Oriental Literature and Languages

Oriental Literature And Languages is the common designation for the languages and literatures of all the peoples of Asia, as well as of those of Moslem Africa and Europe. Even during the Middle Ages the attention of European savants was turned towards the Oriental languages, especially the Arabic, and this for two main reasons. In the first place, it was religious zeal which, by the knowledge of the Arabic, intended to refute the Mohammedans and convert them to Christianity. For this purpose pope Innocent IV ordered that chairs for instruction in Arabic should be founded at Paris, and popes Clement IV and Honorius IV Showed also a great interest in the matter. Under Clement V, the synod held at Vienne, in 1311, resolved that professors of Arabic and Chaldee should be appointed at Paris, Rome, Oxford, Bologna, and Salamanca. Pope John XXII especially instructed the bishop of Paris to see that these languages were taught in the Sorbonne. In the second place, it was a scientific interest which led to the study of Oriental literature, in order to make the Western nations acquainted with the medical, astronomical, and philosophical writings of the Arabs, and with the works of Aristotle, which were extant only in Arabic translations. Towards the end of the 12th century we meet with Latin translations from the Arabic, which increased during the Middle Ages, and were printed in the 15th century. The Reformation revived the study of Oriental languages by their application to Biblical exegesis. For the. Church of Rome the study of Oriental languages be. came a matter of necessity, because of her missionary stations in the East, and thus pope Urban VIII founded, in 1627, at Rome, the Collegium pro Fide Propaganda, where the Oriental languages were taught. Through the Jesuits in China and Japan, Europe became acquainted with the eastern languages of Asia and their literature. In a more scientific manner the study of the Oriental languages was taken up in the middle of the 18th century. The Englishman, William Jones,. while a resident in East India (1780-90), called special attention to the riches of the Indian literature, and. founded at Calcutta, in 1784, the Asiatic Society. At Paris, Silvestre de Sacy made the study of Arabic of special interest, and attracted students from all parts of Europe. Till towards the end of the 18th century the study of the Oriental languages had only occupied a subordinate position in the curriculum of sciences; but with the formation of the different Asiatic societies the study of Oriental languages had become a specialty. The societies for promoting this study are as follows, of which the first three are the most important in Europe:

1. The Asiatic Society of Bengal, founded in 1784, by Sir William Jones, at Calcutta, published the Asiatic Researches (Calcutta, 1788-1832, 17 volumes), which were partly translated into French and German. Since 1832 the Asiatic Researches have been superseded by the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which is published monthly. Under the auspices of this society, but at the expense of the Anglo-Indian government, since 1846 the Bibliotheca Indica, a collection of Oriental works in the original, with a translation, of which at the beginning of the year 1880 more than five hundred numbers had already appeared, is published. Besides the Asiatic Society there exist a great many branch societies, which also have their own periodicals.

2. The Societe Asiatique, at Paris, founded in 1822 by Silvestre de Sacy (q.v.), Klaproth (q.v.), Abel Remusat, Jomard, Chezy, and others, which, besides editing the Journal Asiatique, since 1823, also publishes Oriental works, partly in the original, partly in translations.

3. The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, which was opened by Colebrooke, March 19, 1823. In the place of the Transactions (1824-34, 3 volumes), it now publishes the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

4. The Deutsche morgenldndische Gesellschaft, founded, in 1845. Its journal is Zeitschrift der deutschen Gesellschaft.

5. The Societi Orientale de France, at Paris, with the Revue de l'Orient as its organ since 1845.

6. The Syro-Egyptian Society, at London, with Original Papers as the journal since 1850.

7. The Koningli1ike Institilt voor de Taal Land en Volkenkunde van Neederlandsch Indie, at Amsterdam, which publishes the Bijdragen since 1853.

8. The American Oriental Society, at Boston, founded in 1842, with the Journal, since 1843, for its organ.

See Benfey, Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft und orientalischer Philologie in Deutschland (Munich, 1869); Zenker, Bibliotheca Orientalis

(Leipsic, 1846-61, 2 volumes); Tribner, Oriental Literary Record (Lond. 1865 sq.); Friderici, Bibliotheca Orientalis (Leipsic, 1876-83); Klatt u. Kuhn, Literatur-Blatt fur orientalische Philologie (ibid. 1883 sq.). (B.P.)

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