Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ARTICLE VI.

HEBREW LEXICOGRAPHY.

Hebräisches und chaldäisches Schulwörterbuch über das alte Testa

ment, mit Hinweisung auf die Sprachlehren von Gesenius und

Ewald, von J. H. R. Biesenthal. Berlin, 1837. Natorffu. Comp. A Complete Hebrew and English Critical and Pronouncing Die

tionary, on a New and Improved Plan, containing all the words in the Holy Bible [sic], both Hebrew and Chaldee, with the vor. el points, prefixes and affixes, as they stand in the original text: together with their derivation, literal and etymological meaning, as it occurs in every part of the Bible, and illustrated by numer. ous citations from the Targums, Talmud and cognate dialects By W. L. Roy, Professor of Oriental Languages in New York New York, 1837. Collins, Keese & Co.

Reviewed hy Dr. I. Nordheimer, Prof. of Oriental Languages in the University of the city

of New York.

It may with confidence be asserted, that in no respect

bare the recent improvements in the science of philology been more fruitful in practical results, than in the interesting and bighly important department of lexicography. In former times a lesicon was a mere magazine, in which the words of a language, together with their respective meanings were collected with a greater or less degree of care, but with no other system than an alphabetical arrangement, and without any attempt to seek out the hidden bond of connection running through entire families of words which is indicated both by their form and signification. Much less did it occur to the minds of the early lexicographers

, to investigate either the mode in which words are formed from others already in existence for the purpose of expressing nearly related ideas, or that in which the often numerous and apparently widely different meanings of a single term have grown out of the unique idea which it was primarily intended to convey. These investigations, which constitute the very soul of modern lexicography, were then almost entirely overlooked ; latterly however they have profitably exercised the powers of some of the acutest and most philosophic minds; and the result has been, that lexicons continue more and more to assume the character of scientific productions.

[graphic]

At the present day, therefore, no lexicographer can justly claim to have advanced the study of a language unless his work both in its contents and general plan shall prove him to have entered upon his task with comprehensive and philosophical views of language in general, and with both the will and the ability to execute it in accordance with those natural principles which are disclosed by a profound study of the infinitely diversifed forms of human speech. The lexicographer must enter up his undertaking firmly impressed with the conviction that a language is not a mere mass of unconnected phenomena, the results of a blind chance, but is the true and lively representative of the human soul ; and that, as the soul of man is in all times and situations subject to much the same impressions, and 3 is operations are regulated by never varying laws, the lanriages of all nations, which are the immediate results of its tements, must bear throughout the stamp of uniformity.

The full development of this fundamental truth is owing to te ndefatigable researches of modern philologists, who have

suffered themselves to be deterred by the striking differenwhich the structure of individual languages presents, from edeavoring to discover the internal principle by which each is Amanected to one vast whole. The secret of their success is to be found in the fact, that they carried their inquiries beyond the Bere outward form of language, and subjected to a rigid scrutiits hidden sources. By this means they were enabled to prove to demonstration, that phenomena both lexicographical od grammatical of the most opposite character are frequently He best evidences of the radical nature of the connection exist

between all languages, and furthermore that the occurrence such apparent discrepancies might have been predicted from be very constitution of speech. lo granting the faculty of speech to be a necessary part of be nature which man has received from the hand of the Almighty, we acknowledge in effect that, even should it never become externally manifest in the shape of articulate sounds, is virtual existence is rendered coëval with that of man by the areation of the mental powers requisite for its production. This nternal speech or language of the soul usually obtains an exteral existence through the medium of the organs of speech: yet kould this be prevented by the malformation or total want of mne or more of these organs, some other mode of communicaton will be substituted, such as gesticulation, the touch, etc.; thus showing that the productive energy of the soul constandy remains, although deprived of the usual mode of exhibiting its effects. When, however, no such difficulty occurs, and the organs are capable of freely seconding every impulse of the soul, the latter, as soon as excited by the impressions made on it by the external world, manifests a disposition to exercise its powers in the production of audible speech. As the operations of the soul and the movements of the organs admit of indefinite modification, the articulate sounds which are their joint production exhibit an almost endless variety, and this is still further increased by the combination of the individual sounds into words. Thus, although audible speech is in the main a faithful transcript of the sensations and reflections of the mind, the immense variety in the external circumstances of nations, as well as in their mental development and cultivation, constitutes a fruitful source of diversity in the very outset of the formation of language—a diversity which is increased ad infinitum by the reaction of the external world immediately succeeding the embodying of the language of the soul in words, and which results in the formation of dialects and sometimes of independent languages.

When a word has experienced the effects of all the influences brought to bear upon it during its gradual formation, it obtains a place in the world of language together with its inherent idea, the two bearing to each other the mutual relation of body and soul. The path thus laid open by the mind for the communication of an idea is naturally sought by it again on the recurrence of the impression, by which it was first excited 10 action, and in this manner the primitive word obtains a permanent existence. It, however, still remains subject to the influences both internal and external which affected its formation ; and hence, although created to be the sole representative of a single idea, it is liable to changes both in its material structure and in its animating principle. Thus, essential alterations in the form of a primitive may gradually be produced by the repeated change or suppression of one or more of its elements arising from defective organization or imperfect recollection

, while the idea which the word is intended to convey retains its original character without any modification whatever. When such changes in form have reached a certain amount, a new dialect is the result. Changes in the signification of primitive words may be produced by alterations in the physical or social

[graphic]

osition of individuals or nations, in consequence of which their mpressions assume a character differing more or less widely rom that which they originally bore. The most direct and asy expedient, and consequently that most usually adopted, or expressing the modified feelings to which a new condition of hings gives rise, is, not to undertake the construction of new terms, but to employ those already in existence for the expression of such ideas as their original most nearly resembles : and thus a word which was created to represent a single idea may gradually become the exponent of many others standing to it in various degrees of relation. From each of these secondary meanings new ones may branch out, until at length the only mode in which the connection between the primary meaning of a word and its remotest applications can be rendered obvious, is to trace out the path followed by the mind in deducing the latter from the former. It will not unfrequently be found that the intermediate significations have fallen out of use; but as without these the exhibition of the powers and uses of a word must ever remain incomplete, there hence arises the necessity for their restoration as far as practicable; and this may truly be said to constitute one of the most difficult and delicate of all the arduous duties which the lexicographer is called upon to perform.

In order to accomplish this in a manner to satisfy himself and benefit those who may adopt his work as a guide, if the language of which he treats be already extinct, it is requisite that he should render himself acquainted with all its most important remains, as these are the most authentic sources of information to which he can possibly refer ; but should it be still in use and rich in the treasures of literature, the abundance of materials thus furnished will impose upon him the additional task of tracing its history down from the remotest periods to which he can have access, and of showing what words and what acceptations of words have come into use and been again rejected in all the different stages of its existence : for

“ Ut silvae foliis pronos mutantur in annos,

Prima cadunt, ita verborum vetus interit aetas." Again, as a language when it first attracts the lexicographer's attention may have already arrived at that state in which the meanings of a single word have often no visible interconnection in consequence of the disappearance of the intermediate shades of signification, and which the utmost familiarity with that language alone will not suffice to restore, the lexicographer who desires properly to perform this portion of his task must apply himself to the attainment of such a knowledge of its cognate dialects as may enable him to consult them with facility; and when these fail in furnishing the information required, he must have recourse to languages possessing no other relation to the subject of his labors than that which all the varieties of human speech bear to one another in consequence of their community of origin and design. The labors which the lexicographer is thus called upon to perform may well be termed Herculean ; yet he alone who has mastered the peculiarities of a variety of languages, whose powers of observation have been sharpened by constant use, and who possesses a judgment capable of weighing with scrupulous exactness the value of conflicting testimonies, can perform the part of one in a manner to satisfy the claims which will be made upon him by the present advanced state of the science of philology.

[graphic]

In addition to what has now been stated, there remains another difficulty for the lexicographer to overcome. We have already seen that instead of constructing a new term for the representation of a new idea, the same object is frequently effected in a readier manner by employing a word existing in the language whose signification is nearly related to the idea for which an exponent is desired. When however this new idea, although bearing a radical affinity to one which has already attained its expression, is so far removed from it as to render the above expedient insufficient for the purposes of perspicuity, another step in derivation is taken, which consists in modifying or altogether rejecting one or more of the elements of the onginal word or in making an addition to their number. In this manner from a comparatively few primitives are produced a multitude of new terms bearing a resemblance to their respective originals both in form and signification. So that the lexicographer, after having discovered and systematically arranged the various shades of meaning assumed by each separate word, has to select the primitive from a mass of words bearing to one another an obvious relation, and then to show the manner in which the derivatives have been formed, and the means whereby they are rendered capable of adequately representing those modifications of the original idea which they are intended to convey.*

For a more complete development of the writer's ideas on this subject, see the preface to his Hebrew Grammar, pp. xi. et seqq.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »