« AnteriorContinuar »
6. They who set aside the authority of custom, and judge every thing to be ungram matical which appears to them to be unphilosophical, render the whole ground forever disputable, and weary themselves in beating the air. So various have been the notions of this sort of critics, that it would be difficult to mention an opinion not found in some of their books. Amidst this rage for speculation on a subject purely practical, various attempts have been made, to overthrow that system of instruction, which long use has rendered venerable, and long experience proved to be useful. But it is manifestly much easier to raise even plausible objections against this system, than to in vent an other less objectionable. Such attempts have generally metihe reception they deserved. Their history will give no encouragement to future innovators.
7. While some have thus wasted their energies in eccentric flights, vainly supposing that the learning of ages would give place to their whimsical theories ; others, with more success, not better deserved, have multiplied grammars almost innumerably, by abridging or modifying the books they had used in childhood. So that they who are at all acquainted with the origin and character of the various compends thus introduced into our schools, cannot but desire a work which shall deserve a more extensive and more permanent patronage, based upon better claims. For, as Lord Bacon observes, the number of ill-written books is not to be diminished by ceasing to write, but by writing others which, like Aaron's serpent, shall swallow up the spurious.
8. The nature of the subject almost entirely precludes invention. The author has, however, aimed at that kind and degree of originality, which are to be commended in works of this sort; and has borrowed no more from others than did the most learned and popular of his predecessors. And, though he has taken the liberty to think and write for himself, he trusts it will be evident that few have excelled him in diligence of research, or have followed more implicitly the dictates of that authority which gives law to language.
9. All science is laid in the nature of things ; and he only who seeks it there, can rightly guide others in the paths of knowledge. He alone can know whether his predecessors went right or wrong, who is capable of a judgement independent of theirs. But with what shameful servility have many false or faulty definitions and rules been copied and copied from one grammar to another, as if authority had canonized their errors, or none had eyes to see them ! Whatsoever is dignified and fair, is also modest and reasonable ; but modesty does not consist in having no opinion of one's own, nor reason in following with blind partiality the footsteps of others. Grammar unsupport•ed-byauthority, is indeed mere fiction. But what apology is this, for that authorship Whicle has produced so many grammars without originality? Shall he who cannot write fox bünseft: improve upon hini who can ? It is not deference to merit, but imPudent pretence; pracissing on the credulity of ignorance! Commonness alone exempts it from scrutiny and the success it has, is but the wages of its own worthlessness! TO restand beoikformed, is to make a proper use of books for the advancement of learningbuloto åsstane to be an author by editing mere commonplaces and stolen criti cisms, is equally beneath the ambition of a scholar and the honesty of a man. .:10. Grannar baing a practical art, with the principles of which every intelligent personas more or Jess acquainted, it might be expected that a book written professedfy.or the subject, should exhibit some evidence of its author's skill. But it would seem thatå månitude of bad or indifferent writers have judged themselves qualified to teach the art of speaking and writing well; so that correctness of language and neatness of style are as rarely to be found in grammars as in other books. There have been, however, several excellent scholars, who have thought it an object not unwor thy of their talents, to prescribe and elucidate the principles of English Grammar But these, for an obvious reason, have executed their designs with various degrees of success; and even the most meritorious have left ample room for improvement though some have evinced an ability which does honour to themselves, while it giver cause to regret their lack of an inducement to further labour. The mere grammarian can neither aspire to praise, nor stipulate for a reward; and to those who were best qualified to write, the subject could offer no adequate motive for diligence.
11. Having devoted many years to studies of this nature, and being conversant with most of the grammatical treatises already published, the author conceived that the objects above enumerated, might, perhaps, be better effected than they had been in any work within his knowledge. And he persuades himself that the improvements here offered, are neither few nor inconsiderable. He does not mean, however, to depreciate the labours, or to detract from the merits of those who have gone before him and taught with acknowledged skill. He has studiously endeavoured to avail himself of all the light they have thrown upon the subject. For his own information, he has carefully perused more than fifty English grammars, and has glanced over many others that were not worth reading. With this publication in view, he has also resorted to the original sources of grammatical knowledge, and has not only critically considered what he has seen and heard of our vernacular tongue, but has sought with some diligence the analogies of speech in the structure of several other languages.
12. His progress in compiling this work has been slow, and not unattended with labour and difficulty. Amidst the contrarieties of opinion, that appear in the various treatises already before the public, and the perplexities inseparable from so complicaled a subject, he has, after deliberate consideration, adopted those views and explana. Dom which appeared to him the least liable to objection, and the most compatible with ris ultimate object-the production of a practical school grammar.
13. Ambitious of making not a large but an acceptable book, he has compressed into this volume the most essential parts of a mass of materials from which he could as easily have formed a folio. Whether the toil be compensated or not, is a matter of little consequence; he has neither written for bread, nor built castles in the air. He is too well versed in the history of his theme, too well aware of the precarious fortune of authors, to indulge any confident anticipations of success ; yet he will not deny that his hopes are large, being conscious of having cherished them with a liberality of feeling which cannot fear disappointment. In this temper he would invite the reader to a thorough perusal of the following pages. A grammar should speak for itself. lp a work of this nature, every word or tittle which does not recommend the performance to the understanding and taste of the skilful, is, so far as it goes, a certificate against it. Yet if some small errors have escaped detection, let it be recollected that it is almost impossible to print with perfect accuracy a work of this size, in which so many little things should be observed, remembered, and made exactly to correspond. There is no human vigilance which multiplicity may not sometimes bafile, and minuteness sometimes elude. To most persons grammar seems a dry and difficult subject; but there is a disposition of mind, to which what is arduous, is for that very reason alluring. The difficulties encountered in boyhood froin the use of a miserable epitome, and the deep impression of a few mortifying blunders made in public, first gave the author a fondness for grammar; circumstances having since favorired this turn of his genius, he has voluntarily pursued the study, with an assiduity which no man will ever imitate for the sake of pecuniary recompense.
14. This work contains a full series of exercises adapted to its several parts, with notices of the manner in which they are to be used, according to the place assigned them. he examples of false syntax placed under the rules, are to be corrected orally; the four chapters of exercises adapted to the four parts of the subject, are to be written out by the learner. In selecting examples for these exercises, the author has been studious to economize the learner's and the teacher's time, by admitting those only which were very short. He has, in general, reduced each example to a single line. And, in this manner, he has been able to present, in this small volume, a series of exercises, more various than are given in any other grammar, and nearly equal in numoer to all that are contained in Murray's two octavoes. It is believed that a grammatical treatise at once so comprehensive and concise, has not before been offered to the public.
15. The only successful method of teaching grammar, is, to cause the principal definitions and rules to be committed thoroughly to memory, that they may ever afterwards be readily applied. Oral instruction may smoothe the way, and facilitate the labour of the learner; but the notion of communicating a competent knowledye of grammar without imposing this task, is disproved by universal experience. Nor will it avail any thing for the student to rehearse definitions and rules of which he makes no practical application. In etymology and syntax, he should be alternately exercised in learning small portions of his book, and then applying them in parsing, till the whole is rendered familiar. To a good reader, the achievement will be neither great aor difficult; and the exercise is well calculated to improve the memory, and strengthen all the faculties of the mind.
16. The mode of instruction here recommended is the result of long and successful experience. There is nothing in it, which any person of common abilities will find it difficult to understand or adopt. It is the plain didactic method of definition and ex ample, rule and praxis ; which no man who means to teach grammar well, will ever desert, with the hope of finding an other more ra, onal or more easy. The book itself will make any one a grammarian, who will take the trouble to observe and practise what it teaches; and even if some instructors should not adopt the readiest and most efficient method of making their pupils familiar with its contents, they will not fail to instruct by it as effectually as they can by any other. Whoever is acquainted with the grammar of our language, so as to have some tolerable skill in teaching it, will here find almost every thing that is true in his own instructions, clearly embruced under its proper head, so as to be easy of reference. And perhaps there are few, however learned, who, on a perusal of the volume, would not be furnished with some important rules and facts which had not before occurred to their own observation.
17. The greatest peculiarity of the method is, that it requires the pupil to speak or write a great deal, and the teacher very little. But both should constantly remember that grammar is the art of speaking and writing well; an art which can no more be Acquired without practise than that of dancing or swimming. And each should be careful to perform his part handsomely-without drawling, omitting, stopping, hesitating, faltering, miscalling, reiterating, stuttering, hurrying, slurring, mouthing, misquoting, mispronouncing, or any of the thousand faults which render utterance disagreeable and inelegant. It is the learner's diction that is to be improved ; and the system will be found well calculated to effect that object; because it demands of him, not only to answer questions on graminar, but also to make a prompt and practical application of what he has just learned. If the class be tolerable readers, it will not be necessary for the teacher to say much; and, in general, he ought not to take up the time by so doing. He should, however, carefully superintend their rehearsals ; give
the word to the next, when any one errs; and order the exerciso in such a mannot that either his own voice, or the example of his best scholars, may gradually correct the ill habits of the awkward, till all learn to recite with clearness, understanding well what they say, and making it intelligible to others.
18. The exercise of parsing coinmences immediately after the first lesson of etymology, and is carried on progressively till it embraces all the doctrines that are applicable to it. If it be perforined according to the order prescribed, it will soon make the student perfectly familiar with all the primary definitions and rules of grammar. It requires just enough of thought to keep the mind attentive to what the lips are uttering; while it advances by such easy gradations and constant repetitions as leave the pupil utterly without excuse, if he does not know what to say. Being neither wholly extemporaneous nor wholly rehearsed by rote, it has more dignity than a schoolboy's conversation, and more ease than a forinal recitation; and is therefore an exercise well calculated to induce a habit of uniting correctness with fluency in ordinary speech-a species of elocution as valuable as any other.
19. The best instruction is that which ultimately gives the greatest facility and skill in practice: and gramınar is best taught by that process which brings its doctrines most directly home to the habits as well as to the thoughts of the pupil-which the most effectually conquers inattention, and leaves the deepest impress of shame upon blundering ignorance. In the whole range of school exercises, there is none of greater iniportance than that of parsing; and yet perhaps there is none which is, in general, more defectively conducted. Scarcely less useful, as a means of instruction is the practice of correcting false syntax orally, by regular and logical forins of argument; nor does this appear to have been more ably directed towards the purposes of discipline. There is so much to be done, in order to effect what is desirable in the management of these things; and so little prospect that education will ever be generally raised to a just appreciation of that study which, more than all others, forms the mind to habits of correct thinking; that, in reflecting upon the state of the science at the present time, and upon the means of its improvement, the author cannot but sympa. thize, in some degree, with the sadness of the learned Sanctius; who tells us, that he had “always lamented, and often with tears, that while other branches of learning were excellently taught, grammar, which is the foundation of all others, lay so much neglected, and that for this neglect there seemed to be no adequate remedy."-Pref. to Minerva. The gramınatical use of language is in sweet alliance with the moral; and a siinilar regret seems to have prompted the following exclamation of the Christian poet:
“Sacred Interpreter of human thought,
How few respect or use thee as they ought!"-Cowper. 20. No directions, either oral or written, can ever enable the heedless and the unthinking to speak or write well. That must indeed be an admirable book, which -an attract levity to sober reflection, teach thoughtlessness the true meaning of words, raise vulgarity from its fondness for low examples, awaken the spirit which attains to excellency of speech, and cause grammatical exercises to be skilfwly managed, where teachers themselves are so often lanientably deficient in them. Yet sonething may be effected by means of a better book, if a better can be introduced. And what withstands ?-Whatever there is of ignorance or error in relation to the premises. And is it arrogant to say there is much? Alas! in regard to this, as well as to many a weightier matter, one may too truly affirm, Multa non sunt sicut multis videntur Many things are not as they seem to many. Common errors are apt to conceal them selves from the common mind; and the appeal to reason and just authority is often frustrated, because a wrong head defies both. But, apart from this, there are difficulties: multiplicity perplexes choice; inconvenience attends change; improvement requires effort; conflicting theories demand examination; the principles of the science are unprofitably disputed; the end is often divorced from the means; and much that belies ihe title, has been published under the name.
20. It is certain, that the printed formularies most commonly furnished for the im portant exercises of parsing and correcting, are either so awkwardly written, or so negligently followed, as to make grammar, in the inouths of our juvenile orato., little else than a crude and faltering jargon. Murray evidently intended that his book of exercises should be constantly used with his graminar; but he made the examples in the former so dull and prolix, that few learners, if any, have ever gone through the series agreeably to his direction. The publishing of them in a separate volume, has probabiy given rise to the absurd practice of endeavouring to teach his grammar withon thein. The forms of parsing and correcting which this author furnishes, are also misplaced; and when found by the learner, are of little use. They are so verbose, awkward, irregular, and deficient, that the pupil must be a dull boy, or utterly ignorant of grammar, if he cannot express the facts extemporaneously in better English When we consider how exceedingly important it is, that the business of a school should proceed without loss of time, and that, in the oral exercises here spoken of, each pupil should go through his part promptly, clearly, correctly, and fully, we can not think it a light objection that these forins, so often to be repeated, are badly writ ten. Nor does the objection lie against this writer only: Ab uno disce omnes Bu the reader may demand some illustrations.
22. First-from his etymological parsing: “O Virtue! how amiable thou a t!" Here his form for the word Virtue is~"Virtue is a common substantive, of the neuter ger der, of the third person, in the singular number, and the nominative case." It should have been—" Virtue is a common noun, personified proper, of the second person, singular number, feminine gender, and nominative case." And, then the definitions of ail these things should have followed in regular nunerical order. He gives the class of this noun wrong, for virtue addressed becomes an individual; he gives the gender wrong, and in direct contradiction to what he says of the word, in his section on gender; he gives the person wrong, as may be seen by the pronoun thou; he repeats the definite article three times unnecessarily, and inserts iwo needless prepositions, making them dif. ferent where the relation is precisely the same and all this, in a sentence of two lines, to tell the properties of the noun Virtue!—But, in etymological parsing, the definitions ezplaining the properties of the parts of speech, ought to be regularly and rapidly rehearsed by the pupil, till all of them are perfectly familiar, and till he can discern, with the quickness of thought, what is true or false in the description of any word in any intelligible sentence. All these the author omits; and, on account of this omis. sion, his whole method of etymological parsing is miserably deficient.
23. Secondly-from his syntactical par-ing: "Vice degrades us." Here his form for the word Vice is" Vice is a common substantive, of the third person, in the singular number, and the nominative case.” Now, when the learner is told that this is the syntactical parsing of a noun, and the other the etymological, he will of course conclude, that to advance from the etymology to the syntax of this part of speech, is merely to onit the gender-this being the only difference between the two forins. But even inis difference had no other origin than the compiler's carelessness in preparing his octavo book of exercises-the gender being inserted in the duodecimo. And what then? Is the syntactical parsing of a noun to be precisely the same as the etymological ? Never. But Murray, and all who admire, and follow his work, are content to parse many words by halves--making a distinction, and yet often omitting, in both parts of the exercise, every thing which constitutes the difference. He should here have said * Vice is a common noun, of the third person, singular number, neuter gender, and nominative case: and is the subject of degrades ; according to the rule which says, • A noun or a pronoun which is the subject of a verb, must be in the nominative case. Because the meaning is-vice degrades." This is the whole description of the word, with its construction; and to say less, is to leave the matter unfinished.
24. Thirdly-from his “mode of verbally correcting erroneous sentences: The man is prudent which speaks little.' This sentence is incorrect; because which is a pronoun nf the neuter gender, and does not agree in gender with its antecedent man, which is masculine. Bui a pronoun should agree with its antecedent in gender, &c. according to the fifth rule of syntax. Which should therefore be who, a relative pronoun, agreeing with its antecedent man; and the sentence should stand thus : "The man is prudent who speaks little.'” Again: "• After I visited Europe, I returned to America. This sentence is not correct; because the verb visited is in the imperfect tense, and yet used here to express an action, not only past, but prior to the time referred to by the verb returned, to which it relates. By the thirteenth rule of syntax, when verbs are used that, in point of time, relate to each other, the order of time should be observed. The imperfect tense visited should therefore have been had visited, in the pluperfect tense, representing the action of visiting, not only as past, but also as prior to the time of returning. The sentence corrected would stand thus : After I had visited Europe, I returned 10 America.'” These are the first two examples of Murray's verbal corrections, and the only ones retained by Alger, in his improved, recopy-righted edition of Murray's Exercises. Yet, in each of them, is the argumentation palpably false! In the former, truly, which should be who; but not because which is of the neuter gender ; but because the application of that relative to persons, is now nearly obsolete. Can any grammarian forget that, in speaking of brute animals, male or female, we commonly use which, and never who? But if which must needs be ncutor, the world is wrong in this.-As for the latter example, it is right as it stands; and the correction is, in some sort, tautological. The conjunc ive adverb after makes one of the actions subsequent to the other, and gives to the visiting all the priority that is signified by the pluperfect tense. “ After I visited Europe,” is equivalent to " When I had visited Europe. The whole argument is therefore void.
25. These few brief illustrations, out-of thousands that might be adduced in proof of the faultiness of the common manuals, the author has reluctantly introduced, to show that, even in the most popular books, the grammar of our language has not been treat. ed with that care and ability which its importance demands. It is hardly to be sup posed that men unused to a teacher's duties, can be qualified to compose such books as will most facilitate his labours. Practice is a better pilot than theory. And while, in respect to grammar, the evidences of failure are constantly inducing changes from one systein to an other, and almost daily giving birth to new expedienis as constantly to end in the same disappointment; perhaps the practical instructions of an experiene ced teacher, long and assiduously devoted to the study, may approve themselves to many, as seasonably supplying the aid and guidance which they require.
26. From the doctrines of grammar, novelty is rigidly excluded. They consist of delails to which taste can lend no charm, and genius no embellishnient. A writer may express them with neatness and perspicuity--their importa nce alone can commend them to notice Yet, in drawing his illustrations from the stores of literature, the gramınarian may select some gems of thought, which will fasten on the memory a worthy sentiment, or relieve the dulness of minute instruction. Such examples have been taken from various authors, and interspersed through the following pages.
27. The moral effect of early lessons being a point of the utmost importance, it is es. pecially incumbent on all those who are endeavouring to confer the benefits of intet lectual culture, to guard against the admission or the inculcation of any principle which may have an improper tendency, and be ultimately prejudicial to those whom they instruct. In preparing this treatise for publication, the author has been solicitous to avoid every thing that could be offensive to the most delicate and scrupulous reader; and, of the several thousands of quotations given, he trusts that the greater part will be considered valuable on account of the sentiments they contain.
28. He has not thought it needful, in a work of this kind, to encumber his pages with a useless parade of names and references, or to distinguish very minutely what is copied and what is original. All strict definitions of the same thing are necessarily similar. The doctrines of the work are, for the most part, expressed in his own lan guage, and illustrated by that of others. Where authority was requisite, names have been inserted; and in general also where there was room. In the doctrinal parts of the volume, not only quotations from others, but most examples made for the occasion, are marked with guillemets, to distinguish them from the main text; while, to al most every thing which is really taken from any other known writer, a name or reference is added. In the exercises for correction, few references have been given; because it is no credit to any author, to have written bad English. But the intelligent reader will recognize as quotations a large portion of the examples, and know from what works they are taken. To the schoolboy this knowledge is neither important nor interesting.
29. Many of the definitions and rules of grammar have so long been public property, and have been printed under so many names, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to know to whom they originally belonged. Of these the author has freely availed himself, though seldom without some amendment; while he has carefully abstained from every thing on which he supposed there could now be any individual claim. He has therefore fewer personal obligations to acknowledge, than most of those who are re. puted to have written with sufficient originality on the subject.
30. In truth, not a line has here been copied with any view to save the labour of composition; for, not to compile an English grammar from others already extant, but to compose one more directly from the sources of the art, was the task which the writer proposed to himself. And though the theme is not one upon which a man may hope to write well with little reflection, it is true, that the parts of this treatise which have cost him the most labour, are those which consist chiefly of materials selected from the writings of others." These, however, are not the didactical portions of the book, but the proofs and examples ; which, according to the custom of the ancient grammarians, ought to be taken from other authors. But so much have the makers of our modern grammars been allowed to presume upon the respect and acquiescence of their readers, that the ancient exactness on this point would often appear pedantic. Many phrases and sentences either original or anonymous will therefore he found among the illustrations of the following work; for it was not supposed that any reader would demand for every thing of this kind the authority of a great name. Anonymous exam ples are sufficient to elucidate principles, if not to establish them; and elucidation is often the sole purpose for which an example is needed.
31. The author is well aware that no writer on grammar has any right to propose himself as authority for what he teaches; for every language, being the common property of all who use it, ought to be carefully guarded against any caprice of individuals, and especially against that which might attempt to impose erroneous or arbitrary definitions and rules. “Since the matter of which we are treating,' says the philologist of Salamanca, “ is to be verified, first by reason, and then by testimony and usage, none ought to wonder if we sometimes deviate from the track of great men; for, with whatever authority any grammarian may weigh with me, unless he shall have confirmed his assertions by reason and also by examples, he shall win no confidence in respect to grammar. For, as Seneca says, Epistle 95, Grammarians are the guardians, not the authors, of language.' "-Minerva, Lib. i. Cap. ii. Yet, as what is intuitively seen to be true or false, is already sufficiently proved or detected, many points in grammar need nothing more than to be clearly stated and illustrated; nay, it would seem an injurious reflection on the understanding of the reader, to accumulate proofs of what cannot but be evident to all who speak the language.
32. Among men of the same profession, there is an unavoidable rivalry, so far as they become competitors for the same prize; but in competition there is nothing dishonourable, while excellence alone obtains distinction, and no advantage is sought by unfair means. It is evident that we ought to account him the best grammarian, who has the most completely executed the worthiest design. But no worthy design can need a false apology; and it is worse than idle to prevaricate. That is bui a spurious modesty, which prompts a man to disclaim in sne way what he assumes in an other -or to underrate the duties of his office, that he may boast of having " done all that could reasonably be expected.” Whoever professes to have improved the science of English grammar, must claim to know more of the matter than the generality of Eng.