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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

178                The Loom of L
globe enjoyed equal rights, and the gill ol tongues was in high esteem
among the miracles oi the apostolic age
Christian salvation was an *Kt of lauh To understand the new
religion the heathen must needs hear the gospel m then own vcrna*
culars So proselyti/mg went hand in hand with translating At an early
datej Christian scholars translated the Gospels into Syriac, Coptic, and
Armenian. The Bible is the beginning of Slavonic literature, and the
translation of the New Testament by the West Gothic Bishop^ Ulfilas,
is the oldest Germanic document extant. liven to-day the Christian
impulse to translate remans unabated Our Bible Societies have earned
out pioneer work in the study of African and Polynesian dialects.
The historical balance-sheet of Christian teaching and language
study also carries a weighty item on the debit side. The story of the
Tower of Babel was sacrosanct, and with it, as a corollary, the belief
that Hebrew was the original language of mankind So the emergence
and spread of Christianity was not followed by any deeper under-
standing of the natural history of language. Throughout the Middle
Ages the path trod by The Christian scholar was one already beaten by
his pagan foreiurmer. There was no significant progress in the com-
parative study of languages, but mercantile venture and missionary
enterprise during the age ol the Gieat Navigations made a wealth of
tresh material accessible through the new medium of the printed page*
and encouraged European scholar** to break away from exclusive
preoccupation with dead languages. For the first time, they began to
recogm/e that some languages are more alike than others
Joseph Justus Scahger (1540-1609),, variously recognised as the
phoenix of Europe*, the light of the world, the bottomless pit of knowledge,
saw as much, and a little more, when he wrote his treatise on the
languages of Europe. lie arranged them all in eleven main classes,
which fall again into iour major and seven minor ones The four major
classes he based on their words for god, mto deus^ theos-9 gott^ and
bog- languages, or, as we should say, mto Latin (Romance) languages,
Greek, Germanic, and Slavonic, The rcmammg seven classes are made
up ot Epirotic or Albanian, Tartar* Hungarian, Fmmc* Irish (that part
of it which to-day is spoken m the mountainous regions of Scotland,, i,c,
Gaelic), Old British, as spokea in Wales and Brittany, stnd fiailly
Cantabnan or Basque,
During the seventeenth century many miscellanies of foreign lan-
guages, like the hcrbals and bestiaries of the time, came oil the printing
presses of European countries The most ainbtaow of them all was the