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by all our most philosophical philologers; a doctrine which they do not seek to apply to language in its primitive stage, but which seems to hold in regard to all Tongues after they have undergone considerable development. All such tongues appear, successively, in two very dissimilar forms. In the first of these, which is the more complex, they are highly inflectional: and, in the second, they gradually become less so. The discarding of inflections, and the introduction of the new modes of expression which it makes necessary, are steps which take place in the history of all living tongues.
What the circumstances are that enforce or encourage the metamorphosis, is a question which no one has convincingly answered. In particular
, it remains open for scrutiny in our own national history : in these elementary inquiries we have made no attempt to speculate on it. But we have silently discarded the old notion, according to which the English language was regarded as the fruit of a compromise between the Saxons and the Normans; as being originally, in fact, a kind of mongrel gibberish, like the lingua franca which, in the time of the crusades, passed to and fro between the Europeans and the Saracens. Yet, there does seem to be some reason for doubting whether our philological antiquaries do not at present go too far, when they assert that, on our grammar, the Norman-French had no influence whatever.
Secondly: It is to be noted, that every one of the Modern European Languages has been formed chiefly by this very method, of dropping inflections and finding substitutes. This is, especially, the characteristic change which has transformed the Latin into the Italian, French, and Spanish. It is in the same way that the German, Dutch, and Scandinavian tongues now spoken, have grown up from their Gothic roots.
Thirdly: All the Modern Gothic Tongues deviate less widely from their originals, than do the Modern Classical Tongues from the Latin. The great cause of difference lies in the Verbs. In the Latin verb, the active voice is wholly inflected, the passive partly so : in its descendants, the auxiliary forms have intruded far into the former, and taken complete possession of the latter. But in all the Old Gothic Tongues, (the Anglo-Saxon included) the disentanglement had, at the most remote date of our acquaintance with them, gone through some of the stages which the Latin of the Roman Empire had still to undergo. The Gothic verbs of all the dialects had already assumed most of the auxiliaries which they now have ; being, in particular. (except in the old Icelandic,) entirely dependent on them for the formation of their passives.
Fourthly: While Englishmen have dealt with the verb much in the same way as their kindred on the continent, they stand very differently in regard to the Nouns and Articles. The Modern Continental Languages of the Teutonic stock retain, in one shape or another, the inflected forms, which, as was lately noted, our Language has dropped ; and they have retained with them the old susceptibility of inversion and composition. These differences are, in themselves, sufficient to give to the English a structural character very unlike that of such tongues as the German. Through them, indeed, we are, even in respect of the structure of our sentences, less purely Gothic than any
other modern Goths. We bear, by means of them, no inconsiderable resemblance to the French. They cause us, in short, to occupy among the nations of Europe a philological station which is somewhat anomalous.
Fifthly: We are brought still nearer to our nearest continental neighbours, by the large amount of our Glossarial borrowings from the French and Latin. Nor is it unworthy of remark that these importations have, in all likelihood, acted reflexly on our Grammatical Structure. Our acquisitions in diction are foreign, both in place and in pedigree. If they had come from any tongue belonging to our own Gothic stock, not only would our speech have been more harmonious in character, but it would not improbably have been also more flexible in use, especially in respect of compounding, than it can be with words so distinctly alien in origin as are the Latin and French. No other European race has made similar appropriations to an extent at all parallel to ours. The Spaniards seem to stand next to us, but are very far distant.
THE VOCABULARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
5. The Dictionary of the English Language will now be opened. We must learn, more precisely than we have hitherto been able to do, the character and origin of the words it contains.
Our task would soon be over, if we were to be content with knowing how many of our words are Anglo-Saxon and how many come from foreign roots. But the question of Number, although we will put it by and by, is really more curious than useful. The answer to it tends, indeed, to deceive us as to the comparative value belonging to the several elements of a language. Words which are very numerous in the dictionary, may be of secondary consequence, and occur infrequently: words which are much fewer
may be so essential to ordinary communication, as to be coming up incessantly.
The extent to which a tongue really depends on its various roots, is known only when we have discovered, what the Classes of Words are that each has furnished. The roots are important, in the ratio of the importance which belongs to the classes of words arising out of them.
When our vocabulary is scrutinized in this way, its obligations to the Anglo-Saxon appear in a much more striking light, than that which they wear when we look only to the proportional numbers, large as we shall find that proportion to be.
Let us see, then, in entering on this inquiry, what kinds of words we derive from our Mother-Tongue.
First: We have from it almost all those words, and parts of words, which import Relations. This is merely repeating in another shape the assertion already made, that our grammatical forms and idioms are Anglo-Saxon: the vocabulary and the grammar react on each other. The fact, that our words of this class are chiefly Teutonic, cannot be too earnestly impressed on
It is the most widely-reaching of all the circumstances affecting the character of our speech; it does more than any thing else in making the Teutonic to be the preponderating element.
Secondly: We owe to the same source not only, as has been seen already, all the adjectives, but also all the other words, both nouns and verbs, which the grammarians are accustomed to call Irregular. Such words are in all languages very old, indeed among the very oldest: they express ideas which occur to all of us continually in the business of life; and, for these reasons, they are oftener in our mouths than any others of their class. This fact, again, brings up Anglo-Saxon words continually.
Thirdly: The Saxon gives us in most instances our only names, and in all instances the names that are aptest and suggest themselves most readily, for the greater number of the Objects Perceived through the Senses, and for all of them that are most impressive and of the greatest consequence to us.
Such are the most striking things which we see; as, sun, moon, and stars, land and water, wood and stream, hill and dale: to which may betadded the most common animals and plants. Such are the great changes which take place in nature, and the causes of the changes; as the divisions of time (all except autumn*); with light and darkness, heat and cold, rain and snow, thunder and lightning; and also the sounds, and postures, and motions of ani
* We have the Anglo-Saxon in harvest, which meant the seasou ra well as the work,
mal life. Here is another class of words remarkably numerous : and it is a class peculiarly energetic and vivid in impression.
Fourthly: Although we usually borrow from Latin or French such words as involve a wide abstraction, and are very extensive and general in meaning, yet those whose Signification is Specific are, with few exceptions, Anglo-Saxon. We use a foreign term naturalized, when we speak of colour universally: but we fall back on our home stores, if we have to tell what the colour is, calling it red, yellow, or blue, white or black, green or brown. Thus, also, we are Romans when we speak, in a general way, of moving: but we are Teutons if we leap or spring, if we stagger, slip, slide, glide, or fall, if we walk or run, swim or ride, if we creep, crawl, or fly. Now, not only are such precise words by far the most frequent: it is also a law of style, that, by how much a term is more specific, by so much is it the more animated and suggestive.
Fifthly: We possess, without going abroad to seek for them, a rich fund of apt expressions for the ordinary kinds of Feeling and Affection, for the outward signs of these, for the persons who are the earliest and most natural objects of our attachment, and for those inanimate things whose names are figuratively significant of domestic union. Of this class are love and hate, hope and fear, gladness and sorrow; such are tlie smile and tear, the sigh and groan, weeping and laughter; such are father and mother, man and wife, child, son and daughter, kindred and friends; such are home, hearth, roof, fireside. These are instances of a multitude of words, which, even when they are not the only names for the things, are the first we learn to give to them. Therefore they not only occur to us more readily than others, but have the power, through association, of recalling a host of the most touching images and emotions.
Sixthly: “The Anglo-Saxon is, for the most part, the language of Business ; of the counting-house, the shop, the market, the street, the farm.” Among an eminently practical people, it is eminently the organ of practical action : it retains this prerogative, in defiance alike of the necessary innovations caused by scientific discovery, and of the corruptions smuggled in by ignorant and mercenary affectation.
Seventhly: “ A very large proportion (and that always the strongest) of the language of Invective, humour, satire, and colloquial pleasantry, is Anglo-Saxon."*
* The whole substance of this section is borrowed from an essay already cited; Edinburgh Review, Vol. LXX; 1839. To the seven classes
It must surely be evident, that the Teutonic elements of our vocabulary are equally valuable in enabling us to speak and write perspicuously, and to speak and write with animation ; in making what we say easy to be understood, and in making it impressive and persuasive. Our mother-tongue, besides dictating the laws by which our words are connected, and furnishing the cement which binds them together, yields all our aptest means of describing imagination, feeling, and every-day facts of life.
6. Next in the order of importance, and incalculably more extensive than all borrowings to be afterwards examined, stand those parts of our vocabulary which we take from the French and Latin.
The former tongue being itself the offspring of the latter, it is often difficult for us to know which of the two has been our immediate source. Many of our words exist in an ambiguous form, which does not determine the question: and some we have in two shapes, as if they had been imported twice over.
The parent may first be looked at; since our obligations to her began earliest. From the Latin we have. borrowed more or less for two thousand years, and freely for more than six centuries.
The first period was the Roman, to which we are but little indebted. It left a very few military terms, one or two of which have remained independent, while others have been incorporated in names of places. Examples, perhaps the only ones, are Street, the syllable Coln (from Colonia) in names like Colne and Lincoln, and Chester (from Castrum) alone or as part of a word.
Next, in the Anglo-Saxon period, the learning of the churchmen brought in a considerable number of terms, chiefly ecclesiastical. Such words, still in use, are monk, bishop, saint; minster, porch, cloister; mass; psalter, epistle; pall, chalice, and candle.
With the period after the Conquest, begins our difficulty in distinguishing our words of Latin origin from those of French. Importations which are plainly of the former kind make up nearly our whole nomenclature in theology and mental philosophy; while our most modern additions of the sort have embraced many miscellaneous terms. Our Latinisms have chiefly arisen in three epochs. The first was the thirteenth century, which, as we have
of words which it has suggested, there may be added one other at least
. It consists of those idiomatic phrases, and words, and parts of words, which are condemned in most of our current books on style, because they are not understood: but which are genuine fragments of our ancient tongue, and abound in pith and expressiveness.