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crumbs of successful inquiry how language has been constructed.
The serious, sober truth is, that Anglo-Saxon is available for etymologic purposes in studying the English language, but not half so available as German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, old English, Scottish, Greek, and Latin. The reason is obvious: such was the illiterateness of even the Saxon literati, that they knew not how to depict to the eye their own barbarous sounds. Hence the caprices of Saxon orthograpy, as they are leniently termed by the candid and enlightened author of the Anglo-Saxon History. To have a true idea of these caprices, (more properly rude essays at spelling,) we have only to compare them with the literary attempts of our most unlettered mechanics or labourers who can barely read and write. Their orthography and composition and that of the Saxons will be found remarkably similar. This may displease the lovers of Saxon literature, and all lovers are apt to be offended when freedoms are taken with the objects of their affections; but our apology must be, that we have no wish to offend, and the ruling principle of our sentimentality is, Rien n'est beau que le vrai.
"The present language of Englishmen," (says the Saxon scholar above alluded to,)" is not that heterogeneous compound which some imagine, compiled from the jarring and corrupted elements of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian; but [but what? completely Anglo-Saxon in its whole deri
vation, having none but pure Gothic words in its vocabulary!] completely Anglo-Saxon in its whole idiom and construction."
We may well exclaim fie upon but; for it brings forth a most irrelevant conclusion. A zealous Frenchman might exclaim,-The present language of Frenchmen is not that corruption of Latin which some imagine; but completely French in its whole idiom and construction: and thus might Spanish and Italian professors reason for the idiomatic antiquity of their language.
Specimens of the present English have been selected for the purpose of showing what a great number of pure Saxon words they contain; but we think it can be proved that most, if not all, of these very Saxon words are as really Greek and Latin, as those which are admitted to be adopted from these languages. The sole difference is, that the words given as Saxon were adopted at a much earlier and ruder period, and, therefore, are more changed, contracted, and disguised. This is an opinion not hastily adopted, (for it was reluctantly admitted, being forced upon the understanding of the author in opposition to his faith in the Northern Origin,) but slowly and cautiously formed, after much inquiry and long deliberation.
If this opinion can be established, if it can be satisfactorily shown that all, or nearly all, the words of the English language are merely Greek and Latin terms, in learning which, so much time is spent in
youth; the result will surely be far more important than tracing them up to the darkness of Gothic antiquity, which is as void of pleasing association as of useful instruction. And if the utility of our labours should prove much smaller than is anticipated, we hope, at least, to present etymology in an attractive form to the admirers of Greece and Rome, and all the lovers of polite literature. A writer of some celebrity has expressed considerable uneasiness and alarm at the idea of being dragged by etymology into the woods of Germany. Such fears are perfectly groundless. In studying the etymology of your own language to discover its true meaning and full force, its beauties and graces, and, we may add, its noble descent and learned origin, you may have to make the tour of Germany, and to approach within view of the Black Forest; but the most finished understandings, the most accomplished judgments, the most elegant tastes and refined sensibilities, will not be left forlorn in Gothic regions, a prey to savage rudeness; for etymology will conduct them to the classic banks of the Tiber, and the philosophic groves of Academus, where the smooth periods of the eloquent Cicero, and the golden sentences of the divine Plato, communicate to the ravished ear profound reflections on the true philosophy of the mind, the immutable principles of taste, and the eternal laws of criticism.
THE INTERCHANGES OF THE LETTERS OF THE AL
HERE it must be premised that letters, syllables, and words, are so variously changed in process of time, and in passing from mouth to mouth, from people to people, and from writer to writer, as to render it impossible to lay down rules which will embrace all etymologic transmutations. It is only intended, therefore, to point out those which are of
most common occurrence.
The letters of the alphabet admit of being etymologically arranged thus:
A, E, I, O, U, W, Y,
B, P, M, F, V, Ph,
C, G, K, Qu, X, H, Ch, Gh
Each of these distributions may be etymologically considered as but one letter. The first, in the above distribution, are denominated vowels, (VOCALIS from Vox, voice or sound,) because they of themselves give a distinct sound: all the other letters are denominated consonants, because they can be sounded
only in connexion with vowels. The first consonants, in the above distribution, are denominated labials, (LABIALIS from LABIUM, lip,) because they are formed by a compression of the lips: the second are denominated gutturals, (GUTTURALIS from GUTTUR, throat,) because they are formed by a compression or action of the throat: the third are named dentals, (DENTALIS from DENS, tooth,) because they require the compression or action of the teeth: L and R are denominated linguals, (from LINGUA, the tongue,) because they require the action of the tongue upon the roof of the mouth: the only difference is, that in forming r, the tongue is not brought into such close contact with the palate, as in forming, whilst it has a slight jarring or vibratory motion. It is somewhat remarkable, that these two are almost the only letters in the alphabet, in the formation of which the tongue has any share; though it has had the honour of giving name to speech among most, if not all, nations.
As to the reason or justness of the above designations, the reader may satisfy himself with experiments upon (or in) his own mouth in the course of a few minutes; and there is a convenience in them, which is all the value we attach to them.
The interchanges of the vowels are so frequent, and so familiar to every one who has given the smallest attention to the subject, that we shall not trouble the reader with a single instance, but proceed directly to their interchanges with the consonants.