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Modern School and the d Abbadies
Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > French Linguists > Modern School and the d Abbadies

A few words must suffice for the French school since Remusat, although it has held a very distinguished place in philological science. The Societe Asiatique, founded at Remusat's instance, and for many years directed by him as secretary, has not only produced many eminent individual philologers, as De Sacy, Quatremere, Champollion, Kenan, Fresnel, and De Merian; but, what is far more important, it has successfully carried out a systematic scheme of investigation, by which alone it is possible, in so vast a subject, to arrive at satisfactory results. M. Stanislas Julien's researches in Chinese; M. Dulaurier's in the Malay languages ; Father Marcoux's in the American Indian; Eugene Bourmouf's in those of Persia ; the brothers Antoine and Arnauld d'Ab-badie in the languages of East Africa, and especially in the hitherto almost unknown Abyssinian and Ethiopian families; Eugene Bore in Armenian ; M. FresuePs explorations among the tribes of the western shores of the Red Sea; and many similar successful investigations of particular departments, are contributing to lay up such a body of facts, as cannot fail to afford sure and reliable data for the scientific solution by the philologers of the coining generation, of those great problems in the science of language, on which their fathers could only speculate as a theory, and at the best could but address themselves in conjecture. Although 1 have no intention of entering into the subject of living French linguists, yet there is one of the gentlemen whom I have mentioned, M. Fulgence Fresnel, whom I cannot refrain from alluding to before I pass from the subject of French philology. His name is probably familiar to the public at large, in connexion with the explorations of the French at Nineveh , but he of scholarship. M. d'Abbadie," himself a most accomplished linguist, informed me that M. Fresnel, although exceedingly modest on the subject of his attainments, has the reputation of knowing twenty languages. The facility with which he has acquired some of these languages almost rivals the fame of Mezzofanti. M. Arago having suggested on one occasion the desirableness of a French translation of Berzelius's Swedish Treatise " On the Blow-pipe," Fresnel at once set about learning Swedish, and in three months had completed the desired translation ! Fie reads fluently Hebrew, Greek, Romaic, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and what little is known of the Hieroglyphical language. He is second only to Lane as an Arabic scholar. Among the less known languages of which M. Fresnel is master, M. d'Abbadie heard him speak a few sentences of one, of which he may be said to have himself been the discoverer, and which is, in some respects, completely anomalous. M. Fresnel describes this curious language in the Journal Asiatique, July, 1838. It is spoken by the savages of Mahrak; and as it is not reducible to any of the three families, the Aramaic, the Canaanitic, or the Arabic, of which, according to Gesenius, the Ethiopic is an elder branch, M. Fresnel believes it to be the very language spoken by the Queen of Saba! Its present seat is in the mountainous district of Hhacik, Mirbat, and Zhafar. Its most singular characteristic consists it its articulations, which are exceedingly difficult and most peculiar. Besides all the nasal sounds of the French and Portuguese, and that described as the "sputtered sound" of the Amharic, this strange tongue has three articulations, which can only be enunciated with the right side of the mouth ; and the act of uttering them produces a contortion which destroys the symmetry of the features ! M. Fresnel describes it as " horrible, both to hear and to see spoken." Endeavouring to represent the force of one of these sounds by the letters hh, he calls the language Ehhkili

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