Pierre Besnier.

A Philosophicall Essay for the Reunion of the Languages Or, The Art of Knowing All by the Mastery of One online

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all that regard the present subject, which hath no farther a probability
then what is given it from such a carefull mannagement, that shall suffer
no pass from one extreame to the other without touching upon that mean
which is as it were the time of communication between both, for it is from
this chain of words and sequel of alterations that all the suitablenesse,
and likelyhood of this present method principally depends.

Although in reality there is no reason to doubt but that the French is a
corruption of the Latine, I could not however very easily perswade my selfe
that the word _dechoir_ should derive its selfe from _cadere_ of the
Latines, if I did not perceive all its severall and distinct conveiances
through the Alembic. They that first corrupted the Language of the _Romans_
instead of _cadere_ made use of _cader_, as the Italians do to this day,
who commonly cut off the final vowels where they obseve them to follow
Liquids. They that came after proceeded yet farther in their retrenchment,
and from _cader_ form'd _caer_, as the Spaniards now use it, by taking away
the letter _d_ according to their ordinary custome, when it is seated in
the middle of words. There are another sort of people yet more sturdy and
blunt in their formes of speech, who would say _Car_ or _Ker_ by a
contraction of the two Vowels into one, as is observable among the Peasants
of France, and those of Picardy, who retain very much of Antiquity, which
seems to be agreeable with the manner of speech among the Ancient French,
who delighted to shorten and contract their words as much as possible, that
they might make up a Language altogether as free as their humour, some of
the most remote of these would instead of _Ker_ pronounce _Cher_ by a
change of that firm and surly letter into one more easy and soft as we yet
find it Customary in the remains of some of the Ancient Romans, and then
after all by the turn of a Vowel into a Dipthong, from _Cher_ is form'd
_Choir_, which now begins to be out of date altho its Composit _dechoir_ be
still of plausible and commendable use. Thus 'tis that _Cadere_, _Cader_,
_Caer_, _Car_, _Ker_, _Cher_, _Choir_, and _Dechoir_ make up but one intire
chain and connexion, yet all to very little purpose if any one of the
degrees by chance should have been wanting.

For this reason altho I consider every Language in its greatest perfection,
yet for clearing its originall in rendring this sequel of words more open
and palpable I have been oblidg'd to make numerous reflections upon the
older forms of speech as well as Orthographie, by which a better discovery
may be made of all the varieties that occure in pronunciation, as also of
the severall medlies and Gibrish of the Provinces of Each Empire that speak
the same Language, but most of them in a singular fashion.

So that it is most certain that that Language which is most quaint and
polite is very often the lesse pure and most debaucht, if we make an æquall
judgment from its originall which is the most unquestionable rule: Upon
which account the dialects of Province, Gascogne, Languedoc, and that which
is known by the name of the Antient Gauls is infinitely lesse alter'd and
distanc't from its original, then the Languages of the Court and Nobility,
who take a pleasure in receding from the Latin: Those of Lombardy and
Naples are for the most part lesse corrupt than these of Siena and
Florence; Altho the Spaniards have a saying among them, that the Catalonian
and that of Arragon is commonly more pure then the Castilian that is more
Pompous. And not to spare the French more then the Spaniard, if they have
reason to boast their Language to be the most refin'd and Polite of the
world, yet their Neighbours might justly returne upon them, that of all the
Dialects of the Latin, there is none more degenerate than theirs, forasmuch
as its quaintness ariseth from its sweetnesse, so that it is not attainable
without a strange descent from its principle. Thus _le Capo_ of the
Italians, _le Cabo_, of the Spaniards, _le Cap_, of the old French and _le
Kef_ of Picardy are all variously alterd from _Caput_ of the Latins, but
none so much as _le Chef_ of the French, which notwithstanding claims the
same Originall.

But this is not all; as the resemblance and connexion of the Languages is
not alwaies the same but depends more or lesse upon the communication of
the Nations that speak them, So it's not necessary that this method should
be invariable, it must admitt of alteration with its subjects, and
accomodate it selfe to the diversity of Tongues.

There is much more of Art requir'd to reduce those which only carry a
resemblance in their words, and abundantly lesse for those which withall
admitt of an analogie in inflexion, And Since the same words which allow of
this accord may have it in severall distinct manners they are not all (if I
may be permitted to say so) neither of Kin, nor alliance in the same
degree; their relation is sometimes nearer, Sometimes at a greater
distance, for we may by way of analogie discours at the same rate of the
genealogie of words as we do of the degrees of consanguinity; for if the
one sort be rang'd under the same Line either direct or Collaterall, the
others admitt of a little deflection and do not exactly corespond; some are
allied in the first, some in the 2d degree, some in advancing from the
branches to the stock, others in a descent from that to the branches, in a
word this accord is neither always immediate nor at all directly opposite.

I add besides that as there are, some allied two or three ways and that
since the first division have contracted new and closer relations, so I
confesse there are others that content themselves with their Originall
reference, and that have scarce any other agreement among them than what
depends upon the common tie and union that they have with their first
principle, which in reallity is no more then this famous Mother Tongue of
which some make a mystery without well understanding what they say: For
altho it hath subsisted in its selfe before the first confusion, yet we
must not think of discoursing of it at the same rate, nor put our minds
upon the harasse of receiving it.

'Tis no more now as some fondly imagaine a particular and distinct Language
from others, so that there is but one way to regain it and reestablish it
at least so far as is necessary for a compleat execution of my designe, and
that is to make a judicious choice of all that is primitive and most simple
among the Remains of the antient Language either by considering the first
combinations of sounds or by a regard to the earnest ideas of the mind,
that were apply'd to these sounds; to the end that we may referr thither by
a sequel, all the essentiall and fundamentall words of each Language as to
their fountaine; which admiting of divisions, runnes now in lesser streams
which assume the names of Originalls; because they have their rise from
that grand Source where the first inhabitants of the world ingrost all. So
that it may be truly said of this Mother Tongue that it is in no sense a
part as being really every where either in sums of its divisions or in its
effects and dependances something like your vertues of the elements and the
originall seeds of things, that Subsist not of themselves but in the
mixtures that compose them.

I shall possibly be wonderd at, that being able to accomplish all by this
single method, I have not in the interim recours to it, when all other ways
prove unserviceable; But after all, tho this method be perhaps more
ingenuous and of a more profound speculation, it is not however the most
naturall and compendious, be it never so refind'd or accomodate to my
designe, and I hardly understand the reason why any man should affect a
crooked and uncouth road to active at his purpose when the streight lyes
before him.

_The second part of the desine._

Comparison alone is not (in the opinion of some) sufficient to accomplish
the present intention, however accurate it be; if it want the supports of
_reason_, it may rationally be suspected for being more airy then solid,
and without injustice the same character may be given to some of those
unusuall Chances that sometimes produce the most surprizing effects.
Besides altho the vivacity and force of imagination be easily admitted into
the relations of the Languages, and leaves there forcible impressions, yet
it neither warrants certitude, nor dislodgeth confusion; 'tis reason alone
that establisheth the mind in its cognizances, and credits all its
conceptions with order, tis that alone which perfects the combination of
all their relations and agreements according to the naturall connexion
which they have with the same principles on which they depend in Common.

That which seems to be of greatest moment is that the principles be
plausible and rationall and such as man may lay a stress on without
suspicion or fear, and this is that which in a singular manner the
principles of this Art challenge to themselves, being in my opinion
infinitely more sensible then those which Philosophy proposeth under the
characters of uncontroleable truths; I have therefore taken them all from
the very natures of the subject of which I am treating _viz_: from the
deflections and different regards under which the consideration of words
may be manag'd; wch may last of all serve for an assurance, that chance
hath not all that Empire and authority, that is given it over the
Languages; and that it would be no great difficulty to make it appear, that
in the Languages themselves there are well fram'd and solid reasons, for
every thing that appears otherwise, and hath been hitherto suppos'd to be
the bare effect of Caprice.

It may be perceiv'd by the very effects themselves that it will make up a
science fully demonstrative, and back't with such consequences, as may very
well passe for compleat models in this kind: And above all the scope of its
principles infinitely shortens the way without being at all oblig'd to make
a descent to a thousand tædious and wearisome differences; which appear
much better, and in a more elegant manner in their principles then in
themselves, which is an incouragement for me to hope that a Language for
the acquest of which we have formerly by a close application numbred
severall years, will by this means be made the divertisement of some hours,
or at most but some few days.

Words being in the opinion of all men but significant sounds, they may be
taken either as they are _Natural sounds_, or _arbitrary signs_, I would
say, either as they are the proper effect of the motion of our organs, or
as the lively representation of the thought of our minds. And since they
make their passes from one Language to another they cannot well admit of
any alteration in this their transit but in three respects; for whatsoever
change be suppos'd it will necessarily fall out, either in the _sounds
themselves_ that compose the words, or in _their significations_, or in
their _different modifications_, and its from these three distinct regards
that the generall principles have their rise, upon which I have fastn'd
this new Systime of the Philosophie of the Languages.

That I may make my procedure more justificable and artificiall, I examine
with all exactnesse the different organs of the voice, the various motions
of the muscles belonging to these organs, and the admirable concent and
accord of those motions; and these I make use of to demonstratively
explaine the precise number of all the simple sounds, that enter into the
composition of the Languages, to discover the nature and proper
pronunciation of these sounds, and by consequence to disclose their
nearnesse and affinity, the resemblances of some, and the disproportion of
others, their accord and opposition, their Sympathy and Antipathy, in a
word, all their combinations and mixtures, their divisions and
distinctions, their orders and severall degrees. From whence I conclude
that all the astonishing and surprizing depravations and Corruptions that
are met withall in the words that one Language borrows from another, in
changing or in transposing, in adding or retrenching, have their basis in
nature; which never attempts any thing but to the purpose, and with a
sollicitous care, when to us it appears to have acted with an open and
observable neglect.

We may Study Nature upon the Latine it selfe which may serve as well for a
model as it doth for a principle; It will in the first place acquaint us
that the Vowels are almost accounted for nothing, for altho there are some
of them that admitt of easie changes among themselves according as they are
more open or reserv'd, we know neverthelesse that there are none of them
but what may be absolutely shifted into the place of another of what kind
soever, either immediately, or by succession and degrees. For a finall
confirmation of this we have no more to doe but to make an easie comparison
of the different derivative of the same word, the reference of these three
_Cepa_; _incipio_ and _occupo_, to the Verb _Capio_ may serve for an
instance, if we shall but grant the truth of this principle which the
orientalists have always suppos'd, who form the greatest part of their
words from the sole change of their Vowels.

The same is not altogether allowable in relation to the Consonants, where
we must not admitt indifferently all sorts of changes; the sole affinity of
the Organs is that which must regulate almost all their varieties: the
Labiall letters easily supplant one another but the Dentall or Linguall
with more difficulty succeed them as being not of the same order; For as
these consonants, M. B. P. V. F. make neer the same sound, which is
modified by the divers force of the Air opening the lips after severall
forms. So the Letters D. T. Z. S. ought to make an order by themselves,
having a particular relation to the point of the tongue, which only by
touching upon the teeth in various manners frames their pronunciation.

But it is not a single and easie reflexion, that can absolutely determine
whether two letters have resemblance and proportion, because there are some
of them that being made up of the movements of severall organs, maybe
differently alter'd according to their various resemblances, so the letter
H. carrys not only the resemblance of a gutturall as it is pronounc'd by
the assistance of the muscles of the throat, but also as an Aspiration
besides the regard it hath to the whispers of the tongue, and the 6.
Aspirates of the Lips, Teeth, and Palate. However if the precipitance or
forwardnesse of any, hath by chance brought into use, other methods of
altering sounds, as they have not so certain a foundation in reason, so
neither can they be receiv'd within the Compas of this Art, at least being
not establisht by a regular and constant analogie.

From the sound of words, I passe to their _signification_, which in the
same dialect may be call'd the soul of a word, as the sound is its body; to
expresse it in other terms, then what seem to rellish the dry and
unpleasant humour of the Pedant or Grammarian; I suppose that words being
the expressions of our thoughts, and our thoughts the representations of
objects, the different significations that are given to words, principally
depend upon the various conceptions, that every Nation frames of the same
objects, agreeable to what seems most neerly to concern it.

This ingageth me to explaine the intire sequel, and naturall dependances of
our Ideas, and the manner of their forming; of which the world hath yet
receiv'd a very imperfect account. In order to this, you may understand
what those objects are, of which we have proper Ideas, and what those are
which we conceive by forreigne images, and that we do not name but in
figurative terms; whence ariseth that alliance and resemblance of our
Ideas, and why the greatest share of our words if refer'd to their first
originall, are but metaphors which represent objects to us in such terms as
are proper to another, with which it hath some agreement, or neere
relation, and withall what are the grand principles of metaphors; either of
Attribution or Proportion, that do not only make op the beauty, but almost
the intire body of the Language.

Our Ancestors that gave no names to things, but by a directing prudence,
purposing to distinguish the works of Nature and Art, had an especiall
regard to the naturall resemblance they had with any thing that was most
known to them, and that was already distinguisht by its character, or to
any one of their most prevailing properties, or to the principall action
that distinguisht them from other beings. They made use of almost the same
artifice, to impose names upon things more expressive of their properties,
by considering them only with reference to their operations, of which they
were the immediate principles. As for the operations, themselves being not
æqually knowne, nor æqually obvious to sense they plac't the same
subordination in the terms they made use of to represent them, that Nature
hath establisht in our apprehensions and cognisances.

There being therefore nothing in the world of which they could have fram'd
a more distinct Idea, then of the _motion_ of bodies; which is obvious to
all the senses, we must not wonder if considering Locall motion as the
first and principall object of their knowledge, they afterwards gave no
names to the Operations of each being, but such as seem'd to express some
relation either to motion in generall, or to its different species, or to
some one of its dependances such as are place, figure, situation,
extention, Union and seperation, in a word to all the resemblances and
agreements that in any way or kind relye upon motion. For if Modern
Philosophy that Studies Nature by a closer application then formerly,
pretend to a clear and evident explication of Naturall effects in the
referring them all to the _Sole movement of matter_ as their true cause;
there is much more reason that in order to the giveing an account of all
that is to this day past among the Languages, we should have recours to
such terms as are expressive of motion, since it is not to be doubted but
that all others that are reducible, may be referr'd hither as to the first
principle of their signfication.

Besides motion is allow'd a far greater Scope and extent among the
Languages then in Nature for 'tis to that we referr our most refin'd and
spirituall conceptions I mean such as we frame of the operations of our
souls and the propensions of our wills, So when we say that the mind or
understanding applyes it self to think, to conceive, to discours, to
explaine, to disimbroile, to disingage a businesse, to discover a truth;
when we talke of troubles, aversions, of hurries and consternations of the
soul, to expresse such actions as are most remote from sense, we make use
of such Images as are corporeall in their first originall, although for the
most part they have lost their proper significance to assume another that
is purely figurative.

'Tis by their Principles I reduce to naturall reason all imaginable ways by
which words alter their primitive signification to imbrace another, either
more inlarg'd or reserv'd, or never so little diversifi'd either in
Proportion or Alliance; for tis no easie matter for words to travell from
one Country to another without meeting with the same casualties, that use
to befall forreign Plants which, are seldome remov'd into a new soile, but
degenerate and either lose some of their Native virtue, or acquire some
new. But most people having met wich this generally proposall, to expresse
at first appearance, what they think with as little trouble as is possible,
it thence falls out that to ingrosse a great deal of sense in a few words,
they scarce allow enough precisely to marke out the simple ideas of their
minds, fitted out to all their severall resemblances, they that are most
simple in themselves, are commonly compounds in their significations,
neither is there any one of the least considerable, but what is diversify'd
in each Language by a thousand different modifications.

From thence proceed all the methods of inflexion, derivation, and
composition that give being to the most subtle kind of Sophistry; all the
species and forms of Nouns, Verbs, and particles that make up the oeconomy
of a Language, together withall diversity of Numbers, Genders, Cases,
tenses, Modes, and Persons which have more of Art than at first sight is
imagin'd, for the Custome of Nations hath not only authoriz'd these
inventions to vary the Cadence of words, but with an admirable facility to
expresse all the deflexions, by which an Idea of the same object may be
represented to our conceptions according as it admitts of a mixture of
resemblances, which it may have either to its effects or Causes, or as it
is related to the severall estates, wherein it subsists, to the differences
of time or place, and to all the circumstances that may accompany it,
either within or without us. As the more sensible differences of the
Languages principally consist in all these modifications; so one of the
greatest secrets of this Art is to know how choisly to select and
distinguish, both in our ideas and in the words that expresse them, that
which is principall and essentiall from what is purely accessory, subtly to
difference the first ideas from the second, the second from the third, the
simple from the Compound, the primitive and Originall signification from
its dependences and references, its modifications and divers restrictions,
in one word (if I may so expresse it) not to confound the habit with the
person. For in a manner these modifications are the same words, that the
habit is to the body; this new dresse that is given to forreign words to
fitt them up alamode to the Country, for the most part time so disfigures
them and renders them so obscure, that they impose as well upon our eyes as
ears, and passe for origalls and Natives of the Country, although in
reality they are borrow'd from our Neighbourhood, and sometime from beyond
the seas.

To make a secure judgement therefore of the originall, there remains
nothing but to consider them all, naked and intirely disspoil'd of all that
trompery that disguis'd them; and that this may be done with more safety we
must follow them step by step in their travels, and espie out the different
ranges they have taken and the habits they have shifted, to come thus
vizarded and masqued to us.

These are the most inlarg'd principles and infallible ways by which I
discover this secret and misterious accord of the Languages which without
doubt will appear so much the more admirable, as haveing been never to this
hour been believ'd that they had any such close tie or relation: But these
principles may be apply'd severall ways, and therefore least they should
continue undermin'd, I make it appear by the sequel, what in particular
must be done in each Language in conformity to its genius and proper
Character. This is that which obligeth me to make an exact inquirie into
the nature of those Languages I pretend to reduce, I do not content my
selfe infallibly to take my draught either in the generall consent of
nations, which are as often cheated in their Ideas they have of the
Language of each Nation as they are commonly in its manners, or from the
particular sentiments of the more knowing or Learned, who without any
preoccupation of mind have studied their own Native Language with more then
ordinary care. But to make all yet more certain, I principally form my
examinations from the very history of the Languages, which is the most
æquall rule we can take our measures from, in relation to the present

In order to this, 'tis necessary that we make reflexions upon the first
beginnings of each Nation, and that from other memoires then such with
which we are for the most part furnish't by the Criticks, and seriously to
examine the continuall comerce it hath had with the most considerable of
its neighbours, the wars, feuds and Leagues of its Governours with other
Princes, the irruptions and invasions of Conquering Nations, that have
corrupted its Language as they ingrost its spoils, the frequent Colonies
that Conquerors have sent thither besides its voyages at Sea, and its
traffick, with the most remote plantations, These are the more immediate
causes of this confusion and mixture.

It may perhaps withall be no mean pleasure to see the basis of each
Language distinguisht from the changes and accessions of time or
revolutions of State, what every Nation hath contributed of its owne to


Online LibraryPierre BesnierA Philosophicall Essay for the Reunion of the Languages Or, The Art of Knowing All by the Mastery of One → online text (page 2 of 3)