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which they were surrounded. Wherever a sav. age looked, he beheld forests and trees. To distinguish each by a separate name would have been endless. Their common qualities, such, as springing from a root, and bearing branches and leaves, would suggest a general idea and a general name. The genus, tree, was afterward subdivided into its several species of oak, elm, ash, &c. upon experience and observation.
Still however only general terms were used in speech. For oak, elm, and ash, were names of whole classes of objects, each of which comprehended an immense number of undistinguished individuals. Thus,when the nounsman, lion, or tree, were mentioned in conversation, it could not be known, which man, lion, or tree was meant among the multitude, comprehended under one name. Hence arose a very useful contrivance for determining the individual object intended, by means of that part of speech called the article. In English we have two articles, a and the ; a is more general, the more definite. The Greeks had but one, which agrees with our definite article the. They supplied the place of our article a by the absence of their article ; thus Anthropos signifies a man, o Anthropos, the man.
The Latins had no article ; but in the room of it is used the pronouns, hic, ille, iste. This however, seems a defect in their language; since articles certainly contribute much to perspicuity and precision.
To perceive the truth of this remark, observe the different imports of the following expressions : “ The son of a king, the son of the king, a son of the king's." Each of these three phrases has a separate meaning, too obvious to be misunderstood. But, in Latin, “ filius regis” is entirely vndetermined; it may bear either of the three senses mentioned.
Beside this quality of being defined by the article, three affections belong to nouns, number, gender and case, wbich deserve to be considered.
Number, as it makes a noun significant of one or more, is singular or plural; a distinction found in all tongues, which must have been coeval with the origin of language, since there were few things, which men had more frequent necessity of expressing, than the distinction between one and more. In the Hebrew, Greek, and some other ancient languages, we find not only a plural, but a dual number; the origin of which may very naturally be accounted for, as separate terms of numbering were yet undiscovered, and one, two, and many, were all, or at least the principal numeral distinctions, which men at first bad any occasion to make.
Gender, which is founded on the distinction of the two sexes, can with propriety be applied to the names of living creatures only. All other nouns ought to be of the neuter gender. Yet in most languages the same distinction is applied to a great number of inanimate objects. Thus in the Latin tongue, ensis, a sword, is masculine ; saggita, an arrow, is feminine; and this assigoation of sex to inanimate objects often appears entirely capricious. In the Greek and Latin, however, all inanimate objects are not distributed into masculine and feminine ; but many of them are classed, where all ought to be, under the neuter gender; as saxum, a rock; mare, the sea. But in the French and Italian tongues, the peuter gender is wholly
unknown, all their names of inanimate objects being put upon the same footing with those of living creatures, and distributed without reserve into masculine and feminine. In the English language, all nouns, literally used, that are not names of living creatures, are neuter; and ours is, perhaps, the only tongue, except the Chinese, which is said to resemble it in this particular, in wbich the distinction of gender is philosophically applied.
Case denotes the state or relation, which one object bears to another, by some variation of the name of that obect; generally in the final letters, and by some languages in the initial. All tongues, however, do not agree in this mode of expression. Declension is used by the Greek and Latin; but in the English, French, and Italian, it is not found; or, at most, it exists in a very imperfect state. These languages express the relations of objects by prepositions, which are the names of those relations prefixed to the names of objects. English nouns have no case, except a sort of genitive, commonly formed by adding the letter s to the noun; as when we say 5 Pope's Dunciad,” meaning the Dunciad of Pope.
Whether the moderns have given beauty or utility to language, by the abolition of cases, may perhaps be doubted. They have, however, certainly rendered it more simple, by removing that intricacy which arose from different forms of declension, and from the irregularities of the several declensions. But in obtaining this simplicity, it must be confessed, we have filled language with multitude of those little words, called prepositions, which, by perpetually occuring in every sentence, encumber speech; and by rendering it more pro
lix enervate its force. The sound of modern language is also less agreeable to the ear, being deprived of that variety and sweetness, which arose from the length of words, and the change of terminations, occasioned by cases in the Greek and Latin. But perhaps the greatest disadvantage we sustain by the abolition of cases, is the loss of that liberty of transposition in the arrangement of words, which the ancient languages enjoyed.
Pronouns are the representatives of nouns, and are subject to the same modifications of number, gender, and case. We may observe, however, that the pronouns of the first and second person, 1, and thou, have no distinction of gender in any language ; for, as they always refer to persons present, their sex must be known, and therefore needs not to be marked by their pronouns. But, as the third person may be absent, or unknown, the distinction of gender there becomes requisite; and accordingly in English it bath all the three genders, he, she, it.
Adjectives, as strong, weak, handsome, ugly, are the plainest and most simple in that class of words, which are termed attributive. They are common to all languages, and must have been very early invented; since objects could neither be distinguished nor treated of in discourse, before names were assigned to their different qualities.
STRUCTURE OF LANGUAGE. ENGLISH TONGUE.
Of all the parts of speech, verbs are by far the most complex and useful. From their importance we may justly conclude, that they were coeval with the origin of language ; though a long time must have been requisite to rear them up to that accuracy which they now possess.
The tenses were contrived to mark the seve. ral distinctions of time. We commonly think of no more than its three great divisions, the past, the present, and the future, and we might suppose that, if verbs had been so contrived as merely to express these, no more was necessary. But language proceeds with much greater subtilty. Itdivides time into its several moments ; it regards itas never standing still, but always flowing; things past, as more or less distant; and things future, as more or less remote by different gradations. Hence the variety of tenses in almost every language.
The present may indeed be always regarded as one indivisible point, which admits no variety ; 661 am,
But it is not so with the past. Even the poorest language has two or three tenses to express its varieties. Ours has four. 1. A past action may be represented as unfinished, by the imperfect tense ; " I was walking, ambulabam." 2. As finished, by the perfect tense, “I have walked.” 3. As finished some time since, the particular time being left undetermined;" I walked, ambulavi ;" this is what grammarians call an aorist or indefinite past. 4. As finished before something else which is also past. This is the plusquamperfect; "I had walked, ambul
I had walked before you called upon me.?
Our language, we must perceive with pleasure, has an advantage over the Latin, which has only three variations of past time.
The varieties in future time are two; a simple or indefinite future; “I shall walk, ambula- .
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