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several gradations of refinement, to the formation of the present English tongue.
A language which has been so much indebted to others, both ancient and modern, must of course be very copious and expressive. In these respects, perhaps it may be brought into competition with any now spoken in the world. No Englishman has had reason to complain, since our tongue has reached its present degree of excellence, that his ideas could not be adequately expressed, or clothed in a suitable dress. No author has been under the necessity of writing in a foreign language, on account of its superiority to our own. Whether we open the volumes of our divines, philosophers, historians, or artists, we shall find that they abound with all the terms necessary to communicate their observations and discoveries, and give to their readers the most ample views of their respective subjects. Hence it appears, that our language is sufficient for all topics, and that it can give proper and adequate expression to variety of argument, delicacy of taste, and fervour of genius. That it has sufficient copiousness to communicate to mankind every action, event, invention, and observation, in a full, clear, and elegant manner, may be proved by an appeal to the authors, who are at present held in the greatest esteem.”
NUMBER AND VARIETY OF WORDS-THEIR EI
TENSIVE SIGNIFICATION-ARBITRARY SIGNS OF
“ Though the number of elementary sounds is not great in any language, the variety of possible words, that may be formed by combining them, is, in every tongue, so great, as almost to exceed computation, and much more than sufficient to express all the varieties of human thought. But the real words, even of the most copious language, may without difficulty be numbered; for a good dictionary comprehends them all, or nearly the whole of them. In the English tongue, after deducting proper names, and the inflections of our verbs and nouns, they do not exceed forty thousand.
We must not, however, estimate the number of our ideas, by that of our words; the former being beyond comparison more numerous and diversified than the latter. Many thoughts we express, not by particular terms appropriated to each, but by a periphrasis, or combination of terms, which under different forms of arrangement and connexion, may be applied to a great variety of different purposes; and many thoughts are communicated in tropes and figures ; and many may sometimes be signified by one and the same word. There are few terms in language, that have not more than one meaning; some have several, and some a great number. In how many different
and to how many different purposes, may the verbs do, lie, lay, and take, for example, be applied ! Johnson's Dictionary will show this, and much more of the same kind; and leave the reader equally astonished at the acuteness of the lexicographer, and at the complex nature and use of certain minute parts of human speech. Even of our prepositions, one has upwards of twelve, one more than twenty, and one not fewer than thirty different meanings. And yet, when we understand a language, we are not sensible of any perplexity arising from these circumstances: all ambiguities of sense, being, in a correct style, prevented by a right arrangement of the words, and other artifices of composition.
Words derive their meaning from the consent and practice of those who use them. There is no necessary connexion between words and ideas. The association between the sign and the thing signified, is purely arbitrary. If we were to contrive a new language, we might make any articulate sound the sign of any idea : there would be no impropriety in calling oxen men, or rational beings by the name of oxen. But where a language is already formed, they who speak it must use words in the customary sense. By doing otherwise, they incur the charge, either of affectation, if they mean only to be remarkable, or of falsehood if they mean to deceive. To speak as others speak, is one of those tacit obligations, annexed to the condition of living in society, which we are bound in conscience to fulfil, though we have never ratified them by any express promise ; because, if they were disregarded, society would be impossible, and human happiness at an end. It is true, that, in a book of science founded on definition, words may be used in any sense, provided their meaning be explained. In this case there is no falsehood, because there is no intention to deceive. But, even in this case, if the common analogies of language were violated, the author would be justly blamed, for giving unnecessary trouble to his readers, and for endeavouring capriciously to abrogate a custom, wbich universal use had rendered more respectable, as well as more convenient, than any other which he could substitute in its room."
This proper respect for the customary sense of words, does not, however, preclude improvements in language. We are not bound to adhere for ever to the terms, or to the meaning of terms, which were established by our ancestors. But our alterations should be proposed with great caution and modesty. Too much should not be offered at once: the devia. tions from general usage should be gradual as well as temperate. By these means, the public taste and judgment are consulted; our habits and feelings are not shocked; and the proposed variations, if approved, are introduced and established almost imperceptibly.
The third part of Grammar is syNTAX, which treats of the agreement and construction of words in a sentence.
A sentence is an assemblage of words, forming a complete sense.
Sentences are of two kinds, simple and compound.
A simple sentence has in it but one subject, and one finite* verb: as, “ Life is short."
A compound sentence consists of two or more simple sentences connected together: as, “ Life is short, and art is long." “ Idleness produces want, vice, and misery.”
As sentences themselves are divided into simple and compound, so the members of sentences may be divided likewise into simple and compound members : for whole sentences, whether simple or compounded, may become members of other sentences, by means of some additional connexion; as in the following example: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider.” This sentence consists of two compounded members, each of which is subdivided into two simple members, which are properly called clauses.
There are three sorts of simple sentences; the explicative, or explaining ; the interrogative, or asking; the imperative, or commanding.
An explicative sentence is, when a thing is said to be or not to be, to do, or not to do, to suffer or not to suffer, in a direct manner : as,
“I am ; thou writest ; Thomas is loved.” If the sentence be negative, the adverb not is placed after the
Finite verbs are those to which number and person appertain. Verbs in the infinitive mood have no respect to number or person.
auxiliary, or after the verb itself when it has no auxiliary: as, “I did not touch him ;" or, “ I touched him not.”
In an interrogative sentence, or when a question is asked, the nominative case follows the principal verb, or the auxiliary: as, “ Was it he ?” “ Did Alexander conquer the Persians ?"
In an imperative sentence, when a thing is commanded to be, to do, to suffer, or not, the nominative case likewise follows the verb or the auxiliary : as, Go, thou traitor!" - Do thou go :” “ Haste ye away:" unless the verb let be used: as, * Let us be gone."
A phrase is two or more words rightly put together, making sometimes part of a sentence, and sometimes a whole sentence.
The principal parts of a simple sentence are, the subject, the attribute, and the object.
The subject is the thing chiefly spoken of: the attribute is the thing or action affirmed or denied of it; and the object is the thing affected by such action.
The nominative denotes the subject, and usually goes before the verb or attribute; and the word or phrase denoting the object, follows the verb: as, "A wise man governs his passions.” Here, a wise man is the subject; governs, the attribute, or thing affirmed: and his passions, the object.
Syntax principally consists of two parts, Concord and Government.
Concord is the agreement which one word has with another, in gender, number, case, or person.
Government is that power which one part of speech has over another, in directing its mood, tense, or case.
In arranging the Rules of Syntax, we have adopted that scheme which appeared to be the least liable to objections ; and the most likely to impress the mind of the learner, and be retained in his memory. The plan corresponds very nearly with that which is founded on the Concord and Government of words. But an arrangement on this principle is not, in all cases, sufficiently distinct ; and if it were strictly adhered to, would not embrace all the rules of Syntax. The rule,
verb must agree with its nominative in number and person," being of primary use and importance, demands the