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further here, that nothing more than a mere outline of statement was intended, free, if possible, from reasonable doubt or controversy: the proofs and illustrations of the statement are presented in the Dictionary; the peculiar plan of which was adopted for this as well as for other important purposes.
THE ANGLO-SAXON AND GOTHIC ORIGIN OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CONSIDERED.
IT is not without some reluctance that the author approaches this question; because he has both to encounter strong prejudice, and to controvert the opinions of Mr. Horne Tooke; for whose memory he entertains the sincerest respect, and for whose labours he feels truly grateful. He will not say that he would rather be in the wrong with Horne Tooke than in the right with Harris; but he considers the errors of the one far more interesting, and even instructive, than the truths of the other. Many had pretended to write philosophically; but it was reserved for the author of "The Diversions of Purley" to be the first, at least in this country, to write sensibly on the subject of language. If his celebrated work be big with promises, which never have been, and which, probably, never can be realized; they have internal evidence of proceeding from sincerity. But with every disposition to admit the merits of the
above work, it certainly does contain a considerable portion of unsound opinion, especially in connexion with the author's favourite theory of a Northern Origin; in support of which, ingenious paradox and bold assertion are more conspicuous than careful inquiry and dispassionate reflection: and the Gothic derivations are, for the most part, not only mere assumptions, but many of them are such as would have disgraced Junius or Skinner.
This, indeed, was perceived by the author of the present work, many years ago, when his admiration of the "Diversions of Purley" was at its height; for though, for a time, a convert to the theory of Mr. Horne Tooke, he had no faith in many of his etymologic instances; and he finds, in the copious extracts then made, the mark of interrogation or exclamation affixed to such words as the following:-Odd, i. e. owed, past part. of owe; Head, i. e. heaved, past part. of heave; Bread, i. e. brayed, past part. of bray; Wench, from wincian or wink; Store, from stir, &c. &c.
We had once intended to collect in this place all the unsound and absurd etymologies of Horne Tooke, and confront them with what we deem true derivations; but such a task would be invidious, and therefore the reader is referred to the Dictionary. It was the unfortunate theory of the Northern Ori gin that misled the acute judgment of the author of the Diversions of Purley; for his Greek and Latin derivations are as remarkably sound and incontro
vertible as many of his Gothic derivations are absurd and false. He has certainly done much to rescue etymology from the contempt into which it had fallen in the hands of preceding etymologists, who were, in general, as destitute of a sound understanding and philosophic spirit, as of good taste and elegant scholarship; but he has deliberately and wilfully exposed both himself and his subject to much ridicule a test of truth which he applied very freely to others and if it has been employed sparingly against him, such forbearance must be considered as a kind of silent homage to his genius and talents. His Gothic partialities and prejudices, connected as they were with a particular theory and a political bias, are easily accounted for; but they are, nevertheless, unworthy of his understanding and inconsistent with the philosophic spirit of free inquiry. He perceived a remarkable similarity or rather identity in many Gothic and Anglo-Saxon words with Greek and Latin terms. What is the inference deducible from this fact? That the half civilized and illiterate tribes of the North borrowed such words from the highly civilized, and, therefore, powerfully influential Greeks and Romans, or, that they both derived them from a common origin? No, indeed, but that the Greeks and Romans, those masters and teachers of the world after the extinction of Babylon and Memphis, borrowed many words (perhaps terms of art and science) from the rude and unlettered tribes of ancient Germany! Or, as is ingeniously (not to
say fancifully) supposed, in bold defiance of all history and all probability, that these rude tribes made successful irruptions into Greece and Italy, and grafted their language on that which already existed in these countries! If one language were as quickly grafted on another as pippins are on crabs, (though the theory in question supposes the crab to have been grafted on the pippin,) Gothic irruptions (though Celtic irruptions would have a better claim) might have grafted a Gothic language on that of Greece and of Rome; but history supplies no evidence of such a process, which is effected not by irruptions but by permanent conquest and long possession; and even these have frequently failed of producing such an effect. Was the language of China thus formed by the incursions of Northern barbarians? (for the Chinese were conquered by the Tartars). Was the modern Greek formed by the irruption and even subjugation of the Turks? We will even put less obvious instances: was the present language of Italy and France and Spain thus produced? The idiom and grammatic construction and conjugations and declensions (and in these respects the modern is about as dissimilar to the ancient classic Greek) are, indeed, different from those of the ancient written, classic or learned Latin, (which differed more widely, in all probability, from the common or vulgar Latin than do the compositions of Johnson from the dialogues of our cockneys and villagers,) but the words, with few exceptions, are the same. The Italian, the
French and the Spanish are, notwithstanding Gothic irruption, and permanent conquest, and perpetual possession, nothing but a corrupt Latin. The truth is, a handful of invaders, (and handful they must be, however numerous, when considered in reference to a populous nation,) never did and never can produce much change on the language of a dense population; to which they are related as the Catholic missionaries to the Hindoos and Chinese; and instead of converting the people to their language, opinions, and customs, they conform to the established usage of the people. And if the ancient Saxons established their language in England and in the lowlands of Scotland, it proves that they were, if not the sole inhabitants, (the poor Celts having fled from their Gothic presence to the barren mountains,) at least a great and overpowering majority.
But the Herculean argument for the Northern Origin, is the darkness of its deep antiquity. We can trace (Mr. Horne Tooke avers) the origin of the Latin and the Greek; but that of the Gothic is involved in darkness and buried in the deepest antiquity. Well, and is not the origin of Cossackic and Hottentotic, and of all the languages of all the uncivilized and half-civilized tribes of the earth, sufficiently buried in darkness to entitle them to the same honour? Why should the Anglo-Saxon or Gothic monopolize all this merit? The Celtic has surely some claims; and, as to words without number, every one capable of using a dictionary may