« IndietroContinua »
11. But when we apply the scheme to the labials and gutturals, we can no longer take modern German as a representative of High Dutch. In the letters of these organs it has admitted so much of Low Dutch, that we are obliged to seek examples from the pure Old High Dutch of the Frankish Empire. Both in the labials and in the gutturals, our medial corresponds to High German tenuis, as represented by the mnemonic formula.
By the above lists it is made plain that the Mcesogothic sides with the English or Low Dutch, as against the German or High Dutch.
12. Thus far the examples are all based on initial letters: it will be well to shew like analogies in the middle and end of words. The comparison shall be confined to English and German, as being that which will be most generally useful
and convenient. The mnemonic < . > continues to
( t a me J
mark the path of the Lautverschiebung between High and
13. This evidence for the affinities of our language would be far less perfect than it is, but for the material which has been supplied by means of Christianity. To this cause we trace the preservation of the oldest literary records of our family of languages. In the fourth century Scripture was translated into Mcesogothic: in the seventh century Anglo-Saxon began to be cultivated by means of Christianity, and during five centuries were produced those writings which have partly survived. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the spread of Christianity northwards caused the Norsk Sagas to be committed to writing. Literary culture has been transplanted from the old into the midst of the young and rising peoples of the world, and hence it has come to pass that among the nations which have sprung into existence since Christianity, a better record of their primitive language has been preserved. Hence the striking fact that we can trace the written history of our English language within this island for the space of twelve hundred years. Christianity was the cause of its early cultivation; and this has made it possible for us to follow back the traces of our language into a far higher relative antiquity than that in which the languages of Greece and Rome first begin to emerge into historic view.
14. This has been very generally the case with the Christian nations of the world. Their literature begins with their conversion; and but for that event it would have been long delayed. The rude tribes of the distant islands have new, by means of the missionaries, the best books of the world translated into their own tongues; and this at a stage of their existence in which they could not of themselves produce a written record. How carefully the Moesogothic language was considered and adapted to the expression of Scripture, becomes manifest to the philological student, when he examines those precious relics of the fourth century which bear the name of Ulphilas. Here we often meet the very words with which we are so familiar in our English Bible, but linked together by a flexional structure that finds no parallel short of Sanskrit. This is the oldest book we can go back to, as written in a language like our own. It has therefore a national interest for us; but apart from this, it has a nobility and grandeur all its own, being one of the finest specimens of ancient language. It is by this, and this alone, that we are able to realise to how high a pitch of inflection the speech of our own race was once carried. Inflections which in German, or even in Anglo-Saxon, are but fragmentarily preserved, like relics of an expiring fashion, are there seen standing forth in all their archaic rigidity and polysyllabicity.
15. In the subjoined Lord's Prayer the English is a little distorted to make it a verbal guide to the Moesogothic words:—
THE LORD'S PRAYER.
From the Mcbsooothic Version of Ulphilas; made about A.d. 365.
Aivaggelyo thairh Matthaiu.
Atta unsar thu in himinam
Veihnai namo thein
Kvimai thiudinassus theins
Vairthai vilja theins, sve in himina yah ana airthai
Hlaif unsarana thana sintoinan gif uns himma daga
Yah aflot uns thatei skulans siyaima
Svasve yah veis afletam thaim skulam unsaraim
Yah ni biiggais uns in fraistubnyai
Ak lausei uns af thamma ubilin
Unto theina ist thiudangardi
Yah mahts Yah vulthus
In aivins. Amen.
16. The Low Dutch family of languages falls into two natural divisions, the Southern or Teutonic Platt-Deutsch, and the Northern or Scandinavian. It was at the point of junction between these halves—at the neck of the Danish peninsula, along the banks of the Elbe, and along the southwest coasts of the Baltic—that our continental progenitors lived and spoke.
17. The Saxons were a border people, and spoke a Low Dutch strongly impregnated with Scandinavian associations. But the more we go back into the elder forms on either side, the more does it seem to come out clear, that our mother tongue is, in fundamentals, to be identified with the PlattDeutsch, the dialect of the Hanseatic cities, the dialect which has been erected into a national language in that which we call the Dutch, as spoken in the kingdom of the Netherlands. The people of Bremen call their dialect Nieder Sdchisch, i. e. Lowland Saxon; and the genuine original 'Saxony' of European history was in this part, namely, the middle and lower biet of the Elbe. The name of 'Saxon' has always adhered to our nation, though we have seemed almost as if we had been willing to divest ourselves of it. We have called our country England, and our language English: yet our neighbours west and north, the Welsh and the Gael, have still called us Saxons, and our language Saxonish. It has become the literary habit of recent times to use the term 'Saxon' as a distinction for the early period of our history and language and literature, and to reserve the term 'English' for the later period. There is some degree of literary impropriety in this, because the Saxons called their own language Englisc. On this ground some critics insist that we should let the word English stand for the whole extent of our insular history, which they would divide into Old English, Middle English, and New English. But on the whole, the terms already in use seem bolder, and more distinct. They enable us to distinguish between Saxon and Anglian; and they also comprise the united nation under the compound term Anglo-Saxon. As expressive of the