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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 037:148 (Oct 1880)
Article: Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages
Author: James F. McCurdy


Relations Of The Aryan And Semitic Languages

James F. McCurdy

V. — Comparison Of Roots

Having in the last Article taken up the most important questions relating to the formation of the predicative roots, considered as primary and secondary, in the two systems of speech, and having presented a scheme of the typical forms under which these roots are expressed, it remains for us to determine how we may reconcile the seemingly discordant principles according to which they are formed. The main difficulty presented arises from this fact, that while in the Aryan system the vowel is a significant part of the root, in the Semitic, on the other hand,— at least in the inflectional period of that idiom,—the vowel is not essential to the expression of the radical idea. The difficulty is great, but perhaps not insurmountable. The following considerations are offered as tending to show that a reconciliation is possible:

(1) The Semitic principle of root structure bears evidence of a secondary and, so to speak, artificial origin. In the language as it is presented to us, the vowel is not co-ordinate with, but subordinate to, the consonant. Now, we do not claim that the vowel once held an equally important place with the consonant. If language is a growth, and not an institution, the two elements cannot have been originally co-ordinate, even in those systems of speech where we find them currently of equal value. The consonants, as the harder and more stable elements of speech, must have secured their independent recognition and employment before the vowels, in all early forms of human language. Bat it may be said that the Semitic is an exception to other systems in

this, that the vowels never secured complete autonomy for themselves. This is true; but it is not true that they always filled that subordinate function which we see assigned to them in the full-blown inflectional period. It has been shown already that vowels even formed a constituent part of distinct, independent roots; we have not only an internal vowel expansion, but also a development of secondary roots by the use of any one of the three original vowels a, f, u, each of which has maintained a distinct and clearly recognizable influence until the latest Semitic times. We have even found that some roots consisted of a consonant and a vowel; and if it cannot be clearly shown in each instance what that vowel was, it still remains true that, though it is there subordinate to the consonant, its subordination is of an essentially different kind from that which is seen in the function of vowels in the “strong” stems of the inflectional period; it is, in fact, due merely to that indefiniteness which we have shown to be necessary to the vowel in a...

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