The System Of The Four Conjugations In Latin, A Classification Of Ideas Signified By Their Characteristic Vowels -- By: James P. French

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 023:92 (Oct 1866)
Article: The System Of The Four Conjugations In Latin, A Classification Of Ideas Signified By Their Characteristic Vowels
Author: James P. French


The System Of The Four Conjugations In Latin, A
Classification Of Ideas Signified By Their Characteristic
Vowels

By James P. French

Says a distinguished Orientalist: 1 A universal antagonism exists between the two classes of vowel-sounds [taken in the continental pronunciation of Europe, of course] a, o, u, and e, i; of which latter ä, ö, ü, are merely a further modification or development. This vowel-antagonism seems to have more particularly prevailed in the ancient and comparatively primitive languages, and is still more or less preseved in its purity in the so-called Tartar languages, and in part also in the Finnish tongues. Where this antagonism exists unimpaired we find two distinct kinds of words—those with a, o, u, y; the other with e,i — often even opposed or correlative to each other in their meanings. Thus, in Mantshoo, “Ama” (father), “Erne” (mother); in Turkish, “Olmak” (to become, to be), “Olmek” (to perish, to die), “Durmak” (to remain), “Durmek” (to move on). Even in our modern languages, such as French, Italian, etc., the difference of these two vowel-classes still appears in part in the peculiar influence they exert on the pronunciation of the guttural letters c, g.”

The system of vowel-antagonism, running parallel with their harmonization, is treated in full by Mr. Roehrig, in an essay entitled: “Researches in Philosophical and Comparative Philology, chiefly with Reference to the Languages of Central Asia”; which in 1848 received the Volney Prize (for Linguistics) of the Imperial Institute of France, and formed the basis of a Turkish Grammar, published in 1856, as a textbook for the students of the Imperial Oriental School. That

the euphonic interchanges of vowels are so regular in. some languages as to evince laws of contrariety and affinity is acknowledged; but we arc ignorant if it has been admitted by any considerable number of scholars that there is ever a vital significance in the employment of one vowel to the exclusion of another. And the idea of such significance, and that the few and evanescent vowel-sounds have preserved in any language their primitive power, while the more numerous and inflexible consonants have not yet established that they ever possessed essential meanings, — such an idea, so novel to our mind, repeatedly recurring, incited us to watch for its evidence in other languages. We therefore here present our observations on the characteristic vowels of the Latin conjugations, and appeal in regard to the fact of vowel-significance to the analogy of the Oriental language...

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