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being the object of love. Fortune and the church, are gene. rally put in the feminine gender. There appears to be a rational foundation for these figurative distinctions, though they have not been adopted in all countries. Many of the substances, which, in one language, have masculine names, hare, in others, names that are feminine.
Greek and Latin, and many of the modern tongues, have nouns, some masculine, some feminine, which denote sub. stances where sex never had existence. Nay, some languages are so particularly defective in this respect, as to class every object, inanimate as well as animate, under either the masculine or the feminine gender, as they have no neuter gender. for those which are of neither sex. This is the case with the Hebrew, French, Italian, and Spanish. But the English, strictly following the order of nature, puts every noun which denotes a male animal, and no other, in the masculine gender; every name of a female animal, in the feminine ; and every animal whose sex is not obvious, or known, as well as every inanimate object whatever, in the neuter gender. And this gives our language a superior advantage to most others, in the poetical and rhetorical style: for when nouns naturally neuter, are converted into masculine and feminine, the personification is more distinctly, and more forcibly marked.
The English language has three methods of distinguishing
the sex, viz.
By different words : as,
2. By a difference of termination : as,
Heiress. Tutor. Hero.
Heroine. Viscount. Hunter. Huntress. Votary. Host.
Female. Jewess. Landgravine. Lioness. Marchioness. Mayoress. Patroness, Peeress. Poetess. Priestess. Princess. Prioress. Prophetess. Protectress. Shepherdess. Songstress. Sorceress. Sultaness. Sultana. Tigress. Traitress. Tutoress. Viscountess. Votaress. Widow.
2. By a noun, pronoun, or adjective, being prefixed to the
It sometimes happens, that the same noun is either masculine or feminine. The words parent, child, cousin, friend, neighbour, servant, and several others, are used indifferently for males or females. These words cannot properly be said to denote a distinct species of gender, as some writers on English grammar have asserted, and who denominate them the common gender. There is no such gender belonging to the language. The business of parsing can be effectually performed, without having recourse to a common gender. Thus, we may say; Parents is a noun of the masculine and feminine gender; Parent, if doubtful, is of the masculine or feminine gender; and Parent, if the gender is known by the construction, is of the gender so ascertained.
Nouns with variable terminations contribute to conciseness and perspicuity of expression. We have only a sufficient num
. ber of them to make us feel our want: for when we say of a woman, she is a philosopher, an astronomer, a builder, a weaver, we perceive an impropriety in the termination, which we cannot avoid; but we can say, that she is a botanist, a student, a witness, a scholar, an orphan, a companion, because these terminations have not annexed to them the notion of sex.
Number is the consideration of an object, as one or more.
Substantives are of two uumbers, the singular and the plural.
The singular number expresses but one object: as, a chair, a table.
The plural number signifies more objects than one: as, chairs, tables.
Some nouns, from the nature of the things which they express, are used only in the singular form: as, wheat, pitch, gold, sloth, pride, &c.; others, only in the plural form: as, bellows, scissors, ashes, riches, &c.
Some words are the same in both numbers: as, deer, sheep, swine, &c.
The plural number of nouns is generally formed by adding s to the singular: as, dove, doves; face, faces; thought, thoughts. But when the substantive singular ends in x, ch, soft, sh, ss, or s, we add es in the plural: as, box, boxes; church, churches; lash, lashes; kiss, kisses, rebus, rebuses. If the singular ends in ch hard, the plural is formed by adding $: as, monarch, monarchs; distich, distichs.
Nouns which end in o have sometimes es added, to form the plural: as, cargo, echo, hero, negro, manifesto, potato, volcano, wo: and sometimes only s; as, folio, nuncio, punctilio, seraglio.
Nouns ending in f, or fe, are rendered plural by the change of those terminations into ves : as, loaf, loaves ; half, halves; wife, wives ; except grief, relief, reproof, and several others which form the plural by the addition of s. Those which end in ff, have the regular plural : as, ruff, ruffs ; except, staff, staves. Nouns which have y in the singular, with no other vowel in
y the same syllable, change it into ies in the plural: as, beauty, beauties ; #y, flies. But the y is not changed, when there is another vowel in the syllable: as, key, keys, delay, delays; attorney, attorneys.
Some nouns become plural by changing the a of the singular into e: as, man, men; woman, women; alderman, aldermen. The words, ox and child, form oxen and children ; brother, makes either brothers, or brethren. Sometimes the
, . diphthong oo is changed into ee in the plural: as, foot, feet; goose, geeso; tooth, teeth. Louse and mouse, make lice and mice. Penny, makes pence; or pennies, when the coin is meant; die, dice, (for play;) die, dies, (for coining.)
It is a general rule, that all names of things measured or weighed, have no plural; for in them not number, but quantity is regarded : as, wool, wine, oil. When we speak, how. ever, of different kinds, we use the plural : as, the coarser wools, the richer wines, the finer oils.
It is agreeable to analogy, and the practice of the generality of correct writers, to construe the following words as plural nouns: pains, riches, alms : and also, mathematics, metaphysics, politics, ethics, optics, pneumatics, with other similar names of sciences.
Dr. Johnson says, that the adjective much is sometimes a term of number, as well as of quantity. This may account for the instances we meet with of its associating with pains as a plural noun: as, "much pains." The connexion, however, is not to be recommended.
The word news is now almost universally considered as be. longing to the singular number.
The noun means is used both in the singular and the plural number.
“ As a general rule for the use of it, as either singular or plural, it might (as Dr. Crombiejustly observes) render the construction less vague, and the expression therefore less ambiguous, were we to employ it as singular when the mediation or instrumentality of one thing is implied; and, as plural, when two or more mediating causes are referred to. • He was careful to ob. serve what means were employed by his adversaries, to counVol. I.
teract his schemes.' Here means is properly joined with s plural verb, several methods of counteraction being signified. * The king consented ; and, by this means all hope of success was lost.' Here only one mediating circumstance is implied ; and the noun is therefore used as singular. See page 164.
The following words, which have been adopted from the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin
languages, are thus distinguished with respect to number.
Some words derived from the learned languages, are confined to the plural number: as, antipodes, credenda, literati, minutia.
The following nouns being, in Latin, both singular and plural, are used in the same manner, when adopted into our tongue : hiatus, apparatus, series, species.
* Indexes, when it signifies pointers, or Tables of contents ; Indices, when referringe to Algebraic quantities.
+ Genii, when denoting ærial spirits : Geniuses, when signifying persons of genius.