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seen, followed an age devoted to classical studies. Both its theological writers and its poets coined freely in the Roman mint. The second period was that which is loosely spoken of as the Elizabethan, beginning with the last twenty years of the sixteenth century, and extending yet farther into the next. In this
during the enthusiasm of a new revival of admiration for antiquity, the privilege of naturalization was used, chiefly by its latest prose writers, to an extent which threatened serious danger to purity and ease of speech. Thirdly came the latter part of the eighteenth century, the time when Johnson was the dictator of prose style. The pompous rotundity then prevalent has been permanently injurious. The number of new Latin words it has directly bequeathed to us, is really far from being large. But those it has given have come into very common use, instead of old Saxon words supposed to be less dignified; some of the words which were at first remonstrated against, are now heard in our most familiar sentences. Besides this, our ordinary forms of speech have received a Latin cast, quite alien from the old idiom; and the tendency seems to have been in no way diminished by the revived study of our early literature.
Our Latin words have done us, on the whole, very much more good than harm.
They go greatly farther than those from the French, towards making up for the laming which the tongue had suffered through the retrenchment of its power of composition.
A large proportion of them are expressive of complex ideas, each of whose elements might be separately expressed by Teutonic words still retained, and the union of which is still so expressed in the other languages of the same stock. Many such words were imperatively needed, after our speech had acquired even that degree of rigidity which had infected it so early as the thirteenth century. But it seems plain, that the ease with which the Latin, after it had begun to be decently understood by literary men, was found to furnish substitutes for the native compounds, must have tended much to discourage even that limited use of compounding, which might have been practised till the fifteenth or sixteenth century.
Many Latin words, too, have been introduced without such necessity, yet not without advantage. To those who trode the
* Shakspeare marked the Latinisms in their earliest stage, and repeatedly ridiculed them. Desolation, Remuneration, and Accommodate, are among those which he puts into the mouths of persons who do not under. stand them.
most thorny and obscure paths of thought, they often gave apt means of expressing nice distinctions; and the poets reaped from them, though usually by a sacrifice of suggestiveness, increased roundness and variety both in melody and in phrase.
7. Our French words now present themselves. Though much communication with France took place in the last of the AngloSaxon centuries, there is no surviving evidence of borrowings from its speech till after the Conquest.
The first stage, then, is that in which, the people and the few instructed men being alike averse, the Norman French was introduced by the hand of power. Much of it must have been learned, in the course of two or three generations, even by reluctant and harshly used vassals; and many of its terms have retained a place which they must have gained very early. It furnished many law-phrases
, which, oftenest continuing unchanged in form, and never going out beyond the precincts of the courts, need not be reckoned at all. But a very large number of words found their way, necessarily and not very slowly, into common conversation. The state of the laws, and of the political constitution, made it imperative that those words should be understood and used, which expressed private rights and the duties of individuals to the public, as well as all the relations between the sovereign power and the people. Feudalism, again, made the commons but too familiar with the whole array of phrases designating the rules and apparatus of the system.
In a second stage, the foreign words were sown rather more thickly. It began with the time, whenever that may have been, when the few native Englishmen who loved letters entered on the study of the French poetry. This cannot possibly have been so much as a hundred years after the Conquest'; although our extant remains of attempts at translations from the French do not carry us back nearly so far.
Still there was nothing more than a beginning, till we reach the fourteenth century, when the third era of our Gallicisms may be held to open. Two causes then occurred in bringing about a great change. The English language was now spoken by all classes of society; and, in 1362, its ascendency was admitted by the laws, the native speech being introduced into the pleadings of the courts. The French tastes of the nobles cannot, as a critic has remarked, have failed to contribute to the introduction of foreign words.
These were still farther encouraged by the zeal with which, as we have already learned, Chaucer and other men of letters studied the poetry of France. Accordingly there now rose that tide of French diction, which, with many eddies and
some checks, flowed on till the close of the middle ages. By that time the new words had become so numerous, and were so strongly ingrafted on the native stock, and the tongue had undergone so thoroughly the change of character which they im. posed, that all subsequent additions are historically unimportant.
Yet it should be noted, that many words of French extraction have in modern times acquired a right of citizenship among us, influencing the turn of style to no small degree, in the periods when they have been most in favour. We shall learn, soon, to look for such words especially in the latter half of the seventeenth century, through the literary taste which was then predominant.
The words which we have taken from the French serve, in great part, the same uses as those which have come to us immediately from the Latin originals. A great many of our general and abstract terms are to be found among them. Only, it may pretty safely be asserted, those which belong to this class enter much less into the nomenclature of serious and philosophical thought, than those which the Roman tongue has directly bestowed. They are, with few exceptions, conversant with the ideas and feelings of actual and every-day life: and the fact points out the channels through which they have reached us. Those that have come through books, have been introduced in the lighter departments of our literature; a vast number are such as found their way widely over Europe, in the times when France was, as she has been so often and so long, the social guide and model of Christendom.
Many other French words serve purposes of their own, which could not have been attained either by the native words or by the Latin. The mere possession of an ample supply of terms nearly synonymous, is, for many kinds of literary communication, an immense benefit in itself. Often, too, the relics of our Teutonic tongue that have descended to us, would not enable us to express at all, and our Latinisms would
very clumsily, slight distinctions and shades of thought: and still oftener would this take place with minute varieties of feeling and sentiment. We gain a great deal, in such cases, by that union of precision with delicacy which marks the French language. Not seldom, again, we desire to express our meaning with reserve, as on occasions when the giving of offence is dreaded : and here, on the one side, our native phrases would be too energetic and too suggestive; while, on the other, the foreign ones are preferable, both as being poorer in associations, and on account of their own character.
8. The Greek has perhaps received more than justice, in being named at all, even as the last, among those languages which have contributed largely to our dictionary.
It would not deserve to be so ranked, if we were to have regard only to the dialect of common life. In it the only words of Greek origin are one or two, which have come to us after having been adopted and disguised elsewhere. In this predicament is the word Church.*
Again, though our theological, philosophical, and scientific nomenclature comprehends a large number of words originally Greek, almost all of these have come to us, since the revival of learning, through the Latin. If we note a very few words like Phenomenon and Criterion, which retain their Hellenic form, there is hardly, perhaps, any other certain instance of a direct derivation of such terms, till within the last two or three generations. In this period, however, the terminology in several branches of physical science has been fitted to the improved state of knowledge by the combination of Greek roots into words entirely new. In this process, not always very skilfully performed, a large part has been borne by scientific discoverers belonging to our country.
9. There remain for consideration only some borrowings, which are so few and of so little consequence, that they might, with small loss of knowledge, be altogether overlooked.
First appears the oldest of our philological benefactors, the Celtic tongue in both of its native branches. From these we retain a large number of geographical names, oftenest denoting mountains, rivers, valleys, and other objects physically distinguishable. More recently we have received from the antiquaries a few miscellaneous words, such as Bard and Druid: while Tartan, Plaid, Flannel, and others, have owed their introduction to ordinary occasions. But, in making this low estimate of the obligations which the English owes to the Celtic dialects, we are overlooking the probability that the Anglo-Saxons themselves borrowed a great many words from their Cymrian subjects. Such words were especially likely to find their way into the speech of the Mercian Saxons: and a considerable number of terms, in very frequent use, which are not Saxon and may be French, have more plausibly been held to be Welsh, and to have been introduced in this way.t
* Anglo-Saxon, Circ: Danish, Kirke : Scottish, Kirk : contracted from the Greek Kyriake, The Lord's (House).
| Garnett: in the Transactions of the Philological Society; vol. i. : 1844.
Secondly: Whatever we may believe as to the extent of the influence exercised by the Danes or Norwegians on any of the provincial dialects, it is certain that the Northmen of both races have left us a large number of local names, extending over the whole ground of their settlements. The most frequent is the word By, “ a town,” in such names as that of Grimsby, a place whose origin we formerly found to be sought in a Danish legend. Wich or Wic, the same in meaning, is likewise Scandinavian. The word Hustings, and two or three others, are said to be Danish.
Thirdly : Many foreign languages have contributed, espepecially in modern times, to make up for us a considerable stock of exotics. Those of each group relate to the history, institutions, or geography, of the country whence they come; and, while it was formerly the fashion among literary men to attempt giving them a native dress, the inclination at present is to leave them unaltered. The matter is too trifling to justify many examples. From Spain and Portugal we have, with change, the names of two kinds of wine: the Persic furnishes the word Turban, and the Arabic (from its learning in the middle ages) such scientific terms as Algebra, alkali, alembic, besides a few names of social distinctions. Of late, also, there have been a good many convenient importations from the native tongues of India, and some undesirable ones from the provincialisms of our kinsmen in the United States.
10. It has already been observed, that the Numerical Proportion of words, considered without regard to their kinds, is à very unsafe test of the comparative importance of the elements constituting a language. But, as a matter of curiosity, it may justify a little inquiry, limited strictly to our mothertongue.
Two questions occur. What proportion of the Anglo-Saxon words have we lost? What proportion to the bulk of Modern English is borne by the Anglo-Saxon words which we have in substance retained ?
In answer to the first query, it has been said, on a calculation somewhat rough, that, of the words constituting the language used in Alfred's time, we have dropped about one-fifth. Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary containing from twenty-six to twenty-eight thousand words, between five and six thousand of these are obsolete. *
The Extinct portion contains many Uncompounded Words,
* Edinburgh Review, as before cited.