Page:Discovery and Decipherment of the Trilingual Cuneiform Inscriptions.djvu/405

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376
CUNEIFORM INSCRIPTIONS

in his first Essay followed the same method, but he found the vast majority of tlie signs were syllabic, and his Tal)le shows only four tliat are purely alphabetical. Then came the discovery tliat tlie language itself was Semitic, and the inference naturally followed that the writing was so likewise. Under the influence of this conviction, Hincks drew up liis Second Table, showing only the consonantal value of tlie signs, and leavhig them to be asso(*iated indifferently with the vowel sounds. But he remained in this opinion for a com- paratively short time, and in tlie end of the same year he had reverted to his original view. The effect of the present essay was to establish the absolute syllabism of the language ; and in a paper read shortly afterwards before the British Association ' On the Lanauane and Mode of Writhig of Assyria' (August 1850), he 'main- tained, in opposition to all other writers, that the characters had all definite s}'llabi(* values, there being no consonants, and (*onsequently no necessity or liberty of sui)plying vowels.' In this opinion he then stood alone. Eawlinson, in reply, exi)ressed his belief that the sii^ns had a svlhibic origin, but that they were 'subsequently used to express a mere portion of a syllable.' ' He could,' he says, ' adduce numerous instances where the cuneiform sii>*ns were used as bo7ia Jide letters.' '

In France, the o])inion Hincks expounded in his second essaA^ took immediate root. The lomcal instincts of the Fi-ench mind clung with des])erate tenacity to the conviction that a Semitic lnn<nia<>e could (mlv be ex])ressed by a Semitic mode of writing. Lowenstem at first (1845) thought that the signs represented some sort of mechanical union of consonant and vowel: that is to say, that there was a fixed i)ortion of the sign to

J Atkmccumy Aug. 24, 1850, p. 908.