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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010
  • First published in: 1863

CHAPTER XXIII - ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF LANGUAGES AND SPECIES COMPARED

Summary

THE supposed existence, at a remote and unknown period, of a language conventionally called the Aryan, has of late years been a favourite subject of speculation among German philologists, and Professor Max Müller has given us lately the most improved version of this theory, and has set forth the various facts and arguments by which it may be defended, with his usual perspicuity and eloquence. He observes that if we knew nothing of the existence of Latin, — if all historical documents previous to the fifteenth century had been lost,—if tradition even was silent as to the former existence of a Roman empire, a mere comparison of the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Wallachian, and Rhœtian dialects would enable us to say that at some time there must have been a language, from which these six modern dialects derive their origin in common. Without this supposition it would be impossible to account for their structure and composition, as, for example, for the forms of the auxiliary verb ‘to be,’ all evidently varieties of one common type, while it is equally clear that no one of the six affords the original form from which the others could have been borrowed. So also in none of the six languages do we find the elements of which these verbal and other forms could have been composed; they must have been handed down as relics from a former period, they must have existed in some antecedent language, which we know to have been the Latin.