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Miraculous gifts of tongues
Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Other linguists > Miraculous gifts of tongues

With the Slavonic race our Catalogue of Linguists closes. Many particulars regarding the eminent names which it comprises are, of necessity, left vague and undetermined. I should have especially desired to distinguish in all cases, between mere book knowledge of languages and the power of writing, or still more of speaking, them. But unfortunately the accounts which are preserved regarding those scholars hardly ever enter into this distinction. Even Sir William Jones, though he carefully classified the languages which he knew, did not specify this particular; and in most other instances, the narrative, far from particularizing, like that of Jones, the extent of the individual's acquaintance with each language, even leaves in uncertainty the number of languages with which he was acquainted in any degree. the very distribution, too, which I have found it expedient to follow—according to nations—has had many disadvantages. But it seemed to be upon the whole the most convenient that could be devised. A distribution into periods, besides that it would have been difficult to follow out upon any clear and intelligible principle, would have been attended with the same disadvantages which characterize that according to nations; while the more strictly philosophical distribution according to ethnographical or philological schools, would have in great measure failed to illustrate the object which I have chiefly had in view. Several of the most eminent of the modern ethnographical writers, and particularly Pritchard, disavow all claim to the character of linguists; and the qualifications of many even of those whose pretensions seem the highest, have, when submitted to a rigid examination, proved far more than problematical. there are many curious details, however, into which, if space permitted, it would be interesting to pursue this inquiry. It might seem natural, for instance, to investigate the nature and extent of the Miraculous Gift of Languages—the "gene glaussan" of St. Paul—whether that possessed by the Apostles and other early teachers of Christianity, or that ascribed in later times to the missionaries among the Heathen, and especially to the great Apostle of India, St. Francis Xavier. Materials are not wanting for such an investigation'; but as it can hardly be said to bear upon the subject of this Biography, I have reluctantly passed it by.

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