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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 037:147 (Jul 1880)
Article: Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages
Author: James F. McCurdy


Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages

Rev. James F. McCurdy

IV. —Morphology Of Roots

In our last Article it was shown that the primitive stock of sounds was the same in the Aryan and the Semitic families of speech. These sounds were the following:—’ (spiritus lenis, Aleph, Hamza), k, t, p, g, d, b, y, v, r (l), s, m, n; a, i, u.1 Any verbal forms in these languages that are to be compared must first be reduced to these simple phonetic elements. It was also stated 2 that there were two principles which must determine the choice of comparable forms; first, the primary signification of each must be shown to be the same; secondly, each term to be compared must be reduced to the form it possessed before the system of speech containing it (Proto-Semitic or Proto-Aryan) became broken up into different dialects. Keeping these principles in view, we have to proceed to an analysis and comparison of the words in the two systems that seem worthy hypothetically of such treatment. It will be necessary, however, to begin the investigation by showing how we are to deal with the living-elements of language, whose seemingly endless diversity would appear to forbid any attempt to harmonize them. In both districts of speech, and especially in the Semitic, we seem to be wandering about in a vast wilderness, through which the explorer moves in a hopeless entanglement of bewilderment and confusion, never reaching a meeting-place for the paths that either lead no-whither, or cross one another perpetually, without beginning and without end. It will be needful to show that some central elevation may be gained from which we may look down upon this “mighty

maze,” and see that it is “not without a plan”; from which we shall be able to see that the paths which are interrupted by so many obstacles, interposed by the careless ages, still keep on their course, whether converging or diverging, and run from side to side of the great wilderness. In plainer language, it will be incumbent on us, knowing how the current terms of each idiom may be referred to their proper stems, and further to their conventional so-called roots, to show according to what laws of formation the “roots” themselves may be analyzed into their simplest expressions.

A root has been well defined by Curtius as “the significant combination of sounds which remains when everything formative and accidental has been stripped away from a given word.”3 In inflectional languages, at least, such so-called roots do not appear clearly at the firs...

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