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The genealogical classification of the Aryan languages was founded, as we saw, on a close comparison of the grammatical characteristics of each ; and it is the object of such works as Bopp's “ Comparative Grammar” to show that the grammatical articulation of Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Teutonic, and Slavonic, was produced once and for all; and that the apparent differences in the terminations of Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, must be explained by laws of phonetic decay, peculiar to each dialect, which modified the original common Aryan type, and changed it into so many national languages. It might seem, therefore, as if the object of comparative grammar was attained as soon as the exact genealogical relationship of languages had been settled; and those who only look to the higher problems of the science of language have not hesitated to declare that there is no painsworthy difficulty nor dispute about declension, number, case, and gender of nouns.” But although it is certainly true that comparative grammar is only a means, and that it has well nigh taught us all that it has to teach, - at least in the Aryan family of speech, - it is to be hoped that, in the science of language, it will always retain that prominent place which it has obtained through the labors of Bopp,
Grimm, Pott, Benfey, Curtius, Kuhn, and others. Besides, comparative grammar has more to do than simply to compare. It would be easy enough to place side by side the paradigms of declension and conjugation in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and the other Aryan dialects, and to mark both their coincidences and their differences. But after we have done this, and after we have explained the phonetic laws which cause the primitive Aryan type to assume that national variety which we admire in Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, new problems arise of a more interesting nature. We know that grammatical terminations, as they are now called, were originally independent words, and had their own purpose and meaning. Is it possible, after comparative grammar has established the original forms of the Aryan terminations, to trace them back to independent words, and to discover their original purpose and meaning ? You will remember that this was the point from which we started. We wanted to know why the termination d in I loved should change a present into a past act. We saw that before answering this question we had to discover the most original form of this termination by tracing it from English to Gothic, and afterwards, if necessary, from Gothic to Sanskrit. We now return to our original question, namely, What is language that a mere formal change, such as that of I love into I loved, should produce so very material a difference ?
Let us clearly see what we mean if we make a distinction between the radical and formal elements of a language; and by formal elements I mean not only the terminations of declension and conjugation, but all derivative elements; all, in fact, that is not radical. Our view on the origin of language must chiefly depend on
the view which we take of these formal, as opposed to the radical, elements of speech. Those who consider that language is a conventional production, base their arguments principally on these formal elements. The inflections of words, they maintain, are the best proof that language was made by mutual agreement. They look upon them as mere letters or syllables without any meaning by themselves ; and if they were asked why the mere addition of a d changes I love into I loved, or why the addition of the syllable rai gave to j'aime, I love, the power of a future, j'aimerai, they would answer, that it was so because, at a very early time in the history of the world, certain persons, or families, or clans, agreed that it should be so.
This view was opposed by another which represents language as an organic and almost a living being, and explains its formal elements as produced by a principle of growth inherent in its very nature. “ Languages,”1 it is maintained, " are formed by a process, not of crystalline accretion, but of germinal development. Every essential part of language existed as completely (although only implicitly) in the primitive germ, as the petals of a flower exist in the bud before the mingled influences of the sun and the air caused it to unfold.” This view was first propounded by Frederick Schlegel,
i Farrar, Origin of Languages, p. 35.
2 " It has been common among grammarians to regard those terminational changes as evolved by some unknown process from the body of the noun, as the branches of a tree spring from the stem – or as elements, unmeaning in themselves, but employed arbitrarily or conventionally to mod. ify the meanings of words. This latter view is countenanced by Schlegel. 'Languages with inflexions,' says Schlegel, are organic languages, because they include a living principle of development and increase, and alone possess, if I may so express myself, a fruitful and abundant vegetation. The wonderful mechanism of these languages consists in forining an immense variety of words, and in marking the connection of ideas expressed by
and it is still held by many with whom poetical phrase ology takes the place of sound and severe reasoning.
The science of language adopts neither of these an a views.
views. As to imagining a congress for settling the proper exponents of such relations as nominative, genitive, singular, plural, active, and passive, it stands to reason that if such abstruse problems could have been discussed in a language void of inflections, there
no inducement for agreeing on a more perfect means of communication. And as to imagining language, that is to say nouns and verbs, endowed with an inward principle of growth, all we can say is, that such a conception is really inconceivable. Language may be conceived as a production, but it cannot be conceived as a substance that could itself produce. But the science of language has nothing to do with mere theories, whether conceivable or not. It collects facts, and its only object is to account for these facts, as far as possible. Instead of looking on inflections in general either as conventional signs or natural excrescences, it takes each termination by itself, establishes its most primitive form by means of comparison, and then treats that primitive syllable as it would treat these words by the help of an inconsiderable number of syllables, which, viewed separately, have no signification, but which determine with precision the sense of the words to which they are attached. By modifying radical letters and by adding derivative syllables to the roots, derivative words of various sorts are formed, and derivatives from those derivatives. Words are compounded from several roots to express complex ideas. Finally, substantives, adjectives, and pronouns are declined, with gender, number, and case; verbs are conjugated throughout voices, moods, tenses, numbers, and persons, by employing, in like manner, terminations and sometimes augments, which by themselves signify nothing. This method is attended with the advantage of enunciating in a single word the principal idea, frequently greatly modified, and extremely complex already, with its whole array of accessory ideas and mutable relations."" Transactions of tho Philological Society, vol. ii. p. 39.
any other part of language, — namely, as something which was originally intended to convey a meaning. Whether we are still able to discover the original intention of every part of language is quite a different question, and it should be admitted at once that many grammatical forms, after they have been restored to their most primitive type, are still without an explanation. But with every year new discoveries are made by means of careful inductive reasoning. We become more familiar every day with the secret ways of language, and there is no reason to doubt that in the end grammatical analysis will be as successful as chemical analysis. Grammar, though sometimes very bewildering to us in its later stages, is originally a much less formidable undertaking than is commonly supposed. What is grammar after all but declension and conjugation? Originally declension could not have been anything but the composition of a noun with some other word expressive of number and case.
How the number was expressed, we saw in a former lecture; and the same process led to the formation of cases.
Thus the locative is formed in various ways in Chinese:1 one is by adding such words as ćung, the middle, or néi, inside. Thus, kúð-ćung, in the empire; i sûí tung, within a year. The instrumental is formed by the preposition ŷ, which preposition is an old root, meaning to use. Thus ý ting, with a stick, where in Latin we should use the ablative, in Greek the dative. Now, however complicated the declensions, regular and irregular, may be in Greek and Latin, we may be certain that originally they were formed by this simple method of composition.
1 Endlicher, Chinesische Grammatik, p. 172.