Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

various letters. Let the Alphabets be placed in parallel columns, as below, and reference be made to them in illustration of our remarks :

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

1. Number.—Hebrew possesses twenty-two letters ; Greek, in its latest stages, twenty-four ; Latin twenty-one ; and our own language twenty-six. It is, indeed, commonly asserted in grammars and dictionaries that Latin has twenty-three; but the use of J and V as distinct from I and U is a modern innovation, of which the Romans themselves had no cognizance.

The numbers mentioned represent the Alphabets respectively in their most amplified forms. According to ancient tradition, the Greek contained only sixteen letters, which were the original Cadmeian or Phænician Alphabet. Of these sixteen, one, viz. Vau or Digamma, was afterwards rejected ; and to the remaining fifteen there were added, first the vowel Y ; then Z, H, O, of which H was originally an aspirate; then 0 and X; and, lastly, about the period of the Persian war, z, y, and 12, attributed to the poet Simonides ; at which period also H was transformed from an aspirate into a vowel.

While there is historical evidence in favour of some of these assertions, we have reason to believe that it does not represent the whole truth. In the first place, it is evident that not only Vau, but Koppa, formed a member of the ancient Greek Alphabet : in name it corresponds exactly with the Hebrew Koph, in form with the Latin Q, while in position it occupied a place between II and P, as is proved by its numerical power, ninety. It was used instead of K by the Corinthians, and by some of their Sicilian colonies, and was finally dropped as superfluous. There is another numerical sign which, without doubt, once occupied a place in the Greek Alphabet.-Sampi or San. With regard to this, Herodotus tells us (i. 139) that it was used by the Dorians instead of Sigma ; it may have been true, that neither Ionians nor Dorians used the two forms together; but this does not prove that the letters were originally the same. In name, San seems to correspond with the Hebrew Sin; and as Sin and Shin were different pronunciations of the same letter, they might have been represented by San and Sigma in Greek, until one was ejected as superfluous. In form, San is not unlike the Phænician Sin; in numerical power, however, it does not correspond with it, occupying a position after Omega, to represent 900 ; in which place it must be allowed to be highly convenient, enabling the Greeks to complete their numerical notation.

Adding, then, Var or Digamma (whose numerical power, six, establishes its correspondence with the Hebrew letter of the same name) and Koppa, the original Greek Alpbabet must have consisted, at all events, of seventeen letters; and, consequently, if these letters had been retained, the full Alphabet would have amounted to twenty-six.

With regard to the letters said to have been added to the original Alphabet, there can be little doubt that the five concluding ones are modern, and that both the Greek and Latin (as we shall presently show) terminated, just as the Hebrew does, with T. Thus the form Omega was generally represented by Omicron down to about 400 B.C., though there are evidences of its earlier use; y Psi was written 12 or 02; X Chi = KH; and ( Phi = IIH; the two last probably owing their introduction to the change made in the force of the letter H, which, from being an aspirate, became a vowel ; lastly, Y Upsilon is another form of the Hebrew Ayin, and was used interchangeably with Omicron by the Æolians, as úpvis, juotos, &c., for opvic, uolos ; while in old Attic writing we find the diphthong ou represented by a simple o, as ék Záuo for ék Pápov. Its name, U-psilon, indicates its connection with the old Vau or Digamma, originally Y, as Digamma was the sign of simple aspiration ; when a specific vowel-sound was attached to it, it was designated Vau or U psilon, i. e. unaspirated. This explanation may appear unsatisfactory from the double connection attributed to y with the Hebrew Ayin and Vau; but each of these appears to have been used as the fulcrum of the vowel-sound accompanying them; and we may therefore well conceive that a similar connection existed between Digamma and Upsilon.

Rejecting, then, the five last letters, and inserting the two antiquated forms, the number of letters in the Greek Alphabet amounts to twentyone, or very nearly the number of the Hebrew Alphabet ; and thus à primâ facie probability is established that the letters H, Z, and were not modern innovations, as Plutarch and Pliny asserted, but had their prototypes in Hebrew. With respect to H, it corresponds in form, in original force, and very nearly in position, with the Hebrew He, and the idea of its modern origin is attributable probably to the change in its use from a mere aspirate to a vowel sound. There can be no question as to the identity of Z and the Hebrew Zain. The origin of E no doubt presents difficulties; but we can easily conceive that it was supposed to be modern from the circumstance that, as pronounced in later times, it might be equally well rendered by X2: does it, however, follow that e had originally the sound of an English X? We think it highly probable that it had not ; its agreement with Samech in position, and the probable difference that once existed hetween the sounds of Samech and Sin, suggest that may have been a simple sibilant, and an aspirated sibilant; and, in confirmation of this probability, it is worthy of notice that in old Greek the sound of our X was represented not by Kę, but by XE, implying the existence of an aspirate in 2, just as at one period

the regular pronunciation of Sin appears to have been aspirated (cf. Judges xii. 6).

We have thus established the identity of the Greek and Hebrew Alphabets in respect of the number of their letters, Tsadi excepted ; let us turn to the Latin. We have already noticed that of the twentythree commonly attributed to it, two, viz. J and U, had no existence as distinct from I and V; the innovation is unfortunate, as destroying the analogy in the sound of many cognate words in Latin and English ; and it is, moreover, inconsistent, as we see no reason why, if J and U be added, W should not also be added, inasmuch as the Latin V doubtless had the sound of W as well as of U and V. Striking out, then, these two as innovations of English editors or English printers, we have twenty-one letters in the Latin Alphabet ; but of these twenty-one, Z* may be ejected, as only appearing in foreign words ; Y was introduced at a very late period to represent the soft sound of the Greek Upsilon ; X, again, was a Greek importation ; while V-partly a vowel, partly a consonant—represents certain uses of the Æolian Digamma, and must be deemed, conjointly with F, the representative of the Hebrew Vau. We do not, indeed, assert that V is a modern introduction into the Roman Alphabet, but we think that it has suffered a displacement, and that it should not be regarded as an original member in the place it now holds.

Excluding, then, these four, the Roman Alphabet is reduced to nineteen letters : it falls short of Hebrew in three instances—Teth, Samech, and Tsadi ; and short of Greek in two, Theta and Xi. The question indeed arises, whether X ought not, equally with V, to be considered as displaced, from the gap which we perceive between N and 0. We think not; in form and position it is so clearly identified with the Greek Chi, that there is strong prima facie evidence of their identity ; added to which, we believe that its original power was the same, as is proved by the insertion of an S after it in old inscriptions to represent E. It has also been asserted that K is not a Latin letter : this, however, is erroneous ; it is true that it fell into desuetude, but this resulted from the changes which took place in the sound of C, which was made equivalent to the hard sound of K, its own soft sound being transferred (as we shall afterwards show) to G, the representative of Zeta and Zain.

And now to come to our own A BC; that it is derived from the Latin, requires no proof; it differs from it in the addition of J, U, and W, to represent certain uses of I and V. Whether our present sound of J truly represents the sound of the Latin I in the words in which we have substituted it, is indeed doubtful ; in many instances it would have been better represented by a Y; still, the question of sound is distinct from that of the parentage of the letter. As to the identity of our three letters U, V, and W with the Latin V, there can be no doubt, and probably the three sounds coexisted in the single Latin letter.

* That Y and Z were not deemed Latin letters by the Romans themselves, appears from a fact mentioned by Suetonius : the Emperor Augustus occasionally wrote in cipher; his system was to substitute for the proper letter the one following it, and so instead of X we are told that he used A, proving that the Alphabet was then supposed to end at X.

Thus, of the twenty-six letters of the English Alphabet, all are traceable to Latin, and, through Latin, to the Eastern languages. We may mention, in conclusion, that of our present letters, the Anglo-Saxon Alphabet is deficient in J, Q, and V, but possesses one corresponding to the Greek Theta, which has fallen into disuse. - W. L. B.

(To be continued.)

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ENGLISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATION. SIR,—As I am trespassing upon your valuable space elsewhere, I must be more brief in my reply to your intelligent correspondent than I should otherwise have been.

First, then, I must state, what M. E. C. does not seem to estimate duly, viz., that these papers are essentially disciplinal in their character, and that the case of the boy who has just left school for the active business of life is widely different, on the one hand, from that of children ; on the other, from that of people of matured intellect ; or, again, from that of the same youth with unlimited time at his command.

It is not my desire to discourage breadth of study, but I see depth so often sacrificed to superficial extent, that I lay the greater stress upon what I conceive to be the only means of remedying the evil, in the case of the class in question.

There could be no possible reason why the student should not take up Chemistry, or even another subject, along with History, but I observe that M. E. C. makes some abatement of her claims upon the young student in speaking of such study as a relief.

In conclusion, I would venture to refer to other of my papers, besides that under discussion, for the full proportions of my scheme. A perusal of some of these (that, e. gr., on Science) would, I think, show, that whilst contending for a certain principle of study, I am not disposed to be content with an insufficient basis or ultimate range of subject-matter. -I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

J. S. G. Walthamstow, Feb. 19th, 1856.

WHAT ARE THE BEST POPULAR SCHOOLS.“ Popular schools are mainly intended to direct the education of the people; and therefore the best are not those whose pupils can merely repeat the Catechism most readily, read the most fluently, write the easiest hand, or cast up simple accounts with the least hesitation ; they are those where mind and heart have, besides, been formed with the greatest care, where the religious and moral sentiments are best cultivated, and the judgment the most thoroughly exercised; those where, with order and obedience, you discern, habitually prevailing, a desire after the beautiful and honourable, the love of cleanliness, the presence of serenity and good will, and where, at the same time, the children learn what they will in future most require to know. Schools, indeed, may exist, at which children learn perfectly to read, write, and cipher, to speak the language of their country with accuracy, and to reply glibly enough to interrogations regarding religion and positive or formal morality ; but where it may nevertheless be impossible to say that children are well brought up or even rightly instructed, because their judgments have not been formed, or those lofty faculties cultivated which are essential to true men and good citizens.”— Willm, from Papers on Popular Education,

REASONS FOR INFERIORITY OF EDUCATION

IN ENGLAND. MTRAVELLERS in the United States, and inquirers on the Continent

1 of Europe, have arrayed an imposing account of education, which certainly distances our own; and that praiseworthy and energetic nobleman, Lord Stanley, has recently shown, in his lectures on the subject, that, in respect of public libraries, England stands at the bottom of a list of nine book-reading nations. But useful as are all these facts to stimulate our home efforts and arouse our educational energies, teachers and promoters of teaching may well plead that many of these more intellectual foreign peoples have had from the earliest times facilities and habits quite as genial to mental culture, as those of our own populace have been untoward to its growth. However admirable the doughty vigour and enduring industry of our Saxon folk, it can scarcely be questioned that they are slow of apprehension, and that, so far from uniformly desiring education for their children, it is but of late that they have begun to value it ; while numbers still prefer the smallest money-gain to the sacrifice of sufficient time to give their children a chance of adequate instruction.

Now, in addition to these adversities to the teacher of the English, there is also in my judgment an equally formidable historical one. It is the fact that the antecedents of this English poor of ours were those of a conquered people kept for centuries in serfdom by their conquerors ; and even after mediæval vassalage had passed away, and the brass collars had been broken from off the necks of the Gurths and Wambas, and the far more degrading servilities of Saxon slavery to Norman power had vanished under the blessed influences of reformed religion and growing civilization, there remained-ay! and there linger stillthose ineffaceable chasms which have for ages disastrously distanced the ignorant and the dependent from the enlightened and the ruling classes, and have so long chilled the intercourse and benumbed the sympathies that should unite in brotherhood (as one great Christian fraternity) those who need enlightenment, and those to whom God has committed the keeping of the seeds of knowledge. Do not mistake me, and so misconstrue my meaning as to think that I advocate the breaking down of the great landmarks of society, or the levelling of one tittle of its just and necessary distinctions. I have no such wish. But I have lived among some of the older nations of continental Europe, where I have seen family prestige and the distinctive privileges of lineage upholden even more tenaciously than in England ; and never have I elsewhere witnessed the same alien spirit or class antagonism, especially between the labourer and his employer, as have so often riven asunder and deadened social sympathies in England. Some centuries after the Norman Conquest, whilst the schoolmen of the thronged and ancient Universities of Paris, Bologna, Padua, Naples, Salamanca, Orleans, Prague, and Leipsic, were pouring forth educated men, who returned to their homes to disseminate among their fellow-countrymen (who spoke one language, and were one people) the seedful fruits of their own learning, our Anglo-Saxon peasantry toiled unheeded for the masters who, instead of promoting the instruction of the humbler classes, till late years, to their indelible disgrace, did their utmost to prevent it. And they know

« AnteriorContinuar »