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LETTER II.

DEFINITION OF GRAMMAR AND ITS BRANCHES.

MY YOUNG FRIEND,

1. Nearly all writers on English Grammar, say in the commencement of their books, that“ English Grammar is the art of speaking and writing the English Language with propriety.” This is correct enough; but it is not as plain as it ought to be. In endeavoring to impart instruc. tion to the student of any art, as seemingly complicated as that of English Grammar, the plainest

language that can be used, is immeasurably the best. English Gram. mar is the art of speaking and writing the English Language with propriety;" rather say, “ English Grammar is the art which reduces and subjects the thousands and thousands of words in the English Language to a few rules the proper understanding of which, is the whole secret of speaking and writing correctly.

2. Grammar is divided into four Branches, which are thus named :-Orthography, Prosody, Etymology, and Syntax.

3. ORTHOGRAPHY means the selection and combi. nation of letters, so as to form words; and is therefore Word-making ; or what is generally called Spelling. It divides the letters of the alphabet into vowels and conso. nants ; the vowels are, a, e, i, o, and u; w and y are also vowels, excepting in cases in which they begin å word or a syllable. In such cases they are consonants.

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DEFINITION OF GRAMMAR

AND

ITS BRANCHES.

4. It is folly to attempt to give any rules with regard to Orthography. They cannot be given. The only way that a knowledge of this branch of grammar can be obtained, is by reading, and close attention to what is read. There are, to be sure, a few rules relating to the formation of the plural number of the noun, the comparative and superlative degrees of the adjective, and the past time of the verb, (which I will give in the proper places,) but they are small matters ; scarcely meriting the name of rules.

5. PROSODY, means PRONUNCIATION, and nothing more. It would be a waste of time to attempt to give rules for the acquisition of pronunciation. This branch of grammar is the most arbitrary of the four ; depending, in a great measure upon the judgment of the person who may have occasion to use it. Those who write most upon it, for the purpose of instructing, differ much more than those who never attempt to instruct. One orthoepist, or pronouncer, pronounces one way, another, another way, and a third differs from both. The best rule, or rather the best guide, is the general manner of pronouncing. Whatever pronunciation the mass of educated citizens give to a word, that pronunciation is to be taken as the standard. To prove how futile it would be to give rules, I need only mention that pronunciation de. pends to a very great extent, upon locality. The pronunciation of a Philadelphian differs widely from that of a Bostonian; and that of a Bostonian, widely from that of a native of Savannah; and that of a native of the latter place, widely from that of a native of England, Ireland, or Scotland; and that of each the three last will be found to differ more widely from the other two, than will any of the former, from either of the other two of the same country. I might here give you an original definition of PRONUNCIATION ; but as it will be better understood by you, when you come to the Etymology of Pronouns, I will postpone it till I have occasion to speak of these.

6. ETYMOLOGY. This is a Branch of much more importance than either of the preceding ones.

It means the derivation, or pedigree, or relationship of words. It teaches the rules which vary the endings of words. The

DEFINITION OF GRAMMAR AND ITS

BRANCHES.

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word sing, for example, expresses an action which is per. formed by the voice ; but in some instances, it would have to be sings, in others sang, in others sung, and in others, singing. These are all derived from the original word, sing, which is the trunk from which all these branches spring. And in this example, we see the relationship which the words bear to each other. We see that they are all members of the same family. Now, Etymology teaches us to know when it would be correct to say sing, when sang, when sung, and when singing.

7. SYNTAX means nothing more than sentence making; that is to say, the arranging of words, so as to form readily comprehended discourse.

8. I have now given you a short definition of the different Branches. You will need to be told nothing more about Orthography and Prosody ; the first meaning spelling, and the last pronunciation. If you never had to write, you would have no use for Orthography; and if you never had to speak, you would have no use for Prosody. But Etymology and Syntax are different matters. You cannot write anything worthy of the name of writing without a full knowledge of both. I will therefore give you an account of all that belongs to these two Branches ; and I trust that you will pay the strictest attention, and give the whole the consideration which its importance requires.

LETTER III.

ETYMOLOGY.

THE PARTS OF SPEECH, OR SORTS OF WORDS. MY YOUNG FRIEND,

9. Etymology divides language into several distinct sorts of words, called Parts of Speech. These are the Article, the Noun, the Pronoun, the Adjective, the Verb, the Adverb, the Preposition, the Conjunction, and the

Interjection; in all, nine. But to explain this matter more fully, let me give you a definition by similitude; for the best way to illustrate what is unknown, is to liken it to what is well known.

10. To define Etymology, then, you may suppose that you have nine sorts of seeds. These seeds you must then assort, naming each, telling how one differs from, and resembles another, showing what flowers each produces ; which the most beautiful, and which the least so. This is Etymology. But to carry out a little farther what I have here begun, and to make you understand what is of importance to you, though it is somewhat out of place here, I will tell you, that SYNTAX is the arranging and planting, in suitable earth, of all these seeds, so as to produce the most beautiful flowers, grouped in the most beautiful manner, and calculated to excite the greatest feelings of delight and admiration.

11. ARTICLES. There are but three in our language; and these are, a, an, and the. Indeed there are but two; because a, and an, are the same word; the former being only an abbreviation or shortening, of the latter, for the sake of the sound.

12. NOUNS. The word Noun, means simply name. All persons and all things must have names, and Nouns are therefore merely the names of persons and things. As far as persons, and irrational animals, and inanimate things that we can see, go, it is very easy to distinguish Nouns; but there are many Nouns which express what we cannot see, nor hear, nor taste, nor touch, nor smell ; Nouns which we cannot distinguish through the medium of any of the senses. For example : Patriotism, Honesty, Virtue, Prudence, Liberty, Idea. Many grammarians call Nouns, Substantives. Now if this definition was correct, all the words which I have here named, would not be Nouns, because they are no Substances. This definition is therefore imperfect, and almost as bad as none at all, inas. much as it tends to perplex and mislead the student, and make him dissatisfied with the study, even at the commencement.

13. The only certain rule of ascertaining the Noun is this : that a word which stands for any thing that has an existence is a Noun. This rule is infallible. The words which I have pointed out above, are no substances, but they all have an existence; they all exist (though I am sorry to say to a very limited extent) in the world; and therefore, the words which represent them are called Nouns.

14. PRONOUNS. Words of this part of speech, stand in the place of Nouns. Their name is a Latin one, and it means, For names, or For nouns; pro, meaning in Latin, for; and noun, meaning name ; so that these words called Pronouns, are used for, or instead of Nouns. He, she, it, him, her, them, who, for example, are Pronouns. Their use is to prevent the repetition of Nouns, and to make speaking and writing more rapid, and less encumbered with words. I will give you an example :

15. “A woman met à man and informed him that he had better not go home by a certain road; for if he did, he would be attacked by a number of persons who were then lying in wait for him. He thanked her for her kindness, in thus making known to him his danger. And as he had no means of defending himself, he left his usual road, and went home by another.”

16. Now if there were no Pronouns, the paragraph would have to be written thus : " A woman met a man, and informed the man, that the man had better not go home by a certain road, for if the man did, the man would be attacked by a number of persons, as a number of persons were then lying in wait for the man. The man thanked the woman for the woman's kindness in thus making known to the man the man's danger. And as the man had no means of defending the man's self, the man left the man's usual road, and went home by another.”

17. You recollect that I told you in paragraph 5, that I would give you a definition of Pronunciation. You will now better understand what I have to say.

“ Pro," you recollect, means for, and “noun" means name; so that to pro-nounce, means to sound names for things; that is to say, to give utterance to names, which are the representatives of, or which stand for things.

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