Page images
PDF
EPUB

men

They are divided into numerous tribes, each of which is governed by several chiefs. One of the chiefs is always invested with authority over the rest, but his power is limited, and he can effect little without the concurrence of the majority of his tribe. Like most of the other branches of the Nilotic stock, the Wanika have no idols. They have some faint idea of a Supreme Being; but they invocate and offer animal sacrifices to the Koma, or shade of their dead. They are represented by Dr. Krapf as “a lying, talking, drinking, superstitious, and totally earthly-minded people, having the belly for their god;" but, on the other hand, he says that they are of peace, attentive to their sick, and honest."

The foundation of the grammatical and lexicographical structure of the Kinika language, which is a mere corruption of the Suaheli, has been laid by Dr. Krapf, who has likewise prepared a Kinika version of the Gospels of St. John and St. Luke, and of the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians. The Gospel of St. Luke was printed in 1848 at Bombay, in the American mission-press, for the benefit of the schools in which Wanika boys are instructed in the Christian religion. Although this Gospel, with the Heidelberg catechism and a spelling-book, constitutes all that has hitherto been printed in Kinika, there is already reason to hope that this small portion of the Divine Word has not been imparted to the benighted Wanika tribes in vain. “It is the missionaries' firm opinion (says Dr. Krapf) that the Lord is stretching his hands of mercy over these Nilotic tribes which have already been so richly blessed at the Cape; and that a mission-chain can be formed from this quarter for connecting the east and west of Africa, which will be the means of fulfilling the prophecy in the 18th chapter of Isaiah.” The determined and active hostility of the benighted tribes of the interior has, however, compelled the abandonment of this hope for a time. Meanwhile, the objects of the mission have been advancing—though by slow and alınost imperceptible degrees—among the Wanika themselves.

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A CONTRIBUTION to African etymology of the highest value has within the last few years been made by the Rev. S. W. Koelle, one of the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, in the collection of specimens of languages from the natives of different countries in Africa who have been brought into the colony of Sierra Leone. These specimens consist of two hundred and fifty words and short sentences, translated into the native languages of two hundred different localities. The results of the investigation are of an astonishing kind, and unfold such a view of the multitudinous inhabitants of that vast continent, and of the variety of their languages, and such glimpses of their national peculiarities, as to fill the mind of the Christian philanthropist with new thoughts of the work that lies before the Church of Christ in the evangelisation of Africa, of the vastness of the undertaking, and yet of the steps to be taken for its accomplishment.

Mr. Koelle's work, under the title of “ Polyglotta Africana,” was published in London, in 1854. We cannot better conclude this division of our subject than by quoting (from the Report of the Church Missionary Society for 1853) the following highly interesting sketch of the views which it developes. “ These discoveries of Mr. Koelle) show that Sierra Leone is the asylum of the representatives of not fewer than 200 different nations, speaking 151 distinct languages, besides numerous dialects of the

These nations lie scattered over the surface of Central, Western, and Southern Africa. The languages have been arranged under twenty-six groups; but there still remain fifty-four unclassified, more separate and distinct from each other than are the languages of Europe.

“ The nations represented at Sierra Leone lie along 4000 miles of coast, beginning from beyond the Senegal, in the north, to the Portuguese settlements south of the line. They extend in the interior throughout the whole course of the Niger, from its sources in the mountains beyond Sierra Leone, to its estuaries, comprising Timbuctu—the emporium of African commerce—and the vast prorinces subdued by the fanatical Mohammedan Fulas, and numerous small tribes who appear to have floated

same.

down the large volume of waters to settle upon the delta. At Sierra Leone are also found those who have wandered over the trackless Sahara from the very borders of Egypt, and those who have inhabited the islands of Lake Tchad in the centre of Africa, or borne office in the powerful kingdom of Bornu, or fought in bloody battles with the warriors of Darfur. Even the deep recesses of Southern Africa have furnished their tribute to the motley population of the British colony. There are those now casting their nets into the Atlantic, who in their youth sported on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and looked across the Mozambique. From that part of the southern continent, which has hitherto been a perfect blank in the maps, there are those in Sierra Leone who can tell of their native towns, which require a day or more to be traversed from end to end; of broad and deep rivers; of nations of tall and strongly built warriors; of savage cannibals; and of peaceful and generous nomadic hunters. And they are all ready to tell of the wants of Africa's hidden millions of immortal souls. Their breasts heave with emotion when a friendly inquiry is made respecting their fatherland; they eagerly supply the information, and appeal, often in fervid language, and with moving eloquence, to those who possess the best gift of God to a fallen world. And shall they plead in vain, in the very spot where they have been brought together, the asylum for liberated Africans, freed from the grasp of the oppressor, and settled in a quiet home by the powerful arm of Great Britain—shall they plead in vain for that second boon which shall make them and their country free indeed?'”

CLASS VII.- AMERICAN LANGUAGES.

ESQUIMAU X.

SPECIMEN, FROM ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL, CHAP. I. v. 1 to 14.

PIGIARNERME okausek ípok, okauserlo Gudemēpok, Gudelo okausiojok. 2 Tamna pigiarnerme Gudemepok. 3Tamaitarsuit tapsomunga pingortitauvut, tapsoma assiаgullo pingortisimmangilet, pingortisimmajut. Innosek tapsoma illuanētok; innoserlo innuit kaumanerivæt. 5 Kaumajorlo kaumaivok tãktomut, tăktomiullo tukkisingilæt. 6 In

. nungmik tillijauunajokarpok Gudemut, Johannesemik attelingmik. "Tamna tikkilaukpok kiyligiudsijovlune, kigligiudsikovlugo kaumajomik, illunaita tapsomuuga okpertitaulerkovlugit. 8 Nangminek tamna kaumajoungilak, kigligiudsikovlugole kaumajomik. 9 Tamedsa miksekārtok kaumajok, innungnik illunainik kaumarsaijok, nunamut tikkitunnik. 10 Sillaksoarmělauktok, sillaksoarlo tapsomunga pingortitauvok; sillaksoariniullo illitaringilæt. 11 Innutitaminut tikkipok, innutitangitalo illelliungilæt. 12 Tapsomningale illelliortut illunaita, tapkoa pitsartunermik tunnitsivigiveit, kittorngaulerkovlugit Gudemut, okpertut tapsoina attinganut. 13 Tapkoa aungmit pingitut, uviniub pijomajanganillonēt, angutib pijomajanganillonēt, Gudernille erniangomajut. 14 Okauserlo uviniolerpok, innukattigællutalo, ánanauningalo tækkolaukpavut, ernetuanget ānanauningatut, Atatamit pijub, saimarnelijartok miksekārnelijartorlo.

1.-GEOGRAPHICAL EXTENT AND STATISTICS.

The Esquimaux are dispersed over the northern coast of North America, inhabiting the shores of all the seas, bays, gulfs, and islands of the Arctic Ocean, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They are also found on the Atlantic side of the continent, along the coast of Labrador, as far south as the fiftieth degree of latitude; and they are likewise to be met with on the opposite coast of America, along the shores of the Pacific, from Behring Strait to Mount St. Elias, in the sixtieth degree of latitude. Their territory is exclusively maritime, for they are seldom found above a hundred miles from the sea-shore: the whole extent of country which this people inhabit does not, however, measure less than 5400 miles from one extremity to the other, reckoning along the coast.

Few countries are more thinly populated than the sterile domains of the Esquimaux. In Labrador, for instance, a large peninsula, equal in extent to Spain, France, and Germany, the resident population, including the Moravians and the natives, does not exceed 4000. Several dialects, of which Greenlandish is one variety, prevail among the different tribes of this widely-diffused race: but in smallness of stature and other physical peculiarities, and in their dirty, disgusting habits, the various Esquimaux nations strongly resemble each other; and, with the exception of those who have been reclaimed by missionary efforts, they are universally characterised by abject ignorance and its concomitant vices The sedentary Tchuktchi, a tribe inhabiting the north-eastward extremity of Asia, adjacent to the shores of Behring Strait, speak a dialect akin to Esquimaux, and are supposed to be the descendants of a colony planted by the West American Esquimaux.

11.-CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LANGUAGE. Although the Esquimaux have been regarded by some writers as a distinct race, yet the peculiar structure of their language is an evidence of their relationship to the other aboriginal tribes of America. All the languages of that vast continent, from the most polished to the least cultivated idioms, are distinguished by certain peculiarities of internal mechanism, which, independently of historical or other collateral testimony, distinctly indicate the fact of their having originated from one common

source.

The distinctive characteristic of this class of languages is their tendency to compress the words which are syntactically or logically connected together in a sentence into one single word. This peculiarity, which was first pointed out by Egede, in his account of Greenland, is familiarly called " agglutination,” and is of such frequent occurrence in most of the American languages, that Du Ponceau has given the name of “ Polysynthetic” to the whole group. The process

The process of forming these compound words is not, however, conducted on precisely the same principles in all the languages of this class. In the Algonquin and Esquimaux dialects, the five or six words thus compressed into one are all so abbreviated, that only one syllable (possibly the radical) of each is preserved. Extreme precision is another characteristic of American languages, every modification and qualification of an idea being expressed with such elaborate minuteness as to appear puerile and wearisome to Europeans. Thus, the Esquimaux have special and distinct terms for animals of the same species, according to their age, sex, and form. The nouns in general have no inflexions properly so called; plurality is denoted by a suffixed particle, and the oblique case of the personal pronoun is often inserted between the verb and the noun, producing a form of circumlocution like the following: “I saw him Peter.” In the conjugation of verbs, on the contrary, inflections expressive of the various modes and modifications of actions are even more numerous than in the Shemitic languages.

The uniformity which pervades the grammatical principles on which all American languages are constructed is not observable in their respective vocabularies; for the corresponding words in different dialects frequently differ so widely from each other, as to warrant the supposition of their having been deduced from distinct roots. A comparison has been instituted, by Professors Barton and Vater, between the words of about thirty American languages and the corresponding terms of other tongues; and in some instances affinities have thus been traced with various languages of north-eastern Asia. The affinity is, however, by no means sufficiently strong to indicate community of origin with any known language; and from all that has been hitherto ascertained concerning the American Indians, their languages, traditions, polity, manners, and customs, it is evident that this branch of the human family separated from the parent stock at a very remote epoch of history, and from some unknown cause, subsequently retrograded from a state of civilisation to their present degraded and unsettled condition.

III.-VERSION OF THE SCRIPTURES IN THIS LANGUAGE.

The glad tidings of the Gospel were first proclaimed in these inclement regions by the Moravian missionaries, who were induced to visit Labrador from the supposition that the natives spoke the same language as the Esquimaux of Greenland, among whom a Moravian mission had been established. It was, however, soon discovered that the dialect of Labrador differed in so many respects from that of Greenland, that the same version of the Scriptures would not be available for both countries. The missionaries therefore addressed themselves in the first instance to the preparation of a harmony of the Gospels for the Esquimaux of Labrador: many years were spent in revising and correcting this work, and at length, in 1809, it was sent for publication to London. Mr. Kohlmeister, who had been many years a missionary in Labrador, extracted from this MS. an entire version of the Gospel of St. John; and in 1810 an edition of 1000 copies of that Gospel was published in London, at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The copies were transmitted to Labrador, and were received with great thankfulness. “Our people (said the missionaries) take this little book with them to the islands when they go out in search of provisions; and, in their tents or snow houses, they spend their evenings in reading it with great edification and blessing."

This reception of the Gospel of St. John induced the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society to comply with the entreaties of the Labrador missionaries, to publish an edition of the other three Gospels. A version had been prepared by the venerable superintendent of the Labrador Mission, the Rev. C. F. Burghardt, who was permitted to complete his revision of the text shortly before his sudden dissolution. An edition of 1000 copies, to correspond with the Gospel of St. John, was therefore issued by the Society in 1813. A version of the Acts and Epistles, prepared by the conjoint labour of the Moravian missionaries, was published by the Society in 1819; and in 1826 a complete edition of the Esquimaux New Testament left the Society's press in London. In 1826 a version of the Psalms was also printed, and in 1839 a revised edition of the Acts, Epistles, and book of Revelation was completed. Other editions have been given by the Society at successive periods, and with the exception of some of the historical books, the Esquimaux version of the Old Testament has been completed. The Pentateuch was published in London in 1847, followed in 1849 by an edition of the Proverbs and the prophetical books. The number of copies of the sacred volume, in whole or in part, hitherto bestowed by the Society on the Esquimaux of Labrador, is as follows:

[blocks in formation]

IV.-RESULTS OF THE DISSEMINATION OF THIS VERSION. The blessing of God on this version of his Word has been abundantly manifested from the earliest period of its circulation. A missionary, who had laboured thirty-four years in Labrador, gave, in 1825, the following account of the effects of its perusal:-" The most efficacious means of promoting growth in grace among our Esquimaux is the reading of the New Testament. They peruse it daily in their houses and tents with the greatest earnestness, delight, and edification. Their understanding of the Word of God has greatly increased, and the influence upon their moral conduet is manifest; for they now, more than ever, desire to regulate their walk and conversation in conformity to truly Christian principles. Surely (after stating other interesting facts, he adds) this is an astonishing display of the goodness and mercy of God, in sending out his light and truth to a benighted people, who but half a century ago were immersed in the grossest superstition, and addicted to the most cruel vices. Those things which were formerly practised among the Esquimaux by their sorcerers and angekoks are at present hardly ever heard of, the heathen themselves being ashamed of them. In the Christian settlements the very names of angekok, tomgak, etc., are almost unknown to the rising generation."

In the schools established at the four missionary stations in Labrador for the instruction of the young, the study of the Scriptures has been attended with spiritual fruit more or less abundant; and in some of the more recent reports the missionaries state that, at the yearly examination of the schools, it is truly gratifying to observe the readiness with which “ the pupils bring forth out of the treasury of the Word of God the many precious truths they have learned from its pages.” At Easter (says a later writer) many of the Esquimaux visited Hopedale, and all appeared much gratified with the celebration of the sacred season. “In conversing with them we were pleased to find that they were not altogether without knowledge of religious truth, and that they know what they must do to inherit eternal life The Bible is their only instructor.”

« PreviousContinue »