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Title: A Philosophicall Essay for the Reunion of the Languages - Or, The Art of Knowing All by the Mastery of One
Author: Besnier, Pierre
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Philosophicall Essay for the Reunion of the Languages - Or, The Art of Knowing All by the Mastery of One" ***

A Philosophicall ESSAY for the REUNION OF THE



the Art of Knowing all by the Mastery of one.

OXFORD Printed by HEN: HALL for JAMES GOOD. 1675.

The Printer to the


_Meeting by chance with this ingenuous offer, I thought it might not be
improper since I found it in another dresse, to make it speak another
Language too, which among the most creditable of Europe, hath not desisted
from its claim to Antiquity: There are very few Nations but have, at
sometime or other, laid in their pretences to a supremacy for their
Language, and have boasted an assistance from unsuspected reason and
Authority: But however variously the controversie hath been manag'd, the
modesty, and ingenuity of this Author hath rendred, his designe more
plausible, for having without any private regard (in such cases most usuall
to the spruce and flourishing Air of his owne Native tongue) made that
noble Language of the Romans the Basis of his project; And finding him
throughout altogether free from prejudice and partiality, I thought an
anteview of so excellent and usefull, a designe would not be unacceptable
to the more ingenious part of the world, and that I ought not to neglect so
faire an opportunity of recommending to their consideration that
illustrious dialect, which as it is certainly of all others the most
valuable, so to the shame of these modern ages, is either exceedingly
impair'd or lost in its familiar uses among those who challenge the title
of the _Beaux Esprits_ of the times. The aime therefore of this Projector
being to facilitate and expedite the Mastery of this as well as others, its
survey may possibly appear not altogether ungratefull if it be but in hopes
to find this incouragement that we shall he able to reserve some number of
years from our usually tædious application to its study for other eminent
uses, and commence men & Schollers at a much easier rate and in an earlier
age then now commonly practic'd; I should prevent the Author if I should
entertaine you with any farther commendation of it then that he hath taken
for his model the most creditable and plausible Language of the world. If
at any time you divert your selfe with reading Novels; you will here meet
with notions that are both Philosophicall and Airy, and in order to the
maine designe for the most part purely scientifick and demonstrative; and
after if all you shall think that you have not mispent your time by
observing something that is either a usefull or pleasurable I shall have my
designe and the Author the credit._


       *       *       *       *       *

As the Knowledge of forreign Languages ought not to be reputed one of those
vain and useless curiosities that serve only to amuse the mind, but is
certainly conducive to a thousand different ends; so we ought not to think
it strange if our age, which gives such æquall and secure judgement of the
value of things shew more of passion then ever for it, notwithstanding all
the difficulties that are pretended. I am of an opinion, that one cannot do
the world a more acceptable piece of service, then to invent a certain and
easie way to become universally acquainted with the Languages, and to quit
a subject from those intrigues, in which the more knowing have at present
involv'd it, either from a pure impotence to disingage it, or possibly from
a fond desire of a freer breath of popular Air from those who are
ordinarily most taken with what they least understand.

This designe being only a proper entertainment for the most criticall of
the Virtuoses, I am the more inclinable to expose to the public, the
project and plain I have form'd, before I intirely abandon the whole to
their censure; that I may at first anticipate all manner of reply, and take
advantage from the lights of the most accomplisht and intelligent persons,
if their zeale hath courage enough to make them willing to serve the world
in their love and communication.

_The Authors designe._

Most men being prepossest with two unjust prejudices against the nature of
the Languages, th'one, that they have not all either resemblance or accord
among them, the other, that they only depend upon the inconstancie of
chance, and the whisling toyishness of custome, it might be thought no
matter of extraordinary concernment, if one pretended to succeed in a study
of this nature by the single efforts of the memory, without either the
vivacitie of imagination, or the force of reason being interress'd.

But being not very well perswaded of the agreeableness of this method, in
direct opposition to it, I have fastn'd the whole designe in hand upon
these two propositions:

First, that _there is a certain accord between the Severall Languages:_ and
that therefore they are attainable by comparison.

Secondly, _they are unquestionably founded upon reason_, and therefore that
must be made use of in their mutuall reference. It is upon these two
foundations that I pretend to establish the true method of gaining a
mastery of the Languages, making it appear to the world by a sensible
experience that the mind can as easily make reflections upon words, as upon
the things they represent: _Imagination_ and _Reason_ being the two
faculties, that can reflect upon their objects, they both will appear in
the present designe in their uses suitable to their nature, the effects of
_Imagination_ shall be visible in the severall resemblances, and the
inferences that are thence made; and it will be the worke of _Reason_ to
reduce all to certain principles, upon which the argumentative part must

_The first part of the Designe._

For the easier exercise of Imagination, I shall acquaint you with a method
that will appeare very naturall, by which insteed of considering the
Languages precisely in themselves (as hitherto hath been usuall) they may
be compar'd one with the other without much difficultie, and at the same
time their accord, dependance, and mutuall relation, discover'd either from
the resemblance of words, the proportion of their scope or compasse, and
the conformity of their expressions. Tis true that this agreement, and
relation is not a little obscur'd by the severall od constitutions of mens
minds, that checque at, and satisfie themselves with the first, and naked
appearance without any farther inquirie, but withall its presently, and
easily perceiv'd by those who are happy enough, in a genius for such kind
of Learning. Its something like the paradoxes Geometry proposeth upon the
relation, and proportion of figures, where we are mus'd at the first
draught, and there appeares so little likelihood in them that the
unexperienc't would take them only for the tricks and whims of a
melancholique brain; whereas an ingenuous Artist, from the most naturall,
and simple notions gradually conducts the mind to a kind of insensible
discovery of truth, and makes it see on a suddain what it could not expect,
and that with such open assurances as quit that from all suspicion, which
but now had scarce any face of truth.

Knowing no other method then this, that may be proper to make new
discoveries in the sciences I endeavour'd to make what use I could of it,
so farr as my subject permitted; And since amidst the severall resemblances
of the Languages, there are some so evident, as necessarily grance upon the
most unobserving eye, I have so order'd my reflections, that by a reference
to these, as models, I might by degrees arrive at the knowledge of the
others, which although reserv'd, and sometimes more distanc't, yet are
neither less certain, nor reall: not unlike the subalternate conclusions in
speculation, which are not a jot the lesse true for being farther remov'd
from their first principle.

Thus tis that a Language with which we are already acquainted, either by
the assistance of Art, or Conversation, leads us to an intimacy with those
that were altogether unknown to us before, and that their relation
redresseth the treachery of the memory in the close and juncture of one
with the other.

But that I may compasse this my designe with lesse trouble, my greatest
care is to make choise of one Language as a rule to measure by, and a
principle to reduce all the rest too: for to pretend to compare them
immediately one with another, as some would have it, is to cherish
confusion among those things that demand the most of order.

The veneration that I have alwayes had for antiquity, made me think at
first of ingaging for the _Hebrew_, as being (for ought we know) the
earliest, the most noble, and most naturall Language of the world and that
from which all others, in a manner, derive themselves. But it was not long
before I began to consider, that this would directly crosse the first
principles of my intended method, and appear a kind of indeavour to teach
an unknown Language, by another, of which we have the most imperfect, and
slender information of all. The kindnesse, and inclination I ought to have
for my own Country, had almost perswaded me to rest my self there, and to
make my native tongue the basis of this universall reduction but then the
rest of the Europæan world (which I have no reason to slur or contemne)
would have as ill resented the project, as we did it in the Germans, who
would long agoe have challenged this honour to themselves. I had in the end
no other course to take, but to throw myselfe upon the _Latine_, in which I
luckily met with all the necessary conditions that did easily, and
plausibly conduce to my design'd attempt.

To say the truth _Aristotle_ himselfe, a man of a judgement in such things
the most exact that ever was to take a _measure_ from, demanded but three
qualifications, viz. _Universality_, _Certainty_, and _Proportion_; that it
should be generally known to all those that are to make use of it in the
quality of a measure, that it should be fixt, and determin'd in its selfe,
and then that it should be proportion'd to all those things, to which it
prescribes their bounds, all which characters do with advantage combine in
the Latine, and that with such propriety that they cannot be attributed to
any other without some sort of injustice; for the greatest part of the
other Languages they are determind to the extent of a particular Kingdom or
Country, the Latine hath no such disadvantage upon it. It is to speak
properly the Language of Europe: Religion, and the Sciences have more
enlarg'd its dominions, then all the conquests of the Romans; tis almost
the common Idiom of the North, and universally knowne to persons of birth
and education, who alone are presum'd to stand in need of the assistance of
forraigne Languages.

It disownes the common imperfection of others, which by nature being
subject to change, cannot by consequence, serve for a certain determinate
rule in all ages; and if it now survive through the large extent of its
entertainment, it hath much the advantage of others, that are in a manner
deceas'd to this that is fixt, and retaind by a well assur'd custome and if
its being universally known allows all persons to share its uses, so its
being steddy, and unalterable, secures it from all the uneven changes of

As to its proportion, it in a manner keeps a mean between the Ancient and
Modern Languages, it is neither altogether so pure as the one, nor so
corrupt as the other, and so with the same ease is applicable to both; and
in earnest is infinitely the most compendious, it being farre less trouble
to passe from the mean to an extream, or from the extream to the mean, then
to trace it from one extream to another. However this would seem
incommodious beyond all redresse, to attempt to reduce all the Languages,
either to the most ancient, or else to any one of the most modern, because
in reality, the former have no more relation to the later, then these have
with others of the same age, which have been as so many channels to derive
Antiquity to us.

Besides the Latin makes a friendly meeting between the Eastern, and Western
Languages; as to the first alone it owes its birth and life, so the others
do to it.

It seems then no more difficult to attain the one, by streaming it up to
the fountain, then to gain all the rest by making a like descent, by way of
resemblance to what we observe in nature when we discern, as well the
effect by the cause, as the cause by the effect. In one word, to make up
all the differences that may arise about the supremacie of the Languages, I
consider the Latin under three different regards, as the _daughter_ of the
Languages of the _East_, as the _Mother_ of those in the _West_, and as the
_Sister_ of the more _Northerne_.

As it is abundantly copious, and rich, having been refind, and improv'd for
more then 3000 years by an infinite variety of nations, with whose spoyls
it is now invested, so it may have a very great number of resemblances,
under which with little difficultie it will admit of a reference to all the
rest. For in conclusion, to reduce all to the most refin'd, and polite
Language, is not what I pretend to; the Barbarous stile of the ancient
Romans will do me as much service, as the quaintnesse, and elegance of
Cicero; the Latin of the declining Empire, since the irruptions of the
Northern Nations, may be admitted into this designe to as good purpose, as
the language of Augustus his time; any sense is the same of that of the
_Sciences_, which makes one almost altogether distinct from what is common
and vulgar; the proper names of Philosophy, naturall History, and Divinity,
those of Physick, and the Mathematicks, of Arts, Law, and Commerce; the
names of illustrious persons, people and places, of which History
furnisheth us with a plausible account, will afford me no lesse assistance
on this occasion, then the names of things that are most common.

After having made choice of a Language in order to the design, I am in the
next place to determine my self to a _certain number of them_, the reunion
of which may be justly thought a modest and reasonable attempt; for as
there are some, the knowledge of which will be of very little use; so I am
obliged to prescribe some bounds to a designe that would lead me to
something indetermin'd, and infinite, and withall I suspect the inlargement
both of mind, and memory to compasse all; especially considering the
consequence of some to be indifferent, neither that of Biscany, nor the
lower Brettaigne should in my opinion much afflict any mans braine, nor do
I believe that there are many more in the world interest for them, then
there are for the dialect of Finland or Frizland, or the Barbarous jangling
of the Negroes and Savages. In the choise that I was to make I could not
but give the preference to those of the greatest credit and repute, _took
some Prince_ (excuse the allusion) _who having laid his design to reunite
all the Kingdomes of the world, began his conquest upon those Nations that
were most formidable and renown'd, from an apprehension that the rest in a
little time would be less able to make any opposition._

As I am not of an humour to attempt any thing without an incouragement from
reason; or to give my selfe any trouble through a kind of caprice, purely
to gratifie my curiositie; _Religion_, _State_, and the _Sciences_ are the
_three grand rules_ from which I make a judgement what Languages are really
the most important and noble; I have only therefore selected such as
_Europe_ may use to the best advantage, either for the defence of the
Church, the good of the State, the advancement of the Sciences, or the
perfection of the most laudable Arts. It is for this end that I have
entertained in my designe all the Languages that concerne Religion, and
make a particular mention of such as furnish us with originall texts, and
the most authentick translations of the Bible, being of no mean consequence
towards the faithfull interpretation of our sacred Records, and the
confirmation of the Articles of our Creed.

I am in the next place obliged to find a place for such as concern and
relate to State affaires, the most renowned Empires, Kingdomes, and warlike
Nations, which may afford a suitable entertainment for all sorts of people,
and withall very much conduce to the succesful management of forraigne
businesse, the most important negotiations, Embassies, the transactions of
war or peace, as well as the most hopefull designes of travellers. But
above all I find myself concern'd for those that give us the most refin'd
and polite discoveries of wit and Science, and have been cherisht and nurst
up to our hands by the most knowing and ingenious of all Nations.

I can hardly believe I shall meet with any inclinable to quarrell me for
the number of 24. that I have thought on for my designe, since I presume it
no easie matter for the most nicely curious to find a just occasion; and
although there are none of them that are not unquestionably deriv'd from
the same originall, it being no great difficulty to convince any well
settled head, that in the propriety of speech there is but one mother
Language: Yet to avoid confusion I distribute them all into 7. different
orders, as they seem to carry an immediate reference to the Languages,
which are the commonly suppos'd originals: such are in the opinion of the
Learned the _Roman_, and the _Greec_, the _Teutonic_ and _Sclavonic_, the
_Hebrew_, _Scythian_, and the _Persian_.

The Roman Idioms are the _Italian_, _Spanish_ and _French_, which cannot
now be unknowne to any but such as are shamefully ignorant; I may adde
likewise the _Portuguese_, which although not very different from the
_Castilian_, yet is not wanting in its owne particular beauties, and hath
receiv'd no mean accession of use and honour from the conquests of its
Kings in the most remote parts of the world.

To the Greec I shall reduce its 3. principall relations, _viz_ the Literall
Greec, such as we meet with in our old Classic Authors, the vulgar as it is
commonly used since the declining age of the Empire at Constantinople, and
the Coptique or Ægyptian, which is but a remainder of the famous government
of the Ptolomies in Ægypt: for although in its idiome there be something
yet remaining of an originall stamp, either in that its words seem to touch
upon the auntient Language of the Pharaohs, or that its inflection no way
resembles the Greec, yet the Empire of Alexander and his successors induc'd
such a confusion, that the Greec hath almost got the better, and involv'd
all the lesser remains of Antiquity.

Under the Teutonic I comprehend the Almain or high German, the Flemmish or
low Dutch, the English and the Danish, which is to this day entertain/'d in
the most Northerne regions, and may give us some intimations of a clearer
light then any besides, as having yet carefully secured some footsteps of
the ancient Language.

The Sclavonic is accompani'd with 3. more considerable dialects the true
Sclavonic, the Polish, and Muscovitish, to which the valour of the Nations
that speak them have brought more reputation then any other ingenious

The Hebrew hath no less then seven in its retinue, the pure Hebrew, such as
we meet with in our Bible, the Language of the Rabbins and Talmudists, the
Chaldee, the Syriaque, the Æthiopick or Abyssin, the Samaritan, and the
Arabique, which in our age hath so inlarg'd its dominion, that its either
spoke or understood in the three parts of the Old World Asia, Africa and
Europe; and hath alone produc't such a prodigious number of books, that one
would scarce believe how a Nation so famous for its exploits in warr should
have so much leasure to attend to the improvement of learning.

The Scythian hath two very illustrious dialects in its traine, the Turkish
and lesser Tartarian, both which may serve in some measure to acquaint us
what Languages are used in the North of Asia.

The last is the Persian, which is not only universally priz'd in the Empire
of the Sophy, but a common entertainment in the Court of the grand
Seigneur, as well as in that of the Mogull, where it is hugely valued and

As this reference of the Languages to one another would be to litle
purpose, if the less qualifi'd and accomplisht were not capable of judging
of it, since tis for them principally I am most concern'd, I believ'd
therefore it would be necessary intirely to retrench all that strange
variety of characters, whose od and fantasticall figures do strangely
divert the imaginations of those, who are not well qualifi'd to conceive
them. Neither do I intend to humour my selfe in that vaine kind of
ostentation that some affect, to make this kind of writing one of that most
mysterious parts of their learning, but have found out a method of
expressing the sounds of all the distinguishing characters of each Language
onely by the Roman, and that in a manner as easie and disingag'd as it is
accurate and new; insomuch that the resemblances of words, which altogether
disappear'd under those uncouth figures (which like a veile intercepted
them from the less clarify'd eye) presently face the light, there being
nothing left to interpose between them, and a closer consideration, which
notwithstanding shall not acquit me from my designe of discovering an
expedient to decypher with ease all those severall kinds of writing, and of
fixing them upon the imagination in such a manner as without difficulty can
admit of no confusion.

After having remov'd this first obstruction, which hath so long imbroild
and retarded the knowledge of the Languages, that I may with less trouble
reduce them to their first principle, I shall run near the same course,
that hath been successively taken in their removall, so farr as any history
can informe us, upon which I principally lay the stresse and basis of my
designe by producing such arguments from it, the force of which cannot
plausibly be eluded. For I do not believe that any of the more curious will
find fault with me for fastning the origine, and alliance of the Language
upon the same bottome with the begining and first society of mankind, who
are observed never to shift their Country, without having their Language to
bear their Arms and Customes company. As I never thought fit to dispute it
with the Learned, why they did not make use of the affinity of the
Languages, which sometimes are of clearer notice to them to discover the
the first rise of a people more remote, and with which they are lesse
acquainted; So I hope I may be permitted to make what advantage I can of
the first combinations and colonies to give a clearer light to the
beginnings and connexion of the severall Tongues, there being something
near the same, or a like proportion between both: as for instance, To make
good the opinion of Dionysius Halicarnasseus, and Quintilian, who both
pretend that the Latin tongue is no more then a Dialect of the Antient
Greek, is but in plain and easie words to give an account of all the little
settlements, and Plantations in Italy, which for some continuance of time
was only inhabited by colonies from Greece.

Upon what other terms I hardly understand this new project should be
surprizing to any, it being not the meer effect of imagination, or an
humorous Idea, neither will it much ingage any sort of people, but only
such as can easily dislodge their prejudices when their owne lights shall
assist in their conviction, and that from such assurances as shall be most
free from suspicion, being faithfull deductions from the histories of the
Colonies. But as it is impossible that the Languages should not be liable
to severall alterations and mixtures from the different associations of
people in severall removes, so neither is it to be believ'd that this was
done all on a sudden; there seems to be a resemblance between the words
that make up the Language and Travellers, who do not put off their
accustom'd usages and manners so soon as they arrive at a new Country,
neither are they naturaliz'd, but with time and by degrees become masters
of the Air, humors, and qualities of the persons with whom they converse.

Since then this corruption is but of a graduall and intensible growth,
there is a necessitie, for its more certain discovery, of an orderly
reflection upon the very first beginnings of the differences, being in the
interim very sollicitous to prevent a false retreat that might either
ingage me too farr, or else in some unluckie circumstances, from which it
would be no little difficulty to retire. And this seems to be the only way
that I could find out to scatter a certain Air and appearance of truth upon
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
inrich it, what Religion, the Government and what Sciences have
communicated to it, what it retains of Antiquity and what new acquests it
hath made to retrieve its losses with advantage.

Afterall, this is yet but the sceleton, or at most but the body of a
Language, Its necessary that this rude, and indigested masse made up of so
many different dialects should be animated by some secret spirit that
should expand it selfe through all its parts and severall members, and
reduce them to unity by communicating the same air to them, and that this
Spirit or Soul should be the individuall principle of all the effects, and
sensible changes, which make us easily distinguish one Language from
another: The Temper, Humour, and Nature of a people, the dispositions of
their minds, their genius and particular gusts, their more generall and
forcible inclinations, their ordinary passions, and such singular
qualities, by which one Nation is remarq'd and distinguisht from another,
are the most evident signs to discover the true genius of a Language,
because they are in reality the immediate causes and the very originalls
after which I have copied all my draughts to compleat the present piece,
which in my opinion is not wanting in something that is very Naturall,
Besides this, the very manners and customes of Nations, their Laws and
policy, and their publick transactions, both of peace and War, are things
so universally known, that there is no need of any farther search, how to
be able to judge by proportion of the genius, and characters of the
Languages so securely, as by that of the people that speak them.

But as the care of a Nation to improve and advance the Arts and Sciences
and other kinds of good Learning, is that which contributes most to the
perfection of its Language, So tis upon the manner in which its receiv'd,
and the characters of its Authors, that I cheifly depend to determine,
whether it be modest or imperious, whether it rellish more of a softnesse,
sweetnesse, and delicacy, than of a certain Noble brisque and generous air,
whether it incline more to the simplicity of Nature, or the subtile
refinements of Art, whether it be polite to affectation, or betray a
certain negligence which hath its graces too, as well as its measures of
Art, and last of all whether it be not a little crampt in attempting to be
too exact, or else better accomodate it selfe by its freedome from all

Having discoverd the genius and proper character of each Language, I have
fram'd the most perfect Idea that is possible, by way of analogie with the
principles of the Platonists, with whose method I was always as much taken
as I am dissatisfy'd with their doctrine.

This Idea being unmasqued serves me in the sequell for a generall rule, to
establish the true and proper reasons of all that passe for singular and
remarqueable in each Language, either in relation to the choice, the
mixture, and union of sounds, the force and significations of words, or the
Air and manner of expression; For tis most certain that all these things
are alter'd according to the genius of a people: So the Spaniards would
distinguish themselves from other Nations by their haughtinesse, and
affected gravity, and their words are easily understood by a certain
pompous Air, that seems to border upon grandeur and Majesty: On the
Contrary the Italians are the Nation of the world that seems to be most
fond of its pleasure, and its naturall, that this softnesse should be
communicated to their Language, and that all their words should breath
nothing, but what is sweet, polite, and the most exact harmony; their
compositions admitt of no sounds but such, as can flatter the Ear, they
suffer not the concours of consonants, whose rudenesse may never so little
offend the Organ, but they are extreamly in Love with Vowels, and often
allow their sequences to make their pronunciation more sweet and delicate.
For their signification, that they might mixe an accord with their energie,
they have hardly any but what are more or lesse figurative, from a
persuasion, that a Metaphor represents objects to the mind, in that most
curious and diverting manner, and withall they are carefull to make choise
of none, but such as represent the fairest images: They are no lesse
sollicitous to diversifie their words by agreeable modifications, their
inflexion hath very little uneasie in it, it is all of it æqually facile
and gay; their diminutives are exceedingly rellishing, because there is
something more than ordinarily pretty in them, they are rich in
derivatives, and compounds, not only because their pronunciation is more
harmonious, but also because they expresse themselves in a more naturall
manner, In one word they banish every thing that may appear ingratefull,
and are passionately in quest of all that may conduce to the Sweetnesse of
their Language.

My sense is much the same of other Languages, but because reason it selfe
may be suspected by some, especially if at any time it appear too just or
plausible, I was the rather concern'd so to order my instances, that
besides the induction, I intended custome and experience should support
reason, and reason should confirme experience, and withall the examples are
so naturally chain'd with their principles, and all of them so distributed
in their proper places, that without so much as making the least reflexion,
I imperceptibly comprize all the fundamentall and essentiall words of each
Language, being willing my selfe to draw all my conclusions from the
principles I have mention'd, and to make all necessary inductions, without
leaving any thing of trouble or disease to the reader, who in such cases is
glad to be quitt from paines and inconvenience, I have some hopes, that a
competition thus differently made up of History, reflexions and Criticismes
supported by principles, deductions and examples may contribute something
to the agreeableness of the designe, and sett off a subject that of itselfe
is dry and knotty enough, without making it more unacceptable by that mean
and disreputed method, that hath so much decry'd the Critiques, and
ordinarily hath given a disgust to a science before it hath been allow'd
the least consideration, besides that didacticque way, is by no means
proper in the present case, for as there is little pleasure in being taken
notice of under the character of a Scholler, so the only remedy is to
contrive some way to come to the knowledge of things without lying under
the suspicion of having a master.

Thus you see in grosse and generall, the whole designe exprest in as few
words as the brevity of the subject would permitt me; And However rationall
it may be in it selfe yet it wants not its adversaryes; Some with a great
deal of heat, plead that if this method acquiring the Languages, hath any
thing in it that is Curious by way of speculation, it is however uselesse
enough in relation to its practice, since _Custome_ and _Conversation_ only
(say they) is the great Master of Language, and that we must intirely relye
upon memory and the assiduity of constant and resolv'd industry.

Others confesse that it hath in earnest its advantages, but doubt much of
the possibility of its execution, hardly beleeving that the Languages have
in good truth such an accord and resemblance as I suppose they have, or
that there is a possibility for the witt of man now to discover it.

By way of reply to the first, I confesse that one thing I wonder at, is
that persons so knowing and ingenuous should so highly declare themselves
against the judgement in favour of the memory, I have a very great regard
to their qualitie and worth, but cannot submitt my selfe to their opinion,
The only way (as I imagine) to Learn the Languages, and that in what number
we please, to do it with ease without tædiousnesse, confusion, trouble and
losse of time, and without the common hazard, of forgetting them with as
much ease as we acquire them with difficulty, and to be master of them all
in such a manner, as shall rellish nothing that is mean or not becomeing a
Rationall man, is in one word, to attribute more to the judging and
reflecting faculty then to the memory; for if the memory depend and relye
only upon the reflexions of the judgement, we have no reason to expect much
from its single Conduct, for however plausible it may appear, it will
always be slow, limited, confus'd, and faithlesse; its action is not
vigorous enough to take us off from those fatigues that distast our most
likely enterprizes, and its efforts to weak and Languishing in a little
time to execute a designe of so large a compasse as this; being so
determin'd as it is, it is impossible it should reduce so great a number of
Languages so distanc't in appearance one from another; If at any time it
seem extraordinary in an action, its Species are soon displac't by their
multitude, and when they are rang'd in the best order imaginable, they
continue not so long without being either effact by those that supervene or
disappearing of themselves, haveing nothing that can fixe and retaine them,
So that the Languages being of so vast an extent, there is no reason that
the memory alone should be confided to for their acquest, unlesse we could
be content to sacrifice an infinite space of time to the Sole knowledge of
words, which being so valuable as it ought to be to us, may be imployd with
more discretion and successe, either towards the cognizance of things or
the management of businesse.

To satisfie others, I have nothing more at present to say to them but that
if the designe shall appear to them at first sight either fantasticall or
temerarious, the execution will soon justifie me, and perhaps convince them
that it is not always rationall positively to passe a judgement upon any
thing before a close and a narrow search, and that we ought not hastily to
despaire of any thing; the gaining of which hath not been attempted all
imaginable wayes.

Last of all, as I do not beleeve my selfe to be deceiv'd in that which make
up the grosse and main of the designe, so I do not expect that all that I
shall advance in the sequel upon this connexion of the Languages, should be
receiv'd by all for uncontrouleable truths, of which I my selfe am
sufficiently perswaded; I am too well acquainted with the nature of truth
to beleeve my selfe so succesfull as to have alwayes uncover'd that in the
most imbroyld and the most doubtfull affaires of the world; yet I confesse
that notwithstanding that great respect that is due to it, I have in some
cases lesse regarded it when it did not appear to comply with the
capacityes of ordinary men, persuading my selfe that conjecture well fram'd
and adjusted by a plausible Air is more rellishing to ingenious persons,
then an obscure and fainting truth, of which sort there is a very great
number in the present subject.

I propose then to the Learned, this new systeme of the Languages, not as an
incontestable Thesis in all its parts but only as an Hypothesis, not
altogether irrationall and which besides hath this particular advantage,
that although it should be the falsest thing in the world in speculation,
it may at least be allowable in the practice, And I hope to receive the
same favour that persons (that were most obstinately resolv'd against his
Hypothesis) granted Copernicus by their confession, that let it be never so
false it is however the best accommodated to use and Astronomicall


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