« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
quainted. But to the question; that, disposing of it, we may pass on to inquiries less doubtful and more useful.
It has been said above, if such words as hum, buzz, croak, &c., be considered nouns, we have, at once, in onomatopeia, a satisfactory origin of the noun as the first part of speech, and that from which all the other parts are derived: but a question still remains, ought such words to be regarded as prima-, rily nouns or verbs? They indicate not any substantive entities, but sounds; and what are sounds but actions or motions, produced by certain impulses given to the atmosphere, whose vibratory movement acts upon the tympanum, or beats upon the drum of the ear. With hardly any exceptions, (we have not cuckoo as a verb,) the imitative words, considered nouns, are also verbs; there are many imitative verbs without any corresponding nouns ; and in most of those imitative words, which are both verbs and nouns, the former were evidently prior to the latter as, click, cluck, clack, before clock and the noun clack, &c. &c. The fact seems to be, that the last is related to the first, as effect to cause; and that the verbal sense is not only first, in the order of nature, but the proper original signification; whence the substantive meaning is derived by metonymy, or by mental association, as intimated in a former part of the work.
It is somewhat curious that the author, after all his philological scepticism, should come round (so
far as he has any belief-for minds that have been much agitated with doubt seldom settle down into entire confidence) to the ancient faith; for according to the old philologists, verbs were before nouns. It is impossible, indeed, to study either the Greek or Hebrew language, (not to mention any other,) without perceiving, that if many verbs can be resolved into nouns, there are also many which cannot be thus disposed of: and though the doctrine of Horne Tooke seems, at first view, very convincing; the converse of it seems more evident when we prosecute our inquiries: for whatever may have been the origin of language, nouns in general evidently derive their existence either from attributives or from verbs; and, unless the testimony of onomatopaia be given in favour of the noun, as the pre-existent part of speech, we have no hesitation in affirming, that though many verbs and adjectives be derived from nouns ; it is equally true, that all nouns are derived either from attributives or verbs; i. e. before they were substantives they were either attributives or verbs.
This whole inquiry is more curious than useful; and is important only as it serves to abate groundless confidence, to remove false theory, and to make us better acquainted with the meaning of words; for it matters very little what we call them, (or what part of speech was first or last,) provided we understand them. It is with considerable pleasure that we now move forward to other inquiries.
THE PARTS OF SPEECH CONSIDERED.
It is wittily said by the author of Hudibras, that
"All a rhetorician's rules
But serve him for to name his tools ;"
and it may be truly affirmed, that most of the grammatic terms and distinctions serve no useful purpose whatever but because they had existed in connexion with Greek and Latin, it was thought necessary or proper to transfer them to the English language.
The different sorts of words, or parts of speech, are said to be nine, viz., Interjection, Article, Conjunction, Preposition, Adverb, Adjective, Pronoun, Noun, and Verb.
The interjection, or as it is better termed, the exclamation, is hardly worthy of notice, being merely an expression of sudden and strong emotion; for which purpose almost any verb, noun, adjective, &c., may be employed; for the only natural exclamations are the vowel sounds, as enunciated by a sudden action of the heart, when strongly excited by surprise, joy, grief, &c. Perhaps these natural, unpremeditated expressions of strong emotion, (which are found, with very little diversity, in all languages,) ought to be considered as having assisted in originating lan
guage; or as having supplied materials for its formation.
This term is so unmeaning or absurd, in its grammatic connexion, that there is some difficulty in imagining how it should have been employed. It is not worth explanation. Grammarians affirm that there are two articles; the one definite, the other indefinite. The is said to be definite: it properly ranges with This and That, called demonstrative pronouns; in connexion with which it will be examined: and therefore, for the present, it is dismissed without further notice.
A is said to be the indefinite article, and to become An before a word beginning with a vowel: the fact, however, is, that An is contracted into A before words beginning with a consonant: and at no very remote period of our literature, it remained unchangeably An before all words. The reason is obvious: An, like Ein, Ger.; Un, It., Fr., and Sp., is merely Ane, now One; i. e. UN-US, Lat.; and EN, Gr. A book is the same as one book; an ox is the same as one ox, &c. &c. How a numeral adjective can be indefinite is hard to conceive.
No person at all acquainted with English literature is likely to make any mistake in the application of an or a; and therefore directions concerning it are wholly unnecessary. For any purpose of necessity or utility, that grammatic designation article
can be well spared; and even, when a boy, the author could not help wondering how two such insignificant words as An and The should have been counted worthy to form one of the favoured nine parts of speech (which almost equal in dignity the Nine Muses); but the simple reason is, that learned grammarians had been accustomed to marvellous doctrines concerning the article; especially the Greek article-next to which the English article ranks in miraculous powers.
N. B. Some write, " A union," &c.; others, " An union." The sole reason of contracting an into a is euphony; and for the same reason that we write, a youth, we ought to write or say a union, &c. But such petty matters are as little deserving of grammatic notice as bears and monkies are of legislative interference.
This is another entity which merits very little consideration. Both conjunctive and disjunctive are intelligible terms; and there are words that might be thus designated if it were necessary to apply any designation to them; but conjunctive conjunction is an empty tautology; disjunctive conjunction is a manifest contradiction. And is a connective term, and so are other terms, not enumerated with it as conjunctions, entitled to the same appellation. Either contracted into Or, and Neither contracted into Nor, are disconnective, and so are other words not usually enu