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ON THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE
MODERN GREEK LANGUAGE,
IF the question were asked, what is the origin of the Greek of the present day? is it the offshoot of Byzantine literature, the creation of Church fathers, or of philosophers, sophists, and rhetoricians, or is its source to be looked for in the common dialect of the Ptolemaic era, in the idioms of Dorians, Æolians, and Baotians, or the vulgarisms of the Athenian market-place? the true answer, perhaps, would be, it had its beginning in none of these and in all of them: in none of them alone, and in all of them together.
In speaking of the history of a language we should bear in mind the distinction between its outer and inner part, the form and the matter, the skeleton of grammar, and the life which makes that skeleton a living body with a living soul. These two parts of language should never be confounded, and yet it is sometimes hard to keep them separate. For there is an essential, as well as an actual connection between them, which may be set forth as follows.
The mere shapes and changes of words in a language may be called its grammar, while the thought of which these shapes Journal of Philology. VOL. IL
and changes are the expression may be spoken of as the metaphysic of the age to which it belongs. But between this outer part, the grammar, and this inner part, the thought, comes a third something, which is neither altogether outward nor altogether inward, and which, for want of a better name, we may call the logic of a language, or the way in which the thought finds utterance in words.
Now, just as the metaphysic of one age will tend to become the logic of the next, so logic will in its turn become petrified into grammar, as we shall soon see by examples in the language before us. Hence the difficulty of drawing a rigid line of demarcation between the mere vehicle of thought and the thought itself. Grammar and thought, linked as they are in the nature of the case by logic, which is the way in which the one finds utterance in the other, merge together by scarcely felt degrees, like the waves of the stream of time which bears them along, so that it is often hard to say whether we are treading in the domain of philosophy or of grammar, or lingering on the border-land between the two. • The combination of causes in producing phenomena is however no excuse for confusing them, when those phenomena are to be explained, and when we are attempting to write the history of a language, we must beware of attributing every change and development to one source. We should begin by inquiring whether there be any part of language which is quite independent of the progress of human thought. If there be, we may then proceed to inquire what are the causes which may have affected its development. Then we can go on to consider the influence of intellectual progress on such part of language as must be considered liable to be affected by it.
Nor can we be long in admitting that there is that in language which may be changed independently of the advance of thought, or remain unchanged in spite of it; and this is the mere form which words or inflexions assume, which is a very different thing, it must be remembered, from changes in their usage and meaning; or, again, from their disuse or introduction. To make this clear by an example. It is plainly, as regards the history of thought, a matter of indifference whether the word oivos be written with or without a digamma, whether we write evrà as in Doric, łoti as in Attic, or elve as in modern Greek, whether έωυτού as in Ηerodotus, εαυτού or αυτού. It is very different when the Homeric demonstrative é, ý, tò becomes the simple article, or when the infinitive mood in later Greek is supplanted by the subjunctive with iva.
In accordance with the above remarks it is proposed in the following pages, first, to consider the mere forms of words and inflections, or the purely outward part of the Greek language; then the structure, in which the movement of thought already begins to play a part; finally, the use and formation of words, in which the inner life of the language attains its greatest significance.
First, then, as to mere grammatical forms; or,
It must not be supposed that every form discussed under this head is in common use in the language of literature and of educated men. The cultivated language for the most part preserves the grammatical forms of the age of Thucydides, avoiding, as a rule, all the extremities of the later Attic dialect, as, for instance, bánatta for Báraora, or xeppóvnoos for xepoóvnoos. In the language of the common people, however, the following peculiarities may be briefly noticed.
a. Sóča, and words like it, make in the genitive cñs Sófas, in the plural y dógars, acc. tais doçais = Tàs dočas.
b. A host of nouns belonging to different declensions are made to follow one. Thus Tapias, "Alus, Máptis, or Máptns, contracted from Máprios, "Apns, Ildpus, keparās, are, in the singular number, all declined alike, namely, by cutting off the sign of the nominative, -s in the genitive and vocative, and changing it to v for the accusative.
This v is dropped in pronunciation where the phonetic laws of the language admit it.
C. The plural of many words, especially of foreign origin, is formed by adding -δες to the stem, as πασάδες from πασάς,
eipeda, elo de, eive; impf. ñuovv, hoo, nto, queda, node, ntov; inf. ciobal; imper. čoo.
k. The present participle active often appears as an indeclinable metaplastic in as: ovras, Véryovtas, &c. The feminine Néryovoa is however by no means disused. The only other participles in use among the uneducated are the present passive, and perfect passive, the latter minus the reduplication, as ypajmévos, Orenuévos, Opappévos. The present participle sometimes appears as though formed from the conjugation in -ul, e.g. épxámevos, Teryáuevos. The termination -Me however is never found in the common language of the people. Finally, prepositions mostly govern the accusative; êk is rare, oùv bas disappeared, and eis is used for év. Such are the main features of modern Greek accidence. Let us attempt to account for them and to trace their development. We will begin by inquiring what causes remain to us, when we have eliminated those which belong to the intellectual movements of the Greek mind, and, of course, could explain nothing so merely external as the bare accidence of a language. .
First amongst the influences which would remain to be considered is the levelling tendency common to all languages, or, in other words, the ever-increasing desire to do away with irregularities in grammar.
It may be said that all language is originally regular in intention, but in the first formation of words, the stubbornness of matter, that is, the difficulty of pronouncing certain combinations of sounds, causes irregularities in the result. These irregularities are then transmitted from race to race, and the reason of them being forgotten their existence becomes an inconvenience and a levelling tendency sets in?
So in English we now say, he climbed, he helped, for he clomb, he holp, and in Spanish the participle apreso has given way to aprendido. Here then at once we see the explanation of such forms as toll "Apn, toll "Alv, &c. The first instance of the latter form, so far as I am aware, is to be found in an
1 Accordingly Sanscrit is more ir regular than Greek, and Greek than
Latin; that is, the older a language is, the less regular is its grammar.