Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

point out some suitable subjects for composition. But he must proceed in this matter with great precaution, else he is in danger of pointing out the wrong way, and of increasing the labour of the student. In most cases he will do best to leave the choice of the subject entirely to the pupil. But as the facilitating of the communication between different nations is the principal object for which foreign languages are learned, the teacher is bound to insist on the composition of letters, which ought to make a principal part of this course.

Such compositions are to be looked upon as the keystone by which the arch receives its completion. With them the whole course of instruction is terminated.

It will not have escaped the attentive reader that the translation of books does not enter into this plan of teaching modern languages. The reason of this omission he will probably have guessed. It rests on the supposition, that when a student has attained the power of speaking with fluency, and of expressing with ease and correctness his own conceptions, he can find no considerable difficulty in reading printed books, especially if he takes some pains in arranging his studies in such a manner as to begin with the more easy kind of compositions, and afterwards to proceed gradually to the more difficult. By reading simple tales, novels, and comedies, he prepares himself for the more complicated style of historical compositions, philosophy, and reasoning. In poetry he ought to begin with tales and fables, then to proceed to pastorals, epic compositions, and tragedies. Didactic and lyric poetry ought to occupy the last place in his studies.

The common practice of translating books with students we consider merely a waste of time and labour,

and it ought to be completely exploded in the teaching of modern languages.

Whatever may be the advantages arising from this improved method of teaching modern languages, it has one defect. It cannot be used in large classes. We do not think that it can be made use of in a class composed of more than ten students. But as it is well known that those students who try to acquire the knowledge of modern languages in numerous classes very rarely succeed in reading even a printed book without great difficulty, and still more rarely attain to speaking the language so as to be able to maintain a conversation, we do not think that the above-mentioned defect is a great one. We doubt not that every objection to a change in the composition of classes would be removed, if it were ascertained that by such a change the stu. dents would be sure to attain that end for which modern languages are studied, and that too with less expense of time and labour.

324

ON THE STUDY OF THE ITALIAN

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.

[ocr errors]

(From the Quarterly Journal of Education, Nos. X. and XII.)

We had intended, in the following pages, to offer some suggestions on the subject of Italian instruction in this country, in the same manner which has been followed in former numbers of this Journal with regard to French and German ;* but, considering that the study of Italian is limited to a smaller class, consisting principally of persons of literary attainments and of refined taste and pursuits, classical scholars, artists, and travellers of both sexes, we think it advisable to premise a short disquisition on the present state of the Italian language and literature, and to resolve several doubts and remove some misconceptions which may exist on the subject. One peculiarity of this language has been much adverted to, especially of late years, which at first sight might appear very discouraging to the foreign student:

-it has been said that “ Italian-the Italian of writers and grammarians, — is not the spoken language of Italy,"—that " it is a sort of learned or dead language." This matter requires a full explanation. It is true that the use of dialects prevails over three-fourths of Italy,

* Numbers III. and VIII. of the Journal of Education.

that these dialects are many, and that they differ, more or less, from Italian, but generally in a much greater degree than the common speech in the various counties of England differs from grammatical English. These dialects are not merely confined to rustics; they are spoken in the towns as well as in the country districts,-they are, in fact, the language of childhood of all classes of persons :-they continue to be, throughont life, the familiar language of most people, and the exclusive one of the lower orders. These dialects are not corruptions of the Italian, but are languages cognate with the latter, if not anterior to it,-they are derived from the Latin dialects which were spoken in the provinces of Italy reinoter from Rome. The familiar language of the various populations of Cisalpine Gaul, of the Veneti, and of the Ligurians, under the Roman empire, was not only not the same as that in which Cicero wrote, but must have differed, likewise, from the familiar language spoken at Rome and in Latium. Each province retained part of its original idiom, whatever it inight be, mixed up with that of the conquerors, the latter disfigured of course by solecisms and vulgarisms of pronun: ciation as it was in Rome itself*. The influx of the northern tribes who overthrew the Roman empire effected the total corruption of the spoken Latin all over Italy ;-articles and auxiliaries were introduced, terminations were altered or neglected,-in short, the whole appearance of the language was changed. The

* Plays were acted in Rome in Strabo's time in the Oscan language, which still remained at that day, though the national existence of the Osci or Volsci had been extinguished.--Strabo. Casaub., p. 233. The Etruscan language also was still in use in the time of the early Cæsars.

VOL. II.

2 p

change was, of course, greatest wherever the invaders made the longest stay and formed a permanent settlement, as was the case in Lombardy. Various dialects resulted from these various combinations, which were known by the general name of Roman, Romanic, or Romance language, like those of southern France.

The dialects spoken in central Italy retained a greater asfinity to one another, as well as to their Latin parent. If we look at the old chronicles of the thirteenth century, written in humble, familiar style, whether at Naples, Rome, Bologna, Rimini, or Tuscany, we see a grent similarity in the etymology and syntax in all. The familiar language of Tuscany, however, seems to have attained, sooner than those of its neighbours, a high degree of polish; probably it had never been so corrupt as the rest, owing to the local position of Tuscany, which prevented its being permanently occupied or colonized by the northern tribes, and also from the early independence of the Tuscan cities, their extensive trade, their wealth and civilization. In other parts of Italy, the few men of education and learning used also a language more refined than the generality of the people, and thus the early versifiers, including princes and courtiers, Frederic II, and his chancellor Pietro delle Vigne at Naples, Guido Guinicelli and Fra Guidotto of Bologna, Guido delle Colonne, a Sicilian; Can della Scala at Verona; Guido da Polenta, Prince of Ravenna, wrote in a language little different from that of the Tuscan poets and writers of the same age. But Tuscany had this advantage over the rest, that its familiar spoken language was more generally polished, so as to resemble the poetical and select language of the other Italians. And this superiority was carried still

« AnteriorContinuar »