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ON THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF GRAMMAR.
THE term grammar is derived from a Greek word yeagua, signifying a word or letter; but the English term is used to express that artificial arrangement of language, which nations have agreed on as the best for conveying the meaning of the speaker or the writer. Each nation varies this slightly, but the great distinctions, founded on the nature of things, will be found everywhere, and these distinctions may be reduced to rule, and form a kind of universal grammar, which will be applicable to all languages. These will be presently considered more at length; it may suffice here to give as an example of them the different relations in which persons and things stand to : other; the different times in which actions may take place.
It is clear that in all communities things are possessed, given, bought and sold, &c., and where these relations exist, a method of expressing such relation must be invented; and even if not expressed, the relation is not the less real. The Latin expresses this by putting the name of the possessor and the recipient respectively in the genitive and dative case,_that of the thing possessed or given, bought or sold, in the accusative; and each of these cases is in general marked by a different termination; but even where it is not so, the grammatical distinction is the same:—the person is not less the possessor, even if his name undergo no change in speaking of him in that relative position:—the thing is equally bought, &c., whether the termination of its name remains the same or not; for among all nations, and in all countries, the thing which is the subject of an action and not its cause, must be in the accusative case, or, in other words, it stands in the relation of patient or undergoer of the action. It is equally clear that when things are possessed, or given, bought or sold, the action must be either going on and therefore present, as in the case of possession;–or past, or future; but this must generally be subject to a variety of modifications, which give occasion to the various modes and times, or tenses of the action or verb, and these definite relations of things and times or modes of action form the foundation of all grammar. Languages may be divided into families, each family having a certain resemblance to the common parent running through all the members of it; and not unfrequently even history is glad to supply its own deficiencies by the aid of this family likeness, which is the unmistakeable sign of former connection between the races. It is not my object in this small work, to go into this part of the philosophy of language, which would require much more space than can here be afforded: leaving the question, therefore, of how the grammar of the northern tongues gained its resemblance to the Greek, to those who are inclined to trace the migrations of nations,—I shall simply observe that the nations both of the north and south of Europe.* have evidently derived many of their grammatical forms from that language; but that these two great divisions are collateral, not lineal descendants. The type of all the Teutonic dialects would probably be found in some ancient one now lost:—that of the nations of the south of Europe is in great measure the Latin, which fortunately we retain the knowledge of Rome was for some ages the metropolis of the Christian world, and the seat of the chief science which it then possessed, and thus it happened that the language of Rome was studied by the Teutones, no less than it had been in the time of its imperial government by the provinces, and thus it came to pass that a “grammar school,” par excellence, was a school where the Latin language was taught. From that time, when the barbarous vernacular dialects were held unworthy the notice of a scholar, down to the present era, strange changes have taken place, yet the learned world has not yet emancipated itself from the trammels of Rome; and English, in classical hands, is too often made to wear the toga, however ill it may suit this northern clime. Indeed, unless the prestige of past ages still clung closely to the Latin, it would be difficult to say why its grammar has been chosen as that which is to introduce our youth to that branch of science; for the Greek offers many points of resemblance to our own language which are not to be found in the Latin. Thus, the article, so freely used in all the tongues which have sprung from an admixture of the northern tribes, is to be found in the Greek, but not at all in the Latin —the ablative case, wanting in the Teutonic family, is also wanting in the Greek, and one farther especial resemblance in the grammatical structure of English and Greek, is to be found in the use of the genitive case instead of the possessive pronoun. His mother, and anrno avog, are identical in their construction. If then, in all families of language, it be desirable to take the one most complete in its grammatical arrangement as a key to the rest, Greek has far the best claim to be first taught, both from its rank as the ancestor of both divisions of the European languages, and from the greater resemblance which subsists between it and the northern dialects. As, however, it has not yet thrust Latin from its chair, it will be requisite to use them both in elucidating the principles of grammar, with a view to the applying those principles more especially to the formation of a pure style of English writing. But it is not merely in writing our own language that an acquaintance with the general principles of grammar is useful;-the study of foreign languages is greatly facilitated by it; for having laid down certain distinctions which exist in the very nature of things, we need not go over them any more, and have therefore only to apply ourselves to the peculiarities of the tongue we would learn, which in general are but few, and are easily remembered from their paucity: whereas, if we have to go over the whole system of grammar with every fresh language, it becomes a labor of no ordinary kind. Let us suppose, on the contrary, that we have taken the Greek grammar as a sort of general type of that of the European languages:—when we would acquire one of these, we shall have to ask ourselves first a few general questions: as, has it, besides the two necessary numbers of singular and plural, also a dual? No. Has it, besides the requisite active and passive voice of the verb, also a middle 4 No. Has it a distinct termination to mark the cases, &c.; The peculiarity of each language in these respects will be a thing to be examined and remembered; and thus, by questioning ourselves through the various parts of grammatical construction, we shall easily detect those which require especial attention, and by fixing them in our minds, find that we have mastered at once the most difficult part of all foreign languages—namely, the idiom. I will now endeavor to show what are those great distinctions which may be said to form a system of universal grammar, and whereon they are based.
* From the nations of the north probably the Slavonic tribes must be excepted, at least they do not own the same descent as the Teutonic; and in the south the Biscayan and some other dialects offer anomalies : the assertion, therefore, must be considered as a very general one, which is intended to approximate to the truth, rather than as one to be taken in a strict sense.
I. THE different words used between man and man for the communication of ideas necessarily divide themselves into different classes, called technically “parts of speech,” which must exist in all languages; for there must be 1. The name imposed on the thing we mean to designate, or Noun SUBSTANTIVE. 2. The action by which that thing is in some way connected with ourselves or others, or VERB. And these two great classes must find place in every language, for they are the foundation of all speech: but as soon as more precision of language is required, other classes of words must come into use, for 3. The thing will have some quality or appearance by which it is to be distinguished from other things of a like kind; and the word expressing this quality or appearance is called a Noun ADJECTIVE. 4. We seek to shorten the sentence and avoid repetition, by substituting some smaller word instead of constantly using the noun; and this substitute we call a PRONoUN. 5. The Werb will have some limitation or modification of its action; and this is an ADverb. 6. The thing will stand in some relation to something else; for all that has material form must have a place as regards some other material object, and if this be not expressed by an especial inflection in the word, (which is technically called a case,) it is signified by some separate word, which, from its usual place as regards the substantive,” is called a PREPosition.
* As, AFTER the king—BEFoRE man—UNDER restraint.