Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/450

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all other scholars in this field, have been absolutely forced to accept, I shall endeavor to show in this chapter.

The beginnings of a true and scientific theory seemed weak indeed, but they were none the less effective. As far back as 1661, Hottinger, professor at Heidelberg, came into the chorus of theologians like a great bell in a chime; but like a bell whose opening tone is harmonious, and whose closing tone is discordant. For while, at the beginning, Hottinger cites a formidable list of great scholars who had held the sacred theory of the origin of language, and here was in harmony with the chorus, he goes on to note a closer resemblance to the Hebrew in some languages than in others, and explains this by declaring that the confusion of tongues was of two sorts, total and partial: the Arabic and Chaldaic he thinks underwent only a partial confusion; the Egyptian, Persian, and all the European languages a total one: here comes in the discord; here gently sounds forth from the great chorus a new note—that idea of grouping and classifying languages which at a later day was to destroy utterly the whole sacred theory.

But the great chorus resounded on, as we have seen, from shore to shore, until the closing years of the seventeenth century; then arose men who silenced it forever. The first leader who threw the weight of his knowledge, thought, and authority against it was Leibnitz, the rival of Isaac Newton. He declared, "There is as much reason for supposing Hebrew to have been the primitive language of mankind as there is for adopting the view of Goropius, who published a work at Antwerp in 1580 to prove that Dutch was the language spoken in paradise." In a letter to Tenzel, Leibnitz wrote, "To call Hebrew the primitive language is like calling the branches of a tree primitive branches, or like imagining that in some country hewn trunks could grow instead of trees." He also asked very cogently, "If the primeval language existed even up to the time of Moses, whence came the Egyptian language?"

But the efficiency of Leibnitz did not end with mere suggestions. He applied the inductive method to linguistic study, and made great efforts to have vocabularies collected and grammars drawn up wherever missionaries and travelers came in contact with new races. He thus succeeded in giving the initial impulse to at least three notable collections—that of Catharine the Great, of Russia; that of the Spanish Jesuit, Lorenzo Hervas; and, at a later period, the Mithridates of Adelung. The interest of the Empress Catharine in her collection of linguistic materials was very strong, and her influence is seen in the fact that Washington, to please her, requested governors and generals to send in materials from various parts of the United States and Territories. The work of Hervas extended over the period from 1735 to 1809;