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It is not to be imagined, however, that such rules were first laid down, and that language adapted itself thereto afterwards. However language was acquired by man, there can be no doubt that at a certain period of the age of the human family, considered as an individual, it was both simple in its kind, and inartificial in its laws; it was adapted to the exigencies of the age, and required not the aid of artistic skill to arrange its order; the wants of man were few, and the signs capable of expressing such wants but comparatively scanty. Afterwards, when the human family had progressed in knowledge and civilization, when the human intellect had become expanded, and man had commenced the attempt of penetrating into the mysteries of mind and matter, language, no doubt, changed its external aspeet, and adapted itself to the requirements of a new state of things. Improvements followed in this as in every other department of human knowledge ; instead of the simple expression of simple men, such artificial complex expressions arose, as to render it necessary that an understood order and arrangement should be adopted, in order that men should not express themselves in their communications with each other in an unknown tongue.
Such order and such arrangement were dictated, in every instance, by necessity, and not by arbitrary rules. The modes of expression originated in the desire of men to express themselves intelligibly, and the several formulæ of words had their existence in the disposition of man to convey to his fellow man the sentiments of his mind in the shortest possible time. By degrees, such order became so intricate, and such formulæ so diversified, as to originate a necessity for treatises thereon, in order to facilitate the knowledge thereof; hence the rules of Grammar, which deal with, and illustrate the usage of a language, rather than attempt to establish it—which point out the laws of a language as it has existed, rather than attempt to alter it into the form in which it should exist; and thus the usage of a language is first established, and rules are afterwards collected to illustrate it. Rules, therefore, do not precede nor establish
but usage gives birth to rules, which are useful in their place, but can never obviate the necessity, on the part of him who would acquire a thorough mastery over a language, of studying it as it is exhibited in the writings of such authors as are acknowledged to be standards of composition therein. If all the intricacies and verbal formulæ, the genius and philosophy, the idiomatic phrases and figures of a single language were searchingly discussed, volumes upon volumes would be requisite, and afterwards something would remain to be done; the laws laid down in such discussion would never be sufficient for the formation of a man's style of writing ; nor, possibly, to protect him against the commission of the grossest blunders.
Rules of grammar are the result of observation ; he, therefore, who observes accurately and closely the laws and usage of a language has, to a certain extent, forestalled the compiler of rules; but, as the experience and observation of no single individual extend to every peculiarity of a language, rules, even to him who is deeply read in such matters, are not without their use, in enabling him, if no more, to compare his own experience with that of others, and test the accuracy of his own observations by bringing them into contact with those of others put before him in the tangible form of practical rules; whilst to him, who has not the opportunity of extensive observation, or wants that power of analysis which would enable him to judge for himself, rules are indispensable, as the means whereby he can acquire anything like accuracy of expression and perspicuity of style. Still, even for such as the latter, rules and formulæ will of themselves be insufficient, without, at least, such an amount of reading and observation as will render language familiar to him, and enable him clearly to apply and forcibly reduce to practical effect the principles he may have gathered from writers on Grammar.
To all, therefore, who would acquire correctness of expression, and such views of the functions, government, order, and usage of words, as conduce thereto, extensive reading, and, above all, habitual observation and deep thinking, are recommended as necessary in addition to the acquisition of a knowledge of book rules, in order to the formation of that style of writing and speaking which exercises such important influence on the career of every individual on whom is laid the necessity of making (so to speak) his own fortune, and rising above the position in which he may find himself accidentally placed.
All language, whether spoken or written, consists of sentences, or, logically speaking, propositions ; that is, an assemblage of words so arranged and connected together in such order as to convey a perfect sense, and represent clearly to him who reads or hears, as it may be, the idea present to the mind of him who writes or speaks.
All sentences assert something of some noun, called the subject of affirmation. In the expression, “The sun shines,” shines makes the affirmation, and hence is called the predicate, that is, the word which asserts ; sun is the name of that of which it is asserted that it shines, and hence is called the subject of affirmation, or the subject of the sentence. Besides the foregoing two parts,
there is in some sentences another, as in the expression, “The master beats his slave;" wherein the word slave, the name of the individual who receives the act expressed by the verb, is called the object or receiver of the act, from ob=in the way of, and jectus=thrown. It is laid down, therefore, that the essentials of all sentences are a subject and predicate; and in the case of sentences wherein occurs a transitive verb, an object in addition.
The old logicians reduced all things capable of being asserted into five divisions, called predicables, under which, they said, was contained all that can be logically asserted about anything. These predicables were called-genus, species, difference, property, and accident; and the doctrine of those who made such subdivision was, that when we make any affirmation whatever about anything, we can declare only to what genus or species the thing belongs, or what the essential difference of it is, or some property or accident which it has connected with it.
All sentences are either simple or complex. A simple sentence has in it but one subject and one predicate. A complex sentence has in it more than one subject or more than one verb or predicate. Pompey the Great conquered the Jews," is a simple sentence, there being in it but one subject, Pompey the Great, and one verb, conquered. Pompey the Great conquered the Jews, and annexed Palestine as a tributary province to the Roman
empire," is a complex sentence, having in it two predicates, though but one subject; so also is, “ Pompey the Great and Titus conquered the Jews," having in it two subjects, though but one predicate.*
A word or phrase modifying a subject or a predicate does not affect the character of the sentence in which it occurs in respect of its simplicity and complexity.—“ Pompey the Great conquered Palestine sixty-three years before Christ,” is a simple sentence; the latter member thereof, “sixtythree years before Christ,” modifying the predicate by showing the time when the act took place as distinguished from all other times. “Epicurus strongly denies that length of time adds anything to a happy life,” is a complex sentence, containing, as it does, two distinct subjects and two distinct predicates ; one of the subjects, length, being modified or restricted by the expression, of time, and both predicates, by adjuncts,-denies by the adverb strongly, and adds, by the expression, to a happy life. The same words may be differently arranged, so as to convey in two different sentences two distinct propositions.
To exemplify the manner in which sentences are constructed for the purpose of enabling them to serve as a medium of intercourse, is the legitimate province of Syntax, to the knowledge of which an acquaintance with the uses of the several members of a sentence is necessary. In the foregoing examples we have had to deal with the several essential parts of sentences in their simplest forms, that is, where the several parts consisted of single words. It is necessary to observe, moreover, that such parts sometimes consist of many words, so strung together
as to present to the mind the idea of a single whole.
In the expression, for instance, “How excellent and how divine is the power of speech !" the subject is not a single word, but found in the combination, “power of speech." In the expression, “Man is a breathing animal,” the predicate is not a single word, but consists of the combination, “is a breathing animal.” In this class of expressions, the copula is, or other part of the verb to be,
* The reason of this is obvious; a sentence being resolvable into as many distinct propositions as there are subjects or predicates therein.
with the remaining part of the predicate, may be resolved into the simple predicate; thus the above expression may be changed into “Man breathes,” without any alteration whatever in the sense. In the expression, “Her religion was a gloomy superstition, which taught that the offering of holocausts of those who dared to use the noblest faculties which the Deity had given them, was an acceptable service to a God of mercy;" we have in one of the clauses the predicate taught, which being a transitive verb requires an object; and the object is not a single word, but a combination consisting of all the words included between the word that and the conclusion.
In a complex sentence there may be two subjects or more, and two predicates or more ; but in no sentence, however complex, can there be any subject or any predicate but one, which may be called the subject or the predicate. The reason of this is obvious. In all sentences there must be a subject to speak of, and a predicate to assert something of it. The subject first present to the mind of the speaker serves as the foundation of the sentence whereon the superstructure is laid. This subject is independent of all others, and is called the subject : and the verb, which affirms something of it, is called the verb; other subjects and other predicates may of necessity be introduced, but not independently ; that is, their introduction results from some necessity to modify or restrict in some degree a word or phrase previously existing in the sentence.
These remarks will be illustrated by the analysis of the following sentence:—“Some incidents happened which revived her tenderness for Essex, and filled her with the deepest sorrow for the consent which she had unwarily given to his execution.” Here there are the several words incidents, which, and she, which are subjects of their respective verbs; but none of them is called the subject, but incidents, which is the word or name for that which the writer had first before his mind when he wrote, and is therefore the foundation on which the subsequent superstructure of the sentence is raised; so, likewise, there are several verbs, happened, revived, filled, had given, all affirming something of their own peculiar subject, but none entitled to the name, the predicate, or the verb, except that