Page images

ed, consisting of sounds produced by imitation, it varies like the people. Each nation forms after its fashion, the onomatopice, or words formed from their resemblance to sound, either in accordance with their various, conception of the sound, which they imitate, or as their organization induces to differently imitate them. Some languages have remained in their infantine state, and are destitute of many of the elements of ours; such are for instance certain languages spoken in Africa and among the South-sea-Islanders. The onomatopice of these languages therefore cannot possibly be ours.

It would be absolutely necessary to understand, all the original, and parent languages, and to have frequented every nation, and people, in order to learn the natural emissions of their voice, the consonants, which they most readily, and naturally adapt to such emissions, in expressing the mental affections, and also to ascertain every method of forming the onomatopice.

But as the Greek language, and almost all those, which are spoken at the present day in Europe, appear to refer to one common origin; since especially the organization of the Greeks, appears to have differed very little from ours, it is in the Greek, that I shall search for examples of the two principles, which I have adduced concerning the formation of language.

The vowel a denotes admiration, surprise ; it also expresses joy, lamentation, and grief. We shall here enter into a partial view of the multiplicity of words, which this single vowel bas procured for the Greek language.

In expressions of astonishment, and admiration, it is prolonged, and the lungs exhale a quantity of air. Hence it is, that this vowel had originally the same signification, as in process of time, when the distinguishing inflexions were imparted to verbs, the verb äw I breathe, possessed, which in its turn produced the substantive áng, the air.*

The a, in mouvements which participate of vivacity, which create pain, which cause fatigue, is shortened, and is usually followed by an aspiration. . Frenchinen whose knowledge is confined to their own, and latin tongue, which they also pronounce like their vernacular language, are very little acquainted with aspirations, and the major part even use none. But the Germans, the nations speaking the Sclavonian tongue, the Spaniards, the Florentines, employ aspirates, more or less rude, and there is one of these aspirates, which many of them designate by the letter g. The g, is also an aspiration employed by the modern Greeks and we have reason to believe, that the same was in use, with

'Aáğw, I exhale, a św exsiccate by breathing upon.

the ancient Greeks. Thus the alpha, followed by a gamma, was considered as an a followed by an aspiration. The aspiration xy, together with the distinctive terminations of the verb äyw retained a great number of different significations. It expressed the action of driving before one, of conducting, of carrying, of attracting, of ravishing, of breaking, of pillaging.

After the Greeks had imparted to the element of the verb, the forms illustrating its persons, and tenses, the third person of the preterite passive of the verb cyw öxtai and without the augment axtai, produced the word äxtn, beach, because the sea-coast presents to our view, fractured bodies, windings, caverns, bays, ports, and gulfs. The word åxtiv, ray, has the same origin, because a ray seems, as it were, to separate, and break the clouds, unless it proceed from the imitative syllable ax, of which, we shall treat in another place.

In speaking of the figurative inflexions of nouns, verbs, and their tenses, we digress greatly from the subject of primitive language. For with regard to the latter, the noun, verb, and its tenses, possessed no distinguishing characteristic; they had no other form, than their constitutive element: thus a followed by an aspiration. expressed all the ideas, represented by the different words, which we have just mentioned.

The same aspiration zy, followed by an a, denotes joy, admiration, aha. Hence á quay, I admire, or rather, I experience a sentiment of admiration, surprise, intermingled with joy ; ásyaw, I revere, because the object, which we revere inspires admiration. From this verb, were derived in course of time, évalós, worthy of being revered, good, brave, generous; ayadaw, I ornament, I adorn, because we delight in ornamenting what we revere, and ayahua, every species of ornament, embroidery, and also the statue of a god, since to erect a statue to a divinity, is to revere him.

It is also from the aspiration ay, that proceeds the word äyos, admiration, forfeit, expiation : acceptions, which appear contrary in themselves, but which harmonize, in consequence of the affinity, which, admiration, and horror bear to each other; both sensations participate of astonishment. The same root moreover, has produced the adverb ayav, much, because a great quantity excites surprise.

* The Greeks pronounce the gamma faintly, before a, o, w, ov, but from the throat, as if they were gargarising it, and make an aspiration after this letter, as if an h followed. Thus äryw is pronounced a--ghw. Before {, 1, 1, &c. it is proBounced like an i: λέγε, λέϊε-άρΠαγή, αρπαγή-αγία, αιά.

The vowel a may be preceded, or followed by an aspiration, stronger than the gamma ; this aspiration, the Germans desig- , nate by the ch, and Greeks expressed it by the letter X.

The vowel a, preceded by the aspiration represented by Xs opens the mouth considerably, and causes a great vacuum in it. Hence, wiw, xaivw, to yawn, to regard stedfastly, to present a chasm, a great vacuum, and many other words nouns, or verbs, which express vacuity, privation, want, also the action of retiring, because we leave vacant the place from whence we retire.*

The same vowel, followed by the same aspiration 2%, expresses a sorrowful sensation, and from this exclamation, were formed the words äxos, grief ; éxéw I suffer ; åx Hos weight, burden, and all the derivative of these words.

The exclamation ai does not appear to be more difficult to the organization of man, than that in a; ai expresses lamentation, and is frequently reiterated. From which, come alaw, I mourn ; aiavos, sorrowful.

But the verb aiw, has been the first production of this exclamation. Considered as expressive of afiliction, this verb is discovered in its derivative aixifw, I maltreat, I cause others to utter lamentations, and in the words aixix, affliction ; aigx, fate, destiny, last moment of life; dis, the habitation of the dead, and Pluto who reigns over them.

The verb diw is sometime merely the effect of breathing, and appears as if a synonyme of aw.t The breathing being regarded, as the principle of life, the verb diw has also signified, to be sensitive, because to live is to have sensation, as without life there is no longer sensation. From aiw in this sense has been deduced airs àvore äisiw, as, I perceive, I understand, I comprehend; from the same word, has also proceeded aiuz the blood, because the warmth of the breath, or vital spirit, has been attributed to the blood. As the first acceptation of the verb diw, is expressive of the respiration, the impetus required in breathing

* From xaw, xáos, chaos. From the same verb, with the Eolie termination, χάσκω, χασκαζω, χατέω, χατεύω, I am destitute of, I am in want, I desire; zaśw, I separate myself

, I am capable of containing ; xariśw, the derivative of xaréw, and preserving the same signification ; xaris, privation ; xáopa, chasm; xáopen the state of a man who remains with his eyes fixed, with his mouth open ; the verb xaopáw expresses this state. It necessarily follows then, that the root χαω

must be one of the most prolific: which proves, that a very fertile language has been formed ont of a few elements.

+ 'Ellei dilov ůior rop. Iliad lib. 15 v. 252. Because I was breathing out my soul, that is to say, because I believed I was hear. ing my last sigh. From ów Eustathius derives aoua, and from diw, diofw, αισθανομαι. .

the atmospheric air, has procured for this verb, the signification of a mouvement, rapid, and impetuous as the wind; this construction is discernible in its derivative disow, I advance, I precipitate myself with impetuosity. The impetuous movements of the goat, induced the Greeks to name this animal aię. Hence the word awr, which signifies an age, and which before mankind had the idea of an age, represented an indeterminate period of time. Time flies with the rapidity of a violent respiration. Moreover aiwy sometimes signifies life.

We have dwelt too long perhaps on the different significations, and derivations arising from the sound a, but we have by no means exbausted a subject so fertile.

Nature has ordained, that the sound e, should express lamentation, in this sense it is usually many times repeated. It is ditficnlt to discover the reason, why the Greeks, or the people froin whom, they received their origin, gave to this same sound, the signification of existence. Could it be, because man laments the moment he is ushered into life, and that his yet feeble organ expresses this lamentation by the sound e? It is more probable that under the idea of existence, they considered the elemente, but the expression of a breathing, soft, and gentle, and that they imparted to it; the same signification, which we express by the word respire.

'Εω, έμι έμμι είμι signifies Ιανη. Before language received inflexions, designed to distinguish the different parts of the discourse, the same sound e represented also the verb to exist, the indeterminate personal pronoun oneself, and the pronoun possessive of the third person. In the latter sense, it has taken the termination os ëos his, é has remained pure, as a personal pronoun.

It is not surprising that the sound e having been regarded as expressive of existence, should be employed to express physical, and moral good. Thus we find frequently in Homer, the genitive plural édur signifying riches. We read in the same poet the word éños, which like évs, appears to signify good.*

The same radix has produced the word éag, springtime: this is the season, wherein we enjoy to a greater degree, the pleasure of existence; it is the season in which, nature prepares to render our existence happy, it is the season when, the respir

* "Ετερος δε εάων Iliad. lib. 24. ν. 528.-Παιδός έήoς ibid. lib. 1 τ. 393. Εύς llais 'Ayxioao. ibid, lib, 12. v. 986. We find θεοί σωτήρες εάων, Odyss. lib. 8. v. 325, and in the Theogony of Hesiod, v. 46, but it is asserted that the commencement of the latter poem even as far as verse 116, was added in after time by a poet, who endeavoured to imitate Hesiod, and who must have taken éàwv froin Homer vide Fr. Guieti notæ in Theogoniam.

ing of the atmospheric air is the most agreeable. According to Eustathius, the great Etymologist, the word ag signifies also the blood, and the respiration. This word proceeds in effect from the sound é, considered as the expression of the breathing,* which induces me to suspect the ancient existence of the verb éxw, I breathe, which is no longer met with, except in the sense of granting, permitting.

When the fundamental parts of a language, consist of vowels only, it is necessary to impart to them, a very extensive signification : thus a signitied to say, to speak ; Ew, huu, onui I say, I speak ; hv, , I have spoken, he has spoken. Some adventitious circumstance must have directed these institutions of language, as the same vowel has been capable of expressing sensations, different and even contrary. When we laugh, we employ the four vowels, a, e, i, o. In lamenting, we use the three vowels, a, e, o. The question is, how have men been able to understand each other? We have explained the reasons. Mankind comprehended each other, because the emission of the a, which expresses laughter, is very diflerent from the a, which denotes grief. Mankind comprehended each other, because society was composed of a small number of individuals. They understood eacli other from force of habit, in the same manner, as a nurse understands the language of the infant at her breast.

The sound i often participates in the one same signification, with the sound e. Both expressa progressive mouvement, which we interpret by the words, to proceed, to walk. By taking away the final inflexion, which forms the infinitive in the words veyal, luer, ieval, there remains only the yowel i, to yo; and this formation of expression belongs to primitive language. The game adaptation influences the Latin tongue: i-re (to go), e-0, (I go), i (go.)

With a rough aspiration, the two sounds, £,. signify to send, to throw, to hurl, to deposit, to clothe : éw, in as I send, I hurl, I clothe, &c. Eluc, foons, a vestment ; istov, a mantle. Hence is deduced fous not used, action of arranging, arrangement ; from which is produced the compound Ouvéas, the art of uniting, intelligence, because, intelligence consists in the proper arrangeinent of the ideas, in a just combination of them. After the same manner,"reoban, to desire, is formed; because, we precipitate ourselves, we spring forward, at least in thought, towards the object of our wishes.

* Which consequently greatly strengthens my opinion on tbe origin of the sounds emplosed in the signiticaliva of existence.

« EelmineJätka »