Page images

Another class of adjectives is formed by adding the word sum, which expresses a degree or portion of a thing (1).

Other adjectives are made by putting the word full at the end of nouns (2). A large collection of them might be made, which consist of nouns, and the syllable ig, as blood-ig, bloody; clif-ig, rocky; cræft-ig, skilful. Other adjectives are composed of a noun and cund; others of a noun and bær, etc., etc.

After these examples it will be unnecessary to go through all the classes of adjectives, to show that they are either participles of verbs, or have sprung from nouns. Every one who takes that trouble will be convinced of the fact. I will only remark, that the Saxon comparative degree is usually formed by the addition of er. Now er or ær is a word which implies priority, and is therefore very expressively used to denote that degree of superiority which the comparative degree is intended to affirm. So est, which is the termination of the Saxon superlatives, is a noun which expresses munificence or abundance. Tir is a præfix which makes a superlative, and tir signifies supremacy and lordship.

The Anglo-Saxon VERBS have essentially contributed to form those parts of speech which Mr. Tooke has denominated the abbreviations of language, The verbs, however, are not themselves the primitive words of our language. They are all in a state of composition. They are like the secondary mountains of the earth- they have been formed posterior to the ancient bulwarks of human speech, which are the nouns —I mean of course those nouns which are in their elementary state.

In some languages, as in the Hebrew, the verbs are very often the nouns applied unaltered to a verbal signification. We have examples of this sort of verbs in our English words, love, hate, fear, hope, dream, sleep, etc. These words are nouns, and are also used as verbs. Of verbs thus made by the simple application of nouns in a verbal form, the Anglo-Saxon gives sew examples.

Almost all its other verbs are nouns with a final syllable added, and this final syllable is a word expressive of motion, or action, or possession.

To show this fact, we will take some of the Anglo-Saxon verbs:

[blocks in formation]

bad-ian, to pledge.
bær-an, to carry.
bæth-ian, to wash.

beat-an, to beat.
bebod-an, to command.
bidd-an, to pray.
big-an, to bend.
bliss-ian, to rejoice.
blostm-ian, to blossom.
blot-an, to sacrifice.
bod-ian, to proclaim.
borg-ian, to lend.
bridl-ian, to bridle.
broc-ian, to afflict.
by-an, to inhabit.
bysg-ian, to be busy.
bysmr-ian, to deride.
bytl-ian, to build.
car-ian, to be anxious.
ceap-ian, to buy.

(1) As fremsum, benign, freme-sum; winsum, joyful, etc.

(2) As facen-ful, deceitful; deorc-full, dark; ege-ful, fearful, etc.

cele, cold.
cerre, a bending.
cid, strife.
cnyt, a knot.
comp, a battle.
cræft, art.

curs, a curse.
cwid, a saying.
cyrm, a noise.

cyth, knowledge.
cos, a kiss.

dæl, a part.

dæg, day.
deæg, colour.

cel-an, to cool.

cerr-an, to return.
cid-an, to quarrel.
enytt-an, to tie.
comp-ian, to fight.
cræft-an, to build.

cursi-an, to curse.
cwydd-ian, to say.

cyrm-an, to cry out.
cyth-an, to make known.

coss-an, to kiss.
dæl-an, to divide.
dæg-ian, to shine.
deag-an, to linge.

If we go through all the alphabet, we shall find that most of the verbs are composed of a noun, and the syllables an, ian, or gan. Of these additional syllables, gan is the verb of motion, to go, or the verb agan, to possess; and an seems sometimes the abbreviation of anan, to give (1), and sometimes of the verbs gan and agan. Thus deagan, to tinge, appears to me deag-an, to give a colour; dælan, to divide, dæl-an, to give a part; cossan, to kiss, cos-an, to give a kiss; cursian, to curse, curs-an, to give a curse: while we may presume that carian, to be anxious, is car-agan, to have care; blostmian, to blossom, is blostm-agan, to have a flower; byan, to inhabit, is by-agan, to have a habitation. We may also say that cidan, to quarrel, is the abbreviation of cid-gan, to go to qua rel; bæthian, to wash, is bath-gan, to go to a bath; biddan, to pray, is bidde-gan, to go to pray. The Gothic to pray, is bidgan.

That the words gan, or agan, have been abbreviated or softened into an, or ian, can be proved from several verbs. Thus fylgan, or filigian, to follow, is also filian. Thus fleogan, to fly, becomes also fleon and flion. So forhtigan, to be afraid, has become also forhtian. So fundigan has become fundian; gethyldgian, gethyldian; fengan, foan and fon; and teogan, teon. The examples of this change are innumerable.

This abbreviation is also proved by many of the participles of the abbreviated verbs ending in gend, thus showing the original infinitive to have been gen; as frefrian, to comfort, has its participle irefergend; fremian, to profit, freomigend; fulian has fuligend; gæmnian, gæmnigend, etc.

Many verbs are composed of the terminations above mentioned, and of words which exist in the Anglo-Saxon, not as nouns, but as adjectives, and of some words which are not to be met with in the Anglo-Saxon, either as nouns or adjectives. But so true is the principle, that nouns were the primitive words of these verbs, and that verbs are but the nouns with the additional final syllables, that we shall very frequently find the noun we search for existing in the state of a noun in some of those languages which have a close affinity with the Anglo-Saxon. This language meets our eye in a very advanced state, and therefore when we decompose it we cannot expect to meet in itself all its elements. Many of its elements had dropped out of its vocabulary at that period wherein we find it, just as in modern English we have dropped a great number of words of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. In this treatise, which the necessary limits of my publication compel me to make very concise, I can only be expected to give a few instances.

Beran is to bring forth, or produce; there is no primitive noun answering

(1) It is probable that anan is a double infinitive, like gan-gan, to go, and that an is the original infinitive of the verb to give.

to this verb in the Anglo-Saxon, but there is in the Franco-theotisc, where we find bar is fruit, or whatever the earth produces: ber-an is therefore to give fruit, or to produce. So mærsian, to celebrate, is from segan, to speak, and some noun rom which the adjective mæra, illustrious, had been formed. The noun is not in the Saxon, but it is in the Franco-theotisc, where mæra is fame, or rumour; therefore mærsian, to celebrate a person, is mera-segan, to speak his fame. I have observed many examples of this


In searching for the original nouns from which verbs have been formed, we must always consider if the verb we are inquiring about be a primitive verb or a secondary verb, containing either of the præfixes, a, be, ge, for, on, in, to, with, etc. etc. In these cases we must strip the verb of its præfix, and examine its derivation under its earlier form. The verbs with a præfix are obviously of later origin than the verbs to which the præfix has not been applied.

Sometimes the verb consists of two verbs put together, as gan-gan, to go; so for-letan, to dismiss or leave, is composed of two verbs, faran, to go, lætan, to let or suffer, and is literally to let go.

The Anglo-Saxon NOUNS are not all of the same antiquity; some are the primitive words of the language from which every other has branched, but some are of later date.

We have mentioned the nouns of which the adjectives and the verbs have been formed. Such nouns are among the earliest of the language. But the more ancient nouns having been applied to form the adjectives and the verbs, a more recent series of nouns has been made by subjoining new terminations to the adjectives and verbs. Thus we have pursued the noun car to the adjective car-full. But this adjective having been thus formed, has become the basis of a new substantive, by the addition of the syllable nysse, and thus we have carfulnysse. In the same way the new noun carleasness has been made. So facenfulness, etc. etc.

A great many nouns have been made from verbs: as, gearcung, preparation, from gearcian, to prepare : gearnung, earning, from gearnian, to earn; geascung, an asking, from geascian, to ask; gebicnung, a presage, from gebicnian, to show, etc.

A new set of secondary nouns has been made by combining two more ancient nouns. Thus accorn, an acorn, is made up of ac, an oak, and corn; and thus accorn is literally the corn of the oak: so ceapscipa is a merchant ship; ceapman, a merchant, from ceap, originally cattle, and afterwards property, or business; and the other nouns, scipa, a ship; and man, a Thus ceasterwara, citizens, literally ceaster, a city, and wara, men. So burg-wara, citizens, from burg and wara. So eorldom, freondscip, etc.


A great many secondary nouns have been made by adding nouns of meaning terminations, which are in fact other nouns, as esse, or nesse; eld; er; ing; leaste; dom, rice, had; scipe; scire.

A very large proportion of nouns has been made by applying the primitive noun in a variety of figurative meanings. Thus originally ceap, cattle, came afterwards to express business, also sale, and also food. So cniht, a boy, a servant, a youth, a disciple, a client, and a soldier; cræft, art, is also workmanship, strength, power, and cunning. But an hundred examples might be added on this topic.

This view of the decomposition of the Anglo-Saxon language exhibits

the same principles of mechanism which may be found in other languages. They appear very conspicuously in the Welsh language, which, from the long seclusion of the Welsh nation, has retained more of its ancient form than any other language now spoken in Europe. They may be also seen in the Gaelic.

Having thus succinctly exhibited the Anglo-Saxon language in a state of decomposition, we may form some notion of its mechanism and progress.

The primitive nouns expressing sensible objects, having been formed, they were multiplied by combinations with each other. They were then applied to express ideas more abstracted. By adding to them a few expressive syllables, the numerous classes of verbs and adjectives arose; and from these again other nouns and adjectives were formed. The nouns and verbs were then abbreviated and adapted into conjunctions, prepositions, adverbs, and interjections. The pronouns were soon made from a sense of their convenience; and out of these came the articles. To illustrate these principles, from the various languages which I have examined, would expand these few pages into a volume, and would be therefore improper; but I can recommend the subject to the attention of the philological student, with every assurance of a successful research.

The multiplication of language by the metaphorical application of nouns to express other nouns, or to signify adjectives, may be observed in all languages. Thus, beorht, light, was applied to express bright, shining, and illustrious. So deop, the sea, was applied to express depth.

As a specimen how the Anglo-Saxon language has been formed from the multiplication of simple words, I will show the long train of words which have been formed from a few primitive words. I select four of the words applicable to the mind. The numerous terms formed from them will illustrate the preceding observations on the mechanism of the language.


Hyge, or hige, mind or thought.

Secondary meaning: - care, diligence, study.
Hoga, care.

Hogu, care, industry, effort.

Adjectives, being the noun so applied :

Hige, diligent, studious, attentive.
Hoga, prudent, solicitous.

Verbs from the noun:

Hogian, to meditate, to study, to think, to be wise, to be anxious: and hence to groan.

Hygan, to study, to be solicitous, to endeavour.

The verb, by use, having gained new shades of meaning and applications, we meet with it again; as,

hyegan, to study, to explore, to seek vehemently, to endeavour, to struggle.

Secondary noun, derived from the verb:

hogung, care, effort, endeavour.

Secondary nouns compounded of the ancient noun and another.

higecraft, acuteness of mind.
higeleast, negligence, carelessness.
higeforga, anxieties, mental griefs.

hogascip, prudence.

hygeleast, folly, madness, scurrility.
hygesceaft, the mind or thought.

Adjectives composed of the ancient noun and a meaning word :

hygelease, void of mind, foolish.

hyge rof, magnanimous, excellent in mind.



hogfull, anxious, full of care.

hige frod, wise, prudent in mind.

hige leas, negligent, incurious.

hige strang, strong in mind.

hige thancle, cautious, provident, thoughtful.

[blocks in formation]

modian, to be high-minded.

modigan, to rage.
modgian, to swell.

Adjectives composed of the noun and another word or syllable:

[blocks in formation]

Secondary nouns composed of the ancient noun and some other :

mod gethanc, thoughts of the mind, council.

mod gethoht, strength of mind, reasoning.

mod gewinne, conflicts of mind.

modes mynla, the affections of the mind—the inclinations.

modhete, heat of mind—anger.

modleaste, folly, pusillanimity, slothfulness.

modnesse, pride.

modsefa, the intellect-sensation-intelligence.

mod sorg, grief of mind.

Secondary nouns of still later origin, having been formed after the ad

jectives, and composed of an adjective and another noun:

[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »