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The place of English among Studies.


For that reason, I have already urged that in the teaching of Latin or of French, continual reference should be made to analogous forms and constructions in English. And no doubt in schools in which other languages are taught in this way, much of English is learned incidentally by comparison, analogy, and contrast, rather than in the form of intentional lessons on English, per se. It is mainly in this incidental and indirect way, that A Ver.

nacular most English scholars have come to learn their own

grammar language, and have very often come to learn it well. Often And hence it is not uncommon to hear English gram- indirectly

learned mar spoken of as if it were wholly useless, and almost as and inciif it were non-existent. And we are to enquire to-day

dentally whether this distrust of the value of conscious and systematic instruction in English is well founded, or whether such instruction can be made to serve a real educational purpose. We know that in France and Germany the study of the vernacular tongue is treated with more respect than with ourselves; that in France especially, exercises in the structure, logical analysis, and composition of French occupy a good deal of attention even in schools in which other languages are taught; and that it is probably to this cause we may attribute the greater ease and skill with which as a rule a Frenchman uses his own language, as compared with an Englishman of corresponding educational standing and advantages. The study of our own tongue appears to deserve more respectful treatment than it receives even in our higher schools. It certainly is a valuable, indeed an indispensable educational instrument in Primary schools, in which no other language is taught.

Of one thing, however, we may be sure from the first. Grammar It is not as a set of rules for enabling English people to as an Art. speak correctly that English grammar has the least value.


F. L.

Not to be acquired by rules.

This is the popular conception of grammar, and it is a very erroneous one. Lindley Murray has expressed this in a definition. “Grammar is the art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety.” Whoever tries to learn or to teach grammar with that object in view, is doomed to disappointment. No doubt there is a sense, and a very true sense, in which all careful investigation into the structure of words and their relations gives precision to speech. But this is an indirect process. The direct operation and use of grammar rules in improving our speech and making it correct, can hardly be said to exist at all.

For we all learn to speak the English language in one fashion or another without the aid of books. Some of the best and purest speakers of the language have either never learned grammar, or are not in any way consciously guided to correct speech by a knowledge of grammatical rules. They have learned to use their own language by using it, by imitation and habit, and by the fine intuition which has led them to imitate good models rather than bad. If the art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety' is the one thing contemplated by learning grammar, the ordinary means are very imperfectly adapted to the end; for the study of grammar from a scholastic text book, even if the whole of it is learned from beginning to end, is very little helpful in improving the pupil's speech and writing. The faults which occur in speech, the confusions, the clumsy constructions, the misuse of words, and their mispronunciation, are not as a rule, sins against grammar, properly so called; and are not to be set right by learning English accidence or syntax. The rules given in books have little or no practical value. For instance, “Transitive verbs and prepositions govern the objective case.” What does this

Practical uses of English Grammar.


mean? In English nouns, there is no objective case distinguishable from the nominative at all. In pronouns there are four or five survivals of old datives, which now serve both as dative and accusative, and may therefore be called objective. They are me, thee, him, her, them, and whom. And the rule in question amounts to an injunction that we should use these six words in their proper places, and not say, “Give I the book," or, “Send the money to he.But these are faults which the most ignorant child is in no danger of committing, and against which no warning is needed. Considered therefore as a means of regulating our speech, this and the like rules are utterly valueless.

If therefore we have in view mainly the practical art of using the language in speech or writing with good taste and correctness, this particular result is probably best to be attained by talking to the pupil, by taking care he hears little but good English, by correcting him when he is wrong, by making him read the best authors, by practising him much in writing, and when he makes a mistake, by requiring him to write the sentence again without one. It will certainly not be attained by setting him to learn Murray's, or indeed any other grammar.'

Grammar, however, is a science as well as an art, and Grammar from this point of view, it investigates the structure of as a

Sciince. language, the history and formation of words, and the manner in which the mechanism of grammatical form is fitted to fulfil the great end of language—the just, subtle, and forcible expression of human thought.

And if a book on grammar will help me to this end, and will

1 “On n'apprend pas plus à parler, et à écrire avec les règles de la grammaire, qu'on n'apprend à marcher far les lois de l'équilibre.” ST PIERRE.


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reveal to me the laws and principles which underlie and account for the speech which I am using every day, then the study of such a book will have a scientific value for me quite apart from any practical help which it may give in avoiding solecisms, and in “speaking grammatically” as it is called.

Such study of grammar, though it seenis rather to have a theoretic than a practical character, will incidentally serve the purpose of making the speech more correct. If, however, that purpose is contemplated as the first which is to be served in teaching, we not only shall not attain it, but we shall fail altogether to achieve the much higher ends which may be reached

by the teaching of grammar as a science. Manuals of Now the notable thing about manuals of English

grammar until very lately was that they were all fashioned on the same model as a Latin or Greek grammar. There were Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody. The learner begins with considering letters, and the whole alphabet is printed on the first page, and duly classified into vowels, consonants, semi-vowels, and diphthongs. Then he is conducted to Etymology, and to the separate study of words, which he is called on to classify and decline. Then comes Syntax, when he is invited to deal with sentences, and the relation of their parts, and to learn rules of concord and of government. Finally, he reaches Prosody, under which head he finds punctua

tion, metre, and other grammatical luxuries. A vernacu. But long before a child comes to the commencement lar lan

of such a book, he has learned to speak, and to use his guage must be taught native tongue. He knows the meaning of sentences, and by analy. he thinks by means of the language. That which is in

teaching French, the ultimate goal of your ambition, conversation and freedom in using words, is the very point of departure in the case of your own vernacular


How a vernacular language is learned. 261

speech. Your pupil has already attained it. Hence the methods of teaching a native and a foreign language, are fundamentally different. The slow, synthetical process appropriate in the one case, of beginning with words—in the case of German and Greek, even with the alphabet, -and building up at first short sentences, then longer sentences, is wholly illogical and absurd in the case of the other. To a child a sentence is easier than a word, the cognition of a word is easier than that of a syllable as a separate entity; and the syllable itself is something easier than the power or significance of a single letter. And hence the way to teach English grammar is to begin with the sentence, because that is something known, and to proceed analytically. If other languages are to be learned by synthesis, our own should be learned by the opposite process of analysis; and whereas we learn a foreign language through, and by means of its grammar, we must learn and discover English grammar, through and by means of the language.

Grammar strictly defined is the logic of language in so far and in so far only as it finds expression in the inflections and forms of words. In Latin forms, you find this logic expressed with some fulness and scientific accuracy. In English it is expressed in an unscientific and very incomplete way. But the logic of language, which is the basis of all grammar, is discernible alike in both, and our business is to investigate that, whether it reveals itself fully in grammatical forms or not.

The main conclusions to which we have thus been led are four : (1) That of pure grammar there is very little in the English language. (2) That this little when discovered has scarcely any practical bearing on the improvement of our speech. (3) That nevertheless the study of the English language is worth pursuing, and

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