Page images
PDF
EPUB

108

QUESTIONS ON THE CONJUNCTION, ETC.

[ocr errors]

thing were left incomplete. Happily all is now done, and I have nothing to do but exercise my various accomplishments.”

Well, an interjection ; exclaimed, an active intransitive verb, indicative mood, imperfect tense; a, an indefinite numeral adjective; young, an adjective of quality ; lady, a noun common, feminine gender, singular number; just, an adverb modifying returned ; returned, a participial adjective; from, a preposition; school, a noun common, neuter gender, singular number; my, a pronominal adjective; education, a noun common, neuter gender, singular number; is finished, a passive verb, present tense, indicative mood ; at last, an adverbial phrase ; indeed, an adverb; it, a personal pronoun, singular number; would be, a verb, potential mood, imperfect tense ; strange, an adjective; if, a conjunction ; after, a preposition ; five, a cardinal numeral adjective ; years', a noun common, neuter gender, plural number, possessive case ; hard, an adjective; application, a noun common, singular number, neuter gender; any, an indefinite numeral adjective; thing, a noun, neuter gender, singular number; were left, a verb, subjunctive mood, imperfect tense ; incomplete, an adjective; happily, an adverb; all, an indefinite numeral adjective; is done, a passive verb, indicative mood, present tense ; now, an adverb; and, a conjunction ; I, a personal pronoun, first person, singular number, common gender; have, a verb active, transitive, indicative mood, present tense ; nothing, a noun common, singular number, neuter gender; to do, a verb active, transitive, infinitive mood, present tense; but, an adverb (equivalent to only); exercise, a verb, active transitive, infinitive mood (to exercise), present tense; my, a pronominal adjective; various, an adjective; accomplishments, a noun common, plural number, neuter gender.

According to the foregoing plan, parse the following sentence :—“Alas ! exclaimed a silver-headed sage, how narrow is the utmost extent of human knowledge! I have spent my life in acquiring knowledge, but how little do I know! The farther I attempt to penetrate the secrets of nature, the more I am bewildered and benighted. Beyond a certain limit, all is but conjecture, so that the advantage of the learned over the ignorant consists greatly in having ascertained how little is to be known.

[ocr errors]

ON DERIVATION.

THE word derivation, from de=down, and rivus=a river or stream, is used to express that act whereby words are traced to their original source. It has been already stated that it is a question amongst philosophers not yet settled, whether or not the gift of language was originally conferred on man by inspiration, or the knowledge thereof acquired by the process of invention and subsequent gradual improvement. By far the greater number of respectable authorities—and amongst these, divines especiallylean towards the former opinion; and Bishop Magee has ingeniously contrived to shew that in such a gift a twofold miracle was involved : first, that whereby language itself was imparted; and secondly, that whereby the power to use it appropriately was conferred, without the necessity, on Adam's part, to acquire such power by the tedious process of experience,-a miracle similar to that performed by the Saviour on the blind man, whereby he first received the gift of vision, and afterwards the power accurately to estimate distances,-a power which the detailed circumstances attending the miracle prove he did not at first receive, and which, under ordinary circumstances, it would take a lifetime to acquire.

However that be, it is evident that at a very early period of the world's history the language of the human family had become exceedingly diversified, and that there scarcely exists any modern European language which does not owe, in one way or another, a large proportion of its words, first to a Gothic, and secondly to a Classical original. Of this mention has been already made in that part of this treatise which discussed the history of the English language.

Words are but arbitrary signs whereby men express their ideas one to another; that is, they have no force or significancy in themselves, but derive their entire meaning from the consent of men to use such and such words to convey such and such ideas ; the words house, tree, heat, for instance, do not, of themselves, convey the idea which

a

men represent by their aid, and are merely signs of a certain idea annexed to them in the English language. From this it would appear to follow, that the learning of a word, and the idea it stands for, is all that is necessary to the proper use thereof; and that, therefore, the study involved in acquiring a knowledge of its original source is superfluous, and, as such, not to be entered on without a sacrifice of time. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. The exercise of tracing words to their source, and finding out the primary idea attached to them from such source, and the process of transition from the primary to the secondary meaning, not only facilitates the more correct knowledge and use thereof, but conduces to the calling into exercise, and thereby strengthening, the reasoning faculties.

The man who merely knows that callous means "hardhearted,” differs very much, in regard of the amount of his knowledge, from him who, knowing that it is derived from the Latin word signifying the hard skin produced by exercise, begins to inquire how it is that a word of such original import is used to express the idea for which it stands in the English language ; and by such inquiry finds out that in this as well as numerous other instances, words which literally apply to some property of matter, are, by an easy transition, from the similarity of what takes place, applied to express also some operation of the mind.

It has always, accordingly, been the study of the linguist to endeavour to arrive at a knowledge of the original sources of individual words, and the causes which have, from time to time, whether from caprice or change of habit, operated in producing a particular application of a word, in some instances different from, and in others apparently opposed to the application which would naturally attach to it by reason of its original.

The Celtic, the Gothic, and Norman-French have supplied a large bulk of the words of the English language; of what kind and in what proportions, has been already discussed. In later times, from the taste for classical literature which was universally spread amongst men of literature during, and subsequent to the reign of the first of the Tudors, an immense body of useful words relating to law, medicine, theology, and science, has been incorporated from the classical languages into our English tongue; and of these it may be said, that it is probably, on the whole, more difficult to understand the connexion between the original import and modern application of words so derived, than of any other.

The books are exceedingly numerous in which the original of words is traced, and yet few attempts have been made satisfactorily to account for such connexion, without some idea, however, of which, the mere knowledge of a word's root is of little value.

In the following pages such attempt will be made on a limited scale—limited, not because such attempt does not fall within the province of grammar, which has for its object the illustrating of the manner in which men make use of words as signs of ideas; but because the field opened up for investigation in this department is so extensive, as to preclude the possibility of entering fully thereinto in a work professedly devoted to researches in syntactical grammar.

CLASSICAL AND OTHER ROOTS. [NOTE.-One derivative will be taken up and discussed in

such manner, that the explanation given will apply to all words of the same family.] Academia,—the name of a grove near Athens, where Plato taught. Academy, academic, academician.

The word academy would literally signify a body of learned men attached to the Platonic philosophy, which inculcates the eternity and infinitude of matter, and that there is an intelligent Cause, the Author of spiritual being, and of the material world. From this original signification, the word in question,—by a figure of speech common to all cultivated languages, called synecdoche, by which a part is put for the whole, and the whole for a part,-is used to signify a school whereof learned men of any

denomination are members ; and hence again, more generally, a school for the instruction of youth.

NOTE.— The explanation here given of this word is

a

rather diffuse, as a kind of specimen of the manner in which words, if traced at all, should be traced, by successive steps, backwards to their original.

des, a house-edifice, edify. The postfix fy, from fio=to be made, signifies to make ; hence edify signifies to build a house literally. The secondary meaning of imparting knowledge may be thus accounted for. Knowledge is slowly acquired by successive steps, similar to those whereby a house is built; hence the metaphorical expression, “ To be built up in knowledge or doctrine.” Or it may be accounted for from the well-established fact, that the first symptoms of civilization which exhibit themselves amongst a barbarous people, are the disposition to build and inhabit permanent places of abode. And thus a word which literally signifies to build a house, secondarily implies to impart knowledge.*

Æquus, equal-equality, equalise, equanimity, equilibrium, equivocate, equinox, &c. &c. Equilibrium is a philosophical word : of two things which exactly counterbalance each other, is said that they are in a state of equilibrium; hence, metaphorically, it is said of a man in an unquiet state of mind, that he has lost his equilibrium ; and especially if he be in anger, that passion disturbing his equanimity more than any other.

Alpha, the name of the first letter in the Greek alphabet; beta is the name of the second : these words combined give us the English word alphabet, which, by the figure synecdoche, before explained, is the name for the whole number of letters collectively in the English language.

Angello, to announce-evangelist; the prefix ev from ev (Greek) signifies well : hence this word implies a messenger of good tidings. From a consideration of the comparative importance of the tidings announced to man in the Gospels, this name is applied exclusively to those who wrote them.

Annus, a year-annual-biennial. The latter, which is an ordinary word, is given to instance two things necessary to be attended to in fixing the application of words derived from other languages: first, their root; and, secondly,

The English word instruct, literally to build upon, (i, e., a foundation,) is constructed on a similar principle.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »