Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

There was originally in all the Aryan languages a case expressive of locality, which grammarians call the locative. In Sanskrit every substantive has its locative, as well as its genitive, dative, and accusative. Thus, heart in Sanskrit is hrid; in the heart, is hridi. Here, therefore, the termination of the locative is simply short

. This short i is a demonstrative root, and in all probability the same root which in Latin produced the preposition in. The Sanskrit hridi represents, therefore, an original compound, as it were, heart-within, which gradually became settled as one of the recognized cases of nouns ending in consonants. If we look to Chinese, we find that the locative is expressed there in the same manner, but with a greater freedom in the choice of the words expressive of locality. “ In the empire,” is expressed by kúð ćung; “within a year,” is expressed by i sûí cung. Instead of cung, however, we might have employed other terms also, such as, for instance, néi, inside. It might be said that the formation of so primitive a case as the locative offers little difficulty, but that this process of composition fails to account for the origin of the more abstract cases, the accusative, the dative, and genitive. If we derive our notions of the cases from philosophical grammar, it is true, no doubt, that it would be difficult to convey by a simple composition the abstract relations supposed to be expressed by the terminations of the genitive, dative, and accusative. But remember that these are only general categories under which philosophers and grammarians endeavored to arrange the facts of language. The people with whom language grew up knew nothing of datives and accusatives. Everything that is abstract

1 Endlicher, Chinesische Grammatik, s. 172.

[merged small][ocr errors]

in language was originally concrete. If people wanted to say the King of Rome, they meant really the King at Rome, and they would readily have used what I have just described as the locative; whereas the more abstract idea of the genitive would never enter into their system of thought. But more than this, it can be proved that the locative has actually taken, in some cases, the place of the genitive. In Latin, for instance, the old genitive of nouns in a was as.

This we find still in pater familiâs, instead of pater familice. The Umbrian and Oscan dialects retained the 8 throughout as the sign of the genitive after nouns in a.

The ce of the genitive was originally ai, that is to say, the old locative in i. “King of Rome," if rendered by Rex

Romæ, meant really “King at Rome.” And here you

will see how grammar, which ought to be the most - logical of all sciences, is frequently the most illogical.

A boy is taught at school, that if he wants to say “I am staying at Rome,” he must use the genitive to express the locative. How a logician or grammarian can so twist and turn the meaning of the genitive as to make it express rest in a place, is not for us to inquire; but, if he succeeded, his pupil would at once use the genitive of Carthage (Carthaginis) or of Athens (Athenarum) for the same purpose, and he would then have to be told that these genitives could not be used in the same manner as the genitive of nouns in a. How all this is achieved by what is called philosophical grammar, we know not; but comparative grammar at once removes all difficulty. It is only in the first declension that the locative has supplanted the genitive, whereas Carthaginis and Athenarum, being real genitives, could never be employed to express a locative.

[ocr errors]

A special case, such as the locative, may be generalized into the more general genitive, but not vice versa.

You see thus by one instance how what grammarians call a genitive was formed by the same process of composition which we can watch in Chinese, and which we can prove to have taken place in the original language of the Aryans. And the same applies to the dative. If a boy is told that the dative expresses a relation of one object to another, less direct than that of the accusative, he may well wonder how such a flying arch could ever have been built up with the scanty materials which language has at her disposal ; but he will be still more surprised if, after having realized this grammatical abstraction, he is told that in Greek, in order to convey the very definite idea of being in a place, he has to use after certain nouns the termination of the dative. “I am staying at Salamis,” must be expressed by the dative Salamini. If you ask why? Comparative grammar again can alone give an answer. The termination of the Greek dative in i, was originally the termination of the locative. The locative may well convey the meaning of the dative, but the faded features of the dative can never express the fresh distinctness of the locative. The dative Salaminē was first a locative. “I live at Salamis," never conveyed the mean-tema

Bed of bankee ing, • I live to Salamis.” On the contrary, the dative, in such phrases as “ I give it to the father," was originally a locative; and after expressing at first the palpable relation of “I give it unto the father,” or I place it on or in the father," it gradually assumed the more general, the less local, less colored aspect which logicians and grammarians ascribe to their datives.1

1“The Algonquins have but one case which may be called locative." Du Ponceau, p. 158.

7

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

If the explanation just given of some of the cases in Greek and Latin should seem too artificial or too forced, we have only to think of French in order to see exactly the same process repeated under our eyes. The most abstract relations of the genitive, as, for instance, “The immortality of the soul” (l'immortalité de l'âme); or of the dative, as, for instance, “I trust myself to God” (je me fie à Dieu), are expressed by prepositions, such as de and ad, which in Latin had the distinct local meanings of “ down from,” and “ towards." Nay, the English of and to, which have taken the place of the German terminations & and m, are likewise prepositions of an originally local character. The

only difference between our cases and those of the an• cient languages consists in this, — that the determining

element is now placed before the word, whereas, in the original language of the Aryans, it was placed at the end.

What applies to the cases of nouns, applies with equal truth to the terminations of verbs. It may seem difficult to discover in the personal terminations of Greek and Latin the exact pronouns which were added to a verbal base in order to express, I love, thou lovest, he loves; but it stands to reason that originally these terminations must have been the same in all languages,

namely, personal pronouns. We may be puzzled by the terminations of thou lovest and he loves, where st and 8 can hardly be identified with the modern thou and he ; but we have only to place all the Aryan dialects together, and we shall see at once that they point back to an original set of terminations which can easily * be brought to tell their own story.

Let us begin with modern formations, because we have here more daylight for watching the intricate and

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

sometimes wayward movements of language; or, better still, let us begin with an imaginary case, or with what may be called the language of the future, in order to see quite clearly how, what we should call grammatical forms, may arise. Let us suppose that the slaves in America were to rise against their masters, and, after gaining some victories, were to sail back in large numbers to some part of Central Africa, beyond the reach of their white enemies or friends. Let us suppose these men availing themselves of the lessons they had learnt in their captivity, and gradually working out a civilization of their own. It is quite possible that some centuries hence, a new Livingstone might find among the descendants of the American slaves, a language, a literature, laws, and manners, bearing a striking similitude to those of his own country. What an interesting problem for any future historian and ethnologist ! Yet there are problems in the past history of the world of equal interest, which have been and are still to be solved by the student of language. Now I believe that a careful examination of the language of the descendants of those escaped slaves would suffice to determine

with perfect certainty their past history, even though – no documents and no tradition had preserved the story

of their captivity and liberation. At first, no doubt, the threads might seem hopelessly entangled. A missionary might surprise the scholars of Europe by an account of that new African language. He might describe it at first as very imperfect — as a language, for instance, so poor that the same word had to be used to express the most heterogeneous ideas. He might point out how the same sound, without any change of accent, meant true, a ceremony, a workman, and was used also

« PreviousContinue »