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Hen the author of the following work began to study philology, it was with a logical rather than grammatical view. He had found his learning, such as it was, an inconvenience and intellectual cumbrance: nor was it merely foreign speech that he found as a vail of obscurity or net of entanglement upon his understanding ; even the English language was to him as Saul's armour to David-cumbersome because it had not been proved. He had wandered ten years (for he became a student somewhat late in life) in the wilderness of words ; often looking wistfully up the hill of knowledge, but as often despairing of climbing to the summit. Frequently indeed he returned to his fruitless efforts with a kind of desperate courage; but as frequently did he retire from the hopeless contest, under a mortifying sense of disappointment and useless effort.
The truth is, he at last sunk into despair of ever knowing even the English language to his own satisfaction; or so as to be able to experiment with it accurately as an instrument of science; and it had actually become one of his fixed opinions, that man
is fated to be the dupe of his own inventions ; that language of which he so much boasts is the greatest of all impostors; and that no remedy could be found for verbal, that is metaphysical deception and mischief. Thus for a considerable time he heartily despised not only the systems of learning that owe their origin to language, but language itself, as a mere Babel-jargon intended or calculated to be a curse rather than a blessing—the parent of error, metaphysical nonsense, false-reasoning, endless controversy, contention and animosity.
With this opinion and contempt of language, it is probable that the author would have been content to pity and deride the learning that prevails, without endeavouring to rectify it, had not an incident which it is unnecessary to name, roused him into a resolution of attempting to rid the world of intellectual bondage and metaphysical imposture. He had always (he means from the time he became a student) a kind of intuitive perception and conviction that all the systems of grammar, rhetoric, logic, &c. which prevail, are wrong; but believing the origin of all learned absurdities to be language itself, he perceived not, how the evil could be remedied; and supposed that learned men must go on as they had done, boasting of their technical nonsense. He at last, however, perceived, he thought, how the labyrinth might be demolished, and the Babel-systems confounded into silence. As the radical evil was perceived to be in language, it was evident that there the remedy must be applied. He resolved therefore to create another kind of grammar and lexicography than had hitherto prevailed; in attempting which, the principles he laid down were as follow :
1. That language was a human invention. 2. That it was a simple invention. 3. That the true nature of true philology must lie on the very surface of obviousness. 4. That all the dialects must be essentially but one language. 5. That the whole wilderness of words must have arisen from a few expressive signs originally connected with sensible objects. 6. That therefore the whole multitude of parts and varieties in language, or that all words must be resolvable into a few simple elements, indicating by resemblance visible objects. 7. That there could be nothing arbitrary about language. 8. That no words could be primarily or properly insignificant.
These principles were drawn from his own reflections, and to serve in the mean time as guides till enquiry had disproved or superseded them. The author was, if not sagacious, at least fortunate in his conjectures (and he considered them at first only conjectures), for after three years' habitual reflection and toilsome enquiry, there is not one of them which he has been obliged to abandon, as unsound or unimportant--as contradicted or unverified by experimental evidence.
Much progress was soon made in diminishing the mass of words and simplifying the nature of speech; which became progressively more intelligible and