Corruption Of Language And Writing

Lastly it is a significant fact, that among all the Italian stocks the development of the Greek alphabet primarily consisted in a process of corruption. Thus the -mediae- disappeared in the whole of the Etruscan dialects, while the Umbrians lost -"id:gamma" and -"id:d", the Samnites -"id:d", and the Romans -"id:gamma"; and among the latter -"id:d" also threatened to amalgamate with -"id:r". In like manner among the Etruscans -"id:o" and -"id:u" early coalesced, and even among the Latins we meet with a tendency to the same corruption. Nearly the converse occurred in the case of the sibilants; for while the Etruscan retained the three signs -"id:z", -"id:s", -"id:sh", and the Umbrian rejected the last but developed two new sibilants in its room, the Samnite and the Faliscan confined themselves like the Greek to -"id:s" and -"id:z", and the Roman of later times even to -"id:s" alone. It is plain that the more delicate distinctions of sound were duly felt by the introducers of the alphabet, men of culture and masters of two languages; but after the national writing Became wholly detached from the Hellenic mother-alphabet, the -mediae- and their -tenues- gradually came to coincide, and the sibilants and vowels were thrown into disorder--transpositions or rather destructions of sound, of which the first in particular is entirely foreign to the Greek. The destruction of the forms of flexion and derivation went hand in hand with this corruption of sounds. The cause of this barbarization was thus, upon the whole, simply the necessary process of corruption which is continuously eating away every language, where its progress is not stemmed by literature and reason; only in this case indications of what has elsewhere passed away without leaving a trace have been preserved in the writing of sounds. The circumstance that this barbarizing process affected the Etruscans more strongly than any other of the Italian stocks adds to the numerous proofs of their inferior capacity for culture. The fact on the other hand that, among the Italians, the Umbrians apparently were the most affected by a similar corruption of language, the Romans less so, the southern Sabellians least of all, probably finds its explanation, at least in part, in the more lively intercourse maintained by the former with the Etruscans, and by the latter with the Greeks.

Notes For Book I Chapter XIV

1. I. II. Indo-Germanic Culture

2. I. II. Indo-Germanic Culture

3. I. XII. Inland Commerce Of The Italians

4. I. II. Agriculture

5. I. XII. Priests

6. Originally both the -actus-, "riving," and its still more frequently occurring duplicate, the -jugerum-, "yoking," were, like the German "morgen," not measures of surface, but measures of labour; the latter denoting the day's work, the former the half-day's work, with reference to the sharp division of the day especially in Italy by the ploughman's rest at noon.

7. I. XIII. Etrusco-Attic And Latino-Sicilian Commerce

8. I. XII. Nature Of The Roman Gods

9. From the same cause all the festival-days are odd, as well those recurring every month (-kalendae- on the 1st. -nonae- on the 5th or 7th, -idus- on the 13th or 15th), as also, with but two exceptions, those of the 45 annual festivals mentioned above (xii. Oldest Table Of Roman Festivals). This is carried so far, that in the case of festivals of several days the intervening even days were dropped out, and so, for example, that of Carmentis was celebrated on Jan. 11, 15, that of the Grove-festival (-Lucaria-) on July 19, 21, and that of the Ghosts-festival on May 9, 11, and 13.

10. I. XIV. Decimal System

11. The history of the alphabet among the Hellenes turns essentially on the fact that--assuming the primitive alphabet of 23 letters, that is to say, the Phoenician alphabet vocalized and enlarged by the addition of the -"id:u" --proposals of very various kinds were made to supplement and improve it, and each of these proposals has a history of its own. The most important of these, which it is interesting to keep in view as bearing on the history of Italian writing, are the following:--I. The introduction of special signs for the sounds --"id:xi" --"id:phi" --"id:chi". This proposal is so old that all the Greek alphabets--with the single exception of that of the islands Thera, Melos, and Crete--and all alphabets derived from the Greek without exception, exhibit its influence. At first probably the aim was to append the signs --"id:CHI" = --"id:xi iota", --"id:PHI" = --"id:phi iota", and --"id:PSI"= --"id:chi iota" to the close of the alphabet, and in this shape it was adopted on the mainland of Hellas--with the exception of Athens and Corinth--and also among the Sicilian and Italian Greeks. The Greeks of Asia Minor on the other hand, and those of the islands of the Archipelago, and also the Corinthians on the mainland appear, when this proposal reached them, to have already had in use for the sound --"id:xi iota" the fifteenth sign of the Phoenician alphabet --"id:XI" (Samech); accordingly of the three new signs they adopted the --"id:PHI" for --"id:phi iota", but employed the --"id:CHI" not for --"id:xi iota", but for --"id:chi iota". The third sign originally invented for --"id:chi iota" was probably allowed in most instances to drop; only on the mainland of Asia Minor it was retained, but received the value of --"id:psi iota". The mode of writing adopted in Asia Minor was followed also by Athens; only in its case not merely the --"id:psi iota", but the --"id:xi iota" also, was not received and in their room the two consonants continued to be written as before.--II. Equally early, if not still earlier, an effort was made to obviate the confusion that might so easily occur between the forms for --"id:iota S" and for --"id:s E"; for all the Greek alphabets known to us bear traces of the endeavour to distinguish them otherwise and more precisely. Already in very early times two such proposals of change must have been made, each of which found a field for its diffusion.

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