Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

This is enough to explain to the reader unversed in such inquiries, the nature of the evidence by which it is abundantly proved that the similarities discovered in Welsh are not owing to any impression made on that language by the Romans. When this has been established in numerous instances, it becomes unreasonable to insist that words have been imported from Latin, which might have been, if their sound alone were considered. Again: the sea is in Latin mare, in Welsh môr, in Irish muir, in Russian more, in German meer, in Sanskrit mirah. Now if any one only knew the Welsh and the Latin, he might fancy that the Welsh had adopted the word from the Romans. But when we see the entire series, we are forced to abandon the hypothesis ; for how did the Irish get the word ? and as it belongs to so many of the Indo-Germanic languages, the only reasonable conclusion is, that the Welsh and Irish both have gained it from the highest sources, in distant antiquity, and not from the Latin in recent times. Similar remarks may be applied to many other words.

A novice who casts his eye over Dr. Prichard's book (or over any book in which such inquiries are conducted on scientific and accurate principles) is in danger of pronouncing the similarities adduced merely fanciful. It is not always sounds which are most alike, that most certainly indicate words of common origin, even when the sense is similar. The above examples showed Welsh and Greek words beginning with p, corresponding to Latin and Irish words beginning with k. Now, this being once recognized in a sufficient number of cases, an etymologist is justified in regarding a Welsh initial p as a sort of equivalent to a Latin

But the law cannot be reversed (Welsh k for Latin p), nor can it be confidently extended to other parts of a word besides the beginning. It is from want of thus jealously limiting their inferences, that the etymologists of past centuries ran into such extravagancies.

Once more, to illustrate this. A practised inquirer, on meeting the Welsh words, had, seed; he, he will sow; pronounces them to be decidedly identical with the Latin satum, sero. To

initial k or qu.

the tiro this seems fanciful; but let the following short list be examined, and the matter will appear in quite a different light.

A sow

Sheil

sen

Welsh. Greek. Latin. Salt hal hal

sal The sun haul

helio sol or huan

Shog (English) hwch hu

su Like haval

suga (Angl. S.) Shomal simil

hamal Gather hela

(or drive) Teil, ela Willow helig

helik salic

(tendril) Old hên hen

sean (Irish) This might be enlarged easily; but we have adduced enough to prove that the initial H of the Welsh and Greeks, answers to the initial S of the Latins. That Irish initial S corresponds to Welsh initial H, is shown by Dr. Prichard in a list of twenty-five words; but we have preferred to make a different selection. Now no person ought to consider himself a judge of the question until he has familiarized himself with all the laws of this nature, which can be proved to regulate the interchange of consonants; and by examining the families of words, as they are found in the dictionary, he will be able to guard himself against any unfair selection of their meanings, which might tend to recommend a desired conclusion. By the same examination, he will perceive whether a word has struck its roots deep into the language and at an early period, by the number of its derivatives ;-generally a pretty good means of knowing whether it was felt to be a genuine native. For ourselves, we must profess that a free use of the dictionary, side by side with Dr. Prichard's volume, has exceedingly confirmed his conclusions to us, and has dissipated whatever hesitation we for awhile felt.

In case others should be affected like ourselves, we think it worth while to name, that a table which he has appended at the end, exhibiting points of agreement between Hebrew and the Indo-Germanic family, strikes us as certainly deficient in rigor of investigation. Many of the examples have the appearance of a got-up case; and this somewhat diminished our confidence in the rest of his book, inspiring a suspicion that he had played the advocate. But all such apprehension vanishes the more closely the language itself is taken to task; and we do not hesitate to say, every competent judge will acquit the vast majority of his instances of being forced and made up. Some here and there may, however, be called in question.

T'he heads under which he examines the Welsh language are

nearly * those which we have given above. He finds, besides, the names of many common words expressing food, certain trees, and the simplest tools of trade, to be the same in Welsh as in Greek. Be the similarity extensive or narrow, strikingly close or distant, it is pretty uniformly spread over the whole substance of the most elementary part of the language. Even some of the prepositions and several of the pronouns agree; a few of the terminations in the tenses of verbs, some also in the verbals. It was not to be expected that the verbal tenses in the Celtic could be more like than they are to any Indo-Germanic type, when the Welsh and Erse are here so strikingly unlike each other ; yet there is a general sameness of principle to be traced in the mode of formation, and a rather close similarity in a few cases. This may be illustrated by one example (Prichard, p. 108, Note):

1. (Welsh) Bûm, fui,
2.

Buost, fuisti,
3.

Bu, fuit,

Buom, fuimus,
Buoch, fuistis,
Buont, fuerunt.

Considering all the phenomena thus laid before us, we seem forced to infer, that the Celtic is an offshoot of the vast stock of languages spoken from India eastward to the shores of Spain and France: nor does it appear possible to shake this conclusion by insisting ever so strongly on the diversities not accounted for. If they be shown to be ten times greater than we have hitherto supposed, it will only tend to push back farther and farther into antiquity the era when the Celtic separated from the Indian family; but it cannot make us doubt the relationship.

A curious but important speculation seems to be forced upon us when these results have been conceded. The early ancestors of the copiously inflecting Hindoos and musical-tongued Greeks must once have jabbered an indigested interjectionary speech. The language must have begun from a savage unformed state, and proceeded towards a certain perfection, developing itself in different countries by various methods and with various success :

* Dr. Prichard has not subdivided bis catalogue quite as far as his materials permitted. Out of his miscellaneous list we select the following, which might have been classified together, as · Parts of the Human Body.'

| Welsh: traich (arm); dant (tooth) corn (horn);
| Latin : brachio, dent,

cornu, (Welsh : croen (skin); creuan (skull); cylha (belly); deigryn (tear) Greek : chrot, karāno, krānio, koilia,

dakry. W do not feel able to count on Welsh pen, Irish kean, as akin to the Greek kefale. Analogy would require, Greek pene or penale, or something of the sort.

and this forms a strong presumption that the early state of these celebrated nations was that of great barbarism and uncultivation; for language is the first material on which man's mind stamps its own improvement. We are led to this conclusion by feeling the very great difficulty of supposing that the Celtic family could ever have spoken with the verbal and nominal inflections of the Greeks. Had this been the case, they certainly might afterwards have superseded them by a principle more philosophically simple and easier to acquire, when through collision with foreign tribes their language lost its peculiarities ; for this is just what is known to happen in other cases. But we do not see how the Welsh could lay aside the Indian and Greek methods of inflexion, and adopt instead other more arbitrary principles, as that of changing initial consonants. To exemplify our meaning, we take the following from Dr. Prichard:

Câr, a kinsman. 1. Câr agos, a near kinsman. 2. Ei gâr, his kinsman. 3. Ei châr, her kinsman. 4. Vy nghâr, my kinsman.

Pen, a head. 1. Pen gwr, the head of a man. 2. Ei ben, his head. 3. Ei phen, her head. 4. Vy mhen, my head.

All experience points to the belief, that the changes in grammatical structure must ever be in the contrary direction, from the more arbitrary to the less; from the less philosophical to the more; and that the nation which adopted such an invention as this, was ignorant of any simpler and better.

But to return to our author. The main object which he had in view was, not grammatical, but physiological ; this small book being a supplement to his great work on the Physical History of Man. Therein he has contended for the unity of the human species, partly by historical, chiefly by scientific arguments. With regard to all the more remote tribes, history entirely fails us; but language bere steps in to our assistance, and the philosophical analyst of verbs and nouns is perhaps able to make certain that which the anatomist considered probable. Dr. Prichard thinks himself justified, from the evidence which he has here digested for us, in inferring that the Celtic nations must once have migrated from the East, upon leaving that Indian or Persian nation, of which, in an extremely remote age, they formed a part. And, considering the historical proof otherwise available to us, that Asia, not Europe, was the cradle of the human race, we see not how any well-judging person can refuse assent.

Yet the work is not wholly restricted to a demonstration of this one point. The author proceeds likewise to show how the structure of the Celtic may be made to throw light on that of the

more classical languages. Especially, the personal endings in verbs in the Welsh language, can be proved identical with the personal pronouns: hence, he strongly urges, we must believe the same concerning Latin and Greek, even in the cases in which it can no longer be directly demonstrated. In the illustration of the Indo-Germanic verb, the author is somewhat diffuse; and, indeed, those who are not German scholars, or who cannot consult the great works of Grimm and Bopp, will find scattered through the whole book much valuable information on general etymology in a highly readable form.

The examination of the subject has brought before our own minds the utility of Welsh for explaining the English language. Here, as usual, the absurd pretensions of the Welsh literati appear to have driven us into the opposite extreme, so that it is with the utmost timidity that an English lexigrapher ventures to hint at a Welsh derivation. The new English dictionary of Richardson, which exhibits so much research and communicates so much information,-a work in almost every point of view so superior to its predecessors,—will nevertheless illustrate this remark. On referring to a short list of words, which have decidedly a Welsh origin, we found only one in which he acknowledged this, viz. Basket. His words are these: BASKET, Lat. Bascauda, taken by the Romans (Mart. 14, 99. Juv. 12, 46) from the British Basgawd. Junius acknowledges that if bass,

as applied to rushes, were a British word, basket might be sup'.posed to have been derived from it.' Thus he fears to announce nakedly that Basket is from the Welsh Basgawd (although we have evidence of the fact so remarkable), without qualifying it by Junius's hesitation ! Yet on opening a Welsh dictionary, there appears not only Basgawd, a basket, but its Welsh root, Basg, plaiting, network.

We hope our readers hardly need to be told what proof is needed, and is attainable, that certain words have been borrowed from Welsh by the English, and certain others contrariwise from English by the Welsh. The former is assuredly the case when a word is found in English and Welsh, but is wanting in Dutch, German, and other Teutonic languages; much more if it appears at the same time in the Irish. Sometimes the word

may

be common to Celtic and Indo-Germanic languages, yet the English may have that particular form or sense of it which the Welsh also have, and other Teutonic languages have not. Sometimes, again, a word is found in Welsh, English, French, and Italian, but is wanting in Latin, German, and Dutch. The probability then is, that the word is truly Celtic, being neither Roman nor j'eutonic, and that it has been introduced from Welsh into English, and from the old Gaulish (which was Celtic) into the modern French and Italian. Take one illustration :

« ForrigeFortsett »