Page images
PDF
EPUB

Sect. II. The author's hypothesis on this subject.

one endures the sight of wretchedness, when, instead of giving pleasure, it distresseth every feeling heart. Such, however, enjoy, at length, a luxury far supe. rior to that of pity, the godlike luxury of dispelling grief, communicating happiness, and doing good.

[merged small][ocr errors]

*** -ae ---

----------------= * *±(−−−−=−=−==

T H E.
PHILOSOPHY

OF

IR HI E T O R. I. C.

BOOK SECOND.

- THE FOUNDATIONS AND ESSENTIAL PROPERTIES OF ELoCUTION.

CHAP. I.

The Nature and Characters of the Use which gives Law to Language.

Eloquence hath always been considered, and very justly, as having a particular connection with language. It is the intention of eloquence, to convey our sentiments into the minds of others, in order to produce a certain effect upon them. Language is the only vehicle by which this conveyance can be made. The art of speaking then is not less necessary to the orator, than the art of thinking. Without the latter,

The nature and characters of the use which gives law to language.

the former could not have existed. Without the former, the latter would be ineffective. Every tongue whatever is founded in use or custom,

—Whose arbitrary sway
Words and the forms of language must abey ". FRANCIs.

LANGUAGE is purely a species of fashion (for this holds equally of every tongue) in which, by the general, but tacit consent of the people of a particular state or country, certain Sounds come to be appropriated to certain things, as their signs, and certain ways of inflecting and combining those sounds come to be established, as denoting the relations which subsist among the things signified.

IT is not the business of grammar, as some critics seem preposterously to imagine, to give law to the fashions which regulate our speech. On the contrary, from its conformity to these, and from that alone, it derives all its authority and value. For, what is the grammar of any language 2 It is no other than a collection of general observations methodically digested, and comprising all the modes previously and independently established by which the significations, derivations, and combinations of words in that language, are ascertained. It is of no consequence here to what

# Usus
Quem penes arbitrium est et jus et norma loquendi.
Hor. De Arte. Poet.

[ocr errors]

The nature and characters of the use which gives law to language.

causes originally these modes or fashions owe their existence, to imitation, or reflection, to affectation, or to caprice; they no sooner obtain and become genera!, than they are laws of the language, and the grammarian's only business is to note, collect, and methodise them. Nor does this truth concern only those more comprehensive analogies or rules, which affect whole classes of words; such as nouns, verbs, and the other parts of speech ; but it concerns every individual word, in the inflecting or the combining of which, a particular mode hath prevailed. Every single anomaly, therefore, though departing from the rule assigned to the other words of the same class, and on that account called an exception, stands on the same basis, on which the rules of the tongue are founded, custom having prescribed for it a separate rule *.

THE truth of this position hath never, for ought I can remember, been directly contraverted by any body, yet it is certain, that both critics and grammarians often argue in such a way as is altogether inconsistent with it. What, for example, shall we make of that complaint of Doctor Swift, “that our language, in “many instances, offends against every part of gram

* Thus, in the two verbs ca/ and thas, the second person singular of the former is casest, agreeably to the general rule, the second person singular of the latter is thal, agreeably to a particular rule affecting that verb. To say shallet for shall, would be as much a barbarism, though according to the general rule, as to say cast for cassert, which is according to no rule.

« PreviousContinue »