Page images




The languages of the world are classified as follows:

I. THE Chinese stock, spoken principally in China (see p. 13). Of this

stock we remark that,

(1.) Every written character is an entire word.

(2.) Every written character is the symbol of an idea, rather
than the representative of a sound.†
(3.) The languages are monosyllabic.

II. The Shemitic stock, consisting principally of,

(1.) The Arabic, including the Ethiopic,

(2.) The Aramean, including the Syriac and the Chaldaic,

(3.) The Hebrew, connected with which are the Canaanitish and the Phoenician.

Of the Shemitic stock it is remarked, that, as a rule,

(1.) Each root is dissyllabic and contains three consonants.
(2.) All the Shemitic languages, except the Ethiopic, are writ-
ten from right to left.

III. The Indo-European stock.

IV. The African stock, not including the Ethiopic. The Coptic, spoken by the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, has much in common with the Shemitic.

V. The American stock, comprising the tongues of the aboriginal inhab


VI. The Oceanic or Polynesian stock. (See note 2, p. 13.)



This is sometimes called the Japhetic, as the languages of Africa are called Hamitic, and those of Southwestern Asia, Shemitic; but the name Indo-European is more generally adopted. The Indo-European stock comprises the following divisions:

Let the student consult his atlas as he studies this subject. (See note 2, p. 13.)
Like an algebraic sign.

The Koran is in this language.

1. Sanskrit, the language of the ancient Hindoos, and the parent of the languages now spoken in Hindostan; viz., the Hindostanee, the Bengalee, the Pali-Mahratta, etc. The most ancient type of Sanskrit is found in the hymns of the Vedas. The word Sanskrit means perfect, polished, or classical.

2. Persian or Iranian, the language of ancient Persia or Iran. It was the sacred idiom of the Magi. In it Zoroaster, the founder of the sect of fire-worshipers called Ghebers, wrote the Zend-Avesta? The Old Persian, or language of the Achæmenian cuneiform (wedgeshaped) inscriptions, was a dialect of this language. It is the mother of the languages now spoken in Persia.

3. Latin, the language of the ancient Romans.

It is supposed to be more ancient than the Greek, and is the parent of the Italian, French, Provençal, Spanish, Portuguese, and Wallachian.

4. Greek, the language of ancient Greece, and the parent of the Romaic, or modern Greek.

5. Celtic, the language of the ancient Celts, who overspread the whole of western Europe. From the ancient Celtic are derived two modern families. One is called Medo-Celtic or Gaelic; comprising the Gaelic proper, or Highland Scotch; the Erse, or Irish; and the Manx, or dialect spoken by the inhabitants of the Isle of Man. The Manx is fast becoming extinct. The second family is called Perso-Celtic, Cambrian, or Cymric, including the Welsh and the Armoric (spoken in Brittany). The Cornish, or language of Cornwall, belonged to this family, but it became extinct about a hundred

years ago.

6. Gothic, the language of the ancient Goths, who, later than the Celts, migrated to Western Europe. They occupied especially the island of Gothland and the southern shores of the Baltic; but early in the Christian era a large number of them quit the north of Europe, and established themselves on the coasts of the Black Sea. A portion of these were permitted by the Roman emperor Valens, in the fourth century, to settle in Mosia, a very extensive country stretching four or five hundred miles west from the shores of the Black Sea, and bounded north by the river Danube. Those near the Black Sea were called Ostrogoths (East Goths); those further west were called Visigoths (West Goths). The Goths of Scandinavia are sometimes called Suio-Goths.

Of the Gothic division there are two important branches:
(1.) The Scandinavian; including the Icelandic or Old Norse,
the Danish, the Swedish, the Norwegian, and the
langua of the Faroe islands.

(2.) The Teutonic, comprising three families; the Moso
Gothic (which is the oldest preserved type of the
Gothic), the High German, and the Low German.

7. Slavonic, the language of the Russians, Bulgarians, Servians, Croats, Poles, and Bohemians. It closely resembles its mother tongue, the ancient Sanskrit.

8. Lithuanian, the language of the peasantry in Lithuania. European languages it approximates nearest to the Sanskrit.


Chinese Stock.

This family includes the following dialects:

(1.) The Frisian or Friesic; formerly prevailing in Friesland, north-east

of the Zuyder Zee, but now on the eve of extinction.

(2.) The Dutch; spoken in Holland, and remarkable for the facility with which it forms compound words. The oldest literary specimen is from about the year 1280.

(3.) The Platt Deutsch (i. e., Low German); spoken in northern Germany by the common people, the descendants of the Old Saxons. The oldest specimen is Heliand (i. e., Saviour), a poem written in the eighth or ninth century.

(4.) The Anglo-Saxon; a dialect mixed of the idiom of the Angles and that of the Saxons. The oldest poetical specimen extant is probably the beginning of the Scripture paraphrase, by Cadmon, of the seventh century.

The Anglo-Saxon is the mother of the English, and, as such, is deserving of further attention from us.


From what has been stated, the genealogy of the English language will be traced as follows: It is the daughter of the Anglo-Saxon dialect, of the Low Germanic family, of the Teutonic branch, of the Gothic division, of the Indo-European stock. The following diagram exhibits this relationship:





Sanskrit. Persian. Latin. Greek. Celtic.












[blocks in formation]

Of all the



High Germanic.

Platt Deutsch.


« PreviousContinue »