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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/839

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815
THE MALAY LANGUAGE.

of a primitive man, a fisherman, a hunter, a careless tiller of the soil. As Maxwell says in his Manual of the Malay Language, the Sanskrit word hala (plow) marks a revolution in Malayan agriculture and, one may say further, Malayan civilization. What changed the methods of cultivating the soil, changed the people themselves. It is probable that this change came through contact with people to whom Sanskrit was a vernacular tongue, but whether through conquest by the sword or by religion is hard to tell. Perhaps it was by both. At any rate, it was deep and strong, and left a lasting impression on the language. Sanskrit names fastened on trees, plants, grain, fruits, household and agricultural implements, parts of the body, articles of commerce, animals, metals and minerals, time and its division and measurement, family relationships, abstract conceptions, warfare, and fundamental ideas of religion and superstition. Such a conquest must have been an early and tremendous one.

Strangely enough, Malay is almost a grammarless tongue. It has no proper article, and its substantives may serve equally well as verbs, being singular or plural, and entirely genderless. However, adjectives and a process of reduplication often indicate number, and gender words are added to nouns to make sex allusions plain. Whatever there is of declension is prepositional as in English, and possessives are formed by putting the adjectives after the noun as in Italian. Nouns are primitive and derivative, the derivations being formed by suffixes or prefixes, or both, and one's mastery of the language may be gauged by the idiomatic way in which he handles these Anhängsel. Adjectives are uninflected.

The use of the pronouns involves an extensive knowledge of Oriental etiquette—some being used by the natives among one another, some between Europeans and natives, some employed when an inferior addresses a superior and vice versa, some used only when the native addresses his prince or sovereign; and, last of all, some being distinctly literary, and never employed colloquially. Into this maze one must go undaunted, and trust to time and patience to smooth out difficulties.

Verbs, like nouns, are primitive and derivative, with some few auxiliaries and a good many particles which are suffixed or prefixed to indicate various states and conditions. These things are apt to be confusing, and when the student learns that a verb may be past, present, or future without any change in form, he does not know whether to congratulate himself or not. Prepositions, too, are many and expressive; conjunctions, some colloquial, some pedantic.

We now come to a peculiarity which Malay has in common with other Indo-Chinese languages—the "numeral co-efficients," as Maxwell calls them, which are always employed with a certain class of