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must be that there has been a revolution in its style and spirit rather than a degeneracy of the art itself. The primary causes to which the ancients were indebted for their peculiar and permanent glory in literature and the arts, were also the mainsprings of their success in eloquence. The emulation and struggle for superiority on a wide theatre, necessarily led to the highest possible culture. Genius, whether in the arts, in literature, or in oratory, ripens and expands under all those hard contentions and that strenuous rivalship induced and fostered by the suffrages of multitudes. The ancient promoters and patrons of eloquence, as of every thing intellectual, were the people. They were the arbiters of every species of glory—they were looked up to by poets and artists, as well as orators, for their elevation after having run a toilsome career. This made all their eloquence, their poetry, their history, and even their science popular. This made the stimulus of glory bear down that of profit out of all proportion, while in our day the incentives are reversed as to general influence as well as degree of energy. When the audiences before whom Herodotus recited his history, and Pindar rehearsed his odes, were so greatly increased, and every species of honour and renown were to come from the people, the competitors would be animated in their toils not only by the number and splendour of the prizes, but by the intensity of the excitement.
Men still ardently contend in the same fields of glory, but the number who can afford to do this, seems necessarily lessened with the reduction of the audiences to which they formerly addressed their inspiring strains of eloquence and of poetry. Genius has not, therefore, the opportunity to kindle and flame out under such irresistible stimulants and invaluable training as were presented by the public spectacles of ancient times. How far this loss has been made up to us by the possession of equivalents, according to the great scheme of moral compensations, it would be difficult to decide. The arts of imagination, in common with eloquence, must have suffered by the change; but the sciences of reasoning and calculation can establish their proudest triumphs only in an age like our own.
The opinion, that a neglect of the art of elocution, has gone very far to diminish the influence of eloquence, has found its advocates. But it is doubtful whether the changes from the vehement gestures, and passionate action and elaborate modulation of voice which characterized the ancients, to the chastened and somewhat frigid style of modern elocution, is not attributable to those general causes which have wrought @ revolution in the art itself. A system of declamation devised on the ancient plan, and framed with the same elaborate and studied care, if it did not carry away the orator from the matter of his discourse, to the manner of his delivery, could never be matured in our day, from the unavoidable incompleteness of our whole oratorical discipline. It is certain that the gifted men who have been most successful with us in pouring the flood of their resistless eloquence into the minds and souls of their auditors, have erred in the opposite extreme. They have excluded from their system of oratorical culture, the precepts of this art as worthless accessories—precepts which, in the ancient scheme of persuasion, were among the most efficient of its instruments.
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ART. IV.-1. An American Dictionary of the English Language,
&c. To which are prefixed, an Introductory Disserturion on the Origin, History and Connection of the Languages of Western Asia and of Europe, and a concise Grammar of the English
Language. By Noah WEBSTER, L.L.D. New-York. 1828. 2. Grammaire Arabe à l'usage de l'ecole speciale des langues
Orientales vivantes, avec figures. Par A. J. SILVESTRE DE
We value too highly the study of the philosophy and etymology of languages, if we consider it as one of the most essential parts of literature, and we should not agree without restriction, to one of the adages of Plato, “that he who knows words, knows things also.” On the other hand, however, we cannot assent to the opinion of those who pretend that this study has no other advantage than the mere gratification of curiosity.
Of the many literary benefits which may arise from etymological researches when they are accompanied by the necessary knowledge and conducted with intelligence, we will only enumerate two.
In the first place, no one, we trust, will doubt that the developement of the origin of words throws great light on the origin of VOL. V.-N0. 10.
nations, of their migrations and commercial intercourse, as well as upon other obscure points of antiquity.
In the second place, the formation of words, which may be considered as the basis of the science of etymology, can never be profound and exact, without examining the relation which they may bear to the spirit of the people, as well as to the primitive disposition of their organs; in a word, without studying man through all climates and all ages, and without viewing him under all aspects. Such a study may not be unworthy of a philosophical mind, and such researches are, we think, what ought to be embraced in the study of languages.
The investigation of the origin of words and of languages, opens, in truth, a vast career to true criticisin. How much knowledge and sagacity are required to guard against the seductions of false resemblances, and to trace back to their true origin the words that additions, retrenchments, and other alterations have actually disfigured. It is true, that this art is very often founded on mere conjecture, but it is precisely where the combinations of conjecture are established by correct induction, that the human mind appears to glorify itself in its acuteness and research. We may say more-man himself, with all that bear connexion with his moral and physical existence, depends almost exclusively on the art of conjecturing. The very nature of things does not permit that much of what is useful to man, should be susceptible of demonstration. The etymological art must, therefore, be valued on account of its relation both to the objects which are interwoven with the knowledge of man, and to the conjectural conclusions which are the necessary means of all arts. Even the grammatical subtleties which seem to disgrace this art, become ennobled by the philosophical spirit which, when properly conducted, presides over them.* Should we, even with this assistance, sometimes be unable to attain any probability in our researches, then we, at least, may acknowledge our ignorance without feeling any self-reproach, and say with Varro, “Qui de originibus verborum multa dixerit commode, potius boni consulendum, quam qui aliquid nequiverit reprehendendum.”+
Etymological researches may be pursued in two separate modes. In the first, which is undoubtedly the simplest and the surest, we take the history of nations for our guide, and explore the progress of a language and the various alterations which it has been suffering from time and man, by the vicissitudes of the people to whom it appertained—for languages without men are a shade without a subject-and, consequently, we are obliged to pause in our researches where the national history ceases, or, at least, begins to be obscured in the mist of uncertainty and fiction. This method Johnson appears to have followed in composing bis English Dictionary. He carries his etymological inquiries no farther than to the Anglo-Saxons on the one side, and to the Greeks on the other. As to the former we are destitute of all historical identities and information concerning the origin of the ancient Germans or Teutones, and it was only in the year of Rome, 604, that the Consul C. Papirius first met them in Noricum, and compelled them to proceed towards Gaul. The ancients described their figures and manners, but gave no satisfactory account of their origin. The history of the Celts is equally obscure. All that we learn concerning them from Herodotus,* is, that they, next to the Cynetæ, were the most remote people in the west of Europe. For the Greeks, although we have notices of them as far back as two thousand years before Christ, yet nothing certain can be discovered respecting their origin. All that we know of them is, that the Athenians were ancient, and supposed themselves to be Aborigines, (autoXdovss) and that there was a constant migration from the Peloponnesus to Thessaly, and back again.
* Plus habet in recessu quam fronte promittit.--Quinc. Ins. Orat. lib. iv.
† De Ling: Lat. lib. vi.
The second mode in which etymological researches are conducted, is a bold yet labyrinthine course, where results'are gained by analogical conjectures and the reremblances of words, structure and pronunciation. Thus we glide and steal through dark
where no traces of man are before our eyes, we direct our steps only by the aid of distant sounds, which fall upon our ears from some quarters, and are courageous enough to attempt to become guides, even from these faint echoes, through the early history of men and their actions. In this hazardous road, Mr. Webster seems, in some measure, to have travelled. He did not wish to stop at the Greek tongue :-he ascends the stream to the Oriental and early languages of the first men, enters the depths of the Slavonian dialects-and but little is wanting to hear him exclaim with the Roman philosopher
“ Avia Pieridum peragro loca, nullius ante
* Melp. c. ix.
The enterprize is laudable and worthy of the human mind; but it cannot succeed without a thorough knowledge of the philosophy and the various dialects of the primitive languages. The mere aid of dictionaries, without profound grammatical knowledge, leads the inquirer to conclusions which often are equally absurd and delusive. As an instance, we shall cite here two or three of Mr. Webster's observations respecting the Russian language.
“Vo or ve signifies in, at, by, and may possibly be from the same root as the English by, be."
Now if our author had really studied this language, he could never have imagined any analogy between the English by or be and the Russian vo or ve (as he spells it,) for all monosyllabic words in the Slavonic dialect, have a peculiar pronunciation which is grammatically settled This word is spelled in Russian with a v followed by a silent i, (called yeree) and the word is pronounced oov.
" Za, is a prefix signifying for, on account of, by reason of, after, as in zaviduyu, to envy, from vid visage, viju to see; Lat. video ; zadirayu from deru, to tear; zamirayu to be astonished or stupified from the root of Lat. miror, and Russ: mir, peace, &c. Zamiriayu to make
&c.” Mr. Webster must have had before him a Russian dictionary in which the first person sing. pres. tense of the verbs is notified, and he mistook them for the infinitives—thus zaviduyu is not the infinitive to envy, but the 1st. per. sing. pres. tense, I do envy-all the Russian infinitives end in at or ect, and the 1st. pers. sing. pres. tense of all verbs ends in oo; consequently to see, is in Russian, veedat, zamirat, to be astonished, mirat, to pacify, &c.
“ So, a preposition and prefix of extensive use, signifying with, of, from, and as a mark of comparison it answers nearly the English so."
This word is spelled in Russian with an sand a silent i (veree) it is consequently pronounced ees—and it will be difficult to find any analogy between ees and so!
Similar errors have been committed by our author in his concise and brief explanation of the German and Danish languages, throughout which, grammatical incorrectnesses, not to say ignorance, are so conspicuous as to leave no doubt that he had not studied even their elementary principles. Besides to coHect a half dozen similar words in two languages, and to settle by them the connexion and affinity of the two languages, is like judging of the resemblance of two countries, hy soine houses which were alike in both. In languages of at least 50,000 words can