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LETTERS ON THE ANCIENT BRITISH
LANGUAGE OF CORNWALL.
No. II.-[Continued from No. XXXIV. p. 452.]
The difficulty of comparison decreases, as we ascend from the Phenician to an investigation of the Hebrew, as far as it appears connected with the Cornish. The result, however, is not favorable for those who are fond of derivations, and would wish to prove a connexion between the two nations at some remote period. The dispersion of mankind so altered languages, that all our present discoveries can amount to no more than a few fragments of words and expressions, which may indeed afford us a strong internal evidence of a common origin, but which at the same time disclaim the possibility of much former intercourse. Among nearly 7,000 words, of which Dr. Borlase's Vocabulary is composed, I have not been able to recognise more than about 20 Hebrew roots, though I have examined it carefully; and of these I am aware that several are of a disputable nature. It is possible that some future inquirer may be more fortunate, and that some words may have escaped me. Still I may be confident that these cannot be numerous. It is remarkable, that though so many of the Hebrew tenses and nouns begin with the servile letters if and n, that I have found no words under those very letters in Cornish. I am willing to grant the fullest allowances for the disguise and corruption of words; but this is so important a circumstance, that I must pronounce the two languages to be unconnected and radically different.
It may, however, be asked, by what means even these few Hebrew words were originally incorporated with the Cornish ? They must be either some of those few primitives which escaped from the general confusion at Babel ; or else they were introduced among the Cornish during the progress of commercial intercourse. It
may perhaps have been owing to each of these causes ; some of the appellatives are expressive of objects for which even the rudest people must necessarily have names; others may have been ac- i quired by commerce, especially of objects unknown to the natives at the period of the general dispersion. History does not leave us room to suppose, that the Israelites ever traded to Britain ; but from their vicinity and alliances with the Phenicians, the Hebrew words which bave been introduced in the Cornish, must have been derived through the medium of the latter, who uudoubtedly traded long in Cornwall, but the extent of whose conimerce seems to have been exaggerated by the antiquarian, and to have been implicitly re-echoed by the unlearned, because it fattered their national prejudices.
It is singular, that the Hebrew for tin is neither of Phenician, Greek, nor Cornish derivation, but a primitive, b7a,' which was probably applied to the substance, from an allusion to the manner of procuring that metal. It is well known that the ancient workings for tin were stream works, in which, as at this day, the metallic particles were separated from the gravel, and collected by washing. Is it then fanciful to suppose, that the Hebrews would prefer to give it a name from this circumstance, rather than a foreign appellation of difficult pronunciation? They had already done so with respect to silver and lead, 9p?’ from 707 he desired, and nohy from y dust. nụna brass, most probably took its
, name from um, a serpent, the color and brightness of whose scales it resembled. This appears a strong confirmation that un in the third of Genesis, can mean nothing else than a serpent ; nor is there any other animal that could have given its name so properly to brass, or brass to it. Mr. Weld mentions, in bis Travels, that there is a copper snake in the United States. We have also a parallel instance of a modern commodity, which has lost its real name for one more appropriate to its nature, like the above 57? for tin. Anil is an Arabic word for indigo, and is still retained by its more ancient cultivators the Spanish and Portuguese; while
" From 579, he separated.
2 Thus we have åpyupov from depoyos, white. Ezekiel mentions all the metals, gold excepted, chap. xxii. 20.
in the other parts of Europe, the original word has been either unknown, or forgotten, and a more easy appellation substituted, merely expressive of the country where it is produced.
Dr. Borlase informs us,' that it is one of “the most material singularities of this tongue, that the substantive is placed generally before the adjective.” This is also the case in Hebrew ; for a few
" Biblical exceptions cannot affect a general rule. Thus DT 12 JN NOUA wise son maketh a glad father. Prov. xv. 14. 33 TY7-w22: 193. The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge. Prov. xv. 14. The principle is even carried so far, that when the adjective precedes, the auxiliary 77, he was, is understooa, and to be construed after the noun. Thus, :717 7277 The word of the Lord is right. Psalm xxiii. 4. In the Cornish the pronouns are mcorporated with the verb. They are also suffixed to Hebrew verbs, as in 1972, he blessed him, from 377; joy, he placed him, from DIV; and 1709, he covered them, from
If these coincidences were supported by many other affinities, they would add to the argument for some ancient Hebrew connexion ; but insulated as they are, I apprehend that they are purely accidental.
We must not confound chronology because the Jews enjoyed for a long time the farm of the tin mines. Their affairs were the most prosperous in Cornwall, from the reign of King John, till their expulsion by Edward I.; and the ruins of their establishments are still known by the names of Jews' houses. This was at a period, when that unhappy people could not have any influence on the language of the country. I am not acquainted with any historical record, that fixes the era of their first settlement in Cornwall; but it must have been long subsequent to the loss of their national tongue; and it may be conjectured, that it might have been soon after the destruction of Jerusalem by 'Titus; or it might have been as late as the earlier Plantagenets. The presumption
· Natural History of Cornwall, p. 314.
for the former period, is derived from the well-known cruel treatment which they experienced from the Romans, who then worked the tin mines, and by whom such a labor was considered as one of the severest punishments that could be inflicted on criminals and worthless slaves. The town of Marazion, (or as it is literally rendered, Market Jere,) would seem to prove that the settlement of that people was of long continuance. The argument for the latter supposition is drawn from the absence of historical documents respecting the Jews, in Cornwall, till the reign of John. If, therefore, we refer their arrival to either era, it will be evident, that the Jews could have had no influence on the Cornish, as the Hebrew itself had ceased to be a living tongue many centuries before, and soon after their return from Babylon.
I shall conclude these remarks with a list of the few Hebrew and
7e Strong drink.
77 (Chaldee) that
.He groaned אָנק
.An ox בָּקָר
7?? A horn.
.The earth אֶרֶץ
Erw, ........ A field,
17? He was fruitful.
· Baul tinney is in Celtic, the place of fire. Ed.
Gwyr, ......A man, .. from 77. A man.
gay He served. Hal, uhal,.... A hill,
by He ascended. Ithick, ......Cruel,
pay Perverse. Kriha, Scoth, .... A shoulder,
piwi A shoulder. Zeah, ...... Dry, Zeth,' ...... An arrow, ..
YIT An arrow. The above list, imperfect as it is, is the best that I have been able to collect from my Cornish documents.
.He called קָרָא
As we leave the Oriental languages, and approach the classical era, the examination of Cornish with Greek offers itself as less complicated and uncertain. Cornish, as might be expected, contains more Greek than Hebrew words, and on carefully looking over the Vocabulary, I have discovered an insignificant number indeed, when taken from such a collection, and wbich could never have had any direct influence upon that tongue.
The European languages have so many affivities, and the similarity of their phraseology is so frequent, that they seem to have had but one common origin; and thus confirm the Mosaic account, concerning the posterity of Japheth, that “ by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families in their nations ;” (Gen. x. 5.) or (as it is generally understood), the several divisions of Europe. All these retain more or less of Hebrew and Greek; and that too in words and expressions interwoven in the speech of the vulgar, and which appear to have been coeval with the respective languages; for I do not include any of those terms of art, which have been intro
" This is probably a corruption of Sagitta. Archery does not appear to be a Celtic art. If we trace all the Celtic names of these implements, we shall find them Roman. Ed.