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Dravidian and Scythian affiliation; since the place of the people speaking it is too uncertain to justify us in regarding them as a local intermediary between Ugria and India, or as marking a line of emigration from the former to the latter.*
The phonetic correspondences pointed out by Mr. Caldwell are for the most part too universal in their character, too readily explainable by ordinary physiological processes, to be of weight as evidences of special affiliation : there is hardly one to which abundant analogies might not be pointed out in languages confessedly not of Scythian stock. Even the appearance in Southern India of the peculiar Scythian law of harmonic sequence of vowels, in a sporadic and partial manner, we should not be inclined to lay much stress upon, considering the naturalness of the phenomenon, and the evident possibility of its independent development, at least to the extent shown, in languages not historically connected with the Scythian.
Among the numerous special coincidences of form industriously assembled and recorded by Mr. Caldwell, while there are unquestionably some which a profounder examination would show to be fallacious, others have a look of genuineness which is very prepossessing. Whether these are in such numbers, and of such character, as entirely to exclude the possibility of explaining them as casual resemblances, such as may be found by careful search between any two groups of languages on the earth's surface, we should think would have to be reserved for farther investigation and more careful sifting to determine.
The most cogent arguments in favor of the relationship of the Dravidian and Scythian languages which the comparison instituted between them brings to light are, in our view, the correspondences of general form and spirit, apprehension of grammatical relations and treatment of linguistic materials, which they undeniably present. And if the science of comparative philology is strong enough to pronounce with confidence that such correspondences as are here displayed cannot be the result of analogous qualities of race, equal grade of capacity and culture, then the whole question is settled. But we are not certain that she has yet so far mastered the immense field of human speech as to be able to do this, and certainly there are few men living who are entitled to be accepted as her mouth-pieces in making the decision. We sball prefer, then, to consider the question of Dravidian affiliation as one pot yet authoritatively settled, while giving Mr. Caldwell full credit for contributing most essentially to its final settlement, by such a thorough genetical and comparative exhibition of the Dravidian idioms as few groups of kindred languages, out of the Indo-European family, have yet received.
* Mr. Webb, apparently from a misapprehension of the meaning of an ambiguous expression once employed by Mr. Caldwell, places Bebistun in Beluchistan; it is in fact in western Media, not very far from the Mesopotamian valley.
ON LEPSIUS'S STANDARD ALPHABET;*
BY WILLIAM D. WHITNEY,
Presented to the Society October 17th, 1861.
MORE than once, within no long time past, inquiries have been addressed to us by those to whom the subject was one of practical importance, respecting the “Standard Alphabet” of Prof. Lepsius of Berlin: whether its method was so thorough, its results so correctly deduced, and the system of signs for sounds proposed by it so unexceptionable, that it deserved to be impli. citly accepted, and should be made the absolute foundation of the reduction of new languages to a written form, and even allowed to supersede systems of orthography already for some time in use. We have therefore thought that it might be well to bring the matter before the Society at one of its mectings, when it was hoped that there would be those present who had had occasion to consider the orthographical question practically, and to make experience of its difficulties, and when, accordingly, a comparison of opinions might lead to more enlightened conclusions respecting it than are within the reach of a single inquirer. It would have been highly proper if this Society, which maintains so intimate scholarly relations with so large a body of missionaries, scattered over every part of the heathen world, bad at the outset given an express examination to Prof. Lepsius's proposed system, and formally sanctioned it, if found worthy of formal sanction, or else offered criticisms and suggested amendments af. fecting it. So much might have been regarded as due to the importance of the work, the character of its author, and the auspices under which it was put forth: it having received the express approval of the Berlin Academy, one of the most eminent bodies of learned men, both philologists and physiologists, in the world, and been farther endorsed and recommended by several of the principal English and continental Missionary Societies; as well as, at a later date, by our own American Board. How extensive an actual trial and application the new alphabet has had, and wbat have been the results of such a practical testing of its merits, we are not fully informed : that it has been substituted at one important mission, at least—that to the Zulus in South Africa—for the alphabet formerly employed, is certain : and it is precisely from that quarter that one remonstrance or expression of dissent has been received. But such remonstrances are by no means to be taken as certain evidence of serious in perfection in a proposed orthographical system. It is a matter of common remark how extremely conservative we are in the matter of the spelling of our own language; what worshippers of the letter as well as of the word; how obstinately unwilling to write a vocable otherwise than as we have been taught to believe was the true traditional way of writing it: and the same tendency to hold fast that which is written does not quit us on foreign soil, and in dealing with strange tongues. Hence a general uniformity of orthographical method is hardly to be hoped for; the end which we may aim to attain is the providing of something like a uniform method for languages still to be reduced to writing, and a norm to which such alterations of existing orthographies as may be found practicable sball be made to conform.
* Standard Alphabet for reducing Unwritten Languages and Foreign Graphic Systems to a Uniform Orthography in European Letters. By Dr. R. Lepsius, etc. London : 1865. 8vo. pp. ix, 73. This is a translation of Das Allgemeine Linguistische Alphabet. Grundsätze der Uebertragung fremder Schriftsysteme und bisher noch ungeschriebener Sprachen in europäische Buchstaben. Von R. Lepsius, etc. Berlin: 1855. 8vo. pp. 64.
Since the final revision and preparation for the press of the present Article was completed (Dec. 1861), we have received two additional contributions, of very high importance and interest, made by Prof. Lepsius to the same general subject with that of the work here treated of, in the form of communications to the Berlin Academy on the Phonetic Relations and Transcription of the Chinese and Tibetan Languages, and on the Spoken Alpbabet of the Arabic and its Transcription. In both of them reference is made to å second edition of the Standard Alphabet, as in course of preparation. We greatly regret that we could not have made this the basis of our examination of Prof. Lepsius's system, and had almost decided to cancel our Article, or withhold it until we could take due note of any modifications of his views which their republication should exhibit. But, in view of the fact that our criticism bas already in the Proceedings of the Society for Oct. 1861) been announced as to be published in the present pumber of the Journal, and considering the uncertainty of the time of appearance of the new work, and that the first edition has been very extensively circulated, in its to versions, among missionaries and others, into whose hands the second may never come, we have concluded not to stop the printer. Such changes or fuller expositions of Prof. Lepsius's views as are brought to light in the two papers referred to will be set forth in marginal notes to this ar. ticle, and should the revised Standard Alphabet, on its appearance, seem to call for yet farther attention, in justice to its author, we shall make it the subject of a separate treatment.
If the missionaries and emissaries sent out to unlettered countries, and destined to be the first introducers there of modes of writing, had from the beginning been only Italians and Germans, the orthographical question would have worn a far less intricate
and pressing phase than now belongs to it. Unfortunately-in this respect unfortunately—they have been, in much the greater part, men to whom was native the English language, a language whose phonetical and orthographical system is more frightfully corrupt and confused than that of any other known form of bu. man speech; men to whom, accordingly, it seemed not unnatural to write all kinds of sounds almost all kinds of ways; who lacked a distinct conception that each single sign was originally meant to have a single sound, and each single sound a separate and invariable sign, and that, in the history of writing, certain sounds and no others originally belonged to the characters of our own alphabet. Hence, in part, the confusion, to remedy which so much effort has been expended, and with only partial success. But there is also another, and a more deeply seated cause. Our written system is a scanty, and a rigid and non-elastic thing, compared with our spoken systems. The European alphabet, as it may well enough be called now, was invented—or, rather, modified into nearly its present form—to suit the Latin language at a certain stage of its development. Now phonetical systems grow, both by alteration and by extension; a still scantier system of characters would have answered the purposes of the Latin at a considerably ear. lier period in its history; but there is not one of the daughters of the Latin which is not both pinched and distorted in the tight and ill-fitting orthographical dress of the mother-tongue. More than this, some languages, or whole families of languages, offer sounds which Latin organs never formed; and these, too, must have their representatives in a general scheme. And yet once more, sounds, occurring in languages either nearly akin with one another or of altogetber diverse descent, which to a dull ear, or on brief and imperfect acquaintance, appear quite the same, are yet found, after an intimate familiarity formed with them, to be distinguished by slight differences of quality, dependent upon slightly varying positions of the mouth-organs in their utterance. From these various causes arises the necessity of eking out an imperfect scheme of written characters, in order to make it rep. resent sufficiently a greater number of sounds. This is evidently a thing which cannot be done upon principles commanding uni. versal assent, by the application of rules admitting of distinct statement and impregnable demonstration : it is one into which considerations of history, of usage, of practical convenience, must enter, and which therefore cannot but be differently solved by different people, according to the variations of individual preference: given a system of sounds to be represented, and a system of signs by modified forms of which the representation must be made, and ten different laborers will produce ten differ. ent alphabets, each, perhaps, having its advantages, and such that between two or three of them any one may find it hard to
select the best. In order, then, to produce an alphabet for general use, two things, of quite diverse character, are requisite: first, a thorough acquaintance with all matters pertaining to the system of articulate sounds and their established representatives, including an understanding of the physiology of the voice and the mode of production of spoken sounds, an acquaintance with the origin and history of alpbabets and the primitive and now prevailing values of the characters composing them, and a famil. iarity with many tongues, of varying type and second, such prominence before the eyes of the world, such acknowledged weight as an authority, such support from those for whose sake the work is done, as shall give tbat work at once a general currency, and recognition as a conventional standard. This second requisite is apt to receive less acknowledgment than it deserves; but it must be evident on a slight consideration that where, in the nature of the case, actual completeness cannot possibly be attained, nor universal satisfaction given, it will be better to accept in toto a system which has been and is likely to be accepted by a great many others, than either to alter it considerably, to suit our own ideas, or to take another system, wbich may be more to our mind, but which will probably be known to and noticed by only a few. And it appears to us that the Standard Alphabet of Prof. Lepsius may at least be claimed to unite and embody these different requisites in a higher degree than any other which has hitherto been put forth.
In the first place, as regards its vogue and acceptance. The name itself of Lepsius is sufficient to attract a high degree of attention aud favor to anything to which it is attached. Whereever throughout the world there are scholars, there he is known as one of the foremost scholars of the age, distinguished alike in philology, in archæology, and in history. This work of his, moreover, was brought out under most favorable auspices. It was formally discussed and accepted, before publication, at a convention in London of men representing the most important interests to be affected by such a work. It has since been endorsed by the authorized representatives of four English societies, one French, three German, and one American, as we are informed in the Advertisement prefixed to the book as it lies in our hands : wbat other associations may since bave followed their example, we do not know. This general acceptance, while it is a telling testimony in favor of the work itself, furnishes also a powerful reason why we should incline to take the most favorable view possible of it, even overlooking defects of not too serious a character which it may be found to contain, for the sake of securing a uniformity long desired, and now more hopefully in prospect than ever before. Of course, however, if the new system prove false in its fundamental principles, imperfect in its execution, or