Among the vowel sounds the diphthongs in Latin, and in the northern dialects generally, appear very much destroyed, whereas in the southern Italian dialects they have suffered little; and connected with this is the fact, that in composition the Roman weakens the radical vowel otherwise so strictly preserved,--a modification which does not take place in the kindred group of languages. The genitive of words in -a is in this group as among the Greeks -as, among the Romans in the matured language -ae; that of words in -us is in the Samnite -eis, in the Umbrian -es, among the Romans -ei; the locative disappeared more and more from the language of the latter, while it continued in full use in the other Italian dialects; the dative plural in -bus is extant only in Latin. The Umbro-Samnite infinitive in -um is foreign to the Romans; while the Osco-Umbrian future formed from the root -es after the Greek fashion (-her-est- like --leg-so--) has almost, perhaps altogether, disappeared in Latin, and its place is supplied by the optative of the simple verb or by analogous formations from -fuo-(-amabo-). In many of these instances, however--in the forms of the cases, for example--the differences only exist in the two languages when fully formed, while at the outset they coincide. It thus appears that, while the Italian language holds an independent position by the side of the Greek, the Latin dialect within it bears a relation to the Umbro-Samnite somewhat similar to that of the Ionic to the Doric; and the differences of the Oscan and Umbrian and kindred dialects may be compared with the differences between the Dorism of Sicily and the Dorism of Sparta.
Each of these linguistic phenomena is the result and the attestation of an historical event. With perfect certainty they guide us to the conclusion, that from the common cradle of peoples and languages there issued a stock which embraced in common the ancestors of the Greeks and the Italians; that from this, at a subsequent period, the Italians branched off; and that these again divided into the western and eastern stocks, while at a still later date the eastern became subdivided into Umbrians and Oscans.
When and where these separations took place, language of course cannot tell; and scarce may adventurous thought attempt to grope its conjectural way along the course of those revolutions, the earliest of which undoubtedly took place long before that migration which brought the ancestors of the Italians across the Apennines. On the other hand the comparison of languages, when conducted with accuracy and caution, may give us an approximate idea of the degree of culture which the people had reached when these separations took place, and so furnish us with the beginnings of history, which is nothing but the development of civilization. For language, especially in the period of its formation, is the true image and organ of the degree of civilization attained; its archives preserve evidence of the great revolutions in arts and in manners, and from its records the future will not fail to draw information as to those times regarding which the voice of direct tradition is dumb.
During the period when the Indo-Germanic nations which are now separated still formed one stock speaking the same language, they attained a certain stage of culture, and they had a vocabulary corresponding to it. This vocabulary the several nations carried along with them, in its conventionally established use, as a common dowry and a foundation for further structures of their own. In it we find not merely the simplest terms denoting existence, actions, perceptions, such as -sum-, -do-, -pater-, the original echo of the impression which the external world made on the mind of man, but also a number of words indicative of culture (not only as respects their roots, but in a form stamped upon them by custom) which are the common property of the Indo-Germanic family, and which cannot be explained either on the principle of an uniform development in the several languages, or on the supposition of their having subsequently borrowed one from another. In this way we possess evidence of the development of pastoral life at that remote epoch in the unalterably fixed names of domestic animals; the Sanscrit -gaus- is the Latin -bos-, the Greek --bous--; Sanscrit -avis- is the Latin -ovis-, Greek --ois--; Sanscrit -asvas-, Latin -equus-, Greek --ippos--; Sanscrit -hansas-, Latin -anser-, Greek --chein--; Sanscrit -atis-, Latin -anas-, Greek --neissa--; in like manner -pecus-, -sus-, -porcus-, -taurus-, -canis-, are Sanscrit words. Even at this remote period accordingly the stock, on which from the days of Homer down to our own time the intellectual development of mankind has been dependent, had already advanced beyond the lowest stage of civilization, the hunting and fishing epoch, and had attained at least comparative fixity of abode. On the other hand, we have as yet no certain proofs of the existence of agriculture at this period. Language rather favours the negative view. Of the Latin-Greek names of grain none occurs in Sanscrit with the single exception of --zea--, which philologically represents the Sanscrit -yavas-, but denotes in the Indian barley, in Greek spelt. It must indeed be granted that this diversity in the names of cultivated plants, which so strongly contrasts with the essential agreement in the appellations of domestic animals, does not absolutely preclude the supposition of a common original agriculture. In the circumstances of primitive times transport and acclimatizing are more difficult in the case of plants than of animals; and the cultivation of rice among the Indians, that of wheat and spelt among the Greeks and Romans, and that of rye and oats among the Germans and Celts, may all be traceable to a common system of primitive tillage. On the other hand the name of one cereal common to the Greeks and Indians only proves, at the most, that before the separation of the stocks they gathered and ate the grains of barley and spelt growing wild in Mesopotamia,(3) not that they already cultivated grain.