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sive participle of the verb gangan, to go, to pass : Be
passed, be gone. BUT—from the imperative bot, of the verb botan, to boot, to
superadd, to supply : as, “ The number three is not an even number, but an odd;" that is, “not an even number,
superadd, (it is) an odd number.” BUT—from the imperative, be-utan, of the verb beon-utan, to
be out. It is used by way of exception ; as, “She re
gards nobody, but him ;" that is, “nobody be out him." ir-comes from gif, the imperative of the verb gifan, to give :
as, “ If you live honestly, you will live happily;" that is,
“give you live honestly." Lest-from the participle, lesed, of the verb lesan, to dismiss. THOUGH—from thafig, the imperative of the verb thafigan, to
" Though she is handsome, she is not vain :" that is, “ Allow, grant, she is handsome.” UNLESS—comes from onles, the imperative of the verb onlesan,
to dismiss or remove : as, " Troy will be taken unless the palladium be preserved;" that is, “Remove the palla
dium be preserved, Troy will be taken." WITH—the imperative of withan, to join: as, “A house with
a party-wall;" that is, “ A house join a party-wall." WITHOUT—comes from wyrth-utan, the imperative of the verb
wyrthan-utan, to be out: as, “ A house without a roof;"
that is, “ A house be out a roof." YET-is derived from get, the imperative of the verb getan,
to get: as, “ Yet a little while;" that is, “Get a little
time." THROUGH--comes from Gothic and Teutonic words, which
signify door, gate, passage : as, “ They marched through a wilderness ;'' that is, “ They marched the passage a
wilderness." FORMis from Saxon and Gothic words, signifying, cause, mo
tive: as, “ He died for his religion ;' that is, “He died,
the cause his religion." FROM-is derived from frum, which signifies beginning, origin,
source, &c.: as, “ The lamp hangs from the ceiling ;"
that is, “ Ceiling the place of beginning to hang." TO—comes from Saxon and Gothic words, which signify ac
tion, effect, termination, to act, &c.: as, “ Figs come from Turkey lo England :" that is, Figs come-begin
ning Turkey-termination England." It is highly probable that the system of the acute grammarian, from whose work these Saxon derivations are borrowed,
is founded on truth; and that adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions, are corruptions or abbreviations of other parts of speech. But as many of them are derived from obsolete words in our own language, or from words in kindred languages, the radical meaning of which are, in general, obscure, or unknown; as the system of this very able etymologist is not universally admitted ; and as, by long prescription, whatever may have been their origin, the words in question appear to have acquired a title to the rank of distinct species; it seems proper to consider them as such, in an elementary treatise of grammar: especially as this plan coincides with that, by which other languages must be taught; and will render the study of them less intricate. It is of small moment, by what names and classification we distinguish these words, provided their meaning and use are well understood. A philosophical consideration of the subject, may, with great propriety, be entered upon by the grammatical student, when his knowledge and judgment become more im. proved.
Some critics carry their respect for the Saxon tongue, and their fondness for derivation, to so great an extent, that if their opinions were adopted, and reduced to practice, our language would be disorganized, and many of its rules and principles involved in obscurity. Etymological deductions may certainly be pushed too far, and valued too highly. Like other things they have their proper use and limits, which ought, on no occasion, to be violated. Our Saxon ancestors were governed by their own lights, and by the improvements which they made on the practice of their predecessors. We too must be allowed the privilege of forming our own laws, and adapting them to our wants and convenience. Succeeding generations of men have an indubitable right to alter the old words of their predecessors, both in point of meaning and orthography, to make new ones, and to class the whole, according to their own views and circumstances. This right, with regard to our own tongue, has been regularly, though very gradually exercised : and the result has been a great amelioration of the language, in every point of view.
If fanciful, or learned etymologists, are to decide for us, by their remote researches and discoveries, our improvements are at an end. We have nothing to do but to inquire what was the practice of ancient writers; and to submit to the rude phraseology of authors, who were far inferior to us in science and literature. But during this inquiry, we should be plunged into a state of uncertainty and fluctuation. The various opinions and contests of our Saxon etymologists would perplex and confound us. This, however, would not be our only embarrassment: for, at one time, a derivation from the Saxon must correct present usage; at another, a more recondite examiner would be able to show, that, in the points contested, neither the Saxon, nor present usage, is consistent with the Gothic or Teutonic, from which the Saxon itself was derived. There would, indeed, be no boundary to these remote and obscure derivations; and we should have no decisions upon which we could rest with satisfaction.
Etymology, when it is guided by judgment, and proper limits are set to it, certainly merits great atteution : it is then highly conducive to perspicuous and accurate language. But the suggestions of fancy, or the far-fetched discoveries of learning, should not be allowed to supersede the dictates of common sense, sound criticism, and rational improvement. Ancient usage is not the test by which the correctness of modern language is to be tried. The origin of things is certainly a proper and gratifying subject of inquiry ; and it is particularly curious and pleasing to trace the words of our language to their remote sources. This pleasure should, however, be confined to speculation. It should not lead us to invert the proper order of things, and to determine the propriety of our present words and forms of expression, by the practice of distant, and comparatively rude ages. On the important subject of the standard of language, we concur entirely with the learned and judicious Dr. Campbell
, who, in his “ Philosophy of Rhetoric,” says, “ The standard of language, is reputable, national, and present use."
In confirmation of our views, in this discussion, we give the following quotation, from the celebrated Walker, author of the “ Critical Pronouncing Dictionary.” “ As our language (says he) has departed from its Saxon parent, in a thousand instances, I know not why we should encumber it, by preserving Saxon peculiarities, when such improvements as naturally arise in the cultivation of letters, enable us to class words in a clearer and more analogical manner.” The sentiments of
. the Eclectic Reviewers on the subject in question, are also well worthy of insertion. “ What (say they) would have become of the French language, if its grammarians and lexicographers had employed their labour and time, in reducing it to the state in which it was left by the Franks, and other barbarous conquerors of ancient Gaul? Yet such appears to us to be the object of several recent treatises on our own language. We are called to reject the refinements, by which our elegant writers of the last century have recommended the English tongue to universal esteem; and to return to the barbarous phraseology of our Saxon ancestors.'
* Eclectic Review, May, 1908.
At the same time that we object to the laws, which the antiquarian in language would impose upon us, we must enter our protest against those authors, who are too fond of innovations: and particularly against those ingenious writers on grammar, who wish to alter its long-established terms, and to give many of its parts new definitions, and a new arrangement. These novelties, which we think are so productive of confusion, and so unnecessary, are not likely, in our opinion, to acquire that reputable and general adoption, which is essential to the establishment of literary experiments. On all occasions, they who endeavour to improve our language, should observe a happy medium between too great, and too little reverence for the usages of ancient times.
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold,
Pope's Essay on Criticism. See the observations on this subject, pages 29, 30, and 58, 59.
A sketch of the steps, by which the English Language has risen
to its present state of refinement.
BEFORE we conclude the subject of derivation, it will probably be gratifying to the curious scholar, to be informed of some particulars respecting the origin of the English language, and the various nations to which it is indebted for the copiousness, elegance, and refinement, which it has now attained.
“When the ancient Britons were so harrassed and oppressed by the invasion of their northern neighbours, the Scots and Picts, that their situation was truly miserable, they sent an embassy (about the middle of the fifth century) to the Saxons, a warlike people, inhabiting the north of Germany, with solicitations for speedy relief. The Saxons accordingly came over to Britain, and were successful in repelling the incursions of the Scots and Picts : but seeing the weak and defenceless state of the Britons, they resolved to take advantage of it; and at length established themselves in the greater part of SouthBritain, after having dispossessed the original inhabitants.
From these barbarians, who founded several petty kingdoms in this island, and introduced their own laws, language, and
manners, is derived the groundwork of the English language; which, even in its present state of cultivation, and notwithstanding the successive augmentations and improvements, which it has received through various channels, displays very conspicuous traces of its Saxon original.
The Saxons did not long remain in quiet possession of the kingdom; for before the middle of the ninth century, the Danes, a hardy and adventurous nation, who had long infested the northern seas with their piracies, began to ravage the English coasts. Their first attempts, were, in general, attended with such success, that they were encouraged to a renewal of their ravages; till, at length, in the beginning of the ele. venth century, they made themselves masters of the greater part of England.
Though the period, during which these invaders occupied the English throne, was very short, not greatly exceeding half a century, it is highly probable that some change was introduced by them, into the language spoken by those whom they had subdued : but this change cannot be supposed to have been very considerable, as the Danish and Saxon languages arose from one common source, the Gothic being the parent of both.
The next conquerors of this kingdom, after the Danes, were the Normans, who, in the year 1066, introduced their leader William, to the possession of the English throne. This prince, soon after his accession, endeavoured to bring his own language (the Norman-French) into use among his new subjects; but his efforts were not very successful, as the Saxons entertained a great antipathy to these haughty foreigners. In process of time, however, many Norman words and phrases were incorporated into the Saxon language : but its general form and construction still remained the same.
From the Conquest to the Reformation, the language continued to receive occasional accessions of foreign words, till it acquired such a degree of expression and strength, as to render it susceptible of that polish, which it has received from writers of taste and genius, in the last and present centuries. During this period, the learned have enriched it with many significant expressions, drawn from the treasures of Greek and Roman literature; the ingenious and the fashionable have imported occasional supplies of French, Spanish, Italian, and German words, gleaned during their foreign excursions; and the connexions which we maintain, through the medium of government and commerce, with many remote nations, have made some additions to our native vocabulary.
In this manner did the ancient language of the Anglo-Saxons proceed, through the various stages of innovation, and the Vol. I.