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ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND GRAMMAR.
By language in general we are enabled to communicate one to another our ideas and feelings, either in conversation or by writing. Conversation furnishes us with information in the order and rapidity with which conceptions are formed in the mind of the speaker; and writing lays open to us the treasures of learning, science, and experience; the opinions, discoveries and transactions of the most distant ages and the most remote situations. It is in fact by language that man is chiefly distinguished from all other animals. These, indeed, have each their peculiar mode of expressing their sensations, by which they are understood among themselves : but this kind of language seems to be confined entirely to the expression of the passions; whereas in man, speech, as the organ of reason, conveys a boundless variety of expression, adapted to the various powers and faculties of the buman frame. So much is this the case, that in proportion as the language of a nation is enlarged, refized, and polished, that ration is justly considered to be exalted above others, in the scale of civilization and improvement of understanding
The student who confines his attention entirely to the study of his native tongue alone, will scarcely be able to arrive at a perfect knowledge of it, or to ascertain with precision its riches or its poverty, its beauties or its defects. He, on the other hand, who, together with his own language, cultivates those of other countries and of other times, acquires new views to increase his stock of ideas, and discovers new paths opened to him, to lead him to knowledge.
Various schemes have been formed to account for the origin of language or speech : but all, however ingenious, have failed in giving satisfaction. The only rational method of accounting for it is to refer speech, like all the other faculties of the human frame, to the
will and the operation of the great Author of our being. It is not, however, on this account necesary ti suppose that the first parents of marihind were inspired with any particular set of terms, or any primitive language ; but that they wire made sensible of the
power they possessed to form distinct articulate sounds; at the same tine that, in the application of each sound to any particular object around them, they were left to the exercise of their own discretion. To their own ingenuity it was lett to multiply terms and names, as new objects arose to their observation; and their language gradually advanced, in process of time, to the different degrees of ac urary, copiousness, and refir ment, which it has now reached, among tre various nations of the globe.
Language kept pace with the progress of invention; and the culture of the mivd urgel mankind to the increase and the improve ment of the sounds by which its suggestions were mutually communicated to the ear. When men bas formed names for the objects which presented themselves to their external senses—when they had invented sounds to denote the sun, the moon, the ground on which they stood, the tree from which they drew their food, the crystal brook which allayed their thirst — they proceeded to form expressions for the instruments and the operations of art, for the flights of fancy, for the processes and results of reasoning, for the conclusions drawn from observation and experience. In this manner may be traced the advancement of poetry, of philosophy, and of history. Thus speech, the offspring of necessity, became the parent of ornament; and words, originally the rude dress of ideas, were improved, as society advanced in refinement, into their most splendid and most beautiful decorations.
LETTERS OR CHARACTERS EXPRESSIVE OF SOUNDS.
To fix the fleeting sounds as soon as they are breathed from the lips, and to represent them faithfully to the eye, by certain determinate characters or inarks—these are the wonderful properties of letters. Those to whom books have from their childhood been familiar, and who view literature only in its present improved state, are utterly unable to formed a just estimate of the difficulties which must have attended the original application of literal signs or marke to the expression of ideas in the mind.
The great excellence of letters above every other kind of representative for sounds, consists in their simplicity, and in the facility and precision with which they can be put together, so as to express every separate thought. By their aid in carrying on written correspondence, the warm effusions of affection and friendship are conveyed to the most remote corners of the world; and the constant intercourse of commerce, of science, of literature and learning is maintained, in defiance of all the obstacles of distance and intervening difficulties. Letters cons:itute the light, the glory, and the ornament of man; and when the voice of the poet, of the philosopher, and of the scholar, whenever the sacred words of the divine Author of our religion himself ceased to be heard, letters recorded the bright
examples of virtue, and taught the inestimable lessons of science, of learning, and of revelation, to every people and to every age.
Various have been the modes of writing adopted by various nations. Some, like the Chinese, place their letters in perpendicular rows or columns, and write from the top to the bottom of the page. Other eastern nations, as the Egyptians, the Arabians, the Phænic cians, the Hebrews, followed a different practice, and wrote from the right hand to the left. In some very ancient Greek inscriptions the lines are by turns written from the left hand to the right, and from the right to the left, the characters being reversed. This mode was called boustrophedlon, because it resembled the progress of the ox when, in ploughing, he turns back at the end of the field, and proceeds in one furrow from left to right, and the next from right to left. The nations of Europe, however, have long taken an opposite course, and write from the left to the right. These various modes of arrangement of letters may give some plausil,ility to the opinion, that each people were the inventors of their own scheme of letters, or of their own alphal et. Our European alphabets, however, may be traced back successively to the Romans, the Greeks, the Phænicians, &c.
The effects produced by conquerors who settle in any particular country are in few respects more perceptible than in the change introduced by the cononest into the lange age of the original inhabitants. This observation is fully confined by the history of England : for the Saxons, after they had subdued the native Britons, introduced into the country their own language, which was a dialect of the ancient Teutonic, the parent of the present languages of Germany and the Low Countries.
No alteration in the language of England occurred, after this event, for six hundred years, until the conquest in 1066 by William of Normandy, who promoted another change, by causing Norman French to be used, even in the courts of justice. The original British tongue, the Saxon, and the old French, are therefore the sources of the modern English ; but augmented, from time to time, by the influx of Latin and Greek terms, with which commerce, the cultivation of learning, and the progress of the arts, have, made us familiar.
From the countries which have supplied us with improvements in knowledge and art, we have also drawn the terms belonging to them. Thus in music, sculpture, and painting, the terms are borrowed from Italy, where these arts have been carried to the highest perfection. The names and phrases employed in navigation were received from the inhabitants of Flanders and Holland. France has supplied us with the language of fortification and military affairs, which she herself originally borrowed froin Italy. The language of mathematics and philosophy is formed upon the Greek and Latin. The Saxon, and a few remains of the original British or Celtic, furnish most of the words in common use, a6 well as those employed in agriculture and in several mechanic arts.
The English language is now spoken or understood over a greater extent of the world than any other. Besides the British isles in Europe, it is the common tongue of the whole of the civilized parts of the United States of North America, besides many parts of Canada, and the British American islands. In Asia, English is the speech of the masters of India, ruling over a prodigious population exceeding fifty millions. In the newly formed settlements in the great Southern Ocean, in New Holland, &c. it is the only language
With French and German, however, a traveller will more commodiously make his way over the continent of Europe.
GRAMMAR IN GENERAL.
Grammar is the art of properly expressing our thoughts by words. The term is originally Greek, signifying a mark, character, or letter, written or engraved, to represent certain ideas or perceptions. Hence arises the impropriety of employing the term in
any other sense, as in the expressions and titles of certain modern books, called Grammars of History, of Geography, of Chemistry, and the like.
Grammar in general, or, as it is usually styled, Universal Grammar, explains the principles which regulate, and are consequently common to all languages. Being founded on reason and the nature of things, these principles and the grammatical rules resulting from them, are susceptible of no variation, from any change of time or of place.
The grammar of the English, or any other particular tongue, applies these principles to that tongue, according to the custom and usage established in it, by the best practice.
Grammar treats of sentences, and of the several parts of which sentences are composed. Sentences consist of words: words are formed by one or more syllables ; syllables contain one letter or several letters. Hence letters, syllables, words, and sentences, make up the whole of the grammar of any language.
A letter or character is the expression of any simple sound or modification of sound, or of the articulate utterance of the human voice, regulated by the organs of speech.
Sounds, and consequently letters, are naturally divided into two classes'; the one produced by a simple emission of the voice, as a, 0, which may be lengthened or continued at pleasure. This class proceeding only from the voice, is therefore from the Latin term for voice called vowels. The other class of letters representing certain restraints or modifications of simple sounds, can be pronounced only by the help of some vowel before or after them, and are therefore called consonants, from two Latin words signifying to sound together. Thus the letter b represents in fact only
a suppression of all sound, and can be pronounced only by the means of a vowel before or after it, as ab, or be.
When the vowels are brought together, so that each is sounded so quickly that the two together seem to form but one sound, composed of the two in succession : or that out of the two is formed a third sound different from both, these combinations of vowels are termed diphthongs, from two Greek words, signifying a double sound. Thus in English, ou in the word bound is a diphthong in which both o and u are separately but rapidly pronounced; whereas in the word food the two vowels 0, 0, represent a sound totally different from their own proper somd.
The letters or characters used to represent the most common simple sounds of a language compose its alphabet, a term consisting of the names of the first two letters in the Greek language, called alpha and beta, that is a and b. Had languages originally been constructed, and letters invented, upon certain fixed principles, every separate sound would have been expressed by a separate letter, or by the combination of two or more letters of invariable pronunciation. On the other hand, every separate letter or conibination of letters would have been restricted to the expression of one particular sound, to the exclusion of all others. This, however, was not the case in the formation of any language or alphabet ; and the consequence is, that in all we find one letter expressing various sounds, and one sound expressed by various letters. The English alphabet is therefore both redundant and deficient.
In the English alphabet are twenty-six letters, in the following order: A a, Bb, C, D d, Ee, Ff, Gg, H h, Ii, Jj, K k, L1, M m, N n, O 6, P p, Q q, Rr, Ss, Tt, U u, V v, ww, X x, Y y, Z z.
Of these, six are vowels, A, E, I, O, U, Y: the others are con sonants.
A syllable is one sound, either that of a simple vowel, as a in the word abound, or that of a combination of vowels and consonants, as bound in the same word. Syllable is a Greek term, signifying what things may be taken together.
Spelling is the art of reading, by naming the letters separately, putting them together, and rightly dividing words into their proper syllables. In writing, to spelt is to express a word by its proper letters.
The mode of spelling words is termed orthography, a Greek expression equivalent to right writing. Not only in modern, but also in ancient languages, we find various modes of spelling in use; and at times without any appearance of rule or established practice. In some old English writers the same word occurs differently spelt even in the same page. Various attempts have been made by learned men, at different times, to ascertain and fix the orthography of the English language : but their success, however