Imagini ale paginilor


6. In the early ages of the world, there is every reason to suppose, that the difference of language in Europe, Asia, and Africa, was no more than a difference of dialects; and that the people of Greece, of Phenicia, and of Egypt, mutually understood each other. The oriental origin of the Latin and Greek, is now generally acknowledged; and to these, the Teutonic dialects have an affinity; the Arabic, the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Ethiopic, still bear the most striking resemblance to the Hebrew: in the Welsh, are many words analogous to it: the Celtic, also, has derived much from this and other eastern languages. The Hebrew, then, if we judge from these remarkable facts,— from the mode of its derivation from its radicals,-or from the simplicity of its structure,-must undoubtedly, be considered, as the primitive, or parent language.

7. An eminent linguist of the present day, thinks it very likely, that the original language was composed of monosyllables, that each had a distinct ideal meaning, and only one meaning; as different acceptations of the word would undoubtedly arise, either from compounding ternas, or when there were but few words in the language, using them by a different mode of pronunciation, to express a-variety of things. Where this simple, monosyllabic language prevailed, (and it must have prevailed in the first ages of the world,) men would necessarily have simple ideas, and a corresponding simplicity of manners. The Chinese language is exactly such as this; and the Hebrew, if stripped of its vowel points, and its prefixes, suffixes, and postfixes, separated from their combinations, so that they might stand by themselves, would nearly answer to this character, even in its present state. The same anthor, speaking of the confusion of tongues, thinks, that God caused the workmen employed in building the Tower of Babel, to articulate the same word differently, to affix different ideas to the same term, and perhaps, by transposing syllables, and interchanging letters, to form new terms and compounds, so that the mind of the speaker was apprehended by the, hearer in a contrary sense to what was intended.



This idea is not ill expressed by an antient French poet, Du Bartas, and not badly, though rather, quaintly, metaphrased by our countryman, Mr. Sylvester.

Some speak between their teeth, some in the nose,
Some in their throat, their words do ill dispose-

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Bring me,' quoth one, a trowel, quickly! quick!
One brings him up a hammer. Hew this brick,
Another bids: and then they cleave a tree.
'Make fast this rope and then, they let it filee.
One calls for pianks; another mortar lacks ;
They bear the first a stone, the last an ax.
One would have spikes, and him a spade they give;
Another asks a saw, and gets a sieve.

Thus crossly crost, they prate and point in vain;
What one hath made, another mars again.

These masons then, seeing the storm arriv'd
Of God's just wrath, all weak, and heart depriv'd,
Forsake their purpose, and like frantic fools,
Scatter their stuff, and tumble down their tools.
DU BARTAS—Babylon.*

Select Books on Language.

Harris' Hermes, 8vo. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, 2 vols. 8vo. Beattie on Language, 8vo. Tooke's Diversions of Purley, 2 vols. 4to.


1. WRITING is an improvement upon speech, and consequently, posterior, in the order of time. Its characters are of two kinds; either signs for things, or signs for words. Thus the pictures, hieroglyphics, and symbols employed by the antients, and the Chinese characters, are of the former sort; the alphabetical characters, now employed by Europeans, of the latter. Pictures were, certainly, the first attempts towards writing. Mankind, in all ages, and in all nations have been prone to imitation. To signify that one man had killed another, they painted the figure of a dead man lying on the ground, and of another standing over him with an hostile weapon in his hand. This was the only sort of writing used by the Mexicans, when America was discovered.

2. Hieroglyphic characters may be considered as the second stage in the art of writing. They consist in certain symbols, which are made to represent invisible objects, on

• Dr. Clarke's Commentary, Gen. xi. 6.

account of a resemblance, which such symbols were supposed to bear, to the objects themselves. Thus an eye represented knowledge, and a circle, having neither beginning nor end, was the symbol of eternity. Egypt was the country where this kind of writing was most studied and brought into a regular art. In these characters, all the boasted wisdom of their priests was conveyed. They fixed upon animals, that were to be emblems of moral objects, according to the qualities, with which they supposed them to be endowed. Thus imprudence was denoted by a fly; wisdom by an ant; and victory by a hawk. But this sort of writing was, in the highest degree, enigmatical and confused; and therefore, a very imperfect vehicle of knowledge.

3. From hieroglyphics, mankind gradually advanced to simple arbitrary marks, which stood for objects, though without any resemblance to the objects signified. The manner of writing among the Peruvians was of this nature. They used small cords of different colours; and by knots upon these of different sizes, and variously arranged, they invented signs for giving information, and communicating their thoughts to one another.

4. The Chinese at this day, use written characters of this sort; every single character which they use is expressive of an idea! The number of these is of course immense. The various combinations to which the 214 elementary characters have been carried, are generally supposed to amount to 80,000.* The Great Dictionary of China, consists of more than 200 volumes, and contains above 60,000 characters: that of the emperor Kaungshee, consists of 35,000 characters. Each of these characters is monosyllabic, and denotes a great variety of things according to the accent or intonation given to it. The system of writing will of course, be hieroglyphic, or rather symbolic in all its improvements. It does not seem inferior to the alphabet, but it may be justly doubted, whether the practice be not more inconvenient and perplexing, than the theory is beautiful and ingenious. The Chinese alphabet consists of thirty-six selected characters, whose names sup

This account of the French Missionaries, however, is somewhat exaggerated.

ply an equal number of initial consonant sounds; and of twelve other chosen characters, furnishing the same number of final sounds.*

5. The English alphabet contains twenty four letters, or (if j and v consonants, be added) twenty-six; the French twenty-three; the Chaldee, Hebrew, Samaritan, and Syriac, twenty-two, each; the Arabic twenty-eight; the Persian, thirty-one; the Turkish, thirty-three; the Georgian, thirty-six; the Coptic, thirty-two; the Muscovite, fortythree; the Greek, twenty-four; the Latin, twenty-two; the Sclavonic, twenty-seven; the Dutch, twenty-six; the Spanish, twenty-seven; the italian, twenty; the Ethiopic, and Tartarian, two hundred and twenty-two each; the Indian of Bengal, twenty-one; the Brainas, nineteen; the Sanskrita, twenty-eight.

6. Letters were first brought into Greece by Cadmus, the Phenician, who was contemporary with David. This alphabet consisted of sixteen letters, and the rest were added afterwards, as signs for proper sounds were wanting. The antient order of writing was from right to left, and this method prevailed even among the Greeks. They used, afterwards, to write alternately from right to left, and from left to right; this continued to the time of Solon, the fa mous Athenian legislator. However, the motion from the left to the right, being found more natural and convenient, this method was adopted by all the European nations. Writing was first exhibited on pillars, and tables of stone; afterwards on lead, and on plates of the softer metals. When it became more extensively practised, in some countries, the leaves of plants, and the bark of trees were used;† in others, tablets of wood covered with a thin coat of soft wax, on which the impression was made with a stylus, or pen of iron. After this, parchment, made of the hides of animals, was used. On parchment were written books and records, and every kind of composition considered worthy

• Marshman on the Chinese Language, printed at Serampore. Patrick has published a chart of the ten numerals in two hundred tongues; and a learned German has published the Lord's Prayer in more than five hundred dialects.

+ Hence the word liber, which signifies the inner bark of trees; and as these barks were afterwards rolied up, for conveniency of removal, the rolls were called volumen, a voluine,

of preservation. The waxen tablets were employed in business, in letter-writing, and on all occasions, which did not admit of expense, or require to be preserved for any length of time. The purpose of the writing being accomplished, it was effaced, by rubbing the wax; thus, were the tables rendered perfectly serviceable for any new communication. The writing on parchment, was exceedingly expensive; and precluded from the use of books, all but the opulent. The several sheets of parchment were fastened together, and rolled up on a stick; the outside of the volume was called frons; the ends of the stick cornua, horns, which were usually carved and gilt, and sometimes ornamented with precious stones. The title was struck on the outside. The whole volume might be about 50 yards in length, and one and a half in width. The square form of our books, with separate leaves, was known to the antients, but little used.

Select Books on Writing.

Astle's Origin and Progress of Writing, 4to. 2d. edit. Fry's Pantographia, royal 8vo. Miins' Penman's Repository, fol. Pride's Art of Pencutting, 12mo,


THE origin of language, its slow and almost imperceptible progress, the formation of characters, or alphabets,and the invention of writing, having been noticed, the subject which next presents itself is Grammar. This teaches us to write and to speak with propriety. It gives our thoughts entrance into the minds of other persons with the greatest facility, and renders that perfectly intelligible, which, without grammatical order, would be perplexed and confused. Grammar explains the principles common to all languages; applies those common principles to one particular language, according to the established usage and custom of it; and treats of sentences, and of the several parts of which they are compounded. Or, it may be defined a collection of observations on the structure of any language, and a system of rules for its proper use.

ENGLISH GRAMMAR is divided into four parts. 1. ORTHOGRAPHY, which teaches the form and sound of letters, and the art of combining letters into syllables, and

« ÎnapoiContinuați »