« EelmineJätka »
Noun applied as an adjective:
Gewita, conscious; hence a witness.
Verbs formed from the noun:
witan, to know, to perceive.
Adjectives composed of the ancient noun, and an additional syllable or word :
wittig, wise, skilled, ingenious, prudent.
ge witscoc, ill in mind, demoniac.
Secondary nouns formed of the ancient noun and another noun:
witedom, the knowledge of judgment, prediction.
witega, a prophet.
wite clofe, trifles.
witword, the answer of the wise.
Nouns of more recent date, having been formed out of the adjectives:
witigdom, knowledge, wisdom, prescience.
witolnesse, knowledge, wisdom.
Secondary adjective, or one formed upon the secondary noun :
witedlice, indeed, for, but, to-wit.
Adverbs formed from participles and adjectives:
Ge-thanc, the mind, thought, opinion.
Secondary meaning :-an act of the will, or thanks.
Verbs formed from the noun:
And from the consequence conferred by sitting at the council, came
gethincth, honour, dignity.
to think, to conceive, to feel, to reason, to consider.
Secondary verb, from one of these secondary nouns :
getheahtian, to consult.
More recent noun, formed from the secondary verb :
Another secondary verb :
Ymbethencan, to think about any thing.
Adjective from a secondary verb :
Adverb from one of the adjectives:
These specimens will evince to the observing eye how the Anglo-Saxon language has been formed; and they also indicate that it had become very far removed from a rude state of speech. These derivative compounds imply much cultivation and exercise, and a considerable portion of mental discrimination. It is, indeed, in such an advanced state, that novels, moral essays, dramas, and the poetry of nature and feeling might be written ‘in pure Anglo-Saxon, without any perceptible deficiency of appropriate terms (1).
(1) It was remarked in our first volume, that the three great stems of language in Europe were the Keltic; the Gothic, of which the Anglo-Saxon is a main branch; and the Sclavonic. We may here add, that other languages from Asia have also entered the northern and eastern parts of the European continent. The principal of these are the five related, but not identical languages of Lapland, Finland, and Hungary, and the Esthonian and Lettish. Professor Rask describes the Finnish as an original, regular, and graceful tongue, very melodious from the pleasing distribution of its vowels and consonants, and rich in a great variety of compound words, and with a boundless power of creating them. Its nouns have twelve cases, though only two or three déclensions; and its verbs, though usually conjugated according to one common rule, have more forms than the Latin. Although it has a great variety of adverbs and prepositions, all its nouns are susceptible of twelve or fifteen modifications of purpose, possession, time, and place. It is remarkable that this Finnish language should want the first five consonants of our language, b, c, d, f, g. Its alphabet consists of only twelve consonants, but it has eight vowels. It is supposed to form the connecting link between the Esthonian and the Laplandish. Like the latter, it exhibits affinities with the Hungarian. The chief foreign works on it are Renvall's Dissertatio, Aboæ, 1815. Ganander's Myth. Fennica, Abo. 1789. Vhael's Gram. Fennica, Hels. 1821. Lenquist de Superst. Vet. Fenn. and Gottlund de Proverb. Fennica. The best English account of it is in the West. Rov. No. 14. p. 317.
On the Originality of the Anglo-Saxon Language.
It is difficult to ascertain the originality of the Saxon language; because, however rude the people who used it may have appeared to us, it is a fact that their language comes to us in a very cultivated shape.
Its cultivation is not only proved by its copiousness - by its numerous synonymes-by the declension of its nouns-the conjugation of its verbs -its abbreviated verbs, or conjunctions, adverbs, and prepositions, and its epithets or adjectives; but also by its great number of compound words applying to every shade of meaning.
By the Anglo-Saxon appearing to us in a state so advanced, it is very difficult to ascertain its originality. It is difficult, when we find words corresponding with those of other languages, to distinguish those which it originally had, like the terms of other tongues, and those which it had imported.
The conjugation of its substantive verb, however, proves that it is by no means in its state of original purity; for instead of this being one verb, with inflections of itself throughout its tenses, it is composed of the fragments of no fewer than five substantive verbs, the primitive terms of which appear in other languages. The fragments of these five words are huddled together in the Anglo-Saxon, and thus make up its usual conjugations.
To perceive this curious fact, it will be useful to recollect the same verb in the Greek and Latin.
In the Greek, the verb is regularly deflected through almost all its tenses and persons. In the Latin it is otherwise. We begin these with sum, and pass directly to the inflections of another word more like the Greek; but the inflections of sum are frequently intermixed. Thus,.
Here we see at one glance two verbs deflecting; the one into sum, sumus, sunt; the other into es, est, estis. In the imperfect and future tenses eram and ero, we see one of the verbs continuing; but in the perfect, fui, a new deflecting verb suddenly appears to us:
fui, fuisti, fuit, fuimus, fuistis, fuerunt.
In another of its tenses we have the curious exhibition of two of the former verbs being joined together to make a new inflection; as,
This is literally a combination of fui and ero; which indeed its meaning implies, "I shall have been."
"Among the most curious fragments of ancient Finnish literature, are the fables. They consist of dialogues between rocks and rivers and forests; between birds, beasts, fishes, and human beings." Ibid. 339. The Finnish, Lettish, Esthonian, Laplandish, and Hungarian languages form the fourth and latest stream of human speech that has entered Europe from Asia, and probably came into it at the period of the first Hunnish invasion.
The Anglo-Saxon substantive verb is also composed out of several verbs. We can trace no fewer than five in its different inflections.
ar, arth, and am, are,
sy, sy, sy, synd,
wæs, wære, wæs, wæron,
The infinitive is beon, or wesan, to be.
These are the common inflections of the above tenses; but we sometimes find the following variations :
For I am, we sometimes have eom, am, om, beo, ar, sy; for thou art, we have occasionally eart, arth, bist, es, sy; for he is, we have ys, bith, sy;
and for the plural we have synd, syndon, synt, sien, beoth, and bithon.
In these inflections we may distinctly see five verbs, whose conjugations are intermixed:
eom, es, ys,
are of one family, and resemble the Greek ειμι,
proceed from another parent, and are not unlike the Latin eram.
Se, thæs, tham,
are from another, and recall to our minds the Latin sum and sunt.
beon, bist, bith, beoth,
But it is curious to consider the source of the last verb, beo, and beon, which the Flemings and Germans retain in ik ben and ich bin, I am.
The verb beo seems to have been derived from the Cimmerian or Celtic language, which was the earliest that appeared in Europe; because the Welsh, which has retained most of this tongue, has the infinitive bod, and some of its reflections. The perfect tense is
seem referable to another branch, of which the infinitive, wesan, was retained in the Anglo-Saxon.
belong to a distinct family, whose infinitive, beon, was kept in use.
bum, buost, bu, buam, buac, buant,
The Anglo-Saxon article is also compounded of two words; as,
Se and that are obviously distinct words.
When we consider these facts, and the many Anglo-Saxon nouns which can be traced into other languages, it cannot be affirmed that the AngloSaxon exhibits to us an original language. It is an ancient language, and has preserved much of the primitive form; but a large portion of it seems to have been made up from other ancient languages.
The affinities which I collected on the substantive verb were stated in a letter to the Royal Society of Literature, which has been printed in their Transactions, vol. i. p. 101.
seo, thære, thære,
On the Copiousness of the Saxon Language.
This language has been thought to be a very rude and barren tongue, incapable of expressing any thing but the most simple and barbarous ideas. The truth, however, is, that it is a very copious language, and is capable of expressing any subject of human thought. In the technical terms of those arts and sciences which have been discovered, or much improved, since the Norman Conquest, it must of course be deficient. But books of history, belles lettres, and poetry, may be now written in it, with considerable precision and correctness, and even with much discrimination, and some elegance of expression.
The Saxon abounds with synonymes. I will give a few instances of those which my memory can supply. To express
For persons possessing power and authority they used
Besides the compounds
And besides the official names of
For property they had in use the terms
Besides the metaphors from the metals and coins.
(1) The Finnish word for woman is waimo.