« הקודםהמשך »
different cases; hominis, of a man; homini, to a man; homine, with a
But though this method of declension was, probably, the only method which men employed, at first, for denoting relations, yet, in progress of time, many other relations being observed, besides those which are sig, nified by the cases of nouns, and men also becoming more capable of general and metaphysical ideas, separate names were gradually invented for all the relations which occurred, forming that part of speech which we now call prepositions. Prepositions, being once introduced, they were found to be capable of supplying the place of cases, by being prefixed to the nominatives of the noun. Hence, it came to pass, that as nations were intermixed by migrations and conquests, and were obliged to learn and adopt the languages of one another, prepositions supplanted the use of cases and declensions. When the Italian tongue, for instance, sprung out of the Roman, it was found more easy and simple, by the Gothic nations, to accommodate a few prepositions to the nominative of every noun, and to say, di Roma, al Roma, di Carthago, al Carthago, than to remember all the variety of terminations, Roma, Romam, Carthaginis, Carthaginem, which the use of declensions required in the ancient nouns. By this progress we can give a natural account how nouns, in our modern tongues, come to be so void of declension : a progress which is fully illustrated in Dr. Adam Smith's ingenious Dissertation on the Formation of Languages.
With regard to the other question on this subject, Which of these two methods is of the greatest utility and beauty ? we shall find advantages and disadvantages to be balanced on both sides. There is no doubt that, by abolishing cases, we have rendered the structure of modern languages more simple. We have disembarrassed it of all the intricacy which arose from the different forms of declension, of which the Romans had no fewer than five ; and from all the irregularities in these several declensions. We have thereby rendered our languages more easy to be acquired, and less subject to the perplexity of rules. But, though the simplicity and ease of language be great and estimable advantages, yet there are also such disadvantages attending the modern method, as leave the balance, on the whole, doubtful, or rather incline it to the side of antiquity.
For, in the first place, by our constant use of prepositions for expressing the relations of things, we have filled language with a multitude of those little words, which are eternally occurring in every sentence, and may be thought thereby to have encumbered speech, by an addition of terms; by rendering it more prolix, to have enervated its force. In the second place, we have certainly rendered the sound of language less agreeble to the ear, by depriving it of that variety and sweetness, which arose from the length of words, and the change of terminations occasioned by the cases in the Greek and Latin. But in the third place, the most material disadvantage is, that, by this abolition of cases, and by a similar alteration, of which I am to speak in the next lecture, in the conjugation of verbs, we have deprived ourselves of that liberty of transposition in the arrangement of words, which the ancient languages enjoyed.
In the ancient tongues, as I formerly observed, the different terminations, produced by declension and conjugation, pointed out the reference of the several words of a sentence to one another, without the aid of juxtaposition ; suffered them to be placed, without ambiguity, in whatever order was most suited to give emphasis to the meaning, or harmony to
the sound. But now, having none of those marks of relation incorporated with the words themselves, we have no other way left us, of shewing what words in a sentence are most closely connected in meaning, than that of placing them close by one another in the period. The meaning of the sentence is brought out in separate members and portions ; it is broken down and divided. Whereas the structure of the Greek and Roman sentences, by the government of their nouns, and verbs, presented the meaning so interwoven and compounded in all its parts, as to make us perceive it in one united view. The closing words of the period ascertained the relation of one member to another; and all that ought to be connected in our idea, appeared connected in the expression. Hence, more brevity, more vivacity, more force. That language of particles, fas an ingenious author happily expresses it, which we are obliged always to carry along with us, both clog style, and enfeebles sentiment."
Pronouns are the class of words most nearly related to substantive Bouns; being, as the name imports, representatives, or substitutes, of nouns. 1, thou, he, she, and it, are no other than an abridged way of naming the persons, or objects, with which we have immediate intercourse, or to which we are obliged frequently to refer in diseoursc. Accord ingly, they are subject to the same modifications with substantive nouns, of number, gender, and case. Only, with respect to gender, we may observe, that the pronouns of the first and second person, as they are called, I and thou, do not appear to have had the distinctions of gender given them in any language; for this plain reason, that, as they always refer to persons who are present to each other when they speak, their sex must appear, and therefore needs not be marked by a masculine or feminine pronoun. But, as the third person may be absent, or unknown, the distinction of gender there becomes necessary; and accordingly, is English, it hath all the three genders belonging to it; he, she, it. As to cases, even those languages which have dropped them in substantive nouns, sometimes retain more of them in pronouns for the sake of the greater readiness in expressing relations; as pronouns are words of such frequent occurrence in discourse. In English, most of our grammarians hold the personal pronouns to have two cases, besides the nominative; a genitive, and accusative; I, mine, me; thou, thine, thee; he, his, him; who, whose, whom.
In the first stage of speech, it is probable that the places of those pronouns were supplied by pointing to the object when present, and naming it when absent. For one can hardly think that pronouns were of early invention; as they are words of such a particular and artificial nature.
?" The various terminations of the game word, whether verb or ovun, are always conceived to be more intimately connected with the term which they serve to lengthen, thao the additional, detatehed, and in themselves insignificant particles, which we are obliged to employ as connectives to our significant words. Our method gives al. most the same exposure to the one as to the other, making the significant parts, and the insignificant, equally conspicuous; theirs much oftener sinks, as it were, the former into the latter, at once preserving their use and hiding their weakness. Our modern languages may, in this respect, be compared to the art of the carpenter in its rudest state; when the union of the materials employed by the artizan, could be effected only by the help of those external and coarse implements, pins, nails, and cramps.The ancient languages resemble the same art in its most improved state, after the invention of dovetail joints, grooves and mortices; when thus all the principal junctions are effected, by forming properly, the extremities or terminations of the picces to be joined. For, by means of these, the union of the parts is rendered closer, while that by which that union is produced, is scarcely perceivable," The Philosophy of Rhetoric, by Dr. Campbell, vol. . 412.
1, thou, he, it, it is to be observed, are not names peculiar to any single object, but so very general, that they may be applied to all persons, or objects, whatever, in certain circumstances. It is the most general term that possibly can be conceived, as it may stand for any one thing in the universe of which we speak. At the same time, these pronouns have this quality, that in the circumstances in which they are applied, they never devote more than one precise individual; which they ascertain and specify, much in the same manner as is done in the article. So that pronouns are, at once, the most general, and the most particular words in language. They are commonly the most irregular and troublesome words to the learner, in the grammar of all tongues; as being the words most in common use, and subjected thereby to the greatest varieties.
Adjectives, or terms of quality, such as great, little, black, white, yours, ours, are the plainest and simplest of all that class of words which are termed attributive. They are found in all languages; and, in all languages must have been very early invented ; as objects could not be distinguished from each other, nor any intercourse be carried on concerning them, till once names were given to their different qualities.
I have nothing to observe in relation to them, except that singularity which attends them in the Greek and Latin, of having the same form given them with substantive nouns ; being declined, like them, by cases, and subjected to the like distinctions of number and gender. Hence it has happened that grammarians have made them belong to the same part of speech, and divided the noun into substantive and adjective; an arrangement founded more on attention to the external form of words, than to their nature and force. For adjectives or terms of quality, have not, by their nature, the least resemblance to substantive nouns, as they never express any thing which can possibly subsist by itself; which is the very essence of the substantive noun. They are, indeed, more akin to verbs, which, like then), express the attribute of some substance. It may,
at first view, appear somewhat odd and fantastic, that adjectives should, in the ancient languages, have assumed so much of the form of substantives ; since neither number, nor gender, nor cases, nor relations, have any thing to do, in a proper sense, with mere qualities, such as good, or great, soft, or hard. And yet, bonus, and magnus, and tener have their singular and plural, their masculine and feminine, their
genitives and datives, like any of the names of substances, or persons. But this can be accounted for, from the genius of those tongues. They avoided, as much as possible, considering qualities separately, or in the abstract. They made them a part, or appendage of the substance which they served to distinguish: they made the adjective depend on its substantive, and resemble it in termination, in number and gender, in order that the two might coalesce the more intimately, and be joined in the form of expression, as they were in the nature of things. The liberty or transposition, too, which those languages indulged, required such a method as this to be followed. For allowing the related words of a sentence to be placed at a distance from each other, it required the relation of adjectives to their proper substantives to be pointed out, by such similar circumstances of form and termination, as, according to the grammatieal style, should shew their concordance. When I say in English, the “ Beautiful wife of a brave man," the juxtaposition of the words prevents all ambiguity. But when I say in Latin, « Formosa 'fortis viri uxor ;" it is only the agreement, in gender, number, and case, of the adjective
"formosa,” which is the first word of the sentence, with the substantive“ uxor,” which is the last word that declares the meaning.
Of the whole class of words that are called attributive, indeed, of all the parts of speech, the most complex, by far, is the verb. It is chiefly in this part of speech, that the subtile and profound metaphysic of language appears; and, therefore, in examining the nature and different variations of the verb, there might be room for ample discussion. But, as I am sensible that such grammatical discussions, when they are pursued far, become intricate and obscure, I shall avoid dwelling any longer on this subject than seems absolutely necessary.
The verb is so far of the same nature with the adjective, that it expresses, like it, an attribute, or property, of some person or thing. But it does more than this. For, in all verbs, in every language, there are no less than three things implied at once; the attribute of some substantive, an affirmation concerning that attributive, and time. Thus, when I say, 'the sun shineth ;' shining is the attribute ascribed to the sun; the present time is marked; and an affirmation is included, that this property of shining belongs, at that time, to the sun. The participle : shining,' is merely an adjective, which denotes an attribute or property, and also expresses time; but carries no affirmation. The infinitive mood, to shine,' may be called the name of the verb; it carries neither time nor affirmation; but simply expresses that attribute, action, or state of things, which is to be the subject of the other moods and tenses. Hence the infinitive often carries the resemblance of a substantive noun; and both in English and Latin, is sometimes constructed as such. As, 'scire tuum nihil est.' Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.' And, in English, in the same manner: • To write well is difficult; to speak eloquently is still more difficult.' But as, through all the other tenses and moods, the affirmation runs, and is essential to them : the sun shineth, was shining, shone, will shine, would have shone,' &c. the affirmation seems to be that which chiefly distinguishes the verb from the other parts of speech, and gives it its most conspicuous power. Hence there can be no sentence, or complete proposition, without a verb either expressed or implied. For, whenever we speak, we always mean to assert, that something is, or is not; and the word which carries this assertion, or affirmation, is a verb. From this sort of eminence belonging to it, this part of speech hath received its name, verb, froin the La. tin verbum, or the word, by way of distinction.
Verbs, therefore, from their importance and necessity in speech, must have been coeval with men's first attempts towards the formation of language : though, indeed, it must have been the work of long time, to rear then up to that accurate and complex structure which they now possess. It seems very probable, as Dr. Smith bas suggested, that the radical verb, or the first form of it, in most languages, would be, what
we now call the impersonal verb. It rains; it thunders; it is light ; it is agreeable ;' and the like; as this is the very simplest form of the verb, and merely affirms' thé existence of an event, or of a state of things. By degress, after pronouns were invented, such verbs became personal, and were branched out into all the variety of tenses and moods.
The tenses of the verb were contrived to imply the several distinctions of time. Of these I must take some notice, in order to shew the admirable accuracy with which language is constructed. We think commonly of no more than the three great divisions of time, into the past, the present, and the future; and we might imagine, that is verbs had been so contrived, as simply to express these, no more was needful. But language proceeds with much greater subtilty. It splits time into its several moments. It considers time as never standing still, but always flowing; things past, as more or less perfectly completed; and things future, as more or less remote, by different gradations. Hence the great variety of tenses in most tongues.
The present may, indeed, be always considered as one indivisible point, susceptible of no variety. "I write, or, I am writing ; scribo." But it is not so with the past. There is no language so poor, but it hath two or three tenses to express the varieties of it. Ours hath no fewer than four. 1. A past action may be considered as left unfinished; which makes the imperfect tense, “ I was writing ; scribebam.” 2. As just ņow finished. This makes the proper perfect tense, which, in English, is always expressed by the help of the auxiliary verb, “I have written." 3. It may be considered as finished some time ago ;
the particuJar time left indefinite. “I wrote, scripsi;” which may either signify, « I wrote yesterday, or I wrote a twelvemonth ago." This is what grammarians call an aorist, or indefinite past. 4. It may be considered as finished before something else, which is also past. This is the plusquamperfect. “I had written; scripseram. I had written before I received his letter."
Here we observe with some pleasure, that we have an advantage over the Latins, who have only three varieties upon the past time. They have no proper perfect tense, or one which distinguishes an action just now finished, from an action that was finished some time ago. In both these cases, they must say, " scripsi.” Though there be a manifest difference in the tenses, which our language expresses, by this variation," I have written," meaning, I have just now finished writing; and, “I wrote," meaning at some former time, since which, other things have intervened. This difference the Romans have no tense to express; and therefore, can only do it by a circumlocution.
The chief varieties in the future time are two; a simple or indefinite future; • I shall write; scribam :' and a future, relating to something else, which is also future. "I shall have written; scripsero.' I shall have written before he arrives. *
Besides tenses, or the power of expressing times, verbs admit the distinction of voices, as they are called, the active and the passive; according as the affirmation respects something that is done, or something
* On the tenses of verbs, Mr. Harris's Hermes may be consulted, by such as desire to see them scrutinized with metaphysical accuracy; and also the Treatise on the Origiu and Progress of Language, vol.ii. p. 125.