The Sanscrit Language In Its Relation To Comparative Philology -- By: B. J. Wallace

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 004:16 (Nov 1847)
Article: The Sanscrit Language In Its Relation To Comparative Philology
Author: B. J. Wallace

The Sanscrit Language In Its Relation To Comparative Philology

B. J. Wallace

Comparative Philology is a recent science. The name, no doubt, is taken from Comparative Anatomy in which a system is evolved by a careful examination of the relative structures and functions of animals. This comparison of languages had never been instituted, except casually, until the present century. Von Humboldt, Bopp, Grimm (and more recently Burnouf, Lassen and others) are here the great names. By bringing laboriously together the languages with the history and character of the nations of Middle and Western Asia, Northern Africa and Europe, they have developed the most brilliant results, the central and more valuable languages of the world classifying themselves into two great families, called respectively the Shemitish and the Indo-European. From these labors and as a foundation by others, a complete revolution has been nearly accomplished in philosophical grammar, lexicography, and the methods of classical study. Memory, instead of reigning supreme, and holding firmly immense masses of heterogeneous facts, now sits at the feet of her brother Reason. Grammar, from being one of the most uninteresting of studies, is becoming delightful. The foundations are laid in human nature, and the philosophical gramma-

rian shows, or labors to show, how every branch of a verb, and every vowel-change, follows not caprice, but a natural law, and that speech instead of a farrago of contradictions, a mass of confused utterances, is the appropriate expression of the human soul every where, whose actings though sorely jarred by depravity show its original brightness, as through a veil, darkly.

Adelung estimates the whole number of languages and dialects known upon the globe at 3626. Balbi rates them at 2000. But very many of these are mere dialects; many indicate a common origin at no very remote period. By careful examination the number no doubt may be reduced to hundreds, and a very few hundred of distinct languages, especially if we exclude mere savage or outlandish idioms. But after all this reduction the question returns, Are these various modes of speech arbitrary, so that the learning of one but little facilitates the learning of another, or are they so connected as that it is by no means a prodigy, but might be an ordinary result of human industry to be acquainted with twenty or fifty languages? Comparative philology has solved this question. We will try, striving to avoid the fathomless abyss of Teutonic generalizing, and the flying cloud-land of French theorizing, to present some simple and intelligible views on this subject.

The soul of man is one. It struggles for utterance and articulate speech; the result must be, in ...

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