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speak distinct Languages, which bring in the Floods of new Words, and that produce the great and flagrant Changes. But Nations feldom trade much Abroad, or make Inyasions upon their Neighbours, or send forth Plantations or Colonies into remote Countries, till they are pretty well stocked at Home. And this, as I have said more than once, must have been the Effect of several Ages after the Difpersion.
I defire, Sir, that you would now go along with me in the History of some Languages with which we are both acquainted. The Roman Language was formed, and
beautiful before Plautus's Time; and though now and then some Archaisins' appear in his Writings, yet any Man that understands Latin may read the Books written in it, whilst it was still a living Tongue, from Plautus down to Theodoric the Goth, in whose. Time Sidonius lived, which was near seven Hundred Years. And had not the barbarous Nations broke into Italy, it would have continued to be an intelligible Language for several Ages more, But ghen the Goths, and after them the Lom, bards fixed their Settlements in Italy: 'The Franks and Burgundians in France : the Vandals, Goths, and Moors, in Spain: These new Settlements by Degrees - introduced new Tongues; which however by their Affinity, at first Sight visible, discover the Original from which they spring. Had not the Normans
come in with William the Conqueror, and successively afterwards as long as our Kings were Dukes of Normandy, the old Saxon and its Dialects would not have been so foon loft : And yet now that its Grammar is thoroughly known, and we have excellent Dictionaries of this Language, it may be very well understood in a few Months with tolerable Industry; and we have Treatises extant in that Language near a Thousand Years old. The Ifanders
, who speak the Language of the ancient Danes, (who when they over-run this Island seven or eight Hundred Years ago, left great Marks of their Tongue behind them) have suffered very inconsiderable Alterations in their Dialect, as we know by the numerous Monuments still extant in it; which are above five Hundred Years old, which Constancy in their Language is certainly owing to the very little Conversation which they have with the rest of Mankind.
Look now, Sir, into the Greek, and tell me whether it is not in the main the self same
Tongue, as to it's Grammar (for I regard not the obsolete Words that are antiquated, or the new ones that have been taken in) as it appears in Homer's Poems, and in the Commentaries of Eustathius, though Homer and Eustathius, lived full two Thousand Years afunder. Indeed when the Turks over-run Greece, Darkness quickly ensued, and Greek soon became what we now see it. But still what a wide
Difference is there, betwixt Greek, either ancient or modern, and the Eastern Languages? And as notorious as the Changes are, no Man that understands Etymology can think that one was made out of the other.
In a Word, Sir, considering the Time that has elapsed since the Building of the Tower of Babel; and considering what Progress and Alteracions some of the Languages which we know have made in three Thousand Years, others in two Thousand and two Thousand five Hundred Years, and others in a Thoufand ; and considering that there are some Tongues, in which, when compared with others, you will find nec volam nec vestigium; the the Variety now actually existing of Idioms spoken by the several Inhabitants of this our Earth, can I think be no Way possibly accounred for, without supposing such a miraculous Formation of Languages as we find recorded in the with Chapter of Genefis ; let any Man look here in Europe into the Finnish Tongue, and its Dialects, the Esthish, and the Lettis; let him examine the Hungarian, which is a Language entirely different from any other Spoken in Europe; let him cast his Eyes upon the many Dialects of the Slavonian, of which we have several curious Specimens in your. admirable Collection, and even here we shall see the Proposition which I advance fully made out. But if we go farther East into China, and the East Indies, or farther Weft into Amę
rica, the Diversity is still more astonishing. But then if we recur to Moses, this Astonishment ceases ; he solves this Phaenomenon easily : And without such a Solution, it would, I fear, have given too great a Handle to the FreeThinkers of this Age, to have thrown afide the Mosaic History, and to have given Credit to, the most fabulous Accounts of other Nations, which boast of the greatest Antiquity; if they would have allowed those Accounts to have been sufficient.
You see, Sir, what Use I would make of all this. The History of Empires, of Trade, of the Progress of Arts and Sciences do prove demonstrably to an unprejudiced Man, that the World is not likely to be older than the Mofaic Account. If the History of Language which Mojės gives us be considered likewise upon thiş Plan, we shall see nothing to contradict it. That divine Historian tells us when it was that Mankind had but one Language, and how new ones were introduced, and what a Dispersion this caused. And nothing but such a Collection as yours, made with so much Exactness, and which by the Care of our admirable Friend Mr. Reland of Utrecht, is like to be printed with so much Accuracy in which, though that is the principal Thing, all the other Collections that I have seen have been notoriously deficient) could have set this Matter in such a Light, as in my opinion it deserved.
This, Sir, I thought fit to say concerning your
Work: Some other Questions may probably be asked upon this Occasion, concerning which, when I have given you my Thoughts, and answered fome Objections which have been made by a most learned Friend of ours, I shall close this Discourse, which will, I fear, appear tedious to many Readers, and useless perhaps to some.
Some will ask here which Languages I take to be Original, and whence derived; or in on ther Words; which are co-eval with the Babylonia Confusion, and which have by Degrees crept in since. Now in Answer to this Question, I must acknowledge that it is not easy, and perhaps in many Cases impossible, to give a determinate Answer to it. But as according to my Notion the Dispersion of the Builders quickly followed upon the Confufion of Tongues, į and as the Descendents of Noah went according to their families into Regions contiguous to one another, (as the incomparable Bochart has shewn at large in his Phaleg) so it is agreeable to Reason as well as Fact, that those Colonies or Tribes which lay nearest to one another, and consequently were most likely to have mutual Commerce and Intercourse with each other, should have Languages the nearest akin given them at first. To form Dialects is a Work of Ages, even now when Trade, and Bufiness, and War have introduced greater Correfpondences. And we see there were distinct