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same, and the conduct of society has been greatly similar in different nations at different periods of time."
Let us consider then, how the evidence stands in this case: only premising, that, where a continuity of transmission appears to have taken place, arising from the intercourse of nations with each other; and where the words are the same, the grammatical construction, and other minute peculiarities of composition much alike, in two languages; these languages are of the same texture: and that alphabetical composition, attended by these circumstances of resemblance, must flow from one source: especially, if the difference in the alphabetical marks of these two languages should be no objection, but may be accounted for upon reasonable principles.
It will be readily allowed then, I presume, that no modern European nation separately invented alphabetical writing: exclusive of the Turkish empire, indebted to the Greeks and Arabians, we all derived, without any doubt, this art from the Romans. The Romans never laid claim to the discovery: they ascribed all their literary advantages to the Greeks. This
See Aurelius Victor. p. 12. In Italiâ Etrusci ab Corinthio Damarato, Aborigines Arcade ab Evandro didicerunt. Tac. Ann. xi. 14. W.
accomplished people acknowledge, with one voice,, to have received the art from the Phanicians; who, as well as their colonists the Carthaginians, are known by the learned to have spoken the Hebrew language, or a dialect scarcely varying from the original. The Greek characters very nearly resemble the Samaritan or old Phænician. The Coptic, or Ægyptian, wears the exactest resemblance in the majority of it's characters to the Greek: which, however, were not introduced, it is probable, before the foundation of Alexandria: many words are common to it with the other Eastern languages; and the impracticability of tracing more to this source partly arises from the paucity of the remains of their literature, and
So Suidas often; Plutarch, Herodotus, Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, several authors in the Anthologia, Josephus, Critias and Sopater in Athenæus, Pliny, Diodorus Siculus, Tacitus, Lucan iii. 220. This is an important passage. The Phoenicians were better known than the Hebrews, whose language they spoke, and so had the credit of the discovery: see Diod. Sic. iv. 74. It is easy to improve on the invention of another, as Cicero observes.
. Nam neque tam est acris acies in naturis hominum et in-. geniis, ut res tantas quisquam, NISI MONSTRATÁS, possit videre: neque tanta tamen in rebus obscuritas, ut eas non penitùs acri vir ingenio cernat, si modo aspexerit. De OR. iii. 31. See also Q. Curtius, iv. 4. 19, and the note in Pitiscus's edition. Eusebius, præp. Ev. ix. 26. x. 5. and particularly Hartley on Man, vol. i. prop. 83. W.
partly from their unconnected situation, and partly from alterations in a length of time: and these remarks are applicable to similar difficulties in the other tongues. This, therefore, must be referred in all reason to the same origin. The Chaldee, Syriac, and later Samaritan, are dialects of the Hebrew, without any considerable deviation, or many additional words. The Ethiopic differs more from the Hebrew, but still less than the Arabic. These languages, however, notwithstanding such deviations, have issued from the same stock; as the similarity of their formation, and the numberless words, common to them all, demonstrably evince: and the Persic has a close affinity to the Arabic. Alterations would naturally be introduced, proportionate to the civilization of the several possessors, and the time and distance of their separation from the other nations: and this will account for the superior copiousness of some above the rest. So then, not to determine which was the more ancient language, the Hebrew, Syriac, or Arabic, a question of no importance on this occasion; all the languages in use amongst men, that have been conveyed in alphabetical characters, were the languages of people, connected ultimately, or immediately, with those, who have handed down the earliest specimens of writing
to posterity. And, when the languages of the eastern nations are so similar-when so curious an art would be, in all probability, the first improvement communicated by one people to another is it not morally certain, that alphabetical writing originally centered in one people? For length of time has deprived us of express historical testimony in this case.
Indeed, this proposition seems to be sufficiently ascertained by another argument; that is, from the sameness of the artificial denominations of the letters in the Oriental, Greek, and Latin languages; accompanied too by a similar arrangement: Alpha, Beta, and so on, together with the similarity between the Greek and Samaritan characters, which has been before observed.
But, in opposition to this evidence, some will argue against all possible admission of our conclusion, by alledging the entire dissimilarity of characters employed by the ancients to discriminate their letters. 66 Why should not one nation, it will be urged, adopt from the other the mode of expressing the art, as well as the art itself? To what purpose the trouble of inventing another system of characters?"
Various answers may be returned to this objection.
1. We know, from the instance of our own language, what diversities may be introduced in this respect merely by length of time, and an intercourse with neighbouring nations. And such an effect would be much more likely to take place before the art of printing had contributed to establish an uniformity of character. For, when every work was transcribed by the hand, we may easily imagine, how many variations would arise from the fancy of the scribe, and the mode of writing so constantly different in individuals. What two
persons write without the plainest symptoms of peculiarity?
2. Vanity might sometimes give occasion to this diversity. When an individual of another community had become acquainted with this wonderful artifice, he might endeavour to recommend himself to his own people, as the deviser of it: and, to evade detection, might have recourse to the substitution of new symbols. But let no more credit be given to this conjecture than it deserves, a conjecture not improbable in itself.
3. The characters of the alphabet might, sometimes, be accommodated, as much as possible, to the symbolical marks already in use amongst a particular people. These, having acquired a high degree of sanctity by the use