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There is much in the certain prospect of death which will make men think; while the slightest hope of life, often serves as the stronghold of continued impenitence.
BY REV. BENJAMIN W. DWIOHT, M. A., BROOKLYN, N. T.
The very caption of this Article will astonish some and amuse others, who have been in the habit of regarding etymology as a mere mass of vagaries. That it has any such scope as to deserve the dignified name of a science, or any such interior frame-work of principles as to possess its essential nature, is quite beyond the general estimate of its character. In this country, indeed, and in England, as also in France and everywhere but in Germany, both vernacular and classical etymology are in the same rude, unmethodized state of first and partial discovery, in which chemistry and geology existed half a century ago. What facts are seen and appreciated appear to most, even of their admirers, but as isolated novelties and wonders, and have none of the charm or power of a splendid combination, of comprehensive and complicated affinities and relations.
Our modern languages are all derived from those of elder ages; and these are found, when subjected to thorough analysis, to have been derived, in their turn, from those anterior to them ; while, on a wide and critical survey, all the tongues of the civilized world appear full of multitudinous correspondencies and connections.
The object of this Article will be realized, if the following topics, connected with the science of etymology, are presented in sufficient outline, viz.:
I. The general proportions and relations of the subject.
II. The history of classical and vernacular etymology.
III. The constituent elements of etymology as a science.
IV. Its determinative principles and tests.
V. Some of the advantages of the study of this science. I. The general proportions and relations of the subject.
It has been often said, and truly, that the study of the Latin has a value in it, in its mere relations to our language, sufficient to authorize for this reason, without reference to many others also, the most zealous attention to its claims. But how can any deep scholarly insight into its relations to the English be gained, except in the light of a broad and complete classical etymology, which shall present the Latin truly, in all its manifold connections, not only with succeeding languages, but also with those which were antecedent and contemporary? This ancient language must be seen, in order to be seen rightly, while clothed in its own armor and bearing its own banners, not only leading other languages majestically in its train, but also moving in solemn and sublime march along the highway of ages, with the great people and languages that anticipated and accompanied its glory and its doom. On account of the artistic treasures of the Greek language, and the firm, sesthetical influence of its higher literature upon those elect spirits who walk familiarly amid its Alpine wonders, an influence of which most American students of Greek, who are but dabblers in this tongue of the giants, have only heard by tradition, having never had a sensation of it themselves; it has come to be quite fashionable, in the scholastic world, to speak of that noble language in terms quite disparaging, at the same time, to the Latin. And our classical students generally have fallen, under the influence of this sort of perpetuated pedantry, into an almost universal habit of placing the Latin in contemptuous contrast with the Greek. Few see even that it has any large connection with the Greek; few of those who have grasped that great fact comprehend, from the want of a wide philological view of the three classical languages, in their mutual relations, the Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin, what that connection is. But while its correspondencies with the Greek cover a vast array of details, and many of them when disclosed become immediately apparent to the eye, many more of them become delightfully clear to one, who, by applying the chemic tests of phonology, knows how to reduce at once both simple and comparative forms to their original analytical elements. The Latin and the Greek are closely affiliated languages, being of one common Pelasgic or Grreco-Latin origin, and as such, greatly illustrative of each other; while, placed together like associated mirrors, they reflect with strange exactness and fulness of effect, the earlier Sanscrit, which is itself also a derived language, exhibiting not at all the ultimate origin of our present languages, but rather the farthest link backwards yet discovered in the chain of ascending relations and affinities. That chain of successive origination and derivation of all known languages runs backward from the centuries and countries of modern times, through one language and people after another, more and more perfect in its texture as it rises, until it ends ultimately in that lost mother-tongue which Adam spoke in Eden, which, as a matter of moral evidence, it is absolutely certain that he learned directly from God himself, since each man and generation succeeding him has learned to speak only from those who have preceded them. As in the material world man creates nothing, and only moulds and transforms substances and shapes already at hand, so in the world of language he only re-casts and transmutes the materials furnished him by an earlier age. The same race, bearing off the same original elements of speech in divided companies, into different climates, amid diversified scenes and skies and modes of life, will as certainly change and conform them, though insensibly, to the new atmospheres of their new life, each for itself, as that same race, departing into different zones, will erelong take on, in each, a different complexion, stature, and physiognomy, and adopt different food, employments, and dress, and also different dwellings, institutions, and customs.1
Nothing is found in the realms of speech any more than in those of nature, " without father or mother." Here, as everywhere else, the maxim is true, "ex nihilo nihil fit." The languages, therefore, of the world, like the men who have spoken them, have all been bound together by a regular series of sequences, running link by link in luminous beauty, from any and every language now spoken upon earth, to the first language, in which listening angels heard Adam and Eve discourse to each other; and from that back to God himself, the great All-in-all, from whose own girdle the golden chain of human speech divine was dropped lovingly down to man, in order to bind him to himself, and all nations in heavenly sympathy with each other.
As for the Latin, whose connection with the Greek and Sanscrit has thus suggested and required the further and wider statement of the connection of all languages with each other, it has excellences and advantages of its own, which, while they set the seal of its peculiar individuality upon it, demonstrate its capability to supply the varied wants of human speech, to be broad and deep. It will be the quick, decided testimony of any one who has studied it for many years, having surveyed its dimensions on every side, having sounded all its depths and scaled all its heights, and scanned its inward treasures and its outward relations, that, in respect to the history of its influence as much as to that of its origin, and in respect to its own iron-like stability and the stability, force and dignity which it has imparted to the different languages into whose bosom it has poured the current of its own living strength, it is full of wonders. Not only is no one study in the whole current of educational appliances, equal to it, for all the purposes of mental and scholastic drill; but also, as a matter of actual fact, ninetenths of all the linguistic culture and of all the many rich results of the higher classical education of the whole civilized
to trace the different aspects and characteristics of the Jews, in different parts of the world, and even of Hindustan alone, although everywhere living, in vaunted seclusion of blood from other people, as to their figure, countenance, color, and whole physique.
world, have been obtained from this source, in all ages. The Latin is thus distinctly dwelt upon at the outset and at length, because its position in the science of etymology is very high and altogether peculiar. And it is one of the first duties as well as one of the first instincts of an amateur of classical or vernacular etymology, to vindicate the Latin from the false ideas and estimates that prevail without thought concerning it, in the community. The Latin is central in its position and bearings, between the first known languages and those now existing. In it they find their mutual bond of connection. Around the Latin, as their common interpreter, all the ancient and modern languages of the civilized world stand waiting with reverent looks and mutual obeisance. No language upon earth has in it so much of what is old at the same time with so much of what is new. But for the Latin and the Greek, the Sanscrit, that wonderful fossil language in whose extinct remains we find the types of all the subsequent Indo-European languages, would be well nigh devoid of interest to us; and but for the Latin, the modern languages would, all, at least but the Gothic branch, and that much more largely than most suppose, be tangled etymologically in a web of inextricable confusion. As on Acro-Corinthus the classical scholar might stand, and look down with swimming eyes upon the Saronic gulf to the eastward, where Athens still glitters in her beauty, and upon the Corinthian gulf to the westward, and see beyond its waters, Parnassus, sacred to the Muses, with its snow-white crown, having the fountain of Castalia in its bosom and the oracle of Delphi at its feet: so, standing on the heights of the Latin language, as on a tall isthmus rising between two oceans, the past and the present, we can look before us and see the waves of the elder ages, as they bear on their bosom the wonders of India, Persia, and Greece, roll and break at our feet; or, turn and behold behind us the vast expanse of the future, covered with the riches of all nations, retiring in the far-off horizon from the view, until sky and sea, mingling together, conceal it in their own indistinguishable confusion. Here is the high, true position for a complete Vol. XV. No. 58. 35