« PreviousContinue »
as well as the necessarily large number of such words, will be seen by a careful perusal of Locke's “ Essay on the Human Understanding," Book ii., chapters xxv.--xxviii. inclusive.
2nd. We owe to the Anglo-Saxon not only the great body of our adjectives, implying as they do evident relationships, as great, small, big, &c., but the nouns and verbs which are usually denominated by grammarians irregular.
3rd. We derive from the mother tongue the names for the greater number of objects perceived by the senses, as sun, moon, stars, land, water, wood, stream, hill, and dale; to which may be added names for the most common animals and plants.
4th. Whilst from Latin, and, in many instances, French, we borrow such particular words as imply an abstraction, and are very general in their applications, those whose significations are particular we generally borrow from the Saxon. We naturalise a Latin word, for instance, when we speak of “colour,” but fall back on our mother tongue when we specify the particular sort, and describe it as red, yellow, blue, white, black, green, brown, &c. &c. In the same manner, we Romanise our expression when we speak of “ motion” in general, but are obliged to fall back again on the Teutonic element when we specify the sort, and say, leap, spring, stagger, slip, slide, glide, fall, walk, run, swim, ride, creep, crawl, fly, &c. &c.
5th. From the same origin we derive the great bulk or such expressions as are used to denote ordinary kinds of feeling and affection—to name the individuals who are the earliest and most natural objects of our attachment, and those inanimate things by which we figuratively signify domestic union and habits. Of this class are the words love, hate, hope, fear, gladness, sorrow, smile, tear, sigh, groan, weeping, laughter, father, mother, man, wife, child, son, daughter, kindred, friends, home, hearth, roof, fireside, &c. &c. These are examples of a multitude of words, which, even when they are not the only names for the things called by them, are the first we learn to give them; they, therefore, occur to us most readily, and have the power, through the association of ideas, of recalling to our minds, when we are so disposed, a great variety of the most affecting sensations, images, and emotions.
6th. The Anglo-Saxon element of modern English is that which supplies us with the language of ordinary business transactions—of the counting-house, the shop, the market, the street, the farm--and of invective, humour, satire, and colloquial pleasantry; and thus becomes, among the eminently practical people who speak it, the medium of practical action.
The organization of the English language may be regarded as complete at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The rules regulating the changes to be made on words, and determining the grammatical structure of sentences, had been definitively fixed previous to that period. The mere vocabulary of the language, however, had not been so fixed. Indeed, the vocabulary of any language may not be said to be ever finally fixed, as it continually receives new accessions, especially in the case of modern languages, from the necessities for fresh words arising from the numerous discoveries in science and other causes. During the last three centuries, therefore, our language has been considerably enlarged as regards the number of words, especially such words as have been introduced by classical scholars from a classical stock; otherwise it has undergone no change since the end of the middle ages, except changes in style; that is, varieties in the manner in which individuals, all using the same language, express their ideas.
Such is a brief sketch of the history of our native language ; that language, which has been made use of to awaken, in the hearts of Englishmen, love, hope, patriotism, and a boundless, innumerable store of the pleasantest associations. It combines strength, precision, and copiousness sufficient to enable it to be the efficient medium of communication between millions; and these, that part of the human race that appears most likely to control, in an eminent degree, the future destinies of the globe. It is calculated that, before the end of the present century, English will be the native and vernacular language of no less than 150 millions of human beings; and, from the restless energy and colonising spirit of those who speak it, will yet be written down in the page of history, as one of the greatest engines for the dissemination of civilisation and Christianity throughout the remotest corners of the globe.
ON THE CLASSIFICATION, PROPER USE, AND
ARRANGEMENT OF WORDS.
An idea is defined by Locke, as "the immediate object of the mind in thought.” Of our ideas—that is, whatsoever the mind is engaged in thinking of-words are the external symbols or signs. They are, moreover, arbitrary signs; deriving, as they do, their entire force and meaning from the voluntary agreement of men that such and such a word, consisting of a certain number and sort of letters, and thereby producing a certain sound, shall represent or stand for, and thus convey, such and such an idea. the language of nature, and thus, are not arbitrary; their significancy being determined in the natural constitution of things by the Author of the universe: the idea produced by heat, for instance, is the same amongst all men; whereas the word by which such idea is made known, is different in different countries, according, as before said, to the voluntary determination of men speaking the same language. Words, therefore, considered as mere signs of the ideas present to the mind, are necessarily classified, not by the particular form they take, or the change they undergo, but by the idea they stand for, and the functions they perform, in the economy of language. This being so, it must be evident that the attempt to reduce the words of any
language under eight or nine heads, as is usually done in treatises on Grammar, must necessarily be defective; the more so, from the impossibility of so defining each of such heads, or parts of speech, as they are called, that the definition will convey an accurate idea of the office performed by the class which is defined.
* Walker's Commentary on Murray's Logic.
Another difficulty attending any classification, however limited or extensive, arises from the fact, that the same word frequently performs different functions, at least at first view; and should thus be classed differently under different circumstances. “ But,” says Locke, “ is a particle, none more familiar in our language; and he that says it is a discretive conjunction, and that it answers sed in Latin, or mais in French, thinks he has sufficiently explained it. But it seems to me to intimate several relations the mind gives to the several propositions, or parts of them, which it joins by this monosyllable.
1st. “But to say no more.” Here it intimates a stop of the mind in the course it was going before it came quite to the end of it.
2nd. " I saw but two plants.” Here it shows that the mind limits the sense to what is expressed, with a negation of all other.
3rd. “You pray ; but it is not that God would bring you to the true religion.'
4th. “But that He would confirm you in your own."
The first of these “buts” intimates a supposition in the mind of something otherwise than it should be: the latter shows that the mind makes a direct opposition between that and what goes before it.
5th. “All animals have sense; but a dog is an animal.” Here it signifies little more but that the latter proposition is joined to the former, as the minor of a syllogism.
The more philosophical division of words would probably be that which would reduce all words under two great subdivisions.-Words which are used as names for ideas in the mind, and words not so used, but merely for the purpose of signifying the connexion that the mind gives to ideas or propositions one with another.—Under the former head would naturally be comprehended Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives and Pronouns; and under the latter, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions, &c. &c., which may be generally denominated connecting particles.' “ The mind, * in communicating its thoughts to others, does not only need signs of the ideas it as then before it, but hers also, to show or intimate some
* Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, lib. iii. c. 7.
particular action of its own, at that time, relating to those ideas. This it does several ways; as 6 is” and “ is not" are the general marks of the mind affirming or denying. But, besides affirmation or negation, without which there is in words no truth or falsehood, the mind does, in declaring its sentiments to others, connect not only the parts of propositions, but whole sentences, one to another, with their several relations and dependencies, to make a coherent dis
The words whereby it signifies what connexion it gives to the several affirmations and negations that it unites in one continued reasoning or narration, are generally called particles ; and it is in the right use of these that more particularly consists the clearness and beauty of a good style. To think well, it is not enough that a man has ideas clear and distinct in his thoughts, nor that he observes the agreement or disagreement of some of them ; but he must think in train, and observe the dependence of his thoughts and reasonings upon one another; and to express well such methodical and rational thoughts, he must have words to show what connexion, restriction, distinction, opposition, emphasis he gives to each respective part of his discourse. To mistake in any of these, is to puzzle, instead of informing, his hearer; and therefore it is that those words which are not truly by themselves the names of any ideas, are of such constant and indispensable use in language, and do much contribute to men's well expressing themselves. This part of Grammar has been as much perhaps neglected, as some others overdiligently cultivated. It is easy for men to write, one after another, of cases and genders, moods and tenses, gerunds and supines ; in these and the like there has been great diligence used, and particles themselves, in some languages, have been, with great show of exactness, ranked into their several orders. But though prepositions and conjunctions, &c. &c., are names well known in Grammar, and the particles contained under them carefully ranked with their distinct subdivisions ; yet he who would show the right use of particles, and what significancy and force they have, must take a little more pains, enter into his own thoughts, and observe nicely the several postures of his mind in discoursing