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The earliest history of the Slavic nations is involved in a darkness, which all the investigations of diligent and sagacious modern historians and philologians have not been able to clear up. The analogy between their language and the Sanscrit, seems to indicate their origin from India; but to ascertain the time at which they first entered Europe, is now no longer possible. Probably this event took place seven or eight centuries before the Christian era, on account of the over-population of the regions on the Ganges.[1] Herodotus mentions a people which he called Krovyzi, who lived on the Ister. There is even now a tribe in Russia, whose name at least is almost the same.[2] Strabo, Pomponius Mela, Pliny, Tacitus, and several other classical and a few oriental writers, allude to the Slavic nations occasionally. But the first distinct intelligence we have of them, is not older than the middle of the sixth century.[3] At this period we see them traversing the Danube in large multitudes, and settling on both the banks of that river. From that time they appear frequently in the accounts of the Byzantine historians, under the different appellations of the Slavi, Sarmatae,[4] Antae, Vandales, Veneti, and Vendes, mostly as involved in the wars of the two Roman empires, sometimes as allies, sometimes as conquerors; oftener, notwithstanding their acknowledged valour and courage, as vassals; but chiefly as emigrants and colonists, thrust out of their own countries by the pressing forward of the more warlike German or Teutonic tribes. Only the first of the above mentioned names is decidedly of Slavic origin;[5] the second is ambiguous; and the last four are later and purely geographical, having been transferred to Slavic nations from those who had previously occupied the territory where the Romans first became acquainted with them.

It results from the very nature of this information, that we cannot expect to get from it any satisfactory knowledge of their political state or the degree of their civilization. In general, they appear as a peaceful, industrious, hospitable people, obedient to their chiefs, and religious in their habits. Wherever they established themselves, they began to cultivate the earth, and to trade in the productions of the country. There are also early traces of their fondness for music and poetry; and some circumstances, of which we shall speak in the sequel, seem to justify the supposition of a very early cultivation of the language.

All the knowledge we have respecting the ancient history of the Slavic race, as we have seen, is gathered from foreign authors; the earliest of their own historians did not write before the second half of the eleventh century.[6] At this time the Slavic nations were already in possession, partly as masters, partly as servants, of the whole vast extent of territory, which they now occupy; and if we assume that at the present time about seventy or eighty millions speak the Slavic language in its different dialects, we must calculate that at the above mentioned period, and in the course of the next following centuries, before the Slavic was by degrees supplanted in the German-Slavic provinces by the German idiom, the number of those who called that language their mother tongue was at least the fifth part greater. Schloezer observes, that, with the exception of the Arabians, no nation on the globe had extended themselves so far. In the South, the Adriatic, the range of the Balkan, and the Euxine, are their frontiers; the coasts of the Icy Ocean are their limits in the North; their still greater extent in an Eastern and Western direction reaches from Kamtschatka and the Russian islands of the Pacific, where many of their vestiges are to be found among scattered tribes, as far as to the Baltic and along the banks of the rivers Elbe, Muhr, and Raab, again to the Adriatic. It is this immense extent, which adds greatly to the difficulties of a general survey of the different relations and connections of nations, broken up into so many parts. The history of the language is our object, not the history of the people; we therefore give of statistic and political notices only so much, as seems to be requisite for the illustration of our subject.

The earliest data for the history of the civilization of the Slavic race, we find in their mythology; and here their oriental origin again appears. The antithesis of a good and evil principle is met with among most of their tribes; and as even at the present time in some Slavic dialects every thing good, beautiful, praiseworthy, is to them synonymous with the purity of the white colour, they call the good Spirit Bielo Bog, the white god; the evil Spirit Tcherno Bog, the black god. The Div of the old Russians seem to be likewise akin to the Dev of the Hindoo; the goddess of life, Shiva, of the Polabae, to the Indian Shiva; as the names of the Slavic personification of death, Morjana, Morena, Marzana, evidently stand in connection with the Indian word for death, Marana. Strabo describes some of the idols of the Rugians, in which we meet again the whole significant symbolization of the East. The custom prevalent among many Slavic nations, of females burning themselves with the corpses of their husbands, seems also to have been brought from India to Europe.

There are, however, other features of their mythology which belong to them exclusively, and which remind us rather of the sprightly and poetical imagination of the Greeks. We allude to their mode of attributing life to the inanimate objects of nature, rocks, brooks and trees; of peopling with supernatural beings the woods which surrounded them, the mountains between which they lived. The Rusalki of the Russians, the Vila of the southern Slavic nations, the Leshie of several other tribes, nymphs, naiads, and satyrs, are still to be found in many popular tales and songs. If, however, we have compared them to the poetical gods of the Greeks, we must not forget to add, that their character has less resemblance to these gods, (who indeed appear only as ordinary men with higher powers, more violent passions, and less limited lives.) than it has to the northern Elf; and the German Nix and mountain Spirit—without heart and soul themselves, but always intermeddling with intrusive curiosity in human affairs, however void of real interest in them; revengeful towards the most trifling offence or the least neglect; and beneficent only to favourites arbitrarily chosen.[7]

The earliest historians mention the Slavi as divided into several tribes and as speaking different dialects. There are no very ancient remains of their language, except those words or phrases, which we find scattered through the works of foreign writers; and these mostly perverted by their want of knowledge. Besides these we have the names of places, of festivals, partly still existing, and of some dignitaries,Knes, Zupan, etc. There are, indeed, among the popular songs of the Bohemians, Servians, Russians, and several other tribes, many which are evidently derived from the pagan period; but as they have been preserved only by tradition, we must of course assume, that their diction, has been changed almost in the same proportion as the language of common life. Hence, national songs, before they have been fixed by letters, are always to be considered as much safer proofs for the genius than for the language of a people.

It is, however, probable that at least one Slavic idiom was cultivated to a certain degree in very ancient times; for from the single circumstance, that Cyril's translation of the Bible, written in the middle of the ninth century, bears the stamp of uncommon perfection in its forms, and of great copiousness, it is sufficiently evident, that the language must have been the means of expression for thinking men several centuries before. There is, indeed, no doubt that the state of the language, as it appears in that translation, required no short interval of preparation.

The first attempts to convert portions of the Slavic race to Christianity were probably made before the seventh century; but it was only at the beginning of the ninth that their partial success became of importance to their language and literature. It is true, that by the last investigations of the late great Slavist, B. Kopitar, the fact has been ascertained, that a portion of the Slavic race was already in possession of an alphabet before Cyril;[8] but as this fact appears to have had no further result, we must still consider the ninth century and Cyril's translation of the Gospels as the beginning of their literary history, the dawn at least of a brighter day.

Before we enter upon our examination of the different branches, we must not neglect to direct the attention of the reader to the whole great trunk, which in the most ancient times appears to have ramified into two principal stems.

A boundless confusion indeed reigns in the classification of the Slavic nations among the earlier historians and philologists. It was the learned Dobrovsky of Prague, who first brought light into this chaos, and established a classification, founded on a deep and thorough examination of all the different dialects, and acknowledged by the equally great authority of Kopitar. Adelung, in his Mithridates,[9] has adopted it. The specific names, however, Antes and Slavi, which Adelung applies to the great divisions, and which were first used by Jornandes, are arbitrary, and less distinct than those adopted by Dobrovsky, Kopitar, and Schaffarik; who divide all Slavic nations, according to certain philological affinities and differences, into the North-Western and South-Eastern Stems.[10]

Far better would have been the terms 'Northern and Western,' 'Southern and Eastern,' divisions; which indeed can be the only proper meaning of those appellations. The Slovaks in Hungary, for instance, who belong to the first division, can in no way be called a North-Western people; and the Russians, who belong to the second, still less a South-Eastern nation. The origin from the South is common to all the Slavic tribes; hence the appellation of Northern and Southern can be applied to them only in a relative sense; and that portion of the Slavic race, which inhabits Russia, is not known to have ever lived in a more southern region than their Bohemian brethren. We adopt, therefore, the division of the Slavi into EASTERN and WESTERN Stems; which seems indeed to be the only strictly proper one.[11]

The following enumeration of the still existing distinct nations of the Slavic race, may serve to give a clearer view of them.



1. RUSSIANS. The Russians of Slavic origin form the bulk of the population of the European part of Russia. All the middle provinces of this vast empire are occupied almost exclusively by a people of purely Slavic extraction. The numerous Slavi who are scattered through Asiatic Russia, are of the same race. They belong to the Greek Church. To ascertain the exact numbers of the different races of one and the same nation, is exceedingly difficult. The statistical tables of the government afford little help; since it is the policy of the latter to annihilate as much as possible the difference of races. Schaffarik, in his Slavic Ethnography, gives the number of the Russians proper at 38,400,000. We follow him, as the most diligent and most consistent investigator of this matter; but we also feel bound to remark, that his statistical assertions have occasioned surprise, and met with contradiction.

2. RUSSNIAKS or RUTHENIANS, also called Russinians and Malo-Russians. These are found in Malo-Russia, the South of Poland, Galicia, Ludomeria or Red Russia, the Bukovina, also in the north-eastern part of Hungary, and scattered over Walachia and Moldavia. The Kozaks, especially the Zaporogueans, belong chiefly to this race; while the Kozaks of the Don are more mixed with pure Russians. Their number is given at more than thirteen millions. They all belong to the Oriental Church; though a portion of them are Greek-Catholics, or adherents of the United Church.


1. The ILLYRICO-SERVIANS proper, frequently called Rascians or Raitzi, comprising five subdivisions.

a) The SERVIANS in Servia, lying between the rivers Timock, Drina, Save, the Danube, and the Balkan mountains; and, as a Turkish province, called Serf Vilayeti. Their number is at least a million. In earlier times, and especially at the end of the seventeenth century, many of them emigrated to Hungary; where even now between three and four hundred thousand of them are settled; exclusive of their near relatives, the Slavonians, in the kingdom of Slavonia so called.

b) BOSNIANS, between Dalmatia, the Balkan mountains, and the rivers Drina, Verbas, and Save; from four to five hundred thousand in number. Most of them belong, like their brethren the Servians, to the Greek Church; about 100,000 are Roman Catholics. There are of late many Muhammedans among them, who still retain their language and most of their Slavic customs.

c) MONTENEGRINS (Czernogortzi). The national name of the Montenegrins, here given as Czernogortzi, is better written Tzernogortzi; see p. 119, n. 17. Their number is given by Sir J.G. Wilkinson at 80,000, or more. These are the Slavic inhabitants of the Turkish province Albania, among the mountains of Montenegro. They have spread themselves from Bosnia to the sea-coast as far as Antivari. This remarkable people the Turks never have been able to subjugate completely. They enjoy a sort of military-republican freedom: their head chief being a Bishop with very limited power. They amount to nearly 60,000 souls, belonging to the Eastern Church.

d) SLAVONIANS. These are the inhabitants of the Austrian kingdom of Slavonia and the duchy of Syrmia, between Hungary on the north and Bosnia in the south, about half a million in number. A small majority belongs to the Romish Church; the rest to the Greek Church.

e) DALMATIANS. The country along the Adriatic, between Croatia and Albania, together with the adjacent islands, is called the kingdom of Dalmatia, and belongs likewise to the Austrian empire. It has, together with the Istrian shore north of it, towards 600,000 inhabitants; of whom 500,000 belong to the Slavo-Servian race. They are all Roman Catholics; with the exception of about 80,000 who belong to the Greek Church.

2. The Austrian kingdom of CROATIA in our time, between Styria, Hungary, Slavonia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, and the Adriatic, is not the ancient Croatia of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Together with the Croatian colonists in Hungary, and the inhabitants of the Turkish Sandshak Banialouka, it contains about 800,000 souls. Of these less than 200,000 belong to the Greek Church; the great majority are Catholics. We shall see further on that the Croats are divided in respect to their language into two parts: one of them having affinity with the Servians and Dalmatians, the other with the Slovenzi of Carniola and Carinthia.

3. SLOVENZI or VINDES. These names comprise the Slavic inhabitants of the duchies of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, (the two latter forming the kingdom of Illyria,) and also those of the banks of the rivers Raab and Muhr in Hungary. Their number is over one million. With the exception of a few Protestants, they are all Catholics. They call themselves Slovenzi; but are known by foreign writers under the name of Vindes.


The BULGARIANS occupy the Turkish province Sofia Vilayeti, between the Danube, the Euxine, the Balkan, and Servia; they are about three and a half millions in number, the remnant of a great nation. About 80,000 more are scattered through Bessarabia and the other provinces of South Russia. Schaffarik enumerates seven thousand as Austrian subjects, living in that great receptacle of nations, Hungary. Most of them belong to the Greek Church.



1. BOHEMIANS and MORAVIANS (Czekhes). These are the Slavic inhabitants of the kingdom of Bohemia and the Margravate of Moravia, both belonging to the Austrian empire. They are about four and a half millions in number; of whom 100,000 are Protestants, the rest Catholics. Schaffarik includes also 44,000 of the Slavic inhabitants of Prussian Silesia in this race.

2. SLOVAKS. Almost all the northern part of Hungary is inhabited by Slovaks: besides this they are scattered through the whole of that country, and speak different dialects. They are reckoned at between two and three millions.


This comprises the inhabitants of the present kingdom of Poland; of a part of what are called since 1772 the Russian-Polish provinces; of the duchy of Posen; and of Galicia and Ludomeria. The bulk of the people in this latter country are Russniaks or Ruthenians. In the Russian provinces, which were formerly called White Russia, Black Russia, and Red Russia, and were conquered by the Poles in former times, the peasantry are Russians and Russniaks; in Lithuania, they are Lithuanians or Lettones, a race of a different family of nations. In all these countries, only the nobility and inhabitants of the cities are really Poles, or Slavi of the Leckian race. To the same race belongs also the Polish population of Silesia, and an isolated tribe in the Prussian province of Pomerania, called the Kassubes. The Slavi of the Leckian race hardly amount to the number of ten millions; all Catholics, with the exception of about half a million of Protestants.


There are remnants of the old Sorabae; and several other Slavic races in Lusatia and some parts of Brandenburg. Their number is less than 2,000,000; divided between Protestants and Catholics.

There is no doubt, that besides the races here enumerated, there are Slavic tribes scattered through Germany, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Walachia, nay, through the whole of Turkey. Thus, for instance, the Tchaconic dialect, spoken in the eastern part of ancient Sparta and unintelligible to the other Greeks, has been proved by one of the most distinguished philologists to have been of Slavic origin.[12] But to ascertain their number, at any rate very small, would be a matter of impossibility, and in every respect of little consequence.

We thus distinguish among the nations of the Slavic race two great families, the connection of whose members among each other is entirely independent of their present geographical situation; and this division rests upon a marked distinction in the Slavic language. To specify the marks, by which the philologist recognizes to which of these families each nation belongs, seems to be here out of place. The reader, without knowing the language itself, would hardly be able to comprehend them sufficiently; and he who understands it, will find better sources of information in philological works. All that concerns us here, is the general character, the genius of the language. For this purpose we will try to give in a few words a general outline of its grammar; exhibiting principally those features, which, as being common to all or most of its different dialects, seem to be the best adapted to express its general character.

The analogy between the Slavic and the Sanscrit languages consists indeed only in the similar sound of a great many words; the construction of the former is purely European, and it has in this respect a nearer relation to the Greek, Latin, and German; with which idioms it has evidently been derived from the same source.[13] The Slavic has three genders. Like the Latin, it knows no article; at least not the genuine Slavic; for those dialects which have lost their national character, like the Bulgarian, or those which have been corrupted by the influence of the German,[14] employ the demonstrative pronoun as an article; and the Bulgarian has borrowed the Albanian mode of suffixing one to the noun. For this very reason the declensions are more perfect in Slavic than in German and Greek; for the different cases, as in Latin, are distinguished by suffixed syllables or endings. The Singular has seven cases; the Plural only six, the vocative having always the form of the nominative. As for the Dual, a form which the Slavic languages do not all possess, the nominative and accusative, the genitive and local; the dative and instrumental cases, are always alike.

For the declensions of adjectives the Slavic has two principal forms, according as they are definite or indefinite. The Old or Church Slavonic knows only two degrees of comparison, the positive and comparative; it has no superlative, or rather it has the same form for the comparative and superlative. This is regularly made by the suffix ii. mostly united with one of those numerous sibilants, for which the English language has hardly letters or signs, sh, tsh, sht, shtsh, etc. In the more modern dialects this deficiency has been supplied; in most of them a superlative form is made by prefixing the particle nai; e.g. in Servian, mudar, wise, mudrii wiser, naimudrii, the wisest. The Russian, besides this and several other superlative forms, has one that is more perfect, as proceeding from the adjective itself: doroghii dear,doroshe dearer, doroshaishii, dearest. Equally rich is this language in augmentative and diminutive forms not only of the substantive but also of the adjective, a perfection in which even the Italian can hardly be compared to it; of which however all the Slavic dialects possess more or less. Almost all the Russian substantives have two augmentatives and three diminutives; some have even more. We abstain with some difficulty from adducing examples; but we are afraid of going beyond our limits. It deserves to be mentioned as a peculiarity, that the Slavi consider only the first four ordinal numbers as adjectives, and all the following ones as substantives. For this reason, the governed word must stand in the genitive instead of the accusative: osm sot (nom. sto), eight hundred. In all negative phrases they employ likewise the genitive instead of the accusative. A double negation occurs in Slavic frequently, without indicating an affirmation; for even if another negation has already taken place, they are accustomed to prefix to the verb the negative particle ne or nje.

In respect to the verb, it is difficult to give a general idea of its character; for it is in the forms of this part of speech, that there reigns the greatest variety in the numerous dialects of the Slavic language. The same termination which in Old Slavonic and in Russian indicates invariably the first person of the present, u or gu, is in Servian that of the third person Plural of the present and imperfect; and the general termination of the Servian and the Polish for the first person of the present, am, em or im, is in Old Slavonic and Russian used for the Plural, em and im. There is however one fundamental form through all the Slavic dialects for the second person of the present, a termination in ash, esh or ish; and this is consequently the person, by which it is to be recognized to what conjugation a verb belongs.

The division of the verbs adopted in all other European languages into Active and Passive, seems to be useless in Slavic; for their being active or passive has no influence upon their flexion; and the forms of the Latin Passive and Deponent must in Slavic be expressed by a circumlocution. A division of more importance and springing from the peculiarity of the language itself, is that into verbs Perfect andImperfect. Neither the Greek, nor the Latin, nor the German, nor any of the languages derived from them, admits of a similar distinction. It seems therefore difficult for persons not perfectly acquainted with any Slavic dialect, to form to themselves a clear idea of it. It is however one of their most striking features, which adds very considerably to their general richness and power. The relation in which the perfect and imperfect verbs stand to each other, is about the same as that of the perfect and imperfect tenses in the conjugation of the Latin verb. Perfect verbs express that an action takes place a single time, and therefore is entirely completed and past; from their very nature it results, that they have no imperfect tense, and their conjugation must be in general incomplete. Imperfect verbs express that the same action continues. Both have in most cases the same radical syllable, and may be formed with a certain degree of freedom; thus in Servian, viknuti, to cry once, vikati, to be crying; umriyeti, to die, umirati, to be dying. There are however others, which stand in the same relation to each other without issuing from the same verbal stock; e.g. in Servian, tchuti and sluskati, to hear; retji and govoriti, to speak, etc.

The Polish language, which is remarkably rich in every kind of flexion, has a still simpler and more regular way of forming also a frequentative out of almost every verb; e.g. czytam, I read, czytivam, I read often; biore, take, bieram, I take often, etc. In Bohemian, which in respect to grammar is by far the most cultivated of the Slavic languages, there is a refinement in the tenses, of which even the most perfect knowledge of the classical languages gives hardly any idea, and the right use of which is seldom, if ever, acquired by foreigners. Duration, decision, repetition, all the different shades of time and purpose, which other languages have to circumscribe in long phrases, the Bohemian expresses by a slight alteration of one or two syllables.

Not less rich in these variations of the verb is the Russian. Besides a vast treasure of original, genuine indefinite verbs, as they call all those, which have the general character of the verb of other languages, without any allusion to the duration or continuance of the action, they have verbs simple, frequentative and perfect. A single example will illustrate the fact:

Verb indefinite, dvigat',[15] to move.

Verb simple, dvinut', to move a single time.

Verb frequentative, dvigivat', to move repeatedly.[16]

Verb perfect, sdvigat', to move completely.

The reader may judge for himself, of what precision, compactness, and energy, a language is capable, which has so little need of circumlocution. It must be mentioned, however, that not all these verbs are complete; as indeed it is obvious from their very nature, that in many of them, various tenses must be wanting. It is probably for this reason, that some of the most distinguished grammarians do not acknowledge this division of the verb itself; but put all its variations under the conjugation of a single verb, as different tenses,—a proceeding which contributes much to make the Slavic grammar a horror to all foreigners.

If this short and meagre sketch is hardly sufficient to give the reader an idea of the richness, precision, and general perfectibility of the Slavic languages, it will be still more difficult to reconcile his mind to theirsound; against which the most decided prejudices exist among all foreigners. The old Slavic alphabet has forty-six letters; and from this variety it can justly be concluded, that the language had originally at least nearly as many different sounds, although a great part of them are no longer to be found in the modern Slavic languages. It is true, that all the dialects are comparatively poor in vowels, and, like the oriental languages; utterly deficient in diphthongs.[17] They have neither the oe nor ue, which the Germans consider as the best sounds of their idiom: nor the Greek,[Greek: ei], [Greek: ui], [Greek: au], [Greek: eu], and the like; still less the variety of pronunciation of one and the same vowel, peculiar to the English. The Poles, Russians, and Bohemians, possess however a twofold i, [18] a finer and a coarser one; the latter of which is not to be found in any other European language, and is unpleasant to the ear of foreigners. The Poles, besides this, have nasal vowels, as other languages have nasal consonants.[19]

It is a striking peculiarity, that Slavic words very seldom begin with a pure a,[20] hardly ever with e.[21] There are in the whole Russian language, only two words of Slavic origin, which have an initial e, and about twenty foreign ones in which this letter has been preserved in its purity; in all the rest the e is introduced by y; e.g. Yelisaveta, Elizabeth; yest ', Lat. est, it is; Yepiscop, episcopus, bishop; yeress, heresy, etc. The initial a is more frequent, and is especially preserved in most foreign proper names, e.g. Alexander, Anna; or in other foreign words, where they omit the H, as Ad, Hades, Hell, Alleluya, Hallelujah. But the natural tendency of the language is to introduce it likewise by y; thus they say yagnya, in preference to agnya, Lat. agnus, although this last also is to be found in the old church books: yasti, to eat,yakor anchor, yavor, maple, German ahorn.[22] The o in the beginning of words is pure in most Slavic dialects, i.e. without a preceding consonant. In Russian it sounds frequently more like an a than an o; e.g. adin, one, instead of odin; atiotz, father, instead of otetz. But the Vendes of Lusatia pronounce it vo; as also the Bohemians in the language of common life; although in higher style they have a pure initialo. The Croats, on the other hand, have no pure initial u; they say vuho ear, instead uho or ucho.

As to consonants, there is a great variety in the Slavic languages. There is however no f to be found in any genuine Slavic word; and even in words adopted from foreign languages, this letter has frequently changed its sound. So the Bohemian has made barwa from the German farbe, color. In respect to the connection of the Slavic with the Latin, it is interesting to compare bob with feba, bodu with fodio, vruwith ferveo, peru with ferio, plamen, with flamma, pishozala with fistula, etc.

The greatest variety among the Slavic letters exists in the sibilants. Of these there are seven, perfectly distinct from each other; some of which it would be difficult to denote by English characters[23]. They are the favourite sounds of the language. Not only the guttural sounds, g, ch, and k, but also d and t, are changed in many cases into analogous sibilants, according to fixed and very simple rules. On the other hand, the Slavic nations have a way of softening the harshness of the consonants, peculiar in that extent to them alone. The Frenchman has his l mouille, the Spaniard his elle doblado and n. the Portuguese hislh and nh; the Slavic nations possess the same softening sound for almost all their consonants. Such is the usual termination of the Russian verb in at' or it', etc. where other Slavic nations say ati or iti or those of the western branch acz or ecz. In the same manner it occurs after initial consonants; thus mjaso, meat; bjel, white; ljbov, love, etc.

The letters l and r have in all Slavic languages the value of vowels; words like twrdy, wjtr, which judging from their appearance a foreigner would despair of ever being able to pronounce, are always in metre used as words of two syllables. Thus Wlk, Srp, are not harsher than Wolk and Serp. We feel however that these examples cannot serve to refute the existing prejudices against the euphony of the Slavic languages. Instead of ourselves, let one of their most eloquent and warmest advocates defend them against the reproach of roughness and harshness.[24] “Euphony and feminine softness of a language are two very different things. It is true that in most of the Slavic dialects, with the exception of the Servian, the consonants are predominant; but if we consider a language in a philosophical point of view, the consonants, as being the signs of ideas, and the vowels, as being mere bearers in the service of the consonants, appear in a quite different light. The more consonants, the richer is a language in ideas. Exempla sunt in promtu. The euphony of single syllables is only partial and relative; but the harmony of a whole language depends on the euphonic sound of periods, words, syllables, and single letters. What language possesses these four elements of harmony in equal measure? Too many vowels sound just as unpleasantly as too many consonants; a suitable number and interchange of both is requisite to produce true harmony. Even harsh syllables belong to the necessary qualities of a language; for nature herself has harsh sounds, which the poet would be unable to paint without harsh sounding tones. The roughness of the Slavic idioms, of which foreigners have complained so frequently, is therefore exclusively to be ascribed to the awkwardness of inexperienced or tasteless writers; or they are ridiculous mistakes of the reader, who, unacquainted with the language, receives the sounds with his eyes instead of his ears.”—“The pure and distinct vocalization, which does not leave it to the arbitrary choice of the speaker to pronounce certain vowels or to pass them over, as is the case in German. French, and English, gives at the same time to the Slavic languages the advantage of a regular quantity of their syllables, as in Greek; which makes them better adapted than any other for imitating the old classic metres. We must confess, however, that this matter has been hitherto neglected in most of them, or has been treated with little intelligence. We mean to say: Each Slavic syllable is by its very nature either short or long; since each Slavic vowel has a twofold duration, both short and long. This natural shortening and lengthening of a syllable is, as with the Greeks, entirely independent of the grammatical stress or falling of the voice upon them, or in other words, of the prosodic tone; the quantity being founded on the nature of the pronunciation, on the longer or shorter duration of the vowel itself, and not on the grammatical accent. This latter may lie just as well on syllables prosodically short, as on those which are long.”

From these introductory remarks, we turn again to the historical part of our essay, referring the reader back to our division of the whole Slavic race into Eastern and Western Stems. We have, first of all, that most remarkable Old or Church Slavonic, the language of their Bible, now no longer a living tongue, but still the inexhaustible source of the sublimest and holiest expressions for its younger sisters. Then follow the four languages, perfectly distinct from each other, spoken by the Eastern Slavic nations, viz. the Russian, Illyrico-Servian, Vindish, and Bulgarian. Three of them possess a literature of their own; and one of them, the Illyrico-Servian, even a double literature; for political circumstances and the influence of the early division of the oriental and occidental churches, having unfortunately split the nation into two parts, caused them also to adopt two different methods of writing one and the same language, as we shall show in the sequel. And lastly, among the Slavic nations of the Western stem, we find either three or fourdifferent languages, according as we regard the Czekhish and Slovakian idioms as essentially the same or distinct, viz. the Bohemian, [Slovakian,] Polish, and Sorabic in Lusatia. Of these, the first and third have each an extensive literature of its own.[25]


[Footnote 1: See Schlegel's Sprache und Weisheit der Indier, Heidelb. 1808. Von Hammer's Fundgruben des Orients, Vol. II. p. 459 sq. Murray's History of the European Languages, Edinb. 1823. F.G. Eichhoff, Histoire de la Langue et de la Literature des Slaves etc. considerees dans leur origins Indienne, etc. Paris, 1839.—Frenzel, who wrote at the close of the seventeenth century, took the Slavi for a Hebrew tribe and their language for Hebrew. Some modern German and Italian historians derive the Slavic language from the Thracian, and the Slavi immediately from Japhet; some consider the ancient Scythians as Slavi. See Dobrovsky's Slovanka, VII. p. 94,]

[Footnote 2: Krivitshi. The Greek is Krobuzoi, Herodot 4. 49. Comp. Strabo VII. p. 318, 319. Plin. H.N. IV. 12.]

[Footnote 3: The first writers, who mention the Slavi expressly, are Jordan or Jornandes, after A.D. 552; Procopias A.D. 562; Menander A.D. 594; and the Abbot John of Biclar before A.D. 620. See Schaffarik's Geschichte der Slavischen Sprache und Literatur, Buda, 1826. Dobrovsky's Slovanka, V.p. 76-84.—Schaflarik, in his more recent work on Slavic Antiquities, 1838, and in his Slavic Ethnography, 1842, supposes he has found the first Slavi already three centuries B.C. in the Veneti or Wendi on the Baltic. But as every connecting link between them and the historical Slavi is wanting, the fact seems of little importance.]

[Footnote 4: Schaffarik in his work on Slavic Antiquities attempts to prove that the Sarmatae were no Slavi, but a Perso-Median nation; remnants of which, he thinks, he has discovered in the Alanes and Osetenzes in the Caucasus.]

[Footnote 5: The name of the Slavi has generally been derived from slava, glory, and their national feelings have of course been gratified by this derivation. But the more immediate origin of the appellation, is to be sought in the word slovo word, speech. The change of o into a occurs frequently in the Slavic languages, (thus slava comes from slovo) but is in this case probably to be ascribed to foreigners, viz. Byzantines, Romans, and Germans. In the language of the latter, the o in names and words of Slavic origin inmany instances becomes a. The radical syllable slov is still to be found in the appellations which the majority of the Slavic nations apply to themselves or kindred nations, e.g. Slovenzi, Slovaci, Slovane, Sloveni, etc. The Russians and Servians did not exchange the o for a before the seventh century. See Schaffarik's Geschichte, p. 5. n. 6. The same writer observes, p. 287. n. 8, “It is remarkable that, while all the other Slavic nations relinquished their original national names, and adopted specific names, as Russians, Poles, Silesians, Czekhes, Moravians, Sorabians, Servians, Morlachians, Czernogortzi, Bulgarians; nay, when most of them imitating foreigners altered the general name Slovene into Slavene, only those two Slavic branches, which touch each other on the banks of the Danube, the Slovaks and the Slovenzi, have retained in its purity their original national name.”—According to Schaffarik's later opinion, as expressed in his Antiquities, the appellation Slavi, Slaveni, or Slovenians, is derived from one of their seats, that is, the country on the Upper Niemen, where the Stloveni or Sueveni of Ptolemy lived. It is said to be called by the Finns Sallo (like every woodland); by the Lithuanians, Sallawa, Slawa; in old Prussian, Salava; by the neighbouring Germans, Schalauen; in Latin, Scalavia. But it seems a more natural conclusion, that vice versa the name of the district was rather derived from Slavic settlers living in the midst of a German, Russian, and Finnish population—For the derivation from slovo, word, speech, the circumstance seems to speak, that in most Slavic languages the appellation for a German (and formerly for all foreigners) is Njemetz, i.e. one dumb, an impotent, nameless, speechless person. What more natural, in a primitive stage of culture, than to consider only those as speaking, who are understood; and those who seem to utter unmeaning sounds, as dumb, impotent beings?]

[Footnote 6: The earliest Slavic historian is the Russian monk Nestor, born in the year 1056. See below, in the History of the Old Slavic and of the Russian languages. The reader will there see, that even the authority and age of this writer has been in our days attacked by the hypercritical spirit of the modern Russian Historical school.]

[Footnote 7: See Goerres' Mythengeschichte der Asiatischen Welt, Heidelb. 1810. Kayssarov's Versuch einer Slavischen Mythologie, Goetting. 1804. Dobrovsky's Slavia, new edit. by W. Hanka, Prague 1834, p. 263-275. Durich Bibliotheca Slavica, Buda 1795. J. Potocki's Voyages dans quelques parties de la Basse Saxe pour la recherche des antiquites Slaves, Hamb. 1795. J.J. Hanusch,Wissenschaft des Slavischen Mythus. Lemberg, 1842.]

[Footnote 8: Glagolita Clozianus, Vindob. 1836.]

[Footnote 9: Vol. II. p. 1610 sq.]

[Footnote 10: Schaffarik in his Slavic Ethnography, published nearly twenty years after his “History of the Slavic Language and Literature,” omits the word “North,” and divides the Slavi into the “ Western,” and “South-Eastern” nations. He must mean the Western, and the Southern AND Eastern.].

[Footnote 11: We acknowledge, however, that even this latter appellation admits of some restriction in respect to the Slovenzi or Windes of Carniola and Carinthia; who, notwithstanding their rather Western situation, belong to the Eastern race.]

[Footnote 12: By Kopitar; see the Wiener Jahrbuecher, 1822, Vol. XVII. Kastanica, Sitina, Gorica, and Prasto, are Slavic names. There is even a place called [Greek: Sklabochori], Slavic village. Leake in his Researches observes that Slavic names of places occur throughout all Greece.]

[Footnote 13: The affinity of the Slavic and Greek languages it has recently been attempted to prove in several works. Dankovsky in his work, Die Griechen als Sprachverwandte der Slaven, Presburg 1828, contends that a knowledge of the Slavic language is of the highest importance for the Greek scholar, as the only means by which he may be enabled to clear up obscure passages and to ascertain the signification of doubtful words. Among the historical proofs, he furnishes a vocabulary containing 306 Slavic and Greek words of striking analogy. “Of three sisters,” he observes, “one kept faithful to her mother tongue—the Slavic language; the second gave to that common heritage the highest cultivation—the Greek language; and the third mixed the mother tongue with a foreign idiom—the Latin language.” A work of the same tendency has been published in the Greek language, by the Greek priest Constantine, Vienna 1828. It contains a vocabulary of 800 pages of Russian and Greek words, corresponding in sound and meaning.—That these views are not new, is generally known; although they hardly ever have been carried so far, except perhaps by the author of the History of Russia, Levesque, who considers the Latins as a Slavic colony; or by Solarich, who derived all modern languages from the Slavic. Gelenius in his Lexicon Symphonum, 1557, made the first etymological attempt in respect to the Slavic languages. In modern times, great attention has been paid to Slavic etymology by Dobrovsky, Linde, Adelung, Bantkje, Fritsch, and others. An Etymologicon Universale was published in 1811, at Cambridge in England, by W. Whiter.—Galiffec, in his Italy and its Inhabitants, 1816 and 1817, started the opinion, that the Russian was the original language, and that the Old Slavonic and all the rest were only dialects.]

[Footnote 14: Or rather some writers in Lusatia and the Austrian provinces comprised in the kingdom of Illyria.]

[Footnote 15: The t' signifies the Yehr, or soft sign of the Russians in addition to the t. This letter not existing in the English language, we have endeavoured to supply it in the best possible way by the aspirate of the Greek language, which when it follows [Greek: t], is not very unlike it; e.g. [Greek: nukht emeron ], written [Greek: nuchthhemeron]. The real sound, however, is more like the German soft ch after t, as in Staedtchen, Huetchen.]

[Footnote 16: They are to be compared with the Latin verbs frequentative, as factitare instead of facere, cursitare instead of currere, etc.]

[Footnote 17: With the exception of the Slovakish dialect.]

[Footnote 18: Pronounce the i as in the word machine.]

[Footnote 19: To make, in writing, the different shades in the pronunciation of the same letters in Polish, is absolutely impossible. They must be caught with the ear; and, even then, cannot be imitated by the tongue of a foreigner.]

[Footnote 20: The English a in father.]

[Footnote 21: Like the English e in they.]

[Footnote 22: Compare the smooth breathing of the Greeks, and the Shemitish Aleph or Elif.]

[Footnote 23: There is e.g. a single letter in Old Slavonic and Russian for shish. The Pole writes szez.]

[Footnote 24: Schaffarik in his Geschichte, p. 40 sq.]

[Footnote 25: We abstain here from giving any historical references, as it would swell the volume beyond all due proportion; and historical notices, with the exception of those circumstances in immediate connection with the language, cannot properly be expected. All philological sources have been faithfully mentioned.]

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