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In the island of Lesbos, villages distant from each other not more than two or three hours have frequently peculiar words of their own, and their own peculiar pronunciation. But let us take a language which, though not without a literature, has been less under the influence of classical writers than Italian or French, and we shall then see at once how abundant the growth of dialects ! The Friesian, which is spoken on a small area on the grisian. north-western coast of Germany, between the Scheldt and Jutland, and on the islands near the shore, which has been spoken there for at least two thousand years, and which possesses literary documents as old as the

twelfth century, is broken up into endless local dia1 lects. I quote from Kohl's Travels. 66 The common

est things,” he writes," which are named almost alike all over Europe, receive quite different names in the different Friesian Islands. Thus, in Amrum, father is called aatj; on the Halligs, baba or babe; in Sylt, foder or vaar; in many districts on the main-land, täte; in the eastern part of Föhr, oti or ohitj. Although these people live within a couple of German miles from each other, these words differ more than the Italian padre and the English father. Even the names of their districts and islands are totally different in different dialects. The island of Sylt is called Söl, Sol, and Sal.Each of these dialects, though it might be made out by a Friesian scholar, is unintelligible except to the peasants of each narrow district in which it prevails. What is therefore generally called the Friesian language, and described as such in Friesian grammars, is in reality

1 Nea Pandora, 1859, Nos. 227, 229. Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung, x. s. 190.

2 Grimm, Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache, p. 668: Marsh, p. 379.

but one out of many dialects, though, no doubt, the most important; and the same holds good with regard to all so-called literary languages.

It is a mistake to imagine that dialects are everywhere corruptions of the literary language. Even in England," the local patois have many forms which are more primitive than the language of Shakespeare, and the richness of their vocabulary surpasses, on many points, that of the classical writers of any period. Dialects have always been the feeders rather than the channels of a literary language; anyhow, they are parallel streams which existed long before one of them was raised to that temporary eminence which is the result of literary cultivation.

What Grimm says of the origin of dialects in general applies only to such as are produced by phonetic corruption. “Dialects," he writes,2 " develop themselves progressively, and the more we look backward in the history of language the smaller is their number, and the less definite their features. All multiplicity arises gradually from an original unity.” So it seems, indeed, if we build our theories of language exclusively on the materials supplied by literary idioms, such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and Gothic. No doubt these are the royal heads in the history of language. But as political history ought to be more than a chronicle of royal dynasties, so the historian of language ought never to

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1 “Some people, who may have been taught to consider the Dorset dialect as having originated from corruption of the written English, may not

be prepared to hear that it is not only a separate offspring from the Anglo1 Saxon tongue, but purer, and in some cases richer, than the dialect which

is chosen as the national speech.” Barnes, Poems in Dorset Dialect, Preface, p. xiv.

2 Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache, s. 833.

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lose sight of those lower and popular strata of speech from which these dynasties originally sprang, and by which alone they are supported.

Here, however, lies the difficulty. How arę we to trace the history of dialects? In the ancient history of language, literary dialects alone supply us with materials, whereas the very existence of spoken dialects is hardly noticed by ancient writers.

We are told, indeed, by Pliny,' that in Colchis there were more than three hundred tribes speaking different dialects; and that the Romans, in order to carry on any intercourse with the natives, had to employ a hundred and thirty interpreters. This is probably an exaggeration ; but we have no reason to doubt the statement of Strabo, who speaks of seventy tribes living together in that country, which, even now, is called “ the mountain of languages.” In modern times, again, when missionaries have devoted themselves to the study of the languages of savage and illiterate tribes, they have seldom been able to do more than to acquire one out of many dialects; and, when their exertions have been at all successful, that dialect which they had reduced to writing, and made the medium of their civilizing influence, soon assumed a kind of literary supremacy, so as to leave the rest behind as barbarous jargons. Yet, whatever is known of the dialects of savage tribes is chiefly or entirely due to missionaries; and it is much to be desired that their attention should again and again be directed to this interesting

1 Pliny, vi. 5; Hervas, Catalogo, i. 118. 2 Pliny depends on Timosthenes, whom Strabo declares untrustworthy {ii. p. 93, ed. Casaub.) Strabo himself says of Dioscurias, ovvépXeogal ÉS αυτήν εβδομήκοντα, οι δε και τριακόσια έθνη φασίν οίς ουδέν των όντων vénel (x. p. 498). The last words refer probably to Timosthenes.


problem of the dialectical life of language which they alone have the means of elucidating. Gabriel Sagard, who was sent as a missionary to the Hurons in 1626, and published his “ Grand Voyage du pays des Hurons," at Paris, in 1631, states that among these North American tribes hardly one village speaks the same language as another; nay, that two families of the same village do not speak exactly the same language. And he adds what is important, that their language

is changing every day, and is already so much changed • that the ancient Huron language is almost entirely dif

ferent from the present. During the last two hundred years, on the contrary, the languages of the Hurons and Iroquois are said not to have changed at all. We read of missionaries 2 in Central America who attempted to write down the language of savage tribes, and who compiled with great care a dictionary of all the words they could lay hold of. Returning to the same tribe after the lapse of only ten years, they found that this dictionary had become antiquated and useless. Old words had sunk to the ground, and new ones had risen to the surface; and to all outward appearance the language was completely changed.

Nothing surprised the Jesuit missionaries so much as the immense number of languages spoken by the natives of America. But this, far from being a proof of a high state of civilization, rather showed that the various races of America had never submitted, for any length of time, to a powerful political concentration, and that they had never succeeded in founding great national empires. Hervas reduces, indeed, all the dialects of America to eleven families 1 - four for the south, and seven for the north ; but this could be done only by the same careful and minute comparison which enables us to class the idioms spoken in Iceland and Ceylon as cognate dialects. For practical purposes the dialects of America are distinct dialects, and the people who speak them are mutually unintelligible.

1 Du Ponceau, p. 110.

2 S. F. Waldeck, Lettre à M. Jomard des environs de Palenque, Amé rique Centrale. (“Il ne pouvait se servir, en 1833, d'un vocabulaire composé avec beaucoup de soin dix ans auparavant.”)

We hear the same observations everywhere where the rank growth of dialects has been watched by intelligent observers. If we turn our eyes to Burmah, we find that there the Burmese has produced a considerable literature, and is the recognized medium of communication not only in Burmah, but likewise in Pegu and Arakan. But the intricate mountain ranges of the peninsula of the Irawaddy2 afford a safe refuge to many independent tribes, speaking their own independent dialects; and in the neighborhood of Manipura alone Captain Gordon collected no less than twelve dialects. “Some of them,” he says, “ are spoken by no more than thirty or forty families, yet so different from the rest as to be unintelligible to the nearest neighborhood.” Brown, the excellent American missionary, who has spent his whole life in preaching the Gospel in that part of the world, tells us that some tribes who

left their native village to settle in another valley, be• came unintelligible to their forefathers in two or three generations.

In the north of Asia the Ostiakes, as Messerschmidt informs us, though really speaking the same language 1 Catalogo, i. 393.

2 Turanian Languages, p. 114. 8 Ibid., p. 233.

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