« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
an art; or we may distinguish it into universal or philosophic, and particular or idiomatic. Perhaps the simplest and best distinction would be into rational and customary Graminar. Of the former, reason is to be considered as the authority or standard; of the latter there is no authority or standard but custom, agreeably to the quotation so often adduced from Horace.
Usus Quem penes arbitrium est, et jus et norma loquendi.
• The first of these,’ says Wilkins in his Essay towards a Real Character, ‘i e. philosophical, rational, universal Grammar, hath been treated of but by few; which makes our learned Verulam put it among his Desiderata. I do not know any more diat have purposely written of it, but Scotus in his Grammatica Speculativa, and Caramuel in his Grammatica, and Campanuella in his Grammatica Philosophica. (As for Scioppius his Grammar of this title, that doth wholly concern the Latin tongue). Besides which, something hath been occasionally spoken of it by Scaliger, De Causis Lingua Latinae; and by Vossius in his Aristarchus.’ Subsequently to the time of Wilkins, Harris wrote his “Hermes or a Philosophical Enquiry concerning Universal Grammar.’ This work acquired considerable celebrity. Dr. Lowth in the Preface to his Grammar says: “Those who would enter more deeply into this subject, will find it fully and accurately handled with the greatest acuteness of investigation, perspicuity of explication, and elegance of method, in a treatise entitled Hermes, by James Harris, Esq., the most beautiful and perfect example of Analysis that has been exhibited since the days of
Lord Monboddo (in Orig. and Prog. of Language, vol. i. p. 8) pronounces ‘Hermes a work that will be read and admired as long as there is any taste for philosophy and fine writing in Britain.” Mr. Horne Tooke admits that ‘Hermes has been received with universal approbation both at home and abroad, and has been quoted as undeniable anthority on the subject by the learned of all countries. For which, however, he adds, “I can easily account, not by supposing that its doctrines gave any more satisfaction to their minds who quoted it than to mine; but because, as judges shelter their knavery by precedents, so do scholars their ignorance by authority: and where they cannot reason, it w safer and less disgraceful to repeat that nonsense at second hand which they would be ashamed to give originally as their own.” “If others of a more elegant taste for fine writing are able to receive either pleasure or instruction from such philosophical language, as that of Hermes, I shall neither dispute with them nor envy them : but can only deplore the dulness of my own apprehension, who, notwithstanding the great authors quoted in Mr. Harris's treatise and the great authors who recommend it, cannot help considering this ‘perfect example of analysis,' as an improved compilation of almost all the errors which Grammarians have been accumulating from the time of Aristotle down
to our present days of technical and learned affectation.’ It must be admitted that Mr. Horne Tooke is sufficiently severe, or to use his own expression that he speaks “too sharply for philosophy.' His apology or justification is: ‘Neminen libenter nominem, nisi ut laudem ; sed nec peccata reprehenderem, nisiut aliis prodessem. At the same time, I confess, I should disdain to handle any useful truth daintily, as if I feared lest it should sting me; and to employ a philosophical enquiry as a vehicle for interested or cowardly adulation. My notions of language were formed before I could account etymologically for any one of the words in question, and before I was in the least acquainted with the opinions of others. I addressed myself to an enquiry into their opinions with all the diffidence of conscious ignorance; and, so far from spurning authority, was disposed to admit half an argument from a great name. So that it is not my fault, if I am forced to carry instead of following the lantern: but at all events it is better than walking in total darkness. And yet, though I believe I differ from all the accounts which have been hitherto given of language, I am not so much without authority as you may imagine. Mr. Harris himself, and all the Grammarians whom he has, and whom (though using their words) he has not quoted, are my authorities. Their own doubts, their difficulties, their dissatisfaction, their contradictions, their obscurity on all these points, are my authorities against them: for their system and their difficulties vanish together.' The following is the manner in which Mr. Horne Tooke disposes of the once celebrated Hermes. “You mean then by what you have said flatly to contradict Mr. Harris's definition of a conjunction; which he says is a part of speech devoid of signification itself, but so. formed as to help signification, by making two or more significant sentences to be one significant sentence.' I have the less scruple to do that, because Mr. Harris makes no scruple to contradict himself. For he afterwards acknowledges that some of them have a kind of obscure signification when taken alone; and appear in grammar, like zoophytes in nature, a kind of middle beings of amphibious character; which, by sharing the attributes of the higher and the lower, conduce to link the whole together. ‘Now I suppose it is impossible to convey a nothing in a more ingenious manner. First, he defines a word to be a sound significant: then he defines conjunctions to be words (i.e. sounds significant) “devoid of signification.' Afterwards he allows that they have “a kind of signification.” But this kind of signification is “obscure (i.e. a signification unknown); something I suppose (as Chillingworth couples them) like a secret tradition or a silent to: : for it amounts to the same thing as a signification which does not signify; an obscure or unknown signification being no signification at all. But not contented with these inconsistencies, which to a less learned man would seem sufficient of all conscience, Mr. Harris goes farther, and adds, they are a “kind of middle beings (he must
mean between significa on and no signification) sharing the attributes of both' (i.e. of signification and no signification) and “conduce to link them both together.’ it would have helped us a little, if Mr. Harris had here told us what that middle state is, between signification and no signification l what are the attributes of no signification l and how signification and no signification can be linked kogether! Now all this may, for aught I know, de “read and admired as long as there is any taste for fine writing in Britain.' But with such anlearned and vulgar philosophers, who seek not taste and elegance but truth and common sense in philosophical subjects, I believe it will never pass as a “perfect example of analysis; nor bear away the palm for “acuteness of investigation and perspicuity of explication.' For separated from the fine writing (which however I can no where find in the book) this is the conjunction explained by Mr. Harris. ' A sound significant devoid of signfication, having at the same time a kind of obscure signification; and yet having neither signification nor no signification; but a middle something between signification and no signification, sharing the attributes of signification and no signification; and linking signification and no signification together.’ It is impossible for logical inconsistency to stand such a cross examination. The only thing felt by the reader is the redundancy and satiety of the confutation. Never was the extinguisher so effectually put upon the reputation of a work as by Horne Tooke on the Hermes of Harris. Twenty-two years ago it was a work of great philological celebrity; but since that time there is hardly a grammarian or philologer of any note who has ventured to eulogise it. Mr. Harris was unquestionably an elegant scholar; but on this alone, as the author of Hermes, must his claim to admiration now rest. As the philological reputation of Mr. Horne Tooke has superseded that of Mr. Harris, it will be proper to devote some attention to his celebrated work, entitled, not very happily, The Diversions of Purley; which possesses singular interest, displays much learning, acuteness, and reflection; but which is disfigured by considerable blemishes. It is too desultory and miscellaneous—too political, vituperative, sarcastic, assumptive, and dogmatical. The charm of the work would be destroyed by abridgment; but all that is truly ad rem, or available for any philological purpose, might be comprised within a very small compass. Not a few of Mr. Horne Tooke's positions are specious or imposing rather than sound and satisfactory. As for example the following:— ‘This method of referring words immediately to God as their framer, is a short cut to escape enquiry and explanation. It saves the so much trouble; but leaves mankind in much ignorance, and leads to great error.' But what ignorance can the supposed Divine origin of language perpetuate among mankind? or how can it lead to great error? Unless we can ascertain the origin of language, we are just where we were as to ignorance or error, whether we assume a Divine or a human origin. All attempts
to ascertain the origin of language have hitherto failed; nor is there the shadow of a probability that future attempts will be more successful. We have the following confession from one who has long made language his study, and who was at one time very sanguine that he could ascertain its origin. “On this obscure subject the reader is promised nothing but brevity; for, after much toilsome enquiry and anxious reflection, the author has no satisfactory opinion to offer.—Some persons have believed that Hebrew was the first language of man, and that the Hebrew alphabet came down from heaven. This is a short cut (as Horne Tooke terms it) which saves much trouble; for on this ol. we have only to believe. Admitting, however, that letters are of human invention,--what is the nature of that invention? Here we possess no certain data on which to reason; for we have no authentic history of this important invention. Being wholly destitute of facts, we have nothing better than conjectures on which to form an opinion.’ The author of the Etymologic Interpreter might have added, what was no doubt understood, though not expressed, that it is impossible to find out, from examining language itself, the nature of its origin. Another of Mr. Horne Tooke's specious but unsatisfactory positions is, that it is as ‘improper to speak of a complex idea as it would be to call a constellation a complex star; and that they are not ideas, but merely terms which are general and abstract:' and that “what are called the operations of the mind, are merely the operations of language.’ This, which in the view of Mr. Horne Tooke is of great magnitude, he attempts to establish by a very doubtful kind of etymology. He does indeed intimate, “that it is an easy matter, upon Mr. Locke's own principles, and a physical consideration of the senses and the mind, to prove the impossibility of the com|. of ideas.' And accordingly also (as he ikewise intimates) of abstraction, complexity, generalisation, relation, &c. of ideas. But, e as such proof was alleged to be, he did not attempt it: nor has he given any evidence of being capable of a successful attempt of this nature. Indeed his expression betrays inconsideration: for how can any one who knows what he says, or whereof he affirms, speak of “a physical consideration of the senses and the mind?' It is hardly possible to find any thing more futile than much of what Mr. Horne Tooke says respecting metaphysics. All his etymologies might be as certain as the greater number of them are doubtful, yet every one of his metaphysical deductions or opinions be false. True for example, may be the past participle of trow; and truth the third person singular of the indicative, yet what is called in our language truth, be some more certain and less fickle entity than that which any one troweth or thinketh. But the fact is, that the very etymology in question is as false as the opinion founded upon i: or attempted to be supported by it. There a not room, however, here to refute the metaphysical theory of Horne Tooke in a full and formal manner; but it can hardly require refutation, for it has little to recommend it but confidence ano assumption. , Mr. Horne Tooke's theory of a northern origin to the languages of Europe, and his Gothic etymologies are also very doubtful: but of these more hereafter. The foregoing may suffice to direct the reader to the great authorities in our language on the subject of Philosophical Grammar. In our present article we divide the consideration of grammar into four parts. I. Treating of the General Principles of &im. or Philology. II. Of the Parts of Speech, or Grammatic Distinctions of words. III. Of Prefixes and Affixes. IV. Of Rational Grammar of the English Language
PART I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF GRAMMAR OR PEIILOLOGY. Sect. I.-OF THE DERIvation of THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
. On this subject, to a certain extent at least, there can be but one opinion among competent judges. A great part of the English language is derived from Latin and Greek. Many words have been received directly from these languages; many have been received through the Italian, the Spanish, the Portuguese, German, Swedish, Danish, and Dutch; but the far greater proportion have come through the medium of the French. * The causes of the direct entrance of learned terms are—the general study of the learned languages; the facility with which such terms are applied to the various purposes of art, science, and philosophy, &c. (not to mention a very general disposition in learned men to show their learning); the application of Latin to law, physic, surgery, anatomy, botany, &c.; add to all which, the consideration that it was long almost the only written language of Europe:–to com#. all in one sentence, Latin has for many
undreds of years been the learned language of Europe, and the terms of the learned are constantly descending into and becoming part of the common or vernacular language of every people on the face of the earth. It is on this obvious principle that we hope to prove that, if not all, nearly all that very part of our language which is most confidently received as Saxon and Gothic is, in fact, neither more nor les than a corruption of Greek and Latin.
The reason why many Greek and Latin words
have been adopted by us, through the medium of the Italian, is sufficiently obvious. Rome, even when her consuls and emperors were no more, was still the seat of empire: an empire of mightier sway over the minds and habits of language of the nations than ever was the power of the Caesars. From other causes, too, Italy was the fountain of influence to all parts of Christendom; for besides the Catholic religion, with its Roman priesthood and Latin tongue, science, the productions of arts, and the arts themselves, were thence derived. It was Italy, too, that took the lead in vernacular literature: and her poets, novelists, historians, and philosophers, were as much in advance of those of other modern nations as she was in advance of the rest of Europe in arts and manufactures. It has been intimated that the greatest influx
of Greek and Latin words has been through the channel of the French. The causes of this are, evidently, the geographical proximity of France, and her predominant influence in politics, polite literature, and fashion; which influence has operated powerfully in Europe, and especially in Britain, ever since the reign of Charlemagne. About the commencement of our vernacular
literature there was, indeed, an extraordinary importation of French terms; and the reason is obvious; for, as the French borrowed all from the Italian (which is admitted even by Voltaire), we at that period borrowed nearly all from the French. But the grand cause of the fact in question was the conquest. It is well known that William of Normandy attempted to make French the only language of England; that it was the only language spoken at court, taught in schools, employed in statutes, legal forms and pleadings, &c. &c.
It has been intimated above that some of the learned words, of which so much of our language consists, were received through the medium of the Spanish. The reason of this was the political pre-eminence, and consequent predominant influence, which Spain at one time possessed. Thus we have duplicates and triplicates of many words, which we borrowed by turns from the Italians, French, and Spaniards, as they respectively happened to be in the political ascendant. But there was another cause of the influence of the Spanish: it formed a point of contact, or link of connexion, with the arts and sciences of the Saracens: hence the portion of Arabic which is found in the different languages of Europe; for knowledge has the power not only of forcing a passage from more enlightened into less enlightened nations, but also of taking with it the wery terms in which it happens to be contained. The fact is, words and thoughts are so mutually adapted that translation is always difficult, and often impossible; so that it is less from choice that necessity that a people, poor in arts and sciences, borrow not only the improvements, but, to a certain extent, the language of their richer, i. e. more intellectual, more literary, and more
hilosophical neighbours: thus the nations of
urope, during the middle or dark ages, borrowed largely from the Saracens and the Greeks; thus the Celts, the Goths, the Sarmatians, and even the Persians, the Arabians, &c. &c., borrowed largely, for many ages, from the Greeks and Romans. These were the Backwoods-men of Grecian influence and the Roman empire: and, if those stationary and unimprovable animals, the naked savages of Indiana, already speak a corrupt English (or Yankee), it cannot surely be thought incredible that the venerable Gothic (whose origin, Mr. Horne Tooke says, is buried in the deepest antiquity) should prove, after all, with very little if any exception, a corruption of Greek and Latin.
Sect. II.-The ANGLo-Saxon AND Gothic ORIGIN of THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CoxSIDERED.
It is not without some reluctance that the author approaches this question; because he has to
controvert the opinions of Mr. Horne Tooke, for whose memory he entertains the sincerest respect and for whose labors he feels truly grateful. He will not say that he would rather be in the wrong with Horne Tooke than in the right with Harris; but he considers the errors of the one far more interesting, and even instructive, than the truths of the other. Many had pretended to write philosophically; but it was reserved for the author of The Diversions of Purley to be the first, at least in this country, to write sensibly on the subject of language. If his celebrated work be big with promises, which never have been, and which, probably, never can be realised; they have internal evidence of proceeding from sincerity. But, with every disposition to admit the merits of the above work, it certainly does contain a considerable portion of unsound opinion, especially in connexion with the author's favorite theory of a Northern Origin; in support of which, ingenious paradox and bold assertion are more conspicuous than careful enquiry and dispassionate reflection: and the Gothic derivations are, for the most part, not only mere assumptions, but many of them are such as would have disgraced Junius or Skinner. We had once intended to collect in this place all the unsound and absurd etymologies of Horne Tooke, and confront them with what we deem true derivations; but such a task might seem invidious. It was the unfortunate theory of the Northern Origin that misled the acute judgment of the author of the Diversions of Purley; for his Greek and Latin derivations are as remarkably sound and incontrovertible as many of his Gothic derivations are absurd and false. His Gothic partialities and prejudices, connected as they were with a particular theory and a political bias, are easily accounted for; but they are, nevertheless, unworthy of his understanding and inconsistent with the philosophic spirit of free enquiry. He perceived a remarkable similarity, or rather identity, in many Gothic and Anglo Saxon words with Greek and Latin terms. What is the inference deducible from this fact? That the half civilised and illiterate tribes of the north borrowed such words from the highly civilised, and therefore powerfully influential, Greeks and Romans; or that they both derived them from a common origin 2 No, indeed, but that the Greeks and Romans, those inasters and teachers of the world after the extinction of Babylon and Memphis, borowed many words (perhaps terms of art and science) from the rude and unlettered tribes of ancient Germany Or, as is ingeniously (not to say fancifully) supposed, in bold defiance of all history and all probability, that these rude tribes made successful irruptions into Greece and Italy, and grafted their language on that which already existed in these countries' But the Herculean argument for the Northern Origin is the darkness of its deep antiquity. We can trace (Mr. Horne Tooke avers) the origin of the Latin and the Greek; but that of the Gothic is involved in darkness and buried in the deepest antiquity. But is not the origin of all the languages of all the uncivilised and half-civilised tribes of the earth sufficiently buried in darkness entitle them to the same honor' Why should
the Anglo-Saxon or Gothic monopolise all this merit.” The Celtic has surely some claims; and, as to words without number, every one capable of using a dictionary may soon satisfy himself not only of striking resemblance, but of absolute identity, with both the Greek and the Latin. Have not the Welsh, for example, Pont and Dant? which are plainly Pons and Dens, or, as in Italian, Ponte and Dente. And is it not undeniably certain that the Romans borrowed all such words from the Welsh, the more ancient people?— which word people, as well as populus, is, without controversy, a corruption of the Welsh Pobl; for the more cultivated and literary language is uniformly derived from one ruder and less literary. It is amusing enough to find other writers advocating the Celtic origin of the Greek and Latin Languages, with as much zeal, if not with
the same talent, as Horne Tooke advocated the
Gothic origin. The fact is as well established as any historical fact whatever, that the Goths had not the use of letters before the fourth century; that they borrowed their letters from the Greeks and Romans; that their first attempts at literature were rude translations and imitations of works written in Greek and Latin. The fair inference seems to be, that as the Gothic, or, say at once, Saxon literature (and the writings of men in the present age who know not how to spell their own name are as worthy of such a dignified appellation), originated in Greek and Latin, so did a great proportion of the words composing it. Such has always been the case; for a rude and illiterate people as naturally borrow words from their civilised and literate neighbours as they borrow their improvements and arts and sciences, or as the poor beg from the rich: and the inverse process supposed is as absurd as the idea of the rich borrowing food and raiment from the poorest paupers that exist in their neighbourhood or live on their bounty. The only question, indeed, with unprejudiced enquirers, is likely to be concerning not the reality but the amount of Saxon derivation from the learned languages. This may not be easily ascertained with perfect accuracy; but, from the very nature of the operating causes or influencing circumstances, it must have been very considerable: and in reply to all Horne Tooke's witticisms, about the Goths not waiting for others to come and put words in their mouth, it is sufficient to remark, that they would naturally adopt in process of time new foreign terms for many of their old vernacular ideas, (for such is the process with all people similarly circumstanced), and that with the multitude of ideas which literature introduced among them, they would adopt, to a wide extent, the terms in which they were conveyed to them, partly from choice, and partly from necessity. This is the history of all the living languages of the earth; not merely of such as are most rude, unformed, and imperfect (and what can well partake more of these attributes than the scrap of Gothic contained in Codex Argenteus, or even the Saxon of the eighth and ninth centuries ') but of those which are most improved, and most firmly fixed by authoritative rules, established principles, and admitted standards. New terms and modes of speech are constantly displacing the old. Custom, the sovereign arbiter of language, is as capricious as tyrannical; and ‘time is the greatest of all innovators.' The only argument of Mr. Horne Tooke intrinsically deserving refutation, is that which he attempts to erect on the evidence of etymology; and on this he evidently relies with much confidence. He puts the question—When two different languages have the same words, how are we to ascertain which of them borrowed from the other? This is not a very satisfactory mode of putting the question, for two languages might have the same words without either borrowing from the other, as both might have derived them from a common origin. But his manner of replying to the question is still less satisfactory. Etymology is to decide. So far good; but what kind of etymology? Here the advocate of the northern origin (to use his own words) takes a short cut which saves much trouble, but leaves us in much ignorance; for, instead of proofs, he contents himself with assumptions, as if the business were settled by merely asserting that a certain word is a Gothic verb or noun, without even attempting to give us any further information. As to the instances which he gives of Gothic and Saxon words, whence corresponding Latin and Greek words must have been derived, it is difficult to conceive any reason whatever, save that the former are found in Gothic and Saxon letters and spelling. There are but few Gothic admirers that can deserve the honor of being noticed in connexion with the author of the Diversions of Purley; but this seems the proper place for saying a few words about the utility of Saxon literature, especially as there appears some disposition to exalt it into undue importance. A Saxon professor in one of our most renowned seats of learning has employed very laudatory strains on the subject; to one or two of which it will suffice to apply the test of criticism, if, indeed, it be fair thus to try the soundness of panegyrical orations. “The Anglo-Saxon, the learned professor affirms, ‘is one of those ancient languages to which we may successfully refer in our enquiries how language has been constructed.’ This is a most comfortable assurance, pregnant with hope aud anticipation as the doctrine of Horne Tooke; but, if equally barren of results, it will only tantalize our fond desires. The sober truth is, that Anglo-Saxon is availaable for etymologic purposes in studying the English language, but not half so available as German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, old English, Scottish, Greek, and Latin. The reason is obvious; such was the illiterateness of even the Saxon literati, that they knew not how to depict to the eye their own barbarous sounds. Hence the caprices of Saxon orthography, as they are leniently termed by the candid and enlightened author of the Anglo-Saxon history. To have a true idea of these caprices, (more properly rude essays at spelling), we have only to compare them with the literary attempts of our most unlettered mechanics or laborers who can barely read and write. Their orthography and composition and that of the Saxons will be found remarkably
similar. This may displease the lovers of Saxon literature, and all lovers are apt to be offended when freedoms are taken with the objects of their affections; but our apology must be, that we have no wish to offend, and the ruling principle of our sentimentality is, Rien n'est beau que le vrai. “The present language of Englishmen,’ says the Saxon scholar above alluded to, “is not that heterogeneous compound which some imagine, compiled from the jarring and corrupted elements of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian; but (but what? completely Anglo-Saxon in its whole derivation, o: none but pure Gothic words in its whole vocabulary 1) completely Anglo-Saxon in its whole idiom and construction.” We may well exclaim fie upon but ; for it brings forth a most irrelevant conclusion. A zealous Frenchman might exclaim, The present language of Frenchmen is not that corruption of Latin which some imagine, but completely French in its whole idiom and construction: and thus might Spanish and Italian professors reason for the idiomatic antiquity of their language. Specimens of the present English have been selected for the purpose of showing what a great number of pure Saxon words they contain; but we think it can be proved that most, if not all, of these very Saxon words are as really Greek and Latin, as those which are admitted to be adopted from these languages. The sole difference is, that the words given as Saxon were adopted at a much earlier and ruder period, and, therefore, are more changed, contracted, and disguised. This is an opinion not hastily adopted (for it was reluctantly admitted, being forced upon the understanding of the author in opposition to his faith in the Northern Origin), but slowly and cautiously formed, after much enquiry and long deliberation. If this opinion can be established, if it can be satisfactorily shown that all, or nearly all, the words of the English language are merely Greek and Latin terms, in learning which so much time is spent in youth; the result will surely be far more important than tracing them up to the darkness of Gothic antiquity, which is as void of pleasing association as of useful instruction.
SECT III.-VERBAL ContRAction, or AbbāEviation CoNSIDERED.
Here three general rules may be laid down.
1. The more illiterate any people are, the more do they contract their words; and the illiterate part of a community always shorten their words more than the educated portion of society. Thus the language of the Franks abounds with more violent contractions of Latin than does that of the Italians, the modern masters and teachers of Europe. The language of the Saxons is characterised by more verbal contraction than the old English in the time of Chaucer, and the English of his period has more of the same character than when our language first began to be fixed by established rules and uniform polite usage: and thus, also, the language of the vulgar is remarkable for violent contractions. as, gemman, for gentleman; a'nt, for are not; fulge, for fiction; fib, for fable: to