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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/357

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RACE AND LANGUAGE.

The Iroquois, Algonkins, and Mpongwes, we are reminded, are barbarous peoples, and can only have barbarous languages; which is about as philosophical as it would be to affirm that barbarous tribes must necessarily have barbarous complexions, barbarous hair, and barbarous lungs. Careful comparison of all the known facts will show that the structure and capabilities of a language depend entirely on the natural capacity of the people with whom it originated, and not at all upon their degree of culture. Are we to forget that our own Teutonic and Celtic ancestors were barbarians?

Another difficulty, and perhaps the greatest which has stood in the way of the linguistic classification, has been that wbich has arisen from the mixture of races. The negroes of the Southern States and of the West Indies speak not African, but Indo-European languages. Berbers in North Africa speak Arabic. Iberians in Spain speak a Latin tongue. Black and woolly-baired tribes in Melanesia speak Malaisian dialects. Throughout the globe these transfusions and comminglings of language and race have been going on for ages. How, then, can we employ as a means of distinction an element, like the linguistic, which is continually varying?

The answer to this objection is plain and conclusive. It is precisely the same answer that a chemist (to revert to our former comparison) would give to a similar objection. "How can your pretended elements," be might be asked, "be made the foundation of a science, when they are constantly occurring in new combinations and strange forms, where they can not be recognized? Your oxygen and hydrogen gases, put together, become a liquid in which no quality of either can be traced. Your carbon is at one time a diamond, and at another time a coal. Do you really mean to offer these constantly-varying substances as the first elements and bases of a science?" "Certainly I do," he would reply; "and it is in these very combinations and changes of form that a careful analysis has found the clearest evidences and the true value of our science."

Such is exactly the answer of the ethnologist. Analyze carefully the dialects, nominally English, French, or Spanish, which are spoken by the negro populations of America, and we find in them the best possible evidence of the origin of the people who speak them. We find the European words presented in a corrupt state, broken, distorted, often hardly recognizable, the pronunciation strange, the grammar peculiar. Looking still more carefully, we find many words of African origin scattered through the speech. If history were silent, these facts alone would satisfy us that there is here a combination of languages, of which we could detect the various origins. A further experience would show us that in every such case, where a mixture of language exists, there has been invariably a mixture of blood. Whenever a negro or Indian community speaks a dialect which is mainly English or French or Spanish, we may be certain that there is in that com-