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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 033:129 (Jan 1876)
Article: Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages
Author: James F. McCurdy


Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages

Rev. James F. McCurdy

I. — History And Present State Of The Inquiry

Of the many unsolved problems that lie perpetually in the way of the student of language, there are two which are specially beguiling and distracting on account of their intrinsic interest and profound obscurity. The questions as to the original source of language itself, and as to the original relations of the various families of speech, have assumed this prominence in the more speculative regions of the science, because the opinions of leading theorists have been so conflicting, and because the methods of proof in each case are so various and uncertain. Each of these questions opens up a field of inquiry practically unlimited; and it is safe to say that, however firmly certain theories or principles may be maintained by the representatives of different schools, we have not yet seen the beginning of the end in the effort to reach scientific certainty upon the basis of established facts. Under these conditions, it is not to be wondered at that extravagant notions have been advanced during the whole history of the investigation. It is, however, natural to suppose that this tendency would be manifested the more strongly in the consideration of the former of the two problems; because when the conditions of the earliest expression of human thought or feeling are brought before the mind, the subject is seen to be so exceedingly complex and obscure — extending at once into the regions of philology, psychology, and physiology, with all their delicate and mysterious correlations — that a certain measure of ingenious theorizing, in default of scientific demonstration, would seem to have a right to indulgence, at least, if not to encourage-

ment. When, however, we regard language not in its nature, but in its manifestations, not in its origin, but in its development, we are shut up almost entirely to a single region of observation, whose limits are well-defined, though its phenomena are perplexing; and here there can be no justification for the exercise of fancy, where it is not called upon simply to furnish illustrations, but intrudes to present the world with a theory or a system. In this investigation we have presented to us a certain number of languages, differing to a greater or less degree in their verbal forms and in their modes of expression; and the object of inquiry is to determine their relations by a comparison of their respective idioms of grammar and vocabulary. This, we mean to say, is the only method whose principles are in accord with the science of language, and whose well-grounded conclusions will be fearlessly accepted by scholars of every sect or party. Side-light may indeed be thrown u...

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