Page images
PDF
EPUB

interest which he has evinced in this, as well as in every other branch of trade and commerce. For the royal visit, with which our beloved Sovereign, accompanied by her enlightened and distinguished Consort, recently honoured the nursery and abode of the cotton trade, I would record not only my own, but the dutiful thanks of Lancashire. A warmhearted and generous people manifested their joy and loyalty for the presence of their Monarch, and also for that recognition of their labour which had previously been almost unacknowledged by, and unknown to, the previous rulers of Great Britain.

To the Society of Arts, for its powerful aid in promoting the success of the late Exhibition, the industrial community of this, and of every country, is greatly indebted.

Another such Exhibition cannot be anticipated or expected by ourselves, but our successors may gather into a more splendid palace than we hava erected, their achievements of labour, mental and physical, excelling their fathers in every proficiency that can adorn and improve man's sojourn here, and contribute to his domestic comfort and the perfecting of his intellectual powers. To such "a consummation, so devoutly to be wished," may the heir apparent of the British throne direct his future energies--his royal parents being long spared to minister to the just wants of a faithful and devoted people ; and may the sons of progress, from every country in an improving world, assemble under his auspices, again to proclaim from the side of another and more magnificent crystal fountain who there, in peaceful array, shall have most promoted the interests of art and industry, and the solid and enduring happiness of the whole human family.

ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE.

BY LEO

LEO H. GRINDON,
Author of "Life;" "The Manchester Flora," &c.

[ocr errors]

Deftered before the Manchester Excelsior Society, October, 1858. ]

Is looking for the origin of language, we naturally turn our eyes to the East, as the source of the human family, and thus the source of languages. People are very ready to account for the diversity of language, by referring to Babel and the dispersion of mankind; but you will see, upon reflection, that a vast number of languages now spoken cannot possibly have had any connection with the Tower of Babel and the dispersion of mankind, because they have originated so very recently, in comparison with that event. The English, French, Spanish, and Italian languages have existed only a few hundred years, and cannot therefore have originated, as such, at Babel. We naturally turn, then, to the East for the beginning of language, as well as for the beginning of the human race, and we find that the great families or stocks of languages, as they are termed, may be referred to those parts of Asia which are generally believed to have been the first inhabited by our species. It is better in an inquiry of this kind, which is so vast, to take some limited area that we can travel over with comfort and satisfaction in the course of one evening, such as the languages which appertain specially to Europe, and to those Asiatic nations with which we are ethnologically allied,

[graphic]

-the group called the Indo-Germanic, which comprises five great families or sub-divisions, viz: the family of languages, of which the Sanscrit is the type; that of which the Græco-Latin is the type; the ancient Celtic, now extinct except in the Highlands, in Wales, in Brittany, and in some parts of Ireland; the great family known as the Gothic, com. prehending all the truly Germanic languages; and lastly the Sclavonic. All these families of languages have a number of features in common, yet they have very marked differences; but the affinities quite outnumber the dissimilarities, and thus they are all brought together under this one name of the Indo-Germanic stock of languages.

The word stock is a kind of generic term, including all these various families. We will assume, then, that we want to ascertain the origin of the various languages comprised in this Indo-Germanic stock, and how it is that they have divaricated, or spread abroad one from another in so wonderful a way as to have given us Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, English, and so forth. We must not, in speaking of tribes and languages coming from the East, consider that they came from the East as languages and as tribes. These languages were not framed in the East any more than the tribes were born and brought up in the East, and sent forth collectively from the East. The tribes were developed into tribes in their gra. dual progress in the course of migration farther and farther westward or northward; and the languages grew up in course of time as the various peoples with whom they originated travelled farther and farther. Every language was many years, probably many centuries, in growing. Languages and tribes of people are like trees, originating in little germs and gradually developing stems, branches, and leaves, and the other parts of the tree; all of which have their representatives in language. The most ancient family of the Indo-Germanie stock appears to be that of which the Sanscrit is the type; a language as ancient that exquisite compositions wero produced in it of the very highest class of literature, as far back as the time of the Emperor Augustus. Calidasa, the Shakspere of India, who fourished about the time of Augustus, shows in his poetne, as did all his contemporaries, that the language was then in perfection. There were earlier and less perfect forms, but the most finished specimens that have been preserved belong to that period. The affinities between the ancient Sanscrit, which has long since ceased to be a spoken language, and the English language, are extensive and remarkable; there are affinities both in the structure of the words and even in the sense of particular terms.

[graphic]

The English word to kiss is properly the Sanscrit word fut to embrace, spelt certainly with different vowels, but the same word essentially. With this ancient language are included, as derivatives, many of those now spoken in India, and the adjacent countries. Intimately connected with them was the basis of Latin, including the Greek language primarily, and the great family which we now call the Græcothe Latin or Roman language, the latter not to be raganded as commonly a derivative from the Greek, but as growing up simultaneously in the mouths of some great company of emigrants who moved farther westward, and took possession of the peninsila we now call Italy. Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin appear to have grown up at the same time; the language becoming Sanscrit with those people who remained in India; Greek with those who emigrated into the Hellenic peninsula; and Latin with those who removed still farther to the west. Why should it become these three separate languages? Why did the same original form become developed into ture such very different complexions, as we have in tuose three great classes of languages ? or, to restriot oneselves even to the Greek and Latin forms,

[graphic]

why should the same original people, merely througa having moved into the Italian peninsula, originate 80 different a language? If we can ascertain this, it will give us the key to why the descendants of those people should have developed in subsequent ages French, Italian, Spanish, English, &c. "The grounds of the difference in language, although brought from one spot by one people, may be referred to the influence of climate, to congenital differences in the structure of the organs of speech, to the influences of commerce and conquest, to progress in science and philosophy, to the influence of theological views, and in fact to all that large variety of external influences which we find causing changes in everything else belonging to the human mind. Perhaps in the history simply of the organs of speech, we shall find one chief clue, and possibly the most interesting. We must remember that words are sounds; we must disabuse our minds of the idea of words being marks written down with a pen or pencil, or as certain combinations of alphabetic symbols. Words are sounds, and all words and all languages existed for very long periods before any attempt was made to write them down. All words and all languages at first, were of a purely phonetic character. Let

two or three persons using the same words move into different parts of the country, and be subjected to different climatic influences, and they will find that after a separation of 15 or 20 years, little differences in the mode of pronunciation have grown up they know not how or why; but the fact is plain enough. We have it illustrated in the provincialisms of our own country. We are all descended from the same old Saxon and British families, with an admixture of Norman; and yet what different dialects we have in Somersetshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. Carry out that idea on a grand scale, and you see why the Greeks and Romans should speak different lan

« EelmineJätka »