Page images

most virulence by some, as for instance J. D. Michaelis (d.1791), whose rashness and inconsistency are shown in forcing in Arabic etymologies and even foisting them on the Septuagint. Etymology even in this period was not restricted by certain laws; and the more the boundaries of Oriental learning became increased, the further and wider were these wanderings extended, and the greater was the field laid open for the exercise of a perverse ingenuity. Still it must be owned that Hebrew studies acquired in this stage a degree of solidity and firmness to which they had not before attained. In it arose three distinguished men who are deserving of high praise for their efforts in promoting a knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, namely : Wilh. Gesenius, Herm. Hupfeld, and Henr. Ewald.

Gesenius explained in the most lucid manner the principles of grammar, which had hitherto been so repulsive to students by reason of the complex form and harsh technicalities in which they were involved; he introduced order where there had been confusion, and adorned all by the pellucid clearness of his style. · He was moreover the first to institute a sober and at the same time more extensive comparison with other languages; and although he here oftentimes fell into error, he ever and anon pointed out the way, by a kind of happy augury, to what was afterwards found to be the truth. He was the first to introduce into Hebrew lexicography the use of the Sanscrit, the study of which had begun to infuse a new life into the philology not only of the classical, but also of the Shemitish languages. He banished philosophy from the province of lexicography, although we sometimes observe it returning by stealth under the garb of rationalism ; he perceived, if he did not always avoid, the errors of the Belgic school, and pursued the happy medium between the extremes of too much and too little in the use of comparisons from the Arabic; and, although he showed too great an enmity to Jewish tradition, he inserted in his lexicon a great deal of useful matter from the grammatical works of the Jews written in Arabic, and especially from Abulwalid. Hupfeld, who perceived that the comparison of languages as hitherto pursued was rather conjectural than founded on induction, entered into a critical examination of the doctrine of sounds in his Exercitationes Æthiopicæ (1825). He also, in his dissertation De emendanda ratione Lericographiæ Semitica (1827), diligently examined the systems of Neumann and Loescher as well as of Schultens; and, which we with gratitude acknowledge, he recommended also the comparative study of the Japhetic languages, religiously observing the peculiar genius of each dialect as well as of the whole Shemitish family. He moreover rejected the doctrine of primitive triliteral roots, maintaining that they consist originally of a smaller number of elements, which have been increased by means of prosthesis, epenthesis, or paragoge.* This work, however, contains two suggestions which have no probable foundation in truth: one is, that an equivalence in the powers of roots results from an agreement in their forms; the other, that all roots are derived from biliteral germs, which are onomatopoetic in their origin ;both of which theories may be shown by a comparison of the Hebrew with the Sanscrit to be false. Ewald also, who has proved himself a strenuous opponent of the empiric method of Gesenius, has done much to deserve our grateful thanks. He entered deeply into the investigation of the nature of language, in the formation of which he rightly contends that chance has had nothing to do. He carried out the ingenious speculations of Hupfeld, concerning the sounds of letters; and, not content with a study of the mere externals of language, sought to penetrate to its very foundations. Being of opinion that the laws of the Hebrew language are not to be sought away from itself, but must be drawn from an examination of its inmost recesses, he applied the torch of reason to the elucidation of its structure, which he considered worthy of the profoundest study, -in order thus to bring to light the principles and producing causes of the phenomena that present themselves to our view,and, by laying bare as it were the very vitals of the language, to arrive at a knowledge of the spirit by which it is animated. Accordingly this school, whose principles have been applied by Ferd. Hitzig to the interpretation of Scripture, has received the name of rational in contradistinction both to the empiric and historical schools. · Ewald was the first to rescue the grammar from the arbitrary force of mere opinion, the hazards of conjecture, and the dicta of antiquity, and to bring it within the reach of scientific investigation; yet in so doing, he favored too much that philosophy which proceeds in the Platonic manner from ideas obtained by reflexion to the investigation of phe

* This conjecture had already engaged the attention of many, among others of Mat. Norberg, in Opusc. JI. dissert. 15 et 16 (De verbis nudis et auctis Græcorum).

nomena, rather than the Aristotelian method of inquiry, which ascends by induction from the observation of things to their nature and causes. So much is Ewald given to philosophizing, that to peruse his Kritische Grammatik, you must suffer yourself to be dragged through a Dædalian labyrinth of the most repelling obscurities : his style is exceedingly labored, and his mode of investigation still more so. You must toil as though you were reading the Parmenides of Plato; and after all, if you apply the gold you think you have obtained with all this painful exertion to the touchstone of history, the teacher of experience, you will often find it to be false metal. He seems to think that the Hebrew language has been preserved entire for the exercise of his ingenuity : he pays not the least regard to antiquity, passes by the tradition of the Synagogue with perfect indifference, and looks upon the grammatical science of the Jews as the sapless technicalities of a language long defunct. He accordingly goes to work to explain the Hebrew from itself, relying on his own powers, and looking upon all that has been done before him as of no account. He has of late begun to compare the Hebrew with the Sanscrit, but still insists that they are divided from each other by a wide wall of separation; which, however, on a nearer examination almost totally vanishes.

While on this topic, I cannot pass by that most sagacious investigator of the Sanscrit and the Indo-germanic languages descended from it, Franz Bopp, who yet remains to Germany the worthy successor to the fame of that exalted genius and profoundest of scholars, Wilhelm von Humboldt. In his works on the Indo-germanic languages, and especially in his Vergleichende Grammatik (1833-42), he has shown and explained by an abundance of examples the nature of the letters and the changes which they undergo ; he has also adopted Humboldt's distribution of roots into verbal, nominal, and pronominal, which illuminates with the light of day the grammar of all languages; and has shown in those of the Sanscrit family how much in the Shemitish languages still remains to be done. He has laid down the best general plan for the treatment of grammar, and has opened the way to the comparison of languages, which alone can enable us to explain the peculiarities exhibited by each: and though he excludes from his comparisons the Shemitish dialects, of whose conformity with and natural relationship to those of the Sanscrit family he is not yet convinced, still he bas prepared the latter by his able analysis of them for a comparison with the former; and, if I might be allowed the figure, he, acting as brideman, has led forth the Sanscrit as a betrothed encircled by her companions, to be joined in holy wedlock to the head of the Shemitish tribe. A. F. Pott also, whose erudition and industry are such that I know not which most to admire, has done excellent service to the historico-analytical school ; and, although occasionally his comparisons are farfetched, and his fondness for analysis carried to extremes, he has stored up a rich harvest of the most acute observations in his Etymologische Forschungen (1833–36), and has given a list, after the manner of Rosen,* of those Sancrit roots whose mean- . ing is established beyond a doubt, to the number of three hundred and seventy-five. Of these

Of these J. Fürst has undertaken to show that there is not a single one that is not also Shemitish.

With Julius Fürst, whom I am proud to call my friend and master, a new age of Hebrew studies has begun, which, if you will not consent to call it the golden age, you will at least allow to be the next to golden. For this I will now give my reasons. The sources to which all scholars in all ages have applied in order to obtain a knowledge of the Hebrew are three, tradition, comparison, and philosophythe interpreter as it is called of nature : these aids, although in no period entirely separated, have never yet been properly conjoined into one equable system. One or the other has always prevailed to the neglect of the rest : thus in the talmudic age of the Synagogue, an almost exclusive attention was paid to tradition,-in the middle ages, to the comparison of the dialects, and in later times, to philosophy; and this has engendered false views of grammar in the minds of many. In the Church, the tradition received from the Synagogue, whence she drew what knowledge she had of the Hebrew, predominated until the seventeenth century; its place was then supplied by comparison, first the harmonic so called, and then the etymological, as applied both to the Shemitish dialects and to the foreign languages which by degrees became known to the learned world; this was finally succeeded by philosophy (the favorite system of the rational school), which, despising tradition, and bestowing less attention on comparison, endeavored to explain the secrets of the structure of the Hebrew by the light of reason. The historico-analytical school unites all these aids

Illustratas edidit Fridericus Rosen, in such proportion, as to form together one homogeneous and powerful instrument of investigation. It is called historical because, desiring to commence its investigations from the very beginning, it applies itself to tradition, especially that of the Jews, which is preserved in numerous literary monuments, and forms the depository of many things which we would vainly seek elsewhere ;* and because it considers that the connexion of the Hebrew both as to form and meaning with the other six families of ancient languages is to be shown historically, and that each law of the language is to be historically ascertained, namely, by comparing the Hebrew with itself, with its dialects, and with other languages, particularly the Sanscrit. It receives also the name of analytical, because it considers language

* Radices Sanscritæ. Berolini 1827.

* Here belongs the doctrine of the vowel points, the diacritical signs, and the accents, which are all commonly included under the name of the masoretic punctuation. This topic, being purely historical and traditional, has not yet been discussed by a single one of our grammarians with satisfactory learning and perspicuity. Ewald, it is true (in his Abhandlungen der orientalischen und biblischen Literatur, 1832, p. 130 Ss), has treated the matter with great philosophical sagacity, but as usual without any reference to authorities and with an entire dependence on the received text (whose accentuation is faulty throughout) and on his own ingenuity. The right way was first entered upon by G. Riegler and A. Martinet (Hebräische Sprachschule, 1835), who however drew their materials from the not philosophical but wholly historical work of Heidenheim. Benjamin Heidenheim (d. 1832), than whom our age has produced none more skilful in the masoretic art, in his book of the Laws of the Accents (6230A "DEWO Rödelheim 1808), has used for the historical foundation and development of this doctrine-besides what was furnished him by the Masora, and by a large collection of MSS. with whose critical application he was well acquainted—the most ancient treatises on this topic by writers of his nation, as for instance the way nana, attributed to Aharon ben-Asher of Tiberias, and written in rhymes of equal length; the spa 230 of Ibn-Bileam, a Spanish Jew; the 27 yw of Moses Nakdan; the lexicon of Solomon Parchon, &c. Excellent information has recently been afforded us on this subject by S. D. Luzzatto in his Prolegomeni (see note to p. 197), who far surpasses our own writers in his knowledge of the history of Hebrew grammar.

« PreviousContinue »