William Shepherd.

Systematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) online

. (page 6 of 44)
Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 44)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

glyphic of strength ; a horse, of liberty. Egypt was the country
where this kind of writing was roost studied, and brought into
a regular art. The Egyptians contrived to make their hiero-
glyphics both pictures and characters : in effecting this im-
provement- they proceeded gradually, by first making the prin-
cipal circumstance of the subject stand for the whole ; thus
they represented a battle of two armies in array, by two hands,
one holding a shield, and the other, a bow : then putting the
instrument representing the thing, whether real or metapho-
rical, for the thing itself; as an eye and sceptre to represent a
monarch ; a ship and pilot, the Governor of the universe ;
and finally, by making one thing stand for, and represent an-
other, where they discovered or imagined any resemblance ;
thus the universe was designed by a serpent m a circle, whose
variegated spots deaotedi the stars. The Egyptians, also,
pitched upon animals to be the emblems of moral objects,
according to the qualities with which they supposed them to
be endowed : thus, imprudence was denoted by a fly j wisdom,
or foresight, by an ant ; and victory, by a hawk.

The Chinese writing was the next improvement in the use
of hieroglyphics. The Egyptians joined characteristic marks
to injages, the Chinese threw out the images, and retained
only the contracted marks ; and from these marks proceeded
letters, which they use to this day. They have no alphabet
of letters or simple sounds, of which their words are com-
posed, but every single character is expressive of an idea : it
is a mark which signifies some one thing or object. The
number of these characters is, of course, almost immense ;
seventy or eighty thousand have been enumerated, so that to
become tolerably acquainted with them, is the business of a
whole life, a circumstance that will readily account for the
jimall progress that is made by the Chinese in literature and


evfery kind of science. It is certain that the Chineje cha-
racters are of the same nature with hieroglyphics they are
the signs of things, and not of words ; for the inhabitants of
Japan, Tonquin, Korea, &c. who speak different languages
from each other, and also from the Chinese, employ the same
written characters with them, and thus correspond intelligibly
with one another iu writing, though they are ignorant of the
language spoken in the respective countries. The figures that
we use in arithmetic, afford an exemplification of this sort of
writing. They have no dependence on words, each figure
represents the number for which it stands, and consequently
is equally understood by all nations who have agreed in the use
of figures.

To remedy the imperfections which attached themselves to
each of the methods of communication above referred to, was
the invention of signs, which should stand, not directly for
things, but words, by which things were distinguished from one
another ; hence it is probable an alphabet x)f syllables was in-
vented previously to an alphabet of letters. Such is even said
to be retained, at this day, in Ethiopia, and some countries
of the East. This, on account of the number of characters
wanted, would have rendered reading and writing very com-
plex and laborious ; and it, at length, gave way to the grand
discovery of letters. To whom we are indebted for this sub-
lime invention, we know not. They were, unquestionably,
brought into Greece, by a person denominated in history,
Cadmus, but who this Cadmus was, is not so easily deter-
mined. According to Blair, he was a Phoenician, and arrived
in Greece about 1500 years before the Christian era, bringing
with him sixteen letters, the others being added by Palamedes
and Simonides, viz. four by each.

Those who have investigated this subject, admit that much
difficulty is attached to it ; but they say, that the similarity in
name and figure, of the Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, and
Roman alphabets, is a decisive proof that they were originally
derived from the same source.


To Cadmus also we are indebted for the first establishment
of schools; he is said, likewise, to have taught the mysteries of
trade and navigation to the Grecians; and from him was de-
rived the epithet Cadmean, as applicable to brass, he being
the inventor of this species of metal, and introduced the use
of it into Greece. -

Although Dr. Blair dates the arrival of Cadmus from the
year 1493, B. C, yet this event is, by Sir Isaac Newton, re-
ferred to a much later period, viz. 1045 years before the birth
of Christ. Sir Isaac Newton imagines that the emigration of
the Phoenicians and Syrians, was occasioned by the conquests
of David. " These people," he says, " ileeing from Zidon
and from David, came, under the conduct of Cadmus and
other captains, into Asia Minor, Crete, Greece, and Lybia,
and introduced letters, music, poetry, metals and their fabri-
cation, and the other arts, sciences, and customs of the Phoe-
nicians. This happened about one hundred and forty years
before the Trojan war, and it was about the sixteenth year of
David's reign, that Cadmus fled from Zidon."

The ancient order of writing was from the right hand to
the left: afterwards, the Greeks used to write their lines alter-
nately from right to left, and from the left to the right. This
continued to the time of Solon, and, at length, the motion
from the left hand to the right being found more natural
and convenient, it w^s adopted throughout all the nations of

Writing was first exhibited on pillars and tables of stone,
afterwards upon metals : as it became practised more exten-
Mvely, the leaves and bark of trees were used in some coun-
tries ; and in others, tablets of wood, covered with a thin coat
of soft wax, on which the impression was made with a stylus
of iron. Parchment, manufactured from the hides of animals,
was an early inrention ; but paper, the great discovery of
modem times, was not made till the fourteenth century.

Having thus considered the origin of the elements of lan-
guage, we may pass on to its stracture: this comprehends


the nature and arrangement of the different parts of speech,
which will be considered at large in the succeeding chapters
devoted to Grammar, observing, however, that grammatical
rules have not sufficient authority to control the established
usage of language ; established custom, both in speaking and
writing, is the standard to which we must at last resort for
determining every controverted point in language and style.
Grammatical rules are, however, not to be regarded as use-
less. In every language that has been cultivated, there pre-
vails a certain structure and analogy of parts, which is under-
stood to be the foundation of the commonly received modes
of speech, and which, in all cases of doubt, possesses con-
siderable authority.

Usage and custom, with respect to language, are entirely
independent of reason ; and on these, as a just foundation,
commences grammar, a plan of which supposes a language
already introduced by use, and, without pretending to alter
or amend a tittle, only furnishes reflections, called rules, to
which the manner of speaking, adopted in that language, may
be reduced ; which reflections, or rules, make up the grammar
of that language.



Arrangement of Words Tlie Nonn Abstract Nouns Number Gender
AdnouD Pronoun.

1 HE Grammar of any language, as we have seen, is a set of
rules and observations, directing to the proper use of the sorts
of words composing that language. These rules are founded
upon the general usage of good writers ; and after this is
ascertained, it is customary for those who are desirous of
speaking and writing correctly, to be uniformly guided by it.

The Art of Grammar is sometimes divided into four parts :
Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody. The first
and last of these have nothing to do with grammar^ except so
far as they relate to the grammatical changes made on dif-
ferent sorts of words. Etymology refers to the arrangements
of the sorts of words, and to the various changes M'hich are
made upon them. Syntax directs the employment of those
changes, and the situation of different sorts of words in a

i Considered as a science. Grammar has for its object, those
principles on which its rules are founded. Scientific Gram-
mar discusses the grounds of the classification of words, and
investigates the reasons of those procedures which the art of
grammar lays down for our observance.


Grammar, as an art, refers only to particular languages \
because it would be impossible to lay down any system of
rules which would apply to two languages. We may point
out in what respects the grammars of two languages agree ;
but we cannot form a common grammar for both. To a cer-
tain extent, the principles of scientific grammar are general,
and some of them may be said to be universal. The laws of
the human mind are the same in all ages, and in all nations ;
and of those causes which have called forth its energies, many
have operated universally. Whatever have been the variety
of terms, and of the modification and arrangement of them,
the grand objects of men, in the formation and extension of
language, have been the same, to communicate their sensa-
tions, their judgments, their reasonings, to express the ob-
jects of their thoughts, and the changes and connexions
observed among them, and to do this with dispatch. This
has produced great uniformity in the general principles of
language. But the connexion between words and thoughts is
arbitrary, as well as the mode of connecting words them-
selves. Hence, with much uniformity, we meet with much
variety ; and hence, universal or even general grammar, must
be confined within very narrow limits, till the phenomena of
a variety of languages have been examined, and their corres-
pondence with each other, as well as their diversities, ascer-
tained. We shall here content ourselves with making the
philosophy of our own language our principal object, though
we shall occasionally be led to state the more general prin-
ciples of grammar, and derive some of our illustrations from
other languages. Such a mode of procedure may contribute
to render the practical use of our own language more clear
and certain.

Of the Arrangement of Words. The first object
of Scientific Grammar is, to form an arrangement of the
sorts of words (or parts of speech) composing a language. In
languages which admit of various changes in the form of
words, to denote changes of meaning, the arrangement, in a


great degree, is pointed out for the grammarian ; and a tech-
nical classification wilf, in such cases, have a decided supe-
riority over one founded purely upon scientific principles. In
languages like our own, we are less shackled by the contrivances
of ai t ; yet our arrangements ought to have practical conve-
nience in view.

The true principle of classification seems to be, not essen-
tial differences in the origin or signification of words, but the
mode in which they are employed. It should, however, be
steadily kept in view, that all distinctions among the sorts of
><'Ords, have gradually arisen out of the circumstances in which
language has been formed, and has proceeded towards matu-
rity ; and that such distinctions are by no means to be ex-
tended beyond the present employment of words. It is
necessary, for convenience and dispatch, that we arrange ; but
arrangement must not supersede further examination. The
fact is, that originally there could have been but one sort of
words, the names of the objects of our sensations and ideas.
From these, all others must have sprung ; but, without words
expressing aj^irmation, language must have moved very
slowly, and often have been very ambiguous ; and therefore
we may reasonably suppose, that the ever active principles of
association would soon transform nouns into verbs, by making
them, in certain situations, expressive of affirmation. From
these two classes all the rest have sprung.

The objects of sense and intellect are, in reality, nothing
more than properties, or collections of properties. The
mind, however, resorts to a support for those properties ;
something by which they are connected ; in which they exist :
and this we call substance. As far, however, as this word
has any definite meaning, it signifies nothing more than a col-
lection of properties existing, or capable of existing, inde-
pendently of other properties. These properties may be
considered collectively ; or they may be thought and spoken
of, though they cannr>t exist, separately. We can think of
no material substauce, which does not possess at least two


properties ; no visible object, for instance, can be without
colour and extension : but we can think of extension and of
colour separately, that is, we can direct the attention of the
mind to each of them, exclusively of the other properties M'ith
which it may be connected. This separate or exclusive atten-
tion of the mind, is called abstraction. It is a very simple,
though a very difficult operation of the mind.

The names of' substances are called Substantives ; the names
of properties without direct reference to the substances of
which they form a part, are called Abstract Nouns. To
every name comprehended under these two classes, the term
NOUN is applied. A noun is said to be increased or dimi-
nished in comprehension, when the number of ideas denoted
by it is increased or diminished ; and in extension, when the
number of objects, to which it can be applied, is increased o*
diminished. Those single words, which are added to nouns
to vary their comprehension, or to vary or determine their
extension, may be called adnouns. From these similar,
yet generally distinct objects of different adnouns, arise t\vo
grand classes. Adjectives and Restrictives : the former varying
the comprehension of the conjoined nouns ; the latter varying,
sometimes determining, the extension of them. In one mode
of the application of the term, adjectives are nouns ; for they
are the names of properties ; and originally they were nouns ;
but since they are not employed alone (like substantives and
abstract nouns) to denote the objects of thought or discourse,
it is preferable to class them with words whose use and em-
ployment is similar.

We constantly find it necessary to speak of ourselves, to
address others, or to speak of others. If we wish to speak
of ourselves, to address others, or to speak of others, we im-
mediately find, that we must either mention the names of the
individuals concerned, or use some words not belonging to
ourselves or them, as individuals, but, as the persons speak-c,,
ing, spoken to, or spoken of. This would be effected, by
using some short words of equivalent signification ; such are



/, thou, and he. I has the same force as the person speak'
ing; thou, as the person spoken to; and he, as the person
spoken of; except that / and thou are limited to the indivi-
duals actually speaking or addressed, or supposed to be so
speaking or addressed. These words are then, strictly speak-
ing, nouns ; but as tliey are used Jor names of persons, they
are called pronouns, that is, for-nouns. It is obvious,
that tlie word he, not only supplies the place of the name, on
which account it might be called a pronoun, but has a distinct
reference to the person having been before mentioned. In a
similar manner, she means the female person spoken of; and
it, the thing spoken of These words, with their plurals,
are all called pronouns ; and though they obviously either
come under other sorts of words, or are abbreviations for one
or more of them, yet they are at present so distinct and im-
portant in their use, that they require a separate class. Pro-
nouns, then, are words used for the names of persons or
things, connected with the idea, that they are either speaking,
spoken to, or before spoken of.

We cannot advance one step in language, without leading
our hearers or readers to the inference, tliat certain ideas are
connected in our minds ; or that we believe certain objects,
properties, or events to be connected. The connecting link
in language need not always be stated. In the infancy of
language it could not exist ; and in the language of childhood
it does not exist. Words are joined together, and it is easily
understood, ihat the corresponding ideas are connected in the
mind. * Mother, milk, good,' would surely be understood
by any one ; and, in similar cases, depending upon the ease
of inference, the ancient writers left it to the mind of the
reader to form it for himself. But how slowly and how am-
biguously communication would proceed, without some appro-
priated link of connexion, any one may be convinced, by
leaving out of n few sentences, those words, which, in our
language, serve that purpose, and which, in all languages,
aie necessary to render an affirmation complete. The intel-


ligent reader, to whatever other account of such words he may
have been accustomed, will perceive that we refer to verbs.
The essential quality of a verb is, to express affirmation,
when joined with the subject of the affirmation. Whenever
a word expresses it, that word is a verb : if in any case it
does not express it, it ceases to be a verb.

From verbs (or rather from the noun-state of verbs, in
which they do not express affirmation) a new class of words
is formed, partaking of the characteristics of the noun and the
adjective, aud agreeing with verbs in the accidental circum-
stance of requiring after them a peculiar form of pronounSi
These words are called participles.

In the same manner as it is found needful, for the purpose
of accurate and expeditious communication, to employ word*
to modify or restrict the signification of nouns, it is found at
least convenient to appropriate other words to modify or
restrict the signification of adnouns and verbs. These are
called ADVERBS, which are to be regarded as a class of words
formed from nouns or adnouns, and ijsed to express some
quality or circumstance respecting the action, quality, or cir-
cumstance denoted by verbs or adnouns. They are, therefore,
convenient abbreviations, which may be supplied by the other
sorts of words.

1 . From nouns, adnouns, and verbs, another class of words-
have arisen, which, from the long disuse of the original form*
of them, have lost their peculiar characteristics, and are now
regarded as independent of them. They are now used to con-
nect words, or sentences, or words with sentences ; and, in
general, point out some particular kind of connexion. From
the employment of them, they may be termed connectives ;
and under this class, we comprehend those words which are
usually denominated Prepositions and Conjunctions. The dis-
tinction between these two sorts of connectives, is merely
technical ; the latter requiring after them a peculiar form of thef '
pronoun, and also of the noun, in languages in which the
noun admits of flexion.


We feci obliged, very mudi against our inclination, io
admit, as an eighth class of words, some of those which are
il^ually denominated interjections. Words of this sort
are of very little importance, and by many are thought un-
deserving of the name of words. Some are involuntary ex-
pressions of grief, or joy, or surprise, or some other strong
emotion ; and some may be used with the intention of inform-
ing others what emotions are in the mind of the speaker or
writer. The former set have no nwre right to be called
words, than the sigh of sorrow, the groan of pain, the laugh
of mirth, &c., which no one calls words ; for words are volun-
tary vocal sounds, employed to express our ideas to others.
The latter set are generally found to be parts of sentences, or
single words of the before mentioned sorts. Our great phi-
losophical etymologist, Mr. Home Tooke, has traced the
origin of the greater part of them ; and the few that remain,
will probably be hereafter traced by some of those gram-
marians who are treading in his steps.

We now proceed to a few remarks on each of these sorts
of words.

^ I. Of the Noun. Tliose words which are wawcs of things,
and which can stand alone, as the subjects of an affirmation,
are called Nouns. This class of words has two grand divi-
sions : substantives and abstract nouns. SubstaJitives are the
names of substances. All names must originally have been
names of individuals ; the extension of the application of them
must, however, have been immediate. The difficulty of pro-
ducing a great number of distinguishable articulate sounds, and
the* operation of the associative power, first led to the appli-
cation of the same word to different individuals ; convenience,
perhaps, we may justly say, necessity, led to the extension of it.
When a number of things resemble each other in some strik-
ing particulars, we class them together in one species; and
give to the species, a name which is applicable to every indivi-
dual included in it. When several species agree in some com-


ion properties, we refer them to a higher dass, which we
call a genus ; and to the genus, we give a name which is appli^
cable to every species and every individual included in it.
This classification we extend to the limits of human know-
ledge ; and it is one of those admirable contrivances which are
the result of tiecessity, or of casual circumstances, but which,
being extended and perfected by science, contribute essentially
to the progress and diffusion of Knowledge.' But though it is
necessary, for the purposes of communication, that many
names should be applicable to classes of individuals, it is also
necessary that there should be others capable of denoting in-
dividuals, without the circuitous plan of naming the general
term, and the distinguishing qualities of the individual : and,
accordingly, we find in all languages, numerous words, which
apply to an individual only, or, at least, are at once referred^
both by speaker and hearer, to an individual. Those names
which, when alone, apply to a number of individuals, are
called General Terms, Appellatives, or Common Nouns ; and
those which, when alone, are used to denote particular in-
dividuals, are called Proper Nouns. Sometimes proper nouns
are so applied, as to become common nouns, as when we say,
the Caesars, or the Ptolemies. These are instances of the com-
mencement of generalization ; but there is another mode of
the use of proper nouns, which is more illustrative of the pro-
cesses actually adopted, in employing terms originally denoting
an individual, to denote classes of individuals who resemble
him in some striking characteristics : thus, we say, " the
Bacons, the Newtons, and the Lockes, of the present day,"
meaning, by these terms, all those individuals who resemble
3acon, Newton, or Locke, respectively, in the mode and
success of their investigation.

Of Abstract Nouns. Though it seems to be a very simple
process, to form and appropriate names to denote proper-
ties separate from the other properties with which we see them
connected in nature, the origin and appropriatioj) of such


names must have been very gradual; and the contrivances
which, in the natural progress of language, have been adopted
to denote separate properties, are among the most curious
procedures of the art of mutual communication. Mr. H.
Tooke, who has indisputably conducted us further towards an
acquaintance with the causes of language than any other author
on grammar, considers abstract terms as (generally speaking)
" participles or adjectives used without any substantive to
which they can be joined." " Such words," he observes,
" compose the bulk of evejy language. In English, those
which are borrowed from the Latin, French, and Italian, are
easily recognised, because those languages are sufficiently fami-
liar to us, and not so familiar as our own : those from the
Greek are more striking ; because more unusual : but those
which are original in our own language have been almost
wholly overlooked, and are quite imsuspected." A large pro-
portion of the nouns which he thus traces, are certainly not to
be considered as abstract terms, according to \^ hat appears to
be the customary meaning of that appellation, (such as view,
. the past {:>articiple of voir, something seen ; tent, the past partici-
ple from /e/ir/o, something stretched :) and others, require more

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 44)