Page:Language and the Study of Language.djvu/27
the comparative method of investigation in language, in his grammar of the Germanic dialects, a work of gigantic labour, in which each dialect was made to explain the history and character of all, and all of each. There—what was of yet greater consequence—Bopp laid, in 1816, the foundation of Indo-European comparative philology, by his "Conjugation-system of the Sanskrit Language, as compared with the Greek, Latin, Persian, and German;" following it later with his Comparative Grammar of all the principal languages of the Indo-European family—a work which, more than any other, gave shape and substance to the science. There, too, the labours of such men as the Schlegels, Pott, and Wilhelm von Humboldt, especially of the last-named, extended its view and generalized its principles, making it no longer an investigation of the history of a single department of human speech, but a systematic and philosophical treatment of the phenomena of universal language and their causes. The names of Rask, too, the Danish scholar and traveller, and of Burnouf, the eminent French savant, must not be passed unnoticed among those of the founders of linguistic science. Indeed, how ripe the age was for the birth of this new branch of human knowledge, how natural an outgrowth it was of the circumstances amid which it arose, is shown by the fact that its most important methods were worked out and applied, more or less fully, at nearly the same time, by several independent scholars, of different countries—by Rask, Bopp, Grimm, Pott, Burnouf.
A host of worthy rivals and followers of the men whose names we have noted have arisen in all parts of Europe, and even in America, to continue the work which these had begun; and by their aid the science has already attained a degree of advancement that is truly astonishing, considering its so recent origin. Though still in its young and rapidly growing stage, with its domain but just surveyed and only partially occupied, its basis is yet laid broadly and deeply enough, its methods and laws are sure enough, the objects it aims at and the results it is yielding are sufficiently important, in themselves and in their bearing upon other branches of human knowledge, to warrant it in challenging a place