Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages -- By: James F. McCurdy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 036:144 (Oct 1879)
Article: Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages
Author: James F. McCurdy


Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages1

Rev. James F. Mccurdy

An examination of the grammatical systems of these two families of speech led us to the conclusion that, if these languages have arisen from a common source, they must have diverged while still in a rudimentary stage of their development, that is, before their characteristic structural features had been evolved. In our search after proper data for comparison, we found ourselves, for this reason, shut out from the province of the grammar, and left to that of the lexicon. After considering the objections which have of late been urged strongly and skilfully against the admissibility of mere verbal analogies in linguistic comparison generally, we thought ourselves justified in regarding them as inconclusive and invalid. We therefore now feel ourselves at liberty, as far as the well-grounded principles of glottology are concerned, to proceed to an examination of the vocabularies of the respective groups.

It will now be necessary for us to establish our views as to the scope of this special inquiry, and as to the general principles which are to govern it. Before going farther, it should be recognized that the kind of treatment which needs to be accorded to the question of Aryo-Semitic relations is essen-

tially different from that accorded by all scholars to the question already well settled of the internal relations of the members of the Aryan family itself. The- discoveries made in the latter department of investigation have shown that the surest and final kind of proof of the original identity of verbal forms is the establishment of a series of phonetic laws, according to which the sounds proper to each member of the group stand in a certain fixed and determinate relation to each of the other members, as well as to that primitive type of speech, which has been theoretically constructed as the parent language of them all. That is to say, certain similar more or less well-defined so-called roots were compared, whose primary meaning was the same in each language; and from that comparison it appeared that the respective sounds so represented were originally identical, whether the resemblance between the forms was external or not. Any given combination of sounds in any language of the Aryan family was discovered to be represented in a certain fixed form, with almost uniform regularity, in any one of the other languages containing the word to be compared. Hence the well-known laws of phonetic change were made out from a number of cases sufficient to show that the resemblances were not accidental; and these laws, being once established, were thenceforth used as a test of relationship ...

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