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before or after an other, to which it has not some relation according to
the meaning of the passage. Here then are the relation, agreement,
government, and arrangement, of words in sentences; and these make up the
whole of syntax - but not the whole of grammar. To this one part of grammar,
therefore, the relation of words is central and fundamental; and in the
other parts also, there are some things to which the consideration of it is
incidental; but there are many more, like spelling, pronunciation,
derivation, and whatsoever belongs merely to letters, syllables, and the
forms of words, with which it has, in fact, no connexion. The relation of
words, therefore, should be clearly and fully explained in its proper
place, under the head of syntax; but the general idea of grammar will not
be brought nearer to truth, by making it to be "the art of _expressing the
relations_ of things in construction," &c., according to the foregoing

12. The term _grammar_ is derived from the Greek word [Greek: gramma], a
letter. The art or science to which this term is applied, had its origin,
not in cursory speech, but in the practice of writing; and speech, which is
first in the order of nature, is last with reference to grammar. The matter
or common subject of grammar, is language in general; which, being of two
kinds, _spoken_ and _written_, consists of certain combinations either of
sounds or of visible signs, employed for the expression of thought. Letters
and sounds, though often heedlessly confounded in the definitions given of
vowels, consonants, &c., are, in their own nature, very different things.
They address themselves to different senses; the former, to the sight; the
latter, to the hearing. Yet, by a peculiar relation arbitrarily established
between them, and in consequence of an almost endless variety in the
combinations of either, they coincide in a most admirable manner, to effect
the great object for which language was bestowed or invented; namely, to
furnish a sure medium for the communication of thought, and the
preservation of knowledge.

13. All languages, however different, have many things in common. There are
points of a philosophical character, which result alike from the analysis
of any language, and are founded on the very nature of human thought, and
that of the sounds or other signs which are used to express it. When such
principles alone are taken as the subject of inquiry, and are treated, as
they sometimes have been, without regard to any of the idioms of particular
languages, they constitute what is called General, Philosophical, or
Universal Grammar. But to teach, with Lindley Murray and some others, that
"Grammar may be considered as _consisting of two species_, Universal and
Particular," and that the latter merely "applies those general principles
to a particular language," is to adopt a twofold absurdity at the
outset.[2] For every cultivated language has its particular grammar, in
which whatsoever is universal, is necessarily included; but of which,
universal or general principles form only a part, and that comparatively
small. We find therefore in grammar no "two species" of the same genus; nor
is the science or art, as commonly defined and understood, susceptible of
division into any proper and distinct sorts, except with reference to
different languages - as when we speak of Greek, Latin, French, or English

14. There is, however, as I have suggested, a certain science or philosophy
of language, which has been denominated Universal Grammar; being made up of
those points only, in which many or all of the different languages
preserved in books, are found to coincide. All speculative minds are fond
of generalization; and, in the vastness of the views which may thus be
taken of grammar, such may find an entertainment which they never felt in
merely learning to speak and write grammatically. But the pleasure of such
contemplations is not the earliest or the most important fruit of the
study. The first thing is, to know and understand the grammatical
construction of our own language. Many may profit by this acquisition, who
extend not their inquiries to the analogies or the idioms of other tongues.
It is true, that every item of grammatical doctrine is the more worthy to
be known and regarded, in proportion as it approaches to universality. But
the principles of all practical grammar, whether universal or particular,
common or peculiar, must first be learned in their application to some one
language, before they can be distinguished into such classes; and it is
manifest, both from reason and from experience, that the youth of any
nation not destitute of a good book for the purpose, may best acquire a
knowledge of those principles, from the grammatical study of their native

15. Universal or Philosophical Grammar is a large field for speculation and
inquiry, and embraces many things which, though true enough in themselves,
are unfit to be incorporated with any system of practical grammar, however
comprehensive its plan. Many authors have erred here. With what is merely
theoretical, such a system should have little to do. Philosophy, dealing in
generalities, resolves speech not only as a whole into its constituent
parts and separable elements, as anatomy shows the use and adaptation of
the parts and joints of the human body; but also as a composite into its
matter and form, as one may contemplate that same body in its entireness,
yet as consisting of materials, some solid and some fluid, and these
curiously modelled to a particular figure. Grammar, properly so called,
requires only the former of these analyses; and in conducting the same, it
descends to the thousand minute particulars which are necessary to be known
in practice. Nor are such things to be despised as trivial and low:
ignorance of what is common and elementary, is but the more disgraceful for
being ignorance of mere rudiments. "Wherefore," says Quintilian, "they are
little to be respected, who represent this art as mean and barren; in
which, unless you faithfully lay the foundation for the future orator,
whatever superstructure you raise will tumble into ruins. It is an art,
necessary to the young, pleasant to the old, the sweet companion of the
retired, and one which in reference to every kind of study has in itself
more of utility than of show. Let no one therefore despise as
inconsiderable the elements of grammar. Not because it is a great thing, to
distinguish consonants from vowels, and afterwards divide them into
semivowels and mutes; but because, to those who enter the interior parts of
this temple of science, there will appear in many things a great subtilty,
which is fit not only to sharpen the wits of youth, but also to exercise
the loftiest erudition and science." - _De Institutione Oratoria_, Lib. i,
Cap. iv.

16. Again, of the arts which spring from the composition of language. Here
the art of logic, aiming solely at conviction, addresses the understanding
with cool deductions of unvarnished truth; rhetoric, designing to move, in
some particular direction, both the judgement and the sympathies of men,
applies itself to the affections in order to persuade; and poetry, various
in its character and tendency, solicits the imagination, with a view to
delight, and in general also to instruct. But grammar, though intimately
connected with all these, and essential to them in practice, is still too
distinct from each to be identified with any of them. In regard to dignity
and interest, these higher studies seem to have greatly the advantage over
particular grammar; but who is willing to be an ungrammatical poet, orator,
or logician? For him I do not write. But I would persuade my readers, that
an acquaintance with that grammar which respects the genius of their
vernacular tongue, is of primary importance to all who would cultivate a
literary taste, and is a necessary introduction to the study of other
languages. And it may here be observed, for the encouragement of the
student, that as grammar is essentially the same thing in all languages, he
who has well mastered that of his own, has overcome more than half the
difficulty of learning another; and he whose knowledge of words is the most
extensive, has the fewest obstacles to encounter in proceeding further.

17. It was the "original design" of grammar, says Dr. Adam, to facilitate
"the acquisition of languages;" and, of all practical treatises on the
subject, this is still the main purpose. In those books which are to
prepare the learner to translate from one tongue into another, seldom is
any thing else attempted. In those also which profess to explain the right
use of vernacular speech, must the same purpose be ever paramount, and the
"original design" be kept in view. But the grammarian may teach many things
incidentally. One cannot learn a language, without learning at the same
time a great many opinions, facts, and principles, of some kind or other,
which are necessarily embodied in it. For all language proceeds from, and
is addressed to, the understanding; and he that perceives not the meaning
of what he reads, makes no acquisition even of the language itself. To the
science of grammar, the _nature of the ideas_ conveyed by casual examples,
is not very essential: to the learner, it is highly important. The best
thoughts in the best diction should furnish the models for youthful study
and imitation; because such language is not only the most worthy to be
remembered, but the most easy to be understood. A distinction is also to be
made between use and abuse. In nonsense, absurdity, or falsehood, there can
never be any grammatical authority; because, however language may be
abused, the usage which gives law to speech, is still that usage which is
founded upon the _common sense_ of mankind.

18. Grammar appeals to reason, as well as to authority, but to what extent
it should do so, has been matter of dispute. "The knowledge of useful
arts," says Sanctius, "is not an invention of human ingenuity, but an
emanation from the Deity, descending from above for the use of man, as
Minerva sprung from the brain of Jupiter. Wherefore, unless thou give
thyself wholly to laborious research into the nature of things, and
diligently examine the _causes and reasons_ of the art thou teachest,
believe me, thou shalt but see with other men's eyes, and hear with other
men's ears. But the minds of many are preoccupied with a certain perverse
opinion, or rather ignorant conceit, that in grammar, or the art of
speaking, there are no causes, and that reason is scarcely to be appealed
to for any thing; - than which idle notion, I know of nothing more
foolish; - nothing can be thought of which is more offensive. Shall man,
endowed with reason, do, say, or contrive any thing, without design, and
without understanding? Hear the philosophers; who positively declare that
nothing comes to pass without a cause. Hear Plato himself; who affirms that
names and words subsist by nature, and contends that language is derived
from nature, and not from art."

19. "I know," says he, "that the Aristotelians think otherwise; but no one
will doubt that names are the signs, and as it were the instruments, of
things. But the instrument of any art is so adapted to that art, that for
any other purpose it must seem unfit; thus with an auger we bore, and with
a saw we cut wood; but we split stones with wedges, and wedges are driven
with heavy mauls. We cannot therefore but believe that those who first gave
names to things, did it with design; and this, I imagine, Aristotle himself
understood when he said, _ad placitum nomina significare._ For those who
contend that names were made by chance, are no less audacious than if they
would endeavour to persuade us, that the whole order of the universe was
framed together fortuitously."

20. "You will see," continues he, "that in the first language, whatever it
was, the names of things were taken from Nature herself; but, though I
cannot affirm this to have been the case in other tongues, yet I can easily
persuade myself that in every tongue a reason can be rendered for the
application of every name; and that this reason, though it is in many cases
obscure, is nevertheless worthy of investigation. Many things which were
not known to the earlier philosophers, were brought to light by Plato;
after the death of Plato, many were discovered by Aristotle; and Aristotle
was ignorant of many which are now everywhere known. For truth lies hid,
but nothing is more precious than truth. But you will say, 'How can there
be any certain origin to names, when one and the same thing is called by
different names, in the several parts of the world?' I answer, of the same
thing there may be different causes, of which some people may regard one,
and others, an other. * * * There is therefore no doubt, that of all
things, even of words, a reason is to be rendered: and if we know not what
that reason is, when we are asked; we ought rather to confess that we do
not know, than to affirm that none can be given. I know that Scaliger
thinks otherwise; but this is the true account of the matter."

21. "These several observations," he remarks further, "I have unwillingly
brought together against those stubborn critics who, while they explode
reason from grammar, insist so much on the testimonies of the learned. But
have they never read Quintilian, who says, (Lib. i, Cap. 6,) that,
'Language is established by reason, antiquity, authority, and custom?' He
therefore does not exclude reason, but makes it the principal thing. Nay,
in a manner, Laurentius, and other grammatists, even of their fooleries,
are forward to offer _reasons_, such as they are. Moreover, use does not
take place without reason; otherwise, it ought to be called abuse, and not
use. But from use authority derives all its force; for when it recedes from
use, authority becomes nothing: whence Cicero reproves Coelius and Marcus
Antonius for speaking according to their own fancy, and not according to
use. But, 'Nothing can be lasting,' says Curtius, (Lib. iv,) 'which is not
based upon reason.' It remains, therefore, that of all things the reason be
first assigned; and then, if it can be done, we may bring forward
testimonies; that the thing, having every advantage, may be made the more
clear." - _Sanctii Minerva_, Lib. i, Cap. 2.

22. Julius Cæsar Scaliger, from whose opinion Sanctius dissents above,
seems to limit the science of grammar to bounds considerably too narrow,
though he found within them room for the exercise of much ingenuity and
learning. He says, "Grammatica est scientia loquendi ex usu; neque enim
constituit regulas scientibus usus modum, sed ex eorum statis
frequentibusque usurpatiombus colligit communem rationem loquendi, quam
discentibus traderet." - _De Causis L. Latinæ_, Lib. iv, Cap. 76. "Grammar
is the science of speaking according to use; for it does not establish
rules for those who know the manner of use, but from the settled and
frequent usages of these, gathers the common fashion of speaking, which it
should deliver to learners." This limited view seems not only to exclude
from the science the use of the pen, but to exempt the learned from any
obligation to respect the rules prescribed for the initiation of the young.
But I have said, and with abundant authority, that the acquisition of a
good style of writing is the main purpose of the study; and, surely, the
proficients and adepts in the art can desire for themselves no such
exemption. Men of genius, indeed, sometimes affect to despise the pettiness
of all grammatical instructions; but this can be nothing else than
affectation, since the usage of the learned is confessedly the basis of all
such instructions, and several of the loftiest of their own rank appear on
the list of grammarians.

23. Quintilian, whose authority is appealed to above, belonged to that age
in which the exegesis of histories, poems, and other writings, was
considered an essential part of grammar. He therefore, as well as Diomedes,
and other ancient writers, divided the grammarian's duties into two parts;
the one including what is now called grammar, and the other the
explanation of authors, and the stigmatizing of the unworthy. Of the
opinion referred to by Sanctius, it seems proper to make here an ampler
citation. It shall be attempted in English, though the paragraph is not an
easy one to translate. I understand the author to say, "Speakers, too, have
their rules to observe; and writers, theirs. Language is established by
reason, antiquity, authority, and custom. Of reason the chief ground is
analogy, but sometimes etymology. Ancient things have a certain majesty,
and, as I might say, religion, to commend them. Authority is wont to be
sought from orators and historians; the necessity of metre mostly excuses
the poets. When the judgement of the chief masters of eloquence passes for
reason, even error seems right to those who follow great leaders. But, of
the art of speaking, custom is the surest mistress; for speech is evidently
to be used as money, which has upon it a public stamp. Yet all these things
require a penetrating judgement, especially analogy; the force of which is,
that one may refer what is doubtful, to something similar that is clearly
established, and thus prove uncertain things by those which are
sure." - QUINT, _de Inst. Orat._, Lib. i, Cap. 6, p. 48.

24. The science of grammar, whatever we may suppose to be its just limits,
does not appear to have been better cultivated in proportion as its scope
was narrowed. Nor has its application to our tongue, in particular, ever
been made in such a manner, as to do _great_ honour to the learning or the
talents of him that attempted it. What is new to a nation, may be old to
the world. The development of the intellectual powers of youth by
instruction in the classics, as well as the improvement of their taste by
the exhibition of what is elegant in literature, is continually engaging
the attention of new masters, some of whom may seem to effect great
improvements; but we must remember that the concern itself is of no recent
origin. Plato and Aristotle, who were great masters both of grammar and of
philosophy, taught these things ably at Athens, in the fourth century
_before_ Christ. Varro, the grammarian, usually styled the most learned of
the Romans, was _contemporary_ with the Saviour and his apostles.
Quintilian lived in the _first_ century of our era, and before he wrote his
most celebrated book, taught a school twenty years in Rome, and received
from the state a salary which made him rich. This "consummate guide of
wayward youth," as the poet Martial called him, being neither ignorant of
what had been done by others, nor disposed to think it a light task to
prescribe the right use of his own language, was at first slow to undertake
the work upon which his fame now reposes; and, after it was begun, diligent
to execute it worthily, that it might turn both to his own honour, and to
the real advancement of learning.

25. He says, at the commencement of his book: "After I had obtained a quiet
release from those labours which for twenty years had devolved upon me as
an instructor of youth, certain persons familiarly demanded of me, that I
should compose something concerning the proper manner of speaking; but for
a long time I withstood their solicitations, because I knew there were
already illustrious authors in each language, by whom many things which
might pertain to such a work, had been very diligently written, and left to
posterity. But the reason which I thought would obtain for me an easier
excuse, did but excite more earnest entreaty; because, amidst the various
opinions of earlier writers, some of whom were not even consistent with
themselves, the choice had become difficult; so that my friends seemed to
have a right to enjoin upon me, if not the labour of producing new
instructions, at least that of judging concerning the old. But although I
was persuaded not so much by the hope of supplying what was required, as by
the shame of refusing, yet, as the matter opened itself before me, I
undertook of my own accord a much greater task than had been imposed; that
while I should thus oblige my very good friends by a fuller compliance, I
might not enter a common path and tread only in the footsteps of others.
For most other writers who have treated of the art of speaking, have
proceeded in such a manner as if upon adepts in every other kind of
doctrine they would lay the last touch in eloquence; either despising as
little things the studies which we first learn, or thinking them not to
fall to their share in the division which should be made of the
professions; or, what indeed is next to this, hoping no praise or thanks
for their ingenuity about things which, although necessary, lie far from
ostentation: the tops of buildings make a show, their foundations are
unseen." - _Quintiliani de Inst. Orat., Prooemium._

26. But the reader may ask, "What have all these things to do with English
Grammar?" I answer, they help to show us whence and what it is. Some
acquaintance with the history of grammar as a science, as well as some
knowledge of the structure of other languages than our own, is necessary to
him who professes to write for the advancement of this branch of
learning - and for him also who would be a competent judge of what is thus
professed. Grammar must not forget her origin. Criticism must not resign
the protection of letters. The national literature of a country is in the
keeping, not of the people at large, but of authors and teachers. But a
grammarian presumes to be a judge of authorship, and a teacher of teachers;
and is it to the honour of England or America, that in both countries so
many are countenanced in this assumption of place, who can read no language
but their mother tongue? English Grammar is not properly an indigenous
production, either of this country or of Britain; because it is but a
branch of the general science of philology - a new variety, or species,
sprung up from the old stock long ago transplanted from the soil of Greece
and Rome.

27. It is true, indeed, that neither any ancient system of grammatical
instruction nor any grammar of an other language, however contrived, can be
entirely applicable to the present state of our tongue; for languages must
needs differ greatly one from an other, and even that which is called the
same, may come in time to differ greatly from what it once was. But the
general analogies of speech, which are the central principles of grammar,
are but imperfectly seen by the man of one language. On the other hand, it
is possible to know much of those general principles, and yet be very
deficient in what is peculiar to our own tongue. Real improvement in the
grammar of our language, must result from a view that is neither partial
nor superficial. "Time, sorry artist," as was said of old, "makes all he
handles worse." And Lord Bacon, seeming to have this adage in view,
suggests: "If Time of course alter all things to the worse, and Wisdom and
Counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the
end?" - _Bacon's Essays_, p. 64.

28. Hence the need that an able and discreet grammarian should now and then
appear, who with skillful hand can effect those corrections which a change
of fashion or the ignorance of authors may have made necessary; but if he
is properly qualified for his task, he will do all this without a departure
from any of the great principles of Universal Grammar. He will surely be
very far from thinking, with a certain modern author, whom I shall notice
in an other chapter, that, "He is bound to take words and explain them as
he finds them in his day, _without any regard to their ancient construction
and application_." - _Kirkham's Gram._, p. 28. The whole history of every
word, so far as he can ascertain it, will be the view under which he will
judge of what is right or wrong in the language which he teaches. Etymology
is neither the whole of this view, nor yet to be excluded from it. I concur
not therefore with Dr. Campbell, who, to make out a strong case,
extravagantly says, "It is _never from an attention to etymology_, which
would frequently mislead us, but from custom, the only infallible guide in
this matter, that the meanings of words in present use must be
learnt." - _Philosophy of Rhetoric_, p. 188. Jamieson too, with an
implicitness little to be commended, takes this passage from Campbell; and,
with no other change than that of "_learnt_" to "_learned_" publishes it as
a corollary of his own. - _Grammar of Rhetoric_, p. 42. It is folly to state

Online LibraryGoold BrownThe Grammar of English Grammars → online text (page 5 of 254)