« AnteriorContinuar »
The Tschechish is the speech of the Slavonic inhabitants of Bohemia, Moravia, and northwestern Hungary, and occurs sporadically throughout almost all Hungary. In respect to both of its two leading dialects, the Bohemian and Slowakish, but especially the former, it can boast of an historical, organic identity that, dates back half way, at least, to the beginning of the Christian Era.
The Sorbenwendish, or Sorbish, as it is called' by the Germans, or Wendish, as the Lusatians name it, prevails in limited parts of Upper and Lower Lusatia. The Polabish, as the word indicates, (po, along, and Labe, the Elbe) was spoken more or less, anciently, by those living on both sides of the Elbe. It disappeared, as a vernacular language, about two centuries ago, although some few families, in that region, still keep it alive among themselves.
V. The Gothic family. In the Gothic version of the Scriptures, made by Ulphilas in the year A. D. 388, are all the remains, that the world now possesses, of that noble old language, the queen-mother of so many princely languages. The Goths were living, at that time, on the lower side of the Danube, around its mouth. In Herodotus they are called the Terat,^ and in Tacitus, the Geta;, and are described as living, in those times, in the northern part of Thrace, between the Ha;mus and the Danube. In later times they divided into two portions, viz.: the Ostrogoths, or eastern Goths, and the Visigoths, or western Goths,
1 In Menander's Comedies, .1 Ttros or Aatii is introduced, as the standing representative of a slave, and brought from Thrace to Greece. The Tttos was a Goth; and the Aios (Latin Davus for Dacvus, the fuller form of Dacus), a Daeian. Compare with Aoos for AaFos, also vtos for peTos, Lat. novns, and iiiv for uf6y, Lat. ovum. Straho expressly states that Aok»< and A<£oi arc the same. When the Getae and Daci are represented as occupying separate regions, the division is always this, viz. that the Geiae live in the north-eastern part of the regions about the month of the Danube, and the Daci in the south-western. As from the title Getae came Golhi, Getini, Gothoni, or Gotliones, as they wero variously called hy Latin authors, so from Daci came Dacini, afterwards contracted into Dani; and the modern Danes represent the ancient Daci. In the Middle Ages, indeed, we find writers using Dacus for Danus, and Dacia for Dania or Denmark. In Russia, also, a Dane is called a Datschanin, and in Lapland a Dazh. — Vid. Grimm's Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, p. 132.
the former settling in Italy, and the latter in Spain. Their language, however, did not take root, successfully, in either country. A few Gothic memorials were left behind in Italy; and in Spain, besides a few Gothic baptismal names and the garnered pride of a few old noble families of Gothic blood, all records of their ancient dominion there are obliterated. In the Gothic languages are included—
1. The low German.
2. The high German.
1. The low German embraces —
(1.) The Norse or Scandinavian languages.
(2.) The Anglo-Saxon.
(3.) The Frisic.
(4.) The low Dutch.
(1.) The Norse languages include three special dialects: the Icelandic, Swedish and Danish.
The Icelandic, or old Norse dialect, is of a high antiquity. It was originally translated from Norway to Iceland, and has there wonderfully retained its early characteristics.
The Swedish and Danish may be properly called the new Norse languages. These are greatly changed from their first estate in every way. The Swedish is the purest Norse of the two. The Danish has been greatly affected by the contact of the German, and changed its old full a-sound in many words to e. The Norwegian dialect has been so entirely overtopped and overgrown by the neighboring Danish, that it has shrunk down into perfect insignificance, and deserves no separate place in history. The Danish prevails also in the Faroe, Shetland and Orkney Islands.
The Norse languages exhibit, as such, two remarkable specialties:
(a.) The suffixing of the definite article (hinn, hin, hit) to the substantive, as if a part of it, as in sveini»» (m) the young man; eigm'w (f) the possession; and skeipti (f) the ship.
(b.) A peculiar passive flexion. An original reflexive pronoun is appended immediately to the verb, giving it, not as would be natural, a reflexive sense, but a passive one. In this respect, however, these languages agree with the Latin, although, in the latter, the fact is more disguised. Thus brenni, " I burn," is, in the passive, brennist, " I am burnt;" and brennum, "we burn," becomes brennurnst, "we are burned." The singular and plural forms are the same, for the other persons respectively, as for the first; and these are distinguished only by the different personal pronouns, prefixed to them. (2.) The Anglo-Saxon.
The Anglo-Saxons first went to England, in the middle of the fifth century. In the place of its nativity, their language, as such, has disappeared. What relics remain of it, on the continent, are to be found only as membra disjecta, in some few low German dialects.
The English language, however, which, for all the ends and wants of human speech, has never been surpassed by any language upon earth, is ribbed with its oaken strength. While it has large admixtures of words derived from the Celtic Aborigines of England, and still more of Latin origin, received from its Roman and Norman invaders, its predominant type is yet Anglo-Saxon. The language in which such an author as Shakspeare, could find his native air and element, while honored by the great genius who enrobed himself in it, is yet. proved thereby, to have in it adaptations to all the varied phases of human life, and all the multiplied complexities of human thought and feeling, which raise it, as a whole, to a height above that of any other human tongue. Who would expect, for example, to see Shakspeare, when translated into Latin or French, or Spanish, or even German, appear with his own immortal beauty unimpaired? The same lustrous face would shine upon us, but only through a mist. As well might one attempt to deliver, from some petty stringed instrument, tones that can resound only from the loud swelling organ, as to hope to express his utterances truly, and in a style as if vernacular, in any other language than his own. In no language has a pyramid of literature, so high, so broad, so deep, so wondrous, been erected, as in the English. In no other language, are there such storied memories of the past. No other nation has wrestled like the English, with Man, and Truth and Time, and everything great and difficult; and no language accordingly is so full of all experiences and utterances, human and divine. Like that great world-book, the Bible, which has done so much to exalt and purify it, it has an equipment for its special office, as the bearer of that book to all nations, grand and beautiful, in its adaptations to the wants of universal humanity. Few of the scholars and educators of our land, to their shame be it spoken, seem, although standing within the sphere of its beauties and under the glowing firmament of its literature, to appreciate, in any worthy manner, the glory of their mother-tongue; but which other nations, looking on it from without, admire so greatly, and which, in the eyes of future ages, will appear in the far off distance, radiant with heavenly beauty.
In ground-forms and the whole element of flexion and the details of a ramified syntax, the English, when compared with the ancient languages,1 is poor indeed. Our
1 It is certainly quite an interesting, not to say surprising fact, that the English should, in many of its forms, be more like the original Sanscrit than the
* As in Augenbranne, the eyebrows, being found only in composition.
words also are much mutilated, especially in the mode of their pronunciation. They appear, everywhere throughout the language, to the eye of a scientific etymologist, bruised and broken, in their aspect. Even our large stock of AngloSaxon words, which as a class are short and compact, are often condensed, when having been originally dissyllabic, into monosyllables in English. And in this country especially, our people, our language and our institutions have been borne through such an unsettled pioneer experience, that a strange, unscholar-like, if not indeed almost universal, indifference prevails, among even our educated men, to exactness and elegance in the niceties of language. The noble old English tongue has assumed, in some large districts of our country, not only in its orthoepy,1 but also in its orthography, a distinct American type. There are those even, who undertake to justify these abuses. The influence of such ideas and habits runs up also into the whole style of our higher classical education, as it is generally conducted. Prosody, except in its rudest outlines, is disregarded, and pronounced by teachers, who themselves are ignorant of its nice details, a useless appendage of classical study. Greek accentuation, similarly, is ridiculed by the same pro
sudo, schweissen, sweat,
svadus, sweet, i]Sis,'z suavis, siisz, sweet,
vash, to wish, fi>X«<r&oi, wiinschen, with,
yuyam, you, i/uit, vos, cuch, yon.
1 Witness the double pronunciation in England and America of such words as desultory, leisure, detail, azure, demonstrate, and those words in which 1 occurs in the same syllabic after a and before m, as in alms, balm, calm, etc., and also courteous, fealty, either and neither, therefore, fearful, etc. As for changes in orthography all know on what an extensive systematic scale Webster has undertaken to force them upon the language. Happily the resistance to such innovations by him proved too great; and they are gradually losing, most of them, the little ground which, under his great name, they had begun to acquire.