« PreviousContinue »
dleton's notion o), was the gift of the Spirit : 2dly, That their acquaintance with the tongue, supernaturally communicated, must have been such as would render their teaching in it best adapted to the apprehensions of the people with whom they would be most conversant, or such as they would have most readily acquired among them in the natural way. Now on this hypothesis, which appears on many accounts the most rational, the influence of habit, of native idiom, and of particular genius and turn of thinking, would be the same on the writer's style as though he had acquired the language in the ordinary way.
As to the hypothesis of the author above mentioned, it is not more irrational in itself, than it is destitute of evidence. It is irrational, as it excludes the primary use, the conversion of the nations, for which, by the general acknowledgment of Christians in all ages, the gift of tongues was bestowed on the Apostles, and represents this extraordinary power, as serving merely to astonish the hearers, the only purpose, according to him, for which it ever was exerted. And as to evidence, the great support of his system is an argument which has been sufficiently considered already, the defects of the style of the sacred wri, ters, when examined by the rules of the rhetoricians, and the example of the orators of Athens. For, because Cicero and the Greek philosophers were of opinion, that if Jupiter spoke Greek, he would speak like Plato, the learned doctor cannot conceive that a
32 Essay on the Gift of Tongues,
style so unlike Plato's as that of the Evangelists, can
DISSERTATION THE SECOND.
THE CAUSES TO WHICH THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES ARE IMPUTABLE ; THE ORIGIN OF THE CHANGES PRODUCED ON THE LANGUAGE AND THE IDIOM OF THE JEWS, AND THE PRINCIPAL DIFFI. CULTIES TO BE ENCOUNTERED IN TRANSLATING THE SACRED BOOKS.
THE CAUSES OF THE DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES.
When we compare one tongue with another, if we enter critically into the genius and powers of each, we shall find, that neither the only nor the chief difference is that which is most obvious, and consists in the sounds or words employed, the inAexions, the arrangement, and the construction. These may soon be learnt from a tolerable grammar, and are to be considered as affecting only the form of the language. There are others, which more intimately affecting its spirit, it requires a nicer discernment to distinguish. These serve much more to characterise, both the language, and the people who speak it.
Indeed, the knowledge of one of these has a great effect in advancing the knowledge of the other. We may say, with the greatest justice,
[D. 11. that as, on the one hand, the real character of a nation will not be thoroughly understood by one who is a perfect stranger to their tongue ; so, on the other, the exact import of many of the words and combinations of words, made use of in the language, will never be perfectly comprehended by one who knows nothing of the character of the people, who is totally unacquainted with the history of their religion, law, polity, arts, manners, and customs. Whoever, therefore, would be a proficient in either kind, must be a student in both. It is evident, that the particulars enumerated, or whatever regards the religion, the laws, the constitution, and the manners of a people, operate powerfully on their sentiments ; and these have a principal effect, first on the associations of ideas formed in their minds, in relation to character and to whatever is an object of abstract reflection ; secondly, on the formation of words, and combination of phrases, by which these associations are expressed. But this will be better understood from what follows.
§ 2. There are certain words, in every language, to which there are other words perfectly corresponding, in other languages. There are certain words, in every language, which but imperfectly correspond to any of the words of other languages. There are certain words, in every language, to which there is nothing, in some other languages, in any degree, correspondent. I shall exemplify these three classes
in Greek, Latin, and English, which will sufficientiy illustrate my meaning.
03. In all languages, the words whereby the obvious productions of nature, and the plainest distinctions of genera and species known to the people are signified, correspond respectively to one another. Thus to the Greek words ήλιος, σεληνη, ορνις, δενdpov, astos, aunados, acdos, the Latin words, sol, luna, avis, arbor, aquila, vitis, lapis, and the English, sun, moon, bird, tree, eagle, vine, stone, are perfectly equivalent in signification ; and we are sure that we can never mistake in rendering the Greek word nalos, wherever it occurs, into Latin, by the word sol, and into English, by the word sun. The same thing holds true of the other terms in the three languages, taken severally, in the order in which I have placed them.
To this class we must add the names of natural and obvious relations, as πατηρ, μητηρ, υιος, θυγατης, αδελφος, αδελφη, to which the Latin worls φα, ter, mater, filius, filia, frater, soror, and the English words father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, perfectly correspond.
To the same class we ought also to assign those words whereby the most common and necessary productions of the mechanic arts are expressed : for though, in different countries, and distant ages, there are considerable differences in the fashion and appearance of their productions; we attend solely, in translating, to the principal uses which a piece of