Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Verzelvight zich de geest en het lichaam lijke der spraak, gelijk die van de menschelijkheid in onse. BILDERDIJK. The moral and physical principle of language is incorporated like that of humanity in ourselves (like our own nature in us).

Het is uit het hart dat men spreekt, en nicht uit het hoofd, of men spreekt slechts na. BILDERDIJK. It is from the heart we speak, and not from the head, or else we speak after others (wbat we have learnt from others, and so, like parrots).

Niets taal verwoestender, niets verderflijker voor den mensch kan zijn, dan de taal-zelve, die in de uitspraak bestaat en in geene letterteekenen, naar einige ingevoerde of aangenomen spelling te willen richten. De regel der spelling is een : “ Spel gelijk bij spreekt," en het was voor eene beneden het beestelijke afgezonken domheid bewaard, dit om te keeren en de spelling tot regel der uit spraak te nemen. BILDERDIJK. Nothing more destructive to the true nature of language, nothing more pernicious to that characteristic distinction of mankind, than to think to regulate our speech (which consists in its utterance, and in no contrivance of letter) according to any artificially intruded and presumptive form of spelling. There is but one rule for spelling: "Spell as you speak ;" and it remained for a degree of stupidity, below eren that of the beast of the field, to reverse this rule and to take spelling for the standard of our utterance.






The frequent recurrence of phrases bearing a traditionary sense at variance with the terms in which they are vested, appears to me an anomaly in our language which remains to be accounted for. And such are precisely the forms we generally use when we wish to express ourselves in regard to some certain point with energy and distinctness. To explain myself by an instance; if we wish to tell another the circumstance of the person in question having supplanted such a one in his expectations of fortune; can we, in familiar intercourse, do so more intelligibly than by the phrase, “ he has put the other's nose out of joint?” In terms a burlesque unmeaning sentence; but, by a still unexplained colloquial privilege, sound sense when uttered.

To suppose the numerous phrases of this category were originally vested, by those who used them, in terms which did not carry the sense the speaker intended to convey by them, would be to form a

supposition contrary to the nature of language and opposed to reason itself. My conviction is, the words in their original forms did convey the import they were used for at the time, but in the course of use, and through the mutability peculiar to our language, those forms have been confounded with others, of a similar or nearly similar pronunciation, which have subsequently found their way into the tongue and supplanted them.

It will not be denied, I suppose, that English and Anglo-Saxon are, at least, sister-languages, and if so, as the offspring of a same parent, at one stage of existence an identical language. And if we believe (which I do) the Anglo-Saxon and the LowSaxon (still surviving, in the main, in what we now call the Dutch) were once the same language, our own must at one period have been as these then were, also the same language.

It is to that period of our tongue, I have endeavoured to retrace the original form of the words which I believe to have then duly conveyed the sense of the phrases of the above category. By applying the sound of the words which constitute the modern phrase to others which it fitted in the Low-Saxon stage of our language, I have always found a sense, corresponding with that conveyed by the form under which they are now disguised, to be the result of the experiment. The following pages contain the proofs of this test. But to come at a due conclusion by such test, sound, not letter, is to

tyr manly relied on; the car is to be consulted rather than the


And since sound must have. yen the prior conveyance of meaning, it may be Curly taken as a truer tent of the original import of words than its imperfect and subordinate substitute, letter.

It is not meant, by this cursory Panny, to offer a development of all the expressions of the nature here alluded to, but merely of such as

ay have cxcrured to my mind, subsequently to this view of their time. These have been taken as they have presented themselves to my memory, and have not byen selected for the sake of proving my own view of thein, to the exclusion of others which might not answer such purpose. And I am convinced there is not one phrase of the above category, which may pot be accounted for in the same way those which appear in this Essay have been.

Having no recorded guide for the popular form of our tongue at the period to which the following *primens are retraced, I have adopted the spelling of that of its nearest surviving representative, the Dute h; and no words have been employed which are not justified by written authorities in that language for the mode of spelling, Kiliaan has been chiefly consulted, sometimes Bilderdijk. And, 1 suspect, few languages can produce a rival to either in his separate department.

If the clew here offered is trustworthy, it may lead to a better handling of the etymology of

our language, and rescue that science from the obloquy it too justly labours under in regard to the English.

In reading the following specimens of the original forms, the pronunciation of the modern Dutch should be adhered to, and each word pronounced, at least internally, in order to give the clew of sound a fair trial.

The ch and gh, to be sounded as k. A, broad, E, as a in mate, late, &c.; except when it is the terminal letter of the noun, and then it has scarcely any sound any more than with us.

The i as e, ij as ee. U as o in do. Au as o. B, P, v,f, interchange in sound. His treated as no letter. H and f interchange at times as aspirates. D and t are used indifferently, and sometimes represent our th. Sch is sometimes sound k at others sh.

By thema, is meant the root-syllable, from which, not only the word in question springs, but also the whole stock of sounds to which such word belongs. By rootword, is meant the word by which the term in question has been immediately produced.

« AnteriorContinuar »