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powers of which they were conscious within themselves; when They fancied that the Wind blows, that the Sun goes down, and that the Ocean roars, and when with similar ignorance they feigned mountains and rivers to be males and females."
The first words which a savage would utter would naturally be mere vocal sounds pronounced with the open mouth without articulation. Accordingly words of this character abound in the vocabularies of many barbarous nations, as the South-Sea islanders, the Hurons, the Algonquins, Galibis, and Esquimaux. Some well known languages preserve many of these first attempts to form words. The Greek expresses the most simple ideas by mere vocal sounds, such as dw, tw, ées, éuw, diw, hw, viw, diei, did.
The addition of consonants was a considerable step in advance, and that it was a matter of some difficulty, we may learn by observing how many languages are still very defective in this respect. La Hontan found it impossible to teach a Huron to articulate the labials, b, p, and m. Scarcely are there two dialects which agree in the number of consonants. The Otaheiteans imitated the name of Cook by the word Tutu, and the Chinese in the place of Christus, were obliged to substitute Ki-li-tu-su.
Next to mere vocal sounds, the most simple class of words are those in which a single vowel follows a consonant, as ba, lo, ma, &c. These are the words which a child first pronounces. The dialects of the southern islanders are replete with such sounds, and the whole Chinese vocabulary contains scarcely any other words. On this account Mr. Adelung considers this as the nearest representative of the primitive language of mankind. Our author is not the first who has supposed the monosyllabic structure to be a proof of high antiquity. The learned Dr. Shuckford adopted the same notion, and consequently made an attempt to resolve the triliteral roots of the Hebrew into monosyllables.
The first application of names to objects, or the inyention of significant words, has often been supposed to have taken its rise from the imitation of the voices of animals, or the sounds produced by various natural causes. The serpent hisses, the beés hum, the thunder peals, the tempest roars, the wind howls among the mountains. The savage listens and imitates the sound which salutes his ears, and the word which he pronounces serves afterwards to recall to himself and his companions the idea of the object which first gave occasion to its utterance. In fact all such phenomena as are accompanied by an audible sound are distinguished in most languages by tones which are clearly imitative, and the names of animals which utter loud and distinct cries are of the same nature. Having once by these simple efforts formed the habit of communicating and receiving ideas, it is easy to conceive that a further progress could be made by associating analogous perceptions and objects. A stone falling to a great depth was frequently observed to occasion a peculiar sound. The imitation of this sound afforded a word to signify deep: the same word was afterwards extended to the opposite but connected sense of height, and it came at length to designate haughtiness, magnanimity, loftiness of mind, and whatever excites the sentiment of the sublime, either in animated or inanimate nature. How far these analogies may be carried, and how remote the derived sense of a word may become from the idea which first occasioned its invention, may be conceived by observing the terms which in several languages designate the soul or intellectual spirit, and which took their rise from words first applied to the act of breathing, or formed in imitation of the sound which a breeze produces in the foliage of a wood.
liore of a wood. As these analogies are for the most part arbitrary, and depend on peculiar habits of feeling and thinking, it may thus be imagined that every little society of men would form a language in a great measure peculiar, and that the diversities would chiefly consist in words which have a figurative sense, and therefore owe their origin to real or fancied resemblances. We find in reality that the terms furnished by natural objects and by those analogies which are so accessible as to be universally perceived, are often similar in idioms which differ in their more abstract words. The structure of a language will thus bear the character of the nation by whom it was formed. Among the Oriental people the fancy takes a bolder flight, and discovers or invents analogies which escape the feeble perceptions and colder genius of the North.
But if we suppose a sufficient number of words to be thus formed, we are still far from possessing a complete language. “ We have now indeed formed a canoe out of the unshapen trunk, but a rudder and sails are wanting, and we can only grope with labour and difficulty along the coast.” The distinction of nouns and verbs, and the addition of numbers, declensions, and conjugations are necessary before our dialect can assume a sufficiently perfect state for expressing our thoughts with precision and facility. These advantages have been obtained by different nations in degrees, and by methods very various. The Chinese and other languages of similar character are absolutely destitute of inflections. Simple monosyllables are incapable of variation; they are a sort of monads or primitive particles; all the connections and shades of ideas are performed by them in the rudest manner; variation of tone sustains an important part, and even gesticulation is used to render language more expressive. The composition of words is precluded by the mechanism of these dialects which admits of no aggregates, and its place is rudely supplied by mere juxtaposition. In other languages our author supposes com
position to be the source of all the modifications of words, and attributes declension, conjugation, &c. to this sole principle; but he has not resolved the problem, how some languages originally monosyllabic, for such he supposes all to have been, have in the sequel entirely changed their character, and have become capable of combinations.
This account of the invention of speech, though it contains little that is altogether new, appears to us on the whole well imagined and ingeniously illustrated. With respect to its truth, which is the most important question, we are disposed to take a middle course. That the language spoken by the first created of mankind originated in che mode marked out by Mr. Adelung, we are very little disposed to maintain; but we think it evident that the dialects of barbarous tribes were generally formed, and are continually renewed on a similar principle; and this idea by no means precludes the descent of all mankind from a common origin. New additions are every day made to the fluctuating jargons of savages, and those parts of their idioms which cease to be in conformity with their habits, speedily fall into disuse and are lost. The language of the Mantsbures and Tungusians contains such a multitude of words which have no mutual relations, but are evidently formed by imitation and onomatopoeia, that in merely casting our eyes over the vocabulary we easily trace the origin of the greater part of it. A similar opinion may be formed of the monosyllabic dialects of Eastern Asia; but with respect to the polysyliabic languages, which are the most important in literature and in the history of the world, we are obliged to come to a different conclusion. In the German and Celtic there are very few of these natural words when compared with the idioms above mentioned; and though the whole collective number be somewhat considerable, it bears but a small proportion to those parts of the language which have a totally different aspect. In the Persian, words of the same origin are to be found, which may be accounted for by the intermixture of northern nations with the people of Iran. But in the Greek, and still more in the Latin, they diminish to a very small number, and in the Sanscrit, which of all the above mentioned, and perhaps of all existing languages, has the highest pretensions to antiquity, scarcely any vestige of such a beginning can be discovered.
With respect also to the connections and modifications of words, it appears to us that Mr. Adelung has generalized too much in referring them universally to combination. The method of expressing the relations of ideas seems to depend on totally distinct principles in different languages. We have mentioned that the monosyllabic dialects are the most imperfect in this respect. In another class of languages words are capable of coalescing, and thus supply, by combination, the place of a proper inflection. The modern dialects of Europe are modified, more or less, in this manner, and the declensions and conjugations of the Hebrew are contrived on a similar principle; but the Slavonian, the Greek, and Latin, and still more the Sanscrit, have a far more refined and artificial structure; the shades of ideas and the relations of words to each other are expressed in all these idioms by variations in the roots, either by prefixing augments, or by altering the middle vowels according to certain rules, or by modifying the terminations. On this subject we shall add some further remarks in their appropriate place. We only remark at present, that whether we consider the materia prima of which these languages are composed, or the complicated system on which they are constructed, we can scarcely imagine them to have taken their rise from the rude exclamations of barbarous hunters.
Having explained very much to his own satisfaction the origin of language, our author endeavours to discover what part of the earth is the native seat of the human race, and he contrives to establish a coincidence between his conclusions on this subject, and the results we have already noticed. The structure of the earth points clearly to a period when our continents, and even the highest mountains, were covered by the ocean, and Moses has given us the same testimony in his account of the creation. When the waters subsided and the dry land appeared, the most elevated mountain plains first afforded a habitable dwelling to terrestrial animals and to the human species. Hence, as the slowly diminishing ocean gave up progressively the lower regions to be the abode of life, they descended and spread themselves over their new acquisitions. The central plain of Asia, between the 90th and 110th degree of East longitude, and the 30th and 50th of North latitude, was the tract which first emerged from the deep. The desert of Kobi, which is the summit of this mountainous region, is the most elevated ridge in the globe. From its vicinity the great rivers of Asia take their rise, and flow down towards the four cardinal points. The Selinga, the Ob, the Irtish, the Lena, and the Jenisey, carry their waters to the Frozen Ocean; the Jaik, the Oxus, flow towards the setting sun; the Amur and the Hoaugho, or the Yellow River, towards the East; the Indus, the Ganges, and the Burampooter, terminate in the Southern Sea. On the declivities of these highlands are the plains of Tibet, lower than the frozen region of Kobi, where many fertile tracts are well fitted to become the early seat of animated nature. In the valleys of Kashmire to the southward the verdure of perpetual spring reigns, and the rich stores of esculent vegetables which there abound mark this region as well adapted to become the abode of the first men, fresh from the hand of Nature, and destitute as yet of the arts of life. “ Here are found not only the vine, the olive, rice, the legumina, and other plants on which man has in all ages depended, in a great measure, for his sustenance; but all those animals run wild upon these mountains, which he has tamed and led with him over the whole earth, as the ox, the horse, the ass, the sheep, the goat, the camel, the hog, the dog, the cat, and even the gentle rein-deer, his constant friend, who accompanies and consoles him even in the icy polar tracts. In Kashmire, plants, animals, and men, exist in their greatest physical perfection.” Mr. Adelung accordingly places here the seat of Eden, the primitive abode of man; and he is so delighted with this conceit, that he indulges himself in a long digression on the imaginary beauties of his Indian paradise, which seems to be somewhat whimsically introduced into an Essay on Languages.
It must be confessed, that there is something very specious in this conjecture. Without adverting to the fact, that the high steppe of central Asia is the most elevated tract as yet known, and consequently must have been abandoned by the ocean at a much earlier period than most other parts of the earth; it is a very curious circumstance that the cereal gramina, and other esculent plants, which in all ages have furnished the chief food of the human species, have here their native seat, and that nearly all our races of domestic animals run wild in the same region. This consideration induced the Swiss Müller, the most learned and philosophical of modern historians, to place the original seat of mankind in Tibet.
A number of historical arguments also suggest themselves in favour of this opinion. The traditions of the ancient world refer all nations to an Eastern origin, and we shall hereafter see reason to attach some credit to them in this particular. We shall find proof that most of the nations of Northern Europe are nearly allied in kindred to the Eastern Asiatics. Africa, as well as the opposite shores of the Mediterranean, is well known to have been early occupied by colonies from Asia. The fictions of the Greek and Italian mythology are full of oriental imagery, and contain other proofs of Asiatic origin. Dr. Shuckford, from considering the passages in Genesis, which relate to the events immediately subsequent to the deluge, was convinced that they refer to a high mountainous region, far to the Eastward of Mesopotamia, towards which the colony which laid the foundations of Babel is said to have journeyed from East to West. Such is the situation of Tibet. It is worthy of notice, that the ancient books of the Hindoos, which describe the primitive condition of man in a manner very similar to that of Moses, fix the cradle of our race in the same quarter. “ The Hindoo. Paradise lies on Mount