Page images
PDF
EPUB

No one,

and Terminology-it may be said that they are useful only in the department of analytical Grammar.

For a pupil, for instance, required to parse the sentence, “ Rain falls from the clouds,” it is useful to know not only the class to which he should refer the individual words, but the reason why such class has been so named. however, will attempt to assert that an individual is necessarily incompetent to use correctly the words in this or any other sentence, because he may happen to be ignorant of the class, and the cause of its name, to which they should be individually referred, in accordance with the arbitrary arrangement of grammarians. Names, however, being necessary, it would be well, especially in Grammar, that the name should convey, as far as possible, some idea of the distinctive character or property of the thing named. In the sentence, “My hand is on the table”to tell a youth that on is a preposition, will very little enlighten him on that which, in such cases, it is especially desirable he should know. Let him be told that on, and such words, are used as connecting links whereby two things, as hand and table, are joined together in like manner as a peg or pin is used to fasten one piece of matter to another, and he has the knowledge concerning it, without which the mere knowledge of the name preposition is utterly valueless.

Every practical teacher who looks beyond teaching pupils to gabble, parrot-like, names, and give definitions by rote, is made aware, by sad experience, how difficult a task it is to instil proper, in the place of vague ideas into the minds of youths who have been, even in these matters, imperfectly, or rather badly trained; and many an hour has been, to a certain extent, fruitlessly expended, on the part of an instructor, in the endeavour to produce in the mind of such students anything like a proper idea of what is meant by calling one form of the verb active, and another passive; whereas it had been easy, in the first commencement of their grammatical studies, to shew them what they could then easily comprehend, and would never after forget,that in language there is no such thing as an active or passive verb; and that it is the subject of a verb which is either active or passive ; that is, it is the individual for which the subject is a name, that either performs or receives the act expressed by the verb. Many youths may be found who have been receiving lessons in grammar all their schoolboy days, and who, if asked why the word table is said to be of the neuter gender, would forthwith gabble out, “ Because it has no life;" utterly ignorant even of this simple fact, that the word in question has really no gender,and that the application to it and similar words of the word neuter, is a mere negation of the existence of gender. In like manner, a very few words in the language have received the name of relative. This is not intrinsically wrong, but unfortunately leaves many a student who does not look beyond the mere name, to imply that the words so named are the only relatives in the language; whereas, in point of fact, a great body of the words in every language are, and necessarily must be, relatives, as will be shewn hereafter.

Every department in Grammar might be gone through successively, in order to prove that many of the names made use of in this science are no less inappropriate than those adopted in others. The foregoing examples will suffice for the purpose. In these and the foregoing remarks on classification, the object has been this work being intended as well for private students as for use in schools) to direct attention, in the outset, to the great necessity which exists, on the part of the learner, to cultivate an inquiring habit of mind, and, not contented with the mere surface-knowledge of subdivisions and names, to prosecute his investigation beyond them to something of greater importance: namely, that accurate knowledge of words, the shades of difference in their meanings, and the proper position of them in sentences, in order to the clear expression of the ideas intended to be conveyed; without all of which, all the grammar rules that ever were or will hereafter be compiled, are but as “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

The ground having been thus so far cleared, we shall now proceed with an etymological exposition of words according to the ordinary classification, beginning with the

[ocr errors]

noun and the verb, which are the most important of all classes, as being the most necessary in order to the expression of thought and the communication of ideas. We may possibly, by suffering some inconvenience, dispense with the words, or many of them, which are included under some of the other heads. Without the noun and the verb it is impossible to construct any sentence, no matter how simple; a noun being required, whenever men address each other, to express what they speak about, and a verb, to convey an idea of what is asserted thereof.

THE NOUN. A NOUN, from the Latin word nomen = name, is the name of anything that may be seen, as—table, bird, ship, &c.; felt, as-pain, hunger, joy, hope, &c.; heard, as-sound, report, song, &c. &c. ; or understood, as—principle, moralfty, quality, &c. &c. Whatever men talk of, or is represented before the mind's eye as having an existence, is a noun: thus, goodness, virtue, fortune, happiness, indigence, independence, ignorance, knowledge, &c. &c. are nouns.

The old grammarians subdivided nouns into two classes : the noun substantive, and the noun adjective ;—the former including those words which have substance—i. e., can stand by themselves, independently in a sentence, as opposed to the latter, which cannot do so ; thus, of the words-good, hope, black, horse, man, strong, the words--good, black, strong, cannot stand alone; I cannot say, for instance, “ That is a strong," without mentioning what it is that is strong; whereas I can say, and, in saying make a perfect sense, “ That is a horse." In like manner of the others. This distinction, however, the noun being considered as the only name, is now discontinued.

Nouns are subdivided into two great classes—Proper and Common-known in logic by the names Singular and Universal, or Particular and General Nouns. A proper noun is that which can be applied to but one thing in the same sense, as-London, Miltiades; a common noun is that which can be applied to several things in the same sense, aş-city, man. Observe the words, “ in

[ocr errors]

may

the same sense,” are absolutely essential to the completeness of the definition; for, although the name Richard

be applied to several individuals, it is not yet a common, but a proper name; incapable, as it is, of being applied to any two individuals in a precisely similar sense, the person using it as a name for an individual always associating therewith some quality or property in the person so named, not possessed by any other individual called Richard. Observe, also, that, by the combination of two common names, we sometimes produce a proper one : thus, the words-dog, star, taken singly, are common, being applicable to several individuals in the same sense. Unite them, as in the word-dog-star—and we have a name, which, as being applicable to only one individual, is essentially a proper name.

The substance of the following remarks, intended to illustrate more adequately than is usual in grammars the nature of proper and common-i.e. singular and universal nouns, is taken from “Walker's Commentary on Murray's Logic."

Of universal terms, some are applicable to a greater number of individuals than others. The words—dog and greyhound, for instance, are both universal ; the word dog, however, may be applied as a name to a greater number of individuals than the word greyhound. The collection or enumeration of all the individuals to each of which we may apply the same name, is called the extension of that name or term ; thus the extension of the word man is the enumeration of all the individuals who may be called by that name—as Alexander, Philip, Napoleon, &c. &c.; and each such individual name is called a part of the extension of the term man. From this it will be seen, that singular terms have the least extension. Of the words—man and Philip, man has a greater extension, viz., all the individuals called by that name; whereas, the extension of the name Philip is merely the individual Philipthe extension of any singular term consisting of the one individual thing to which that proper name belongs. Again : All nouns are designed to express notions or ideas; and, if we observe our ideas, we shall find some more complex than others, i. e., consisting of a greater number of component parts. Thus, the idea expressed by the word dog is less complex

a

up

than that expressed by the word greyhound—the latter containing under it all the simple ideas represented by the former, with some other peculiar to itself, and not at all entering into the composition of the former. The collection or enumeration of the simpler ideas which make up the idea represented by a term is called the comprehension of that term. Thus the comprehension of the term, man is the enumeration of the ideas of substance, body, life, sensation, and reason, for these together make the notion of a man. Different terms are said to have a greater or smaller comprehension, according as the ideas they express are more or less complex, i. e., may be resolved into a greater or smaller number of component parts. We see, therefore, that different terms may be compared together in two respects; 1st, with regard to the complexity of the ideas which they express, i. e.,, with regard to their comprehension--and, with regard to the number of individuals to which they may be applied, i. e., with regard to their extension. In the example previously given of the words--dog, greyhound-it will be seen on examination, that the one which has the smaller comprehension, viz., dog, has the greater extension, and vice versa ; and, therefore, it may be laid down as a general rule, that the comprehension of a term determines its extension, which is greater or less in proportion to the extent of its comprehension. From the foregoing remarks, the essential difference between proper and common, that is, singular and universal nouns or terms, is made sufficiently clear. It is necessary, however, in addition, that we understand thoroughly how or by what process it comes to pass that one and the same term may be applied to several individuals in the same sense; or, in other words, by what mental operation it is that nouns become universal. The mind has ideas of individual things, as, for instance, of an individual greyhound; and the name of that greyhound is a singular term, or the proper name thereof. Such name is applicable to no other greyhound in the same sense, because no other has characters corresponding to all the component parts, which make up the notion of that particular greyhound. The mind has also universal ideas-ideas of sorts or classes of things; and the terms representing such ideas

« PreviousContinue »