« PreviousContinue »
it must, therefore, be distinguished into its component parts by a point placed on each side of the additional sentence.
In every sentence, therefore, as many subjects, or as many finite verbs, as there are, either expressed or implied, so many dictinctions there may be : as, My hopes, fears, joys, pains, all centre in you. The case is the same, when several adjuncts affect the subject of the verbs : as, A good, wise, learned man is an ornament to the commonwealth ; or, when several adverbs, or adverbial circumstances, affect the verb: as, He behaved himself modestly, prudently, virtuously. For as many such adjuncts as there are, so many several members does the sentence contain ; and these are to be distinguished from each other as much as several subjects or finite verbs. The reason of this is, that as many subjects, finite verbs, or adjuncts, as there are in a sentence, so many distinct sentences are actually implied; as the first example is equivalent to— My hopes all centre in you, my fears all centre in you, &c. The second example is equivalent to-A good man is an ornament to the commonwealth, a wise man is an ornament to the commonwealth, &c. The third example is equivalent to—He behaved himself modestly, he behaved himself prudently, &c.; and these implied sentences are all to be distinguished by
The exception to this rule is, where these subjects or adjuncts are united by a conjunction : as, The imagination and the judgment do not always agree; and, A man never becomes learned without studying constantly and methodically. In these cases the comma between the subjects and adjuncts is omitted.
There are some other kinds of sentences, which, though seemingly simple, are nevertheless of the compound kind, and really contain several subjects, verbs, or adjuncts. Thus in the sentences containing what is called the ablative absolute : as, Physicians, the disease once discovered, think the cure half wrought ; where the words, the disease once discovered, are equivalent to, when the cause of the disease is discovered. So in those sentences, where nouns are added by apposition : as, The Scots, a hardy people, endured it all. So also in those, where vocative cases occur: as, This, my friend, you must allow me.
The first of these examples is equivalent to—The Scots endured it all, and, The Scots, who are a hardy people, endured it all; and the last to—This you must allow me, and this my friend must allow me.
The use of the Semicolon, Colon, and Period. When a sentence can be divided into two or more members, which members are again divisible into members more simple, the former are to be separated by a semicolon.
But as this passion for admiration, when it works according to reason, improves the beautiful part of our species in every thing that is laudable ; so nothing is more destructive to them, when it is governed by vanity and folly.
When a sentence can be divided into two parts, each of which parts is again divisible by semicolons, the former are to be separated by a colon.
As we cannot discern the shadow moving along the dial-plate, so the ad. vances we make in knowledge are only perceived by the distance gone over.
Here the two members, being both simple, are only separated by a comma.
As we perceive the shadow to have moved, but did not perceive it mov. ing; so our advances in learning, as they consist of such minute steps, are only perceivable by the distance gone over.
Here the sentence being divided into two equal parts, and those compounded, since they include others, we separate the former by a semicolon, and the latter by commas.
As we perceive the shadow to have moved along the dial, but did not perceive it moving; and it appears that the grass has grown, though nobody ever saw it grow: so the advances we make in knowledge, as they consist of such minute steps, are only perceivable by the distance gone over.
Here the advancement in knowledge is compared to the motion of a shadow, and the growth of grass; which comparison divides the sentence into two principal parts : but since what is said of the movement of the shadow, and of the growth of grass, likewise contains two simple members, they are to be separated by a semicolon; consequently, a higher pointing is required, to separate them from the other part of the sentence, which they are opposed to: and this is a colon.
When a member of a sentence forms complete sense, and does not excite expectation of what follows, though it consist but of a simple member, it may be marked with a colon.
The discourse consisted of two parts : in the first was shown the necessi. ty of fighting; in the second, the advantages that would arise from it.
The Augustan age was so eminent for good poets, that they have served as models to all others : yet it did not produce any good tragic poets
When a sentence is so far perfectly finished, as not to be connected in construction with the following sentence, it is marked with a period.
The Interrogation, Exclamation, and Parenthesis.
The note of interrogation is used to show that a question is asked: as, What day of the month is this? It likewise distinguishes a question from a sentence in the imperative mood : as, Do you return ?* Interrogative sentences require an elevation of the voice, except the question be asked by the pronouns, who, which, what ; or the adverbs,
adverbs, how, where, when, &c. ; for in these cases you must give a moderate cadence to your voice, and let the pause be governed by the sense of the subject.
A parenthesis is a sentence inserted into the body of another sentence, to illustrate its meaning, but is neither necessary to the sense, nor at all affects the construction. It marks a moderate depression of the voice, with a pause greater than a comma.
When they were both turned of Torty (an age in wlich, according to Mr. Cowley, there is no dallying with life) they determined to retire, and pass the remainder of their days in the country.
Spectator, No. 123.
An exclamation denotes an emotion of mind, and requires an elevation of voice, with a pause equivalent either to a comma, semicolon, colon, or period, as the sense demands.
* This distinction of the voice, applied to a distinction of interrogative sentences, into those that begin with and without the interrogative words, is extracted from a spelling-book, written by Mr. Perry, a very industrious, accurate, and ingenious writer on English pronunciation, at Edinburgh. This author, and one Charles Butler, of Magdalen college, Oxford, in his English Grammar, 1633, are the only writers in whom I ever met with the least hint of this very important distinction.
These are thy glorious works, parent of good!
This is the most concise and comprehensive scheme of punctuation I could possibly collect from the several authors, who have written on this subject ; but these rules, though sufficient to prevent confusion in writing, are very inadequate to the purposes of a just and accurate pronunciation: as it is certain that a just, a forcible, and easy pronunciation, will oblige a judicious reader to pause much more frequently, than the most correct and accurate writers or printers give him leave. But I must again observe, that when I contend for the propriety, and even necessity, of pausing, where we find no points in writing or printing, I do not mean to disturb the present practice of punctuation : I wish only to afford such aids to pronunciation, as are actually made use of by the best readers and speakers, and such as we must use in reading and speaking in public, if we would wish to pronounce with justness, energy, and ease.
Punctuation, or the doctrine of pausing, if philosophically considered, will be found to extend much further than is generally supposed : for if pausing is that resting between words and members of sentences which marks their several degrees of connexion and dependence on each other, whatever difference is found in the degrees of connexion or dependence, so many different marks ought to be adopted to point them out. But though the degrees of connexion and dependence