acceptance.

From the name we now turn to the meaning of our science. But before we enter upon a definition of its subject-matter, and determine the method which ought to be followed in our researches, it will be useful to cast a glance at the history of the other sciences, among which the science of language now, for the first time, claims her place; and examine their origin, their gradual progress, and definite settlement. The history of a science is, as it were, its biography, and as we buy experience cheapest in studying the lives of others, we may, perhaps, guard our young science from some of the follies and extravagances inherent in youth by learning a lesson for which other branches of human knowledge have had to pay more dearly.

There is a certain uniformity in the history of most

sciences. If we read such works as Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences or Humboldt's Cosinos, we find that the origin, the progress, the causes of failure and success have been the same for almost every branch of hunan knowledge. There are three inarked periods or stages in the history of every one of them, which we may call the Empirical, the Classificatory, and the Theoretical. However humiliating it may sound, every one of our sciences, however grand their present titles, can be traced back to the most humble and homely occupations of half-savage tribes. It was not the true, the good, and the beautiful which spurred the early philosophers to deep researches and bold discoveries. The foundationstone of the most glorious structures of human ingenuity in ages to come was supplied by the pressing wants of a patriarchal and semi-barbarous society. The names of some of the most ancient departments of human knowledge tell their own tale. Geometry, which at present declares itself free from all sensuous impressions, and treats of its points and lines and planes as purely ideal conceptions, not to be confounded with those coarse and imperfect representations as they appear on paper to the human eye geometry, as its very name declares, began with measuring a garden or a field. It is derived from the Greek gē, land, ground, earth, and metron, meas

Botany, the science of plants, was originally the science of botanē, which in Greek does not me a plant in general, but fodder, from boskein, to feed. The science of plants would have been called Phy. tology, from the Greek phyton, a plant. The founders

1 See Jessen, Was heisst Botanik? 1861.

ure.

of Astronomy were not the poet or the philosopher, but the sailor and the farmer. The early poet may have admired “the mazy dance of planets,” and the philosopher may have speculated on the heavenly harmonies ; but it was to the sailor alone that a knowledge of the glittering guides of heaven became a question of life and death. It was he who calculated their risings and settings with the accuracy of a merchant and the shrewdness of an adventurer; and the names that were given to single stars or constellations clearly show that they were invented by the ploughers of the sea and of the land. The moon, for instance, the golden hand on the dark dial of heaven, was called by them the Measurer, — the measurer of time; for time was measured by nights, and moons, and winters, long before it was reckoned by days, and suns, and years. Moon is a very old word. It was môna' in Anglo-Saxon, and was used there, not as a feminine, but as a masculine; for the moon was a masculine in all Teutonic languages, and it is only through the influence of classical models that in English moon has been changed into a feminine, and sun into a masculine. It was a most unlucky assertion which Mr. Harris made in his Hermes, that all nations ascribe to the sun a masculine, and to the moon a feminine gender. In Gothic moon is mena, which is a masculine. For month we have in A.-S. mônâdh, in Gothic menoth, both masculine. In Greek we find mēn, a masculine, for month, and mēnē, a feminine, for moon. In Latin we have the derivative mensis, month, and in Sanskrit we find mås for moon, and måsa for month, both mas

1 Kuhn's Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung, b. ix. s. 104. 3 Horne Tooke, p. 27, note.

culine. Now this mâs in Sanskrit is clearly derived from a root ma, to measure, to mete. In Sanskrit, I measure is ma-mi; thou measurest, ma-si; he measures, -ti (or mimi-te). An instrument of measuring is called in Sanskrit ma-tram, the Greek metron, our metre. Now if the moon was originally called by the farmer the measurer, the ruler of days, and weeks, and seasons, the regulator of the tides, the lord of their festivals, and the herald of their public assemblies, it is but natural that he should have been conceived as a man, and not as the love-sick maiden which our mod. ern sentimental poetry has put in his place.

It was the sailor who, before intrusting his life and goods to the winds and the waves of the ocean, watched for the rising of those stars which he called the Sailingstars or Pleiades, from plein, to sail. Navigation in the Greek waters was considered safe after the return of the Pleiades; and it closed when they disappeared. The Latin name for the Pleiades is Vergiliæ, from virga, a sprout or twig. This name was given to them by the Italian husbandman, because in Italy, where they became visible about May, they marked the return of summer.2 Another constellation, the seven stars in the head of Taurus, received the name of Hyades or Pluviæ in Latin, because at the time when they rose with the sun they were supposed to announce rain. The astronomer retains these and many other names; he still speaks of the pole of heaven, of wandering and fixed stars, but he is apt

1 See Curtius, Griechische Etymologie, 8. 297.
2 Ideler, Handbuch der Chronologie, b. i. 8. 241, 242.

* As early as the tiines of Anaximenes of the Ionic, and Alcmron of the Pythagorean, schools, the stars had been divided into travelling (üorpa

to forget that these terms were not tire result of scientific observation and classification, but were borrowed from the language of those who themselves were wanderers on the sea or in the desert, and to whom the fixed stars were in full reality what their name implies, stars driven in and fixed, by which they might hold fast on the deep, as by heavenly anchors.

But although historically we are justified in saying that the first geometrician was a ploughman, the first botanist a gardener, the first mineralogist a miner, it may reasonably be objected that in this early stage a science is hardly a science yet: that measuring a field is not geometry, that growing cabbages is very far from botany, and that a butcher has no claim to the title of comparative anatomist. This is perfectly true, yet it is but right that each science should be reminded of these its more humble beginnings, and of the practical requirements which it was originally intended to answer. A science, as Bacon

says,

should be a rich storehouse for the glory of God, and the relief of man's estate. Now, although it may seem as if in the present high state of our society students were enabled to devote their time to the investigation of the facts and laws of nature, or to the contemplation of the mysteries of the world of thought, without any side-glance at the practical result of their labors, no science and no art have long prospered and flourished

ng us, unless they were in some way subservient to the practical interests of society. It is true that a

πλανώμενα or πλανητά), and non-travelling stars (απλανείς αστέρες, οι åthavn úorpa). Aristotle first used torpa évdedeuéva, or fixed stars. (See Humboldt, Cosmos, vol. iii. p. 28.) Nómos, the pivot, hinge, or the pole of the heaven.

« PreviousContinue »