Изображения страниц

been collected of their languages, no affinity can be discovered between them, or any resemblance with the idioms of nations better known, with one remarkable exception, which we shall hereafter notice.

Such is the result of Mr. Adelung's observations on these remote tribes, and their languages. We may remark, however, that in his anxiety to avoid the common error of philologists, he approaches the opposite extreme, and scarcely allows their due weight to real coincidences. A few vocables common to two distant nations do not, indeed, authorise our classing their languages together; but if such a coincidence cannot be referred to accident, it proves a connection more or less remote between the nations in whose dialects it occurs. Traces are to be met with in the idioms of many remote nations in northern Asia, which point out this sort of affinity between them and the southern races.

The mountainous tract between the Euxine and Caspian Seas, which has received the name of Caucasus, affords a dwelling, to a multitude of independent tribes, the remains, perhaps, of different nations, who have traversed this region in remote ages, in their way from Southern Asia to the North. Adelung has derived all his acquaintance with them from Güldenstadt and Reineggs, who are inferior in accuracy and extent of information to Klaproth, who was sent by the Russian government, at a more recent period, to survey the Caucasus, and whose travels are the subject of our preceding article. In several particulars he has corrected the statements of his predecessors.

The Caucasian nations are distributed into five principal branches, distinguished from each other in languages and in origin. 1. The Abassians inhabit the north western tract: they are probably the nation who, in the time of Strabo, practised piracy on the shores of the Euxine: they are now wild mountaineers, and as much distinguished from their neighbours by their features as by their languages, which have no affinity with any other. 2. The Circassians, or more properly Kasaeks, possess the northern declivities of Caucasus and the neighbouring plains. A tribe of this race, intermixed with Russians, gave origin to the Cossacs of the Don. The Circassian bards retain among them the tradition of the Amazons, a nation of women, who, as they say, settled in the territory of the Nogay Tartars, and intermarried with that people. This is exactly the story of Herodotus: he says the Amazons came into the country of the Scythians, who appear, from a variety of circumstances, to have been the ancestors of the proper Tartars. 3. The Ossetes, on the high mountains above the Circassians, are, according to Klaproth, of Medo-Sar

He gives some reasons for believing them to be the remains of the celebrated Alani. 4. The Ingushi are a wild people, dwelling near the sources of the Terek. 5. The Lesgi are divided into many tribes, or rather the name includes various hordes, who have little or no affinity.

matian race.

The languages of all these nations are said to be essentially distinct.

The more fertile and level countries, which border on the Caucasus to the southward, are called by Europeans Georgia, but more properly Gurgisthan, from the river Kur, the Cyrus of the Greeks. This country is the seat of a nation well known to antiquity, under the names of Iberians and Colchians, who carried on commerce on the Caspian and Euxine seas. According to Klaproth they have ancient writings in a peculiar character which record the invasion of Asia by the Cimmerii of Herodotus. It is agreed by all writers that their language has no affinity with any other known idiom.

The Armenians are a remarkable nation of western Asia, whose language has been preserved from the beginning of the fifth century by the use of letters. The idiom of that time differed however widely from the modern dialect, as we learn from a translation of the Bible executed by Miesrob, whose pupil was the his torian Moses of Chorene. The Armenian language differs widely from all others, even in those vocables which are necessary to the rudest nations; yet its grammatical structure, which has an affinity with that of the Greek and Sanscrit, induces a suspicion that this diversity has been the effect of a gradual fluctuation.

The high mountainous ridge of Asia, which rises from the north of the Caspian, and stretches across to the Eastern Ocean, has been from the remotest periods of history, the abode of seve ral barbarous nations, who have poured themselves down from time to time on the more polished nations of the south, and have every where rendered their name terrible to future ages. The nomadic hordes of this elevated plain belong to three great races equally illustrious in deeds of blood.

1. The native region of the Turks or Tartars is the western de clivity of this steppe towards the Caspian sea, and the banks of the Volga. This immense nation is divided into a number of departments, whose names and affiliations our limits will not permit us to pursue. There is sufficient evidence of their belonging to one stock, though their languages are infinitely diversified. The Scythians of the Greeks, in the definite sense of that name, were this same nation, and it is remarkable that the Nogay Tartars, as Klaproth informs us from local observations, have still that distemper prevalent among them, to which Herodotus ascriles so curious an origin,

I he language of the Ottomans is better known than the dialects of other Tartar hordes. The modern Turkish is mixed with Arabie and Persic, but its Tartarian basis is easily distinguishable from these additions, and contains such a number of German vocables, as prove a remote connexion between the Tartar and German races.

We may observe that the Sauromatæ, who spoke the Scythian language in the time of Herodotus, are certainly connected with the Slavonian family. The features of the Tartar nations are European.

2. The mountains of Altai are the cradle of the Mongolian race, whose features distinguish them as widely as those of the Negro from the rest of mankind. Three great nations belong to this stock: the Kalmucks, the Burættes, and the proper Mongoles. These people are probably the Argippæi of Herodotus, and the Seres of the later Greeks: they are doubtless the Hiong-nu of the Chinese historians, and the Hunns who laid waste Europe.

Their language, which is better known than many others, is polysyllabic, but formed in the structure of the monosyllabic dialects; yet it is not without some traces of resemblance to the European languages. A number of words contained in the vocabulary given by Strahlenburg exist, as Vallancey has remarked, in the modern Irish; Mr. Townsend has copied them in his remarks on the Gaëlic language.

3. The eastern region of the Asiatic steppe is the seat of the Mantshurian, or Mant-shoo race, the conquerors of China. The Tungusians, divided into the Rein-deer, Horse, and Dog-Tungusians, and the Fishing Tungusians, who wander from the river Ienisay to the limits of Daouria, are a branch of this family.

They have a distinct language of peculiar structure. Yet, divided as they are from all connexion with European history, they have a number of words which are found in several of our dialects. Mr. Adelung has given a list of them, a part of which we extract.

“ Ura; Gr. oupee; Kalpin ; Gr, xontos; Chop; Germ. schopf, Eng. top; Non; Germ.nonne (girl); Heren; Germ. heer;Eng. array; Kisun (word), kisureme (to talk); Germ. kosen, Fr. causer ; Hife; Germ. hafe; avena, Lat. (pipe); Fahala (black); Germ. fahl ; Farshe; pars, part; Morin; Eng. mare; Singui, sanguis ; furu, furor ; fury; Mala; malleus, hammer ; Ania, annus, year, &c.”

Beyond Mantchuria, to the eastward, the Peninsula of Corea contains a number of states, formerly independent, but now united under one sovereign, who is tributary to China. The Chinese pretend that this subjection took place 2188 years before Christ. The Jesuits who went from Pekin to Corea found that the nations neither understood the Chinese nor the Mantchurian language. Their dialect seems to be of the monosyllabic class.

In the island of Sagalien, the longest in the world, the inhabitants change their name and language in every village.

The people of the Kuriles, who are said to be covered with hair on their backs, speak a peculiar language. The Japanese suppose themselves to be descended from the Chinese. Their language however gives no support to this opinion. It is polysyllabic, and totally different from the Chinese, and, as far as we know, from all other languages. The same remark may be made of the idiom of Formosa.

The extensive traces of one language scattered over the islands of the Indian Seas and Pacific Ocean is a very curious phenomenon. Adelung is very imperfectly informed concerning the history of these islanders, which has been solely investigated by our countrymen, particularly by Leyden, Marsden, and the companions of Cook. An opinion long prevailed that all these tribes were colonies from Malacca, although many striking facts opposed themselves to such a conclusion. Marsden however has shown that the Malays themselves are a colony from the islands, which settled at some remote period on the main land. The inhabitants of all this region, which has been termed Polynesia, may be distributed into three classes, according to the different states of society in which they are found.

1. The Negro races, who are every where savages, inhabit the larger islands, and the interior of some others, of which they appear to be the oldest inhabitants. Their languages are very various, and often radically different in adjoining islands; the dialects however of some of their tribes resemble those of the second class. 2dly. The Tattowed tribes, to whom belong the Battas of Sumatra, the Pintados of the Philippines, and the natives of the remote isles in the Pacific. Their languages resemble the Otaheitean. 3dly. The Menangkabow race is settled in many of the Indian islands, and on the Malayan coast.

We regret that the great length to which our paper has already extended forbids us from following Mr. Adelung and his successor, Professor Vater, through their history of the dialects of the African and American savages. Their remarks on the latter particularly, which are comprised in the last part of the Mithridates, and appeared at a later period than the rest of the work, are very interesting. The most striking fact which presents itself is the endless diversity of the idioms, which prevail among these wild nations. Their languages are so numerous that Mr. Jefferson, from this circumstance, fancied that the population of America must be more ancient than that of the Eastern continent.

We shall conclude our observations on the history of languages by some remarks on the Hebrew, which we have purposely reserved for this place.

We have had frequent occasion to remark, that the dialects of barbarous nations are infinitely diversified. Among the savage

tribes of Terra Australis, and the wild hunters of America, every river and range of mountains divides nations whose languages scarcely bear any traces of resemblance. The same remark may be made of the people of northern Asia and of Africa; in short, of all races of men in a corresponding stage of society. But the history nearly of all nations goes back to a similar period of barbarism; consequently this diversity of idioms was once almost infinite and universal. The Indian colonies in Europe may seem to be exceptions to these observations; but the era of their migration was comparatively recent, and their languages were preserved from fluctuation by particular causes. The Celtæ, at their departure from the East, had an order of men whose profession was learning and philosophy. The institution of the Bards, which was probably coëval with Druidism and the similar order of the northern Scalds, and the public festivals, where the poets of Greece sung verses in honour of their heroes, contributed to preserve the vestiges which we have traced of one ancient idiom prevalent among all these tribes, while, among all other nations, languages are found to be infinitely various.

But it has commonly been supposed that the Hebrew was the language of the antediluvian world, and that which alone survived the Flood ; accordingly, philologists have generally considered it their duty to trace all languages to this original; and this is the rock on which they have so often split. We know not why this notion has been so frequently taken for granted; perhaps it has been thought that the Hebrew must have been the original language, because it was the idiom which was chosen to be the medium of revelation ; but the same plea might be urged with equal force in favour of the Greek. This is a weak and conjectural argument. If it be said, that the history of the Hebrews, as given in Genesis, which mentions a regular succession of patriarchs from Noah, proves the original speech to have been handed down from one generation to another, we need only appeal to that history in order to discover that no such inference is authorized, or in the slightest degree countenanced by its testimony.

The first important event related after the flood is a great migration towards the West. This was probably one of the earliest colonies from the East; and the sacred historian, having no concern with the remainder of mankind, confines himself in the sequel to what befell this settlement in Shinar. We shall not discuss the nature of that event called the Confusion of Languages: whether it was, as Dr. Shuckford and Mr. Townsend are anxious to represent, a consequence of natural circumstances or not, the historian had doubtless a purpose in recording it; and we can at least gather this from his account, that the portion of mankind

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »