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is always masculine, on account of its mighty efficacy. Virtue is feminine from its beauty, and its being the object of kove. Fortune and the church are generally put in the feminine gender!' This is the sublime of metaphoric gender, and sexual distinction, and grammatic sentimentality There is, indeed, something of the whimsical in metaphoric gender and matrimony; for with our old, rude, ancestors, the Saxons, the moon was not the wife, but the husband of the Sun. It must be matter of self-gratulation to the sentimental French, that they are not driven to the necessity of figurative genders; as all their nouns are either masculine or feminine; so that they can appear to talk about ladies and gentlemen when speaking of battles and spectacles, plays and operas, metaphysical entities and nonentlties. The business of gender is a very serious affair in Greek, Latin, and even in Italian, French, &c.; but nothing can be more simple in English; for, except in a few instances, it is left, as it should be, to the meaning of words as indicative of the natures of objects, and not distinguished by different sets of terminations; which are more troublesome than useful. The grammarians, indeed, assert, ‘mouns, with variable terminations, contribute to conciseness and perspicuity of expression.' We have only a sufficient number of them to make us feel our want; for when we say of a woman, she is a philosopher, an astronomer, a builder, a weaver, we perceive an impropriety in the termination which we cannot avoid; but we can say, that she is a botanist, a student, a witness, a scholar, an orphan, a companion, because these terminations have not annexed to them the notion of sex.” If all these assertions were admitted, still the advantage of variable terminations might be denied ; for it could be proved, that they produce a preponderance of inconvenience: but though they contribute to conciseness and perspicuity in such languages as Greek and Latin, in which the personal pronouns are seldom expressed; they are not necessary to perspicuity, and would contribute very little to conciseness, in English composition; and if the question be fairly tried, by a sufficient number of instances, the English will be found equal to any language (however incumbered with inflection) in conciseness and perspicuity. What impropriety is there in saying of a female, that she is an astronomer, philosopher, &c., any more than in saying, she is a botanist, scholar, &c.? The truth is, that having, very unnecessarily, adopted a number of foreign distinctions of gender, we are apt to fancy that they are very necessary, or would be extremely desirable to all nouns; just as a little indulgence is apt to produce a restless longing after useless or hurtful luxuries: so that, instead of saying, “We have only a sufficient number of variable terminations to make us feel our want;' we ought rather to say, we have a sufficient number of them to produce false notions and fantastic desires; and it would be much wiser to discard some we have, than long for more. Such titles as countess, duchess, empress, princess, &c.,
may remain ; but what utility is there in actress, arbitress, benefactress, conductress, huntress, patroness, poetess, protectress, tutoress, votaress? Even the eyes and ears (by which grammarians are wont to judge) are surely better pleased with the expressions, she is a clever actor, she is the arbiter, benefactor, conductor, patron, poet, protector, &c., than she is a clever actress, she is the arbitress, &c. To perspicuity, such feminine terminations contribute nothing, because the pronoun she, which accompanies the noun, indicates the feminine gender as definitely as it is possible for any termination to indicate the same thing: and as to conciseness; that, in most cases, is better effected by one termination than by several. Thus, to say, Attend, ye actors, is more concise, than, Attend ye actors and actresses: ye adulterers, is more concise than, ye adulterers and adulteresses, &c. We have much reason for congratulation concerning gender in reference to English nouns; for they have fortunately escaped the troublesome incumbrance of variable termination; and, however the grammarians may lament their rude simplicity, there is not much danger that they will ever be changed into the likeness of Greek and Latin substantives. As to number; the only change of termination in English nouns, besides the affix 's, to denote of, is that which is employed to indicate the plural; or, that more than one is meant. The plural affix has been already explained in treating of pronouns. There can be little doubt that the two terminations of singular and plural import have some utility; yet, that it is much less than we are apt to imagine, is abundantly evident from the number of nouns which we have with only one termination, without experiencing any inconvenience; as sheep, deer, swine, &c. In these cases, if it be intended to indicate the singular number, or that one is meant, the purpose is fully accomplished by prefixing a, which, as already shown, is a contraction of an, i.e. : ane, i. e. one. In such a connexion, what is called (very absurdly) the indefinite article, answers a useful purpose; whereas, in ninety-nine applications out of 100, it is wholly useless ; only, having been always accustomed to this, as to many other insignificant expletives, we should think composition strange and incomplete without it. In all such expressions as a book, a house, a horse, a table, &c., a might very properly be termed the insignificant article; which was probably the meaning intended by the phrase—indefinite article. The expression a sheep is as definite as two sheep, three sheep, several sheep, many sheep, the sheep, these sheep, those sheep, &c. So also, when the illiterate say, a shilling, two shilling; a foot, two foot, &c.; and we have not the least doubt, that, if all nouns had thus possessed only one termination, the advantage would have been considerable, not only as to simplicity and facility (for the distinctions of singular and plural, frequently cause an embarrassment), but also significancy. A question long perplexed the author, which seems now to admit of an easy answer. Whence originated the perpetual recurrence and useless jo of what is called the indefinite article not only in English, but also in most, or in all of the modern languages? For if a, an, un (It. Fr. & Sp.) ein (Ger.) be, as they manifestly are, one, (un-us, en,) how, in the name of significancy, should they be connected with almost every singular noun ? If singular mean one, why commit the tautology in almost every sentence of adding the adjective one The sole reason of this fact is, we believe, that the practice originated when the distinction of singular and plural did not exist; or, at least, did not generally prevail among nouns; and when it was as necessary to say a horse, or one horse, as a sheep, or one sheep: the habit of applying the numeral adjective i ane (now one), ein, un, like many other habits, remained, after the reason on which it was founded had ceased. Many Latin nouns have no distinction of singular and plural in the nominative case, (and their accusative plural is the same as the nominative); and a very great proportion of Saxon nouns have, in spite of Saxon grammatists, manifestly no distinction of number. Like the nouns sheep, deer, swine, &c., if not restricted, they suggest more than one of a sort or kind to the understanding; and therefore it was necessary to join to them ane or one,when one was intended to be indicated ; just as it was necessary to employ the numeral adjectives two, three, four, &c., when two, three, four, were to be denoted. If, however, there were one regular plural affix to English nouns, we might felicitate ourselves in the possession of it as an important addition to our grammatic treasure; but, unfortunately, instead of being simple and uniform, it is such a jumble of anomaly as sets all principle and rule at defiance. The principal irregularities may be arranged under the following heads. 1. Some nouns have the obsolete plural affix en : as oxen instead of oxes; men, women, i. e. contraction of manen, womanen; which ought now to be mans, womans; children and brethren have two obsolete affixes, viz. er and en; each of which is, we believe, for es, adopted from the third declension of Latin nouns; and which we still retain, but generally contract it into s. 2. Nouns ending in o, have the irregularity of sometimes contracting the affix es, and sometimes not; as folio, folios; nuncio, nuncios; punctilio, punctilios; seraglio, seraglios; cargo, cargoes; echo, echoes; hero, heroes; negro, negroes; manifesto, manifestoes, &c. This is such a petty irregularity, and at the same time so easily remedied, that it ought not, surely, to remain: let the e be uniformly dropped, or uniformly retained: the former seems the more advisable measure. 3. Most nouns ending in for fe, are rendered plural by changing for fe into tes; as, loaf, loaves; half, halves; wife, wives: but why should not these be loafs, halfs, wifes, staffs; like griefs, reliefs, reproofs, ruffs, &c.? If grammatic authority serve only to establish anomaly, it is itself a nuisance; and our understandings and our practice are more honored in the breach, than in the observance of its tyrannic laws.
4. “Nouns which have y in the singular, with no other vowel in the same syllable, change it into ies in the plural; as beauty, beauties; fly, flies,’ &c. But why should these not be beautys, flys, dutys, &c.; like key, keys; delay, delays, &c. This is one of the evils of having more than one alphabetic sign for one sound; and it is of recent introduction like many other anomalies. 5. Such irregularities as the following seem to have originated in the Saxon antipathy to polysyllables, so discernible in many words, which are reduced to the favorite monosyllable: foot, feet; goose, geese; tooth, teeth; louse, lice; mouse, mice; penny, pence; die, dice. But why not follow analogy, as children and foreigners do in learning our language; and say, foots, gooses, tooths, louses, mouses, pennys, dies, &c.? But how strange and ridiculous such words sound l exclaim all the dutiful subjects of established usage. But is it not much more ridiculous to be the slaves of mere custom, however absurd? Only accustom your eyes and ears and mouths for a single month, to the analogies of your own language, in those instances in which the strangest blunders have been consecrated into grammatic proprieties, and you will be reconciled to them for ever. It is the custom at present, in adopting words from the learned languages, to preserve their learned plural termination. In this we act more strangely than our neighbours; for how are mere English scholars to know the meaning and use of foreign terminations ! Why not make the plural of automaton, automatons; criterion, criterions; appendix, appendixes; medium, mediums; memorandum, memorandums; stratum, stratums; vortex, vortexes, &c. Surely good sense is better than learned pedantry; and it is manifestly more pedantic than judicious to graft foreign peculiarities on a vernacular language; or, in naturalising learned strangers, not to make them conform to the manners of the natives.
Secr. IX.-OF THE VERB.
This is the most difficult of all the grammatic entities. The name verb (verbum) means word; which latter is merely a corruption of the former. We have only to suppose, then, that this very formidable part of speech was designated the word, by way of eminence, on account of its vast importance. Nor is it worth while to quarrel with a name, when it does not indicate some egregious error or absurdity. If, then, a verb be a word, what is that word when considered as a part of speech? What is its grammatic character Lindley Murray must reply: “a verb is a word which signifies to be, to do, or to suffer, as, ‘ I am, I rule. I am ruled.' Other grammatists have attempted greater accuracy of definition; but their attempts have not been sufficiently successful to deserve notice.
It will probably appear to the reader very extraordinary, that the grammatist should define the verb to be a word; and instantly exemplify his definition by giving, not one word, but two or more words: as, “I am, I rule, I am ruled.” The blunder is easily explained. The definition was not made for the English, or, indeed, for any modern Vanguage, but for the Greek and the Latin; in which it can be strictly exemplified : as, sum, I am; rego, I rule; regor, I am ruled: so, also, if we take what is called the infinitive: esse, to be; regere, to rule; regi, to be ruled. In all these Latin instances the verb is one word; but each of the English instances consists of, at least, two words. This is another proof of the absurdity of transferring grammatic definitions, distinctions, and rules, from Greek and Latin to the English language; which is as truly ridiculous as it would be to give the history of Greece or Rome, with a few slight changes of names and dates, as a correct history of England. But how insignificantly diminutive would a vernacular grammar appear without the lucubrations of old Lily, or of Crates Mellotes, done into English 1 Hence that mass of absurdity which has been dignified with the name of grammar. Most of it was from its first existence (perhaps in Egypt or Babylon) dark and chaotic; and all of it as applied to the modern languages, especially to the English (so dissimilar to Greek and Latin), is as devoid of reasonableness and utility as the philosophy of Aristotle. To many persons such statements are redundant; and for the sake of brevity, as also of intelligibleness, to mere English scholars, we adhere as closely as possible to the English language. The question then is, What is a verb We deny that there is any such entity as a verb in the sense of the grammatists: i.e. one, single, separate, uncompounded word, which signifies to be, to do, or to suffer. But it may be replied, Have you not just admitted, that in Latin the definition holds, “a verb is a word;’ for sum, is one word; as also rego. True; but each of these is properly a compound word: i. e. two or more words joined together; just as if we were to write, }. Irule, Iamruled; or, tobe, torule, toberuled. The movable affix, in the Latin words, is as properly a distinct word as the prefix is in the instances Irule, torule. Though, then, the definition “a verb is a word which signifies to be, to do, or to suffer,' does hold as to Latin and Greek; it is not true, as to any language whatever, that one simple or uncompounded word can signify, to be, to do, or to suffer. The error of the grammarians originated in mistaking syntactic for verbal meaning; i. e. in supposing that one word can convey a meaning which requires two or more words. This error, productive of other errors, originated in ignorance concerning the elliptic or abridged state of language, as found existing among every people; for nothing was more calculated to deceive theorists, who would naturally suppose that one word performed the office of several; as if there could be existence without some existent concerning whom the affirmation is made; or action, apart from an agent. We have already considered the difficulty attending the origin of language, and the origin of some words called verbs: and it would answer no useful purpose to detain the reader with another discussion of the same troublesome question. In all those words called verbs, which are manifestly nouns, there is no difficulty: as,
‘to hand, to face, to back,' &c.; “I hand, we hand, they hand;’ “brave men back their friends and face their enemies.’ In such instances, all that is necessary is to join two nouns; or a pronoun and a noun, or to prefix the preposition to, to convey the notion of agency. Mr. Horne Tooke (as already noticed) holds, that every verb is properly a noun; and that it is something more than a noun: he intimates, moreover, that he agrees with the Stoics in considering the infinitive the proper verb, free from all incumbrance of number and person. It is difficult to conjecture what he really intended; but he seems to have considered the affix of the Greek, Latin, Saxon, &c. (in what is called the infinitive mood), as well as to, in the English, to be equivalent to do, or act; as if the expression, to back a friend, to face an enemy, were, do back a friend, do face an enemy. If such were the case then, to, and the Latin affix are, &c., are to be considered as o rly the verb; and the proper enquiry would [. what is the nature of that which is thus connected with a noun to convert it into a verb 2. After the fullest enquiry and reflection, we are convinced that the verbal affixes, to what is called the infinitive mood, in Latin, Greek, Saxon, &c., are the very same as the simple adjective affixes: are is the same word, whether it appear in amare, to love, or cellare, of a cell: en (ein, Gr.) is the same word, whether it appear in ; loven, to love, or golden, of gold. In all such cases the affix merely serves to connect the word going before with the word coming after; or to give notice that the word to which it is attached is to be taken in connexion with some other word for the purpose of conveying a particular meaning. In short, the affix in such cases answers the same purpose as our preposition to ; which also indicates that one word is to be taken in connexion with another; and which, like the forementioned . affixes, is doubtless a mere porticle or fragment of a compound word. If, then, the common definition, a verb is a word which signifies to be, to do, and to suffer, be wrong; what definition is to be received as correct? But though we point out the falsenes: or absurdness of an old doctrine, it does ne' follow that we must forthwith supply its place with a new one. It is impossible to put any thing sound and solid in the place of baseless theories; and the purpose of enquiry is generally answered when they are made to vanish away like dreams when men awake. . We have just seen that there is no such thing, in the English language, as a verb; i.e. a word which signifies to be, to do, or to suffer; for, to express existence, possession, relation, agency, &c., two or more words are necessary; and whenever one word seems competent to the business (as in Latin, &c.), it is not a simple, but a com: pound word, i. e. two or more words joined together. “Verbs, we are told, “are of three kinds; active, passive, and neuter.” The sole reason why such distinctions were ever applied to the English language, is, that they previously existed in connexion with Latin; but to suppose that the same distinctions will equally suit all lan
guages, is as unreasonable as to attempt to make a coat to fit 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. he distinctions in question have been discarded by the more sensible grammarians; who, instead of saying verbs are active, passive, or neuter, Jistinguish 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. ere 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, sit, he lives, they sleep, are denominated intransitive, because the effect is confined within the subject or nominative of the verb, and does no. over to any object. is distinction, however, might be very well dispensed with ; for it would answer every purpose, 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: as, “I love her;’ ‘she loves me,’ &c.; not, “I love she ;’ * she loves I.’ With all that avidity for multiplicity of distinction which characterises 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 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 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, ‘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 example is...at variance with the definition; for the distinction, as to singular and plural, exists not in the word love, but in the pronouns 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 pronouns in our language.
“In each number,' we are told, “there are three persons; as,
Singular. Plural. First Person, I love; We love; Second Person, Thou lovest; Ye or You love; Third Person, He loves. They love.
“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 attended 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 terminations 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 needless diversities of termination, and you discard at once nearly all the rules of syntax, or render them needless.
Whatever may have been the origin of the affixes est, eth, es—they are, evidently, nuisances in the English language; 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 anything, it could not denote number or person. After more enquiry 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; or, that it is Thau (Gothic), Thue (German 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 affir 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.
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 the humblest supplications of an inferior being to one who is infinitely his superior: as, ‘Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses!' Opinions are divided concerning the exact number and proper definition of moods. Yet, with all the love of complication, an obvious distinction is omitted; for if what is called the infinitive mood deserve any designation, it ought to be called the impersonal verb; or the impersonal state of the verb; but the term impersonal was pre-engaged; being applied to what is evidentiv the third person of some verbs—or verbs that are used only in the third person. In reference to Greek and Latin, the traditional doctrine of moods may be tolerated; because it serves at least the purpose of designating the various terminations of verbs, which must be committed to memory; but, in reference to the English language, it possesses no redeeming quality. Tense is a corruption of tempus, contracted into time. The grammatic judgments have been wonderfully divided about tense; which is not surprising when we consider how much the subject has baffled the most metaphysical intellects; and that it extorted the following humble confession from St. Augustine: Quid sit Tempus, si nemo quaerat a me, scio; si quis interroget, nescio. Mr. Harris has enumerated no fewer than twelve tenses; but more moderate grammarians are content with half the number; not without an apology for insisting on so many. “Tense,' they tell us, “being the distinction of time, might seem to admit only of the present, past, and future; but to mark it more accurately, it is made to consist of six variations, viz. the present, the imperfect, the perfect, the pluperfect, and the first and second future tenses!" Others, still more moderate, are content with half this number; and insist only on three tenses; the past, the present, and the future; others refuse to admit that there is a future or present tense; and some deny the existence of tenses altogether. In all such cases of diverse judgment and doubtful distinction, simplicity is an argument of considerable weight; so that, if there were no preponderating evidence, we would rather agree with those who hold that there are no tenses, than with those who assert that there are three, six, or twelve : but though the doctrine of tenses has, to some extent, realised itself; and we have, or seem to have, some notions of distinctions as to time, in connexion with verbs; yet it can be as clearly proved as the nature of the case admits, that no such distinction really belongs to them; and that, where such a notion does exist, it is wholly accessory or associated; not primary—not intended to be indicated by any changes which are made upon the words called verbs, in any language. The enquiry, indeed, is atterded with no substantial utility, except as it serves to remove false theory; for nothing is preferable
to absurd opinions: silence is better than loqua-, cious impertinence. Before, however, we enter directly on the consideration of tense; let us first examine those words designated auxiliary or helping verbs, for the right understanding of these will, in a great measure, supersede the necessity of a formal disquisition concerning tense. With respect to the auriliary or helping verbs: viz. do, have, shall, will, may, can, let, must, be, two affixes must be noticed as being really all the changes of termination that properly and usefully belong to English verbs: viz. ed and ing. The last was, anciently, ante, ant, and, &c. (for there is great diversity of spelling in the olden literature) and was evidently borrowed from the Latin participle : ing seems merely a spelling of the same affix, accommodated to the nasal pronunciation that acquired possession of the English language after the conquest. The use of ing is precisely the same as the participle-affix ans, ens, in Latin, and on in Greek; and has precisely the same use, and is, in fact, the same word as the adjective affix an, en, &c.; for all the difference between what is called a participle and what is called an adjective, is, that the one is formed on a verb and the other on a noun; and this difference is, in many cases, so very slight, that the same word is considered either adjective or participle. The corresponding, or rather the same affix, in the other languages, is, ande, Swed. ; ende, Ger. ; ant, Fr.; ante, It. From this view, it plainly appears, that as the Latins borrowed the affix in question from the Greeks, their literary masters; so the modern nations of Europe borrowed it from the Latins, their literary masters. The affixed, at, Swed.; et, Ger.; ato, It.; is evidently the same as that which exists in what is misnamed (for it is active as well as passive) the Latin perfect, passive participle. Thus, dubit-o, dubitat-us, is, with us, doubt, doubted, &c. &c. If, then, the English affix be merely that of the Latin; what is this Latin affix? We can hardly expect absolute certainty in such a matter; but we believe it is what is called the third person singular of the perfect, with adjective terminations appended. Thus, amat, he loves, amavit, he has loved, amavitus, a, um, contracted into amat-us, a, um. The av is a contraction of hab-eo : so that amavit is equivalent to, love-have-he, she, or it; amaverunt is equivalent to, love-have-they; or they-have-love. Whatever distinctions may be interposed respecting ‘the perfect tense not only referring to what is past, |. also conveying an allusion to the present time, every one knows that there is no distinction of meaning, or difference of application, between what are called the preterite imperfect and the preterite perfect in Latin. The reason is plain: amabat consists of the three same words as amavit; i.e. am, love, hab, have, and at, signifying agent or subject, he, she, or it, as determined by the connexion. -, * For the same reason that the preterites in Latin often appear to indicate past time or per fected action; so the English affix ed often appears to indicate the same; but unfortunately for distinctions, even of the simplest kind, the