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We have here the Second Series ture obscured to the youthful mind of Lectures which Max Müller (for by a thousand difficulties,-even he all the world writes simply Max may at length be able to detect the Müller, without any prefix—a sign, most delicate shades of meaning in we take it, of general friendliness a Greek or Latin epithet, and yet and respect) has delivered before may never have dreamt of that the Royal Institution of Great Bri- laborious and ingenious study which tain on the science of language. the scientific etymologist is now No one could reasonably expect that engaged in. It has long been a it would equal in interest the first favourite theme of the speculative series, which naturally took posses- philosopher to describe what might sion of the salient topics and the have been the origin and progreswide theoretical views now connect- sive development of human speech. ed with the scientific study of lan- Well, the scientific etymologist guage. But though, on this account, undertakes, by collating all the necessarily inferior to their prede- languages of the earth, and all the cessors, these Lectures will, we are histories of those who speak or sure, be greedily seized upon by have spoken them, to solve the that omnivorous person, the Gene- same problem. The psychologist, ral Reader, who is avid of instruc- arguing from the nature of human tion when conveyed in a clear and thought and the order of human intelligent manner. They are some knowledge, forms his theory, and what miscellaneous in their charac- it is well and necessary that he ter, and the observations they may should do so; but his theory resuggest to us will be of the same mains a mere speculation till it is miscellaneous description.

verified by the analysis and the hisThe study of languages by those tory of the actual languages which who wish to enjoy or fully to com- have been spoken by man. Do not prehend the various literatures of let the rapid speculator, content the world, ancient or modern, and with his, perhaps, too facile method the study of language itself, or ar- of deduction_his inferences from ticulate speech, as the pre-eminent broad psychological principles gift or faculty of the human race, look with contempt upon the slow are two very different things. The labours of those who proceed by ordinary scholar who delights in the historic or etymological method; his Horace, and fights over again nor let these last, confident in what the battles of Homer, may be as seems to them the secure basis of ignorant of all that pertains to this fact, despise the bold generalisalatter study as the mere English tions of those who take their stand reader, left benighted, as it is gen- on the philosophy of mind : the erally supposed, or relegated to two classes of thinkers are necessuch limited culture as he can ex- sary to each other. The philolotract from the literature of one gist would never have given a usemodern language. Even our for- ful direction to his labours if he tunate scholar, our model student, had not been also in some measure educated after that manner which a psychologist ; and it is above all all Europe seems at present to ap- things gratifying to observe that prove, which presents words as the some of the most important conchief object of knowledge, and in- clusions arrived at by the speculaducts us into thinking by a litera- tive philosopher have been con

Lectures on the Science of Language, delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.' By Max Müller, M.A. Second Series.



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firmed by those who have carefully horizontally or perpendicularly, from analysed the various languages of right to left or from left to right. mankind, and (so far as this is pos

Lichtenberg maintained that they must sible) traced their course histori- Grotefend, in 1802, proved that the let

be read in the same direction as Hebrew. to the most cally.

ters followed each other, as in Greek, nd diffentie- Nothing is more easy than to from left to right. Even before Groteh be able to si dabble in etymology, and no study fend, Münter and Tychsen had obe shades of us is more laborious than that of the served that there was a sign to separate Latin epizre veritable philologist. Thus it hap- the words. Such a sign is, of course, have druzit pens that as all persons are capable ciphering inscriptions, for it lays bare

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attempts at deingeniouscar

of amusing themselves, or pestering at once the terminations of hundreds of

their neighbours, by fantastic deri- words, and, in an Aryan language, supIt has ha vations, and as very few are able plies us with a skeleton of its grammar,

or willing to pursue those studies Yet consider the difficulties that had that would enable them to discri- yet to be overcome before a single line

minate between these etymologies could be read. It was unknown in ent of hann of the ear and such as are sanc

what language these inscriptions were tioned by general principles (de- tic, a Turanian, or an Aryan language.

composed; cientiłe ett

might have been a Semiduced from a wide examination of It was unknown to what period they

the changes which language under belonged, and whether they commemthose mie goes), there grows up a popular in- orated the conquests of Cyrus

, Darius, credulity as to the results obtained Alexander, or Šapor

. It was unknown by the philologist. In general, the

whether the alphabet used was phoneignorant man is too credulous ;

tic, syllabic, or ideographic. It would here it is a hasty incredulity which all these difficulties were removed one

detain us too long were I to relate how the unscientific person has to guard after the other; how the proper names himself against.

of Darius, Xerxes, Hystaspes, and of "I do not wonder,” says Max their god Ormusd, were traced; how Müller

, speaking of another branch from them the values of certain letters of his subject_namely, of the mar

were determined ; how, with an impervellous feats which have been per- phered which clearly established the

fect alphabet, other words were deciformed in the interpretation of fact that the language of these inscriphieroglyphics and of other ancient tions was ancient Persian ; how then, inscriptions

with the help of the Zend, which re“I do not wonder that the discover

presents the Persian language previous ies due to the genius and persevering in

to Darius, and with the help of the dustry of Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen,

later Persian, a most effective cross-fire and last, not least, of Rawlinson, should ordnance was brought up from the ar

was opened ; how even more powerful e who pane seem incredible to those who only glance senal of the ancient Sanskrit; how outat them from a distance. Their incredu

post after outpost was driven in, and a , confidelity will only prove the greatest comthe section pliment that could have been paid to practical breach effected, till at last the

fortress had to surrender, and submit these eminent scholars. What we at

to the terms dictated by the Science of o take the present call the Cuneiform inscriptions Language.”

of Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes,
&c. (of which we now have several edi. It would be a poor return for

tions, translations, grammars, and dic- such almost heroic patience, for mer. 12 tionaries)--what were they originally? such knowledge, ingenuity, and hare Te A mere conglomerate of wedges, enhis lahey graved or impressed on the solitary perseverance, to treat their results

monument of Cyrus in the Murgháb, with a smile of incredulity. Yet on the ruins of Persepolis, on the rocks here, as elsewhere, an intelligent of Behistun, near the frontiers of Media, public, aware that discoverers must and the precipice of Van in Armenia. have enthusiasm as well as pa

When Grotefend attempted to decipher at by the them, he had first to prove that these tience, will often hold itself in a

state of suspended judgment. Our lehet ten scrolls were really inscriptions, and not

mere arabesques or fanciful ornaments. system of interpretation of EgypHe had then to find out whether these tian hieroglyphics, for instance, magical characters were to be read may admit of revisal or improve


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ment; Max Müller, in one passage and Latin, as Latin is of French and of these lectures, seems to think

Italian. Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin that it is still incomplete; and

are sisters, varieties of one and the

same type. They all point to some even discoveries of another kind, of

earlier stage, when they were less difwhich he speaks more confidently, ferent from each other than they now may not yet have assumed their are, but no more. All we can say in final shape. It is unhesitatingly favour of Sanskrit is, that it is the eldproclaimed to be the “great dis- est sister; that it has retained many covery” of the modern science of words and forms less changed and language that Sanskrit, Greek, La- corrupted than Greek and Latin. The tin, Celtic, and other languages of parent structure of Sanskrit have na

more primitive character and transancient Europe, are related to some turally endeared it to the student of prior and unknown language, to language, but they have not blinded which the name of Aryan has been him to the fact that in many points given, in precisely the same man

Greek and Latin ner in which the modern languages, tures which Sanskrit has lost.”

Celtic— have preserved primitive feaFrench, Italian, and Spanish, are related to the Latin. This may be The readers of the First Series of so; but if there was an Aryan lan- these Lectures will remember that guage, the parent of Sanskrit, Greek, some rather bold hypothesis was Latin, Celtic, Teutonic, Slavonic, put forth on the origin of language. just as Latin was the parent of Discarding what he called the BowFrench and Italian, there must wow and Pooh-pooh theory — the have been an Aryan people and an hypothesis that interjections and Aryan civilisation that have depart- the imitations of the cries of anied without leaving any traces of mals, or the sounds made by inanitheir existence—that are utterly un- mate objects, would form the first known to history. It is difficult, in rude speech of man—the lecturer short, to frame a history of these had recourse to the bold expedient Aryans that shall correspond with of supposing that there was some the part their language is said to occult connection between certain have played. One may here ac- roots, or primitive words, and the knowledge a perplexity without things signified. In the Second being rashly sceptical. The study Series the same idea is put forth, of Sanskrit is a comparative no

but with still more vagueness and velty; first impressions may not vacillation. The lecturer was at endure; another generation of scho- perfect liberty to discard, in what lars, aided by the labours of their terms he pleased, the Bow - wow predecessors, may stand on a van- theory: it is the unintelligible natage-ground which we do not oc- ture of the hypothesis he substicupy; the 'Rig-veda,' the oldest form tutes that we should quarrel with. of Sanskrit, and reputed to be the Analysing the oldest dialects of oldest book in the world, is not yet human speech which remain for translated; it is not unreasonable, our examination, we eliminate, as under such circumstances, to give our simplest elements, certain roots, a certain qualified assent to this primitive words, or what to us are theory of an Aryan people, from representatives of primitive words ; whom so many other peoples are to and the meaning of such words be derived. One may rather ac- was apparently determined, just as cept it as the best hypothesis which the meaning of any word we now enlightened men can at present use, by custom and tradition. No form than the last discoverable analysis and no historical investigatruth.

tion enables us to rise to the origin “No sound scholar,” writes Max

of language, to explain why any Müller, “would ever think of deriving object about which men had occaany Greek or Latin word from Sanskrit. sion to speak should have been Sanskrit is not the mother of Greek associated with any one of these

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position that his first words would mit, Greta If, therefore, we are resolved to be coined by an imitation of the ieties of frame any theory upon this subject, cries of animals—that out of these they al por it must be from conjecture, from a cries he would make names for them. hen they went balance of probabilities. We try to Such naming, however, could only

put ourselves in the position of form the commencement of a lanre. Al wa

men who had a language to form, guage--givean example, so to speak, it has retas

who had the need and desire to of what might be done with this

communicate with each other, and admirable pipe, this throat, these Greek al die found themselves in the possession lips, ever breaking forth in some character a of a sound - producing organ, an sound or other.

organ which, in one way or the Max Müller admits that such other, they as spontaneously used imitations may carry us to a ceras any of their limbs; for a child tain point on our road, but how are cries as readily as it kicks, and all we to account, he asks, for words of

through boyhood noise is as de- objects which emit no sound, and Art ha k lightful as motion. We try to fancy are not immediately associated with

what would be the steps of their such as do? He seems to think it

progress. It must be a matter of impossible that men, after having will reme

conjecture; only let the conjecture framed, accidentally so to speak, a be intelligible.

certain number of vocal signs, and Max Müller says:

having found the utility of them, “I believed, and still believe, that in

should purposely frame other signs the science of language we must accept by a mere variation of those they

alroots simply as ultimate facts, leaving ready possessed. Yet such a stage to the physiologist and the psychologist in the process does not appear to the question as to the possible sympathe- us very difficult to imagine. Havtic and reflective action of the five organs ing some words and wanting others, of sensuous perception upon the motory

one can imagine these other words nerves of the organ of speech.

coined by some variation of those What does he in this, and other already in use. Our lecturer puts like passages, mean? What is the the case thus :-question he leaves to the psychologist and the physiologist? If we

" That sounds can be rendered in had the first articulate words ut language by sounds, and that each lantered by man before us, we might guage possesses a large stock of words

imitating the sounds given out by cerperhaps frame some question for tain things, who would deny? And the physiologist; we might ask him who would deny that some words ori. what connection there was between ginally expressive of sound only, might uttering such sounds and the im- be transferred to other things which pression of certain objects. But no

have some analogy with sound? But one pretends that in Sanskrit roots, how are all things which do not appeal

to the sense of hearing-how are the or in any other roots, we have the

ideas of going, moving, standing, sinkfirst articulate syllables that man ing, tasting, thinking, to be expressed?" made use of for the communication of his wants or his commands.

We will not long detain our That cries, shouts, interjections readers over a matter on which of all kinds, form a part of human they have probably come to the speech, is plain enough ; and many conclusion that nothing quite saof the animals about us share in tisfactory can be said. The early this rude species of language, if stages by which the first people language it is to be called. But framed a language, are as irrecoverhow are we to describe the passage able as those early stages in each from this inarticulate language to man's individual consciousness by the articulate speech of man? Man which he advanced to the complete being an imitative creature, it has use of his senses. The suggestions at all times been a favourite sup- which we would offer to bridge over

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the passage from the inarticulate them; but in the much more simple language of animals to the articu- manner of varying the sounds allate speech of man, are briefly these: ready produced, so as to produce 1st, That the imitation of the cries new vocal sign for the new of animals, or of other natural emergency. This process, as it could sounds made for the purpose of de- only be wanted, so also it could signating the objects connected with only take place, in the earliest them, would, owing to the very stages of the formation of a lanstructure and play of the human guage. If a people in possession organs, assume the form of an ar- of a considerable vocabulary want ticulate sound. If a man imitates a name for a new object, they fix, the sound of a bird, he, from the as Max Müller shows, on some very configuration of his larynx, quality of that object, for which mouth, lips, makes a very different quality a name already exists, and sound from the bird. It is a man's thus the object readily obtains a imitation of the bird. It would name. In this manner wheat may only be after repeated trials that he have been named from its whiteness, would eliminate, so to speak, the because there was already a word human element, and produce a truly for white. But if there were no bird-like sound. If he calls a bird name for whiteness, or any other from its cry a pee-wit, he puts con- marked quality of wheat, by what sonants in his imitation that were process could men name it, but by not really pronounced by the bird. varying some articulate sounds alThus the imitation of the inarticu- ready used as a name, and applying late cry becomes, by the spontane- the new variety of sound to the obous play of the human organs, an ject to be named ? If they had alarticulate sound or word. It may, ready called something bi-bo, they indeed, be said, that it is from the must call this other thing bo-bi or habit of using consonants that we fo-fi. This operation appears imput them in our imitations; and we probable to us only from its great readily admit that, when a nurse simplicity, and because it is an opetells a child to say ba to a sheep, or ration we can scarce be called upon moo to a cow, these are but nursery to perform : we coin words from words; there is very little effort of other words, guided entirely by the imitation in them of the bleating of meaning of those other words, but

; a sheep or the lowing of a cow. But there must surely have been a time without questioning at all that the when men coined new words, after habit of using articulate speech the pattern of other words, by alterwould render an imitation of the ing, transposing, combining the sylinarticulate still more difficult, we lables of which they were composed. think it may be safely asserted that, We shall all agree with Max from the difference in his organisa- Müller in discarding the idea of a tion, the first imitations that a man solemn convention, at which it was would attempt, would not be such agreed that certain chosen sounds artistic, perfect imitations, as he should be used as signs for certain afterwards learns to make, but objects or actions. Before such a would be a human rendering of an convention could take place, lananimal sound. He would frame a guage must already have advanced word out of a cry. And, 2d, That to such a stage as not to need it. when a few words were thus pro- If we really wish to form a conduced, others would be formed, not ception how language might have only in the manner Max Müller arisen, we must transport ourselves points out, by transferring these to the family group, or the tribe words to “ things which have some consisting of several family groups. analogy with sound,” which is The intimate nature of the union of rather to increase the meanings of such groups, and the comparatively words than to add to the stock of few objects, and the often-repeated

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