« PreviousContinue »
none of their works have any high value, and the real history and relations of this language were in a great measure unknown until the publication of the Mithridates, the second volume of which contained a treatise on it by Adelung, printed during his life, but published by Professor Vater after the death of that celebrated philologer. A more extensive work on the structure and relations of the Euskarian language appeared in the last volume of the same compilation, written by the celebrated Baron W. von Humboldt, who, during his abode in Spain, devoted himself to this subject, and to the collection of materials illustrative of the ancient literature of the Iberians. A later work was afterwards published by the same distinguished writer, on the traces of this language, and of the people who made use of it, discoverable in topographical names in Spain and some other parts of Europe. The Euskarian idiom has received further elucidations from the pens of MM. Abbadie and Chaho,* and from some other publications on the Basque dialect spoken in France, which have appeared in that country.
SECTION II-Observations on the Euskarian Language, and its Relations to other Idioms.
It had been supposed by English writers since the time of Edward Lhuyd, that the Biscayan dialects are a remote bianch of the Celtic language. This opinion, which had no foundation but conjecture, has long ago been refuted, and entirely abandoned. It is well known that in its whole formation, the Euskarian differs entirely from the Celtic, and from all other IndoEuropean languages, as it likewise does from the Syro-Arabian dialects though some roots are common to these languages and the Biscayan, their number is by no means sufficient to establish what is termed a family relation.
The Euskarian has some remarkable traits of analogy to the idioms of northern Europe and Asia, and among these
⚫ Etudes Grammaticales de la Langue Euskarienne, par MM. d'Abbadie et Chaho
particularly to that family of languages spoken by the Jotune, or Finnish races. This fact was first indicated by Arndt,* whose observations were favourably noticed by Professor Rask. On this ground Rask ventured to reckon the aborigines of Spain as belonging to the same race with those of the northern region of Europe.+
The relation between the Euskarian and the Finnish idioms has not been fully investigated, but it is certainly remarkable that the former idiom has both of those striking peculiarities, which Dobrowsky and others have pointed out as the characteristic traits of all the so termed Scythian or high Asiatic languages.
The Euskarian, like all these languages, has no difference of gender in nouns substantive, and like them it subjoins to nouns all particles which modify their meaning, and to verbs and clauses all the pronouns personal and even relative. Of these observations sufficient proofs may be seen in Adelung's analysis of the Lord's Prayer. Such phenomena are deserving of attention; but on looking further into the comparison of these languages, we perceive a very striking and general difference between the idiom of the Iberians and the dialects of the north. The former abounds in inflections of infinite variety, while the Scythian dialects are in general very simple and poor in this respect. The Euskarian makes a most extensive use of auxiliary verbs, which are never employed in the scanty conjugations of the northern idioms of Asia, of those at least which preserve their original and unmodified character. In the construction of words themselves there is likewise a striking difference.
While Professor Vater was engaged in writing his excellent work on the population of America, and in comparing the idioms of the old and the new world, he was struck by analogies, which at first he thought very important, between the Euskarian language and the native dialects of the great western continent. The most remarkable characteristics of
• Arndt über die Verwandtschaft der Europaischen Sprachen, 1819.
† J. J. Rask, über dus Alter und die Echtheit der Zend-sprache, &c.; übersetzt. Berlin, 1826, § 69.
the American languages are found in the systems of verbal conjugation, which are so various and elaborate, as to have induced M. Du Ponceau to give to the whole class of American languages the epithet of "Polysynthetic." These traits are common to the American languages. In the old world they have only been discovered in the Euskarian. Some additional circumstances of resemblance have been observed by Humboldt: "The comparison," says this writer, "which Vater has instituted, is in the highest degree striking and interesting. It admits of an extension beyond what relates to the conjugation of verbs, the point to which Vater had principally adverted, and displays itself in particulars which appear more arbitrary. For example, the sound of ƒ is wanting in most of the American languages, as it is in the Basque, and in both there prevails a strong dislike to the immediate junction of the mute and liquid consonants. But these analogies are by no means sufficient to justify us in assuming an immediate connexion between the respective races of men, or in deriving one from the other; and those who persist in deducing such an inference, must at least go back to the most remote period of dark antiquity, beyond the reach of historical tradition, and in which the distribution of seas and lands was very different from the present."* The differences between the Euskarian and the American languages appeared to M. du Ponceau to be almost as striking as their analogies. This great philologer says, that he once with Professor Vater believed the forms of the American verbs to be similar to those of the Basque, but that he modified that opinion when he became better acquainted with a language which has no parallel in all the rest of the world. "This language," he observes, "preserved in a corner of Europe, by
Such an hypothesis has been maintained in a work published in America, and as yet little known in Europe. This work is entitled Researches on America, being an attempt to settle some points relative to the Aborigines of America, by J. H. Macculloh, Junr. M. D., Baltimore, 1817. The author maintains that there were formerly lands scattered through the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which, torn and separated by the deluge, were yet sufficiently continuous to aid the passage of men and animals from different parts of the old to the new continent. - Humboldt's Untersuchungen.
a few thousand mountaineers, is the sole remaining fragment of, perhaps, a hundred dialects, constructed on the same plan, which probably existed and were universally spoken at a remote period in that quarter of the world. Like the bones of the mammoth, and the relics of unknown races which have perished, it remains a monument of the destruction produced by a succession of ages. It stands single and alone of its kind, surrounded by idioms whose modern construction bears no kind of analogy to it. It is a singular language; like those of the American races,- highly artificial in its forms, and so compounded as to express many ideas at the same time; but when its forms are compared with those of the American languages, it is impossible not to perceive an immense difference which exists between them." The most striking difference pointed out by M. du Ponceau and M. de Humboldt, between the Euskarian and the American languages, consists in the fact, that the latter are entirely deficient in auxiliary verbs. "There are no words," says M. du Ponceau," that I know, in any American idioms, expressing, abstractedly, the ideas signified by these two verbs. They have the verb sto, I am, in a particular situation or place, but not the verb sum; the verbs possideo, teneo, but not habeo, in the vague sense that we affix to it. On the contrary, in the conjugation of the Basque verbs, these two auxiliaries are every thing; it is on them that is lavished all that profusion of forms, which enables them to express together the relative ideas connected with the verb; while the principal action or passion is expressed separately and by itself, by means of a participle. For instance, I love him, is a transitive verb, and is rendered in the Basque by maitetuba dot, which literally means amatum illum habeo ego. Maitetuba is the word which expresses the participial form amatum: the three other words are comprised in the monosyllable dot, the first letter of which, d, stands for illum; o is the root of the auxiliary verb habeo, and t represents the personal pronoun ego. It may be said, indeed, that these forms are complicated, like those of the Indian verbs, and that like them, they serve to express complex ideas; at the same time the difference in their arrangement is so great, that it
cannot be said that these languages are connected with or derived from each other.
It must be admitted that there are many American idioms of which the structure is as yet entirely unknown, and that although the remarkable analogy prevailing among those yet examined, gives expectation that this uniformity of system will be discovered in the remainder, exceptions may yet be found, and that in some instances the characteristic differences here pointed out may not exist. But we have no ground for assuming that this will be the fact. We must at present acquiesce in the conclusion of M. de Humboldt, that the Iberian is, of all the idioms of Europe, that which has preserved with the least change its original character. "In this,” he continues, "we recognise a confirmation of an opinion deduced from other grounds, viz., that the Iberians belong to the very earliest stock of European nations. Their history manifestly reaches back beyond the periods of languages which we regard as ancient, namely, those of the Greeks and Romans, and if we seek a point of comparison, can only be placed on a line with the Pro-hellenic idiom of the old Pelasgi."*
SECTION. III.-Domains of the Euskaldunes and of the Celtici in Spain, investigated.
That the Euskarian is identical with the language of the ancient Iberi, or its genuine descendant, and that the Euskaldunes are the offspring of the aborigines of the Spanish peninsula, are points which M. de Humboldt has undertaken in his work to establish. The Iberia of the early Greek writers was a part of the coast of the Mediterranean, reaching westward from the mouth of the Rhone. In this sense the term is used by Herodotus; and Humboldt has proved that the Iberia of Polybius, and even of Diodorus, did not comprehend the whole of Spain, in which there may have been many other races of people besides the Iberians and the
Untersuchungen, p. 177.