The more we analyze language, the more clearly we see that it transcends in depth the most conscious productions of the mind. -Schelling.
I believe truly that languages are the best mirror of the mind, and that an exact analysis of the signification of words would make us better acquainted than anything else with the operations of the understanding. -Leibnitz.
He who would examine the influence which words, mere words, have exercised on the minds of men, might write a history of the world that would teach us more than any which we yet possess. -Max Muller.
As the fossils of the rocks disclose to the paleontologist the various forms of life that have successively appeared upon the globe, so, too, the fossils of speech disclose to the scientific philologist the various stages that have been reached in the growth of human consciousness. -A. H. Sayce.
Language is the reflection of the thoughts and beliefs of communities from their earliest days; and by tracing its changes and its fortunes, by discovering the origin and history of words and their meanings, we can read those thoughts and beliefs with greater certainty and minuteness than had they been traced by the pen of the historian. -A. H. Sayce.
Etymology tends directly to aid us in the clear understanding and just and forcible employment of the words which compose our own language. -George P. Marsh.
Etymology has the charm of all sciences which deal with the beginning and growth of the great products of nature or mind. -George Curtius.
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From the PREFACE.
It is the aim of this work to explain as plainly as possible some of the most important results of the Science of Language.
It is astonishing how little is generally known, even by educated people, about language, -what it is, whence our words come, what is their true bearing, how is our language*'connected with those spoken by peoples around us, etc. We seem to speak too much as birds sing-without ever bending our minds to reflect on the nature of the sounds we utter.
The main results of geology, physiology, chemistry and other sciences are already a possession of the public at large. Why should we not pay some attention also to this wonderful instrument, without which civilization, society itself, could not be possible? An inquiry into the nature of our language cannot be less interesting, hardly less important, than the study of the constitution of the earth, or of our body.
A work on this subject which aims to be popular, is necessarily imperfect and incomplete. Many things are to be left out; technical terms must be avoided as much as possible; rigorous scientific order cannot generally be followed; too often concision must be given up and repetitions resorted to for the sake of plainness and clearness. It is also, of course, impossible not to use now and then instances, comparisons and explanations already given by others, especially in such standard works as those of Prof. Whitney and Max Muller.
All suggestions which may help to make this work more useful and less incomplete, will meet with thankful acknowledgment.show more