Page images
PDF
EPUB

syllables into words. 2. ETYMOLOGY teaches the deduction of one word from another, and the various modifications, by which the sense of the same word is diversified. 3. SYNTAX, which comprises the order of words in a sentence, and the correspondence of one word to another. 4. PROSODY, which treats of the just pronunciation and poetical construction of sentences.

There are, in English, nine sorts of words, or, as they are commonly called parts of speech.

1. The ARTICLE is a word prefixed to substantives to point them out, and to show how far their signification extends. There are but two articles, a and the; a becomes an before a vowel, y and w excepted; and before a silent h preceding a vowel. A is indefinite, and the a definite article: of which take the following example,

Man was made for society, and ought to extend his good-will to all men: but a mun will naturally entertain a more particular kindness for the man, with whom he has the most frequent intercourse; and enter into a still closer union with the man, whose temper and disposition suit best with his own.

2. A Noun, or SUBSTANTIVE, is the name of a thing; of whatever we conceive in any way to subsist, or of which we have any notion. Nouns are either proper or common; the latter when they denote the kinds or species of things; as a man, a horse, a river; the former when they denote tie individuals of any species; as John, Sarah, the Severn, London.

To nouns belong number, gender, and case. Number, distinguishes nouns as one or many of the same kind, called the singular and plural; as table, tables, church, churches. Gender constitutes the distinction of sexes, and is divided into masculine, feminine, and neuter. The two first can be applied to the names of living creatures only; all other substantive nouns ought to belong to the latter gender. The English is the only language (the Chinese excepted) which adheres, with singular propriety, to this philosophical distinction. Case, is that change in the terminations of nouns, which serves to express their relation to other words, as, Solomon's wisdom; the men's wit.

3. A PRONOUN is a word used as a substitute for a noun to prevent the too frequent repetition of the same word, as he did this or that, instead of expressly naming

the person doing, and the thing done, every time there is occasion to speak of them. Prouquns are divided into four kinds ; personal, possessive, relative, and demonstrative. They are subject to the same variations of gender, number, and case, as nouns.

4. Au ADJECTIVE is a word added to a substantive to express its quality, as a sweet apple, a tall man, a swift horse. They change their termination on account of comparison only; of which there are three degrees : the positive in which the quality is barely mentioned, as hard : the comparative, which expresses the quality somewhat increased, and is formed by adding r or er to the positive; as harder ; and the superlative, which expresses the highest degree of the quality, by adding st or est to the positive; as hardest.

5. A VERB is a word which siguifies, to be, to do, or to suffer. There are active, passive, and neuter verbs. A verb active expresses an action, and implies an agent, and an object acted upon: as to love ; I love 'Thomas. A verb passive expresses a passion, or a suffering, or the receiving of an action; as to be loved; Thomas is loved by me. A verb neuter expresses being; or a state, or conditiou of being: as, I ain, I sleep, I walk. The verb active is called transitive, because the action passeth over to the object; or hath an effect upon some other thing: the verb neuter is called intransitive, because the effect is confined within the agent, and doth not pass over to any object.

6. An ADVERB is added to verbs, and also to adjectives and other adverbs, to express some circumstance belonging to them; the mun lived righteously, the woman prayed fervently. Adverbs sometimes admit of comparison; as often, oftener, oftenest.

7. A PRE POSITION is a word put before another to which it is applied, and serves to connect words and show the relation between them; as, “ he went from Paris to Berlin; he bought it with money."

8. A CONJUNCTION connects or joins together sentences, so as out of two or more, to make one sentence; as,

you and I rode to London, but Peter staid at home. And, in this sentence, is copulative; but, disjunctive.

9. An INTERJECTION is a word thrown in between the

members or parts of a sentence, without making any alteration in it, and is a kind of patural sound to express the affection, or emotion of the speaker; as, Oh! I have alienated my friend; alas! I fear for life:” when placed before a substantive, it denotes more strongly an address made to that person or thing; as, O virtue, how amiable' thou art!

The above is the usual division of the parts of speech, but grammarians are by no means agreed concerning their number. The truth is' (observes Mr. Graut*) ' that the grammatical distribution of words into classes is partly arbitrary, there being no definite or universally allowed principle, by which to determine, under the influence of abstraction, what discriminative circumstances are sufficient to entitle any species of words to the distinction of a separate order. The essential or necessary parts of speech are, obviously, the noun and the verb. By some, articles, des finitives, and possessive pronouns, are referred to the class of adjectives, and the participle is classed either with the adjective or the verb, so as to reduce the number to eight. It would be easy, were it expedient, to reduce the number still further.

"Words individually considered may be termed nouns, names of ideas, or objects of thought. Regarded, however, as parts of speech, or constituent parts of a sentence, the names or signs are generally accompanied with an intimation in what manner they are associated in our minds, so as to express our ideas, not only of the things, but of their attributes, of their connexion or separation, and of their various other relations. Hence, the convenient and sufficiently correct distribution of words into nouns or substantives, and their substitutes, pronouns; adjectives, definitives, verbs, adverbs, and participles; conjunctions, and prepositions. The interjection, when it is not merely an

• Author of " Institutes of Latin Grammar. The English Grammar of this gentleman is perhaps, after all, the best for practi. cal purposes. It is divested ot much of that extraneous matter, which usually accompanies works of this nature, and exhibits a concise, but perspicuous, statement of the principles, rules, and analogy of the language. Critical and explanatory notes are ade. ded, with Questions for examination, (an advantage peculiar to this grammar,) appropriate exercises,--rules for punctuation,-and the principles of composition.

[ocr errors]

instinctive physical emission of sound, must partake of the nature of the noun, the adjective, or the verb.

Words, then, are the elements of language, as letters are those of words; and their primary object is to represent ideas. But objects and ideas are inpumerable, while words, to be manageable, must be limited in number; for a language of proper names, in which every individual had an appropriate distinct sign, would not be practicably adapted to general utility. Hence the necessity of general terms. And yet, as our sensations and perceptions are of single objects, language must also possess definitives or individuating words, for every occasional application, to render the general terms significant of individual objects. But its great art consists in representing a number of single ideas, alike or similar, by one term; in representing such collections of them as commonly occur together, by one term; and, a plurality or judefinite number of such collections, by one term.

Numerical definitives, too, of every description contribute to the brevity of speech; and so do adjectives, which express a quality or property, not simply, but without formal affirmátion, in concreto, as conjoined with an object. Adverbs, also are, generally, abbreviated phrases. The number of terms is further reduced by representing all motions and actions of bodies that have a near resemblance to one another, by one term. By these and such means, an infinite variety of thoughts is denoted or conveyed, with sufficient precision and perspicuity, by a finite number of words.

ACCENT is the act of raising or lowering the voice, in pronouncing certain syllables, of words. There are three kinds of ACCENTS, the acute, the grave, and the circumflex. The acute (") desiguates the raising of the voice in pronouncing the syllables over which it is placed. The grave accent () directs when the voice is to be lowered. The circumflex (^ or ^) denotes a middle tone, neither sharp nor low. Words derived from the Saxon, have the accent usually on the root; in those from the learned languages, however, it is generally confined to the termination. For further information on the nature of accent, the reader is referred to the preface to Walker's Pronouncing Dict. pp. 70-90, 8vo. ed. Lond. 1809.

We shall conclude this chapter by giving a slight sketch

of the rise and progress of the English language, and some account of the nations to whom it is indebted for much of its copiousness and elegance.

When the antient Britons, (says an elegant writer*) were so barassed and oppressed by the invasions of their northem neighbours, the Scots and Picts, that their situation was truly miserable, they sent an embassy (about the middle of the fifth century) to the Saxons, a warlike people inhabiting the north of Germany, with solicitations for speedy relief. The Saxons accordingly came over to Britain, and were successful in repelling the incursions of the Scots and Picts, but they resolved to take advantage of the weak and defenceless state of the Britons; and at length established themselves in the greater part of south Britain, after having dispossessed the original inhabitants. From these barbarians who founded several petty kingdoms in this island, and introduced their own laws, languages, and manners, is derived the ground-work of the English language, wbich even in its present state of cultivation, and notwithstanding the successive augmentations and improvements which it has received through various channels, displays very conspicuous traces of its Saxon original.

T'he Saxons did not long remain in quiet possession of the kingdom; for before the middle of the ninth century, the Danes, a hardy and adventurous nation, who had long infested the northern seas with their piracies, began to ravage the English coasts. Their first attempts were, in general, attended with such suceess, that they were encouraged to a renewal of their ravages, till at length, in the beginning of the eleventh century, they made themselves masters of the greater part of England. Though the pe. riod, during wbich these invaders occupied the English throne, was very short, not greatly exceeding half a century; it is highly probable, that some change was introduced by them into the language spoken by those whom they had subdued : but this change cannot be supposed to have been very considerable, as the Danishi and Saxon languages arose from one common source; the Gothic being the parent of both.

The next conquerors of the kingdom after the Danes, were the Normans, who in the year 1066, introduced their

1

Dr. Coote.

« PreviousContinue »