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supposition contrary to the nature of language and opposed to reason itself. My conviction is, the words in their original forms did convey the import they were used for at the time, but in the course of use, and through the mutability peculiar to our language, those forms have been confounded with others, of a similar or nearly similar pronunciation, which have subsequently found their way into the tongue and supplanted them.
It will not be denied, I suppose, that English and Anglo-Saxon are, at least, sister-languages, and if so, as the offspring of a same parent, at one stage of existence an identical language. And if we believe (which I do) the Anglo-Saxon and the LowSaxon (still surviving, in the main, in what we now call the Dutch) were once the same language, our own must at one period have been as these then were, also the same language.
It is to that period of our tongue, I have endeavoured to retrace the original form of the words which I believe to have then duly conveyed the sense of the phrases of the above category. By applying the sound of the words which constitute the modern phrase to others which it fitted in the Low-Saxon stage of our language, I have always found a sense, corresponding with that conveyed by the form under which they are now disguised, to be the result of the experiment. The following pages contain the proofs of this test. But to come at a due conclusion by such test, sound, not letter, is to
be mainly relied on; the ear is to be consulted rather than the eye. And since sound must have been the prior conveyance of meaning, it may be fairly taken as a truer test of the original import of words than its imperfect and subordinate substitute, letter.
It is not meant, by this cursory Essay, to offer a development of all the expressions of the nature here alluded to, but merely of such as have occured to my mind, subsequently to this view of their rise. These have been taken as they have presented themselves to my memory, and have not been selected for the sake of proving my own view of them, to the exclusion of others which might not answer such purpose. And I am convinced there is not one phrase of the above category, which may not be accounted for in the same way those which appear in this Essay have been.
Having no recorded guide for the popular form of our tongue at the period to which the following specimens are retraced, I have adopted the spelling of that of its nearest surviving representative, the Dutch; and no words have been employed which are not justified by written authorities in that language. For the mode of spelling, Kiliaan has been chiefly consulted, sometimes Bilderdijk. And, I suspect, few languages can produce a rival to either in his separate department.
If the clew here offered is trustworthy, it may lead to a better handling of the etymology of
our language, and rescue that science from the obloquy it too justly labours under in regard to the English.
In reading the following specimens of the original forms, the pronunciation of the modern Dutch should be adhered to, and each word pronounced, at least internally, in order to give the clew of sound a fair trial.
The ch and gh, to be sounded as k. A, broad, E, as a in mate, late, &c.; except when it is the terminal letter of the noun, and then it has scarcely any sound any more than with us. The i as e, ij as ee. U as o in do. Au as o. B, p, v, f, interchange in sound. His treated as no letter. H and ƒ interchange at times as aspirates. D and t are used indifferently, and sometimes represent our th. Sch is sometimes sound k at others sh.
By thema, is meant the root-syllable, from which, not only the word in question springs, but also the whole stock of sounds to which such word belongs. By rootword, is meant the word by which the term in question has been immediately produced.
HAVING stated the principle upon which I believe the phrases and terms of our language, belonging to the category explained in the above introductory remarks to the first edition of this Essay, are to be accounted for, and given such instances as had then occurred to me, little is left me to add in regard to the subject.
While reviewing the phrases and terms contained in that edition of this Essay for the purpose of the present, I found the adopted test of that principle true to its standard, and its evidence more decisive in proportion as I reduced what I hold to be the travestied form, to a closer resemblance, in sound and measure of syllables, with that which I deemed the original phrase or term. The nearer the mutual likeness in those respects, the clearer and more indisputable the identity of the two; judging by the comparison of the import in which we now use the travesties, with that conveyed by the original
To admit the preponderance of letters, in the import of words, over that of sound, would be to constitute the Primer the principle of human communication and the amalgamator of the moral and physical constitution of speech, instead of mind and appropriate organs.
Whether, by an increased strictness in the application of the test I have proposed for the truth of the principle already suggested, I have here succeeded in a more direct revival of the true forms of that portion of the phrases and terms contained in the prior publication, or not, it is for others to decide; always premising, that every sentence of this Essay is offered simply as a proposition to the judgment of the reader, and not laid down as an axiom to be adopted in disregard of it. If the view I have presented of the sources of such phrases and terms is the true one, the former etymological basis of the lexicography of our language vanishes-to be replaced by a sounder one.
In stating our language to have been, at a former period, identical with the Low-Saxon, and that that language still survived, as to the main, in what we now term Dutch (the ellipsis of Low-Dutch, as Nederduitsch or, more definitely, Nedersachsisch or Platduitsch; Dutch being as Teutsch, Deutsch, Deudisch), I did not imagine such proposition to be either new or startling to any one who had turned his attention to the subject; having always been aware that with the soundest philologists of