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HISTORIC SKETCH

OF THE RISE AND FORMATION

OF THE

ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

The first thing in the description of a language is its affinities with other languages: and the consideration of this belongs to what is called Comparative Philology. The English is one of the languages of the great Indo-European family, the members of which have been traced across the double continent of Asia and Europe through the Sanscrit, Persian, Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Gothic, and Keltic languages. In order to illustrate the right of our English language to a place in this series, it will suffice to exhibit a few proofs of definite relationship between our language on the one hand, and the classical languages of Greece and Italy on the other. The readiest illustration of this is to be found in the transition of consonants. When the same words appear under altered forms in different members of the same family of languages, the diversity of form is found to have a regular method and analogy. Such an analogy has been established between the varying consonants which

B

hold analogous positions in cognate languages, and their
variation has been reduced to rule by the German philo-
loger Jacob Grimm. He has founded the law of consonantal
transition, or consonantal equivalents. A few easy examples
will put the reader in possession of the nature of the thing.
When a Welshman speaks English in Shakspeare he often
substitutes p for B, as Fluellen in Henry V. act v. sc. I:
pragging knave, Pistoll, which you and your self and all
the world know to be no petter than a fellow, looke you
now, of no merits: hee is come to me, and prings me pread
and sault yesterday, looke you, and bid me eate my leeke,'
&c. The Welsh parson, Sir Hugh Evans, in Merry Wives,
puts T for D: ‘it were a goot motion'—' The tevil and his
tam'—and 'worts' for words, as :
* Evans. Pauca verba; (Sir John) good worts.

FALSTAFFE. Good worts? good cabidge.'
Likewise F for v: “It is that ferry person for all the orld';
and 'fidelicet for videlicet I most fehemently desire
you,' &c.

Between closely cognate languages an interchange of this sort often exhibits great system and regularity. Everybody knows that Hebrew and Chaldee are cognate languages. Between them there is a well-marked interchange of z and D; while a third dialect, which we may call Phoenician, would in the same place put a The Hebrew pronor for this is ZEH; but in Ch becomes DA DEN and DI: the Hebrew

ale is ZAKA
Chaldee it appears as DT

ebrew ve
is ZAVACH; but in
verb for being tir

But
dialect

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