A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels - Volume 05 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 739 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels.

It appears probable that the whole of Chili had been originally peopled by one nation, as all the native tribes, however independent of each other, speak the same language, and have a similar appearance.  The inhabitants of the plains are of good stature, but those who dwell in the valleys of the Andes, usually surpass the ordinary height of man.  The features of both are regular, and none of them have ever attempted to improve nature by disfiguring their faces, to render themselves more beautiful or more formidable.  Their complexion, like the other American natives, is reddish brown or copper-coloured, but of a clearer hue than the other Americans; and readily changes to white.  A tribe which dwells in the district of Baroa, is of a clear white and red like Europeans, without any tinge of copper colour.  As this tribe differs in no other respect from the rest of the Chilese, this difference in complexion may be owing to some peculiar influence of the climate which they inhabit, or to their greater civilization.  Some persons have been disposed to attribute this difference in colour to an intermixture with a number of Spanish prisoners taken during the unfortunate war of the sixteenth century:  But the Spanish prisoners were equally distributed among the other tribes, none of whom are white; and besides, the first Spaniards who came to Chili were all from the southern provinces of Spain, where ruddy complexions are extremely rare.

From the harmony, richness, and regularity of the Chilese language, we are led to conclude that the natives must in former times have possessed a much greater degree of civilization than now, or that they are the remains of a great and illustrious nation, which has been ruined by some of these physical or moral revolutions which have occasioned such astonishing changes in the world.  The Chilese language is so exceedingly copious, both in radical words, and in the use of compounds, that a complete dictionary of it would fill a large volume.  Every verb, either derivatively or conjunctively, becomes the root of numerous other verbs and nouns, both adjectives and substantives, which in their turn produce others of a secondary, nature which may be modified in a hundred different manners.  From every word in the language, a verb may be formed by adding a final n.  Even from the most simple particles, verbs may be thus formed, by which at the same time great precision and great strength are given to conversation.  Yet the language contains no irregular verb or noun, every thing being regulated by the most wonderful precision and simplicity, so that the theory of the language is remarkably easy, and may be learnt in a very short time.  It abounds also in harmonious and sonorous syllables, which give it much sweetness and variety; yet is injured by the frequent recurrence of the sound of u.  The Chilese language differs essentially from every other American language, both in words and construction, with the exception of eighteen or twenty words of Peruvian origin, which is not to be wondered at, considering the contiguity of the two countries.  The most singular circumstance in this language is, that it contains a considerable number of words apparently of Greek and Latin derivation, and having similar significations in both languages; yet I am inclined to believe that this circumstance is merely accidental[54].

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