Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

The Diseases of Language              407
literary past, and we are therefore in a position to recognize similar
processes independently at work in the evolution of different groups
The early literature of the Eastern, like that of the Western members of
the Indo-European family, introduces us to a complexity of gram-
matical usage in sharp contrast to that of its modern evolutionary
forms. In the Western branch, simplification started first and went
furthest in English In the Eastern branch, simplification of Persian
began earlier and has gone almost as far
The most ancient stage of Indie is known as Vedic or Vedic Sanskrit,
the language of the Vedas, a collection of hymns, litanies, prayers,
incantations, in short, the Bible of the Brahmamc cult The oldest part
is the Rig Veda, based on oral tradition transmitted for several centimes
before the introduction of writing Possibly it is as old as 1000 B c 
several hundred years before the art of writing reached India By that
time the Old Indie of the onginal Vedaisric incantations had made way
for a language which became the standard among the priestly caste as
well as the medium of high-class secular literature Perhaps to preserve
its purity from contamination with lowbrow idiom, priestly gram-
marians drew up a code of correct usage. Sanskrit means arranged,
ordered, or correct.
In this state of arrested development it continued to exist side by side
with living dialects, as Latin, the occupational medium of the church
and universities, coexisted for centuries with its new evolutionary forms,
the Romance languages In the drama of the classical period of Indian
literature, petrified Sanskrit is used, together with a newer Piaknt,
separated from it by a social barrier. Men of elevated rank, such as
kings and priests, speak Sanskrit The lowly, including women, speak
Prakrit Seine of the Prakrit or Middle Indie dialects became literary
languages, that is, stagnant, while popular speech moved further One
form of Prakrit, Pah, was carried by missionaries to Ceylon, where it
became the sacred language of the Buddhist cult
The chief representatives of Indie in its present-day form are Bengali
(53 millions), Western Hindi (72), Bihan (34), Eastern Hindi (23),
Maiath (21), Panjabi (16), Gujarati (n), Rajasthani (13) The
language of the Gypsies, who hail from the north-west of India and
invaded Western Europe first in the fifteenth century, is also of Indie
origin Closely related to Old Indie is Old Iranian Its earliest stage is
represented by two forms, Zend or Avestan, that is, the sacred language
of the Zoroastnan faith, and Old Persian, of which the best-known
specimen is a rock-inscnption of Darius I (522-486 B c.) at Behistun.
The next evolutionary phase of Persian is called Pehlevi (i e Parthian)