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and Mandshu, between Tamil and Finnish, was a different one, not in degree only, but in kind, from that between Sanskrit and Greek. “These Turanian languages," I said (p. 216), “ cannot be considered as standing to each other in the same relation as Hebrew and Arabic, Sanskrit and Greek.”
They are radii diverging from a common centre, not children of a common parent." And still they are not so widely distant as Hebrew and Sanskrit, because none of them has entered into that new phase of growth or decay (p. 218) through which the Semitic and Aryan languages passed after they had been settled, individualized, and nationalized. The real object of my Essay was therefore a defen
It was to show how rash it was to speak of different independent beginnings in the history of human speech, before a single argument had been brought forward to establish the necessity of such an admission. The impossibility of a common origin of language has never been proved, but, in order to remove what were considered difficulties affecting the theory of a common origin, I felt it my duty to show practically, and by the very history of the Turanian languages, how such a theory was possible, or as I say in one instance only, probable. I endeavored to show how even the most distant members of the Turanian family, the one spoken in the north, the other in the south of Asia, the Finnic and the Tamulic, have preserved in their grammatical organization traces of a former unity; and, if my opponents admit that I have proved the ante-Brahmanic or Tamulic inhabitants of India to belong to the Turanian family, they can hardly have been aware that if this, the most extreme point of my argument be con
ceded, everything else is involved, and must follow by necessity.
Yet I did not call the last chapter of my Essay, “On the Necessity of a common origin of Language, but “On the Possibility ;” and, in answer to the opinions advanced by the opposite party, I summed up my defence in these two paragraphs :—
I. · Nothing necessitates the admission of different independent beginnings for the material elements of the Turanian, Semitic, and Aryan branches of speech ;nay, it is possible even now to point out radicals which, under various changes and disguises, have been current in these three branches ever since their first separation."
II. “ Nothing necessitates the admission of different beginnings for the formal elements of the Turanian, Semitic, and Aryan branches of speech ; — and though it is impossible to derive the Aryan system of grammar from the Semitic, or the Semitic from the Aryan, we can perfectly understand how, either through individual influences, or by the wear and tear of speech in its own continuous working, the different systems of grammar of Asia and Europe may have been produced.”
It will be seen, from the very wording of these two paragraphs, that my object was to deny the necessity of independent beginnings, and to assert the possibility of a common origin of language. I have been accused
of having been biassed in my researches by an implicit belief in the common origin of mankind. I do not deny that I hold this belief, and, if it wanted confirmation, that confirmation has been supplied by Darwin's book “On the Origin of Species.”1 But I defy my adversaries to point out one single passage where I have mixed up scientific with theological arguments. Only if I am told that no “quiet observer would ever have conceived the idea of deriving all mankind from one pair, unless the Mosaic records had taught it,” I must be allowed to say in reply, that this idea on the contrary is so natural, so consistent with all human laws of reasoning, that, as far as I know, there has been no nation on earth which, if it
which, if it possessed any traditions on the origin of mankind, did not derive the human race from one pair, if not from one person. The author of the Mosaic records, therefore, though stripped, before the tribunal of Physical Science, of his claims as an inspired writer, may at least claim the modest title of a quiet observer, and if his conception of the physical unity of the human race can be proved to be an error, it is an error which he shares in com
1 " Here the lines converge as they recede into the geological ages, and point to conclusions which, upon Darwin's theory, are inevitable, but hardly welcome. The very first step backward makes the negro and the Hottentot our blood-relations; not that reason or Scripture objects to that, though pride may.” Asa Gray, “Natural Selection not inconsistent with Natural Theology," 1861, p. 5.
“One good effect is already manifest, its enabling the advocates of the hypothesis of a multiplicity of human species to perceive the double insecurity of their ground. When the races of men are admitted to be of one species, the corollary, that they are of one origin, may be expected to follow. Those who allow them to be of one species must admit an actual diversification into strongly marked and persistent varieties; while those, on the other hand, who recognize several or numerous human species, will hardly be able to maintain that such species were primordial and supernatural in the ordinary sense of the word.” Asa Gray, Nat. Sel. p. 54.
mon with other quiet observers, such as Humboldt, Bunsen, Prichard, and Owen.
The only question which remains to be answered is this, Was it one and the same volume of water which supplied all the lateral channels of speech ? or, to drop all metaphor, are the roots which were joined together according to the radical, the terminational, and inflectional systems, identically the same? The only way to answer, or at least to dispose of, this question is to consider the nature and origin of roots; and we shall then have reached the extreme limits to which inductive reasoning can carry us in our researches into the mysteries of human speech.
1 Professor Pott, the most distinguished advocate of the polygenetic dogma, has pleaded the necessity of admitting more than one beginning for the human race and for language in an article in the Journal of the German Oriental Society, ix. 405, “Max Müller und die Kennzeichen der Sprachverwandtschaft,” 1855; in a treatise “Die Ungleichheit menschlicher Rassen,” 1856; and in the new edition of his “ Etymologische Forschungen," 1861.
THE THEORETICAL STAGE, AND THE ORIGIN OF
“In examining the history of mankind, as well as in examining the phenomena of the material world, when we cannot trace the process by which an event has been produced, it is often of importance to be able to show how it may have been produced by natural causes. Thus, although it is impossible to determine with certainty what the steps were by which any particular language was formed, yet if we can show, from the known principles of human nature, how all its various parts might gradually have arisen, the mind is not only to a certain degree satisfied, but a check is given to that indolent philosophy which refers to a miracle whatever appearances,
both in the natural and moral worlds, it is unable to explain.” 1
This quotation from an eminent Scotch philosopher contains the best advice that could be given to the student of the science of language, when he approaches the problem which we have to examine to-day, namely, the origin of language. Though we have stripped that problem of the perplexing and mysterious aspect which it presented to the philosophers of old, yet, even in its simplest form, it seems to be almost beyond the reach of the human understanding.
1 Dugald Stewart, vol. iii. p. 35,