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racters, which I copy from Martinus Martinius. Among these characters,
Fig. 23, which signifies a mountain, is now written as you see, in fig. 24.
Fig. 1, which formerly represented the sun, is now expressed as in fig. 25.
Fig. 26, which originally stood for a rude image of a dragon, is now expressed as you see in fig. 27.
Fig. 28, which was intended to represent in a rough manner an eye and a sceptre, to signify the ruling power, is now turned into the arbitrary character expressed by fig. 29.
And, finally, for fig. 30 and 31, which were exactly the images of a hen and a cock, they have now substituted the marks expressed by fig. 32 and 33.
And Martinius says, that he possessed a very ancient and scarce book, written in six different ways, or characters, on which account the Chinese set upon it a great value, in which the form of the ancient letters was precisely the same with those he had seen on the obelisks at Rome, that is, the perfect images of the things they wished to represent.
“Habeo pænes me librum litteris Sinicis ad sex diversos modos conscriptum, opus antiquisimum et rarum, Sinis ob vetustatem raritatemque magno semper in prætio habitum. In eo libro antiquæ literæ formam ut cumque referunt earum, quas Romæ in obeliscis sæpe me videre memini.”
Indeed, in Table 9, you may also see the alterations which, by degrees, the Chinese have intro
duced in their mode of writing. Originally, a mountain was represented, as Martinus Martinius mentions, by the exact figure of a mountain, (fig. 23.); and a chain of mountains by the addition of several of these pictures, like an undulating line, [fig. 34). But, by degrees these signs degenerated, first into a kind of three-pronged fork, (fig. 35.) and ultimately into the arbitrary mark, (fig. 24.] which still shews something of its original. The figure which represents a door, (fig. 36.] was turned into the sign (fig. 37.) not very dissimilar from the first ; and, lastly, into the arbitrary mark, [fig. 14, a or b.) the outlines of which still exhibit the top and one of the sides of a door. The character in fig. 38, which shews the outlines of a man sitting, was turned into an arbitrary mark, (fig. 39.] which still shews the length of his legs, and the bending of the body; and I have no doubt that a man well learned in the Chinese mode of writing, might easily find the originals of, and the intermediate alterations made in, each of the Chinese characters, of which, I confess, I have very little knowledge. Indeed, these few specimens which I exhibit, are now produced simply to shew you the regular steps by which mankind passed from the picture of the things to the adoption of arbitrary marks. In them, however, you cannot but be struck by the great similarity they have to the Egyptian hieroglyphics, for no other reason than because they came from the same original, that is, from real pictures, which were afterwards shortened into
simple outlines, and by further alterations became, at last, arbitrary marks.
These marks, however, still retained their original sound; and each of these characters, whether absolutely figurative, linear, or arbitrary, still conveyed the same ideas, and were still expressed by the same sound. In this way what was the figure of the object became an arbitrary mark, and this arbitrary mark became a letter, and thus the monosyllable which originally was employed to express the full figure of a thing, was equally employed to express, first, the outlines, then the abridged figure of the same thing, and ultimately, the arbitrary mark, or letter, which was substituted for them all.
To explain this theory still more fully to you, I beg leave to repeat what I have partly stated in a former Lecture; and that is, that the Egyptians, to express a word or a sound, employed the figure of an object, the name of which, either in the whole or in part, exhibited the sound which they meant to express. For instance, if they wished to give the idea of a son, they painted the figure of a
ung man, and to this figure they gave the name of si, or se. If they wished to express the idea, not of a son in general, but a particular son, that is, the son, they added to the figure of a young man the square, which they called phe, and made the word phese, or phsi. And though,in process of time, these two figures of a young man and the square were changed into arbitrary marks, yet they still continued to represent the same idea, and were expressed
by the same sounds; that is, the arbitrary mark of the square was called phe, and the arbitrary mark of the young man se. By degrees, however, the original patterns of these arbitrary marks were forgotten, because in process of time men lose the recollection of the origin of many of their institutions; but this forgetfulness of the original pattern of the arbitrary mark, to which they gave the name of se, to express the idea of son, did not in the least affect the sound of the monosyllable, nor the idea which they meant to convey by it; for the arbitrary mark was still called se, and this sound or expression, se, still conveyed the idea of a son; and the arbitrary mark, which was substituted for the square, still was called phe, and conveyed the idea of what we should call a definite article. Therefore, whenever an Egyptian found the arbitrary marks which had been substituted for the figures of a young man and a square, joined together, he called them phse; and this is, in my opinion, the reason why, in all the Oriental languages, which undoubtedly are the most ancient amongst all languages, we find the words expressed by consonants only, without the intervention of vowels. Because the arbitrary marks, or letters, by which these words are expressed, have been substituted for the figure of the object, which exhibited the thing, as it exists in nature. What I have said of the word phse must be applied generally to all words in all languages, and particularly in the Egyptian; for there is no doubt,
at least such is the most received opinion amongst the learned, that to the Egyptians we must refer the invention of the alphabet. How this happened we are informed by Zoéga; who, in his most excellent treatise on the origin and use of obelisks, has collected the different passages of Plato, Pliny, Plutarch, Tacitus, Diodorus, and Varro, by which he has proved that the Egyptians were the inventors of the alphabet. Before, however, I proceed to the investigation of this subject, I must continue for a little time longer our inquiry about the introduction of arbitrary marks; and the multiplication of them. As the names which mankind gave to the different objects had something very significantly expressive of the leading characteristics of these objects, it was evident that they were obliged to employ different figures to express, sometimes, the same sound. To render you more sensible of the observations which I am going to offer you, permit me to have recourse to the English language. I have already said, that by adding two or three monosyllables together, mankind formed words of two or three syllables; and that these words were expressed in writing by joining together the figures of the objects, the names of which were expressed by each of these monosyllables. Now suppose we were to express in English the word boy, we should draw the figure of a lad; and if we were to express the word hood, we should draw the figure of a hood; and by putting these