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as a verb in the sense of literary composition. All these, he might say, are expressed in that strange dialect by the sound rait (right, rite, wright, write). He might likewise observe that this dialect, as poor almost as Chinese, had hardly any grammatical inflections, and that it had no genders, except in a few words such as man-of-war, and a railway-engine, which were both conceived as feminine beings, and spoken of as she. He might then mention an even more extraordinary feature, namely, that although this language had no terminations for the masculine and feminine genders of nouns, it employed a masculine and feminine termination after the affirmative particle, according as it was addressed to a lady or a gentleman. Their affirmative particle being the same as the English, Yes, they added a final r to it if addressed to a man, and a final m if addressed to a lady : that is to say, instead of simply saying, Yes, these descendants of the escaped American slaves said Yesr to a man, and Yesm to a lady. Absurd as this may sound, I can assure you
that the descriptions which are given of the dialects of savage tribes, as explained for the first time by travellers or missionaries, are even more extraordinary. But let us consider now what the student of language would have to do, if such forms as Yesr and Yesm were, for the first time, brought under his notice. He would first have to trace them back historically, as far as possible to their more original types, and if he discovered their connection with Yes Sir and Yes Ma'm, he would point out how such contractions were most likely to spring up in a vulgar dialect. After having traced back the Year and Yesm of the free African negroes
to the idiom of their former American masters, the etymologist would next inquire how such phrases as Yes Sir and Yes Madam, came to be used on the American continent.
Finding nothing analogous in the dialects of the aboriginal inhabitants of America, he would be led, by a mere comparison of words, to the languages of Europe, and here again, first to the language of England. Even if no historical documents had been preserved, the documents of language would show that the white masters, whose language the ancestors of the free Africans adopted during their servitude, came originally from England, and, within certain limits, it would even be possible to fix the time when the English language was first transplanted to America. That language must have passed, at least, the age of Chaucer before it migrated to the New World. For Chaucer has two affirmative particles, Yea and Yes, and he distinguishes between the two. He uses Yes only in answer to negative questions. For instance, in answer to “ Does he not go ?” he would say, Yes. In all other cases Chaucer uses Yea. To a question, “Does he go ?” he would answer Yea. He observes the same distinction between No and Nay, the former being used after negative, the latter after all other questions. This distinction became obsolete soon after Sir Thomas More, and it must have become obsolete before phrases such as Yes Sir and Yes Madam could have assumed their stereotyped character.
But there is still more historical information to be gained from these phrases. The word Yes is AngloSaxon, the same as the German Ja, and it therefore reveals the fact that the white masters of the American slaves who crossed the Atlantic after the time of Chaucer, had crossed the Channel at an earlier period after leaving the continental fatherland of the Angles and Saxons. The words Sir and Madam tell us still more. They are Norman words, and they could only have been imposed on the Anglo-Saxons of Britain by Norman conquerors. They tell us more than this. For these Normans or Northmen spoke originally a Teutonic dialect, closely allied to Anglo-Saxon, and in that dialect words such as Sir and Madam could never have sprung up: We may conclude therefore that, previous to the Norman conquest, the Teutonic Northmen must have made a sufficiently long stay in one of the Roman provinces to forget their own and adopt the language of the Roman Provincials.
1 Marsh, p. 579.
We may now trace back the Norman Madam to the French Madame, and we recognize in this a corruption of the Latin Mea domina, my mistress. Domina was changed into domna, donna, and dame, and the same word Dame was also used as a masculine in the sense of lord, as a corruption of Domino, Domno and Donno. The temporal lord ruling as ecclesiastical seigneur under the bishop, was called a vidame, as the Vidame of Chartres, &c. The French interjection Dame! has no connection with a similar exclamation in English, but it simply means Lord! Dame-Dieu in old French is Lord God. A derivative of Domina, mistress, was dominicella, which became Demoiselle and Damsel. The masculine Dame for Domino, Lord, was afterwards replaced by the Latin Senior, a translation of the German elder. This word elder was a title of honor, and we have it still both in alderman, and in what is originally the same, the English Earl, the Norse Jarl, a corruption of the A.-S. ealdor. This title Senior, meaning originally older, was but rarely applied to ladies as a title of honor. Senior was changed into Seigneur, Seigneur into Sieur, and Sieur soon dwindled down to Sir.
Thus we see how in two short phrases, such as Yesr and Yesm, long chapters of history might be read. If a general destruction of books, such as took place in China under the Emperor Thsin-chi-hoang-ti (213 B. c.), should sweep away all historical documents, language,
even in its most depraved state, would preserve the - secrets of the past, and would tell future generations
of the home and migrations of their ancestors from the East to the West Indies.
It may seem startling at first to find the same name, the East Indies and the West Indies, at the two extremities of the Aryan migrations; but these very names are full of historical meaning. They tell us how the Teutonic race, the most vigorous and enterprising of all the members of the Aryan family, gave the name of West Indies to the country which in their worldcompassing migrations they imagined to be India itself; how they discovered their mistake and then distinguished between the East Indies and West Indies ; how they planted new states in the west, and regenerated the effete kingdoms in the east ; how they preached Christianity, and at last practised it by abolishing slavery of body and mind among the slaves of West-Indian landholders, and the slaves of Brahmanical soulholders, till they greeted at last the very homes from which the Aryan family had started when setting out on their discovery of the world. All this, and even more, may be read in the vast archives of language. The very name of India has a story to tell, for India is not a native name. We have it from the
1 In Old Portuguese, Diez mentions senhor rainha, mia sennor formosa, my beautiful mistress.
Romans, the Romans from the Greeks, the Greeks from . the Persians. And why from the Persians ? Because
it is only in Persian that an initial s is changed into h, which initial h was as usual dropped in Greek. It is only in Persian that the country of the Sindhu (sindhu is the Sanskrit name for river), or of the seven sindhus, could have been called Hindia or India instead of Sindia. Unless the followers of Zoroaster had pronounced every s like h, we should never have heard of the West Indies!
We have thus seen by an imaginary instance what we must be prepared for in the growth of language, and we shall now better understand why it must be laid down as a fundamental principle in Comparative Grammar to look upon nothing in language as merely formal, till every attempt has been made to trace the formal elements of language back to their original and substantial prototypes. We are accustomed to the idea of grammatical terminations modifying the meaning of words. But words can be modified by words only; and though in the present state of our science it would be too much to say that all
grammatical terminations have been traced back to original independent words, so many of them have, even in cases where only a single letter was left, that we may well lay it down as a rule that all formal elements of language were originally substantial. Suppose English had never been written down before the time of Piers Ploughman. What should we make of such a form as