ARABIC LANGUAGE. That important family of languages, of which the Arabic is the most cul tivated and most widely-extended branch, has long wanted an appropriate common name. The term Oriental languages, which was exclusively applied to it from the time of Jerome down to the end of the last century, and which is even now not entirely abandoned, must always have been an unscientific one, inasmuch as the countries in which these lan guages prevailed are only the east in respect to Europe ; and when Sanscrit, Chinese, and other idioms of the remoter East were brought within the reach of our research, it became palpably incorrect. Under a sense of this impropriety, Eichhorn was the first, as he says himself (Allg. Eibl. Biblioth. vi. 772), to introduce the name Semitic languages, which was soon generally adopted, and which is the most usual one at the present day. Neverthe less, Stange (in his Theolog. S'ymmikta) justly ob jected to this name as violating the statements of the very Mosaic account (Gen. x.) on which the propriety of its use professed to be based. For, according to that genealogical table, some nations, which in all probability did not speak a language belonging to this family, are descended from Shem ; and others, which did speak such a language, are derived from Ham. Thus 'Elam and Asshur are deduced from Shem (ver. 22) ; and the descendants of Cush in Arabia and Ethiopia, as well as all the Canaanites,.from Ham (ver. 7, sq.) In modern times, however, the very appropriate designation Syro-Arabian languages has been proposed by Dr. Prichard, in his Physical History of Man. This term, besides being exempt from all the above mentioned objections on the score either of latitude or inadequacy, has the advantage of forming an exact counterpart to the name by which the only other great family of languages with which we are likely to bring the Syro-Arabian into relations of contrast or accordance, is now universally known —the Indo-Germanic. Like it, by taking up only the two extreme members of a whole sisterhood according to their geographical position when in their native seats, it embraces all the intermediate branches under a common band ; and, like it, it constitutes a name which is not only at once intel ligible, but one which in itself conveys a notion of that affinity between the sister dialects, which it is one of the objects of comparative philology to de. monstrate and to apply. [Suntrric LANGUAGES.
Of this family, then, the Arabic forms, together with the Ethiopic, the southern branch. In it we find the full and adult development of the genius of the Syro-Arabian languages. In the abundance of its roots, in the manifold variety of its formations, in the syntactical delicacies of its construction, it stands pre-eminent as a language among all its sisters. Every class of composition also : the wild
and yet noble lyrics of the son of the desert, who had `nothing to glory in but his sword, his guest, and his fervid tongue ; the impassioned and often sublime appeals of the Quran ; the sentimental poetry of a Mutanabbi ; the artless simplicity of their usual narrative style, and the philosophic dis quisition of an Ibn Chaldfin ; the subtleties of the grammarian and scholiast ; medicine, natural his tory, and the metaphysical speculations of the Aristotelian school—all have found the Arabic lan guage a fitting exponent of their feeling and thought. And, although confined within the bounds of the Peninsula by circumstances to which we owe the preservation of its pure antique form, yet Islam made it the written and spoken language of the whole of Western Asia, of Eastern and Northern Africa, of Spain, and of some of the islands of the Mediterranean ; and the ecclesiastical language of Persia, Turkey, and all other lands which receive the Mohammedan faith ; in all which places it has left sensible traces of its former occupancy, and in many of which it is still the living or the learned idiom. Such is the Arabic language ; so important its relations to the literary and civil history of a large portion of the 'human race ; the more im portant also to us as bridging over that wide chasm which intervenes between the extinction of classical literature and the revival of that spirit to which the literature of all modern languages owes its origin. Into these general views of the Arabic language, however, it is not the province of this work to enter : an able article in the Penny Cydo by the late Dr. Rosen, will satisfy those who desire information. Our object here is to shew the mode and the importance of its bearings on Biblical philology. [See also Havernick Gen. Intr. pp. to6-124.] The close affinity, and consequently the incal culable philological use, of the Arabic with regard to the Hebrew language and its other sisters, may be considered partly as a question of theory, and partly as one of fact. The former would regard the concurrent records which the Old Testament and their own traditions have preserved of the several links by which the Arabs were connected with different generations of the Hebrew line, and the evidences which Scripture offers of persons speaking Arabic being intelligible to the Hebrews ; the latter would observe the demonstrable identity between them in the main features of a language, and the more subtle, but no less convincing traces of resemblance even in the points in which their diversity is most apparent.