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affiliate with those of other tongues ters must have been always a very sim-
letters into original words came down Indeed, we cannot be too sensible of very late into the best days of Greece, the meanness of the origin of language, -and the impulse is still extant. Men, for either the advantage of philology like children, still “play” at life. The or the respect due to our own words. astonishing feat of putting a sentiment It is necessary to our assurance to dwell into just fourteen lines is an evidence of here for a little.
it. Seven or eight dictionaries, differing If we admit that man was progress- upon the pronunciation and even the ive, either as a distinct genus or as a spelling of native words, comprise culmination by "selection" of the man- another evidence of it. Surely, lexicolier specimens of the monkey-tribes, we graphers should but represent the peoshall readily admit that he must have ple; they should not invent language; had originally a language which flowed that is the vocation of the poet and instinctively and easily according to the the artisan. Yet take a single example formation of his vocal organs, as does
of their method : the fills of a cart are that of any other animal. As the sub- called in Saxon (probably by some jects of his experience accumulated, his pedant) thills ; every person familiar dialect increased, and he gave names to with horses, either in England or things, for qualities and modes, according America, calls these shafts fills; Shakesto the dictates of a natural sense of fit peare calls them fills (see Troilus and ness. In this stage his only pride in the Cressida, Act ïïi. sc. 2), showing clearinvention of language was shown in imi- ly they were so called in his day; yet tation; onomatopes abounded. It was the lexicographers "derive from the the age of Eden, nakedness, and simple Saxon.” So of whippletree; they spell truth. But as he advanced into the era it whiffletree, to the utter disgust of all of self-consciousness the “fall by knowl- teamsters-deriving from weifclen, to edge” affected his utterance as it did whiffle about—which probably had nohis heart and life. The dignity of the thing to do with the matter, as the naming of things thrust itself into his evener is a comparatively modern inconccit, and he became arbitrary and vention. Why should a traveller come idolatrous of distinctions which he had from Central Africa, where books are himself created; he threw the authority unknown, and say there is a lake called of language back of himself, connived Tchad? Truly man has found out many at its nativity, and humored it as a inventions ! -- And after the invention curiosity. Soon came the era of the of Letters, all the motives of pride, craft, invention of letters; and then, after a charlatanism, superstition, all the diffew ingenuous manifestations, the build- ferences of organic formation, all the ing of Babel began. Surely (he said to psychological, climatical, geological, and himself), a book should be a mysterious historical differences of the world, began thing--as far as possible from vulgar pouring their conflicting and distractapprehension. The written language ing effluences into language, and have was whimsically made to differ from so continued, until it has become a thing the spoken ; although the art of spell- inscrutable as the heart of man who ing with acknowledged sounds and let- made it, -as well adapted as a diplo
matist fairly inferred) to the conceal
.Beating, bearing, bringing. ment of thought as to its expression.
..(Soft) as 8 ; (hard) as k.
.(Final) solidity, completeness. The difficulty, then, in the way of
.(Initial) violence. theorizing the forces which I imagine
.Concentration, convergence. the letters to exert to-day, in English,
.Ethereality. in our latitude, in our stage of culture,
g.........Hardness. &c., &c., is that the best expression is
.Thinness, slimness, finoness. ever due to the fullest knowledge, or
Fineness of lights and sounds. intuition, or inspiration, of all the
..Metallic, chill, polish.
m........ Monotony. various phenomena of the world at the
n........ Denial, contempt. moment it is delivered,-to the true
Solemnity, nobility, devotion, volume, estimate of the comparative age and
. Roughness, vibration. value of things,-in short, to the uni
gr........Grit. versality of experience. I am ready to 8......... Moisture. believe no bard ever wrote a line that
.Crudity, absurdity, humor, was not poetry to him ; but the experi
V........ Vehemence. ence of many has not been in harmony
..Haze, dreamy confusion. with that of a sufficient number of It would require a volume of quotapeople to make their impressions con- tion to fairly illustrate the happiness of siderable. And essentially the basis of the letters in suggesting the qualities wit fluctuates and extends. Every new here indicated for them; but I hope genius destroys the old balances and by a few examples to so force their standards. Yet the essence we would genius upon the reader's memory that determine rises like perfume from the he will habitually observe it. And I whole process of the growth and decay will say, for his encouragement, that I of things, and is affected by considera- made this schedule fifteen years ago, tions the faintest and remotest, -as
and that I have met nothing since to dainty and difficult of apprehension as jostle its arrangement. He will directly would be the scent of a grain of mummy- see, too, that these convictions are by dust from Petra rising out of a cart-load no means singular. Burns, Swedenborg, of sweepings from the pavement of Pall and Pope, have occasionally manifested Mall, London, England. The only key the same; and, philologically rather to all poetry is the Book of Life. But than poetically speaking, Dr. Alexander if I have succeeded in conveying my Murray, of Edinburgh, reduced the meaning, the reader will look leniently whole Caucasian group of languages on the ambition of the present essay as to nine roots, to his own satisfaction at an appeal to his consciousness that shall least. As for what has been said of the prove us jointly in harmony with the obscurity and meanness of the origin genius which, in every age, according of language in general, I would cordially to its own circumstances, is efficient in refer the reader to “Language, and the throwing out original language, and Study of Language,” by Professor Whitespecially in enlightened times is apt in ney, of Yale College.—We will try the the selection of language poetical and
vowels firstly. impressive to the general sense.
A. “Far, far away, over the calm and I assert, then, that the sounds repre- mantling wave"—thus begins the boy's sented by the letters of the alphabet romance. He is possessed by the poetry have a special aptness in suggesting
of the ocean--of vastness and space. the qualities opposed to them in the fol- The word ocean is seldom used except lowing schedule; and that the poetry, in expression of rolling and dashing; the proverbs, the slang, and the common but the wave, the main, the vast waters, talk of our people approve this asser- the watery waste, or pluin, are more tion:
popular. Lake, straight, vale, chase, race, Vastness, space, plane.
trail, trace, away, give distance and line. ........ Flatness.
Seen nearer, long a gives effect to slate,
flake, scale, plate, cake, &c. A, flat, gives I fancy this, like many another apparent expression to mat, pack, slap, strap, plat- inaccuracy of the master, came through ter, clap, flap, pat, flats, shallows, mash, a law that is above the books. Squeajam, slam, &c. “Flat as a pancake" is mish, queer, leer, zeal, squeal, screech,
Waver and shake give hori- sneeze, to be, to see, to feel, to reck, get zontal vibration; dash, splash, thrash, force from ē. have a flatter downward force. When
“ Deep self-possession-an intense repose." a stone is crushed it is much broken, yet
1, short, as in pin, has a stiff, slim, it retains something of its bulk; when it is mashed, it is flattened. Burns, in prim, thin, spindling effect--a rising and
sinking, perpendicular effect, as in “ the “ , of a as “ a grave, broad, solemn wight;” bristling pines ;” but, more especially,
it gives a thinness and lightness; thus, the breadth and space belong to ā,—the gravity and solemnity to å, or ah, or .
we say, a “light skiff.” Pope showed
his judgment upon this letter, as upon r: E. Swedenborg, in endeavoring to describe the language of the angels,
“ When the loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verso should like the torrent says the angels that “ love most much the Ō sound; but those that Not so whon swift Camilla scours the plain“know most," the speculative, self-con
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along
the main," templative, intellectual, use the sound of ē. Burns' idea of ē was expressed in
So Tennyson, for the fairy bugle, uses weeping, “greeting,” tears—the inten
i and e: sity of grief alone. But it gives inten- “O hark ! O hear, how thin and clear." sity to every thing; it gives convergence, I, long, gives inclining effects : concentration, deep-secing, and always
“In winter, when the dismal rain brings thought to a focus. All the
Comes down in slanting lines"-endearing diminutives end in è—the
“The clouds consign their treasures to the fie ds." “wee” things. Mark how the child shuns the book-orthoepy when he con
In sounds i has a lightening effect, as centrates his mind : “a lé-é-tle, té-é-ny in tinkle, clink, link; clank is as the bit of a thing!” he peers between his
sound of a sheet of zinc dropt flat on fingers, or through some narrow crevice, the pavement. I and a in combination and cries "pé-é-k!” he feels the edge make a beautiful curve, thus : of his new knife, and writhing the cor- • Many an hour I've wiled away." ner of his mouth toward his half-closed
“Swilled by the wild and wasteful ocean.' and conceptivecye, says "it is as ké-é-n!"
« Once in the flight of ages past." So when his contempt is intense he dwells on the e in “mé-an,” “sné-aking,”
“Oh! when shall it dawn on the night of the
grare?" &c. But when the baby gives you his
“Oh! wild enchanting horn!” rattle he opens his mouth and his heart with the instinct of the dative case, and "Some happier island in the watery waste." says “tah !"-outward and away. (A " Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste mother whose instinct prompts her to
Where stood Jerusalem." say “babe," instead of “baby,” must 0. This is the noblest Roman of them have been polished very thinly.) But all. If we would find the most solemn me and we bring observation to our- sentence in all literature, let us turn to selves. We would be a better objective Ecclesiastes: "For man goeth to his case than us,—so much so that a gram- long home, and the mourners go atout matical informality of Shakespeare has the streets." Not all the trappings and passed uncared for, or unnoticed, in the suits of woe can so pall the sunlight “Hamlet,” where the prince speaks of in the homes and walks of men as does the ghost as
this sombre verse. Burns calls o "The “Making night Lidcous, and we fools of nature
wailing minstrel of despairing woe." So horribly to shake our disposition,” &c. Swedenborg's idea was rather that of
holiness and adoration. Solemnity and he has some humor, more crudity, but nobility are its general effects. All no delicacy,--a creature whose voice is things noble, holy, devotional,-or sober, seldom heard in walks of refinement sombre, slow, dolorous, mournful,--or and devotion. Of all nations I should old, lone, glorious,-or even bold, portly, take him for a Dutchman. pompous, find their best expression in Yet u, long, seems to give force to the o-sound. Jove, Jehovah, Lord of the true, the pure, the beautiful, the glory, lift up the adoring soul. 0! lo ! good; and rude and crude are used with ho! behold! are interjections which much emphasis in the opposite direcnations use with little variance.
tion, partly owing to the force of r. “O sad Nomore! O sweet Nomore!”
Mother would seem to use u flat, but the “Oh! Rome, my country, city of the soul,
ở or ah is more evident,--and the The orphans of the heart must turn to thcc.'' dreamy monotony of m and the soft th “ Roll on, thou decp and dark blue ocean, ro!l!"
fit the word to its use; but “ Ma” is
better. The devotional o flat in father, " Their shots along the deep slowly boom."
is becoming too strong for young Amer“The lowing herds wind slowly o’er the lea,
ica, and he nicks and reduces it by The ploughman homeward plods his weary way."
familiar pa, pap, and dad. That o gives volume, may be seen in
Ou, diphthong, is an upward curve : the fact that most people think a boul
thus in round, bough, mountain, bow der is a large stone; but, philologically, doron, mound. Milton hits the rolling á boulder reed not be bigger than a
swagger of the gaudy cock who pea.
"To the stack or the barn-door U, gutteral, or flat, is a humorous
Sloully struts his dames before." savage that cannot be described except
"Three gaudy standards foul the pale blue skies." in his own words,--a huge, lubberly, blubbering, blundering dunderhead,--a I, o, u, in combination, make a fine numskull and a dunce, ugly, sullen,
curve, the true “line of beauty ;” a, 0, dull, glum, rugged, clumsy, gullible,
u make the same : dumpish, lugubrious,-a mumbler, a “ And false the light on glory's plume.” stumbler, a bungler, a grumbler, a fum
“Of Love's and night's and ocean's solitude." bler, a grunter, a thumper, a stumper, a
“The wide old wood from his majestic rest.” tumbler, a stunner,-a nudge, a trudge, a drudge, he lugs, tugs, sucks, juggles,
" In all that proud old world beyond the deep.” —he is up to all manner of bulls,-a Oi, diphthong, strikes me forcibly in fusty, musty, crusty, disgusting brute, the word coil. his head is a mug, his nose a snub, or a D is a solid, compact, heavy letter; pug:-his ears are lugs, his breasts dugs, thus in vad, sod, clod, load, plod, dogged,
, his bowels guts, his victuals grub, his rugged, leaden, dead. The report of a garments duds,-his hat is a plug, his short and heavily-loaded pistol is well child is a cub,-his smallest diminutive caught in explode. is chubby, or bub; at his best he is
“ Earth's cities had no sound nor tread, bluff, gruff, blunt; “his doublet is of
And ships were drifting with the dead sturdy buff, and though not sword, is
To shores where all was dunb." cudgel proof;” budge he will not, but
" Morena's dusky height he will drub you with a club, or a slug,
Sustains aloft the battery's iron load.” or a nub, or a stub, or a butt, or pelt The metals seem to me well named ; with mud; he is ready for a muss, or a gold, silver, iron, lead—especially lead. fuss; and should you call him a grudg- Tin is good, in thin shape as it is used. ing curmudgeon he gulps up “ugh! D, initial, has strong philological confudge! stuff! rubbish ! humbug !” in nections in all the European languages, high dudgeon; he is a “rough,” A but its poetic force seems less to me. "blood-tub," and a “bummer,” a “rum Some very efficient swearing can be 'un," and a tough customer generally; done with d and g hard, which well
approves the character of violence given “ The crispéd brooks” of Eden. them by Dr. Murray.
« The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls." F, h, and t, are ethereal and softening
“ The salt fringe that daily licks the shore letters, and show their nature in such
Is gross with sand.” words as breathe, soothe, feathery, warmth, The brackish wash-the grit of the far, fuint, fading, forgetful, lethean, sand in the brine, is well suggested here thoughtful, sabbath, muffled, smother, by gross. By the same instinct Tennysuffocate, stuff, muff. Notice the differ- son speaks of the plashing brine as ence between fog and mist : fog gives a " the shrill salt.” But how dry and softer, dryer, more definite volume than deep-carved is the following: mist. So froth is kept dry and light by “ Dropt in my path like a great cup of gold, these sounds.
All rich and rough with stories of the gods." « The effusive South
L, by itself, makes all cold, clear, Warms the wide air, and o'er the vault of heaven lucid, lustrous, placid, liquid, sliding, Brcathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.
glary; it is the polish of glow, gleam, At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
glide, glitter, glance, glassy ; solid gla88 Scarce staining ether," &c.
is a strong expression; even so,
" hard " Lethe the river of oblivion rolls Her watery labyrinth.”
as iron; so the mellou sound of a fine
bell is well given. “The clangor of the “ Like a dish of ripe strawberries smothered in cream."
bells, iron bells,"_"golden bells.” For
the little bells we have “the tintinnabuS is a wet letter; thus in moist, misty,
lation that so musically swells,” &c. So nasty, steam, slip, slop, slush, dash, suash, Tennyson reduces the effects of the fairy drizzle, &c.; luscious, delicious, nutritious, music ; observe here the effects of t, f, 1, suggest juicy substances-probably as
and i: onomatopes of water in its various
“O bark, o hear-how thin and clear! modes, as moisture, washing, sucking,
The horns of elf-land faintly blowing." and sibilation.
“Soft-eyed and open-necked to the wild windSh, either initial or final in a word, In love with mine own motions--the smooth chil suggests confusion; thus in shatter, Of my own flowing fibre, ere my steps
Forgot the barefool fiel of the cay word." shiver, shake, shrirel, shrink, shred, beshrew; or in das!, clash, suash, thrash,
The stars come forth, through trash, crush, gush, rush, mus!, slush, &c. " The cold, delicious meadows of the night.” " As when the sun new risen
K has fine effects in connection with Looks through the horizontal misty air 1, in thin lights and sounds; thus in Shorn of his bcams."
tuinkle, flicker, darkle, sparkle, sprinkle, G, L, and R, are the stronger con- Blink, trickle ; so in tinkle, clink, crackle, sonants; and although each has a dis- clank, link, chink; and alone it always tinctive quality, it usually blends its has a lightening effect--as in skip, nick, force with that of one of the others. click, skiff, skin, skim, &c. Quarrymen G is the hard letter, r is the rough call a thin sliver of stone a splick. letter, and l the chilling and polishing
“ The outstretched ocean glitter like a Luk",!! letter; thus gr makes a rough hardness, "How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, as in grit, grate, grind, grainél, gravel,
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle grudge, grim; while gl is effective in
With a krystalline delight." glide, glow, glance, glary, &c.
This is very plain work; but it is o “Stoop o'er the place of graves, and softly sway
the same genius as this in Tithonus, The sighing herbage by the gleaming stone."
where the steeds arise R, by itself, is effective in such words
" And shake the darkness from their lcoscred as scour, urithe, wrinkle, crisp, fritter, fry, fragment, bur, Blur, mar, scar, rude,
And beat the twilight into flakcs pofire." broken, rugged, " hoarse rough verse," "
Swinburne, in a single line, confirmis gnarlidl, burly, horrent, groan, grorcl, roar, all that I have said of k, i, and l: &c.
"Like scaled oarage of a keen thin fish."