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Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary



That the Polynesian dialects are related to each other and form but isolated varieties of one great language is by no means a very modern discovery. The first attempt at a comparative table (of forty-seven Oceanic words) was made by Dr. Reinhold Forster, the naturalist who accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage. Mr. Anderson published a table at the end of the third voyage of Cook, in which the comparison was carried further by including the languages of Madagascar and the Malay Archipelago. Anderson was followed by the Abbé Lorenzo Hervas, the Jesuit, who, in his “Catalogue of Languages,” published in 1800, set the case very clearly and intelligently before the public. William Marsden and John Crawfurd, authors of great repute as Malay students, followed with learned essays—the former considering the Polynesians as offshoots from the Malays, and the latter believing that the origin of the Malay and Oceanic languages was distinct. Dumont d'Urville accompanied his report on the French Exploring Expedition of 1825–1829 with a Comparative Vocabulary, published in 1833; at the same time stating his opinion to be that the Polynesians were survivors from the peoples of a now-submerged continent. Adelbert von Chamisso issued a volume on the Hawaiian language in 1837, and was followed by Baron W. von Humboldt in 1838 with his scholarly book on the Kawi Language of the Island of Java. In this very voluminous work Humboldt examines the vocabularies and grammatical construction of the Oceanic languages, and considers that the Tagal of the Philippines is the leading dialect. His vocabularies, however, were of a very imperfect character, and his deductions would have been considerably modified had he possessed the information at present at our service; his Maori being the Maori of Lee and Kendall, and his Tongan, if possible, still more defective and illusory. The more modern attempts, fragmentary in character, have all been marred by imperfect comparison and careless printing, so that they are of no use as authorities for any scientific purpose.