I wish this little book to be in every respect as unpretending as possible. I do not presume to represent myself as an original investigator, nor do I aspire to a greater distinction than that of representing clearly and intelligently the views of those distinguished writers who have made the study of philology the chief pursuit of their lives.

While I have quoted my authorities for almost every statement of importance, I have generally used my own language, and even in those paragraphs which I have put between inverted commas I have so frequently abbreviated, expanded, or transposed, that the passages must not be criticised as though they had been intended for direct translations.

I do not think that I have ever borrowed from any writer, English, French, or German, without ample acknowledgment. I would not be so dishonest as to shine in borrowed plumes. If in one or two cases I have been guilty of apparent plagiarism it is certainly only from the works of those authors whom I cannot be considered to have robbed wilfully, because their writings are honourably referred to on almost every page. I wish this remark to apply especially to the very clear, learned, and beautiful treatises of M. Ernest Renan, to which I am largely indebted, and without which I should not have undertaken this work.

The questions here handled have always been to me full of interest; and these chapters have been chiefly written because I have invariably found that they are also full of interest to young learners. Should it be proved that I have rashly intruded on a task beyond my powers, no one will more regret this attempt than I shall myself.

The books of which I have made chief use in the following pages are

Grimm, Ueber den Ursprung der Sprache.

Heyse, System der Sprachwissenschaft.

Lersch, Die Sprachphilosophie der Alten.

Renan, De l’Origine du Langage.

Renan, Histoire Générale des Langues Sémitiques.

Charma, Essai sur le Langage.

Nodier, Notions de Linguistique.

Bunsen, Philosophy of Universal History.

Max Müller, Survey of Languages.

Pictet, Les Origines Indo-Européennes.

Garnett’s Philological Essays.

Dr. Donaldson’s Cratylus, and Varronianus.

It need scarcely be said, however, that I have read and consulted very many besides these, and indeed every book that I could obtain which seemed to bear directly upon the subject.

I will only add with M. Nodier—“J’ai écrit sur la Linguistique, parce que je ne connois aucun livre qui renferme les notions principales d’une manière claire, sous une forme accessible aux esprits simples, qui ne soit pas repoussante pour les esprits délicats.”


Aug., 1860.

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