Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/24

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Some Western Opinions.

Siam, and other dialects: "They spring from the Chinese, however much they may have been affected by any foreign mixture, and in that language we may expect to find the origin of that simplicity of construction, which excludes every kind of inflection. From that of its descendants, therefore, the genius of the Chinese language may be easily inferred." Schott, Whitney, and others have given utterance to opinions of a similar nature. And in 1878 the learned Sinologist, Professor G. von der Gabelenz, read a short but suggestive paper before the Oriental Congress in Florence. The aim of the paper was to raise the question of the possibility of proving a genealogical affinity between the dialects of China and the languages of Tibet, Assam, and the Transgangetic Peninsula. The writer's opinion evidently was that such an affinity existed and could be proved; and we are led to expect more light on the subject from labours in which he was then engaged. It must be admitted that the information accessible even now is neither sufficient nor properly verified and arranged to warrant general conclusions as to the kinship between Chinese and the monosyllabic tongues on her frontiers. We cannot, accordingly, accept without reserve the confident assertion made several years ago by our great Indianist, W. W. Hunter. He tells us: "Chinese has hitherto been looked upon as a language standing by itself, devoid of ethnical kindred or linguistic alliances. But in spite of its inexactitudes, this book proves that China has given its speech not merely to the great islands of the Southern Ocean, but to the whole Eastern Peninsula, to Siam, Tenasserim, Burmah, in a less degree to Central Asia, to many of the Himalayan tribes, and to some of the pre-Aryan peoples of the interior of India." It is probable that the above mentioned scholars would regard the old language of China, now dead or lost, as the common parent of all the living Chinese dialects, and of those included under the title Indo-Chinese, so far, at least, as the framework or substance of the latter iS concerned. But it may be doubted whether the theory, even as thus limited, can ever be verified.[1]

  1. "Journal Ind. Arch." Vol. IV., p. 296; Marshman Ch. Gr., p. 193; Schott, Ch. Sprachlehre S. 17; Whitney, O. C. p. 331; Atti del iv. Cong. Inter. Vol. II.,