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TO THE FIRST EDITION.
In preparing this work for publication, my attention has been constantly fixed upon the wants of the Students in the Higher Institutions of learning. Were the president of one of these institutions asked why the systematic study of the English language is neglected in his college, his reply would very likely be, “ There is no suitable text-book; our pupils, when boys, studied English Grammar superficially in the primary schools. Afterward, when older, in the academy, during their preparation for college, they perhaps despised it, in comparison with the Latin and the Greek; and in the college they do not systematically study the language after they come to maturity. Hence it often happens that they go into their professional studies without a thorough and extensive acquaintance with their mother tongue.”
Ought the English language, as a study, to be confined to the lower schools, and excluded from col. leges ? Is there not in its inatter and in its forms; in its historical elements and relations; in its grammatical and logical structure; in its ordinary uses, whether by the lips or the pen, for the common purposes of life; in its esthetical applications to eloquence and poetry; in it, as a portraiture of the soul of the Anglo-Saxon race, enough to attract, and task, and reward the mind in the full maturity of its powers ? Besides what it has in common with other languages, is there not in it enough of inherent interest, enough of difficulty, enough
of fruit in disciplinal influence and practical knowledge to entitle it to a place in colleges by the side of the Classical languages as a part of a liberal education? “The grammar of a language," says Locke, “is sometimes to be studied by a grown man."
My attention has also been directed to the wants of Teachers in the Primary Schools throughout our land. In giving instruction, questions concerning the language frequently arise in their minds, or are proposed to them by their pupils, which are not solved by the compendious books in use. They feel the need of collateral aid. It has been my endeavor to furnish intelligent teachers with helps for answering these questions; to exhibit historical facts and reasonings not found in the smaller works, or, indeed, in any one work; and not only to furnish rules and examples, but also to exhibit the foundation-principles of the rules, the leges legum of the language. In short, I have endeavored to furnish not only a text-book for the higher institutions, but also a reference-book for teachers in the primary schools, which may help to give breadth and exactness to their views, and thus qualify them to impart oral instruction to their pupils who study some smaller work.
It has also been my endeavor to furnish men in Professional life with a work for occasional reference or perusal, to keep alive and extend in their minds their knowledge of the principles of the language. President Dwight made the remark, that "every graduate should keep his Murray's Grammar"—a work then used as a text-book in Yale College— and read the more important parts of it at least once a year." Unless men, at least occasionally, bestow their attention upon the science and the laws of the language, they are in some danger, amid the excitements of professional life, of losing the delicacy of their taste and giving sanction to vulgarisms, or to what is worse. On this point, listen to the recent declarations of two leading men in the Senate of the United States (Mr. Webster and Mr. Cass), both of whom understand the use of the English language in its power: “In truth, I must say that, in my opinion, the vernacular tongue of the country has become greatly vitiated, depraved, and corrupted by the style of our Congressional debates.” And the other, alluding to the debates in the British House of Coni. mons, in courteous response, remarked, “ There is such a thing as an English and a Parliamentary vocabulary, and I have never heard a worse, when circumstances called it out, on this side Billingsgate!"
This work I have endeavored to make such that ev. ery undergraduate may study it with advantage, and every graduate, and every intelligent man in professional life, may keep it by him as a book of reference and occasional perusal for the cultivation and preservation of a correct taste in his use of language.
The growth of language can not be repressed any more than can the genial activity of the human soul. Especially in our own country, in this “wilderness of free minds," new thoughts and corresponding new expressions spring up spontaneously to live their hour or to be permanent. As our countrymen are spreading westward across the continent, and are brought into contact with other races, and adopt new modes of thought, there is some danger that, in the use of their liberty, they may break loose from the laws of the English language, and become marked not only by one, but by a thousand Shibboleths. Now, in order to keep the language of a nation one, the leading men in the greater or smaller communities, the editors of periodicals, and authors generally, should exercise the same
guardian care over it which they do over the opinions which it is used to express; and, for this purpose, they should be familiar with works which treat of its analogies and idioms, that they may understand what are the laws of normal and of abnormal growth, and by their own example and influence encourage only that which is strictly legitimate. .
Our language, as the depository of the wisdom and experience of past generations, we have received by inheritance, to be transmitted to the ages to come certainly enlarged, and, if possible, improved. “A man should venerate his native language as the first of his benefactors; as the awakener and stirrer of his spiritual thoughts, the form, and mould, and rule of his spiritual being; as the great bond and medium of intercourse with his fellows; as the mirror in which he sees his own nature, and without which he can not commune even with himself; as the image which the wisdom of God has chosen to reveal itself to him." It was in some such spirit and under some such impressions that the present work was undertaken at the first, and carried on to its completion.
Philology has of late, especially in Germany, been successfully cultivated in what have been called its two great branches: the Philosophy of language, or the formation of words; and the Method of language, or the formation of sentences. English philology has made great advances from the indirect contributions received from such men as Rask and Bosworth, Grimm and Bopp, Becker and Kühner; as well as from the direct efforts of such as Webster, and Latham, and Guest, and Kemble, and Garnet. Some of the practical results of their investigations I have embodied in this work. Other materials were collected from the wide field of English literature while I was engaged in giv
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My thanks are also due to those literary friends who
English language is presented under eight different as-