Page:The Lord’s prayer in five hundred languages.pdf/10

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present most comprehensive work, which has been chiefly taken from translations of the Scriptures in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society, desire to put it forth as a specimen of the numerous languages into which the Scriptures have been translated, and as a fitting testimony of the capabilities of their own Oriental Printing Establishment; and they trust that the following brief notes concerning the characters in which the various versions are here reproduced may not prove devoid of interest to the reader.

It should be stated in the first instance that through the force of circumstances—in many cases religious, rather than political, conquest—certain alphabets have been foisted on languages for the graphic expression of which they are ill adapted. This applies, e.g., to the Burmese, Shan, and Siamese alphabets, which are based on ancient Sanskrit and Pali scripts; and with still greater force to the Arabic, which the Islam has pressed upon conquered nations whose languages are of a totally different phonetic type, such as Berber, Tartar, Persian, Afghan, Beluchi, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Malay. We meet even with Javanese and Sundanese books in the Arabic character. Armenians and Greeks now write Turkish generally and far more conveniently with their own alphabets, while the Hindus of Sindh and Kashmir write their vernaculars with alphabets based on the Nagari. The latter, with its modifications (Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya, Panjábi), is now the leading type all over Hindustan. The Dravidian, or South Indian languages, on the other hand (Tamil excepted), with the Sinhalese, Javanese and Balinese, use alphabets derived from an earlier Indian model, but likewise arranged on the principle of the Nagari. The Tibetan character, a northern offshoot of the Nagari, is too cumbrous to suite the exigencies of that ancient vernacular. Thus likewise the scripts current in the islands of Sumatra and Celebes, to say nothing of the various simple alphabets (now obsolete) of