Page images

former speech. In this state all languages seem to be ; every one displaying affinities for which no assumption of chance can sufficiently account, yet exhibiting disparities that refute the idea of all regular descent and tranquil construction. Hence we may presume, that the languages of the world exhibit features of the primeval unity of human speech, and also the marks of a subsequent abruption and confusion. p. 81.

This view of the subject strikes us as strongly claiming attention, as well by its probability as by its importance. Nor is the value of the suggestion materially diminished by the unsatisfactory nature of some of the data on which the general position is built. We shall very briefly state a few difficulties and objections which have occurred to us, and which we submit to Mr. Turner's consideration. In the first place, the arrangement of specimens appears to us not unexceptionable. Primary languages, mere varieties of dialect, and the barbarous and uncertain jargons of savage tribes, are all confounded; and distinctions are needlessly multiplied without a difference. Thus, for instance, we have Ab, father, with a final B., distinguished from Aba, doba, Apa, and Appa, when the word is evidently identically the same; and it would be just as proper to exhibit as different words, David and Taffid, good, goot or koot, and guid, 'pon and upon, horse and orse or oarse, God, Got, Gwod, Göde, -the mere varieties of provincial accentuation. The same word will often be pronounced differently, according as the next word commences with a vowel or a consonant, and little stress can be laid on variations of orthography. In many instances, there can be no doubt that a word cited as belonging to the specificd language, has been adopted in consequence of intercourse between the natives and the people of another country. Such coincidences are often to be traced to early commerce, to colonization, and to the new ideas introduced by religious instructors : this last circumstance appears to be especially deserving of notice with regard to the American languages. Again, Mr. Turner has supplied us with no means of verifying the accuracy of any of his specimens by giving his authorities. We do not mean to question the existence of any of the languages referred to; such, for instance, as the Arintzi, Sujanisch, Chaszi-ckumuck, Kabutsch, Zamutesch, Ugal-jachmutzi, Sesshafti-Tchugatzi, and others, which Professor Vater, Mr. W. Humboldt, or Mr. Turner may be well acquainted with ; but we should have liked to know the sources of their information. Moreover, as authors differ widely in their orthography, the same sound may be transformed into half a dozen different words, as taken down by an English, German, French, or Russian traveller. For instance, Mr. Turner distinguishes Atja from Atya and Atyat, when the probability is, that not only the word is the same, but its pronunciation also. He has, besides, admitted into his list some palpable colloquialisms, of the origin of which it is not necessary to seek for any further explanation, than the propensity which is discoverable in children and uneducated persons, to play upon words and alter them according to their fancy. Nor do we think that the modern origin of many of the dialects, and of the people or tribe speaking the language cited, ought to have been kept out of sight. For any thing that appears to the contrary in Mr. Turner's paper, it might be supposed, that these five hundred languages all originated at Babel, or very soon after the primitive Dispersion; whereas, in some instances, an ancient language has been the parent of several others, in which, as a vernacular dialect, it has become lost; in other cases, a mixed language has resulted from conquest or colonization ; in a third class, the primary language has suffered deterioration in sympathy with the retrogression of the people towards barbarism; and in a few ascertained cases, a variation of dialect has been the result of arbitrary innovation. Unwritten languages are liable to almost infinite diversification. The languages of Caucasus are said to be as various as the petty principalities into which the country is divided, and to have little or no apparent affinity to each other; exhibiting as great a diversity in the space of a few square miles, as those of many nations do in as many thousands. In fact, while it is the tendency of progressive civilization and mutual intercourse, to blend down various dialects into one common language, a contrary process is the natural result of the dispersion and isolation of different branches of the same family. Mr. Turner would much have strengthened his argument, in our opinion, if he had confined his specimens and reasonings to the marked coincidences and diversities found in the primary languages, arranging the subordinate and accidental variations of dialect under the primitive words. It is obvious, that such diversities or affinities as can be shewn to be of modern origin, must detract so far from the force of his conclusion.

The structure of languages, ather than the mere vocables, might seem to afford the best data for an inquiry into the original affinity of different tongues; and we have sometimes wished to see au attempt at classification founded upon a similarity of formation, rather than on etymological coincidence. Those which possess, so to speak, an internal organization, which are developed by inflexion, are, by that circumstance, essentially distinguished from those in which the only principle of com

position is that of aggregation. The invention of writing must have had a very powerful effect upon those languages wbich were early expressed in alphabetic characters. The invention of vowel characters would also form an important era in the progress of language; the semi-alphabetic languages being necessarily imperfect as a written medium. In a classification of dialects, some would be found to constitute a link between different families; as the Persian appears to partake at once of an affinity to the Semitic class and to the Sanscrit, the parent of the Indo-European family. The Birman, in like manner, so far as known, would seem to form a link between the Indian and the monosyllabic languages. There can be little doubt that the American languages are all originally derived from those of Eastern Asia.

The changes which language would undergo fron) a mere difference of articulation, must be apparent to any on who has attended to the early essays of children,-to the ab' ceviations, substitutions of letters, and other changes which they make in order to accommodate the word to their unpractised organs. A difference of articulation in adults may be the result of various causes, affecting more or less a whole tribe. It may arise from a peculiarity of organization in the throat, mouth, or lip, giving rise to some national shibboleth ; from a slow or rapid habit of utterance ; from the energy and excitability of the people, or the contrary ; from the effect of civilization in refining and harmonizing language ; from delicacy of ear or the want of it; and from artificial causes, such as the custom of mastication, the use of the botoque, &c. And in cases in which there is no written or other educational standard, it is obvious that, from these and similar causes, the same language may, in process of time, branch out into a variety of discordant dialects. We offer these as very crude hints, but possibly they may answer the purpose of stimulating the zeal of some individual who may be better able to pursue the very complicate inquiry.

The eighth paper contains Observations on the River Euphrates, by Sir William Ouseley. A fund of learning is brought to bear on the subject, but, at the close of the paper, the reader is somewhat disappointed to find that he has been conducted through a labyrinth back to the point at which he entered. Sir William informs the Society, that, eleven years ago, he formed a project which he has never been able to realize ; and in this paper, he has attempted to ascertain what he finds unascertainable. Thus much only seems, highly probable; that the name of the Euphrates, which we have received from the Greeks, is compounded, agreeably to Roland's conjecture, of the Persian ab, au, or eu, water, and the original name of the river, Frat, Phrath, or Forat. The latter word is of very uncertain derivation, and Josephus was evidently ignorant of its true etymology: the Euphrates, he says, is called Phora, which signifies either dispersion or a flower.' By Moses of Chorene, the Armenian historian, it is written Ephrat, which comes very near the Greek Euphrates. If its derivation is to be sought for in the Hebrew, we should be strongly inclined to adopt the etymology suggested by Josephus, but with a different meaning. The verb Phar, we are told, signifies' to spread,' which indicates oxidaouor, dispersion. But why may it not indicate the spreading river, in opposition to Diglath or narrow, the ancient name of the Tigris?

The ninth paper, communicated by Archdeacon Nares, contains an historical account of the discoveries made in Palimpsest Manuscripts. This is an interesting notice; but, as we have had occasion to enter into the subject at some length in reviewing the Cicero de Republica,* we shall pass it by with the remark, that the Royal Society of Literature could not do itself greater honour than by promoting and rewarding similar discoveries, and by facilitating their publication.

Article X. contains an account, by the Rev. H. J. Todd, of a M.S. in the library belonging to the Dean and Chapter of York, which appears to be the work of the accomplished Sir John Harington. It is entitled : " A Collection of Passages “ of State under Queen Elizabeth and King James.” The Writer discovers an anxiety, in more than one instance, to vindicate the character of Queen Elizabeth ; and bis opinion, on the points referred to, must be allowed to carry some weight, but, as it was formed upon the testimony of others, it cannot be admitted as original evidence. We transcribe Sir John's 'epigrammatical epitaphe' upon the Queen of Scots, which is given in one of the extracts.

• When doome of peers, and judges preappointed,

By straining laws beyond all reach of reason,
Had vnto death condemn’d a Queen annoynted,

And found (oh straunge) without allegiance, Treason;
That axe, that should have done this execution,

Shun'd to cut off an head that had bene crowned :
Our hangman lost his wonted resolution

To quell a Queene of nobles so renowned.
Ah, is remorse in hangmen and in steel,

peers and judges no remorse can feel ? Graunt, Lorde, that in this noble lle a Queen Without a head may never more be seen.'

* Ecl. Rev. N.S. Vol. XX. p. 413.

- The epigram would have been more perfect, without the loyal but ominous wish expressed in the last couplet. Sir John little anticipated that the next crowned head that should suffer similar dishonour, would be that of the King of England.

The next two papers, communicated by James Millingen, Esq. and W. Martin Leake, Esq., contain historical dissertations on a Coin of Metapontum, and some coins of the city of Kierion in Thessaly. They are valuable as illustrating the history and topography of ancient Greece, but would scarcely interest our readers in the shape of a dry analysis. The following paper, communicated by Mr. Todd, contains a critical description of a Codex containing several Greek Manuscripts, biblical and classical, belonging to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the loan of which was obtained by the late Professor Carlyle and Dr. Hunt, and which were for some time in the possession of the Archbishop of Canterbury. For the description, the learned world are indebted to the late Dr. Charles Burney, who examined it previously to its being reclaimed by the Patriarch.

Art. XIV., is a paper upon a much disputed point in political economy;

• the measure of the conditions necessary to ' the supply of commodities.' It is from the pen of Mr. Malthus, and is designed to shew, that the natural and necessary • conditions of the supply of all commodities not subject to a

monopoly, are represented and measured by the labour which • they will ordinarily, and on an average, command ; and that • no other object whatever can be substituted for labour, or • can represent and measure the natural and necessary con• ditions of the supply of commodities.' By the somewhat intricate periphrase natural and necessary condition of the • supply of commodities,' Mr. Malthus intends, as he informs us, 'the natural and necessary costs of production ;' and we regret that he has not adhered to the more simple and intelligible expression. His reason for preferring the former phrase, he says, is, that the term cost, if not well guarded, is too apt • to convey the idea of money expenditure. The natural way to obviate this mistake, then, would be to guard the term. But we cannot allow that, to persons accustomed to such inquiries, the term cost would necessarily connect itself with money; and to unpractised readers, what may be gained in accuracy, by substituting the circumlocutory phrase, is lost in perspicuity. As Mr. Malthus promises to continue the discussion in a future paper, we shall waive for the present any remarks upon the doctrine he propounds. We cannot, however, refrain from expressing our regret that he should affect a style so unneces

« PreviousContinue »