« PreviousContinue »
LECT. Other; whereas, the voice is fugitive and pan
ing; you must catch the words the moment they are uttered, or you lose them for ever.
But, although these be so great advantages of written Language, that Speech, without Writing, would have been very inadequate for the instruction of mankind; yet we must not forget to observe, that spoken Language has a great superiority over written Language, in point of energy or force. The voice of the living Speaker, makes an impression on the mind, much stronger than can be made by the perufal of any Writing. The tones of voice, the looks and gesture, which accompany discourse, and which no Writing can convey, render discourse, when it is well managed, infinitely more clear, and more expreslive, than the most accurate Writing. For tones, looks, and gestures, are natural interpreters of the sentiments of the mind. They remove ambiguities; they enforce impressions ; they operate on us by means of sympathy, which is one of the most powerful instruments of persuasion. Our sympathy is always awakened more, by hearing the Speaker, than by reading his works in our closet. Hence, though Writing may answer the purposes of mere instruction, yet all the great and high efforts of eloquence must be made, by means of spoken, not of written, Language.
L E C T URE VIII.
STRUCTURE OF LANGUAGE.
FTER having given an account of the L EC T.
Rise and Progress of Language, I proceed to treat of its Structure, or of General Grammar. The Structure of Language is extremely artificial; and there are few sciences in which a deeper, or more refined logic, is employed, than in Grainmar. It is apt to be Nighted by superficial thinkers, as belonging to those rudiments of knowledge, which were inculcated upon us in our earliest youth. But what was then inculcated before we could comprehend its principles, would abundantly repay our study in maturer years ; and to the ignorance of it, must be attributed many of those fundamental defects which appear in writing.
Few authors have written with philosophical accuracy on the principles of General Granimar; and, what is more to be regretted, fewer still have thought of applying those 3
LE C T. principles to the English Language. While
the French tongue has long been an object of attention to many able and ingenious writers of that nation, who have considered its construction, and determined its propriety with great accuracy, the Genius and Grammar of the English, to the reproach of the country, have not been studied with equal care, or ascertained with the same precision, Attempts have been made, indeed, of late, towards supplying this defect; and some able writers have entered on the subject; but much remains yet to be done.
I do not propose to give any system, either of Grammar in general, or of English Grammar in particular. A minute discussion of the niceties of Language would carry us too much off from other objects, which demand our attention in this course of Lectures. But I propose to give a general view of the chief principles relating to this subject, in observations on the several parts of which Speech or Language is composed; remarking, as I go along, the peculiarities of our own Tongue. After which, I shall make some more particular remarks on the Genius of the English Language.
The first thing to be considered, is, the division of the several parts of Speech. The essential parts of Speech are the same in all L E C T. Languages. There must always be some words which denote the names of objects, or mark the subject of discourse; other words, which denote the qualities of those objects, and express what we affirm concerning them; and other words, which point out their connections and relations. Hence, substantives, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, and conjunctions, must necessarily be found in all Languages. The most simple and comprehensive division of the parts of Speech is, into fubftantives, attributives, and connectives *. Substantives, are all the words which express the names of objects, or the subjects of difcourse; attributives, are all the words which express any attribute, property, or action of the former ; connectives, are what express the
* Quinctilian informs us, that this was the most antient division. « Tum videbit
partes orationis. Quanquam de numero parum convenit. Veteres enim, quorum fuerant Ariftoteles atque Theodictes, verba
modo, & nomina, & convinctiones tradiderunt. Vide. as licet, quod in verbis vim sermonis, in nominibus mate. “ riam (quia alterum eft quod loquimur, alterum de quo “ loquimur), in convinctionibus autem complexum eorum “ effe judicârunt; quas conjunciones a plerisque dici scio; co sed hæc videtur ex ourd' oiuw magis propria translatio. « Paulatim a philosophicis ac maximè a stoicis, auctus eft "s numerus; ac primùm convinctionibus articuli adjeéti ;
polt præpofitiones ; nominibus, appellatio, deinde pro
nomen ; deinde mistum verbo participium; ipfis verbis, " adverbia.” Lib. I. cap. iv.
LE C T. connections, relations, and dependencies,
which take place among thein. The common grammatical division of Speech into eight parts; nouns, pronouns, verbs, participles, adverbs, prepositions, interjections, and conjunctions, is not very logical, as might be easily shewn; as it comprehends, under the general term of nouns, both substantives and adjectives, which are parts of Speech generically and essentially distinct; while it makes a separate part of speech of participles, which are no other than verbal adjectives. However, as these are the terms to which our ears have been most familiarised, and, as an exact logical division is of no great consequence to our present purpose, it will be better to make use of these known terms than of any other.
We are naturally led to begin with the confideration of substantive nouns, which are the foundation of all Grammar, and may be considered as the most antient part of Speech.
. For, assuredly, as soon as men had got beyond simple interjections, or exclamations of passion, and began to communicate themselves by difcourse, they would be under a necessity of afsigning names to the objects they saw around them; which, in Grammatical Language, is called the Invention of substantive nouns *.
And * I do not mean to assert, that, among all nations, the first invented words were simple and regular substantive