« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
the moon in all her changes. We say nothing at present of the original character of such distinctions; for if they had been distinguished in their first application, by absolute wisdom, they might be perverted into utter folly by being transferred to the English language. The distinctions in question have been discarded by the more sensible grammarians; who, instead of saying verbs are active, passive, or neuter, distinguish them into Transitive and Intransitive. The only conceivable utility in this distinction is, its subserviency to a grammatic rule; which says, verbs active or verbs transitive govern the objective case: as, truth ennobles her; She comforts me, &c. Here ennobles is considered a verb transitive, because the action passes over to the object; and if that be represented by a pronoun, it must be in what is called the objective or accusative case: but such instances as, I sit, he lives, they sleep, are denominated intransitive, because the effect is confined within the subject or nominative of the verb, and does not pass over to any object.
This distinction, however, might be very well dispensed with; for it would answer every purpose, even of arbitrary grammar, to say, When a pronoun is the object of a verb, or that in which the action of a verb terminates, it must be in the objective case: I love her;" "She loves me," &c.; not,
love she;"" She loves I."
With all that avidity for multiplicity of distinction
which characterizes grammatists, there is a distinction which has wholly escaped them; though it seems of some use, and has long obtained the patronage of Hebrew grammar: it may be denominated the verb causative; and all we intend is a little elucidation. Lay is manifestly the causative of Lie; for it is equivalent to, cause or make to lie: thus, also, Sit and Set; Rise, Raise, Rouse; See, Show, &c. &c. In this manner a great number of words are employed causatively, to avoid a lengthy mode of expression: as, to run a hare, for, to make a hare run; Show, for, make to see, &c. In many instances the same word is diversified in spelling and pronunciation from the original form, when employed causatively: as, Show, a diversity of See; Raise, Rouse of Rise; Set of Sit; Lay of Lie, &c.: and thus, as will be found in the Dictionary, many words are resolvable into one word, which do not seem to have any connexion. Many verbs, however, are employed both causatively and uncausatively, or, as commonly expressed, both as active and neuter, without any diversity of spelling or pronunciation. "To verbs," we are told, are told," belong, NUMBER, PERSON, MOOD, and TENSE." This also is affirmed concerning English words, for no reason whatever, except that the same grammatic position had previously existed in connexion with Greek and Latin. "Verbs,” it is said, “have two numbers, the singular and the plural: as, I love, We love." Here, again, the ex
ample is at variance with the definition; for the distinction, as to singular and plural, exists not in the word love, but in the connouns I and We. In Latin, indeed, the definition can be exemplified: as, AMO, I love; AMAMUs, We love. Here are two numbers, singular and plural; because the terminations of the verb perform the office of the connouns in our language.
"In each number," we are told, "there are three
"Thus the verb, in some parts of it, varies its endings, to express or agree with different persons of the same number. In the plural number of the verb there is no variation of ending to express the different persons; and the verb, in the three persons plural, is the same as in the first person singular. Yet this scanty provision of terminations is sufficient for all the purposes of discourse, and no ambiguity arises from it: the verb being always attended, either with the noun, expressing the subject acting or acted upon, or with the pronoun representing it"!!
It appears, then, that diversities of termination are not necessary to the English verb, as it is always at
tended either with a noun or pronoun; which noun or pronoun answers the purpose accomplished by termination in Greek and Latin: and for the same reason that the verb is without any variation in connexion with I, We, You, They; it might also have been without any variation in connexion with Thou, He, She, It: as, I love; Thou love; He, She, or It love; We love, &c. It is evident that the termination, or affix est, after Thou, and eth changed into es, s, after He, She, or It, answer no necessary or useful purpose; but occasion much embarrassment. Disuse these useless diversities of termination, and you discard at once nearly all the rules of syntax.
Whatever may have been the origin of the affixes est, eth, es-they are, evidently, nuisances in the English language, and therefore ought to be discontinued: but perhaps the curiosity of the reader, respecting their adoption, may call for some explication. We find, in our olden literature, eth connected with all the persons and numbers of pronouns (en was also generally employed as an affix, at one time, especially in the plural number of verbs): as, I loveth, Thou loveth, He loveth, We loveth, Ye loveth, They loveth. From this, it is evident, that eth could not be either a personal or a numeral affix: i. e. whatever it might indicate, if it indicated any thing, it could not denote number or person. After more inquiry and reflection than the question is perhaps
worth, considered by itself, the conclusion in the mind of the author was, that the affix eth was corrupted from the Latin affix at, et, or it, (which has a corresponding affix in Greek,) as found in what is termed the frequentative verb, (as AGIT-O from AG-0,) as also in the supine, &c.; or, that it is Thau (Goth.), Thue (Ger. Thun infin.), i. e. Do affixed instead of being put before the verb, as it is at present, when employed. The last seems the more probable conjecture; for when Do is employed the affix disappears; which is some approach to evidence, that the one was considered equivalent to the other, if not the very same: as, I do love, Thou do love, or dost love; he do, or doth love: not thou dost lovest, he does loves. Whatever may have been the origin of est, eth, es, contracted into s, they are manifestly useless and troublesome appendages which deserve no protection.
We are quite weary of grammatic inanities, and we will therefore dispatch them as quickly as possible. The doctrine of moods is self-convicted of absurdity: for the grammatists are obliged to make such a confession as the following: "Though this Mood (the Imperative) derives its name from its intimation of command, it is used on occasions of a very opposite nature, even in the humblest supplications of an in