« AnteriorContinuar »
Astley, Dapper, Grandpré, Baudry Deslozieres and others who have written upon it. So early as the year 1659, a grammar of this language by Giacinto Brusciotto di Vetralla, was published at Rome at the expense of the congregation de Propaganda Fide, a copy of which I hope to be able to procure for our Society's library. Professor Vater in the first part of the third volume of the Mithridates has described from these and other sources which he had at hand,the principal features of its grammatical character, from whence we are able to form a pretty correct idea of it.
That this language is synthetic in a very high degree, and that in some respects its forms resemble those of the American idioms, cannot be denied ; but it is true likewise that there are many essential differences between them. For instance, the cases of substantives are expressed in the Congo, by inflections of the article, whereas the Indian languages have no articles at all; instead of adjectives, the Congo make use of the genitive case of substantives, as water of fire for hot water; they place the possessive pronoun after the substantive, with an article between, as it were, father the mine, for my father *. These, and other forms which I need not enumerate, are not to be found in any of the languages of our Indians.
I must acknowledge, however, that in the forms of the verbs the resemblance is considerable. Like
* Mithridates, Vol. III. part i. p. 212.,
the Americans, these people can, by means of this part of speech, express many of the relations connected with the principal action; whether they can do it to the same extent, I have not the means of ascertaining.
That the information given by Professor Vater on the subject of this language, and derived by him from the original sources, is correct, is a fact which does not admit even the possibility of a doubt. I have been, therefore, not a little astonished in find. ing it positively contradicted in a late account of Capt. Tuckey's Expedition to the River Zaire*, in which I find this remarkable assertion: "There “ does not seem to be the least truth in the compli“cated mechanism of the Congo language, which " some fanciful author thought he had discovered, “ and which has been repeated by succeeding “ writers; none of those idioms of which the syntax “ and grammatical forms, ingeniously combined “ with art, indicate, in the opinion of Malte Brun, a “ meditative genius,'foreign to the habitual condition “ of these people.” This is not, however, asserted by Captain Tuckey himself, nor by Professor Smith, who accompanied him in his expedition, but by the unknown editor of the book, whose observations form a separate chapter at the end of it,
Narrative of an Expedition to the River Zaire, usually called the Congo in South Africa, in 1816, under the direction of Captain I. K. Tuckey, to which is added the Journal of Professor Smith, &c. published by permission of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. New York (reprinted) 1818, p. 394.
History of the Missions, has given us a sentence in
The anonymous writer, who assumes that he had borrowed it from some fanciful author, shews that he himself knew nothing of the subject, and was not competent to write upon it, idioms of Africa, the Congo is not the only one that tical construction extends to all those of the black nations who inhabit that coast. Oldendorp, in his
As this strange assertion immediately follows the observations of the learned Marsden on the vocabularies furnished by Captain Tuckey, I was for a moment inclined to believe that it was the expression of his own opinion. But I was soon undeceived when I observed that this eminent philologist is so well acquainted with the works of Brusciotto, Oldendorp, and Hervas, that it is impossible to suppose that he could have fallen into such a mistake, which is solely to be ascribed to the book-maker, whoever he is, who edited the work, and who has imposed upon the public his own crude opinions, by the side of the facts of Captain Tuckey and Professor Phillips, and of the sensible observations of a Marsden. It is impossible to guard too strongly against similar impositions, as they cannot but operate greatly to the detriment of science.
The French geographer, Malte-Brun, who asserts thatthe language of Congois complicated in its forms, undoubtedly drew his information from the best
urces, with which his assertion perfectly agrees. There is great reason to believe that among the
has complicated forms, and that the same gramma
not less than eighteen of those languages, which appears to have escaped the observation of Professor Vater, and clearly evinces that in their verbs, at least, they have the transitive forms of the Indians. The phrase is: “ God has loved me, and has washed “away my sins with his blood.” In the Congo dialect this phrase is expressed by, Christus ensolani sukkula nituam winu mengaman. The word ensolant, by an evident transition, expresses the compound idea, “has loved me," and the last word mengaman,
" blood,” conveys the meaning of that substantive, coupled with the preposition" with.” The three other words sukkula nituam winu, the author translates by " has my body washed from uncleanness *
I shall not trouble the committee with the translation of the same or similar sentences in other African languages, the forms of which the author thus exemplifies, of which six are mother tongues t, and the others derivative dialects. I shall content myself with referring to the original work, by which my assertions may be contradicted or confirmed. In my opinion those languages appear all formed nearly on the same model.
From the above facts and observations it would seem to result, that the languages of the Negroes of
* C. G. A. Oldendorps Geschichte der Mission, &c.C. G. A. Oldendorp's History of the Mission of the Evangelical Brethren in the Caribbee Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, edited by J. J. Bossart. Barby, 1777, octavo, p. 344.
* 1. The Congo. 2. The Amingo. 3. The Mandingo. 4. The Yalof. 5. The Serere. 6. The Serawalli.
the western coast of Africa, are in a degree complex and synthetic in their forms; to what extent does not sufficiently appear; but enough is shewn to warrant the inference that they differ in several material points from those of the languages of the American Indians. Their greatest resemblance appears to be in the combinations of the verb with other parts of speech.
Perhaps, therefore, it may not be an improbable supposition that the great characteristics which so generally distinguish the idioms of the aborigines of this continent, are not to be found to the same extent in any other language upon earth. Considerable labour, however, will be required before this question can be fully solved, and the fact completely ascertained. The study of the languages of the different races of men, considered in relation to their internal structure and grammatical forms, has but lately begun to be attended to, and may still be considered as being in its infancy; the difficulties which attend the pursuit of this interesting branch of science ought not to deter us from still pursuing it, in hopes of discovering some path that may lead to a better knowledge than we yet possess of the origin, history, connexions, and relations, of the various families of human beings by whom this globe now is and formerly was inhabited.