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The interjections in English are few;-the nation is but little given to exclamation;–Oh! Ah 1 and Alas! form nearly the sum of them. Some imperative modes of verbs are used something in the manner of an interjection, as, Seet Behold! and Hail! which last is from a Saxon verb, and is a wish of health to the person so addressed. Lo! is probably an abbreviation of look 1 as, lo'ye is to be found in old writers, and Hark! is from Hearken. The rest are but inarticulate expressions of impatience or doubt, which have puzzled orthographers to spell—as, pish 1 or pshaw 1 or bah! or um! or hum! or him, and are not worth farther notice.
This word, derived from the Greek rurragic, which signifies an orderly arrangement together, sufficiently explains the object of all those rules of grammar which are classed under this head. It is here that the peculiarities of a language, or, in other words, its idioms are to be found; and the modifications which every nation is wont to make of the universal rules, constitute what is called the genius of the language. It is the fault of English writers very generally that they do not sufficiently attend to this; and the consequence is that it is rare to find a racy idiomatic style. The sounding march of the Latin periods charms the ear of the scholar, and he tries to assimilate his own language to that which he has long studied and admired: but the want of distinctive terminations to many of the cases of nouns, renders this a vain attempt; and if we would write perspicuously, and at the same time with a force which shall impress itself on the memory, we must use the tools which our rude forefathers left us; we must write, as we speak, our mother tongue.
THE THREE CoNCORDs.
Concord of the Verb with its Nominative.
The peculiarity of the English on this point, consists in its uniform arrangement of the nominative before the verb; for as the accusative of the substantive has no especial termination, it would be impossible to make a sentence perspicuous if any other arrangement were adopted. The arrangement, therefore, made use of by some modern writers by which the nominative is displaced, is bad, and in proof of this, we may observe that it is never so used in common speech. Peter was more confident than wAs John, will never be a mode of expression adopted in conversation, nor has it ever been so by the great masters of our language. Take, for example, Southey, in that most idiomatic of all his writings, “The Doctor,” —“To those who are acquainted with the history of Grandgousier's royal family, I need not explain what that purpose was.”—Now this sentence would have been despoiled of its genuine English-ness had it been written “what was that purpose.”—Therefore, although an ear accustomed to the roundness of the Latin period, may shrink from a small word at the end of a sentence, if the writer would be English in his style, (and if he be not it is not a good style,) he must be content to follow his wise forefathers in this, as well as in trial by jury, and many other things which we have not yet found it easy to amend.
It is difficult always to believe that an arrangement of language which we are daily hearing, is the true and elegant one: and yet if, in manner and in dress, simplicity and ease are synonymous with elegance, why should we wonder that the same should be the case with language 2 I will choose two sentences from a popular writer* to exemplify both the faulty and the idiomatic arrangement
of the verb and nominative: few will hesitate in deciding which is most agreeable to the ear. “None more than he will grieve, for an hour at least, when I am dead.” Here the verb and the nominative are too widely separated for perspicuity; and the natural arrangement would have been “none will grieve more than he will.” How easily and pleasantly on the other hand does the following sentence read off—“All this regard to trifles was not frivolity—it was a trait of character, it belonged to the artist; without it he would not have had the habit of mind which made him what he was.” In this the verb constantly follows close upon the nominative, and the effect is most pleasing: the sentence never lags, but is thoroughly idiomatic English. Sometimes, for greater emphasis, where the style is highly rhetorical, it is allowed to place an accusative in the first part of the sentence. “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire, your land strangers devour it in your presence.” Here, as for is understood before your land, as may be seen by another passage. “Make us gods which shall go before us, for as for this Moses, the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.”f A whole sentence may occasionally be the nominative to a verb. In this case we shall usually find the infinitive mode of a verb; which, as has already been noticed, is the abstract idea of an action, taking the part of a substantive, as, “to say that a man lyeth, is as much as to say that he is brave towards God, and a coward toward man.”; “The more he knows the more he is desirous of knowing, and yet the farther he advances in knowledge the better he understands how little he can attain, and the more deeply he feels that God alone can satisfy the infinite desires of an immortal soul. To understand this is the height and perfection of philosophy.”
* Isaiah. t Exodus. f Bacon. § Southey.
Concord of the Substantive with its Adjective.
Here, as the English adjective is indeclinable, the agreement is an understood rather than an expressed one. How the English language came to stand alone in this articular, is not easy to say; for the Anglo-Saxon adjective is declined very amply. The only resemblance in this particular that I am aware of is to be found in the German, where, if the adjective be separated from its substantive, it becomes indeclinable.
The usual concord of the relative in gender, number, and son with its antecedent, is very easily observed in nglish ; for it is subject to no change of number or person, but merely of gender and case "but this last is not necessarily the same as that of the antecedent: thus in the phrase, the man, whom you saw, said:—the man is the nominative of said; you is the nominative of saw, and whom is the accusative governed by the verb transitive saw. The relative in this phrase supplies a whole limb of a sentence, for without its aid we must say, you saw a certain man, and that man said. Reverse the sentence, and let the man be the nominative to saw, as, the man who saw you said;—you becomes the accusative, and the relative is in the nominative case, for the verb transitive no longer exercises its influence on it, but on another word, i.e. you. The rule is one that may be termed universal, for wherever a relative exists capable of being declined, it must hold good; but the mistakes, so frequently made in the cases of the relative, show that it is one of some difficulty to the mere English scholar. This difficulty may probably be avoided by analyzing the sentence so far as to see which word is governed by the verb transitive, for it has already been seen that though the substantive does not alter its termination in the accusative case, it is nevertheless as properly in that case as the neuter noun in the Greek or Latin, which has its nominative and accusative alike. If the government of the verb transitive fall upon a substantive, then the relative escapes from its influence, and, if no other circumstance interfere, will be in the nominative. Or it may be received in another way; for if the relative clearly be the agent, then it must be the nominative to the verb. The following sentence will show it in all its cases, “We may well believe that they whom faith has sanctified, and who upon their departure join the spirits of the just ‘made perfect,” may at once be removed from all concern with this world of probation, except so far as might add to their own happiness, and be made conducive to the good of others, in the ways of Providence. But by parity of reason it may be concluded that the sordid and the sensual, they whose affections have been set upon worldly things, and who are of the earth earthy, will be as unable to rise above the earth as they would be incapable of any pure and spiritual enjoyment.” Here, faith is the nominative or agent, and sanctifies certain persons; these in their turn join the spirits of the just, and thus are the agents or nominative to the verb join. When the relative does duty for two antecedents of different genders, one of which is neuter, then the indeclinable word that is substituted for who or which ; as, the CART and the MAN that you met on the road:—for the English do not willingly attribute gender to inanimate things; and by this compromise we may avoid involving the cart and the man in the same category, for that is equally applicable to all genders, as,