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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/838

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it also has the advantage of being a nappy one. And where contentment dwells, where honesty prevails, where the home is a stronghold, there are culture and civilization, even though they may not coincide with our own.

The Malays are not barbarians, and their language by its grace and adaptability has shown its right to be. To-day it is the mother tongue of more than forty millions of people, and the lingua franca of Chinamen, Hindus, European, and natives. It is spoken from Madagascar to the distant islands of the Pacific, and from the Philippines to Australia. With it one can barter in Celebes and sell in Java; converse with a sultan in Sumatra or a Spaniard in Manila. Moreover, it is soft and melodious, rich in expression, poetical in idiom, and simple in structure—a language almost without grammar and yet of immense vocabulary, with subtle distinctions and fine gradations of thought and meaning; a language that sounds in one's ears long after Tanah Malayu and the coral islands and the jungle strand have sunk into hazy recollection, just as they once dropped out of sight behind one's departing ship.

Malay is written in the Arabic character, which was adopted with Mohammedanism, probably in the thirteenth century. Anciently, the Malays used a writing of their own, but it is not yet clearly settled what it was. There are now thirty-four characters employed, each varying in form, according as it is isolated, final, medial, or initial. Naturally, the Arabic influence over the language has been a marked one; the priest who dictates in the religion of a people is a molder and shaper of language. We have only to recall the Catholic Church and the influence of the Latin tongue in the mouths of her priests to know that this is so. Many Arabic words and phrases have been adopted, but more in the language of literature than in that of everyday speech. A large number of expressions of court and royalty, and terms of law and religion, are Arabic; also the names of months, days, and many articles of commerce and trade; nevertheless, the language of common speech is still Malay.

Another influence, also, has been felt in the Malay—that of the Sanskrit language. The presence of many Sanskrit words has caused some very ingenious theories to be constructed in proof that the Malays were of Indian origin, and such word fragments the survival of the primitive tongue. Such theories, however, have not stood the test of philology, and the fact still remains that the language is essentially unique, with an origin lost in the darkness of remote antiquity. However, Sanskrit influence has been much greater, and has penetrated much deeper into the elemental structure of the language than the Arabic. In fact, the aboriginal language, before it felt the animating spirit of the Aryan tongue, must have been a barren one, the language