Lapas attēli

equivalent to these Latin forms is true pupil in grammatical relations, and of tracing enough; but the pupil, in so learning the the origin of modern English phraseology. English verb, gets no idea of its peculiar The writer of this article has frequently structure. English grammar was originally gone into country schools where they prebased on Latin grammar, and has been ever tend to teach English grammar, and has since treated, except by a few German heard both teachers and pupils talk about scholars, who have taken it in hand, analo- the agreement of adjectives and nouns, the gically- per aliud, instead of per se, as it government exercised by verbs and preposishould be. Dr. Wallis, whose Grammatica tions, none of which exist except to a very Lingua Anglicana, published as early as 1653 limited extent; and what is worst of all, is still worthy to be ranked among the very when grammar is so taught, neither teachers best English grammars that have yet been nor pupils ever think, perhaps, what agreewritten either by English or American ment and government really mean, so that a grammarians, was the first to see the error of grammar lesson is made up of a set of this analogical treatment of English gram- meaningless, stereotyped expressions, whose mar. Alluding to his predecessors, Gill, idle repetitions leave the mind only the Ben Jonson, and others, he remarks :- more vacant the more glibly they are gone “Omnes ad Latinæ linguæ normam hanc over. nostram Anglicanam nimium exigentes The study of grammar, if properly purmulta inutilia præcepta de Nominum casi- sued, ought to be one of the most interesting bus, Generibus, et Declinationibus, atque of all school studies, revealing, as it does, Verborum Temporibus, Modis et Conjuga- the working of the ingenious and subtle tionibus, de Nominum item et Verborum organ the mind employs for the expression Regimine, aliisque similibus tradiderunt of its myriad impressions, thoughts and quæ a lingua nostra sunt prorsus aliena, sentiments. As generally pursued, it is the adeoque confusionem potius et obscuritatem driest, most barren, and most repulsive; as pariunt, quam explicationi inserviunt.” That repulsive as what is called “composition ”is, “They all subject this our English tongue an exercise which is generally hated with a too much to the rule of the Latin, and deliver holy hatred by all young pupils upon whom many useless precepts respecting the cases, it is imposed, as it too often is, before they genders and declensions of nouns, the tenses, have any ideas to compose. moods and conjugations of verbs, the govern- For some years past, the curriculum of ment of nouns and verbs, and other like study in our schools and colleges has been things, which are altogether foreign to our verging more and more toward the natural tongue, and beget confusion and obscurity, sciences. The great strides that these have rather than serve for explanation.”

made within the memory of living men, If his successors had profited, as they and their important bearing upon every-day should have done, by what he has so suc- life and the progress of civilization and recinctly set forth in this passage, we should finement, render it difficult to resist their have had English grammar, long ere this, tendency to displace many of the timeplaced on its own bottom, and the fact honoured means of mental discipline. There would have been recognized and acted upon is now a large class of educators in England that modern English is no proper medium and America, who look upon the study of for grammatical discipline ; and, in the ab- Latin and Greek, for example, as a sad sence of the study of Latin and Greek, a waste of time, when there is such an acresort would have been had to Anglo-Saxon, cumulation of useful knowledge in the both as a means of exercising the young world. This study, they argue, was all very


well when there was little else to be learned ; But if the old college curriculum must be but that we should now sweep from our halls departed from, the next best course to be of learning the mediæval dust and cobwebs, pursued towards securing a similar, if not and let in the wholesome and invigorating an equivalent, discipline, is to study our own light of science. This sounds very plausi language in its historical development. Any ble, even to those who regard education in one who will take the trouble to examine its true character, as an out-drawing and a all the more important and ambitious Engdiscipline of the mental faculties, irrespec- lish grammars that have been written, must tive of the special outward direction their arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the exercise

may take in after life; and to those English language cannot be studied, with who regard it as identical with the acquisi- any satisfactory results, on the basis of modtion of useful knowledge--and they consti- ern English. No man ever worked harder tute a numerous class-as perfectly con- or more earnestly, “to do up” English gramclusive.

mar, than Goold Brown. He spent a third Of one thing classical scholars are quite of a century on his “Grammar of English certain, that the study of Latin and Greek Grammars,” the 6th edition of which conaffords a certain kind of discipline such as tains 1,102 pages 8vo., of closely printed no other study has yet been found to afford, matter, painstakingly sifted from 463 gramand that, too, at an age when the mind is not mars and 85 other works. And with what prepared for much knowledge of any kind. result? A great cartload of a book which,

The science of comparative philology, so far as an adequate exposition of the conwhich is little more than half a century old, struction of the English language is concernhas already quite as great a claim upon edu- ed, isn't worth the shelf-room it occupies in cators as any of the more developed sciences, a library. And the secret of the failure may bearing, as it does, upon ethnology, and be stated in very few words: The author claiming the attention not of the scholar did the best, perhaps, condensation apart, only, but also of the historian, the mental that could be done, on the principle adoptand moral philosopher, and the theologian; ed, namely, of sifting nearly 500 grammars, and which, “though it professes to treat of all of which, with few exceptions, were based words only, teaches us that there is more in on the assumption that English grammar words than is dreamt of in our philoso- could be treated on the basis of the modern phies.”

forms of the language. The modern Eng. For the study of this important science, lish is, as we have already said, almost enthere is no better preparation in early life tirely stript of inflection ; but its syntax, and than a thorough training in Latin and Greek, what is peculiar in its phraseology, have especially Greek; while the study of the de- grown out of a highly inflected tongue, the velopment of the Greek verb affords of itself Anglo-Saxon, which, more than eight hunthe best discipline to the young mind that dred years ago, was brought in conflict with has, perhaps, ever been devised. And then, the language of a conquering people, with as the foundation of a sound literary taste, which it struggled for more than four hunthe study of Latin and Greek may be said dred years, and came out of the struggle victo be indispensable. Every Professor who torious, indeed, but shorn of all its inflectional has had any experience in conducting classes trappings. Yet all the residual forms of its of young men in the critical reading of an phraseology were explainable and still are, English author, knows the great advantage only through the forms it had cast off before enjoyed by those who have had a classical | the struggle was ended. Take, for example, training over those who have not.

the familiar use of the definite article before comparatives, as in the following sentence : -es or -s of the nominative and accusative “For neither if we eat, are we the better; plural (derived from Anglo-Saxon -as, of the neither if we eat not, are we the worse. 2nd declension), which became the common How could the formation of the before better | ending of all cases in the plural. But in the and worse be explained to a class of young expression “forty foot,” “ foot” is the repupils knowing nothing of Latin nor of any mains of the old genitive plural “fôta.” other inflected language? Its explanation There is a small class of nouns in Anglowould be attended with some difficulty. Saxon, to which fðt, foot, belongs, that, inBut a mere smattering of Latin on the part stead of inflection, undergo a vowel change of the class would enable the teacher to in the dative singular and in the nominative make this use of the before comparatives and accusative plural ; e.g., fðt, foot, bôc, perfectly plain, by showing its correspon- book, gos, goose, tôth tooth, lūs, louse, mûs, dence with co, the ablative neuter of is, ea, mouse, etc.; dative singular and nominative id, in the same situation. But if the class and accusative plural, fêt, bêc, gês, têth, lês, were to begin with Anglo-Saxon grammar mês, respectively. But in the genitive instead of modern English, a resort to Latin plural, the vowel of the nominative singular would be unnecessary; the would be at once is always retained ; fôta, of feet, bôca, of recognized as the ablative the or thy of the books, gôsa, of geese, tôtha, of teeth, lûsa, of Anglo-Saxon demonstrative adjective pro- lice, mûsa, of mice. And this explains the noun, sé, seo, thiet, (corresponding with the apparently singular form of “foot,” in the exLatin is, ea, id), representing, in its old pression, “a forty foot rope,” which is the pronominal character, the two propositions, genitive plural after “forty," with the ending we eat," and “we eat not,” and as an ab- dropt. The expression in Anglo-Saxon lative of cause or means, qualifying or limit- would be “ râp feowertig fóta lâng,” a rope ing, adverbially, better and worse. “ For forty of feet long, or “a forty of feet long neither if we eat, are we the (ibat is) on that rope, or, by an ellipsis of “long," a forty of account, namely, that we eat) better; neither feet (fota) rope. if we eat not, are we the (that is, on that But to explain the modern English verb account, namely, that we eat not) worse.” to a class of young learners is attended with

Sometimes phrases occur in the most still greater difficulties-difficulties not real, familiar, every-day English, which are totally but resulting from the attempt to study the unexplainable in any other way than by a language at the wrong end; and that part resort to their original forms. Take, for of the verb which is generally the least unexample, the expression “a forty foot rope.” derstood is the infinitive. What is the infiNo one would say a forty feet rope," and nitive form of a verb? It is its name or yet how is the apparent inconsistency of nominative form, that form by which an act uniting the numeral “ forty” with “foot” to is designated. It is, in fact, an abstract be explained? Only by going back to the noun, being the name given to an act conoriginal Anglo-Saxon construction, which received apart from an actor. Hence we find quired nouns denoting measure, weight, it used in all languages as a noun, in the value, &c., and also when used after large character of a subject of a proposition, and numerals, to be put in the genitive. The of a complement of a predicate. When we genitive plural of nouns and adjectives in turn to the parent language, we find that Anglo-Saxon invariably ended in -a, which, our modern infinitive is derived from an in the gradual dropping off of inflections, oblique case of the old infinitive. The old dwindled into an obscure -e, and this was infinitive ended invariably in -an, as bindan, finally displaced by the predominant ending to bind, důfan, to drive, standan, to stand,

[ocr errors]

&c., and was used as a nominative and as ly, in their use of thee as a nominative an accusative. In addition to this, there “How does thee do?" But it is a case was a dative form, preceded always by tô, exactly similar to that of you; thee was and ending in -anne, the final -e being the in Saxon the dative and accusative singular dative ending of nouns of the 2nd declen- of thù, thou. The only difference is, that sion, the final -n of the nominative form the Quakers use as a nominative the singubeing doubled in accordance with the rule lar of the old dative and accusative, instead that a single final consonant, preceded by a of the plural, when addressing a single indisingle unaccented vowel, is doubled when a vidual. vowel follows in the inflection; so that the But while the old dative of the infinitive infinitive or abstract verb bindan, to bind, has become the name or nominative form, it was declined, nom., bindan, dat., tô-bin- still retains its dative force in many situadanne, acc., bindan. This dative form of tions; as in house to let, he is to blame; the infinitive, as the prefix tô- indicates, was eager to learn, wonderful to tell, they went

; employed after adjectives to express the to scoff and remained to pray. When the modrift of the feeling or quality which they dern English infinitive is used as a nominadesignated, and after verbs to express their tive or an accusative, the prefix to cannot purpose, while the distinctive ending -en, of be parsed as an element of speech, as it is a the early English infinitive, derived from the meaningless sign of the infinitive ; but when Anglo-Saxon-an, was fading out (in Chaucer's used as a dative, as in the above examples, day, already it had generally dwindled down and expressive of the drift of a feeling or to an obscure -e, which constituted a light quality, or the purpose of an act, the prefix syllable in his verse when followed by a con- has its old force. Now any attempt to exsonant); this dative form was gradually plain our present infinitive to a class of betaking its place, and the prefix tô- was as ginners must, we are persuaded, result only gradually losing its occupation as the in perplexity. And without a clear underexponent of a relation, and becoming the standing of the infinitive, the analytic forms meaningless sign of the infinitive in the of the English verb cannot be understood; place of the old ending. This prefix tô- while to take those forms collectively, as is has become so inseparable from the infini- done by grammarians, gives the learner do tive, that it is difficult for the mere English idea of their structure. To learn from scholar to think of an infinitive apart from Goold Brown that “might have been loved” it; so much so, that in the places where the is the passive voice, potential mood, pluperpure

infinitive is still used, as after the so- fect tense, of the verb love, is of no use to called auxiliaries do, did, will, would, shall, the pupil as a grammatical exercise. In should, may, might, can, could, must, &c., grammatical parsing, every word should be of which it is the direct complement, and treated as a distinct part of speech, if we after a few verbs like see, bid, dare, let, &c., would have a clear understanding of the its true character is not always recognised. structure of language ; but in the case of The same thing has happened with nouns the English composite tenses, this would and pronouns; dative and accusative forms not be possible, except by studying them have become name or nominative forms. historically. For example, the modern English pronoun We did not set out to write a treatise on you was originally a dative and an accusative the study of grammar. Our purpose has plural, Anglo-Saxon eów, the nominative be- been to make a few suggestions as to how ing ye, Anglo-Saxon ge. The Quakers are that study should be pursued; and we mainoften accused of speaking ungrammatical- | tain


ist. That a thorough grammatical disci- discipline, and that in the absence of the pline in early life is the indispensable basis study of Latin and Greek, resort must be of a sound education.

had to the parent language, the Anglo-Saxon, endly. That the Latin and Greek lan- both as a means of exercising the young puguages are the best media through which pil in grammatical relations, and of tracing that discipline can be secured.

the origin of modern English construction 3rdly. That the uninflected modern Eng- and phraseology. lish is no proper medium for grammatical


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« iepriekšējāTurpināt »