Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/511

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LANGUAGES OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS

he has always been compelled, even in Europe and Asia, to call in the aid of language, and sometimes with the most fruitful results.

Starting, for instance, with our own language, English, the tongues nearest of kin to it are Dutch, German and Scandinavian. Next in closeness of relationship are the various Romance languages, evolved from the decay of ancient Latin—such as French, Italian and Spanish. Still more different, but yet with sufficient similarities to make relationship and ultimate common origin absolutely certain, are Russian and the other Slavic languages, Greek, Armenian, Persian and the various Hindu dialects. The Englishmen who first heard Hindu speech certainly did not suspect that the languages of these dusky people were similar to their own, and that a direct connection or community of origin must at one time have existed between the Englishman and the Hindu. Yet philology has shown such to be a fact, which is now a matter of common knowledge, the entire group of languages spoken from England to India being known as the Indo-European family or Aryan stock.

When a student of Hebrew examines Arabic, it is very quickly evident that the languages have much in common. The speech of the ancient Phoenicians, Syrians and Babylonians, and of the modern Abyssinians, is also similar. This group of languages constitutes what is called the Semitic family. Every dialect within the family possesses obvious similarities to every other Semitic dialect, just as all Aryan languages possess certain words and features among themselves. But no Aryan language has any resemblance to or connection with any Semitic language. It is therefore clear that the ancestors of all the Semitic-speaking nations must have had, at some far distant time, a single common origin, and that at this period they were entirely separate and distinct from the progenitors of the peoples that belong to the Aryan family.

The Turkish language is entirely unconnected with either Aryan or Semitic and belongs to a stock of its own. We know from history that the Turks are recent immigrants in Europe and that they came not very long ago, as the historian reckons, from central Asia. But if the Turkish migrations and invasions had taken place 2,000 years earlier than was the case, we should in all likelihood have had no historical record of the fact, and the historian would erroneously classify the Turks as related to the neighboring Aryan nations—unless he called upon philology to aid him.

It has often been asserted that languages are readily learned and unlearned, and that races put them on and off as a man dons or doffs a garment. But in reality there is probably nothing, not even physical type, that is as permanent as a people's speech.

Thus, even to-day Breton, a pure Celtic speech, maintains itself in