« PreviousContinue »
in Latin as the representative of an original dental aspirate (th or dh).
In Gothic, too, the real aspirates are wanting, unless th was pronounced as such. In the guttural and labial series we have only the breathings h and f. The same seems to apply to Old High-German.
In the Slavonic languages, including Lithuanian, the aspirates were originally absent.
We see, therefore, that the aspirated letters exist only in Sanskrit and Greek, that in the former they are chiefly soft, in the latter entirely hard.
Let us now consider Grimm's Law. It is this: « If the same roots or the same words exist in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic, Lithuanian, Gothic, and High-German, then wherever the Hindus and the Greeks pronounce an aspirate, the Goths and the Low-Germans generally, the Saxons, AngloSaxons, Frisians, &c., pronounce the corresponding soft check, the Old High-Germans the corresponding hard check. In this first change the Lithuanian, the Slavonic, and the Celtic races agree in pronunciation with the Gothic. We thus arrive at the first formula:
I. Greek and Sansk. ΚΗ TH
G D B
T Р Secondly, if in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Lithuanian,
i The letters here used are to be considered merely as symbols, not as the real letters occurring in those languages. If we translate these symbols into real letters, we find, in Formula I., instead of
bh, h Greek
h, f (8V, 6, ,') f(d, b) f(b)
Slavonic, and Celtic, we find a soft check, then we find a corresponding hard check in Gothic, a corresponding breath in Old High-German. This gives as the second formula:
IV. Greek, &c. G D
K T P
z F (Ph) Thirdly, when the six first-named languages show a hard consonant, then Gothic shows the corresponding breath, Old High-German the corresponding soft check. In Old High-German, however, the law holds good with regard to the dental series only, while in the guttural and labial series the Old HighGerman documents generally exhibith and f, instead of the corresponding mediæ g and b. This gives us the third formula : VII. Greek, &c. K
F (B, V) It will be seen at once that these changes cannot be considered as the result of phonetic corruption. Phonetic corruption always follows one and the same direction.
It always goes downward, but it does not rise again. Now it may be true, as Grimm says, that it shows a certain pride and pluck on the part of the Teutonic nations to have raised the soft to a hard, and the hard to an aspirated letter. But if this were so, would not the dwindling down of the aspirate, the boldest of the bold, into the media, the meekest of meek letters, evince the very opposite tendency? We must not forget that this phonetic law, which Grimm has well compared with a three
1 Cf. Curtius, Kuhn's Zeitschrift, ii. 330.
spoked wheel, turns round completely, and that what seems a rise in one spoke is a fall in the other. Therefore we should not gain much if, instead of looking upon Lautverschiebung as a process of phonetic strengthening, we tried to explain it as a process of phonetic weakening. For though we might consider the aspiration of the hard t as the beginning of a phonetic infection (th) which gradually led to the softening of t to d, we should have on the other side to account for the transition of the d into t by a process of phonetic reinvigoration. We are in a vicious circle out of which there is no escape unless we look at the whole process from a different point of view.
Who tells us that Greek t ever became Gothic th? What idea do we connect with the phrase, so often heard, that a Greek t becomes Gothic th? How can a Greek consonant become a Gothic consonant, or a Greek word become a Gothic word ? Even an Italian word never becomes a Spanish word; an Italian t, as in amato, never becomes a Spanish d, as in amado. They both come from a common source, the Latin; and the Greek and Gothic both come from a common source, the old Aryan language. Instead of attempting to explain the differences between Greek and Gothic by referring one to the other, we ought rather to trace back both to a common source from which each may have started with its peculiar consonantal structure.
Now we know from the physiological analysis of the alphabet, that three, or sometimes four, varieties exist for each of the three consonantal contacts. We may
1 See Lottner, Zeitschrift, xi. p. 204; Förstemann, ibil. i. 170.
pronounce p as a hard letter, by cutting the breath sharply with our lips; we may pronounce it as a soft letter, by allowing the refraining pressure to be heard while we form the contact; and we may pronounce it an aspirate by letting an audible emission of breath follow immediately on the utterance of the hard or the soft letter. Thus we get for each point of consonantal contact four varieties:
k, kh, g, gh,
. p, ph, b, bh. This rich variety of consonantal contact is to be found, however, in highly-developed languages only. Even among the Aryan dialects, Sanskrit alone can boast of possessing it entire. But if we look beyond the Aryan frontiers, and examine such dialects as, for instance, the Hawaian, we see, first, that even the simplest distinction, that between hard and soft contact, has not yet been achieved. A Hawaian, as we saw, not only finds it extremely difficult to distin. guish between k and t; he likewise fails to perceive any difference between k and g, t and d, p and b. The same applies to other Polynesian languages. In Finnish, the distinction between k, t, p, and y, d, b, is of modern date, and owing to foreign influence. The Finnish itself recognizes no such distinction in the formation of its roots and vocables, whereas in cognate dialects, such as Hungarian, that distinction has been fully developed (Boller, Die Finnischen Sprachen, p. 12).
Secondly, in some of the Polynesian languages we find an uncertainty between the hard checks and
their corresponding hard breaths. We find the New Zealand poe, ball, pronounced foe in Tonga, just as we find the Sanskrit pati represented in Gothic by fath-s.
Now the introduction of the differences of articulation in more highly developed languages had an object. As new conceptions craved expression, the phonetic organs were driven to new devices which gradually assumed a more settled, traditional, typical form. It is possible to speak without labials, it is possible to say a great deal in a language which has but seven consonants, just as it is possible for a mollusk to eat without lips, and to enjoy life without either lungs or liver. I believe there was a far, far distant time when the Aryan nations (if we may call them so) had no aspirates at all. A very imperfect alphabet will suffice for the lower states of thought and speech; but, with the progress of the mind, a corresponding development will take place in the articulation of letters. Some dialects, as we saw, never arrived at more than one set of aspirates, others ignored them altogether, or lost them again in the course of time. But I believe it can be proved that before the Aryan nations, such as we know them, separated, some of them, at all events, had elaborated a threefold modification of the consonantal checks. The Aryans, before they separated, had, for instance, three roots, tar, dar, and dhar, differing chiefly by their initial consonants which represent three varieties of dental contact. Tar meant to cross, dar, to tear, dhar, to hold. Now although we may not know exactly how the Aryans before
1 Hale, Polynesian Grammar, p. 232.