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islands, as the Feejee, the Friendly, and the Society islands; and, according to Dr. Lang, not as a religious observance, but as an ancient custom.
4. In some islands their idols, and other images, are said to bear a striking resemblance to those of Eastern Asia, particularly to those of the Burman Empire.
5. The islanders, in their physical conformation and general character, strongly resemble the Malays, and have the same cast of countenance.
6. Various Asiatic customs are found among them; as the custom of not allowing women to eat with their husbands, nor to partake of the food reserved for the latter; the practice of sitting cross-legged on the ground; and in the Friendly Islands, as in Siam and some other countries, it is deemed most respectful for the subject to sit while in the presence of his sovereign ; the custom of saluting each other by touching noses, which is known also in Eastern Asia. In the Feejee Islands, when a man dies, his principal wife must be strangled and buried with him; a barbarous custom which seems to be borrowed from the cruel sutlees of Hindostan. According to a well known navigator, Captain Hunter, on one of the islands called the Duke of York's Island (cast of New Ireland), "most of the natives chew the betel nut, with the chunam and a leaf, as practised in the East Indies; and this island is twenty degrees eastward of the Pelew Islands, which are commonly supposed to be the most distant country from Asia, to which this custom could be traced.”
7. The islanders, particularly of the South Pacific, have a tradition, that their first ancestors came from the north west.
8. According to Mr. Marsden, and some other writers, the original clothing of the Sumatrans is the same with that called Otaheitan cloth.
Such are some of the principal arguments derived from physical resemblances and corresponding customs of the people of Asia, and the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These coincidences might be multiplied ; and some of those here mentioned are certainly remarkable.
The identity of two people, however, is not to be inferred with so much certainty from the mere similarity of customs and usages, as from their languages. Strong resemblances in the former may exist between nations who have had no intercourse with each other. But when we find two different nations, even if on opposite parts of the globe, speaking the same language, or whose languages are substantially the same, we feel at once assured that they are all of the same stock. To take a strong case: if all historical records had been extinguished relating to the settlement of the American colonies, from our
mother country, and some voyager—as new nations are from time to time discovered in other parts of the world—should have found a people here, speaking the same language that he knew to be used in England, he would seek no further proof of a common origin.
So when, among the remote islanders now in question, we find that the natives of Otaheite can converse with and be understood by those of the Sandwich Islands, each using his own language, though the two groups of islands are 2500 miles apart, (nearly as far as we are from England), we are obliged to consider them as members of the same family, however they may happen to differ in any particular customs, and however difficult it may be for us to conceive that they could have navigated over such an extent of ocean, in the frail canoes that have been used by them, as long as they have been known to us.'
This evidence of identity, it is true, will be stronger in proportion as the instances of resemblance are more nunierous. To illustrate the subject again, by our own language; because we happen to find in English a single French word grandeur, or a Spanish word cargo, or an Indian word wigwam, we are not to infer our relationship to all those nations, and thus prove that we are at the same time Frenchmen, Spaniards, Indians, and English. Particular words will find their way, from one people to another, by means of commerce and otherwise; but these serve only to prove, that the people who use them in common have had some intercourse with each other. Of this we can give a striking instance, from the little island which has been the more immediate occasion of our discussing this subject.
Upon accidentally enquiring of the captive seamen above mentioned, whether the natives of Lord North's Island wore any kind of hat or covering for the head, he informed us that sonie of thern did occasionally, though very seldom, and that their name for it was shappo." We immediately remarked to him, that this could not be a native word, but must have been borrowed either from the French, or more probably, from the Portuguese, who have so long had an extensive intercourse with the east. On our again enquiring, whether they had no other name for it, our informant, upon further recollection, said, that they sometimes called it shambararo, which again is a European word, being evidently a slight corruption of the Spanish word for a hat, sombrero.
Again, if we had no memorials whatever, of the mixed aboriginal and English race, which has grown up, in our own
1 See Ellis's Polynesian Researches, vol. iv. p. 36.
day, on that ever memorable spot in the Pacific, called Pitcairn's Island, we should, notwithstanding their yellow complexions and Otaheitan physiognomy, recognize them instantly to have English blood running in their veins, when we read in their history the interesting fact, that upon the approach of an English ship towards their little kingdom, they ran down the hill-side, and darting through the surf in their canoes, vociferated, to the inexpressible amazement of their visitors, the electrifying English exclamation—“Won't you heave us a rope."
It is further deserving of our notice, that although we cannot with certainty infer the identity or common origin of two nations from a very small number of words that happen to be common to their two languages, yet the differences between different stocks, or the various branches of the same stock, may be detected even by the pronunciation of a single word. Of this every reader will immediately call to mind a memorable instance, mentioned in the Old Testament, where the pronunciation of a single syllable was made decisive of national character.—" The men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said nay, then said they unto him, say now Shibboleth ; and he said Sibboleth, for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” 1
But, without pursuing these illustrations any farther, let us for a moment survey the ground already explored by the learned,-so far as the imperfect materials in our possession will enable us and see what results have been obtained through the medium of languages, tending to show a connection between the Asiatic nations and the South Sea Islanders, and between either of these and the people of the American continent.
In a very general view of this question, it may be stated, with sufficient exactness for our present purpose, that the languages which are spoken by the yellow complexioned or Malay race, through an extent of more than two hundred geographical degrees, that is, from the coast of Asia to Easter Island (which is about forty degrees from the western coast of America), are dialects of the same stock; and that if either of the Insular races of men in question is to be traced to the continent of Asia, it must be some one nation of the Malay stock. Accordingly, some writers, confidently relying upon the assumed identity of language, assert, that there is no difference between the two races of men designated, by Blumenbach, as the Mongolian and Malayan.
Now, whatever resemblances in physical appearance may be brought in support of this hypothesis, it happens, that the lan
guages, so far as our present information extends, present formidable objections to it. The received opinion of philologists, particularly of Mr. Marsden, to whom we have so often referred, is, that the languages of the islanders are to be considered as polysyllabic, or at at least that they cannot be reduced by analysis to the class of monosyllabic languages; whereas, on the contrary, the languages of the eastern Asiatics are admitted to be monosyllabic. If, then, the Islanders and those Asiatics were of the same family of men, the question arises—what has occasioned this radical difference in their modes of speech?
One late writer of ingenuity and research, Dr. Lang, endeavours to obviate this difficulty by boldly denying the fact, and unhesitatingly asserting that this difference in the languages does not exist; on the contrary, he maintains, that the languages of the South Sea Islands are as truly monosyllabic as the Chinese, or any other languages of the continent; and, though he admits, that the words are now actually used in a compounded form, which gives them the appearance of being polysyllabic, yet he is of opinion that they may, by a just analysis, be reduced to pure monosyllables.
To those persons, who have not given much attention to questions of this nature, it may, perhaps, appear extraordinary, that any
doubt can exist as to the mere fact, whether a language is, or is not, polysyllabic. But an illustration from our own language will make the matter intelligible. Every one will immediately perceive, that many English words, which by mere custom we join together as one, may be analyzed into monosyllables; for example penknife, inkstand, husbandman, statesman, &c. In our own language, it is true, we find no embarrassment in this analysis; but in unwritten dialects, of which we have so little knowledge as is the case with those now in question, the process is incomparably more perplexing, and our results proportionably unsatisfactory.
We ought to add, that the author just mentioned certainly differs from philologists in general on this subject, though he adduces many facts in support of his opinion which deserve attention.
Without following out the arguments on either side, therefore, let us assume for the present, that the languages of the Islanders are derived from Asia, and that this affords proof of the identity of these people with the Asiatics. Our next enquiry will be, how far the settlement of the American continent can be traced to the same source, by the same mode of proof.
At this stage of the enquiry, the very circumstance which has just been adduced to prove the connection between the Islanders and the Asiatics, that is, the supposed monosyllabic character of the languages of both of them, becomes one of the
most formidable obstacles to the establishing of the like connection between the Islanders and the aboriginal Americans. It happens, that the American languages are particularly distinguished from those of the old world by being much more highly compounded than any of them--the Indian languages of North America, in particular, being proverbial for their long words. So strongly, indeed, does this peculiarity show itself in those American dialects which we have hitherto had the means of examining, that our great philologist, Mr. Du Ponceau, has heretofore held it to be well established as a general proposition, that, for the purposes of philosophical enquiry, they might all be considered as having the same character; and if this were indisputably the case, it would prove an insuperable objection to their having an affinity to the Chinese or other monosyllabic languages of Asia. But this general proposition, it seems, is now to be taken with some limitations; and for this further advance in accurate investigation, we are indebted to the same eminent scholar, who has again been the first to bring under the notice of our philologists the fact, which we are now about to mention--a fact, which is one additional instance to show, how slow and difficult a process it is to arrive at the truth.
Just at the moment when we had assumed it as a sound conclusion, that all the languages of the American continent were to be considered as polysyllabic, we are suddenly astonished by the fact, recently communicated through Mr. Du Ponceau, to the Philosophical Society in this city, by a learned native of Mexico, Don Manuel Naxera (or Najera) that one, at least, among the American languages, is, properly speaking, monosyllabic. How many others may hereafter prove to be so, no man will at this time venture to predict.
Mr. Najera, an accomplished scholar, speaks five or six Indian languages of his own country; and he has, at the request of Mr. Du Ponceau, translated into the Othomi language, the Lord's prayer, and the 11th ode of Anacreon ; and, into the Tarascan idiom, the first psalm of David; all which are accompanied with grammatical notes, and will appear in the Transactions of the Philosophical Society. He has also engaged to prepare grammars of the Huastecan and some other idioms.
The Olhomi language, then, according to Mr. Najera, is strictly monosyllabic; and, what will no less surprise the reader, the general structure of it resembles that of the Chinese, and various words are actually found to be alike in both languages. This last fact is so novel and extraordinary, that our readers will not be displeased to see a very short specimen of the two languages: