Language and the Study of Language/Lecture V

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LECTURE V.


Erroneous views of the relations of dialects. Dialectic variety implies original unity. Effect of cultivation on a language. Grouping of languages by relationship. Nearer and remoter relations of the English. Constitution of the Indo-European family. Proof of its unity. Impossibility of determining the place and time of its founders; their culture and customs, inferred from their restored vocabulary.

Having previously considered in some detail the various modes of change in language—the processes of linguistic life, as, by an allowable figure, we termed them—we went on at our last interview to direct our attention to the circumstances and conditions which govern the working of those processes, giving prominence to the one or the other of them, and quickening or retarding their joint effects. We then proceeded to inquire into the manner in which the same processes operate to divide any given form of speech, with the lapse of time, into varying forms, or to convert a language into dialects. We passed in review the causes which favour the development of dialectic differences, as well as those which limit and oppose such development, and even tend to bring uniformity out of diversity. They are, we found, of two general kinds: the one, proceeding from individuals, and founded on the diversities of individual character and circumstance, tend to indefinite separation and discordance; the other, acting in communities, and arising from the necessity of mutual intelligence, the grand aim and purpose of language, make for uniformity and assimilation, sacrificing a merely personal to a more comprehensive unity, merging the individual in the society of which he is a member. Language is an institution founded in man's social nature, wrought out for the satisfaction of his social wants; and hence, while individuals are the sole ultimate agents in the formation and modification of every word and meaning of a word, it is still the community that makes and changes its language. The one is the molecular force; the other, the organic. Both, as we saw, are always at work, and the history of human tongues is a record of their combined effects; but the individual diversifying forces lie deeper down, are more internal, more inherent in the universal use of speech, and removed from the control of outward circumstances. Language, we may fairly say, tends toward diversity, but circumstances connected with its employment check, annul, and even reverse this tendency, preserving unity, or producing it where it did not before exist.

One or two recent writers upon language[1] have committed the very serious error of inverting the mutual relations of dialectic variety and uniformity of speech, thus turning topsy-turvy the whole history of linguistic development. Unduly impressed by the career of modern cultivated dialects, their effacement of existing dialectic differences and production of homogeneous speech throughout wide regions, and failing to recognize the nature of the forces which have made such a career possible, these authors affirm that the natural tendency of language is from diversity to uniformity; that dialects are, in the regular order of things, antecedent to language; that human speech began its existence in a state of infinite dialectic division, which has been, from the first, undergoing coalescence and reduction. It may seem hardly worth while to spend any effort in refuting an opinion of which the falsity will have been apparent by the exposition already given; yet a brief additional discussion of the point will afford us the opportunity of setting in a clearer light one or two principles whose distinct apprehension is necessary in order to the successful prosecution of our farther inquiries.

It will be readily admitted that the difference between any given dialect and another of kindred stock is made up of a multitude of separate items of difference, and consists in their sum and combined effect; thus, for instance, words are possessed by the one which are wanting in the other; words found in both are differently pronounced by each, or are used in senses either not quite identical or very unlike; combinations and forms belong only to one, or are corrupted and worn down in diverse degrees by the two; phrases occur in the one which would be meaningless in the other. Now the gradual production of such differences as these is something which we see to have been going on in language during the whole period of its history illustrated by literary records; nay, which is even going on at the present day under our own eyes. If the Italian uses in the sense of 'truth' the word verità, the Spanish verdad, the French vérité, the English verity, we know very well that it is not because all these forms were once alike current in the mouths of the same people, till those who preferred each one of them sorted themselves out and combined together into a separate community; it must be because some single people formerly used in the same sense a single word, either coincident with one of these or nearly resembling them all, from which they have all descended, in the ordinary course of linguistic tradition, that always implies liability to linguistic change. We happen to know, indeed, in this particular case, by direct historical evidence, what the original word was, and who were the people that used it: it was vēritāt (nominative veritas), and belonged to the language of Rome, the Latin: its present varieties of form merely illustrate the usual effects of phonetic corruption. So, too, if I say attend! and the Frenchman attendez! our words differ in pronunciation, in grammatical form (the latter having a plural ending which the former lacks), and in sense (the French meaning 'wait!'); and, in all these respects save the last, both differ from the Latin attendite; yet of this both are alike the hereditary representatives: no Roman ever said either attend or attendez. But this same reasoning we apply also in other cases, where direct historical evidence is wanting, arriving without hesitation or uncertainty at like conclusions. If we say true, while the German says treu, the Dane tro, the Netherlander trouw, and so on, we do not once think of doubting that it is because we have all gotten nearly the same word, in nearly the same sense, by uninterrupted tradition from some primitive community in which a like word had a like sense; and we set ourselves to discover what this word was, and what and why have been the changes which have brought it into its present varying forms. The discordance between our father, the Anglo-Saxon fæder, the Icelandic fadir, the Dutch vader, and the German vater, does not, any more than that between verity and its analogues, compel us to assume a time when these words existed as primitive dialectic varieties in the same community: we regard them as the later effects of the separation of one community into several. And when we compare them all with the Latin pater, the Greek patēr, the Persian peder, the Sanskrit pitar—all which are but palpable forms of the same original from which the rest have come—our inference is still the same. Or, to recur once more to an example which we have already had occasion to adduce, our word is is the English correspondent of the German ist, the Latin est, the Greek esti, the Lithuanian esti, the Slavonian yesti, the Persian est, the Sanskrit asti. To the apprehension of the historical student of language, all these are nothing more than slightly varying forms of the same vocable: their difference is one of the innumerable differences of detail which distinguish from one another the languages we have named. We cannot, to be sure, go back under the sure guidance of contemporary records to the people among whom, and the time at which, the word originated: but we are just as far in this case as in those referred to above from being driven to the conclusion that all its present representatives are equally primitive, that they constitute together the state of indefinite dialectic variety in which the expression of the third person singular of the verb to be began, and that the nations, modern or ancient, in whose languages we find them are the lineal descendants of those groups in a former community who finally made up their minds to prefer the one or the other of them. On the contrary, we derive, with all the confidence belonging to a strictly logical process of reasoning, the conclusion that the words we are considering are later variations of a single original, namely asti, and that they would have no existence if a certain inferrible community, at an unknown period in the past, had not put together the verbal root as, signifying 'existence,' and the pronoun ti, meaning 'that,' to form that original.

The same reasoning is applicable to every other individual instance of dialectic difference. And it is so applied, in each individual instance, even by those who maintain the priority of dialects: such comparison and inference as we have been illustrating constitute the method of linguistic research of the comparative philologists, among whom they too desire to count themselves. Only they fail to note that the whole sum of dialectic difference is made up of instances like these, and that, if the latter point back, in detail, to an original unity, the former must, in its entirety, do the same. "As there were families, clans, confederacies, and tribes," we are told,[2] "before there was a nation, so there were dialects before there was a language." The fallacy involved in this comparison, as in all the reasoning by which is supported the view we are combating, is that it does not go back far enough; it begins in the middle of historic development, instead of at its commencement. If families, clans, and tribes were ultimate elements in the history of humanity, if they sprang up independently, each out of the soil on which it stands, then the indefinite diversity of human language in its early stages—a diversity, however, fundamental, and not dialectic—might follow, not only as an analogical, but as a direct historical consequence. But, if a population of scattered communities implies dispersion from a single point, if we must follow back the fates of our race until they centre in a limited number of families or in a single pair, which expanded by natural increase, and scattered, forming the little communities which later fused together into greater ones—and who will deny that it was so?—then, also, both by analogy and by historical necessity, it follows that that is the true view of the relation of dialects and language to which we have been led above: namely, that growth and divarication of dialects accompany the spread and disconnection of communities, and that assimilation of dialects accompanies the coalescence of communities.

Prevalence of the same tongue over wide regions of the earth's surface was, indeed, impossible in the olden time, and human speech is now, upon the whole, tending toward a condition of less diversity with every century; but this is only owing to the vastly increased efficiency at present of those external influences which counteract the inherent tendency of language to diversify. As, here in America, a single cultivated nation, of homogeneous speech, is taking the place of a congeries of wild tribes, with their host of discordant tongues, so, on a smaller scale, is it everywhere else: civilization and the conditions it makes are gaining upon barbarism and its isolating influences. In the fact that Frenchmen, Spaniards, and Italians, on entering our community, all learn alike to say with us verity, there is nothing which at all goes to prove that verity, vérité, verdad, and verità are primitive dialectic varieties, tending toward unity; nor, in the extended sway of the cultivated tongues of more modern periods, is there aught which in the most distant manner favours the theory that dialects are antecedent to uniform speech, and that the latter everywhere grows out of the former.

It is true, again, that a certain degree of dialectic variety is inseparable from the being of any language, at any stage of its history. We have seen that even among ourselves, where uniformity of speech prevails certainly not less than elsewhere in the world, no two individuals speak absolutely the same tongue, or would propagate absolutely the same, if circumstances should make them the founders of independent linguistic traditions. However small, then, may have been the community which laid the basis of any actually existing language or family of languages, we must admit the existence of some differences between the idioms of its individual members, or families. And if we suppose such a community to be dispersed into the smallest possible fragments, and each fragment to become the progenitor of a separate community, it might be said with a kind of truth that the languages of these later communities began their history with dialectic differences already developed. The more widely extended, too, the original community before its dispersion, and the more marked the local differences, not inconsistent with mutual intelligibility, existing in its speech, the more capital, so to speak, would each portion have, on which to commence its farther accumulation of dialectic variations. But these original dialectic differences would themselves be the result of previous growth, and they would be of quite insignificant amount, as having been able to consist at the outset with unity of speech; they might be undistinguishable even by the closest analysis among the peculiarities of idiom which should have arisen later; and it would be the grossest error to maintain either that these last were original and primitive, or that they grew out of and were caused by the first slight varieties: we should rather say, with entire truth, that the later dialects had grown by gradual divergence out of a single homogeneous language.

In an uncultured community, the value of such minor discordances of usage as may exist, and do always exist, among those who yet, as being able to communicate freely with one another, are to be regarded as speaking the same tongue, is at its maximum. The first effect of the cultivation of a language, as we style it, is to wipe out this class of differences, extending the area and perfecting the degree of linguistic uniformity. And its work is accomplished, first as last, whether the scale of variation over which its influence bears sway be less or greater, by selection, not by fusion. The varying usages of different individuals and localities are not averaged, but the usages of one part of the community are set up as a norm, to which those of the rest shall be conformed, and from which farther variation shall be checked or altogether prevented. An element of consciousness, of reflectiveness, is introduced into the use of language; acknowledged imitation of certain models, deference to authority in matters of speaking, take the place of the former more spontaneous and careless employment of the common means of communication, governed only by the necessities of communication, which are always felt but not always reasoned upon. The best speakers, those who use words with most precision, with most fulness and force of meaning, with most grace and art, become the teachers of the rest. And however this influence be exerted, whether by simple recognition of authority in those who deserve it, or with the aid of a popular literature, handed down by tradition, or whether it rise to grammatical and lexical culture, to the possession of letters and learning, it is of the same nature; it produces its conserving and ennobling effects in the same way. It is the counsellor and guide, not the master, of national usage. It undertakes no wholesale reformation. It does not shear off from a language masses of unnecessary means of expression which untaught speakers would fain force upon it; it finds no such materials to deal with. Some write and speak as if the uncultivated employer of speech were impelled to launch out indefinitely into new words and forms, rioting in the profusion of his linguistic creations, until grammar comes to set bounds to his prodigality, and to reduce the common tongue within reasonable dimensions. But it is by no means so easy and seductive a thing to increase the resources of a language. We do not look to our dictionaries and grammars to know if we may use elements which come crowding to our lips and demanding utterance. Linguistic growth is a slow process, extorted, as it were, by necessity, by the exigencies of use, from the speakers of language. The obligation resting upon each one of making himself intelligible to his fellows, and understanding them in turn, is the check, and a sufficient one, upon individual license of production. Economy is a main element in linguistic development; that which is superfluous in a dialect, not needed for practical use, falls off and dies of itself, without waiting to be lopped away by the pruning-knife of a grammarian. Culture chooses, from among the varieties of equivalent form, utterance, and phrase which a defective communication has allowed to spring up within the limits of the same community, those which shall be accepted as most worthy of preservation. It maintains what is good, warns against abuses, and corrects offences committed by a part against the authority of prevailing usage. A cultivated language is thus simply one whose natural growth has gone on for a certain period under the conscious and interested care of its best speakers; which has been placed in their charge, for the maintenance of a standard, for the repression of disfiguring alterations, for enrichment with expressions for higher thought and deeper knowledge; for the enforcement, in short, of their own studied usages of speech upon the less instructed and more heedless masses of a community.

It is obviously futile to attempt to draw anywhere a dividing line in the development of language—to say, these differences on the one side are the result of later linguistic growth; those, on the other side, are original, a part of the primitive variety and indefiniteness of human speech. The nature and uses of speech, and the forces which act upon it and produce its changes, cannot but have been essentially the same during all the periods of its history, amid all its changing circumstances, in all its varying phases; and there is no way in which its unknown past can be investigated, except by the careful study of its living present and its recorded past, and the extension and application to remote conditions of laws and principles deduced by that study. Like effects, as we have already had occasion to claim, imply like causes, not less in the domain of language than in that of physical science; and he who pronounces the origin and character of ancient dialects and forms of speech to be fundamentally different from those of modern dialects and forms of speech can only be compared with the geologist who should acknowledge the formation by aqueous action of recent gravel and pebble-beds, but should deny that water had anything to do with the production of ancient sandstones and conglomerates.

The continuity and similarity of the course of linguistic history in all its stages, and the competency of linguistic correspondences, wherever we find them, to prove unity of origin and community of tradition, are truths which we need to bear in mind as we proceed with our inquiries into language. If we meet in different tongues with words which are clearly the same word, notwithstanding differences of form and meaning which they may exhibit, we cannot help concluding that they are common representatives of a single original, once formed and adopted by a single community, and that from this they have come down by the ordinary and still subsisting processes of linguistic tradition, which always and everywhere involve liability to alteration in outer shape and inner content. It is true that there are found in language accidental resemblances between words of wholly different origin: of such we shall have to take more particular notice in a later lecture (the tenth): but exceptions like these do not make void the rule; the possibility of their occurrence only imposes upon the etymologist the necessity of greater care and circumspection in his comparisons, of studying more thoroughly the history of the words with which he has to deal. It is also true that real historical correspondences may exist between isolated words in two languages without implying the original identity of those languages, or anything more than a borrowing by the one out of the stores of expression belonging to the other. Our own tongue, for instance, aside from its wholesale composition out of the tongues of two different races, draws more or less of its material from nearly every one of the languages of Europe, and from not a few of those of Asia, Africa, and America. Yet it is evident that such borrowing has its limits, both of degree and of kind, and that it may be within the power of the linguistic student readily to distinguish its results from the effects of a genuine community of linguistic tradition.

The method by which we are to proceed in grouping and classifying the languages spoken by mankind, now and in former times, results with necessary consequence from the principles which we have laid down. We have seen that no given form of speech remains permanently the same: each changes continually, in its structure and content, and tends to divide, with the progress of time, into varying forms or dialects. No existing language, no recorded language, is original; each is the descendant of some earlier one, from which, perhaps, other existing or recorded languages are equally descended. With this easy clew to guide us, the labyrinth of human speech is a labyrinth no longer; it is penetrated by paths which we may securely follow. We have simply to group together according to their affinities the languages known to us; connecting, first of all, those whose totality of structure, along with what history actually teaches us of their derivation, shows them so plainly to be forms of the same original that even the most exaggerated scepticism could not venture to deny their relationship; then going on to extend our classification from the more clearly to the more obscurely, from the more closely to the more remotely connected, until we have done the utmost which the nature of the case permits, until analysis and deduction will carry us no farther. The way is plain enough at first, and even the most careless may tread it without fear of wandering; but to follow it to the end demands, along with much labour and pains, no little wariness and clearness of vision.

Let us, then, turn aside for a time from pursuing the direct course of our fundamental inquiry, "why we speak so and so," to ask who "w " are to whom the inquiry relates; who, along with us that acknowledge the various forms of the English as our native speech, use languages which are, after all, only dialectic forms of one great original mother-tongue.

The results of such an investigation into the relationship of the English language have been, to a certain extent, taken for granted during our whole discussion. This was unavoidable: we could not otherwise have talked at all of genetic connection, or illustrated the processes of linguistic growth. Now, however, we have to take up the subject more systematically, showing the extent to which the tie of relationship reaches, and presenting some of the evidence which proves its reality.

To assert that the slightly differing forms of speech which prevail in the various parts of our own country, and even the more noteworthy dialects found among the classes of the population of Britain, form together only one language, is to assert a truism: no man in his sober senses would presume to doubt it. Let any one, however ignorant of history`he may be, go about the globe, finding on each side of the Atlantic, and scattered from island to island, communities who speak English, though tinged with local colouring, and it will not enter into his mind to doubt that they were scattered thither from some common centre, that they all have their accordant speech by community of linguistic tradition. A like conclusion is reached almost as directly, if we follow back to the continent of Europe the traces of those adventurous tribes which, as history distinctly informs us, colonized at no very remote date the British isles, and note what languages are still spoken upon the shores whence they set forth on their career of conquest. The larger and more indispensable part of English, as has been already pointed out, finds its kindred in Germany, whence came the Saxon and Anglian portion of our ancestry. The community of tradition between the English and the German, Netherlandish, Swedish, Danish, and so on, is so pervading, and its evidences are so patent to view, that no one, probably, who has ever added a knowledge of either of the languages named to that of his English mother-tongue has failed to be struck by it, and to be convinced that, in their main structure and material, the two were one speech. But his experience has also taught him that the difference between them is far from being inconsiderable, and that, unfortunately for him, he is by no means able to speak and write German or Swedish, because English, like them, is Germanic. If an American, he will talk readily with an educated Englishman; he will even make shift to understand a Yorkshireman, a broad Scotchman, or an Irishman fresh from his native bogs; but put him and a German together, and the two are well-nigh as deaf and dumb to each other as if the one of them were a Greek or a Hindu. Plainly enough, the explanation of their difficulty is simply this: these two Germanic dialects, originally one language and belonging to a single community, have been now so long separated, and their independent changes in the interval have been so great, that free and intelligent communication is no longer possible between those who have learned to speak them: one must have somewhat of instruction in both in order to be able to discover the fact of their relationship.

Not all the Germanic languages, however, are allied with the English in equal degree. The Low-German dialects, as they are called, those which occupy the northern shores and lowlands of the country, stand notably nearer to our tongue than do the dialects of central and southern Germany, the literary High-German and its next of kin. This relation is readily and sufficiently accounted for by the circumstances of the Germanic emigration to Britain: our ancestors came from the shore provinces, and brought with them the forms of speech there prevailing. And there is yet another principal group of Germanic languages, coördinate with the two already mentioned: it occupies the outliers of Germany to the north, namely Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and their remote colony of Iceland. It is usually called the Scandinavian group. We have in our own present speech not a few traces of its peculiar words and usages, imported into England by those fierce Northmen—or Danes, as English history is accustomed to style them-whose incursions during many centuries so harassed the Saxon monarchy.

These three groups or classes of existing dialects, the Low-German, the High-German, and the Scandinavian, with their numerous subdivisions, constitute, then, a well-marked family of related languages; although those who speak them can only to a very limited extent understand one another, the same sentence or paragraph could not be written in any two of them without bringing to light such and so many resemblances as even to a superficial examination would appear sure proof of a genetic connection. It is past question that all the Germanic dialects are descendants and joint representatives of a single tongue, spoken somewhere, at some time in the past, by a single community, and that all the differences now exhibited by them are owing to the separation of this community, in the progress of time, into detached and somewhat isolated portions, with the consequent breaking up into diverging lines and currents of the common stream of their linguistic tradition. It is even clear that, so far as concerns the surviving dialects, the divergence was primarily into three main branches, now represented by the three groups of languages which have been defined above.

How it happens that our vocabulary also contains so large a store of words that are foreign to all the other Germanic dialects, but are shared with us by the nations of southern Europe, was fully set forth in the last lecture. We saw that the Normans—who, though a people of Germanic blood, had lived long enough in France to substitute the idiom of that country for their own forgotten tongue—imported into England a new current of linguistic tradition, which, after a time, mingled peacefully in the same bed with the former one. The languages with which ours is thus brought into a kind of relationship by marriage were seen to be the French, the Spanish and Portuguese, the Italian, the Rhæto-Romanic, and the Wallachian, each including a host of minor dialects. The descent of these tongues, constituting together the Romanic group or family, from a common mother, the Latin, is written down in full upon the pages of history, and has been by us already briefly reviewed.

That these two important families of human language, the Germanic and the Romanic, are also in remoter degree related to one another and to other ancient and modern families, as joint branches of a yet more extensive family, is a truth equally undeniable, although not equally obvious. That it might be so is evident enough, according to the principles which we have already established respecting the life of language. There is no limit assignable to the extent to which the descendants of a common linguistic stock may diverge and become separated from one another. The question is one of fact, of evidence. Only a careful and thorough sifting of their linguistic material can determine how far the ramifications of genetical relationship may bind together languages apparently diverse. If two kindred tongues can, by divergent growth, come to differ from each other as much as English and German, there is no à priori ground for believing that they may not come to differ as much as English and Polish, or Greek, or Hindustani. And, by approved scientific methods of linguistic research, students of language have traced out the boundaries of a grand family of human speech, embracing, along with the Germanic and Romanic groups, nearly all the other tongues of Europe, and those of no small portion of south-western Asia. We will accordingly go on first to pass in review the various branches claimed to constitute this family, and then to examine the evidence upon which the claim is founded.

Of nearest kindred with the Latin, as well as most nearly associated with it in history, is the ancient Greek, its classic compeer, but its superior in flexibility and beauty; superior, too, as regards the genius and culture of those to whom it served as the instrument of thought; but of far less conspicuous career, and making at the present day but an insignificant figure in the sum of human speech, being spoken only by the scanty population of Greece itself, and by the peoples, partly of Greek origin, which fill the islands and line the shores of the Ægean and Black seas.

The languages displaced by the Latin were, as we have seen, in great part Celtic. At the beginning of the historic period, the domain of the Celts included no mean portion of the soil of Europe. Britain, Gaul, a part of Spain, and the north of Italy, together with some of the provinces of central Europe, were in their possession. But the more energetic and persistent Italic and Germanic races soon began to gain ground upon them: and now, for a long succession of centuries, no Celtic tribe of any importance has maintained its integrity and independence. The Erse, or Gaelic of the Scotch Highlands, the native Irish, or Gaelic of Ireland, and the insignificant dialect of the Isle of Man, representing together the Gadhelic division of Celtic speech—and the Welsh in Wales, and the Breton or Armorican in Brittany, representatives of the other, the Cymric division, are the scanty remains of that great family of related tongues which, but little more than two thousand years ago, occupied more territory than German, Latin, and Greek combined; and they are all, probably, on their way to extinction.

The eastern part of Europe is mainly filled by the numerous branches of another important family, the Slavic or Slavonic. Although somewhat encroached upon on the west by the Germanic, it has, upon the whole, from inconspicuous beginnings, grown steadily in consequence since its first appearance on the stage of history, and now occupies a commanding position eastward, as the vehicle of civilization to northern and central Asia. It covers most of Russia in Europe, with Poland, the eastern provinces of Austria, and the northern of Turkey. Among its principal branches are the Russian, with numerous subdivisions, the Polish, the Bohemian, the Servian, and the Bulgarian. All these are as distinctly and closely akin with one another as are the modern Germanic dialects.

A more remotely allied branch of the same family, constituting almost a family by itself, occupies a narrow territory about the great bend of the Baltic sea, from the gulf of Finland to beyond the German frontier, and comprises the Lithuanian, the Livonian or Lettish, and the Old Prussian. The latter is already extinct, and the others also appear to be going gradually out of existence, under pressure of the assimilating influence exerted upon them by the languages of the surrounding more powerful communities.

We have thus reviewed all the languages of modern Europe, excepting, first, the Albanian, which is the living representative of the ancient Illyrian, and of which the connections are doubtful (although it is likely to be yet proved to belong with the rest, as a branch of the same stock); secondly, the Basque, in the Pyrenees, a wholly isolated and problematical tongue; thirdly, the Hungarian, with its relatives, the Finnish and Lappish of the extreme north, and other languages spoken by scattered tribes in northern and eastern Russia; and finally, the Turkish and its congeners, which do but overlap slightly the south-eastern frontier. These two last groups, as we shall see hereafter (in the eighth lecture), are of a kindred that occupies no small part of northern and central Asia. But before we have gathered in all the members of the great family we are seeking to establish, we must cross the border of Europe, and enter southern Asia.

Asia Minor is chiefly in the hands of Turkish tribes, who have crowded themselves in there in comparatively modern times, driving out, or subjecting and assimilating, the previous occupants. The same races stretch eastward, across the southern extremity of the Caspian sea, intervening between Europe and the countries whose speech shows affinity with that of Europe. But within, in the hilly provinces of Media and Persia, and on the great Iranian table-land, which stretches thence to the Indus, we find again abundant traces of a linguistic tradition coinciding ultimately with our own. The Persian, with all its dialects, ancient and modern, and with its outliers on the north-west and on the east—as the Armenian, the Kurdish, the Ossetic, and the Afghan—constitutes a branch of our family, the Persian or Iranian branch. And yet one step farther we are able to pursue the same tie of connection. The Iranian languages conduct us to the very borders of India: beyond those borders, in Hindustan, between the bounding walls of the Himalayas and Vindhyas, and eastward to the mouths of the Ganges, lies the easternmost branch of that grand division of human speech to which our own belongs, the Indian branch, comprising the ancient Sanskrit, with its derived and kindred languages.

The seven groups of languages at which we have thus glanced—namely, the Indian, the Persian, the Greek, the Latin, the Slavonic (including the Lithuanic), the Germanic, and the Celtic—each made up of numerous dialects and sub-dialects, are the members composing one vast and highly-important family of human speech, to which, from the names of its two extreme members, we give the title of "Indo-European." It is known also by various other designations: some style it "Japhetic," as if it appertained to the descendants of the patriarch Japhet, as the so-called "Semitic" tongues to the descendants of Shem; "Aryan" is a yet more popular and customary name for it, but is liable to objection, as being more especially appropriate to the joint Indo-Persian branch of the family, since it is used by them, and them alone, in designating themselves; and a few still employ the term "Indo-Germanic," which seems to savour of national prepossession, since no good reason can be given why, among the western branches, the Germanic should be singled out for representation in the general title of the family.

The languages of this whole family sustain to one another a relation which is the same in kind with that subsisting between the various Germanic dialects, and differs from it only in degree. That the signs of their relationship escape the notice of a superficial observer—that the school-boy, or even the college-student, when toiling over his Greek and Latin tasks, does not suspect, and might be hard to persuade, that the classical languages and his mother-tongue are but modified forms of the same original, is evidently no ground for discrediting the fact. The uninstructed English speaker, as we have seen, finds even the nearly kindred German as strange and unintelligible as the Turkish: both are to him in equal degree, as he says, "all Dutch," or "all Greek;" and yet, a little learning enables him to find half his native vocabulary, in a somewhat changed but still plainly recognizable form, in the German dictionary. A higher degree of instruction is required, in order to the discovery and appreciation of that evidence which proves the remoter relationship of the Indo-European tongues; a wider comparison, a more skilled and penetrating analysis, must be applied; but, by its application, the conclusion is reached just as directly and surely in the one case as in the other. The inquirer fully convinces himself that the correspondences in their material and structure are too numerous, and of too intimate a character, to be explained with any plausibility by the supposition of accidental coincidence, or of mutual borrowing or imitation; that they can only be the consequence of a common linguistic tradition.

Any complete or detailed exhibition of the evidence which shows the original unity of the languages claimed to constitute the Indo-European family is, of course, utterly impossible within the necessary limits of these lectures; but it is altogether desirable that we should direct our attention to at least a few samples of the correspondences from which so important a truth is derived. It will be allowable to do this the more succinctly, inasmuch as the truth is one now so well established and so generally received, and of which the proof is already familiar to so many. We may fairly claim, indeed, that it is denied only by those who are ignorant of the facts and methods of linguistic reasoning, or whose judgments are blinded by preconceived opinion.

I shall not strive after originality in my election of the correspondences which illustrate the common origin of the Indo-European tongues, but shall follow the course already many times trodden by others. This is one which is marked out by the circumstances of the case. It would be extremely easy, choosing out any two from among the languages which we wish to compare—as the Latin and Greek, the Greek and Sanskrit, the Latin and Russian, the Lithuanian and German—to draw up long lists of words common to both, out of every part of their respective vocabularies; especially, if we were to take the time and pains to enter into a discussion of the laws governing their phonetic variations, and so to point out their obscure as well as their more obvious correspondences: and we might thus satisfactorily prove them all related, by proving each one related with each of the rest in succession. When, however, we seek for words which are clearly and palpably identical in all or nearly all the branches of the family, we have to resort to certain special classes, as the numerals and the pronouns. The reason of this it is not difficult to point out. For a large portion of the objects, acts, and states, of the names for which our languages are composed, it is comparatively easy to find new designations: they offer numerous salient points for the names-giving faculty to seize upon; the characteristic qualities, the analogies with other things, which suggest and call forth synonymous or nearly synonymous titles, are many. Hence a language may originate a variety of appellations for the same thing—as, for horse, we have also the almost equivalent names steed, nag, courser, racer; and further, for the different kinds and conditions of the same animal, the names stallion, mare, gelding, filly, colt, pony, and others—and, in the breaking up of the language into dialects, one of these synonymous appellations is liable to become the prevailing one in one dialect, another in another, to the neglect and loss of all but the one selected. Or, a new name is started in a single dialect, wins currency there, and crowds out of use its predecessors. The German, for instance, has, indeed, our word horse, in the form ross (earlier hros), but employs it more rarely, preferring to use instead pferd, a word of which we know nothing. The modern Romanic tongues, too, say in the same sense caballo, cheval, etc., words coming from the Latin caballus, 'nag,' and they have lost almost altogether the more usual and dignified Latin term equus. Thus, further, the modern French name for 'shoemaker' is cordonnier, literally 'worker in Cordovan leather;' for 'cheese,' fromage, properly 'pressed into a form, moulded;' for 'liver,' foie, originally 'cooked with figs'—that fruit having been, as it seems, at a certain period, the favourite garnish for dishes of liver: while the Latin appellations of these three objects have gone out of use and out of memory. But for the numerals and pronouns our languages have never shown any disposition to create a synonymy; it was, as we may truly say, no easy task for the linguistic faculty to arrive at a suitable sign for the ideas they convey; and, when the sign was once found, it maintained itself thenceforth in use everywhere, without danger of replacement by any other, of later coinage. Hence all the Indo-European nations, however widely they may be separated, and however discordant in manners and civilization, count with the same words, and use the same personal pronouns in individual address—the same, with the exception, of course, of the changes which phonetic corruption has wrought upon their forms.

For reasons not so easily explainable, the Indo-European languages show a hardly less noteworthy general accordance in regard to the terms by which, within the historical period, or down even to the present time, they indicate the degrees of near relationship, such as father, mother, daughter, brother, sister. Formed, as these words were, in the earliest period of history of the common mother-tongue, they have in nearly all its branches escaped being superseded by expressions of later growth, although there is hardly one of them which does not here and there exhibit a modern substitute.

The following table will set forth, it is believed, in a plain and apprehensible manner some of the correspondences of which we have been speaking. For the sake of placing their value in a clearer light, I add under each word its equivalents in three of the languages—namely Arabic, Turkish, and Hungarian—which, though neighbours of the Indo-European tongues, or enveloped by them, are of wholly different kindred.

English two three seven thou me mother brother daughter
Germanic:
Dutch twee drie zeven mij moeder broeder dochter
Icelandic tvö thriu siö thu mik modhir brodhir dottir
High-German zwei drei sieben du mich mutter tochter
Mœso-Gothic twa thri sibun thu mik brothar dauhtar
Lithuanic du tri septyni tu manen moter brolis dukter
Slavonic dwa tri sedmi man mater brat dochy
Celtic dau tri secht tu me mathair brathair dear (??)
Latin duo tres septem tu me mater frater
Greek düo treis hepta me meter phrater thugater
Persian dwa thri hapta tum me matar
Sanskrit dwa tri sapta twam me matar bhratar duhitar
Arabic ithn thalath sab anta ana umm akh bint
Turkish iki iich yedi sen ben ana kardash kiz
Hungarian ket harom het te engem anya fiver leany

I have selected, of course, for inclusion in this table, those words of the several classes represented which exhibit most clearly their actual unity of descent: in others, it would require some detailed discussion of phonetic relations to make the same unity appear. Thus, the Sanskrit panca, the Greek pente, the Latin quinque, and the Gothic fimf, all meaning 'five,' are as demonstrably the later metamorphoses of a single original word as are the varying forms of the primitive tri, 'three,' given above: each of their phonetic changes being supported by numerous analogies in the respective languages. The whole scheme of numeral and pronominal forms and of terms of relationship is substantially one and the same in all the tongues ranked as Indo-European.

These facts, of themselves, would go far toward proving the original unity of the languages in question. To look upon correspondences like those here given as the result of accident is wholly preposterous: no sane man would think of ascribing them to such a cause. Nor is the hypothesis of a natural and inherent bond between the sound and the sense, which would prompt language-makers in different parts of the earth to assign, independently of one another, these names to these conceptions, at all more admissible. The existence of a natural bond could be claimed with even the slightest semblance of plausibility only in the case of the pronouns and the words for 'father' and 'mother;' and there, too, the claim could be readily disposed of—if, indeed, it be not already sufficiently refuted by the words from stranger tongues which are cited in the table. Mutual borrowing, too, transfer from one tongue to another, would be equally far from furnishing an acceptable explanation. Were we dealing with two or three neighbouring dialects alone, the suggestion of such a borrowing would not be so palpably futile as in the case in hand, where the facts to be explained are found in so many tongues, covering a territory which stretches from the mouths of the Ganges to the shores of the Atlantic. A modified form of the hypothesis of mutual borrowing is put forth by some who are indisposed to admit the essential oneness of Indo-European speech. Some tribe or race, they say, of higher endowments and culture, has leavened with its material and usages the tongues of all these scattered peoples, engrafting upon their original diversity an element of agreement and unity. But this theory is just as untenable as the others which we have been reviewing. Instances of mixture of languages—resulting either from the transmission of a higher and more favoured culture, or from a somewhat equal and intimate mingling of races, or from both together—have happened during the historical period in sufficient numbers to allow the linguistic student to see plainly what are its effects upon language, and that they are very different from those which make the identity of Indo-European language. The introduction of culture and knowledge, of art and science, may bring in a vocabulary of expressions for the knowledge communicated, the conceptions taught or prompted; but it cannot touch the most intimate fund of speech, the words significant of those ideas without whose designation no spoken tongue would be worthy of the name. If we could possibly suppose that the rude ancestors of the Indo-European nations, more brutish than the Africans and Polynesians of the present day, were unable to count their fingers even until taught by some missionary tribe which went from one to the other, scattering these first rudiments of mathematical knowledge, we might attribute to its influence the close correspondence of the Indo-European numeral systems; but then we should have farther to assume that the same teachers instructed them how to address one another with I and thou, and how to name the members of their own families: and who will think of maintaining such an absurdity? All the preponderating influence of the Sanskrit-speaking tribes of northern India over the ruder population of the Dekhan, to which they gave religion, philosophy, and polity, has only resulted in filling the tongues of the south with learned Sanskrit, much as our own English is filled with learned Latin and Greek. Even that coalescence of nearly equal populations, languages, and cultures out of which has grown the tongue we speak, has, as was pointed out in the fourth of these lectures, left the language of common life among us—the nucleus of a vocabulary which the child first learns, and every English speaker uses every day, almost every hour—still overwhelmingly Saxon: the English is Germanic in its fundamental structure, though built higher and decorated in every part with Romanic material. So is it also with the Persian, in its relation to the Arabic, of whose material its more learned and artificial styles are in great part made up; so with the Turkish, of which the same thing is true with regard to the Persian and Arabic. But most of all do these cases of the mingling of different tongues in one language, and every other known case of a like character, show that the grammatical system, the apparatus of inflection and word-making, the means by which vocables, such as they stand in their order in the dictionary, are taken out and woven together into connected discourse, resists longest and most obstinately any trace of intermixture, the intrusion of foreign elements and foreign habits. However many French nouns and verbs were admitted to full citizenship in English speech, they all had to give up in this respect their former nationality: every one of them was declined or conjugated after Germanic models. Such a thing as a language with a mixed grammatical apparatus has never come under the cognizance of linguistic students: it would be to them a monstrosity; it seems an impossibility. Now the Indo-European languages are full of the plainest and most unequivocal correspondences of grammatical structure; they show abundant traces of a common system of word-formation, of declension, of conjugation, however disguised by the corruptions and overlaid by the new developments of a later time: and these traces are, above all others, the most irrefutable evidences of the substantial unity of their linguistic tradition. We will notice but a single specimen of this kind of evidences, the most striking one, perhaps, which Indo-European grammar has to exhibit. This is the ordinary declension of the verb, in its three persons singular and plural. In drawing out the comparison, we cannot start, as before, from the English, because, as has been shown in a previous lecture (the third), the English has lost its ancient apparatus of personal endings: we must represent the whole Germanic branch by its oldest member, the Mœso-Gothic. The table is as follows:[3]

English 'I have' 'thou hast' 'he has' 'we have' 'ye have' 'they have'
Mœso-Gothic haba habai-s habai-th haba-m habai-th haba-nd
Mod. Persian -m -d -m -d -nd
Celtic -m -d -m -d -t
Lithuanic -mi -si -ti -me -te -ti
Slavonic -mi -si -ti -mu -te -nti
Latin habeo habe-s habe-t habe-mus habe-tis habe-nt
Greek -mi -si -ti -mes -te -nti
Sanskrit -mi -si -ti -masi -tha -nti

Fundamental and far-reaching as are the correspondences, of material and of form, which have thus been brought forward, it is not necessary that we insist upon their competency, alone and unaided, to prove the Indo-European languages only later dialectic forms of a single original tongue. Their convincing force lies in the fact that they are selected instances, examples chosen from among a host of others, which abound in every part of the grammar and vocabulary of all the languages in question, now so plain as to strike the eye of even the hasty student, now so hidden under later peculiar growth as to be only with difficulty traceable by the acute and practised linguistic analyst. He who would know them better may find them in such works as the Comparative Grammars of Bopp and Schleicher and the Greek Etymologies of Curtius. An impartial examination of them must persuade even the most sceptical that these tongues exhibit resemblances which can be accounted for only on the supposition of a prevailing identity of linguistic tradition, such as belongs to the common descendants of one and the same mother-tongue. On the other hand, all their differences, great and widely sundering as these confessedly are, can be fully explained by the prolonged operation of the same causes which have broken up the Latin into the modern Romanic dialects, or the original Germanic tongue into its various existing forms, and which have converted the Anglo-Saxon of a thousand years ago into our present English. Besides its natural divergent growth, the original Indo-European tongue has doubtless been in some degree diversified by intermixture here and there with languages of other descent; but there is no reason for believing that this has been an element of any considerable importance in its history of development. At some period, then, in the past, and in some limited region of Europe or Asia, lived a tribe from whose imperfect dialect have descended all those rich and cultivated tongues now spoken and written by the teeming millions of Europe and of some of the fairest parts of Asia.

To know when and where this tribe lived and formed its language is unfortunately beyond our power. It is, indeed, often assumed and asserted that the original Indo-European home was in the north-eastern part of the Iranian plateau, near the Hindu-Koh mountains; but so definite a determination possesses not the slightest shadow of authority or value. We really know next to nothing of the last movements which have brought any branch of the family into its present place of abode; even these lie beyond the reach of the very hoariest traditions which have come down to us. The daylight of recorded history dawns first upon the easternmost, the Indo-Persian or Aryan, branch. The time is probably not far from two thousand years before Christ. We there see the Sanskrit-speaking tribes but just across the threshold of India, working their way over the river-valleys and intervening sand-plains of its north-western province, the Penjab, toward the great fertile territory, watered by the Ganges and its tributaries, of which they are soon to become the masters; and we know that India, at least, is not the first home, but one of the latest conquests, of the family. The epoch, however, early as it appears to us, is far from the beginning of Indo-European migrations; the general separation of the branches had taken place long before: and who shall say which of them has wandered widest, in the search after a permanent dwelling-place? The joint home of Indians and Persians was doubtless in north-eastern Iran, the scene of the oldest Persian religious and heroic legend and tradition; but there is no evidence whatever to prove that they were the aborigines of that region, and that all migration had been westward from thence.[4] Greek history and tradition also penetrate a little way into the second thousand years before Christ; but the Greeks are then already in quiet possession of that little peninsula, with the neighbouring islands and Asiatic shores, whence the glory of their genius afterward irradiated the world; and, for aught that they are able to tell us of their origin, they might have sprung out of the ground there—born, according to their own story, of the stones which Deucalion and Pyrrha threw behind them. The Latin race first appears as an insignificant handful in central Italy, crowded by other communities, in part of kindred blood; but no legend told us respecting its entrance into the Italian peninsula is of the very smallest historical value. Roman historians first bring to our knowledge the Celts and Germans. The former are already beginning to shrink and waste away within their ancient limits before the aggressions of the surrounding races: Celtic tales of the migrations westward which brought them into their European seats are but lying legends, mere echoes of their later knowledge of the countries and nations to the eastward. Germany is, from the first, the home of the Germans: they are a seething mass; south-eastward as well as southwestward rove their restless hordes, disturbing for centuries the peace of the civilized world; they leave their traces in every country of middle Europe, from the Volga to the Pillars of Hercules; but whence and when they came into Germany, we ask in vain. Last to appear upon the historic stage are the Slavonians, in nearly their present abodes: a less enterprising, but a stubborn and persistent race, whose lately acquired civilization has only within a short time begun to be aggressive. Of its own origin, it has nothing at all to say.

But if history and tradition thus refuse to aid us in searching for the Indo-European home, neither do the indications of language point us with anything like definiteness or certainty to its locality. The tongues of the easternmost branches, the Persian and Indian, do, indeed, exhibit the least departure from that form of speech which a general comparison of all the dialects shows to have been the primitive one; but this is very far from proving the peoples who speak them to have remained nearest to their primitive seats. Migration does not necessarily lead to rapidity of linguistic changes, nor does permanence of location always imply persistency of linguistic type. Thus—to refer only to two or three striking facts among the languages of this family—the Greek has preserved much more than the Armenian of that material and structure which were of earliest Indo-European development, notwithstanding the more oriental position of the latter; of all the existing tongues of the whole great family, the Lithuanian, on the Baltic, retains by far the most antique aspect; and, among the Germanic dialects, the speech of Iceland, the latest Germanic colony, is least varied from their common type. All that primitiveness of form, in respect both to language and institutions, which characterizes the Aryan branch of the family—and especially the Indian member of the branch, in its oldest period, represented to us in the Vedas—~would be fully and satisfactorily accounted for, without denying them a long history and wide migration, by attributing to them an exceptionally conservative disposition—such a disposition as so markedly distinguishes the Indian above the Persian people since their separation, making the former, in a vastly higher degree than the latter, the model and illustration of earliest Indo-European antiquity.

Nor, again, are the inter-connections of the different branches, so far as yet made out, of a nature to cast much light upon the history of their wanderings. That the separation of Indian and Persian is latest of all is, it is true, universally admitted. Nearly all agree, moreover, in allowing a like special relationship of the Greek and Latin, although its comparative remoteness, and the loss of intermediate forms, make the question one of decidedly greater doubt and difficulty. Beyond this, nothing is at present firmly established. The honour of a later and closer alliance with the Aryan or Indo-Persian branch has been confidently claimed for the classical or Greco-Latin, for the Slavonic, and for the Germanic, respectively. Within no long time past, a German scholar of high rank[5] has attempted to lay out a scheme of relationship for all the branches of the family. He assumes that the original stock parted first into a northern and a southern grand division: the northern included what afterward became the Germanic and the Slavo-Lithuanic branches, the latter of them dividing yet later into Slavonic and Lithuanic; the southern was broken up first into an Aryan and a southern European group, which respectively went farther separation, the one into Persian and Indian, the other into Greek and Italo-Celtic: while the Italic, of which the Latin is the chief, and the Celtic, were the last to begin their independent history, being still more closely related than the Latin and the Greek. The feature of this arrangement which is most calculated to repel rather than attract assent is the position assigned to the Celtic languages. Few scholars are ready to allow that these tongues, in which the original and distinctive features of Indo-European speech are most of all hidden under the manifold effects of decay and new growth, whose Indo-European character was therefore the last of all to be recognized, and whose separation from the common stock has been generally looked upon as the commencement of its dispersions, are to be regarded as the nearest kindred of the Latin—although no one who remembers how greatly the rates of linguistic change vary among different peoples and under different circumstances will venture to pronounce the connection impossible. The time has not yet come for a full settlement of these controverted points; the means of their solution are, however, doubtless contained in the linguistic facts which lie within our reach, and a more thorough study and closer comparison will one day bring them to light, and may perhaps at the same time illustrate the course and order of those grand movements which have brought the various races of the family into their present seats. But that such or any other evidences will ever direct our gaze to the precise region whence the movements had their first start is in the very highest degree unlikely: and in the mean time it is better candidly to confess our ignorance than to try to hold with confidence an opinion resting upon grounds altogether insufficient and untenable. At any rate, we ought fully to acknowledge that linguistic science, as such, does not presume to decide whether the Indo-European home was in Europe or in Asia: the utmost that she does is to set up certain faint and general probabilities, which, combined with the natural conditions of soil and climate, the traditions of other races, and the direction of the grand movements of population in later times, point to the East rather than the West as the starting-point of migration.

If the question of place must thus be left unsettled, that of time is not less uncertain. The geologist makes hitherto but lame and blundering work of establishing an absolute chronology for even the latest alterations of the earth-crust; and the student of language is compelled to found his estimates upon data not less scanty and questionable. The strata of human speech laid down in past ages have suffered most sweeping and irrestorable denudation, and their rate of growth during our present period is too greatly varying to furnish us any safe standard of general application. But to set a date lower than three thousand years before Christ for the dispersion of the Indo-European family would doubtless be altogether inadmissible; and the event is most likely to have taken place far earlier. Late discoveries are showing us that the antiquity of the human race upon the earth must be much greater than has been generally supposed. Vistas of wonderful interest are opened here, down which we can only catch glimpses; but the comparative brevity of the period covered by human records must make us modest about claiming that we shall ever understand much about ultimate beginnings, the first origin of races.

As regards, however, the grade of civilization and mode of life of the Indo-European mother-tribe before its separation into branches, the study of language is in condition to give us more definite and trustworthy information. It is evidently within our power to restore, to a certain extent, the original vocabulary of the tribe, out of the later vocabularies of the different branches. These are composed of words of every age, from the most recent to the most primitive. As the principal features of grammatical structure were struck out before the dispersion, and are yet traceable by the comparative philologist amid the host of newer formations which surround them, so was it also with the developed material of speech, with the names for such objects, and acts, and processes, and products, as the community had already found occasion, and acquired power, to express: they constituted the linguistic patrimony with which each branch commenced its separate history, and may still be seen among the stores of more recent acquisition. Any word which is found in the possession of all or nearly all the branches is, unless there be special reasons to the contrary, to be plausibly regarded as having formed part of their common inheritance from the time of their unity. A vocabulary constructed of words thus hunted out can be, indeed, but an imperfect one, since no one can tell what proportion of the primitive tongue may have become altogether lost, or changed by phonetic corruption past possibility of recognition, in the later dialects of so many branches that its true character is no longer discoverable: but, if the list be drawn up with due skill and care, it may be depended upon as far as it goes. And as, from the stock of words composing any existing or recorded language, we can directly draw important conclusions respecting the knowledge, circumstances, and manners of the people who speak it, so we can do the same thing with the fragment of Indo-European speech which we shall have thus set up. It is obvious, too, that the results of such an investigation must be more satisfactory, the more primitive and unlettered the people respecting which it is made, the more exclusively native in origin and restricted in scope their civilization. A language like our own is an immense encyclopedia, as it were, in which are laid away the cognitions and experiences of a whole world, and of numerous generations; it is as many-sided, as cosmopolitan, as hard to grasp and interpret in detail, as is our culture; while the tongue of a rude and isolated tribe—like the Fuegians, the Fijians, the Eskimos—would be a comparatively plain and legible portraiture of its condition and character.

Some of the main results of the investigation made by means of language into the primitive state of that tribe which spoke the mother-tongue of the Indo-European family have been long since drawn out, and are already become the commonplaces of ethnological science. The subject is far from being yet exhausted, and we may look forward to much greater confidence of conclusion and definiteness of detail, when all the languages of the family shall have been more thoroughly compared and analyzed, and especially when the establishment of a true scheme of degrees of relationship among the branches shall reduce the doubt now thrown over the primitiveness of a term by its absence from the languages of some among them.

By this kind of research, then, it is found that the primitive tribe which spoke the mother-tongue of the Indo-European family was not nomadic alone, but had settled habitations, even towns and fortified places, and addicted itself in part to the rearing of cattle, in part to the cultivation of the earth. It possessed our chief domestic animals—the horse, the ox, the sheep, the goat, and the swine, besides the dog: the bear and the wolf were foes that ravaged its flocks; the mouse and fly were already its domestic pests. The region it inhabited was a varied one, not bordering upon the ocean. The season whose name has been most persistent is the winter. Barley, and perhaps also wheat, was raised for food, and converted into meal. Mead was prepared from honey, as a cheering and inebriating drink. The use of certain metals was known; whether iron was one of them admits of question. The art of weaving was practised; wool and hemp, and possibly flax, being the materials employed. Of other branches of domestic industry, little that is definite can be said; but those already mentioned imply a variety of others as coördinate or auxiliary to them. The weapons of offence and defence were those which are usual among primitive peoples, the sword, spear, bow, and shield. Boats were manufactured, and moved by oars. Of extended and elaborate political organization no traces are discoverable: the people was doubtless a congeries of petty tribes, under chiefs and leaders, rather than kings, and with institutions of a patriarchal cast, among which the reduction to servitude of prisoners taken in war appears not to have been wanting. The structure and relations of the family are more clearly seen; names of its members, even to the second and third degrees of consanguinity and affinity, were already fixed, and were significant of affectionate regard and trustful interdependence. That woman was looked down upon, as a being in capacity and dignity inferior to man, we find no indication whatever. The art of numeration was learned, at least up to a hundred; there is no general Indo-European word for 'thousand.' Some of the stars were noticed and named: the moon was the chief measurer of time. The religion was polytheistic, a worship of the personified powers of nature. Its rites, whatever they were, were practised without the aid of a priesthood.

Such, in briefest possible description, was the simple people from whom appear to have descended those mighty nations who have now long been the leaders of the world's civilization. Of their classification, their importance in history, and the value of their languages to linguistic science, we shall treat further in the next lecture.

Notes[edit]

  1. I refer in particular to M. Ernest Renan, of Paris, whose peculiar views upon this subject are laid down in his General History of the Semitic Languages, and more fully in his treatise on the Origin of Language (2nd edition, Paris, 1858, ch. viii.)—a work of great ingenuity and eloquence, but one of which the linguistic philosophy is in a far higher degree constructive than inductive. Professor Max Müller, also, when treating of the Teutonic class of languages (Lectures on Language, first series, fifth lecture), appears distinctly to give in adhesion to the same view.
  2. Max Müller, l.c.
  3. Owing to the difficulty of finding a single verb which shall present the endings in all the different languages, the verb to have has been selected, and even in full in the two languages in which it occurs, the terminations alone being elsewhere written. These are not in all cases the most usual endings of conjugation, but such as are found in verbs, or in dialects, which have preserved more faithfully their primitive forms.
  4. Some authorities incline to regard the geographical reminiscences of the Zend-avesta (in the first chapter of the Vendidad) as indicating the course of the joint Aryan migration from the original family home; but the claim appears to me so wholly baseless, and even preposterous, that I find it difficult to understand how any man should seriously put it forward.
  5. Professor August Schleicher, of Jena: his views may be found drawn out in full in the preface to his interesting work on the German language (Die Deutsche Sprache, Stuttgart, 1860).