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bo;" and a future having reference to something else, which is likewise future; “I shall have walked, ambulavero ; I shall have walked, before he will pay me a visit.”
Besides tenses, verbs admit the distinction of voices, viz. the active and passive; as, " I love, or I am loved.” They admit also the distinction of modes, which are intended to express the perceptions and volitions of the mind under different forms. The indicative mode simply declares a proposition ; "I write; I have written." The imperative requires, commands, or threatens; " Write thou ; let him write." The subjunctive expresses a proposition under the form of a condition, or as subordinate to something, to which reference is made; " I might write; I could write; I should write, if the matter were so." This expression of the perceptions and volitions of the mind in so many various forms, together with the distinction of the three persons, I, thou, and he, constitutes the conjugation of verbs, which makes so great a part of the grammar of all languages.
Conjugation is reckoned most perfect in those languages, which, by varying the termination, or the initial syllable of the verb, expresses the greatest number of importantcircumstances without the help of auxiliary verbs. In the oriental tongues verbs have few tenses; but their modes are so contrived, as to express a great variety of circumstances and relations. In the Hebrew they say in one word, without the aid of an auxilary, not only, “I taught," but," I was taught; I caused to teach ; I was caused to teach ; I taught myself.” The Greek, which is commonly thought to be the most perfect of all languages, is very regular and complete in the modes and tenses. The Latin, though formed on the same model, is not so perfect; particularly in the passive voice, which forms most of the tenses by the aid of the auxiliary “sum."
In the modern European tongues, conjugation is very defective. The two great auxiliary verbs, to have, and to be, with those other auxiliaries, which we use in English, do, shall, will, may, and can, prefixed to a participle, or to another verb in the infinitive mode, supersede in a great measure the different terminations of modes and tenses which formed the ancient conjugations.
The other parts of speech, as they admit no variation, will require only a short discussion.
Adverbs are for the most part an abridged mode of speech, expressing by one word, what might by a circumlocution be resolved into two or more words, belonging to other parts of speech. Here,” for instance, is the same with “in this
Hence adverbs seem to be less necessary, and of later introduction into speech, than several other classes of words ; and accordingly most of them are derived from other words, formerly established in the language.
Prepositions and conjunctions serve to express the relations which ihings bear to one another, their mutual influence, dependence, and coherence; and so to join words together, as to form intelligible propositions. Conjunctions are commonly employed for connecting sentences, or members of sentences; as, and, because, and the like. Prepositions are used for connecting words; as, of, from, to, &c. The beauty and strength of every language depends in a great measure on a
proper use of conjunctions, prepositions, and those relative pronouns, which serve the same purpose of connecting different parts of discourse.
Having thus briefly considered the structure of language in general, we will now enter more particularly into an examination of our own language.
The English which was spoken after the Norman conquest, and continues to be spoken now, is a mixture of the ancient Saxop and the Norman French, together with such new and foreign words, as commerce and learning have in a succession of ages, gradually introduced. From the joflux of so many streams, from a junction of so many dissimilar parts, it naturally follows, that the English, like every compounded language, must be somewhat irregular. We cannot expect from it that complete analogy in structure, which may be found in those simpler languages, which were formed within themselves, and built on one foundation. Hence our syntax is short, since there are few marks in the words themselves which show their relation to each other, or point out either their concordance or their government in a sentence. But, if these be disadvantages in a compound language, they are balanced by the advantages which atteod it, particularly by the number and variety of words by which such a language is commonly enriched. Few languages are more copious than the English. In all grave subjects especially, historical, critical, political, and moral, no complaint can justly be made of the barrenness of our tongue. We are rich too in the language of poetry; our poetical style differs widely from prose, not with respect to numbers only, but in the very words themselves ;
which proves what a compass and variety of words we can select and employ, suited to different occasions. Herein we are infinitely superior to the French, whose poetical language, if it were not distinguished by rhyme, would not be known to differ from their ordinary prose. Their language, however, surpasses ours in expressing whatever is delicate, gay, and amusing. It is, perhaps, the happiest language for conversation in the known world; but for the higher subjects of composition, the English is justly considered as far superior to it.
The flexibility of a language, or its power of becoming either grave or strong, or easy and flowing, or tender and gentle, or pompous and magnificent, as occasions require, is a quality of great importance in speaking and writing. This depends on the copiousness of a language; the different arrangements of which its words are susceptible; and the variety and beauty of the sounds of its words. "The Greek possessed these requisites in a higher degree than any other language. It superadded the graceful variety of its different dialects; and thereby readily assumed every kind of character, an author could wish, from the most simple and familiar, to the most majestic. The Latin, though very beautiful, is inferior in this respect to the Greek. It has more of a fixed character of stateliness and gravity ; and is supported by a certain senatorial dignity, of which it is difficult for a writer to divest it. Among modern tongues, the Italian possesses much more flexibility than the French; and seems to be on the wbole the most perfect of all the modern dialects which have arisen out of the ruins of the ancient. Our language, though unequal to the Italian in flexibility, is not destitute of a considerable degree of this quality. Whoever considers the diversity of style in some of our best writers, will discover in our tongue such a circle of expression, such a power of accommodation to the various tastes of men, as redounds much to its honour.
Our language has been thought to be very deficient in harmony of sound; yet the melody of its versification, its power of supporting poetical numbers, without the assistance of rhyme, is a sufficient proof, that it is far from being unharmonious. Even the hissing sound, of which it has been accused, obtains less frequently, than has been suspected. For in many words, and in the finalsyllables especially, the letters has the sound of z, which is one of the sounds on which the ear rests with pleasure; as in has, these, loves, hears, &c.
It must however be admitted, that smoothness is not the distinguishing property of the English tongue. Strength and expressiveness, rather than grace and melody, constitute its character. It possesses also the property of being the most simple of all the European dialects in its form and construction. It is free from the intricacy of cases, declensions, modes, and tenses. Its words are subject to fewer variations from their original form, than those of any other language. Its nouns have no distinction of gender, except what is made by nature; and but one variation in case. Its adjectives admit no change, except what expresses the degree of comparison. Its verbs, instead of the varieties of ancient conjugation, admit only four or five changes in termination.