Page images
PDF
EPUB

than that of placing them close by one another in the period. The meaning of the sentence is brought out iņ separate members and portions; it is broken down and divided. Whereas the structare of the Greek and Roman sentences, by the government of their nouns and verbs, presented the meaning so interwoven and compounded in all its parts, as to make us perceive it in one united view. The closing words of the period ascertained the relation of each member to another; and all that ought to be connected in our idea, appeared connected in the expression. Hence, more brevity, more vivacity, more force. That luggage of particles (as an ingenious author happily expresses it), which we are obliged always to carry along with us, both clogs style, and enfeebles sentiment.*

* " The various terminations of the same word, whether verb * or noun, are always conceived to be more intimately connected “ with the term which they serve to lengthen, than the additional, “ detached, and in themselves insignificant particles, which we are “ obliged to employ as connectives to our significant words. Our “ method gives almost the same exposure to the one as to the “ other, making the significant parts, and the insignificant, equally

conspicuous; theirs much oftener sinks, as it were, the former “ into the latter, at once preserving their use, and hiding their “ weakness. Our modern Languages may, in this respect, be ** compared to the art of the carpenter in its rudest state; when “ the union of the materials employed by the artisan, could “ be effected only by the help of those external and coarse imple

ments, pins, nails, and cramps. The ancient Languages resem" ble the same art in its most improved state, after the invention of dovetail joints, grooves, and mortises; when thus all the

principal junctions are effected, by forming, properly, the “extremities, or terminations of the pieces to be joined. For, by

of these, the union of the parts is rendered closer ; while “ that by which that union is produced is scarcely perceivable." The Philosophy of Rhetoric, by Dr. Campbell, vol. ii. p. 412."

means

Pronouns are the class of words most nearly related to substantive nouns; being, as the name imports, representatives, or substitutes, of nouns. I, thou, he, she, and it, are no other than an abridged way of naming the persons, or objects, with which we have immediate intercourse, or to which we are obliged frequently to refer in discourse. Accordingly, they are subject to the same modifications with substantive nouns, of number, gender, and case. Only, with respect to gender, we may observe, that the pronouns of the first and second person, as they are called, I and thou, do not appear to have had the distinctions of gender given them in any Language; for this plain reason, that as they always refer to persons who are present to each other when they speak, their sex must appear, and therefore needs not be marked by a masculine or feminine pronoun. But, as the third person may be absent, or unknown, the distinction of gender there becomes necessary ; and accordingly, in English, it hath all the three genders belonging to it; he, she, it. As to cases; even those Languages which have dropped them in substantive nouns, sometimes retain more of them in pronouns, for the sake of the greater readiness in expressing relations; as pronouns are words of such frequent occurrence in discourse. In English, most of our grammarians hold the personal pronouns to have two cases, besides the nominative; a genitive, and an accusative. -1, mine, me ; -- thou, thine, thee;

he, his, him ; who, whose, whom.

In the first stage of Speech, it is probable that the places of those pronouns were supplied by pointing to the object when present, and naming it when absent. For one can hardly think that pronouns

were of early invention; as they are words of such a particular and artificial nature. 1, thou, he; it, it is to be observed, are not names peculiar to any single object, but so very general, that they may be applied to all persons, or objects, whatever, in certain circumstances. It is the most general term that can possibly be conceived, as it may stand for any one thing in the universe of which we speak. At the same time, these pronouns have this quality, that, in the circumstances in which they are applied, they never denote more than one precise individual; which they ascertain, and specify, much in the same manner as is done by the article. So that pronouns are, at once, the most general, and the most particular words in Language. They are commonly the most irregular and troublesome words to the learner, in the Grammar of all Tongues ; as being the words most in common use, and subjected thereby to the greatest varieties.

Adjectives, or terms of quality, such as great, little, black, white, yours, ours, are the plainest and simplest of all that class of words which are termed attributive. They are found in all Languages; and, in all Languages, must have been very early invented; as objects could not be distinguished from one another, nor any intercourse be carried on concerning them, till once names were given to their different qualities.

I have nothing to observe in relation to them, except that singularity which attends them in the Greek and Latin, of having the same form given them with substantive nouns; being declined, like them, by cases, and subjected to the like distinctions of number and gender. Hence, it has happened, that grammarians have made them belong to the same

part of Speech, and divided the noun into substantive and adjective; an arrangement founded more on attention to the external form of words, than to their nature and force. For adjectives, or terms of quality, have not, by their nature, the least resemblance to substantive nouns, as they never express any thing which can possibly subsist by itself; which is the very essence of the substantive noun. They are, indeed, more a-kin to verbs, which, like them, express the attribute of some substance.

It may, at first view, appear somewhat odd and fantastic, that adjectives should, in the ancient Lan. guages, have assumed so much the form of substantives; since neither number, nor gender, nor cases, nor relations, have any thing to do, in a proper sense, with mere qualities, such as, good or great, soft or hard. And yet bonus, and magnus, and tener, have their singular and plural, their masculine and feminine, their genitives and datives, like any of the names of substances, or persons. But this can be accounted for, from the genius of those Tongues. They avoided, as much as possible, considering qualities separately, or in the abstract. They made them a part, or appendage of the substance which they served to distinguish; they made the adjective depend on its substantive, and resemble it in termination, in number, and gender, in order that the two might coalesce the more intimately, and be joined in the form of expression, as they were in the nature of things. The liberty of transposition, too, which those Languages indulged, required such a method as this to be followed. For, allowing the related words of a sentence to be placed at a distance from each other, it required the relation of adjectives to their proper substantives to be pointed out, by such similar cir. cumstances of form and termination, as, according to the grammatical style, should shew their concordance. When I say, in English, the “ Beautiful wife of a “ brave man,” the juxtaposition of the words prevents all ambiguity. But when I say, in Latin, « Formosa fortis viri uxor;" it is only the agreement, in gender, number, and case, of the adjective, .for. mosa," which is the first word of the sentence, with the substantive “ uxor," which is the last word, that declares the meaning.

LECTURE IX.

STRUCTURE OF LANGUAGE.

ENGLISH TONGUE.

Of the whole class of words that are called attributive, indeed, of all the parts of Speech, the most complex, by far, is the verb. It is chiefly in this part of Speech, that the subtile and profound metaphysic of Language appears; and, therefore, in examining the nature and different variations of the verb, there might be room for ample discussion. But as I am sensible, that such grammatical discussions, when they are pursued far, become intricate and obscure, I shall avoid dwelling any longer on this subject than seems absolutely necessary.

« EelmineJätka »