Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

THE PRONUNCIATION OF ANCIENT GREEK ILLUS

TRATED BY THAT OF MODERN BOHEMIAN.

It is a remarkable fact, that the relation in point of pronunciation between the mother and daughter languages of Ancient and Modern Greece is identical with that at present existing between the sister languages of Bohemia and Poland. Just as Æolus, Dorus, and Xuthus, the father of Ion, are represented as the sons of Hellen, so the original identity of the Poles and Bohemians is indicated by the mythical statement that Czech (the Bohemian) and Lech (the Pole) were two brothers. If any one wishes to hear “the distinction between accent and quantity, between the height and length of syllables?” strictly observed, he need only visit Prague and pay close attention to the conversation of Bohemians in their own tongue. For my own part I have always found the difficulty of keeping up the distinction between quantity and accent to stand more than anything else in the way of acquiring a good pronunciation of the Bohemian language. If I was careful in observing the rules of quantity, I was asked what had become of my accents ? if I laid my stresses correctly, I was soon reminded of the confusion in my quantities.

The great difference in pronunciation between ancient Greek and modern Bohemian appears to be this, that in Greek the accent was continually varying, e. g. άνθρωπος, ανθρώπου, &c., while in Bohemian it remains nearly always upon the first syllable of every word. In modern Greek the accent varies as in ancient Greek, while in Polish, with few exceptions, it rests upon the penultimate of words of more than one syllable.

1 I am using the words of Mr W. G. Clark in p. 106 of the last Number of this Journal.

Konecný in his Einleitung zur Erlernung der Czechischslavischen Sprache (Vienna 1849), notices the distinction between accent and quantity as follows:

“The quantity is distinguished from the accent of words. By the former is understood the distinction between long and short syllables. In all languages we find, with respect to the accentuation of syllables, the rule, that several syllables are never accented at once in the same word. With respect to the lengthening of syllables languages fall into two classes. To the first belong those in which only the vowels of certain accented syllables are lengthened, while short vowels appear in unaccented syllables. Among these are reckoned (1) the daughter languages of the Latin tongue, i.e. the French, Spanish and Italian, (2) the Germanic languages, as the German and English, and (3) two principal dialects of the Slavonic language, the Polish and the Russian. To the second class belong those languages in which we are not tied to the accent in lengthening vowels. In this are counted (1) the Ancient Greek, (2) the Latin, and (3) two principal dialects of the Slavonians, the Bohemian and the Illyrico-Servian. Whilst then in the languages of the first class only some accented syllables, of which no word can have more than one, are wont to be lengthened, those of the second class possess, independently of the accent, words, some of which lengthen one, others two, and others three or even more than three syllables.'

An extract from pp. 14 and 15 of J. P. Tomiczek's Lehrbuch der böhmischen Sprache für Deutsche (Prague 1851), will complete and explain the statements of Konecny.

“The tone of words (prizvuk, 'accent') lies in the Bohemian language always on the first syllable. In the German word Vater, the a is always pronounced long, especially in the connexion Vater unser; in the domestic and familiar sense the same a, especially in the vocative, is almost always used short, and yet in both cases the tone lies on the a. Hence it follows manifestly, that the tone and lengthening of syllables must not be interchanged. In the word Hühnerhof the tone lies on the lengthened ü, although the o in hof is also long. Thus too in the word dráha, 'a way,' the tone lies on the long á, while in the word drahá, a dear one' (fem.), it lies on the sharpened a, although the second á is long.

“Stress (dúraz) is distinguished from tone by the fact, that it rather gives prominence to the idea, and therewith to the whole word : Was he in the garden ? byl v zahrade ?' 'He was in the garden,' 'v zahrade byl.' In the word uttered with stress the tone remains in its usual place.

“In Bohemian then the tone remains on the first syllable, although all the rest are pronounced long. . In dostává, ‘he is wont to obtain,' the short o has the tone, the following two ás have length; in chválívá, “he is wont to praise,' the first á has the tone and length, the remaining syllables merely length.

‘Prepositions (predlozky) draw the tone to themselves. Zahrada has the tone on the first syllable, but in 'do zahrady,' 'into the garden,' the tone lies on do, and the syllable za loses it. In substantives compounded with prepositions not only does the tone rest upon the preposition, but even the next, originally long, syllable is often sharpened, e.g. chvála, 'praise;' pochvala, 'eulogy;' krása, 'beauty;' okrasa, 'adornment.' But it is only monosyllabic prepositions that draw the tone to themselves; dissyllabic and polysyllabic ones keep their own accent, and do not interfere with that of the substantive.”

Thus far with regard to prose. As regards poetry it appears pretty plain, that little or no regard was paid by the ancient Bohemians to quantity and that their earliest poetry was purely accentual, accented monosyllables however having nearly as great power as prepositions in drawing the accent of the following word to themselves. I give as an example the commencement of 'Libussa's Judgment,' one of the oldest known poems in the Bohemian language, the MS. of which is dated towards the end of the ninth century of the Christian era. The metre is Trochaic, and consists of five feet'. In fact it is two syllables or one foot longer than the metre of Hiawatha, which is identical with that of 'Ludise and Lubor,' a poem in the Queen's Court Manuscript ascribed to the 13th century.

1 N.B. Long vowels are usually accent, all unmarked vowels are short marked in Bohemian by an acute by nature.

“Aj Vletavo, ce mútísi vodu?

ce mútísi vodu strebropenú ?
za te lutá rozvlajase búra
sesypavsi tucu sira neba,
oplakavsi glavy gor zelených,
vyplakavsi zlatopieskú glinu ?”
Why, Veltava, troublest thou thy water?
Troublest thou thy silver-foamy water ?
Hath a tempest wild disquietèd thee,
In the wide sky scattering streaming storm-clouds,
Washing o'er the tops of the green mountains,

Washing out the loam, whose sand is golden ?” If we proceed to the attempts made at the revival of classical learning to appropriate the classical metres in modern languages, we cannot but admit that the Bohemian language, possessing true spondees, exhibits far more favourable specimens of versification than any other modern tongue. Still there appears something wanting even in it, and this I apprehend to be, that, although the Greek and Latin rules about long and short vowels and diphthongs are exactly applicable to it, yet those relating to the lengthening of naturally short vowels by position are not altogether so. It is true that the Greek and Latin rules are somewhat modified by different writers, the most successful of whom are certainly the most modern, yet I cannot think that poetry written upon the principle of quantity will ever be more to the Bohemians than an exercise of skill and ingenuity.

Josef Jirecek, in a republication of a number of the Psalms of David versified mainly in imitation of the Latin translation of Buchanan, tells us, in the excellent essay prefixed to the work”, that "the ancient Slavonic method, which we find in the Grünberger and Königinhofer MSS., and which still lives in the national songs, has its basis in the relation of the sound of

1

Any one wishing to peruse the whole Messrs Deighton and Bell. poem will find it translated at the end 2 Vienna 1861. For this work I of my translation of the Queen's Court am indebted to the kindness of Dr F. Manuscript (p. 96, sqq.) published by Palacký.

the words to the melody and in the mutual harmony of the sounds.” “But,” continues he, “in the 16th century those precious manuscripts had not come to light, and no one had any idea of them ; neither did it occur to the alumni of the Latin schools even in their dreams to appropriate the national songs and deduce prosodiacal rules from them. The result of this was, that the composers of verses did not proceed beyond the merest counting of syllables, almost entirely, for the sake of rhyme, forgetting the necessity of emphasis in their verses. How could artistic poetry be composed when its principal formal condition was wanting ?”

Hexameters were first written in the second half of the 13th century, and the Sapphic stanza appears in use in the years 1510 and 1533, but none of these attempts were very successful. Brother Jan Blahoslav (1561) was the first who endeavoured to give regular prosodiacal rules for writing the classical metres in the Bohemian language, but he was so terrible a violator of his own rules, that he cannot be considered as having done much more than give an impulse to the attempt. But a Slovak, Magister Vavrinec Benedikt Nudozerský, translated, not unsuccessfully, a number of the Psalms into classical metres in imitation of the Latin translation of Buchanan, prefixing a prosodiacal dissertation, which occupies five closely printed 8vo pages in M. Jirecek's preface. But the most successful writer of this kind of poetry was the author of a fragment of a translation of the Psalter preserved in the University library at Prague, consisting of four sheets, the prosodiacal rules observed in which vary a good deal from those given by Benedikt. The author is supposed to have been Jan Amos Komenský, the author of the well-known children's book, The world in pictures. After the battle of the White Mountain in 1620 Bohemian prose and poetry were alike prohibited arts for many years.

In 1795 Dobrovský propounded an accentual prosody, and the poets of that day immediately proceeded to convert their quantitative poems in classical metres into accentual ones. But in 1818 a joint work by Safarik, Palacký, Benedikt and Jungmann, apeared at Presburg, which completely demolished Dobrovsky's theory, and since that time the accentual and quantita

« AnteriorContinuar »