Page images
PDF
EPUB

as a Frenchman is that vingt contains the remains of deux and dix. Language, therefore, has entered into a new stage as soon as it submits to the attacks of phonetic change. The life of language has become benumbed and extinct in those words or portions of words which show the first traces of this phonetic mould. Henceforth those words or portions of words can be kept up only artificially or by tradition; and, what is important, a distinction is henceforth established between what is substantial or radical, and what is merely formal or grammatical in words.

For let us now take another instance, which will make it clearer, how phonetic corruption leads to the first appearance of so-called grammatical forms. We are not in the habit of looking on twenty as the plural or dual of ten. But how was a plural originally formed ? In Chinese, which from the first has guarded most carefully against the taint of phonetic corruption, the plural is formed in the most sensible manner. Thus, man in Chinese is ĝin ; kiai means the whole or totality. This added to ĝin gives ĝin-kiai, which is the plural of man. There are other words which are used for the same purpose in Chinese ; for instance, péi, which means a class. Hence, i, a stranger, followed by péi, class, gives i-péi, strangers. We have similar plurals in English, but we do not reckon them

as grammatical forms. Thus, man-kind is formed exsactly like i-péi, stranger-kind; Christendom is the same

as all Christians, and clergy is synonymous with clerici. The same process is followed in other cognate languages. In Tibetan the plural is formed by the addition of such words as kun, all, and tsogs, multitude.

1 Foucaux, Grammaire Tibetaine, p. 27, and Preface, p. X.

Even the numerals, nine and hundred, are used for the same purpose.

And here again, as long as these words are fully understood and kept alive, they resist phonetic corruption; but the moment they lose, so to say, their presence of mind, phonetic corruption sets in, and as soon as phonetic corruption has commenced its ravages, those portions of a word which it affects retain a merely artificial or conventional existence, and dwindle down to grammatical terminations.

I am afraid I should tax your patience too much were I to enter here on an analysis of the grammatical terminations in Sanskrit, Greek, or Latin, in order to show how these terminations arose out of independent words, which were slowly reduced to mere dust by the constant wear and tear of speech. But in order to explain how the principle of phonetic decay leads to the formation of grammatical terminations, let us look to languages with which we are more familiar. Let us take the French adverb. We are told by French grammarians 1 that in order to form adverbs we have to add the termination ment. Thus from bon, good, we form bonnement, from vrai, true, vraiment. This termination does not exist in Latin. But we meet in Latin 2 with expressions such as bonâ mente, in good faith. We read in Ovid, “Insistam forti mente,” I shall insist with a strong mind or will, I shall insist strongly ; in French, “ J'insisterai fortement." Therefore, what has happened in the growth of Latin, or in the change of Latin into French, is simply this : in phrases such as forti mente, the last word was no longer felt as a dis

i Fuchs, Romanische Sprachen, s. 355.

2 Quint., v. 10, 52. Bonâ mente factum, ideo palam; malâ, ideo ex insidiis.

T

tinct word, and it lost at the same time its distinct pro-
nunciation. Mente, the ablative of mens, was changed
into ment, and was preserved as a merely formal ele-
ment, as the termination of adverbs, even in cases
where a recollection of the original meaning of mente
(with a mind), would have rendered its employment
perfectly impossible. If we say in French that a ham-
mer falls lourdement, we little suspect that we ascribe
to a piece of iron a heavy mind. In Italian, though
the adverbial termination mente in claramente is no
longer felt as a distinct word, it has not as yet been
affected by phonetic corruption ; and in Spanish it is
sometimes used as a distinct word, though even then it
cannot be said to have retained its distinct meaning.
Thus, instead of saying, “ claramente, concisamente y
elegantemente,” it is more elegant to say in Spanish,
“ clara, concisa y elegante mente."

It is difficult to form any conception of the extent

to which the whole surface of a language may be al-
Ann. Regisler
1917, 4, pp.144-4. tered by what we have just described as phonetic

change. Think that in the French vingt you have
the same elements as in deux and dix; that the sec-
ond part of the French douze, twelve, represents the
Latin decim in duodecim ; that the final te of trente
was originally the Latin ginta in triginta, which ginta

was again a derivation and abbreviation of the Sanskrit
i dasa or da'sati, ten. Then consider how early this

phonetic disease must have broken out. For in the
same manner as vingt in French, veinte in Spanish, and
venti in Italian presuppose the more primitive viginti
which we find in Latin, so this Latin viginti, together
with the Greek eikati, and the Sanskrit vin'sati presup-
pose an earlier language from which they are in turn

derived, and in which, previous to viginti, there must have been a more primitive form dvi-ginti, and previous to this again, another compound as clear and intelligible as the Chinese eúl-shi, consisting of the ancient Aryan names for two, dvi, and ten, dasati. Such is the virulence of this phonetic change, that it will sometimes eat away the whole body of a word, and leave nothing behind but decayed fragments. Thus, sister, which in Sanskrit is svasar,1 appears in Pehlvi and in Ossetian as cho. Daughter, which in Sanskrit is duhitar, has dwindled down in Bohemian to dci (pronounced tsi). Who would believe that tear and larme are derived from the same source; that the French même contains the Latin semetipsissimus ; that in aujourd'hui we have the Latin word dies twice! 3 Who would recognize the Latin pater in the Armenian hayr? Yet we make no difficulty about identifying père and pater ; and as several initial h’s in Armenian correspond to an original p (het =pes, pedis; hing = névte; hour = rūp), it follows that hayr is pater. 4

We are accustomed to call these changes the growth of language, but it would be more appropriate to call this process of phonetic change decay, and thus to distinguish it from the second or dialectical process which we must now examine, and which involves, as you will see, a more real principle of growth.

In order to understand the meaning of dialectical regeneration we must first see clearly what we mean by dialect. We saw before that language has no independent substantial existence.

i Sanskrit s = Persian h; therefore svasar = hvahar. This becomes chohar, chor, and cho. Zend, qanha, acc. qanharem, Persian, kháher. Bopp, Comp. Gram. § 35.

2 Schleicher, Beiträge, b. ii. s. 392: dci = dúgti; gen. dcere = dúgtere. 8 Hui = hodie, Ital. oggi and oggidi ; jour = diurnum, from dies. 4 See M. M.'s Letter to Chevalier Bunsen, On the Turanian Languages,

p. 67.

Language exists in man, it lives in being spoken, it dies with each word that is pronounced, and is no longer heard. It is a mere accident that language should ever have been reduced to writing, and have been made the vehicle of a written literature. Even now the largest number of languages have produced no literature. Among the numerous tribes of Central Asia, Africa, America, and Polynesia, language still lives in its natural state, in a state of continual combustion; and it is there that we must go if we wish to gain an insight into the growth of human speech previous to its being arrested by any literary interference. What we are accustomed to call languages, the literary idioms of Greece, and Rome, and India, of Italy, France, and Spain, must

be considered as artificial, rather than as natural forms as of speech. The real and natural life of language is in

its dialects, and in spite of the tyranny exercised by the classical or literary idioms, the day is still very far off which is to see the dialects, even of such classical languages as Italian and French, entirely eradicated. About twenty of the Italian dialects have been reduced to writing, and made known by the press. Champollion-Figeac reckons the most distinguishable dialects of France at fourteen.2 The number of modern Greek dialects 3 is carried by some as high as seventy, and though many of these are hardly more than local varieties, yet some, like the Tzaconic, differ from the literary language as much as Doric differed from Attic.

1 See Marsh, p. 678; Sir John Stoddart's Glossology, s. 31. 2 Glossology, p. 33.

8 Ibid., p. 29.

« PreviousContinue »