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were a consequence of the Norman invasion, or even accele
rated by that event, is wholly incapable of proof. ... Every • branch of the Low-German stock from whence the Anglo• Saxon sprang, displays the same simplification of its grammar.'* Dr. Latham goes so far as to say,—What the present
language of England would have been had the Norman • Conquest never taken place, the analogy of Holland, Denmark, 6 and of many other countries, enables us to determine. It would have been much as it is at present.'
Many plausible arguments may be adduced on both sides, — and the truth, probably, as in so many other cases, lies between the opposite views. Those who think the Conquest had almost everything, and those who think it had next to nothing, to do with the transformation of the language, will find it perhaps equally difficult to maintain so extreme a proposition. There is a sense, indeed, in which both theories may be accepted ; namely, that some similar changes would have occurred without the Conquest; and that it did, in point of fact, greatly modify, accelerate, and augment them.
Dr. Latham's statement, that if there had been no Norman invasion, the English would have proceeded to develope itself in grammatical forms analogous to those which its actual history presents, may be admitted as probable; for it seems difficult to deny that traces of the approaching revolution — the initial parts of the process — may be discerned in the closing period of the Anglo-Saxon rule; still it may, in our judgment, be also plausibly maintained that those changes were greatly more extensive and rapid in a given time than they would have been except for the Conquest. If it be asked how we shall account for those initial changes in the grammatical structure which we have admitted are not obscurely discernible even before the Conquest, and for those still more striking phenomena, referred to by Mr. Price and Mr. Hallam, in the PlattDeutsch languages, - we must reply that there never has been any satisfactory solution of the problem. It may be worthy of question, however, whether these changes, though not attended by an amalgamation of races,' have not been in part produced by causes somewhat similar to those which come into play in such a condition of things, though feebler in their character, and slower in their operation, we mean the contact, collision, and (so to speak) interpenetration, of different tribes speaking different dialects of the same languages; or of nations speaking different languages, though of the same stock. We must recollect that
* Warton's History, vol. i. pp. 109, 110. Preface.
Effect of the Norman Conquest ?
the original invaders, the Jutes, Saxons, and Angles, spoke different dialects, though of the same language ; and if there be any force in such circumstances to break down the grammatical structure at all, the subsequent invasions, establishments, and at length ascendancy of the Danes, must have tended to produce still further changes in the same direction.* A priori, it certainly
* The Anglo-Saxon,' says Rask, appears to have been in its origin a rude mixture of the dialects of the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes; but we are not acquainted with it in that state, these dialects having soon coalesced into one language, as the various kindred tribes soon united to form one nation, after they had taken possession of England. With the introduction of Christianity and the Roman Alphabet, their literature began, and continued during all the wars and dreadful devastations which our rugged and warlike forefathers, the Danes, spread over the land; the nation itself, notwithstanding all its revolutions and misfortunes, having preserved a certain degree of antiquity. Even under the Danish kings all laws and edicts were promulgated in pure Anglo-Saxon, in which, with the exception of a few single words, no striking influence can be traced of the old Scandinavian or Icelandic, spoken by our forefathers at that period. On the contrary, the Anglo-Saxon rather exercised an influence on the old language, spoken in the northern kingdoms, particularly in Denmark. It was not till after the Norman conquest that French and Latin were introduced as the language of the court, while the Anglo-Saxon was despised and sank into a dialect of the vulgar; which, not till it had undergone a complete transformation, and been blended with the language of the old northern settlers, and with the French spoken by the conquerors, whereby the ancient structure was almost entirely lost, and after an interval of some centuries, re-appeared as a new tongue, — the modern English. We thus find here the changes which took place in the languages of Germany and the North, though nowhere was the transition attended with such violence as in England, and nowhere has it left such manifest and indelible traces as in the English language. We have here an ancient, fixed, and regular tongue, which during a space of 500 years preserved itself almost without change; for King Ethelbert adopted Christianity about 593 or 596, and his laws, which we may refer to about the year 600, are perhaps the oldest extant in Anglo-Saxon. In the year 1066, William the Norman conquered England; but the highly cultivated, deep-rooted ancient national tongue, could not be immediately extirpated, though it was instantly banished from the court. This king's laws were even published in French. A fragment of the Saxon Chronicles, published by Lye, concluding with the year 1079, is still in pretty correct Anglo-Saxon ; but, in the continuation of the same chronicle, from 1135 to 1140, almost all the inflections of the language are either changed or regulated, as well as the orthography and most of the old phrases and idioms. We may, therefore, fix the year 1100 does appear difficult to attribute such singular phenomena of a language to some mysterious internal necessity of so developing or rather of so vitiating itself,-a proposition by no means self-evident enough to be received without a more profound philosophy of the fact than has yet been given; and perhaps if we examine history, we shall see that the majority of facts. favour the conclusion that changes of this nature are at least accelerated by the operation of some powerful external causes. It is, at all events, incontestable that the permanent occupation of a country, and the amalgamation of races, have been usually attended with the formation of a new language out of one of them; not by the amalgamation of both, but by a simplification of the grammatical structure of one, and a slender infusion of terms from the other. Which language shall yield will be dependent on circumstances; but where the races have thoroughly amalgamated, one of them has usually given way. Where the conquerors are few, the conquered have very generally imposed their language on the victors; where very numerous, and the colonies planted have been stable and extensive, (as in the case of the Roman occupation of Gaul) the victors have succeeded in subduing the language as well as the people. The original Celtic tribes in Gaul and the Spanish Peninsula yielded to the Latin. On the other hand, the Goths who invaded Italy, and the Normans who invaded France, received the language of the conquered territories. But, in either case the formation of new languages on the Roman stock was the result, and took place, contemporaneously at all events, with the complete amalgamation of the races. It would surely be curious if such a coincidence were merely accidental. In all these cases the bulk of the words of that language which ultimately maintained its ascendancy was retained; its forms, its inflections, its grammatical structure underwent great transmutations.
If so, does it not seem probable that those grammatical changes in the Platt-Deutsch languages, which are principally appealed to as indicating that such linguistic revolutions have been effected by some inexplicable internal necessity, may be accounted for in a similar manner? We must recollect that as far back as authentic history extends, the tribes speaking these languages have never been in possession of perfectly homogeneous languages; that they were all formations from older forms, and grafts on older trunks; that dialectal differences among those
as the limit of the Anglo-Saxon tongue. .... The confusion that prevailed after 1100 belongs to the old English period.' - Rask: Anglo-Saxon Grammar, preface, p. 46.
Similar Changes in the Platt-Deutsch.
who spoke them, and who were in perpetual contact, have always been considerable: that collision of tribe with tribe ; wars, invasions, and transient conquests; local disturbance from time to time of large masses of the population ; the flux and reflux of migration, now in one direction, now in another, were for many ages perpetually at work. If, then, there be any force in these supposed causes at all, may we not expeot changes of a similar kind with those produced in the case of amalga‘mation of races, though less perceptible in their operation, and more moderate in amount; that is, may we not expect the gradual degradation and disintegration of minute particles of the language in the collision of different dialectal forms; a simplification in the grammatical structure; a violation of the refined and complicated system of a nearly homogeneous language? We suggest these questions, rather to elicit further investigation than as indicating any decision of our own upon them. Whether the amount and rate of change in the grammatical structure of the Platt-Deutsch languages, as compared with those in our own, at all correspond to any such more moderate and feeble influences, we must leave to the decision of philologists better acquainted with the remote history of these languages than we profess to be. But if so, we have every proof which induction admits, that the causes in question are not fanciful: for instance, in the case of the violent amalgamation of totally different races, we have usually the formation of a new language with a different grammar, on the base of one of them; and in the comparatively gentle collision and, so to speak, friction amongst one another, of the elements of a nation originally consisting of many different tribes, distinguished by as many different dialectal forms of speech, we have similar changes in the grammatical structure; only more moderate and more gradual. Such an hypothesis, at all events, would serve as a key to those initial changes in the Anglo-Saxon which were anterior to the Conquest.
On the other hand, it does not seem intrinsically very probable that a nation speaking a homogeneous language, with a complex system of inflections and terminations, and with corresponding capacities of a self-consistent development of its powers, should willingly exchange that more elaborate, and, abstractedly, more perfect type of language, for another and inferior system of grammatical forms. Price says, "until it shall be shown that political 'commotions have a decided tendency to derange the intellectual and physical powers in the same degree that they disorganise civil
society, and that under the influence of troubled times men are . prone to forget the natural means of communicating their ideas,
to falter in their speech, and recur to the babble of their infancy
. - we certainly have not advanced beyond the threshold of the * argument.'* Surely it is equally obvious to remark, that by similar reasoning, we may infer that a nation does not of set purpose, without any external cause, exchange its established symbols of thought and forms of speech for others. Men universally cling with remarkable tenacity to their language; as is seen in the comparatively moderate changes which the language of a strictly isolated nation will admit in the course of many ages; and the slow rate of change observable even in those which are subjected to every conceivable cause of vitiation. The steps, by which what we now call dead languages severally died out, are seldom to be traced.
That some such change should take place from the aforesaid causes, - whether or not it would ever take place from any other causes, - must seem very natural, if we consider the exigencies under which intercourse between two races speaking different languages, or two tribes speaking different dialects of the same language, would take place. It would assuredly not be by fusing together the vocables of each language; as little likely is it that it would become an olla podrida, made up half of words supplied by the one language, and half of words supplied from the other; something like the address of the priest at St. Dominica to Mr. Coleridge:- Como esta, Monsieur? J'espère que usted se porte vary well. Le Latin est good ting, mais good know
ledge, sin et Latin, rien to be done. The probability is, that the vocabulary would be for the most part retained, and the grammatical forms undergo degradation. Some such process we see taking place continually, when a man, knowing little more of a language than a few of its nouns and 'verbs, — names of objects and their relations,—is yet compelled to give utterance to his thoughts. In that case, away go all the refinentents of the language ; and men talk much as Robinson Crusoe's man Friday did to his master, —'We save white mans from drown.
... You do great deal, much good; you teach wild mans be • good, sober, tame mans.' Now if many thousands are compelled to hold intercourse together on such terms, we may well conceive the grammatical condition of the language will become much altered, though the vocabulary remain unchanged.
Gibbon, whose sagacity was admirably adapted to the investigation of such questions, lays great stress on similar causes in the formation of the Italian language. He says, " The modern • Italian has been insensibly formed by the mixture of nations ; ' the awkwardness of the barbarians in the nice management of
* Warton, vol. i. p. 108.