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diftant regions ; so that in search of the progenitors of our speech, we may wander from the tropick to the frozen zone, and find some in the vallies of Paleftine, and some upon the rocks of Norway.
Beside the derivation of particular words, there is likewise an etymology of phrases. Expressions are often taken from other languages; some apparently, as to run a risque, courir un risque; and some even when we do not seem to borrow their words; thus to bring about or accomplish, appears an English phrase, but in reality our native word about has no such import, and is only a French expression, of which we have an example in the common phrase venir à bout d'une affaire.
In exhibiting the descent of our language, our étymologists seem to have been too lavish of their learning, having traced almost every word through various tongues, only to lhew what was fhewn sufficiently by the first derivation. This practice is of great use in fynoptical lexicons, where mutilated and doubtful languages are explained by their affinity to others more certain and extensive, but is generally superfluous in Englis etymologies. When the word is easily deduced from a Saxon original, I shall not often enquire further, since we know not the parent of the Saxon dialect ; but when it is borrowed from the French, I shall shew whence the French is apparently derived. Where a Saxon root cannot be found, the defect may be supplied from kindred languages, which will be generally furnished with much liberality by the writers of our glossaries; writers who deserve often the highest praise, both of judgment and industry, and may expect at least to be mentioned with honour by me, whom they have freed from the greatest part of a very laborious work, and on whom they have imposed, at worst, only the easy task of rejecting superfluities.
By tracing in this manner every word to its original, and not admitting, but with great caution, any of which no original can be found, we shall lecure our language from being over-run with cant, from being crowded with low terms, the spawn of folly or affectation, which arise from no just principles of speech, and of which therefore no legitimate derivation can be shewn. .
When the etymology is thus adjusted, the analogy of our language is next to be considered ; when we have discovered whence our words are derived, we are to examine by what rules they are governed, and how they are inflected through their various termina. tions. The terminations of the English are few, but those few have hitherto reinained unregarded by the writers of our dictionaries. Our substantives are declined only by the plural termination, our adjectives admit no variation but in the degrees of comparison, and our verbs are conjugated by auxiliary words, and are only changed in the preter tenfe.
To our language may be with great justness ap
plied the observation of Quintilinn, that speech was 1. not formed by an analogy sent from heaven. It did
not descend to us in a state of uniformity and perfection, but was produced by necessity, and enlarged by accident, and is therefore composed of dissimilar parts, thrown together by negligence, by affectation, by learning, or by ignorance.
Our infections therefore are by no means constant, but admit of numberless irregularities, which in this Dictionary will be diligently noted. Thus fox makes in the plural foxes, but ox makes oxen. Shiep is the same in both numbers. Adjectives are sometimes compared by changing the last fyllable, as proud, prouder, proudest; and sometimes by particles prefixed, as, ambitious, more ambitious, most ambitious. The forms of our verbs are subject to great variety ; some end their preter tense in ed, as I love, I loved, I have loved; which may be called the regular form, and is followed by most of our verbs of southern original. But many depart from this rule, without agreeing in any other ; as I shake, I firook, I have taken, or shook, as it is sometimes written in poetry ; I make, I made, I have made ; I bring, I brought; I wring, I wrung; and many others, which, as they cannot be reduced to rules, must be learned from the dictionary rather than the grammar.
The verbs are likewise to be distinguished accord. ing to their qualities, as actives from neuters ; the neglect of which has already introduced some barbarities in our conversation, which if not obviated by just animadversions, may in time creep into our writings.
Thus, my Lord will our language be laid down, distinct in its minutest subdivisions, and resolved into its elemental principles. And who upon this survey can forbear to with, that these fundamental atoms of our speech might obtain the firmness and immutability of the primogenial and constituent particles of matter, that they inight retain their sub. Vol. II.
stance while they alter their appearance, and be váfried and compounded, yet not destroyed.
But this is a privilege which words are scarcely to expect : for, like their author, when they are not gaining strength, they are generally losing it. Though art may sometimes prolong their duration, it will rarely give them perpetuity; and their changes will be almost always informing us, that language is the work of man, of a being from whom permanence and stability cannot be derived.
Words having been hitherto considered as separate and unconnected, are now to be likewise examined as they are ranged in their various relations to others by the rules of syntax or construction, to which I do not know that any regard has been yet shewn in English dictionaries, and in which the grammarians can give little affistance. The syntax of this language is too inconstant to be reduced to rules, and can be only learned by the distinct confideration of particular words as they are used by the best authors. Thus, we say, according to the present modes of speech, The soldier died of his wounds, and the sailor perished with hunger : and every man acquainted with our language would be offended by a change of these particles, which yet feem originally assigned by chance, there being no reason to be drawn from grammar why a man may not, with equal propriety, be said to die with a wound, or perish of hunger.
Our syntax therefore is not to be taught by general rules, but by special precedents; and in examining Jy whether Addison has been with justice, accused of a · folecilin in this paffage,
The poor inhabitant --
And in the loaden vineyard dies for thiv/, it is not in our power to have recourse to any establithed laws of speech ; but we must remark how the writers of former ages have used the same word, and consider whether he can be acquitted of impropriety, upon the testimony of Davies, given in his favour by a similar passage.
She loaths the wat'ry glass wherein she gaz'd, . And shuns it still, although for thift she dye.
When the construction of a word is explained, it is necessary to pursue it through its train of phraseology, through those forms where it is used in a man-' ner peculiar to our language, or in senses not to be comprised in the general explanations ; as from the verb make arise these phrases, to make love, to make an end, to make way; as, he made way for his followers, the ship made way before the wind; to make a bed, to make merry, to make a mock, to make presents, to make a doubt, to moke out an assertion, to make good a® breach, to make good a cause, to make nothing of an at. tempt, to make lamentation, to moke, a merit, and many others which will occur in reading with that view, and which only their frequency hinders from being gene. rally remarked.
The great labour is yet to come, the labour of interpreting these words and phrases with brevity, fulness, and perspicuity; a task of which the extent and intricacy is sufficiently shewn by the miscarriage of those who have generally attempted it. This