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pounded words, and by words of various classes analodcally
formed, some of them before overlooked, and some of them
of recent origin. If we should proceed to any thing like a
detailed account in these particulars, the wonder at first excit-
ed by such a great accession would be greatly lessened, if it
would not wholly vanish. To the words in this Dictionary,
not found in Walker, the pronunciation is added according to
bis principles, so far as they could be applied. In regard to the
orthography, Mr. Worcester made a few changes for the sake
of consistency, which are always carefully specified.

This Dictionary, thus faithfully and judiciously compiled,
may justly be regarded as a great accession to English Lexi-
cography ; containing as it does so complete a vocabulary, and
exhibiting in respect to words of doubtful pronunciation, the
authorities of other orthoepists, in those cases, in which they
vary from Walker.

Soon after this, and in the same year, we were greeted by
Mr. Webster's long expected great Dictionary, in two large

Juartos. In his Advertisement to this work he says, that '^ the
>ictionary of Walker has been found by actual enumeration
to contain, in round numbers, thirty-eight thousand words.
Those of Johnson, Sheridan, Jones, and Perry, have not far
from the same number. The Amercan edition of Todd's John-
son contains fifty eight thousand. In the work now submitted
to the public, the number has increased to seventy thousand."
It may appear incredible that nearly twice as many words
as are contained in Johnson, should so soon find place in an
English dictionary. But the seeming mystery is easily ex-
plained. Nouns in common use, particularly coinpounded
words, including also adjectives in the same form (almost
illimitable) or analogically derived from them, and verbs deriv-
ed from nouns (an uncontrollable process), either with or
without change, such as qtmrantinCy electioneer , retort^ mag-
netize^ constitute a part of the additions, amounting to sev-
eral hundreds. Participles, derived from verbs, make another



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1833.] EnglUh Lexicography in the United Sates. 97

large class, sparingly introduced into preceding English Dic-
tionaries. Add to these, adjectives derived from proper names,
legal terms, and above all, terms belonging to the arts and
sciences, some of which have been vastly extended, some al-
most created, or the nomenclature of them in their divisions
and ramifications so essentially changed and enlarged, as to
form almost a new language, — and it is not wholly unac-
countable that thirty-two thousand words should be added to
Johnson's vocabulary.

A good deal was expected of Mr. Webster, and several
things are accomplished by him, so far as his authority ex-
tends, in regard to orthography. In this respect, it seems to us
that two things are especially worthy of the lexicographer's
best endeavours, — namely, first, the fixing of what is loose and
uncertain, and secondly, a consistency in words of analogous
formation, so far as it can be attained without too great an
outrage against custom, and even prejudice. The saving of
a letter by spelling fetheVy lethevy while heather and weath-
er are allowed to enjoy their superfluity, and the elision of the
final e in doctrine y determine^ Sec, and the expunging of b
from doubt and debty admitting that etymology can be fairly
pleaded, amount to so little gain, and introduce such a disturbing
force into the machinery of language, that we cannot give these
speculations any countenance. For there is no reason why
there should not be an oflfset to this frugality of letters in one
case, by a generous admission of supernumeraries in others,
where etymology can be as strongly urged. But we are
pleased to find that Mr. Webster now lays no stress upon
these things, which serve, in our opinion, to lessen attention to
what is more important ; and that his wishes and efforts are
directed substantially to what we regard as our utmost need.
To one who has attended only superficially to the subject, it
must be a matter of great surprise to find in how many instan-
ces the usage in orthography is not yet settled, and in how
many others analogy is violated. For what Mr. Webster has
done to fix the spelling where usage is doubtful, and to estab-
lish the uniform operation of rules where there exists no rea-
son for exceptions, we cordially welcome his labors. And
we could heartily wish that labors so assiduous and long
continued were in all respects so well directed, as to de-
mand a judgment in his favor. ' But when, for example, he
invades the botanical nomenclature, which, according to for-



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98 English Leadcography in the United States, [Feb.

mer notions, belongs rather to a Cyclopaedia, than to a Dictiona-
ry of a particular language, we cannot perceive what good was
to be expected. Is it credible that he looked forward to a
revolution in this respect, and presumed that the standard
botanical works should be made to conform to his dictation ?
This is certainly reversing the order of things. It is the pur-
pose of his dictionary, or should be, to explain the names al-
ready existing in any art or science, and not to translate them ;
to make the best of the language of the authors, if he thought
it belonged to him to define it, and not to tell them how they
might have chosen better ; in default of which he will have
nothing to do with their gibberish. Besides, in what respect
are Monander, Monogyn, and the rest, Anglicized though they
may seem, in some sort, more intelligible to the English read-
er, than Monandria, Monogynia, &c. ? There are also some
smaller matters, in which we dissent from Mr. Webster in re-
gard to orthography. He allows apostrophy and catastrophy,
but not hyperboly ; thinks that " ammonia anglicised forms
an elegant word, ammony " ; and prefers picturesk to the
common spelling. But we have not room to go farther
into detail, and would by no means magnify these blemish-
es, so as to counterpoise, in the judgment of our readers,
any essential improvements which are to be found in the or-
thography of this Dictionary.

No less was expected of Mr. Webster concerning etymolo-
gy than upon orthography. It was well known, from what he
had previously made public respecting his pursuits, that he
bad long been employed in an unwearied study and compari-
son of different languages to ascertain their affinities and the
derivation of words. He could not fail to perceive that there
were lamentable chasms in the history of their travels, such
often as to leave much to conjecture, and to produce much
uncertainty respecting their identity. Hence it is, that
while in a great portion of our words we readily perceive their
agreement with those of the northern European dialects, or
those of the Norman French, through which these last are
for the most part readily traced to the Latin; yet when
we attempt to connect them with the oriental dialects,
some links in the chain are in general evidently lost, beyond
all hope of discovery. Without going into particulars on this
subject, for which we have no space, we heartily, and without
fear of contradiction, maintain that the author of this Diction-



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1833.] English Lexicography in the United States, 99

arjr has entered more deeply and more successfully into ety-
mological researches, and the comparison of languages, than
any of bis predecessors in the same vocation. And though
we might with good reason, as it seems to us, dissent from
some of his decisions upon this subject, it would give us no
pleasure to lessen any one's respect for the work, by points
ing out errors and faults, from which a dictionary, containing
such extensive inquiries and speculations in the mazes of ety-
mology, cannot be wholly free. In the North American Re-
view for April, 1829, there is an examination of this Dic-
tionary highly creditable to the author of the review, alike for
thorough research, and the indulgent, generous spirit display-
ed towards the great philologist, who has toiled so long, and
faithfully, and successfully in English Lexicography. We
mention this Review principally on account of the remarks
upon etymology and the affinity of languages, and the illustra-
tions accompanying them. These remarks and illustrations,
composing more than twenty pages, form a beautiful tractate
upon this subject, at once clear and succinct, such as shows
that the author is deeply versed in philology, and such as, so
far as it extends, would reflect honor on a scholar of any
land.

As a defining dictionary, the work of Dr. Webster is much
extended. The defects and faults in this department of
lexicography, which had originally crept into the English
dictionaries, and had long been copied, are here supplied and
corrected. The more recent acceptations of old words are also
given, though it is to be regretted, that, in so many cases, the
authority is not cited. In this part of his Dictionary, so indis-
pensable, and yet so difficult, the author has done probably as
much as could be reasonably expected ; sometimes we think
more than enough. And after all, in respect to the meaning
of the great mass of words which belong legitimately and
without dispute to the English language, as such, most of
which words we find in Johnson, nothing has yet superseded
his examples from standard authors, intended lor the solution
of difficulties, and the supply of defects. We speak feelingly
and from long experience on this subject. In our dark distresses
when attempting; to settle the true or customary sense of words,
and the pure idioms, which we have trembled for, with self-
distrust also, amidst the corruptions which have surrounded
usy we have received from Johnson those cheering rays of



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100 English Lexicography in the United States. [Feb.

light, for which we shall never cease to be grateful. Multi-
tude3 of words, which are as well defined in dictionaries as
they well can be, still perplex the young writer ; and it is
not till he sees them applied to their subjects, and surrounded
by their adjuncts, that he can become fully satisfied concern-
ing their meaning and the propriety of their use. But a single
lexicographer cannot accomplish every thing ; and while we
have felt prompted to pay this grateful tribute to Johnson in
passing, we would by no means be thought to overlook the un-
questionable superiority of Mr. Webster's Dictionary in other
particulars.

As a pronouncing dictionary, Mr. Webster's differs from
the prevailing authorities and practice in some respects, and
the vowels, whose sounds in particular situations he thinks
cannot be explained by any system of notation, he leaves un-
touched.

Mr. Webster published also an Abridgment of his large
dictionary " for the use of primary Schools and the counting-
house" ; in which he has corrected some errors in orthogra-
phy, and made some changes. " The reader is informed,"
he says, " that wherever discrepancies appear between this
work and the large ones,* this duodecimo volume, my last
work, all written and corrected by myself, is to be considered
as containing the pointing, orthography, and pronunciation
which I most approve."

An Abridgment of Mr. Webster's large Dictionary, which
was executed by Mr. J. E. Worcester, was published in 1829,
in a large octavo form, to which is added, by the same hand, a
synopsis of words differently pronounced by different or-
thoepists, and Walker's Key to the Classical Pronunciation
of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names.

This Abridgment contains all the words of the original
work (70,000)", to which are added all the words in Todd's
Johnson, and such additional ones as appeared worthy of inser-
tion. The work of abrid-rment therefore does not extend to the
vocabulary ; far otherwise, for it is undoubtedly the largest
vocabulary of the English language yet produced, perhaps the
largest that ever will be produced. The next arithmetical pro-
cess, probably, will be that of subtraction. The leading and

* Alluding to his quarto Dictionary, and the Abridgment of the sunt
by J. E. Worcester.



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1833.] E^lUh Lexicography in the United States. 101

most important etymologies, and the definitions of the original
work y are retained ; but the illustrations y except in doubt-
ful or contested cases, are omitted. — In regard to orthogra^
phy, that of the original work takes the lead, and is followed
by that which proposes a change or opportunity for choice.

Near the close of the year 1830, was published the
Dictionary, whose title is placed at the head of this article.
It is a convenient manual from its size, its compression, its
comprehensiveness, and the clearness of the type; which,
though necessarily small, is so distinct as to answer all the
purposes for which the book is intended. Mr. Worcester
tells us that he formed the plan of this work, when he was
engaged in editing Chalmer's Abridgment of Todd's John-
son. That a work of this kind was needed, no one, who
has attended to the subject, can doubt. And all who have
examined Mr. Worcester's dictionary and are competent
judges of its merits, must be satisfied that much has been
done to supply a well known deficiency, in regard to books of
this class. It does not contain so many words as Webster,
by nearly a score and half of thousands ; but it contains all
words that are wanted in a manual English dictionary, for
every man, woman, and child. In addition to the authorities,
on the basis of which it is formed, namely Johnson and
Walker, Jameson's Dictionary stands at the head of those made
use of by Mr. Worcester, and many words are taken from
Crabb's Technological Dictionary, Maunder's New and En-
larged Dictionary, and Webster's Dictionary.

The explanations of the words are as exact and complete as
could be expected in so small a compass ; and in the pronun-
ciation of those concemmg which orthoepists difter, there are
constant proofs of good judgment and an ear well trained in
the art of distinguishing differences between kindred sounds.

We began our remarks in this review by adverting to the
surprise which an Englishman would have felt, thirty years
ago, at the appearance of an English Dictionary on this side
the water. But how greatly things have changed. Professor
Dunglison, of the University of Virginia, an Englishman and a
distinguished scholar, who has attended to English Lexicogra-
phy and^is acquainted with most of the works on this subject,
says, " I can, without hesitation, award to this Dictionary the
merit of being the best adapted to the end in view of any that I
have examined. It is, in other words, the best portable ' Pro-

VOL. I. NO. II. 14



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lOS English Lexicography in the United States. [Feb.

nounciDg and Explanatory Dictionary ' that I have seen, and
as such IS deserving of very extensive circulation." It is, we
believe, extending its circulation very widely, and we see no
reason, why it should not, with those emendations which such
a work must require, in which perfection can only be approx-
imated, continue to spread more widely, and become the
standard work of its kind.

A large Dictionary of the English Language is still, we think,
a desideratum. The materials for such a work seem now to
be very abundant, though the stores of some Philologers and
Etymologists may yet afford more, and of greater value, than
we are apt to suppose. To give a process by which such a
work should be formed, might seem presumptuous. Yet
there are some points on which we are so fully satisfied, that
We are not afraid to speak our opinion ; and whether right or
wrong, to invite a discussion of the subject.

In the first place, the business of purification should be gone
through in regard to our huge vocabulary, in which, hitherto,
it seems to have been thought meritorious not only to retain
every thing, but to crowd in every thing that would be toler^
ated. This sink and repository of heterogeneous corruptions,
as Home Tooke would call it, or this Augean Stable, as oth-
ers might fancy to name it, filled with more than seventy
thousand larger and smaller cattle, of native or foreign origin,
should first be cleansed. Look a moment at the very begin-
ning of our dictionaries. Are there not a thousand Latin words,
genuine or barbarous, not found in any English vocabulary,
as much entitled to admission as abactor ^ abacus, abanniiion ?
and as many French words with claims full as strong as a6&re«-
voirl And why should we continue to print even with stereo-
type a host of mere dictionary words which Johnson retained
without pretending to find any authority, merely because some
of his predecessors had committed such deeds of pedantry ?
Who would now introduce for the first time such words as
abare, abatude, abature, abditive, ablactate, and so on to the
end of the alphabet ? And if a host of words of this sort have
so long been a mere incumbrance, neither consulted to explain
old English writers, nor called up by modern ones, with what
reason do they remain, if it be not merely to swell the vocab-
ulary, while they add nothing to its value f

Again, more consistency, m fact a well defined, methodical
system should be settled and strictly applied, in regard to



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1832.] English Lexicogrwphy in the United States. 103

compouoded words, and technical and foreign words, whenever
a thorough reformation is attempted in English lexicography.
We do not believe that the dictionary of any other lan-
guage is lumbered up with such a crude collection of words as
that of ours, even after making all due abatements for the het-
erogeneous nature of the English language. A very wide
knowledge of English literature and science, a very correct
judgment, and great critical acuteness are requisite for the
task we are proposing ; but the time will come when one or
more able scholars, possessing these requisite qualifications^,
will undertake it. So much for the vocabulary, the first es-
sential thing required.

In regard to the explanation of words, and the illustration
of them by authorities, a great portion of the labor is already
accomplished. The definitions of Johnson are in general so
gpod, and such improvements, and where new words are add-
ed, sucbr additions too, are made by Webster, that little re-
mains to be sought. There are indeed defects and faults and
superfluities in both ; but a thorough knowledge of English,
ready discrimination, and critical care and diligence can com-
pass all that can be wished in this respect. Then as to the
authorities and illustrative examples, what a treasure is at
band in Johnson ! His examples may be abridged, greatly
abridged perhaps ; but in general they cannot be spared ; no
thorough English scholar will consent to have them passed by.
The words which Johnson overlooked, and such as have gain-
ed a place in our vocabulary since his time, should be support-
ed and explained in a similar manner. We look upon this
sort of illustration as one of the most effectual means of pre-
serving the purity and idiomatic beauty of our language; and
shall always suspect those, who speak disparagingly of this part
of the lexicographer's labors, to have been very careless ob-
servers of style, and to be very incompetent judges of the dif-
ference between genuine English idiom, and barbarous jar-
gon.

We have very little to say about etymology. The great
additions made by Dr. Webster to this department should be
retained so far as they appear to be well founded. And in
general we should be satisfied with the rejection of all spuri-
ous matter relating to this subject, from whatever quarter it
has sprung, and a well digested collection and application of
what serves to explain the origin and particularly the meaning
of words, or even to gratify learned curiosity.



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104 Professor Follen^s Inaugural Discourse. [Feb.

The utmost brevity has been aimed at in these remarks up-
on a wide subject ; and if any should think they fill too many
of our pages, our only plea arises from the importance of the
subject to all readers, and from its being a subject also to
which we shall not probably have occasion soon to recur.

Art. II. — Inaugural Discourse, delivered before the Uni-
versity in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 3, 1831.
By Charles Follen, Professor of the German Language
and Literature. Cambridge. Billiard fc Brown. 1831.
8vo. pp. 28.

The German language and literature have of late years
attracted much attention throughout Europe, and in this coun-
try, and are likely to attract a great deal more. A few words
may therefore be allowed us, respecting their most obvious
claims to notice. The German language is distinguished by
the copiousness of its vocabulary, and its power of indefinite
increase from its own stock. This arises from its being an
original language, not made up like the English, of a motley
mixture of Greek, Latin, and French, with Teutonic roots, but
Teutonic throughout. A German compounds new terms al-
most ad libitum ; and these compounds, being drawn from the
stock of words already familiar to the people, are immediately
understood by all, and therefore, if expressive, are easily ad-
mitted into use. Hence the German language has words for
the most various shades of ideas, for many of which the Eng-
lish aflfords no corresponding terms. If we wish to form a
new term in science or philosophy, we run to Greek. But, as
words of such an origin are necessarily unintelligible to the
great body of the people, they make their way into use very
slowly, and few of them comparatively obtain currency. Hence
the comparative poverty of the English tongue in terms ex-
pressive of the classifications of science, or of shades of thought
and feeling, and hence one of the difficulties of clothing in an
English dress the German systems of intellectual philosophy.
The German Language is distinguished too for its great flexi-
bility, and power of inversion and involution. This is owing
in a considerable degree to the freedom allowed in placing the
prepositions, which enables a German to give coherency and
clearness to his endless sentences, with all their parentheses,
illustrations, and qualifications, which, literally rendered in the



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1833.] Professor FoUen^s Inaugural Discourse. 105

stiff English tongue, would present a scene of inextricable
confusion. This power in the language, of continuing a
train of thought unbroken by the numberless periods of an
English page, produces great fluency of style, and enables the
reader to keep his attention fixed on the leading ideas with
comparative ease, while in English, in which a writer is so
often compelled to break up his thoughts, and give to each qual-
ification, illustration, or subsidiary idea, a separate sentence^
a reader's attention is liable to be drawn from the leading
train of thought, and lost in the merely accessary and auxilia-
ry, or the writer, for the sake of bein^ intelligible, retrenches
more than he is disposed to do. The richness and flexibility of
the German language are manifested in the remarkable trans-
fusion of the spirit of foreign works of imagination into Ger-
man versions. The German public appreciate as fully and
admire as enthusiastically the beauties of Shakspeare in a
German translation, as an Englishman or American does in
the original. Such is the language. We shall now touch up-
on a few of the strong points of the literature.

The writers of Germany are distinguished for a liberal cos-
mopolitan character, for the power of appreciating all forms
of excellence as well foreign as native, and a superiority to the
pride and jealousy produced by a petty patriotism. They
are distinguished for an independent love of truth, and a con-
tempt of authority unsupported by reason ; for great thorough-
ness of research, and massy erudition. The causes of this char-
acter we must look for in the circumstances of their country.
The governments of Germany are monarchical ; their power
is arbitrary even where it is not in form despotic ; and the ave-
nues to posts of honor and trust are barred against the great
body of the people. The counU*y is split into numerous states,
each with its court, capital, and university. The states are
many of them poor and politically insignificant, and must re-
main obscure unless they can find some cheap means of dis-
tmguishing themselves. The German princes have there-



Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 12 of 54)