« PreviousContinue »
DISSERTATION THE SECOND.
THE CAUSES TO WHICH THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES ARE IMPUTABLE ; THE ORIGIN OF THE CHANGES PRODUCED ON THE LANGUAGE AND THE IDIOM OF THE JEWS, AND THE PRINCIPAL DIFFI. CULTIES TO BE ENCOUNTERED IN TRANSLATING THE SACRED BOOKS:
THE CAUSES OF THE DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGES.
When we compare one tongue with another, if we enter critically into the genius and powers of cach, we shall find, that neither the only nor the chief difference is that which is most obvious, and consists in the sounds or words employed, the inflexions, the arrangement, and the construction. These may soon be learnt from a tolerable grammar, and are to be considered as affecting only the form of the language. There are others, which more intimately affecting its spirit, it requires a nicer discernment to distinguish. These serve much more to characterise, both the language, and the people who speak it. Indeed, the knowledge of one of these has a great effect in advancing the knowledge of the other. We may say, with the greatest justice,
that as, on the one hand, the real character of a nation will not be thoroughly understood by one who is a perfect stranger to their tongue ; so, on the other, the exact import of many of the words and combinations of words, made use of in the language, will never be perfectly comprehended by one who knows nothing of the character of the people, who is totally unacquainted with the history of their religion, law, polity, arts, manners, and customs. Whoever, therefore, would be a proficient in either kind, must be a student in both. It is evident, that the particulars enumerated, or whatever regards the re. ligion, the laws, the constitution, and the manners of a people, operate powerfully on their sentiments ; and these have a principal effect, first on the associations of ideas formed in their minds, in relation to character and to whatever is an object of abstract reflection ; secondly, on the formation of words, and combination of phrases, by which these associations are expressed. But this will be better understood from what follows.
2. THERE are certain words, in every language, to which there are other words perfectly correspond
in other languages. There are certain words, in every language, which but imperfectly correspond to any of the words of other languages. There are certain words, in every language, to which there is nothing, in some other languages, in any degree, correspondent. I shall exemplify these three classes in Greek, Latin, and English, which will sufficiently illustrate my meaning:
$ 3. In all languages, the words whereby the obvious productions of nature, and the plainest distinctions of genera and species known to the people are signified, correspond respectively to one another. Thus to the Greek words ήλιος, σεληνη, ορνις,
δεν. . δρον, αετος, αμπελος, λιθος, the Latin words, sol, luna, avis, arbor, aquila, vitis, lapis, and the English, sun, moon, bird, tree, eagle, vine, stone, are perfectly equivalent in signification; and we are sure that we can never mistake in rendering the Greek word ήλιος, , wherever it occurs, into Latin, by the word sol, and into English, by the word sun. The same thing holds true of the other terms in the three languages, taken severally, in the order in which I have placed them.
To this class we must add the names of natural and obvious relations, as πατηρ, μητηρ, υιος, θυγατηρ, αδελφος, αδελφη, to which the Latin words pater, mater, filius, filia, frater, soror, and the English words father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, perfectly correspond.
To the same class we ought also to assign those words whereby the most common and necessary productions of the mechanic arts are expressed : for though, in different countries, and distant ages, there are considerable differences in the fashion and appearance of their productions; we attend solely, in translating, to the principal uses which a piece of
work was intended to answer. Consequently, when in these we find an entire coincidence, we, without further examination, pronounce the names equivalent. Thus Olxos, vavs, xàivn, in Greek, and domus, navis, lectus, in Latin, answer sufficiently to house, ship, bed, in English, on account of the coincidence in use of the things signified, notwithstanding the less important differences in structure and workmanship.
These, however, are not entirely on the same footing with natural objects, in which there is everywhere, and in every age, a more perfect uniformity. The names Bußnov, liber, book, are in most cases suited to one another. But as the books of the ancients were in outward form and construction very different from ours; when we find any thing advanced concerning B43acov in Greek, or liber in Latin, with an evident allusion to the outward make, we know that the English word book is not a proper version. Thus the words ερανος απεχωρισθη ως βιβhlov Elliocquevov 34, if rendered,
“ heaven departed as a book that is rolled up,” would not be intelligible, though nothing conveys a more distinct image than the words in the original. Their books consisted of long scrolls, commonly of parchment, sewed or pasted together, and fastened at the ends to two rollers. Our translators properly therefore employed here the more general word scroll, which perfectly conveys the meaning. Again, the word BibaLov occurs in an application wherein the term book could not be rightly apprehended by a mere English reader: Βιβλιον γεγραμμενον εσωθεν και οπισθεν 15, in the common version, a book written within and on the back-side. To such a reader, the last term thus applied would be understood to mean the cover, which is not very fit for being written on, and could, besides, contain no more than might have been contained in one additional leaf, though the book had consisted of a thousand leaves. Now the long scrolls or books of the ancients were seldom written but on one side, here said to be sowJev, within, because that side was turned inwards in rolling. When any of these scrolls was written on both sides, it contained twice as much as if written in the usual way 36. The chief intention of the Prophet in mentioning this circumstance, must have been to signify that this volume was replete with information, and that its contents were not to be measured by its size. But notwithstanding the exceptions in a few particular cases, the names of the common productions of the most necessary arts, may be considered as so far at least corresponding to each other in most languages, as not to throw any difficulty worth mentioning in the way of a translator.
34 Rev. vi. 14.