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GREEK LANGU A G E.
1. INTRODUCTION.--2. PRESENT TIME FAVOURABLE FOR THE INQUIRY.-3. WHAT WRITERS TO BE USED AS AUTHORITIES.
4. INQUIRY CONFINED TO THE ATTIC DIALECT.-5. ANALOGY BETWEEN GREEK AND LATIN.-6. MISTAKES IN IN. SCRIPTIONS.—7. SOUNDS OF ANIMALS.-8. PUNS.
INTRODUCTION. 1. THE Greek language is stamped by time, that great prover of men and things, as the most perfect which ever fell from the lips of man. Its strength and flexibility, its sonorous cadence, its facility of combination, its variety of termination, making the boldest inversion consistent with clearness, its harmonious proportion between vowels and consonants, pleasing to the ear even in spite of mistakes in pronunciation,—all these fit it for history and eloquence and poetry : and nobly has it been used. Still, after the lapse of ages, after changes of manners and of empires, we find in its records the best treasure-house of learning; and in the force, the pathos, the simplicity, the dignity of the great men who wrote it, the purest criterion of taste. And, precious as these monuments of old Greece are, it can scarcely be said that they have not been duly appreciated. Most of the scholars who have studied them at all, have studied them profoundly. The origin of the language, its structure, its rhythm, the variety of its dialects, have engaged the thoughts and employed the pens of men far above pedantry.
To the lovers and admirers of Greek (and for them alone the following pages have been written) no excuse will be necessary for starting afresh an inquiry into the pronunciation of their favourite language. Indeed, in the controversies to which this topic has already given rise, men of great eminence and learning have shown a degree of asperity, which affords more proof than we could wish of the interest which they took in the inquiry.
PRESENT TIME FAVOURABLE FOR THE INQUIRY. 2. The present time seems to favour the reconsideration of this question. The facility of travelling is daily making us less and less “ completely divided from the whole world.” Our ears become gradually used to sounds and accents different from our own and different from each other. To Greece particularly a large portion of our countrymen are attracted, not merely by the interest of antiquarian research, but by the restoration to civilized Europe of a country, which “ was lost and is found.” Then again, our connection with the Ionian Islands fills many civil and military offices there with Englishmen, many of whom are tempted, and some obliged, to make themselves masters of modern Greek, which naturally leads them to inquire how far the modern, either as a written or as a spoken language, may be supposed to differ from the ancient. Neither will the subject be found to be so uncertain in its evidence as we might, from the nature of it, be led to expect. The scholar, who shall prosecute the inquiry with industry, will find himself agreeably surprised by the fullness of the information which is to be gathered from the treatises of grammarians, or gleaned from sentences of authors, who have by accident illustrated a subject which they themselves never foresaw could become liable to a doubt.
WHAT WRITERS TO BE USED AS AUTHORITIES. 3. With respect to the living languages, it may be said generally, that the pronunciation which is, is right; the rule depends so much upon usage, and so little upon abstract principle, that we are content to speak modern languages as the natives now speak them, without troubling our. selves with inquiring what alterations they have made in the pronunciation of their ancestors. We use, as Quinctilian says, their current language as we use their current coin. And if we had considered the present inhabitants of Greece as speaking essentially the same language which was spoken there two thousand years ago, we should go to Athens to learn to speak Greek, for the same reasons which send us to Paris to learn to speak French. But we do not so consider them; we look upon the modern Greek as essentially a distinct language from the ancient : but when did the race of ancient Greeks cease? To this question it will be answered, that, though we cannot fix on any precise date when the people speaking the ancient Greek ceased to exist, their language was gradually altered, so as to be at last virtually destroyed by successive corruptions : that it is clear there was a period of classical purity, which was succeeded by a period of barbarism, though we may be unable to define with accuracy the extinction of the one or the commencement of the other. The consequence of this statement of the question is, that any line which we may draw between the age of purity and the age of barbarism must be arbitrary, so that no two persons would fix it at exactly the same period; and yet it is difficult to discuss the subject without drawing such a line, in order to know to what authorities we are to appeal for a decision of the various topics which may arise. When I maintain that a word ought to be pronounced in such a manner, and in support of this proposition I show that it was so pronounced at a given period, if that period be considered by my opponent as an age of barbarism, he will be so far from admitting my conclusion, that he will consider the authority upon which I rely, either as affording no proof at all, or as leading to a directly opposite inference from that which I draw from it. To avoid any such misunderstanding, I propose to draw the line at the end of the second century of the Christian era, and to consider the ancient Greeks as having preserved their language uncorrupt down to that period. None of the writers on the subject have ventured to date any extensive or general corruption of the structure or pronunciation of the Greek language earlier than this; and the line will scarcely be considered as drawn too low, which excludes Longinus from the age of purity.
Assuming then that the ancient Greeks, as far as regards the present inquiry, continued to the end of the second century, I propose, not to consider the pronunciation of any letter or word which prevailed after that period as any authority; not that those, who have leisure and inclination to sift the subject fully, will ever be content to leave the later writers unexamined ; but that the generality of readers will be better satisfied with a small body of proof, drawn from writers of unquestionable authority, than with a