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Mr. Editor.-A Series of Articles written by the Baron Silvestre de Sacy, and published in the “Journal des Sçavans for December, January, and February last, containing, as it has appeared to me, much questionable, if not palpably erroneous, matter, you will oblige me by giving the following observations a place in your Journal, as early as may be convenient.

humble servant, Cambridge, June, 1829.


I am your

The first paragraph which I shall notice, occurs in p. 721 in the article for December, 1828, where, speaking of the vowels, M. de

Sacy says,

Presque tous grammariens ont désigné ces trois ordres de voyelles par les dénominations de longues, brèves, et très-brèves ; mais ces dénominations répondant mal à leur véritable valeur, M. Lee a préféré les nommer, 1o. voyelles parfaites ; . voyelles imparfaites ; 3o. schéva et ses substituts. M. Šarchi s'est servi des dénominations de longues, brèves, et sémi-brèves : il nous semble, (adds he) que ce dernier nom présente une idée fausse, et qu'il eût mieux valu se servir de celui de semi-voyelles. I object here to more things than one: 1st. no reason is given why I have departed from the usual nomenclature; whereas a strong and important reason is given in my work : a reason with which the foreign reader ought to have been made acquainted.


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It is this : any one of the vowels denominated by me perfect, will, when following any consonant, constitute a syllable in Hebrew orthography;" while, on the contrary, every imperfect vowel (as denominated by me) following a consonant, will require the addition either of an accent or of another consonant to constitute such syllable. I will not here etain the reader with a recital of the advantages derived in accounting for the changes of the vowels by these considerations, but must refer him to the work itself. I will affirm, however, that these ought not to have been passed over by a reviewer, unless he was willing to impress on his reader that this novelty was unnecessary.

In the next place, M. de Sacy objects to the latter term used by M. Sarchi ; because, as he truly says, ce dernier nom présente une idée fausse :" and then he proposes that semi-voyelles be substituted for it. My remark is : the terms long and short very imperfectly express ihe nature of these vowels; and what is worse, they lead the reader to suppose that something like the quantity of the Greeks and Latins is to be found in the Hebrew, which, however, does not exist ; but as to the term semi-vowel, recommended by M. de Sacy, I cannot help considering it as a perfect absurdity. A letter in our own alphabet may with propriety'be termed a semi-vowel ; but how that which is not a letter, but a mark representing a vowel sound only, can be called half a vowel, I know not. If a vowel exists at all, I think it cannot be called half a vowel; there being no point of connexion between its vocality, as far as I can see, and the duration required for its utterance. M. de Sacy's amendment of M. Sarchi, therefore, is in this place not only unfounded in the nature of the case, but is unphilosophical and absurd.

But this is not the worst part of this paragraph. A little lower down, we are told, in contradiction to Mr. Ewald, that sheva bad better be called the sign of a vowel, to be pronounced as rapidly as possible :

Il aurait été plus conforme à la vérité de présenter le schéva comme étant dans tous les cas, soit qu'il termine ou qu'il commence une syllabe composée, le signe de cette voyelle prononcée aussi rapidement que possible. I am very sure if either Mr. Ewald or myself had said that the Arabic gezma, which is perfectly equivalent to the sheva of the Hebrews at the end of a syllable, ought to be considered as a vowel, and pronounced as a very short e, nothing would have exceeded the contempt with which M. de Sacy would have treated

Mr. Ewald, I see, has made the same remark, although he has not adopted my nomenclature.-Kritische Grammatik der Hebraïschen Sprache, p. 47.

2 So Mr. Ewald, p. 48.

-Pike פַּקַדְתָּ ,Pikakida פִּקְדָה ,Pikakede (פְקְקֵד for) פָּקֵד :thus

the assertion. Not to insist on the novelty of this doctrine, I will affirm, that the consequence of adopting it would be to make the orthography of the Hebrew, which is at present as regular and simple as could be wished, a worse chaos than that of our own, or even the French. Let the reader figure to himself a learner repeating the preterite tense only of the Pihel conjugation of TD

: () Pikékedě, , kadėta, MTP Pikěkadětě, and so on; and I think he will immediately come to the conclusion, that nothing further need be added to show the absurdity of such doctrine. With regard to the sheva when initial, M. de Sacy himself exemplifies it in this very paragraph, by the words sputum, tmema, psittacus ; and in his Arabic Grammar, tome i. p. 39. by representing the words que dites-vous, se trainer, k'diť vous, s’trainer, not by marking the e as being short, but by taking it out altogether! And in p. 42. of the same work, he informs us from Mr. Vassali, that the Maltese do actually thus commence inany of their words without sounding the vowel, although in these cases the written Arabic preserves a vowel. The practice is, therefore, that no vowel is heard, even at the commencement of a word; which M. de Sacy also exemplifies, by the words Cleon, Clésias, Priam, Ptolemée. Why, then, it may be asked, should that, which manifestly is not a vowel, be termed a very rapid one? Why should we give names to things which really do not exist in any case; and above all, introduce the sound of a short vowel at the end of syllables, where neither nécessity nor example can be pleaded for doing so? I have no hesitation, therefore, in affirming, that Mr. Ewald is perfectly right in this instance, and his reviewer, M. de Sacy, obviously wrong; and this not only in the article before us, but also in his Grammaire Arabe, where this doctrine is first broached. The truth is, the sheva in Hebrew, as well as the gezma in Arabic, is a' niark intended to show that in such place no vowel ought to appear, and to assure the reader that it has not been omitted by mistake.

M. de Sacy asserts, in the same paragraph, (p. 722.) that Mr. Lee has niade no mention whatever of the application of the substitutes of sheva to others besides the guttural letters.

But in tbis M. de Šacy is mistaken. It is probable, indeed, that he bas not read my Grammar throughout, and, therefore, that he has not met with the passage. If, however, the reader will turn to p. 102. art. 160. § 3. he will find that a substitute of sheva is regularly used in forming the absolute plural of one class of the segolate nouns ; viz. Dripe. And again, at p. 223. $ 14. be will find a brief notice of their irregular usage. The reason of their having been tbus formally mentioned in the one instance, and only briefly touched on in the other, originated in a belief which cannot be better expressed than in M. de Sacy's own words :

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Il est possible... que, dans certains cas, elles se soient introduites systématiquement ; mais je conjecture que le plus souvent elles ne sont, que des erreurs de copistes. This will suffice on this subject.

Again, in p. 727. it is affirmed that I have omitted to make any, mention of the euphonic dagesh. This is also a mistake. The subject is formally mentioned at p. 49. art. 118. under its proper, head. I hope M. de Sacy has not been willing to pass over certain particulars, and then to report them as wanting.

There is one circumstance constantly adverted to in the whole of the three articles under consideration ; and in none is this more, roundly put than in p. 725. of the first. Here we are told, precisely à la Père Simon, Ce système toutefois n'est pas aussi uniforme qu'on pourroit le croire si l'on ne consultoit que les Bibles imprimées. Il est plus compliqué dans plusieurs manuscrits que dans d'autres, et il présente assez souvent des anomalies qui peut-être ne sont dues qu'à des erreurs ou à des négligences des copistes, ou bien aux systèmes particuliers de quelques grammariens. Il n'a pas non plus atteint parfaitement son but; car tout le monde sait que plusieurs Juifs de divers pays, faisant usage de la même Bible, prononce cependant avec une telle diversité, qu'ils ne s'entendent pas réciproquement. Il y a d'ailleurs dans ce système des difficultés assez graves, &c. Again, at p. 727. speaking of the rejection of the 1978 letters, it is said : Ces anomalies sont en si grand nombre, et sujettes à tant d'exceptions, qu'il est bien difficile d'imprimer dans sa memoire, d'une manière presque abstraite, les règles qui servent à la reduire en système ; 2°. que le grand nombre d'exceptions auxquelles ces règles sont sujettes, donnent lieu de croire que les auteurs du système de ponctuation ou de vocalisation du texte Hébreu de la Bible, ne s'étoient pas fait à eux-mêmes des principes bien fixes, &c. Passages similar to these may be cited from M. de Sacy's other articles of January and February, all tending to impress on the mind of the reader, that a considerable portion of the Hebrew Scriptures inust be treated as perfectly beyond the reach of rule or principle, and be left as such.

For my own part, however, I must think differently. Difficuldies there are, I know; but these, I believe, are no greater than those which are to be found in any other language: uor will it avail any thing to talk of the differences to be found in the Mss. and printed editions of the Bible. Every one knows, since the labors of Kennicott, De Rossi, Masch, Van der Hooght, and others, that these differences are slight; that they very seldom affect either the sense or the grammar of any passage ; and further, that an extended knowlege of the analogy of the language has enabled us to pronounce at once, whether many of them are errors of the copyists, or to be ascribed to the original writers. As: to the

of De מִקְנָה

systems of the different grammarians having affected the text in
any instance, I more than doubt; because I know as a fact, that
Jewish grammars very rarely, if ever, attempt to set up any sys-
tem. The Michlol of Kimchi, as every one knows who has seen
it, is a mere collection of facts : nor does the 7778
Balmes, which has been thought to be one of the boldest works
that has appeared, venture much farther. The elder grammarians
I have not seen, but it is likely they were still more simple; and
this seems to be placed beyond all doubt, by the artless matter
and arrangement of the Masora. It may be allowed, too, that the
pronunciation of the Jews in different parts has differed, and does
so still, without making the inference, that this must have intro-
duced either variety or confusion into the text or grammar of the
Hebrew language. A Yorkshireman, for example, will pronounce
the text of his Bible very differently from a native of Middlesex ;
but it will not bence follow, that he understands it differently; or
that if he had to make out a written copy, he would not make it
out correctly in every respect. M. de Sacy's reasoning on this
subject, therefore, seems to me to be groundless and out of place.
If, indeed, Mr. Ewald or myself can discover principles generally
prevailing in the Hebrew and its sister dialects, which tend to
reduce the anomalies found in former grammarians, I cannot be
brought to think with M. de Sacy that this is a work of superero-
gation. The facts collected by Kinchi, Buxtorf, and others, are
truly valuable, both to the student and the grammarian; but it
must be extremely unphilosophical to argue, as M. de Sacy has
done, that these facts ought barely to be stated, but never re-
duced to general principles. This would be to swell grammars
with rules adapted to particular examples only, and then to con-
front these with hosts of exceptions; which would indeed establish
the difficulties recounted by M. de Sacy, but never remove one
of them. M. de Sacy has himself, however, generally taken this
course in his Grammaire Arabe, although he has occasionally
indulged in explaining his rules ; and perhaps it is more on this
ground, than any other, that he has been induced so frequently to
reprobate the philosophy of Mr. Ewald and myself. I do not mean
to insinuate, however, by this, that either Mr. Ewald or myself is
always right in the philosophy offered, or M. de Sacy always
wrong: all I contend for is, that the endeavor to combine in
general principles the rules found to prevail in any language, is
the proper business of the grammarian. And I will affirm, that if
M. de Sacy bad been endued by nature with powers


generalization equal to those of Mr. Ewald, his Grammaire Arabe, which presents scarcely any thing more than an elaborate .collection of examples arranged under particular rules, would have presented a work infinitely more valuable to the learner, and more creditable to the compiler than it now does. But I object to

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