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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Diseases of Language               423
the Jews after the Maccabean period. Hefaiew survived only as a
language of scholarship and ritual, like Latin in medieval Christendom.
It never quite ceased to be written or spoken. Its uninterrupted, though
slender, continuity with the past has encouraged Zionists to increase
the difficulties of existence for Jews by trying to revive it as a living
tongue.
Another Canaamte dialect, Phoenician, is closely related to Hebrew
At a very early period the Phoenicians had succeeded in monopolizing
the Mediterranean trade, mainly at the expense of Crete and Egypt
Phoenician settlements were to be found m Rhodes, Sicily, Marseilles,
and countless places along the North African coast In the fourth
century B c Phoenician ships were trading with South Britain, and had
even skirted the shores of West Africa As the result of this vigorous
commercial expansion,the Phoenician language,and with it the Phoeni-
cian alphabet which became the mother of most of the world's alphabets,
was distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin Only in Carthage,
the richest Phoenician colony, did it become firmly established as a
medium of speech. Several centuries after it had ceded place to Aramaic
in the more ancient Phoenician communities of Tyre and Sidon, it
maintained itself in the African colony There it persisted till the
fourth or fifth century AD According to St. Augustine, who came
from North Africa, Carthaginian Phoenician, sometimes called Pumc^
differed little from Hebrew Phoenician is preserved in many but
insignificant inscriptions from the home-country and from its colonies,
and in ten lines which the Roman playwright, Plautus, inserted in his
Poenulus
During the four centimes alter Mohammed, the spectacular spread
of Islam pushed aside nearly all other Semitic languages in favour of
Arabic The Koran had to be read and chanted in the language of the
prophet himself Unlike Christianity, Muslims never proselytized for
their faith by translation The various Arabic dialects now spoken
from Morocco to the Middle East differ greatly, but a common literary
language still holds together widely separated speech communities
The Muslim conquests diffused Arabic over Mesopotamia, Syria,
Egypt, the north of Africa, and even parts of Europe Its impact left
Persian witihi a vocabulary diluted by addition of Semitic, almost equal
in number to indigenous words Even European languages retain many
to testify to commercial, industrial, and scientific achievements of
Muslim civilization Familiar examples are. tanff, traffic, magazine,
admiral^ muslimy alcohol^ Aldebaran, tiadzr, zero> cipher, algebra* sugar