Εικόνες σελίδας

tive 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 impossible to study either the Greek or Hebrew language (not to mention any other), without perceiving, that if any 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 enquiries: 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 onomatopaeia be given in favor 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 enquiry 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 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. SECT. I.-OF THE INTERJEction.

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 language; or as having supplied materials for its formation.

Sect. II.-OF THE ARticle.

This term is so unmeaning, in its grammatic

connexion, that there is some difficulty in ima

gining how it should have been employed. 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 Span., 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. 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.

Sect. III.-OF THE CoNJUNctiox.

This is another entity which merits very little consideration. Both conjunctive and disjunctive are intelligible terms; and there are words that Inight 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 enumerated as disjunctives; but many words, commonly called conjunctions, have as little claim to that designation as to any other which could be applied.

• SEct. IV.-Of The PREPosition.

This was, in its original application, suffi ciently intelligible and significant; for it was equivalent to prefix; and simply indicated, that the words which it was employed to designate were frequently prefixed to other words. But, as often happens, this was, in process of time, lost sight of; other words besides prefixes were classed under the same designation, and then unmeaning doctrine was communicated; such as, ‘Prepositions serve to connect words with one another, and to show the relation between them. They are, for the most part, put before nouns and pronouns!'

SECT. V.-OF THE Adverp.

This is truly, as Horne Tooke terms it, the

common sink or receptacle for all words that.

grammarians knew not what to do with, or how

to range under the other eight parts % speech. 2

What is an adverb & Lindley Murray shall answer:—‘An adverb is a part of speech joined to a verb, an adjective, and sometimes to anoher adverb, to express some quality or circumstance respecting it!” If any species of insignificance be more objectionable than another, it is that which is ostentatious of the appearance of learning, and which affects the forms of science. Better, surely, have no names than have such as mean nothing: better have no distinctions than have those which are absurd. All the preceding five parts of speech are more worthy of being discarded than explained: the four that follow have a better claim to attention. Sect. VI.-Of The ALJEctive or ATTRIBUTIVE. The last term has both meaning and utility; and when the grammarian says, “An adjective is a word added to a substantive to express its quality: as, an industrious man; a virtuous wo— man; a benevolent mind; ' there is no violence offered to our understanding: we perceive that the attributive word answers to the description given of it; it indicates some quality, either physical or metaphysical. Thus, in the expressions white paper—black ink—sharp knife, &c., physical qualities are indicated ; but—candid temper—acute mind—clear understanding, &c., may be regarded as indicating metaphysical qualities. A few remarks may be made concerning the attributive:– 1. The simplicity of the English attributive. It has no troublesome changes of termination for gender, number, and case, as in Greek and Latin, and in a less degree Italian and French, &c. Such changes may be necessary in Greek and Latin, &c.; but it does not follow that they are excellencies. 2. The English attributive admits of various changes for the purpose of indicating diversity of signification: these will be noticed under Prefixes and Affixes. It may just be observed here, that the three degrees of comparison, affirmed of the attributive (or adjective), are not unobjectionable: comparative and superlative are intelligible terms; but no useful purpose seems answered by the term positive degree. Such an unmeaning distinction, however, is less to be regretted than the irregularities in the comparatives and superlatives of some adjectives most frequently in use. Mr. Tooke justly remarks, that words most frequently used are most corrupted; and even in Murray's Grammar we find the following sensible remark:—“In English, as in most languages, there are some words of very common use (in which the caprice of custom is apt to get the better of analogy) that are irregular: as good, better, best: bad, worse, worst; little, less, least; much or many, more, most; near, nearer, nearest, or next; late, later, latest, or last; old, older, or elder, oldest or eldest.' Children and foreigners, beginning to speak our language, uniformly say, good, gooder, goodest; bad, badder, baddest; little, littler, littlest, &c., and as uniformly get laughed at as if they were guilty of some risible blunder; such slaves

of mere custom are human beings; so much blind superstition and narrow bigotry have they in their nature; so arrogantly contemptuous are they towards modes (however rational) that differ from their own established forms; so foolishl fond and vain are they of their very faults ...] failings, their follies and imperfections. Anomalies are faults in language.

The English language possesses many comparative excellencies (and Horne Tooke could not, surely, mean any thing more, when he spoke of the perfections of language); but, in that grand fault anomaly, it is radically corrupt.

Such is the obvious importance or rather necessity of attributives to the significancy of language, that the author long considered them the first or pre-existent species of words, whence all the others derived their existence: and, certain it is (whatever Horne Tooke may have said to the contrary), that language could not advance many steps without employing adjectives, and, perhaps, after all, a few terms of this description, to indicate the more obvious and striking qualities of objects, constituted, if not the whole, at least part, of the original invention of language; for, as Mr. Horne Tooke justly remarks, it is the necessary condition of man to have few different ideas (which are quite distinct from the infinite variety of mental movement); and for indicating these ideas a very small number of words would be, in the first instance, sufficient; at least in as far as necessity only for verbal intercommunication was concerned. It deserves also to be remarked, that if many adjectives evidently originate in verbs and substantives, there are many verbs and substantives that as evidently originate in adjectives: and there are many instances in which it would be as difficult, or impossible, to trace the one, as it would be to trace the other, to any #. state or character. It must be conessed, however, that, though not free from diff. culty, yet, according to the preponderance of evidence, adjectives must be considered as originating in nouns or verbs: i.e. they are either nouns or verbs employed attributively. The adjectives derived from verbs are obviously the same as participles; which will be considered presently ; and in the same manner that verts become participles, are nouns formed into adjectlves.

SECT. VII.—Of Pronouns.

“A pronoun, we are told, “is a word used instead of a noun, to avoid the too frequent repetition of the same word.' The name implies as much; and grammarians have thus asserted, perhaps, ever since grammarians existed ; but both the designation and the definition are destitute of foundation. Something like proof seems deducible from what is termed the third personal pronoun: as, ‘the man is happy; he is benevolent; he is useful." But can we be favored with one proof or illustration drawn from any other pronoun ? Show a single successful experiment with I, We, Thou, You, &c. Instead of what nouns are these pronouns used to avoid the too frequent repetition of the same word Here is a short and easy method of terminating all controversy.

The noun to which the pronoun belongs can be omitted, and is often omitted; just as sentences may be rendered elliptic in many other respects and their meaning be preserved: but it does not follow that the words denominated pronouns stand instead of nouns; any more than it can be truly said that those words which remain in any elliptic or abridged sentence stand instead of the words omitted. We can frequently use he, she, it, they, alone; i. e. without expressing the nouns to which they respectively belong: just as we can frequently use such words as, this, that, these, those, former, latter, first, last, above, foresaid, &c. (which have all, in fact, as much claim to the title of pronoun, as those words on which it has been conferred), without expressing the nouns to which they direct attention; but if we wish to be emphatic or definite (as in legal writings for example), we express the noun, and do not trust it to be understood. Take the following illustration: The grammarians have delivered many strange opinions: they aforesaid (or the said—or—these) grammarians affirm, that such words as, he, she, it, &c., are pronouns, i.e. that they are used instead of nouns; but I, the author, do testify that the words referred to, are not truly pronouns, but (if they must have a name) connouns; for they and nouns are mutually related, not as principal and substitute, or president and vice-president, but as fellow-servants; and, if one of them be occasionally absent so as to occasion the work of both to be performed by the other, yet the one thus enjoying leave of absence must instantly re-appear, whenever called for, to secure greater definiteness.

The phraseology of the grammarians, such as, definitive, demonstrative, &c., indicate that they were not far from the truth: only what have been termed personal pronouns are as truly demonstrative, as those words are to which the term is applied. Their sole use is to demonstrate, i. e. to direct attention to some object or noun, which is always either expressed or understood: and, for the same reason, that the noun is not always expressed but often understood, so is the connoun also frequently omitted in elliptic modes of expression. If we say in Latin, hic homo, it is equivalent to ecce homo; in English, behold man; yon man; that man; this man; the man, &c.; and, if the man be actually in sight (and those words called pronouns suppose the object in view either of A. eye or of the mind; or rather direct the view to an object), ecce homo, or hic homo, yon man, &c., can be dispensed with ; as the business of directing attention to him can be accomplished by pointing with a finger, or by some other visible sign.

Thus, what are called personal pronouns, relative pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, definite article, and some other words not classed under any of these designations, all serve one and the same purpose, i.e. they point to some object or some noun; and, therefore, they cannot stand in its stead. If it were necessary to give such words a particular designation, they might be designated demonstrative connouns, or simply demonstratives; but such unnecessary terms are more conducive to ignorance than to knowledge:

. Case.

and the words in question are properly verbs in what is called the imperative .* Pronouns, as they are called, may be considered in reference to number, gender, and There is, doubtless, some advantage in diversity of termination for the purpose of indi cating singleness and plurality; yet that this advantage is much less than grammarians suppose, is evident from the little use made of numeral distinction in English connouns. Without any loss of meaning, but with much grammatic convenience, we have no numeral diversity in our relatives—who, which, what, that, and in what is called our definite article the. What numeral distinctions can appear more necessary than thou and wou? Yet if thou had not found protection amo-3 the Quakers, and refuge in prayer, it would have wholly perished; and that royal pronoun we, threatens to supersede I; for established usage is, already, almost as shy of it as of thou. Any sign of gender is as little necessary as of number: hence, except in the third person singular, no such sign exists. Lindley Murray (whose grammatic celebrity entitles him to some preference as an authority), indeed, tells us, “The persons speaking and spoken to, being at the same time the subjects of the discourse, are supposed to be present; from which, and other circumstances, their sex is commonly known, and needs not to be marked by a distinction of gender in the pronouns: but the third person or thing spoken of being absent, and in many respects unknown, it is necessary that it should be marked by a distinction of gender.' Well then, what becomes of this necessity in the third person plural, which contains no sign of distinction in gender 2 The grammatist could not but o: his statement to be too hazardous, uness accompanied by some saving clause; and therefore he subjoins, “at least, when some particular person or thing is spoken of, that ought to be more distinctly marked: accordingly, the pronoun singular of the third person has the three genders, he, she, it !' There is a useless but embarrassing distinction attempted, if not already effected, between who and which ; as if the former belonged exclusively to persons, and the latter to things and animals devoid of reason. Up to a very recent period there is the sanction of the best usage for disregard of such petty distinctions, which serve no purpose except to render English composition difficult. We have seen how little the distinctions of number and gender are necessary: but the distinctions of case (except what is called the genitive) are worse than useless; for they cause much embarrassment: were it not for these, and a few other grammatic nuisances, the English language would be the simplest, easiest, and most manageable ever constructed. The truth is, we have varieties of termination, called cases, for no reason whatever save that they existed in Greek and Latin; but, though such varieties of termination might be necessary or useful in these languages, it does not follow that they are either necessary or useful in English; which accomplishes by position the same purpose which the former effected by case: hence, fortunately, we have no accusative case of nouns; which retain the same unchanged form whether nominatives or objectives. If every purpose of speech be accomplished, without change of termination in nouns, what can render such change necessary or useful in pronouns ! If this, that, these, those, which, what, it, the, &c., be fully competent to the purpose for which they are emloyed, without any change, what could possibly incapacitate the other words of the same class for performing their office, if they appeared only in a single form ' But it is useless to reason on the subject. We have me, thee, him, whom, &c.; merely because the monkish grammatists found me, te, eum, quem, &c., in the Latin language. Nor is it surprising that, in borrowing so much from it, they should have adopted more than was necessary; but why should we consecrate their blunders ? We object to all unnecessary intricacies in language; but we have no objection to any useful contrivance: hence what is called the genitive case has been exhibited in connexion with the connouns; because it is somewhat useful and strictly agreeable to analogy; for nouns in general admit of such a change of termination to denote possession, connexion, or relation, and to avoid a longer mode of expression: as, ‘Mr. Tooke's work,' for the work of Mr. Tooke; ‘Locke's. Essay,’ for the Essay of Locke. So, if either of these authors has been spoken of, and is therefore supposed to be in view, we might say, he's work; he's Essay. His, its, whose, should evidently, for the sake of analogy, be he's, it's, who's: and, for the same reason, you's is preferable to your; they's to their, &c., if custom would permit. What, then, is this termination called possessive or genitive? It is a contraction of is, also anciently es; for what is now put man's, was formerly manis, or manes; and every one is familiar with the use of what is called the apostrophic sign, i.e. the comma put to indicate the omission of a letter. If, then, 's be a contraction of is or es, what is is . It is the sign of the genitive singular, third declension of Latin nouns; which was adopted by the Saxon writers to answer the same purpose in the native language which they were forming : and there can be no doubt that said is was originally a separate word, answering in meaning or use to of with us; which of, as well as the termination is, is a contraction or fragment of some compound word. Man's is the same in English as hominis in Latin: Man's condition is the same in significancy as, the condition of man; or the human condition. In the last instance, human is an adjective formed upon homo, anciently humo, by adding an ; which an serves the same purpose as the termination is, or our of; i.e. it denotes connexion or relation. Our word man, as noticed in another place, is a contraction of human, and elliptical for human being : hence the reason why the following exF. are all equivalent: Conditio hominis, umana conditio; Man's condition, the condition of man, the human condition. There is little or nothing gained by contracting manis or manes; birdis or birdes, into man's, bird's, &c. The reason of its adoption was, cyl

dently, to distinguish what is called the genitive or possessive from the plural termination; for they were both es or is. When, therefore, birdis, for example, was contracted into birds plural, the possessive was put bird's; and this distinction has sufficient utility (at least to the eye, for it is useless in reference to the ear) to warrant its retention. It has been observed that the plural was formerly the same as the possessive or genitive termination. The same is the case in the Latins. The terminations a, i, is, are signs of the genitive singular and nominative plural: as Musae, means both of a song and songs; Domini, of a lord and lords; Sermonis, of a speech and speeches; only

the plural, in the third declension, is generally

es: as, Sermones, &c.; but, originally, there was no difference between it and the genitive singular.


Here the name may be first considered. The grammarians of the learned languages have, with some show of reason, employed the terms noun substantive and noun adjective; i. e. a name that can stand by itself without any assistance; and a name that requires to be added to, or rested upon, another. There is, as usual, in these terms, a good deal of false theory, concerning which we cannot stop to enquire at resent. But, though the grammarians of the F. languages have noun substantive and noun adjective, why should their vernacular imitators, after treating noun and substantive as synonymous, prefer the latter to the former ? Probably the sole reason was, that the one seemed a more respectable looking word than the other. But substantive, besides being apt to suggest the notion of substance, is objectionable for other reasons, as being connected with false theory. Noun, (i. e. nomen, name), is perhaps as intelligible and appropriate a term as can be found for the purpose. It is desirable that names or designations should at least possess the negative merit of not being false guides; but in general we must proceed much further in our enquiries than they can conduct us. What then is that which we agree to call noun? How shall we define it !—Hoc opus ! There is nothing so important, in a philosophic view, as correct definition; but, at the same time, there is nothing so difficult. “A noun,’ says the grammatist, “is the name of any thing that exists, or of which we have any notion.' But if a noun be the name of any thing which exists, how can nothing, or any one of those words which denote nonexistence, be a noun ? And if the expression, any thing of which we have any notion, mean more than any thing which exists, it means too much to be a correct definition; for all words that have any signification, are names of things (either physical or metaphysical), of which we have a notion: and if it be affirmed that thing denotes a real existence, in distinction from attribute, action, relation, &c., then, also, the definition is not only incorrect, but manifestly false; for many words are called nouns which denote no such absolute entity; and the contrary supposition is not merely a philologic error, but a cause of much metaphysical absurdity, which men give and receive as sound ratiocination. We define a noun to be a grammatic designation, given not ouly to all those words which are the names of sensible objects, as, man, horse, bird, tree, stone, lake, river, city, &c.; but also to all those words which can be employed in a sentence as if they were names of such objects, as, hunger, reason, virtue, vice, nothing, nonexistence, &c. Any of the latter words can be ..". exactly as the former in connexion with other words, to form a sentence: as, man is a rational aniinal: reason is very different from imagination: nothing is preferable to what is evil. Thus any word which can be put together as the agent or subject, the nominative or object of a verb, is entitled to the grammatic designation of noun: and we know not of any other definition which is admissible as correct. All words thus designated, may be distinguished into nouns physical, and nouns metaphysical: many of the latter are not names of estities, but of nonentities; such as, fate, luck, chance, &c.; few of these, comparatively, denote absolute existents any way analogous to physical objects: they, for the most part, merely indicate qualities, motions, relations, thoughts, feelings, &c. &c. Many, even of those nouns which may be considered physical, are not properly names of things or absolute existents, but of motions: as current, stream, storm, wind, wave, billow, breath, sound, &c. &c. This unsubstantial nature of what are called susbtantives, which ‘give to airy nothings a local habitation and a name,' is certainly a great convenience in language; i. e. to enable men to talk without meaning, and “say an infinite deal about nothing : it is wonderfully subservient to effective rhetoric, and deceitful sophistry; but it is very unfavorable to sound reasoning and true philosophy; it must, therefore, be set down as one of the radical imperfections of language; and, in guarding against the deception of words, it is particularly necessary to examine their import. Many of them mean nothing; many are of uncertain import; many, being imbued with error and prejudice, serve only to impose on the understanding. The importance of etymology consists in ascertaining the descriptive or distinctive import of words; which is not indeed of any great utility as to physical nouns; for they answer the o of designation, even if their significancy e not perceived. The names London, Paris, Thames, Rhone, sun, moon, like Dante, Milton, &c., answer the purpose of designation completely however ignorant we may be of their etymology: and it might be even argued (as it has been argued) with some show of reason, that the more of such ignorance exists, the better, as the etymologic meaning might only tend to deceive, by its erroneous representation; as, for example, in the designation Pacific Ocean. The case is very different, however, as to metaphysical nouns (and all metaphysical words, i.e. words employed for metaphysical purposes); for every thing depends upon ascertaining their significancy, or their insignificancy; i. e. whether they mean any thing or nothing; and

whether their meanings present natural or chimerical ideas to the imagination, and true or false notions to the understanding. If metaphysical noulis be taken as if they were mere designations, like what are called proper names, without any regard to the reason ..? their imposition, the consequence must be error and deception; and this, as already intimated, is one of the principal causes of verbal imposture, and metaphysical absurdity, or false and deceitful philosophy; to which the only effectual counteraction that can be opposed, is sound etymology; though it will never, perhaps, accomplish all that Horne Tooke predicted. We must also consider case, gender, and number, in reference to nouns. The grammatists seem, in general, half ashamed of the poverty of our language in this particular; and they have endeavoured, with the very best intentions, to enrich it with imaginary cases: and they aver it to have, at the very least, three cases, viz. the nominative, possessive, and the objective. Lindley Murray, indeed, informs us, that he was long harassed with doubts on the subject. “The author of this work long doubted the propriety of assigning to English substantives an objective case; but a renewed, critical examination of the subject, an examination to which he was prompted by the extensive and increasing demand for the grammar, has produced in his mind a full persuasion, that the nouns of our language are entitled to this comprehensive objective case l' But, after all, our language is simpler than even its Saxon and Gothic ancestors; for English nouns have no change of termination, commonly called case; save that which is called possessive, alias genitive; as man's for of man, woman's for of woman, &c.; and many English nouns do not admit even of this change; yet this defect of cases occasions no loss of significancy, no inconvenience. The reader must be informed that gender means kind, and that there are three kinds of nouns, viz.; such as denote males, or he-animals; such as denote females, or she-animals; and such as denote neither the one nor the other, having no sexual distinction whatever: moreover, he must be informed, that in this instance the English language is richer than several of its neighbours; for some of them have both masculine and feminine gender, i. e. male and female kinds of nouns, bur no neuter kind. It seems, also, very necessary to inform him, that there are metaphoric males and females; figurative ladies and gentlemen. “Figuratively in the English tongue,' we are told, ‘we commonly give the masculine gender to nouns which are conspicuous for the attributes of imparting or communicating, and which are, by nature, strong and efficacious. Those again are made feminine which are conspicuous for the attributes of containing or bringing forth; or which are peculiarly beautiful or amiable. Upon these principles, the sun is said to be masculine; and the moon, being the receptacle of the sun's light, to be feminine. The earth is generally feminine. A ship, a country, a city, &c., are likewise made feminine, being receivers or containers. Time

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