Imágenes de páginas

and have not hitherto read the work, a careful perusal of the "Diversions of Purley." "All those words which are usually termed pronouns, conjunctions, and prepositions, are the corruptions of nouns or verbs, and are still employed with a sense referrible to that which they bore when in the acknowledged form of nouns and verbs." To this I shall merely add, that although pronouns are generally used to avoid the repetition of nouns, they sometimes stand as nouns, i. e. not to avoid the repetition of nouns: and, in this case, they have a peruliar restrictive power: for example-" He who cannot persuade himself," &c. he is accentuated, and has the force of a noun preceded by a definite article, i. e. the man who cannot, &c.

To render the communication of an idea easy and familiar to the understanding, words must be properly chosen and words distributed in suitable order are. essential to the beauty and elegance of compound sentences. This seems to be deduced from a general principle of nature; the eye and the ear are fond of uniting such objects and sounds, as shall bear the closest resemblance to each other, and also of placing others at a measured distance, that comparison may be formed, and the value of contradistinction and variety be duly appreciated. Notwithstanding this, our colloquial sentences do not always exemplify this order; and yet we are understood. To account for this circumstance belongs to the topics connected with the Theory of Elocution, and is perfectly foreign to the object of the present Treatise.

* Vide the Philosophy of Elocution, page 121-the circumstance is there explained.


Question, whether or not the English grammar should be formed on the Latin plan-opinions of grammarians respecting the six cases— objections answered-the authors of the Eton Latin Grammar have proceeded upon the supposition that the Latin can be taught in connexion with the English grammar-Latin neuter nouns, &c.-elucidations of the English genitive-accentuation and the union of the parts of speech which stand for the English of Latin nouns- -Latin prepositions-tenses of the verb.

IT may be safely affirmed, that the best writers of English, are those scholars who have derived their knowledge of grammar from a study of the dead languages.* In our public schools, and, excepting a very few instances, in our private classical schools, the English grammar is not taught. The pupils of each seminary become gradually acquainted with grammar and the use of their native tongue, from the study of Greek and Latin, and the reading of the best classical English authors. This, however, has not prevented grammarians of talent and celebrity from arranging institutes for the exclusive use of English students; and their motive, every one must allow, is honourable to their feelings, as Englishmen. Nevertheless, we cannot help regretting, that those institutes are not adapted, as much as the genius of our language will admit, to the government and discipline of the Latin tongue. It may be said, that, to a very great extent, the thing is impossible; because the idioms of the

* "The habit of strict and careful analysis, which is formed by the process of judicious instruction in the Greek and Latin languages, is itself a most valuable acquisition, and is an excellent preparative for the exertion of the mental powers, in all other inquiries.” "A correct English style and true delicacy of composition, are hardly ever acquired but by the medium of classical literature.”—Systematic Education.

" * ** 66

two languages, the order of words* and the general construction of sentences, are essentially different. That the languages do not correspond in idiom, every one will allow; but that the leading principles of the grammar of English are different from those of Greek and Latin, is a proposition not so easily to be admitted. But if the idiomatic construction is different, it does not thence follow, that either the difference should be made to appear greater than it really is, or that where there is an actual resemblance, it should be concealed. To the youthful mind, the path towards grammatical accuracy is sufficiently thorny, without rendering it more so. Besides, grammatical analysis, grounded upon the true philosophy of language, is the easiest and best possible mode of teaching the youthful mind to think; the reverse is certain to act as an impediment to the intellectual advancement of those tyros, who, having mastered the principles of any of the English grammars now in use, might have occasion afterwards to apply themselves to the study of Latin and Greek. To one of Dryden's children, "a child of larger growth," a hobbedy-hoy, or a man, who might undertake the study of those languages at an advanced age, the inconvenience would not be so considerable: because the meditative faculties and judgment in him would be alive; and the adult mind is capable of appreciating the merits of philosophical analysis. But to little boys, who, by dint of application, have accomplished, and who pretty well understand the analytical parsing of Dr. Ash, Dr. Lowth, or Mr.

*In English, it is the order of words which frequently distinguishes the grammar of a sentence: viz. “Alexander conquered Darius" invert the order of the nouns and the grammar of the sentence is changed,

Lindley Murray, it is a serious labour and certainly a great loss of time; because they are now under the necessity of traversing the ground again, and that upon a more difficult and complicated plan.

An English grammar, modelled upon the Latin form, would strengthen the conceptions of those pupils, who are intended to begin the study of the classics at their first entrance in the grammar school; and what refers to these pupils would apply equally to those who might commence their classical studies at a future period. It may be here remarked, that, as there is very little variation of the declensions of nouns and verbs in English, a grammar arranged upon the Latin plan would, of course, be much more easy of comprehension for the very little boy than the Latin grammar itself; where the declensions are of a more complex form. This plan would, I am convinced, be a wholesoine preparative to the reading of the Eton, Westminster, or any other Latin grammar. The following remarks of Walker prove that, in this particular, I am not singular in my opinions:-" Almost all our grammars," says this writer, "seem to lean, without necessity, to an exclusion of Latin terms, and Latin forms of construction. This propensity has been observed by a judicious grammarian, who says Most of the writers since Dr. Lowth, forming a supposition, perhaps, that the English language hath little concern with the Latin, seem to have departed as much as possible, not only from the rudiments, but the terms made use of in grammars of that tongue; and have chosen to put their materials into any form, rather than suffer them to fall in with the Latin plan. In the distribution of the moods and tenses particularly, there is a remarkable variety; some arrange them in one manner, some in another; some enlarge, while

[ocr errors]

others diminish their number. In one grammar à tense is transposed in the same mood; in another, it is transplanted into a different one; and in all, many of the technical terms are changed for others, equally, if not more abstracted and perplexing: and thus a new kind of grammatical language has been invented.'-Shaw's Grammar; Preface." From this state of the case, which appears to be a very just one," continues Walker, "we may perceive how difficult it is to avoid extremes. Because some of the old grammarians were too fond of the Latin terms, and Latin forms of construction, the moderns have attempted to exclude them altogether; and thus, by avoiding one fault, have fallen into another.

"But it will be naturally demanded, of what use to an English scholar is retaining the Latin terms and forms of construction? It may be answered, that if these terms and forms of construction are as intelligible as any we can substitute in their stead, why should we depart from the ancient and received grammatical language of Europe, without deriving any advantage from the change? If, indeed, the Latin terms and forms of construction were much more difficult than such as must be substituted to supply their place, the objection would be a very strong one: but this is not really the case. In the declension of nouns we must have two cases, and in that of pronouns, three. Where would be the difficulty or embarrassment in extending the cases to six, the number of them in Latin. The answer will be, because we have no such cases in our language, and, therefore, why should we create them? It may be replied, that a case or termination of a noun adds no more to its signiScation than a preposition prefixed to it; the difficulty

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »