Page images



A CONJUNCTION is a part of speech that is chiefly used to connect sentences; so as, out of two or more sentences, to make but one. It sometimes connects only words.

Conjunctions are principally divided into two sorts, the COPULATIVE and the DISJUNCTIVE.

The Conjunction Copulative serves to connect or to continue a sentence, by expressing an addition, a supposition, a cause, &c.: as, “ He and his brother reside in London;" “ I will go if he will accompany me;" “ You are happy, because you are good.”

The Conjunction Disjunctive serves, not only to connect and continue the sentence, but also to express opposition of meaning in different degrees: as, 5. Though he was frequently reproved, yet he did not reform ;” “They came with her, but they went away without her.”

The following is a list of the principal conjunctions :

The Copulative. And, if, that, both, then, since, for, be

cause, therefore, wherefore. The Disjunctive. But, or, nor, as, than, lest, though, unless,

either, neither, yet, notwithstanding. The same word is occasionally used both as a conjunction and as an adverb; and sometimes as a preposition. " I rest then upon this argument;" then is here a conjunction: in the following phrase, it is an adverb: “He arrived then, and not before." "I submitted; for it was vain to resist:" in this sentence, for is a conjunction; in the next it is a preposition: “He contended for victory only.” In the first of the following sentences, since is a conjunction: in the second it is a preposition; and in the third, an adverb: “Since we must part, let us do it peaceably :” “I have not seen him since that time:” “Our friendship commenced long since.”

governs us."


RelatIVE PRONOUNS, as well as conjunctions, serve to connect sentences : as, “ Blessed is the man who feareth the Lord, and keepeth his commandments."

A relative pronoun possesses the force both of a pronoun and a connective. Nay, the union by relatives is rather closer than that by mere conjunctions. The latter may form two or more sentences into one; but, by the former, several sentences may incorporate in one and the same clause of a sentence. Thus, “thou seest a man, and he is called Peter," is a sentence consisting of two distinct clauses, united by the copulative and : but, “the man whom thou seest is called Peter," is a sentence of one clause, and not less comprehensive than the other.

CONJUNCTIONs very often unite sentences, when they appear to unite only words; as in the following instances : Duty and interest forbid vicious indulgences ;" “Wisdom or folly

Each of these forms of expression contains two sentences, namely; “ Duty forbids vicious indulgences; interest forbids vicious indulgences;" “Wisdom governs us, or folly governs us."

Though the conjunction is commonly used to connect sentences together, yet, on some occasions, it merely connects words, not sentences: as, - The king and

queen are an amiable pair;"" where the affirmation cannot refer to each: it being absurd to say, that the king or the queen only, is an amiable pair. So in the instances, "two and two are four;" “ the fifth and sixth volumes will complete the set of books." Prepositions also, as before observed, connect words ; but they do it to show the relation which the connected words have to each other; conjunctions when they unite words only, are designed to show the relations, which those words, so united, have to other parts of the sentence.

As there are many conjunctions and connective phrases appropriated to the coupling of sentences, that are never employed in joining the members of a sentence; so there are several conjunctions appropriated to the latter use, which are never employed in the former; and some that are equally adapted to both those purposes: as, agnin, further, besides, &c. of the first kind; ihan, lest, unless, that, so that, &c. of the second ; and but, and, for, therefore, &c. of the last.

We shall close this chapter with a few observations on the peculiar use and advantage of the conjunction ; a subject which will, doubtless, give pleasure to the ingenious student, and expand his views of the importance of his grammatical studies. The observations are taken from Dr. Beattie.

Conjunctions are those parts of language, which, by joining sentences in various ways, mark the connexions, and various


[ocr errors]

dependences, of human thought. And therefore, if our thoughts be really connected and mutually dependent, it is most likely, (as every man in speaking and writing wishes to do justice to his ideas,) that conjunctions will be employed, to make that connexion, and those dependences, obvious to ourselves, and to others. And where there is, in any discourse, a remarkable deficiency of connecting particles, it may be presumed, either that there is a want of connexion, or that sufficient pains have not been taken to explain it.

The style of the best authors of Greece and Rome abounds in conjunctions, and other connecting words. Take any page

. in Cicero, especially where he speaks in his own person, and in the way of investigation, as in his books of Moral Duties; and you shall hardly see a sentence that has not, in or near the beginning, a but, besides, for, however, therefore, or some other connective: by which we may instantly discover the relation, which the present sentence bears to what went before; as an inference, an objection, an illustration, a continuation, a concession, a condition, or simply as one sentiment subjoined to another by a copulative. The style of Seneca, on the other hand, and that of Tacitus, are in this respect deficient. Their sentences are short, and their connectives few; so that the mutual dependence of their thoughts is rather left to the conjecture of the reader, than expressed by the author. And hence we are told it was, that the emperor Caligula remarked, (though we can hardly suppose Caligula to have been capable of saying so good a thing,) that the style of Seneca was, sand without lime ; meaning, that matter or sense was not wanting, but that there was nothing to cement that matter into one uniform and solid mass.

This uncemented composition has of late become fashionable among the French and their imitators. One of the first who introduced it was Montesquieu, an author of great learning and extraordinary penetration; who, as he resembled Tacitus in genius, seems to have admired his manner and copied his style. Like him, and like Florus, of whom also he was an admirer, he affects short sentences, in the way of aphorism; full of meaning indeed, but so concise in the expression as to be frequently ambiguous; and so far from having a regular connexion, that their place might often be changed without inconvenience. This, in philosophical writing, has a disagreeable effect, both upon the memory, and upon the understanding of the reader.

First, upon his memory. Nothing tends more to impress the mind with a distinct idea of a complex object, than a strict and natural connexion of the parts. And therefore, when a discourse is not well connected, the sentiments, however just,


are easily forgotten; or, if a few be remembered, yet their general scope and tendency, having never been clearly apprehended, is not remembered at all.

Secondly, upon his understanding. To read a number of detached thoughts, although it may amuse the fancy, does not sufficiently exercise the rational faculties. Of such thoughts, that only which is present is attended to; and, if we understand it, we do all that is required of us.

But when we peruse a regular investigation, wherein many sentiments are employed to illustrate or evince one leading point of doctrine, we must attend, both to the present thought and to that which went before, that we may perceive the connexion; we must also compare the several ideas together, in order to discern their agreement or disagreement, as well as the influence of all the premises in establishing the conclusion. This is a most wholesome intellectual exercise. It puts all our rational powers in motion, and inures us to a methodical way of thinking and speaking: and so quickens attention, strengthens memory, and gives direction and vigour to our inventive powers.

As the fashionable mode of unconnected composition is less improving to the mind of the reader, so it promotes a habit of inaccuracy and negligence in a writer. One of the greatest difficulties in writing is, to give a right arrangement to the several thoughts and parts, of which a discourse is made


and that arrangement is the best, in which the several parts throw most light upon one another. But when an author thinks himself at liberty to write without connexion, he is at little pains to arrange his ideas, but sets them down just as they occur; sometimes taking up a subject in the middle, and sometimes at the end; and often quitting one point before he has discussed it, and recurring to it again when he ought to be engaged in something else. In a word, he is apt to be more intent upon the brilliancy of particular thoughts, than upon their coherence: which is not more wise in an author, than it would be in an architect to build a house rather of round, smooth, and shining pebbles, than of stones of more homely appearance, hewn into such figures as would make them easily and firmly incorporate.

Relatives are not so useful in language as conjunctions. The former make speech more concise; the latter make it more explicit. Relatives comprehend the meaning of a pronoun, and conjunction copulative : conjunctions, while they couple sentences, may also express opposition, inference, and many other relations and dependences.

Till men began to think in a train, and to carry their reasonings to a considerable length, it is not probable that they

would make much use of conjunctions, or of any other connectives. Ignorant people, and children, generally speak in short and separate sentences. The same thing is true of barbarous nations: and hence uncultivated languages are not well supplied with connecting particles. The Greeks were the greatest reasoners that ever appeared in the world; and their language, accordingly, abounds more than any other in connectives.

Conjunctions are not equally necessary in all sorts of writing. In poetry, where great conciseness of phrase is required, and every appearance of formality avoided, many of them would have a bad effect. In passionate language too, it may be

proper to omit them: because it is the nature of violent passion, to speak rather in disjointed sentences, than in the way of inference and argument. Books of aphorisms, like the Proverbs of Solomon, have few connectives; because they instruct, not by reasoning, but in detached observations. And narrative will sometimes appear very graceful, when the circumstances are plainly told, with scarcely any other conjunction than the simple copulative and : which is frequently the case in the historical parts of Scripture.—When narration is full of images or events, the omission of connectives may, by crowding the pincipal words upon one another, give a sort of picture of hurry and tumult, and so heighten the vivacity of description. But when facts are to be traced down through their consequences, or upwards to their causes; when the complicated designs of mankind are to be laid open, or conjectures offered concerning them : when the historian argues either for the elucidation of truth, or in order to state the pleas and principles of contending parties; there will be occasion for every species of connective, as much as in philosophy itself. In fact, it is in argument, investigation, and science, that this part of speech is peculiarly and indispensably necessary.

We have observed above, (page 124) that a relative pronoun possesses the force both of a pronoun and a connective. This is a more artificial and refined construction than that in which the common connective is simply made use of. In some very ancient languages, as the Hebrew, which have been employed chiefly for expressing plain sentiments in the plainest manner, without aiming at any elaborate length or harmony of periods, this pronoun occurs not so often as in Greek and Latin, and those other tongues, which have been embellished by the joint labours of the philosopher and the rhetorician. When we read the first chapter of Genesis, we perceive, that this subjunctive pronoun, as it may be called, occurs but seldom ; the sentences being short, particularly towards the beginning, and joined for the most part by the connective. The

« PreviousContinue »