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Laguna Copperplate Inscription in the Kawi script. Script Description [Kawi]. Another Briton, William Marsden, had acknowledged the importance of Tagalic, but had, said Humboldt, nonetheless excluded it from his word analysis in the Archaeologia Britannica. Perhaps the English scholars did not want to discover the truth about the languages and the peoples of the great ocean civilization; Humboldt, however, did. In fact, he even rejected the name Polynesian to designate this category, on the grounds that it was geographical and limited, and preferred to it the term Malaysian, meaning not only the language culture, but the people.
The linguistic material that Humboldt considered was vast. Each is a system, whereby sound is linked to thought.
Glottolog - Kawi
The business of the language researcher is to find the key to this system. In this spirit, Humboldt assembled a list of over one hundred words, from Malaysian proper, i. The comparative tables, completed by his student Buschmann, show striking similarities, as the following few examples demonstrate. The large number of examples for Madecassian derive from the fact that several sources were consulted, including dictionaries and the translation of the Holy Scriptures :.
TABLE 1. Comparison of vocabulary words within the Malayan-Polynesian language family. But, not only are the words similar. Grammatically, the pronoun for the first person singular, I, is also the same: New Zealand ahau, Mad. The relationship among these languages is also transparent in number; and so on and so forth, for the process of word-formation, syntax, and other aspects of the language.
In the final part of his monumental study, Humboldt moved yet farther eastward, to examine the languages of the South Sea Islands [See Figure 2] And, here again, by comparing the basic vocabulary, the laws of grammar and syntax, he was able to demonstrate the nature and degree of relationship among them, as well as between the eastern and western branches of the Malayan group.
A Digital Library of Language Relationships
The method Humboldt applied is truly wonderful, because he focussed on identifying the crucial example to prove the general law. The word Humboldt is referring to is an adverb of time; if this verbal particle functions as an adverb of time, he says, then it is certain that other verbal particles will also have that function. Humboldt notes a curious fact, which is, that the verbal particle always appears after the word it modifies in the western branch of Malayan, and always comes before the word, in the eastern branch. Humboldt draws up a chart showing the overview of the word for the whole language family.
Having reached this point, Humboldt takes one further crucial step, and considers the entire group which he has established as the Malay family, in comparison with, first, the Chinese language, and then, with the native languages of America. With Chinese, the group has much in common: The South Sea Islands languages have the habit of forming different words by making very slight sound changes, almost imperceptible to the untrained ear.
In his detailed analysis of three languages in the South Sea Island group Tonga, New Zealand, and Tahiti , Humboldt identified several characteristics which they shared with Chinese, such that they could be written in Chinese characters. These are: that each word which can be considered by itself, exists in the word order by itself, including words which indicate a grammatical relation; that none of these words undergoes any changes in the context of the phrase; and, that the grammatical words do not fuse with others.
Humboldt was very clear about how such phenomena came into being in the course of human history: On the one hand, he saw the ocean, not as a hindrance, but as a connecting factor among peoples. Considering this, what would Wilhelm von Humboldt have said, had he seen the cave drawings from Santiago de Chile, and those of his beloved Java, and those of Pitcairn Island?
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You know, that is fascinating! Not only, but there are legends in Polynesia, about the white god who created the place, named Maui. Humboldt would have been intrigued by the idea, that Egyptians had travelled through the ocean islands and left their inscriptions everywhere.
But, what would have thrilled him the most, is the idea that there was indeed one language, Maori, which was documented at least as early as the Third century B. Maori, still spoken today on New Zealand, is the modern form, indeed very different, but the same language genealogically, as the ancient Maori in which Rata and Maui wrote their inscriptions. Whether the roots of Maori were planted into the soil of the ocean islands at the time of the Egyptian expedition, or much earlier, the fact is, that Maori is one of the dialects of the vast language group of so-called Malayo-Polynesian, which Humboldt named the Malayan family.
The records of gold mining conducted on the island of Sumatra in the Second millennium B. Most probably, it was settlers of Dravidian stock from India, who may have been the dark-skinned people referred to in the early records of the islands; some affinities of the Dravidian languages with those of Papua New Guniea, have been researched. Following the Dravidians, who went to the islands, or stayed in southern India, came the Aryans of Sanskrit language culture, who had entered India from Central Asia, and thence, travelled on to the islands.
Thus, the continuing waves of settlements from India, which Humboldt hypothesized, as well as from Egypt, would explain what Humboldt found: the existence of a deep layer of Sanskrit in the Malayan family, even beneath the Sanskrit assimilated in the Kawi language. Furthermore, such waves of migration from Egypt, would explain the similarities which become manifest in the inscriptions by Maui, comparable to those in Libya and other sites in northern Africa.
Most unfortunately, Wilhelm von Humboldt died in Bopp was the genius who had virtually invented the science of comparative philology See Box on Philology with his ground-breaking work on the conjugations systems of Indo-European languages. Then, in his work, Bopp had dared to assert an affinity between those languages which Humboldt had reunited into one family, and the Indo-European group of Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Germanic, Italic, etc. Bopp was thus undertaking the task which Humboldt did not live long enough to tackle, to examine the organic relationship between Sanskrit, as primary among Indo-European, and the Malayan family.
Philological study, at least in the tradition of the great minds like Humboldt, Bopp, Grimm, Abel, and others, has never been an academic pursuit, to win recognition or power. It has been a passionate endeavor, to plumb the depths of the human mind, in its uniquely human capacity to create language, and to trace out the process through which human populations have moved about the earth, to populate and develop it, in fruitful communication with one another.
Humboldt understood philology in this vein, as contributing to the process of the perfection of mankind, as he wrote in On the Kawi Language:. Language enclasps more than anything else in men, the whole species.
Category:Old Javanese language
What manifestation of human activity best expresses the uniqueness of man, as distinct from all other species? What activity, at the same time, demonstrates the multiplicity of human society, diverse cultures developed by different human civilizations? How is it possible to reconcile the vast multiplicity in the world and throughout history, of such diverse cultures as the Chinese and the Greek, showing them to be two manifestations of the same human spirit?
These are questions which the science of philology, the study of languages in their historical development, answers. Wilhelm von Humboldt was the founder of the the Nineteenth century German school of philology, the greatest school of philology the world has ever known. To understand how man conceptualizes the universe, and how man organizes social relations, one must, Humboldt realized, examine the way in which man develops language.
While emphasizing the universal principles, whose existence is manifested in the fact that any language can be translated into any other, Humboldt focussed on the particular characteristics of a language, in order to identify its specifically national character. Since language is the most immediate form of activity which man invents to communicate with others, and to investigate the universe, then the form in which a people shapes its language most immediately expresses the national character of that people.
The achievements of a language, such as Greek in the Classical period, denote the more general progress of that people and culture; thus, for Humboldt, the teaching of Classical Greek and the study of Greek culture, must be the means through which to develop the mind. In looking at the multiplicity of language, Humboldt used a comparative approach, to see how different peoples succeeded in solving the same task, of expressing concepts. At the same time, the comparative approach made it possible to establish scientifically the relationship among different languages and therefore, historically, among different peoples.
Bopp had compared the verbal systems of languages, including the Sanskrit of ancient India, Classical Greek and Latin, and various Germanic languages, among others. Other philologists, among them Jacob Grimm, had studied the way in which, through time, certain sound differences in words of distant languages, which have the same meaning, can come about. By comparing groups of roots in different languages, which are used to designate the same actions or things, one can discover the laws of change in sound.
The study of philology as conducted by Humboldt, was not an academic exercise, but a passionate search to discover the laws governing the creative processes of the human mind. For Humboldt, there was nothing more joyful than to discover and learn a new language. Thank you for supporting the Schiller Institute. Contributions and memberships are not tax-deductible. All Rights Reserved. Fidelio, Vol. Spring They inhabit merely islands and archipelagoes, which are spread so far and wide, however, as to furnish irrefutable testimony of their early skills as navigators.
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If we take together the members of these ethnic groups who deserve to be called Malayan in the narrower sense But a large number of incontestable verbal affinities, and even the names of a significant number of islands, give evidence that the isles lying close to these points have the same population too, and that the more strictly Malayan speech-community extends over that whole area of the South Asiatic Ocean which runs southwards from the Philippines down to the western coasts of New Guinea, and then west about the island chains adjoining the eastern tip of Java, into the waters of Java and Sumatra, up to the strait of Malacca.
Humboldt goes on, to assert that East of the narrower Malayan community here delineated, from New Zealand to Easter Island, from there northwards to the Sandwich Islands, and again west to the Philippines, there dwells an island population betraying the most unmistakable marks of ancient blood-relationship with the Malayan races. The languages, of which we also have an exact grammatical knowledge of those spoken in New Zealand, Tahiti, the Sandwich Islands, and Tonga, prove the same thing, by a large number of similar words and essential agreements in organic structure.
He also writes that In many places we find among them fragments of a sacred language now unintelligible to themselves, and the custom, on certain occasions, of ceremoniously reviving antiquated expressions, [which] is evidence, not only of the wealth, age, and depth of the language, but also of attention to the changing designation of objects over time. Humboldt saw these languages not as a degeneration, but as representing the original state of the Malayan group.
What he accomplished was to subject the main languages known to comparative analysis, to establish their membership in one language family. As for the ethnic stock, Humboldt specifies that in both the broad areas identified, the people belong to the same stock. Now how we are to explain this Humboldt went on: Here I shall always be looking primarily to the indigenous element in this linguitsic union, but will take an extended view of it in its entire kinship, and will pursue its development up to the point where I believe I find its character most fully and purely evolved in the Tagalic tongue.
In the third book [he concluded], I shall spread myself over the whole archipelago, return to the problems just indicated, and so try to see whether this way, together with that discussed hitherto, may lead to a more correct judgment of the relations among peoples and languages throughout the entire mass of islands. What he asked himself was, essentially, what is the underlying, indigenous language beneath the Sanskrit influence? What relationship does it bear to the languages in the strictly Malayan group, and, then, what is their relationship to all the languages of the vast island world?