Page:An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal.djvu/28
It may possibly be asked why our blackfellou-s bad so strong a disiuclinatiou to mention the name of a friend who had died. We ourselves have a feeling of the same kind. "We speak of cur friend as ' the deceased,' ' the departed,' 'him who has gone ' ; and if we must mention his name, we apologise for it by saying ' poor ' Mr. So-and-so, and seem afraid to use the simple word ' dead.' But our indigenes have a stronger reason than that. They believe tliat the spirit of a man, especially if he is killed by violence, is excessively uncomfortable after death, and malicious, and in its fretfulness ready to take offence at anything, and so pour out its Avrath on the living. Even the mention of the dead man's name would offend, and bring vengeance on them in the night time. Our blacks seem also to have the idea that the deceased, for a certain number of days after death, has not 3'et got his spiritual body, which slowly grows upon him, and that, while in this un- developed state, he is like a child, and is specially querulous and vengeful.
lY. Tests in ExAMiKiNa Languages.
I now proceed to show some results which may be obtained even from our Australian words, by comparing them with others elsewhere. It is agreed among philologists, that there is no surer test of the afBuity of different languages than that which comes through the identification of their pronouns, numerals*, and, to a less extent, their prepositions. To this I would add, in our present inquiry, the identity of such common words as 'eye, foot, hand, tire, sun, moon,' and the like ; for these words cannot have been \ised much in the names of individuals, and are therefore not likely to have suffered from the fluctuations which I have already explained. It is true that, in all languages, the pronouns and the numerals are sul)ject to abrasion and decay, from the frequency and rapidity with which they are pronounced, and from a natural tendency everywhere to shorten the words which are most in use. But it is the function of the philologist, not only to understand these causes of decay, but to show the process by which the words fell away, and to restore them to their original forms for the purpose of identification.
It is agreed, then, that the numerals, the pronouns, and, to some extent, the prepositions, are a strong test of the affinity of languages. On this principle, such languages as the Sanskrit, the Greek, the Latin, the German and Gothic, the Lithuanian, the Keltic, have been tested and proved to be so much akin that they are grouped as a well-defined family of languages — the Aryan. Some anthropologists, especially when they are not linguists them- selves, sneer at the labours of philology as deceptive and liable to
- Bopp says that the lowest numerals can never be introduced into any
country by foreigners.