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Structure of Language.

Whether the moderns have given beauty or utility to language, by the abolition of cases, may perhaps be doubted. They have, however, certainly rendered it more simple, by removing that intricacy which arose from different forms of declension, and from the irregularities of the several declensions. But in obtaining this simplici. ty, it must be confessed, we have filled language with a multitude of those little words, called prepositions, which, by perpetually occurring in every sentence, encumber speech ; and, by rendering it more prolix, enervate its force. The sound of modern language is also less agreeable to the ear, being deprived of that variety and sweetness which arose from the length of words, and the change of terminations, occasioned by cases in the Greek and Latin. But perhaps the greastest disadvantage we sustain by the abolition of cases, is the loss of that liberty of transposition, in the arrangement of words, which the ancient languages enjoyed.

PRONOUNS are the representatives of nouns, and are subject to the same modifications of number, gender, and case. We inay observe, however, that the pronouns of the first and second person, I and thou, have no distinction of gender in any language ; for, as they always refer to persons present, their sex must be known, and therefore needs not to be marked by their pronouns. But, as the third person may be absent, or unknown, the distinction of gender there becomes requisite; and accordingly in English it hath all three genders, he, she, it.

ADJECTIVES, as strong, weak, handsome, ugly, are the plainest and most simple in that class of

Structure of Language....English Tongue.

words, which are termed attributive. They are common to all languages, and must have been very early invented; since objects could neither be distinguished nor treated of in discourse, before names were assigned to their different qualities.


Of all the parts of speech, Verbs are by far the most complex and useful. From their importance, we may justly conclude that they were coeval with the origin of language ; though a long time must have been requisite to rear them up to that accuracy which they now possess.

The tenses were contrived to mark the several distinctions of time. We commonly think of no more than its three great divisions, the past, the present, and the future; and we might suppose, that, if verbs had been so contrived as merely to express these, no more was necessary. But language proceeds with much greater subtilty. It divides time into its several moments; it regards it as never standing still, but always flowing ; things past, as more or less distant; and things future, as more or less remote by different gradations. Hence the variety of tenses in almost every language.

The present may indeed be always regarded as one indivisible point, which admits no varie-, ty; “I am,” 6 sum." But it is not so with the past. Even the poorest language has two or


Structure of Language....English Tongue.


three tenses to express its varieties. Ours has four. 1. A past action may be represented as unfinished by the imperfect tense; “ I was walking, ambulabam." 2. As finished by the perfect tense, “I have walked." 3. As finished some time since, the particular time being left undetermined ; "I walked, ambulari:" this is what grammarians call an aorist or indefinite past. 4. As finished before something else, which is also past. This is the plusquam-perfect; "I had walked, ambulaveram. I had walked before you called upon me." Our language, we must perceive with pleasure, has an advantage over the Latin, which has only three variations of past time.

The varieties in future time are two; a simple or indefinite future; “I shall walk, ambulabo ;" and a future having reference to something else, which is likewise future ; “ I shall have walked, ambulavero; I shall have walked before he will pay me a visit.”

Beside tenses, verbs admit the distinction of voices, viz. the active and passive; as, “I love, or I am loved." They admit also the distinction of modes, which are intended to express the perceptions and volitions of the mind under different forms. The indicative mood simply declares a proposition; “I write ; I have written.” The

6 imperative requires, commands, or threatens; 6 Write thou ; let him write.” The subjunctive expresses a proposition under the form of a condition, or as subordinate to something to which reference is made; “I might write ; I could write ; I should write, if the matter were so. This expression of the perceptions and volitions



Structure of Language....English Tongue.

of the mind in so many various forms, together with the distinction of the three persons, I, thou, and he, constitutes the conjugation of verbs, which makes so great a part of the grammar of all languages.

Conjugation is reckoned most perfect in those languages, which, by varying the termination, or the initial syllable of the verb, expresses the greatest number of important circumstances without the help of auxiliary verbs. In the Ori- . ental tongues verbs have few tenses ; but their modes are so contrived, as to express a great variety of circumstances and relations. In the Hebrew they say in one word without the aid of an auxiliary, not only “I taught," but, “I was taught; I caused to teach; I was caused to teach ; I

} taught myself.” The Greek, which is commonly thought to be the most perfect of all languages, is very regular and complete in the moods and tenses. The Latin, though formed on the same model, is not so perfect; particularly in the passive voice, which forms most of the tenses by the aid of the auxiliary “sum.". In modern Eu

" ropean tongues, conjugation is very defective. The two great auxiliary verbs, to have, and to be, with those other auxiliaries, which we use in English, do, shall, will, may and can, prefixed to a participle, or to another verb in the infinitive mood, supersede in a great measure the different terminations of moods and tenses which formied the ancient conjugations.

The other parts of speech, as they admit no variation, will require only a short discussion.

Adverbs are for the most part an abridged mode of speech, expressing by one word what might,

Structure of Language....English Tongue.

by a circumloculation, be resolved into two or more words belonging to other parts of speech. “ Here,” for instance, is the same with “ in this place.” Hence adverbs seem to be less necessary,

. and of later introduction into speech, than several other classes of words; and accordingly most of them are derived from other words, formerly established in the language.

Prepositions and conjunctions serve to express the relations which things bear one to another, their mutual influence, dependence, and coherence, and so to join words together, as to form intelligible propositions. Conjunctions are commonly employed for connecting sentences, or members of sentences; as, and, because, and the like. Prepositions are used for connecting words; as, of, from, to, &c. The beauty and strength of every language depend in a great measure on a proper use of conjunctions, prepositions, and those relative pronouns which serve the same purpose of connecting different parts of discourse.

Having thus briefly considered the Structure of Language in general, we shall now enter more particularly into an examination of our own Lan. guage.

The English, wbich was spoken after the Norman Conquest, and continues to be spoken now, is a mixture of the ancient Saxon and the Norman French, together with such new and foreign words, as commerce and learning have, in a succession of ages, gradually introduced. From the influx of so many streams, from a junction of so many dissimilar parts, it naturally follows, that the English, like every compounded language, must be somewhat irregular. We cannot expect

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