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words of that language which ultimately maintained its ascendancy was retained; its forms, its inflections, its grammatical structure underwent great transmutations.
If so, does it not seem probable that those grammatical changes in the Platt-Deutsch languages, which are principally appealed to as indicating that such linguistic revolutions have been effected by some inexplicable internal necessity, may be accounted for in a similar manner? We must recollect that, as far back as authentic history extends, the tribes speaking these languages had never been in possession of a perfectly homogeneous language; that they were all formations from older forms, and grafts on older trunks; that dialectal differences among those who spoke them, and who were in perpetual contact with one another, had always been considerable; that collision of tribe with tribe, wars, invasions and transient conquests, local disturbance from time to time of large masses of the population, the flux and reflux of migration, now in one direction, now in another, were for many ages perpetually at work. If, then, there be any tendency to produce the linguistic changes in question, in any external causes at all, may we not in such a condition of things expect changes of a similar kind with those produced in the case of 'amalgamation of races,' though less perceptible in their operation, and more moderate in amount; that is, may we not expect the gradual degradation and disintegration of minute particles of the language in the collision of different dialectal forms; a simplification in the grammatical structure; a violation of the refined and complicated system of a nearly homogeneous language? We suggest these questions, rather to invite further investigation
than as indicating any decision of our own upon them. Whether the amount and rate of change in the grammatical structure of the Platt-Deutsch languages, as compared with those in our own, at all correspond to any such more moderate and feeble influences, we must leave to the decision of philologists better acquainted with the remote history of those languages than we profess to be. But if this point should ever be made out, we should have every proof which induction admits, that the causes in question are not fanciful: in the case of the violent amalgamation of totally different races, we should have, what we generally find, the formation of a new language with a different grammar, on the base of one of two languages; and in the comparatively gentle collision and, so to speak, friction amongst one another, of the elements of a nation originally consisting of many different tribes, distinguished by as many different dialectal forms of speech, we should have similar changes in the grammatical structure; only more moderate and more gradual. Such an hypothesis, at all events, would serve as a key to those initial changes in the AngloSaxon which were anterior to the Conquest.
On the other hand, it does not seem intrinsically very probable that a nation speaking a homogeneous language, with a complex system of inflections and terminations, and with corresponding capacities of a self-consistent development of its powers, should spontaneously exchange that more elaborate, and abstractedly, more perfect type of language, for another and inferior system of grammatical forms. Price says, 'until it shall be shown that political commotions have a decided tendency to derange the intellectual and physical powers in the same degree that they disorganise civil society, and that
under the influence of troubled times men are prone to forget the natural means of communicating their ideas, to falter in their speech, and recur to the babble of their infancy —we certainly have not advanced beyond the threshold of the argument. Surely it is equally obvious to remark, that by similar reasoning we may infer that a nation does not of set purpose, without any external cause, exchange its established symbols of thought and forms of speech for others. Men universally cling with remarkable tenacity to their language; as is seen in the comparatively moderate changes which the language of a strictly isolated nation will exhibit through the course of many ages; and the slow rate of change observable even in those which are subjected to every conceivable cause of vitiation. The steps, by which what we now call dead languages severally died out, are seldom to be traced.
That some such change should take place from the aforesaid causes,-whether or not it would ever take place from any other causes, must seem very natural, if we consider the exigencies under which intercourse between two races speaking different languages, or two tribes speaking different dialects of the same language, would be carried on. It would assuredly not be by fusing together the vocables of each language; as little likely is it that it would become an olla podrida, made up half of words supplied by the one language, and half of words supplied from the other; something like the address of the priest at St. Dominica to Mr. Coleridge: -'Como esta Monsieur? J'espère que usted se porte vary well. Le Latin est good ting, mais good knowledge, sin et
* Warton, vol, i. p. 108.
Latin, rien to be done.' The probability is, that the vocabulary would be for the most part retained, and the grammatical forms undergo degradation. Some such process we see taking place continually, when a man, knowing little more of a language than a few of its nouns and verbs,-names of objects and their relations, is yet compelled to give utterance to his thoughts. In that case, away go all the refinements of the language, and men talk much as Robinson Crusoe's man Friday did to his master: 'We save white mans from drown. . . . .. You do great deal, much good; you teach wild mans be good, sober, tame mans.' Now if many thousands are compelled to hold intercourse together on such terms, we may well conceive the grammatical condition of the language will become much altered, though the vocabulary remain unchanged.
Gibbon, whose sagacity was admirably adapted to the investigation of such questions, lays great stress on similar causes in the formation of the Italian language. He says, 'The modern Italian has been insensibly formed by the mixture of nations; the awkwardness of the barbarians in the nice management of declensions and conjugations, reduced them to the use of articles and auxiliary verbs: and many new ideas have been expressed by Teutonic appellations. Yet the principal stock of technical and familiar words is found to be of Latin derivation; and if we were sufficiently conversant with the obsolete, the rustic, and the municipal dialects of ancient Italy, we should trace the origin of many terms, which might perhaps be rejected by the classic purity of Rome.'*
Secondly, as to the time. In tracing the history of
the change from Anglo-Saxon to modern English, it is impossible to assign any precise dates by which we can mark the origin of this change, or the principal epochs of its progress, or its completion. This necessarily results from the very gradual nature of the change itself: we might as well ask at what moment a child becomes a youth, or a youth a man; or when the plant becomes a tree. So gradual was the change, that, to adopt the language of Hallam, 'When we compare the earliest English of the thirteenth century with the Anglo-Saxon of the twelfth, it seems hard to pronounce why it should pass for a separate language, rather than a modification and simplification of the former.' Still, for the sake of convenience, we may fix on certain dates, somewhere about which the change commenced or was effected. About 1150, or a little less than a century after the Conquest, may be dated the decline of pure Saxon; about 1250, or a century later, the commencement of English. During the intervening century, the language has been called, by many of our writers, semiSaxon.
As to the nature and extent of the transformation, we have already by implication described them. The change consisted essentially in the grammar, and not in the vocabulary. Particularly, it may be said that very many of the inflections were lost: in the noun, that of the genitive, and of one declension only, was retained and made universal; in the verb, those only of the past tense, past participle, and some of the persons. For a detailed enumeration of the prin
* Some of the terminations of the verbal forms were long retained, and yielded at last slowly and reluctantly. The persons plural,' says Ben Jonson, in his grammar, 'keep the termination of the first person singular. In former times, till about the reign of Henry VIII., they were wont to be formed by en: thus, loven, sayen, complainen; but now (whatever is the cause) it hath quite