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Of the Samaritan, Chaldaic, Syriac, Ethiopian, Persian, Armenian, Tartarian, and Chinese Languages

THE greater part of these languages, and the Arabic itself, are dialects of the Hebrew; and some so closely resemble it, that the difference is hardly perceivable. Such are, for instance, the Samaritan, the Chaldee, and the Syriac. Hottinger shews, in his Chaldaic Grammar, the affinity the Hebrew bears to the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Arabic. The Jews brought the Chaldee from Babylon. The books of Daniel and Esdras are for the greater part written in this language. It was the Syriac Jesus Christ and the Apostles spoke; and a knowledge of this language is very necessary for a perfect understanding of the New Testament.

Ludolphus has given us a Grammar of the Ethiopian language. This language has a great mixture of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic words. It has a distinct and peculiar character; and, in writing it, the vowel points are not marked according to the custom of the Hebrews, the Arabs, the Chaldeans, and the Syrians; but every letter is a syllable, being at once composed of a vowel and a consonant.

One Louis de Dieu has given a Persian Grammar; but Mr. Richardson has lately published a Dictionary, which is said to be a very valuable labour. Our nation has of late made such a progress in this study, that we may expect, when it shall become more universal, to receive not only Grammars and Dictionaries, but to partake in its original compositions. Sir William Jones, whose learning is great, and whose genius is equal to his learning, has already laid the literary world under great obligations for some curious prose and some enchanting verse. Scaliger observes, that the Persian language is very beautiful, and is expressed in few words. It bears no analogy with the Hebrew; but, what is surprizing, it does with the German; having many words in common, as Father, Brother, Sister, and other similar ones. How are we to account for this?

Since this article has been printed, I have found a conjecture in Huet to solve this singular difficulty. Like all his conjectures, it displays not less admirable ingenuity than profound erudition.

It is observed, he says, that the German language bears a great affinity with the Persian, whether it be for its inflexions or for its terms. The cause of this conformity may be attributed to their common origin, which is from the Scythians. The Indians, who came from the same source, and whom the ancients called Indo Scythians, retained much of the same language; and we find, in the modern language of the Persians, those Indian terms which Ctesias has preserved. But the Medes formerly sent colonies into Germany. Is not this most probably the cause of this conformity?

A Tartarian Grammar has been given by Thevenot; and, by Abbé Bignon, a Chinese. I do not know if we have Grammars of these languages.

Of all the languages of Asia, there are none which merit our attention more than the Chinese and the Persian; for the arts and sciences have long and successfully been cultivated by these people. The following article affords some curious information concerning the Chinese language.

Editor’s Notes

Note that ‘the following article’ mentioned above can be found here.