« ForrigeFortsett »
pendent of each other; and the former the action of covering, the third signifying are understood, where the sounds corre. man, which, rendered literally, signifies sponding to them are different from those darkness covering man; a phrase perof the Chinese. In this respect they may fectly expressive, and similar to the lanbe compared to the arithmetical ciphers, guage of poetry. Both in fact issued &c. The character for tsai, calamity, is
* from the cradle of the human race.” Fi. an example of this independent combina. gurative language of this kind is much emtion; it is composed of mien, a house, and ployed in the scriptures : we admire it; bo, fire. Our process is to join the oral for it "comes home to our business and words expressing the ideas we wish to our bosoms.” It paints to our minds, and combine: and we should use mienbo. We calls up their conceptions forcibly and cannot easily and fully enter into this inde. correctly: Hence, though the offspring pendency of character or sound, because of necessity, it is justly esteemed a beauty, all our words are more or less pictures of and, wherever the language of feeling is sound, and are so strongly associated employed, will generally be found a prewith sound, that it is difficult to separate vailing trait. them completely, even in imagination. We might suppose that, all the characThe Chinese, on the other hand, have no ters being thus composed, nothing more immediate connection between their would be necessary, in order to underwords and their characters, so that it can.
stand them, than to know the elementnot be necessary in using their characters, ary, characters; but the analogy on to use the sounds at all.
which the composition is formed is ofAll the Chinese characters are compos.
ten extremely obscure, and often erroneed of 214 clefs or keys. These represent
ous. Their ancient principles of philosothe most obvious and simple ideas ; and phy furnished wide scope for combinaby their combinations are produced ex
tion; but these were generally ill founded. pressions for the more refined and com.
Other combinations require a knowledge plex ideas. All these clefs were probably of their ancient customs and popular susimple paintings, or symbols, and hence perstitions. Hence the ease which we the whole written language may be fairly should in theory expect in understanding considered as deducible from the more a language so regularly formed vanishes; obvious writing of the Mexicans and and an acquaintance with their whole Egyptians. Indeed the resemblance be. round of physical and religious dogmata, tween the ancient Chinese characters and with the fleeting customs and opinions of the Egyptian hieroglyphics is so striking, preceding ages, is necessary for a thoand this in cases where the analogy on rough acquaintance with the Chinese which both were founded is not an obvi. characters. This is not, however, entirely ous one,
that De Guignes considers them peculiar to the Chinese language. In order as certainly derived from the same source. to trace the origin of words, the same re. These keys are at present formed from ferences are often necessary; but we have six simple strokes ; a horizontal line, two more frequently the requisite data. Canperpendicular (the one pointed, the other didate, signifies a person who offers himblunt at bottom) a point, a line curved to self to fill a lucrative or honourable situthe right, and another to the left. The ation; the original meaning of the Latin greater part of the keys have from two to Candidatus is, a person dressed in white. seven strokes; six only of one, and some
The two ideas seem to have no connechave sixteen or seventeen. We are not tion. The difficulty vanishes, however, however to suppose that the inventors of when we learn that among the Romans the Chinese characters fixed upon these all candidates wore white robes. In a si. six elements, and composed from them milar manner we see no connection bemethodically. As the characters lost tween running, and wrapping up the feet; their correctness of delineation, the object but pao, the Chinese character
for run, is was, to facilitate the labour of writing. Art composed of two, one for the act of by degrees reduced all the characters to wrapping, the other for feet. The prothe simple strokes we have mentioned. bable connection is ascertained by the
These keys are either employed alone, circumstance, that the savages of Louisias a character serving to express an idea; ana, when about to undertake long or differently combined in a group, form- marches, wrap up their feet, to prevent ing a phrase expressive of the idea it is in their being torn. tended to communicate. Thus the cha In the Chinese dictionaries the keys are racter for night is composed of three cha: placed in an invariable order, which soon racters; one signifying darkness, another becomes familiar to the student. The
different compounds each follow one what appears to be the most probable ac-
that they cannot be proved to have issued
the force of this objection is materially Transition to Letters.
increased by the circumstance, that their
writing, equally with the alphabetical, Upon the principle that we ought not originated in the hieroglyphics, and acto suppose divine interposition, merely tually went through the same stages, from the difficulty of accounting for a viz. from the simple picture to the arbiphenomenon, we should argue à priori trary mark. The grand weight of the that no divine interposition took place in controversy appears to rest here. The the origin of alphabetical writing. As difficulty this argument presents may however, some presumptive arguments probably be obviated by the following in favour of the affirmative side of the considerations. question have been advanced by men of First, The written language of China the first eminence, we shall state the was cultivated more for the purposes of most important of them, and after endea- literature and philosophy than for those vouring to lessen the difficulty they may of common life; the combinations were present to our admission of the human formed by the literati, and it probably origin of letters, we shall point out would not have been in their power to
have carried these combinations into the pressly says, that the Phenicians were oral language of the vulgar. They might famed as the inventors of letters. indeed have invented an oral language It must be remarked, that these facts corresponding to their characters; but are adduced to prove that no records of the genius of the Chinese seems rather the invention remain ; indirectly, thereto direct them to study than to conversa. fore, they favour the hypothesis of the tion. In order to render probable a divine origin of letters. If, however, the transition from hieroglyphics to letters, transition were simple and gradual, perwe must suppose the spoken and the haps the era of invention could not have written language to have been connect been fixed even by the nation in which it ed with each other, and to have had si- occurred. We have no more reason to milar combinations. Now we may ob expect records of the invention of letters serve,
than of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, or of Secondly, That the spoken language
the Chinese characters. of China did not at all favour the plan of
The arguments à priori for the divine making their characters representative origin
of letters remain to be considerof sound, for, being all monosyllables, and
ed. These are, the difficulty of the in. not very numerous, there would not be
vention in any stage of human progress, the same call for attention to the elemen- and its antiquity, which very much in tary sounds; and what would still more creases the improbability of its human prevent this direction of the attention, origin. they did not vary the articulation, but the
1. As to the difficulty of the invention, tone, in order to express a variation of it is urged that we are to suppose that meaning. Add to this,
the inventors of letters decomposed the
sounds of words not only into syllables, Thirdly, The great extent of the em
but into letters; that observing the compire of China, and its dependencies, would cause a great variety in the dia: ponent parts of syllables, and denoting
them by appropriate marks, they used lect. This would contribute to increase the attention of their literati to their in the visible representation of other
these marks for those elementary sounds written language, since this (as we have
words into which those sounds entered. seen it actually is) might be understood This dissection of the articulate sounds independently of their words.
of man, tracing them through all their Fourthly, If we aclmit the very proba- various combinations, and denoting them ble hypothesis of De Guignes, that the by a few simple marks, whose combinaChinese characters were brought from tions might express every possible comEgypt, and that they had originally no bination of sound, supposes a habit of connection with the spoken language of patient experimenting, of discriminating the country into which they were im- examination, and of exact classification, ported,--that, in fact, they were applied which ill accord with the uncultivated to denote names different from those state of human intellect in the early pea with which they had been before con riod of society. But, nected ;-we shall perceive at once the 2. When we consider the antiquity of reason why the combinations of the cha the use of letters, and find them in a state racters were originally unaccompanied of perfection so early as the time of Mo. with corresponding combinations of ses, this difficulty appears insuperable. sounds. After this there is no difficulty We must admit that men, in the earliest in admitting that the written must con ages, stepped at once from a tedious and tinue independent of the spoken lan- awkward, and frequently unintelligible, guage, especially among people so little mode of communication, to one which addicted to innovation as the Chinese. answers every purpose in the shortest
3. It is urged, that the invention of let way, and that, unlike all other inventers is ascribed to the gods by several of tions, it was brought at once to such a the ancients; that Pliny asseris the use state of perfection, that no succeeding of letters to have been eternal; and that alphabet has any real superiority over the the Jewish doctors maintain that God ancient Hebrew. created alphabetical writing.
With respect to the difficulty of the inWe say, in reply, that the Jews had no vention, the objection loses all its force, other records than our own. The an when a simple and easy procedure, procients were accustomed to ascribe to a bable in the given circumstances, can be divine origin every thing for which they pointed out. To obviate the difficulty could not account. As for Pliny, he ex arising from the apparent perfection of VOL. XII.
the most ancient alphabets, we may ob- labic or pollysyllabic words; and then for serve,
the unchangeable part of those syllables, First, That in a perfect alphabet every that is, for consonants. In the most anletter should represent only one definite cient state of the oriental languages, sound, and every known sound in the gi. vowel sounds had no distinct marks. In ven language should have a correspond. the latter, marks were joined to the coning letter. Now we have no instance of sonants to express the different sounds a perfect alphabet among modern lan-, with which the radical consonant was inguages, and have therefore no reason to vested. Among the western nations, a suppose that the first alphabet was per- different procedure was adopted. In fect. But even admitting that some of some cases they used the mark which the ancient alphabets which have been they had received from the oriental na. transmitted to us were perfect, yet it tions for an aspirate and vowel, for the must be observed,
vowel itself; and having once commencSecondly, That no known alphabet, ed the use of distinct marks for vowels
, however ancient, is in the state of its ori. the procedure was continued, and new ginal invention. Cadmus, who was born marks adopted, to express noticed variain the east, carried with him into Greece tions of vocal sounds. sixteen letters only; the least copious al. In support of this statement may be phabet we are acquainted with has twen. adduced the following observations: ty-two. It is not probable that Cadmus 1. We have seen that hieroglyphics introduced fewer than he possessed; it did become significant of sounds; and is more probable that he invented new (see LANGUAGE) that words, originally ones, to express sounds which he found significant of one class of ideas, being ap. among the aborigines.
plied to a second, lost their connection It has generally been supposed of late, with the former, and became directly sig. that alphabetical writing was formed fromnificant of the latter. hieroglyphics; but we have met with no 2. We have reason to believe that one, except De Guignes, who has stated words were originally monosyllabic in the steps of the transition in a satisfactory. those nations where alphabetical writing manner. "Perhaps," says this writer, was invented, and that the combination “ we have done too much honour to the of old sounds, or the use of them, uncominventor of letters, whoever he were, in pounded to express new ideas, was the supposing that he dissected the voice into mode employed to extend the capabilities two parts, and invented marks of two of their language. Hence the same word kinds, some to represent consonants, and would frequently occur in combination, others vowels.”
and though its different significations The following is, with some variations, must originally have been represented by the hypothesis of this writer. Hierogly different hieroglyphics, yet, as these lost phics, with their exactness of delineation, their significancy, they would easily be. lost their original significancy. This must come as extensive in their meaning as first be the case with words of most fre. the sounds themselves. And it is obvious, quent recurrence, and which entered that the most simple of those hierogly
; most into combinations with other words; phics which were used for the same sound become simple denotements of sound, would be employed to represent the they were employed to express their sound. respective sounds in combinations of 3. It has been shown to be highly pro, other monosyllabic words, which, in like bable, that originally every consonant had manner, had lost their original significan- its vowel sound. Hence all syllables might cy. Hence, by degrees, they became re. be represented by two, or at most three, presentative of the component parts of European letters. This circumstance all words into which their respective would materially diminish the varieties sounds entered. They were always of syllabic sounds. words, but very simple, consisting only 4. The probability of the theory ad. of a consonant and a vowel. Variation vanced depends greatly upon the bypo. in the pronunciation of the vowel would thesis, thai originally letters were syllabic
. occur in different dialects, and hence The following facts appear to prove this
: these marks would be regarded as con The ancient oriental alphabets had no desonants capable of being differently mo notements for vowels; and even if this be dified by simple vocal sounds. Letters, disputed, it must be admitted that they at first monosyllabic words, then became had many words into which none of the marks for the component parts of dissyl- supposed vowel marks entered. The
Ethiopian alphabet is entirely syllabic. Chinese hieroglyphic for water. Lastly, The simple letters denote a consonant the x aleph (originally perhaps signifying and a short a, and marks were added to ox) signifies unity, the action of conducting, them to denote other vowels where used.
pre-eminence. The Phenician form of this What is doubly singular, they have in exactly represents the Chinese character many cases added marks to these syllabic for one, and every action by which we are at characters, to denote they have no vowel
the head of others. But these letters are belonging to them. In the Coptic and
not only significant by themselves, but Arabic there are syllabic characters. The secondly in combinations. Thus alphabets of the eastern Asiatics are prin expressed by the monosyllable ya, ye, or cipally syllabic, some with o, others with
you ; to this another monosyllable, which ă, joined to a consonant. These circum
had equally a signification relative to the stances render probable the account here figure, being added, formed a word of two given of the transition from hieroglyphics syllables. For instance, instead of the to letters. The following observations present;denomination of 7 daleth, we may more completely ascertain its high pro- reasonably suppose its original sound to bability.
have been da. The word q, yada, hiero5. The letters of some of the ancient glyphically represented by a gate and a alphabets have so great a resemblance to hund, is found in the Hebrew with a signitbe hieroglyphical characters, indeed are fication derived from that of the letters such exact transcripts of them, that a sim composing it; to cast out (as we might say, ple inspection is sufficient to convince us hand him to the door,) to extend. Add to that hieroglyphics were the origin of let- this the word y ain (originally probably ters. This however, proves little as to sounded ho,) which signifies the eye, and the invention of alphabetical writing, ex. we have yadaho, which should signify to cept that it was subsequent to the use of open the eyes, to extend the view, &c. and hieroglyphics. But,
metaphorically, to know, to understand; 6. These characters, in many instances, and in fact this is the signification of yo' retained their original significancy, which in Hebrew. But this is not all; for exactly proves them to have been, as De Guignes the same procedure has been adopted by supposes, denotements for words. We
the Chinese. Ki, which signifies to ex. must not expect to find this significancy amine, is composed of three radical chain all words of which they form compo. racters, of which the first signifies the nent parts; but in such only, in whose vi hand, the second a gate, the third the eye. sible representation the or ginal hiero
So also kia is composed of three charac. glyphic formed a component part. Now ters, one signifying the teeth, the other we must observe, first, that the names of two, gate, or opening, which signifies to several of the oriental letters are still by break through, to make a great opening. themselves significant, and that some of In Hebrew 170 is similarly composed. these letters are similar to the Chinese It signifies to plunder, to lay waste. Tchi clefs, which have the same signification. is a large collection of water. It was Thus the · yod signifies the hand. Its
composed of the characters for hand and form, in some alphabets, resembles the
water. The same compound was formed Chinese character for hand. The 7 daleth
among the Hebrews, and o yam, signifies of the Hebrews, Phenicians, and Ethio
a great collection of water, or the sea. In pians, signifies a gate, and the action of
Arabic the letters thet or earth, and mim or opening. The hieroglyphic, which among the ancient Chinese represented a gate, Rood The Hebrew thin is composed of
water, form the word tham, and signify a is exactly similar to this letter. The o
the thet or earth, and the nun, which signi. phi of the Hebrews, and af of the Ethio.
fies man, i. e. man of the earth, and further, pians, signify the mouth. The Chinese
to form, to create. In both these instances, characters for the mouth all resemble it.
the Chinese correspond in their combiThe y ain signifies the eye. The Pheni.
nations with the alphabetical writing. cians and the Chinese employed the out Many other instances might be brought. line of the eye as a denotement of the We will adduce one, to which there is no object. The u shin in Hebrew signifies corresponding combination in the Chithe teeth, and its figure is still found among nese language, Ab, or Haba, 28, signifies the Chinese, with the same signification. father The component parts of it signify The mim signifies wuter. The corres. principal of the house. ponding Samaritan and Ethiopian charac The papers of De Guignes, to which ters have a strong resemblance to the we are very greatly indebted on this suba