Page images
PDF
EPUB

ft retains numerous terms of the ancient British and the Latin tongues, which were spoken by our ancestors long before the Saxons, Jutes, or Angles, ever landed in Britain; and that, since the conquest by these invaders, it has undergone great variations in consequence of that by the: Norman French. The English language, therefore, may be compared to a family, rather than to an individual. The Lioegrian (or Cornish) dialect of the ancient British tongue, may be considered as its mother; and the Latin, Saxon, and French, as the fathers respectively, of her va. rious offspring. It seems to be from a want of reflection on the composite nature of our language, and a want of attention to those sources which historical truth assigns to it, that the principal mistakes of our etymologists have arisen. While every new author undertakes to correct his predecessors, he falls, in consequence of this deficiency, into fresh mistakes. Another fertile occasion of errors, is a supposition that the Saxon is not merely the" mother tongue of the English," but that it is the English tongue itself. Hence modern amenders and imfirotiers labour to annihilate that precision, which our language has acquired from the' genius and labour of elegant writers during the last two centuries, and to reduce it to that confusion which prevailed among our barbarous conquerors a thousand years agp.

In proof that these remarks are applicable to Mr. Webster, as well as to other recent dabblers in etymology, we adduce the following paragraphs from the first page of his preface.

"Each," says Johnson, " denotes, 1st. Either of two. 2. Every one of any number. This sense is rare excefit in fwetry.'' To prove the last remark to be an error, we need not resort to the Saxon, for every book we read, and every conversation we here, demonstrates the fact. "The princes of Israel, being twelve men, each one was for the house of his fathers."—Numb. i. 44. This is the true original import of the word ; it has no appropriate reference to two, more than to ten thousand. "Thyder man ne mihte geseglian'on anum monthe, gyf man on nyht wicode and eke ditge hsfde amberne wind." "Thither a man could not sail in a month, If he should watch at night and each day should have a fair wind." Alfred's Orosius, Ch. 1. See also page 61, 63, 79, 219. Lond. 1773. and Sax. Ch. 1. By Gibson, page 185, 186. The second definition of Johnson is therefore the only true one; but not well expressed.

"Either," says Lowth, " is often used improperly for each ; each signifies both taken separately, either properly signifies only the one or the of Aw, taken disjunctively." In pursuance of this false rule, he condemns such passages as this. "They crucified two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." But the sense in which the word is here used in [is] the true primitive one, and still used by the best writers. "Mycell wxl thawon tgthere hand gefeoll." "There was great slaughter on either hand." Sax. Ch. 134. "Thet tegther hiora on other hawede," "That either of them might see the other," p. 133. "Swithe mycel here /tgther ge landhere ge scip-here of Swatheode." "A very great army, either land army* and ship-army from Sweden." That is both. p. 153. So far is Lowth's rule from the truth, that either, in our primitive writers, was rarely or nevef used in a disjunctive sense. In reading considerable volumes of the be6t Saxon writings, I have not found a single instance." Its disjunctive use fs modem ; but its original sense is still in use, and perfectly proper.

"There full, in view, to either host displayed." Hook's Tasso, 22-. 60'2iThe passages in scripture, the language of which Lowth condemns, are strictly correct."

In defence of these two great scholars, whose remains it is now the fashion to insult, we need only to appeal to common sense and unvitiated. taste. What if Saxon writers, and the venerable translators of our bibl;, confounded the proper meanings of each and every one? Did they bind all their posterity to do the same? Is any thing more obvious, than that every one can only be applied to more than two? while each must be used of two, and is therefore best restricted to that number. And what if the disjunctive sense of either be modern? To restrict it entirely to that sense; instead of using it indiscriminately with each, as Our ancestors did, and as is still tolerated in poetry, is an evident and essential improvement; as it augments the precision, and therefore the prima virtus perspicuhas, of our language,

Several observations in this division of Mr. W.'s preface are liable ta similar objei tions: but we gladly pass them by, to take notice of some variations from Johnson's definitions of words, which are real corrections or improvements. In the former of these, Mr. W.'s professional knowledge, guarded him against danger of mistake.

,Mishomer. "An indictment or any other act vacated by a wrong name."

Johnson. "The mistake of a name in law proceedings."

Webster. Obligee. "One bound by a legal and written contract. "Johnson. " One

to whom a bond is executed." Webster. Murder. "The act of killing a man unlawfully." Johnson. "A

killing unlawfully with malice." Webster. To boil. "To rise in a stalk." Johnson. "To seed, or form into a

seed vessel." Webster. To acquire. "To gain by ones own labour." Johnson. "To gain

something permanent." Webster.

On the subject of Orthography, we acquiesce in Mr. Webster's prer ferehee of hainous to heinous; drouth and highth,to drought and heightj and public, &c. to publick : but we apprehend that the last is the only one of these corrections that can be generally adopted. His objections against retaining the French termination in scefitrc, theatre, &c. while it is, anglicised in number, chamber, £sV. are certainly reasonable: but his wish to dismiss the u from words, originally Latin, which evidently come to us through the French, (as honour, favour, &c.J militates against a rule to which we usually adhere in questionable cases,: that of preferring the orthography of the language from which a word directly comes to ours, whatever its origin may have been. This rule sets aside the argument which he has founded on the omission of u in derivatives from such words; because the French, likewise, omit the u in those case?. Inferior

'and superior, are terms which have been introduced by classical English writers, directly from the Latin. We are far from expecting that Mr. W.'s omission of the final e in such words as determine, doctrine, bfes

I will receive the stamp of public approbation. We think, on the contrary, that these deviations' from universal custom must greatly lessen the utility of his dictionary. A lexicographer's business is to adopt the prevailing orthography of the age in which he writes; and not to attempt changes, the success of which must be dubious, if it be not utterly improbable: , In pronunciation this is still more arduous than in orthography; and hi Mr. W.'s situation, it was evidently more hazardous. He finds fault with Walker for pronouncing bench, branch, 13'c. with the final sh; initead of tsh, as Sheridan and Jones direct; but he passes no censure oa the accentuation, and granulation, &c. of the former; or on the furnithux, and multurAood of Sheridan. In these instances, Jones is certainly right. Mr. Webster properly blames Sheridan for sounding the a in father and in fat, alike: but in justifying that writer's representation of the ti before a vowel as always equivalent to sh, he goes too far. On or ous, after ti, ci, or si, form but one syllable in pronunciation; but ingratiate, official, &c. are inadequately expressed by ingrashate, qfftsfinl, &c.

We join with Mr. W. in preferring acceptable, and commendable, to. acceptable, and commendable; but we cannot follow him in irrefragable, horizon, and asylum. He informs us that the Anglo-Americans give the same sound to a in angel, and ancient, a"s in angelic, and antiquity t and he cautions them against "adopting an IKnglish corruption," of the pronunciation. Yet we think that he might have discovered a reason for the variation that we give to the initial vowel in these words. The accent being strongly laid on the first syllable of angel, and ancient, probably, has rendered the a long and narrow ; which was not necessary ia angeCic and antiquity, because the accent is on the second syllable. Ia angle and anguish, though the first syllable is accented, it is short: whereas we presume that the Americans, (like many country people in England) give to the a in angel, and ancient., the same sound that it has in command. This, at the commencement of a word, is repugnant to the analogy of English pronunciation. . •

In like manner, we are told that the word pincers, is "in conversation' correctly called pinchers •• but these errors surprise us less than Mr. W.'< assertion (p. vii.) that "though is a vitious orthography; tko being much, nearer to the original word." Our author doubtless refers to the Saxon tkeak; and as we suppose him to be aware that1 gh is commonly substi» tuted in Eaglish for the Saxon h when following a vowel, we cannot account for his preference, on this ground, of its omission. If the Saxon h had not been pronounced as an aspirated guttural, though probably much weaker than the Scotch sound of gh, those letters would surely never have been substituted for it by writers subsequent to the Normal* conquest. This sound, in some instances, we have converted into that of /, as in laugh, and cough: and accordingly, in some counties of England, though is now pronounced thpf. Mr. W.'s remark is therefore totally ungrounded.

The last division of his preface is entitled etymology; but it contains so little of importance on that subject, and so much that bel6rigs to it is included under the preceding heads, that we think it unnecessary to pursue his arguments farther. The extent to which we have already proceeded,' would indeed be disproportionate to a work which the author acknowledge*. (p. xix.) to be only "an enlargement and improvement of lintick's SpeU luig Dictionary:" but a*he professes (p. xxui) ta « have entered upon the plan of compiling, for his fellow citizens, a dictionary, which shall exhibit a far more correct state of the language than any work of this kind;'' and only "offers this compend to the public, in the mean time, as a convenient manual," we have thought a considerable degree of attention due to the principles which Mr. W. has laid down; and we heartily, wish that it may contribute to render his larger work less excep. tionable to Englishmen on both sides of the Atlantic, than the present has been made by the peculiarities of his orthography. We would earnestly advise him, before he proceeds with the etymological part of his. undertaking, to investigate closely those terms which we have in common with the French language, and which are derived neither from the Latin nor the Teutonic. In order to trace these to their genuine sources, he will find it necessary to study the various dialects of the ancient British language; and we can assure him that the pains which he may take for. thjs purpose will not be thrown away. Llwyd's Archasologia Britannica is the best elementary work on the subject.

We shouldgladly enlarge this article by extracting the author's sensible observations on the necessity, of various dialects being produced by the local circumstances of the widely dispersed millions, who speak our language. Qn other topics, highly interesting to Grammarians, he has also many valuable remarks. While, .therefore, we do not think that it would be advisable to reprint the whole of, his present performance, it would gratify us to see his fireface, in a more legible form from a British press. The present paper and type are such as must be very injurious to the sight of most readers. ,• . • . ■ . .

, . GERMAN LITERATURE.

Art. 5CXV. Gr'techische Grammatii, &c. Greek Grammar ; by Philip,, Buttmann. Third Edition 8vo. Berlin. 1805.

'T'HE author of tfiis grammar has endeavoured to avoid hypothesis, and has confined himself to well ascertained historical facts; his deductions from these facts are ingenious, and in some cases lead to important results. Mr. B. has throughout carefully considered the paradigms, which have been adopted by grammarians, merely on account of the completeness of their formation, and distinguished what was actually in use from that which was not. While, therefore, the learner acquires an accurate idea of what is, and what is not in use, as well as a sure introduction to the correct understanding of the Greek authors, a check js opposed to the liberties, which many have taken, in correcting into the works of the ancients, whatever might have been used according to grammatical analogy. Another distinction of this book is, that the author has constantly adopted, as his standard, the language of the best Attic authors, and alwaj s noticed the deviations, not only of the different dialects, but also of the different

styles and ages Particular attention has been paid to the doctrine of the

verb;- the most difficult and complicated in the whole Greek Grammar* The subject of Prosody is treated very concisely; but the characteristic peculiarities of the different kinds of poetry-are here particularly specified,..

Art. XXVI. Wahrheit ohne Schmlnie, &c. Truth without Disguise; or, a Dissertation on the free Corn-trade. Leipzig. 1804. Schaefer/.

A RATIONAL and respectable work; its object is, to shew the insufficiency and pernicious tendency of the various regulations, whereby the government, in many countries, has endeavoured arbitrarily to keep down the price of corn. It urges with much force, that nothing but complete commercial liberty is capable of producing the moderate and equable price, so much desired, preventing scarcity, and rendering gram plentiful. The author incidentally mentions various causes of the scarcity of grain, and makes proposals for obviating this evil without prohibiting exportation. -He shews how inadequate, and even detrimental, is the e». tablishment of large Government-Magazines ; and how ineffectual are the injunctions to deliver in reports of the produce of the harvest. Throughout he has endeavoured to substantiate his opinions by facts, and we should: hope has rendered some assistance toward the establishment of a correct system of internal commerce in many of the German States.

>' ; ■— »

Art. XXVII. Journal fiir ivhsenchajft und kutist, &c. Journal or

Science and of the Arts, by M. Wagner. No. I. 8vo. Breitkopf,

Leipzic.

THIS is a new periodical publication of which the first number only is published : it contains, 1. An essay on the Arts and Sciences as related, with history. 2. On physiology and pathology. 8. Observations oa popular philosophy and poetry.

Art. XXVIII. Deutschland. Germany. Vol. I. Part I. plates. Steudel, Gotha, 16gr. com. paper lrxd. 4gr. large paper. 3 Parts will form 1 Vol.

THIS also is a new work, and is to be published at uncertain periods: it is devoted to the ancient and modern history, and the curiosities of Germany. This part contains several articles of topography, with a view; biography, with a portrait; and an account of the customs and mannerr of the peasants of the Dutchy of Altenburgh.

FRENCH LITERATURE.

Art. XXIX. Annales du Musee et de V Ecole moderne del fieaux Arts. Annals of the Museum, and of the School of the Fine Arts; Editor, M. C. Landon, Painter, &c. Vol. X. Treuttel and Wfirtz, Paris, pp. ISO. plates 72. Taylor, Longman and Co. London. Price 11. Is.

THIS work embraces the complete collection of paintings and sculptures in the Museum Napoleon; the principal paintings and other productions of artists who have obtained the prizes periodically distributed, and also such as have been noticed with approbation; views of public edifices, and other subjects of the same kind. The whole is represented in simple outline, a mode at present much in vogue among the French artists, and in the management of wljich some of them are very expert.

« PreviousContinue »