Languages Of Africa. — Comparison Between The Man Dingo, Grebo And Mpongwe Dialects -- By: John Leighton Wilson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 004:16 (Nov 1847)
Article: Languages Of Africa. — Comparison Between The Man Dingo, Grebo And Mpongwe Dialects
Author: John Leighton Wilson

Languages Of Africa. — Comparison Between The Man
Dingo, Grebo And Mpongwe Dialects

Rev. John Leighton Wilson

[The following paper from the pen of Mr. Wilson is inserted, partly, on account of its intrinsic importance, and partly from its relation to the foreign missionary enterprise. It communicates a variety of facts respecting the languages of Western Africa, which will be deeply interesting, alike to the Christian and the philologist. The phenomena, adduced by Mr. Wilson, are a striking confirmation of the scientific value of Christian missions. Though an indirect and undesigned effect, it will of itself amply repay all the cost which is incurred. The missionary is, in this way, cooperating most efficiently, and without interference with his great spiritual work, with the learned scholars and philanthropists of Christendom, in extending the boundaries of knowledge and civilization. We will only add, should any apology for the insertion of this piece be needed, that there are subscribers and readers of the Bibliotheca Sacra at all the missionary stations of our principal Foreign Missionary Society, and at some of the stations of other societies.—Eds.]

Too little is as yet known of the numerous and diversified dialects of Africa to determine with certainty the precise number of families which they form. The Mountains of the Moon, which divide this great continent into two nearly equal portions, also form an important dividing line between two great branches of the negro race, who, it is probable, emigrated to Africa at remote periods from each other and from different parts of the old world.

In the northern half of the continent, or that part of it occupied by the black race, the number of languages is very great, the different families of which show very little if any affinity for each other; while in the southern division one great family prevails over the whole even to the Cape of Good Hope. As there is a tendency to the multiplication of dialects in all countries where there are no written standards, the above fact furnishes a presumptive argument, in favor of the opinion, that the northern portion of the continent must have been settled by the negro race at

a much earlier period than the southern; or, that the present inhabitants of this portion of the country overran and rooted out its original occupants at no very remote period. However this may be, the languages spoken on the opposite sides of these mountains, show as conclusively, as any argument drawn from this source can, that these two families of blacks, whatever physical resemblances there may be, must have had different origins.

In the northern half of the continent...

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