Page images
PDF
EPUB

In the firft chapter the Author expofes, in a very lively manner, the great miftakes into which grammarians and philofophers have fallen, in their feveral attempts to enumerate the distinct parts of speech. Some have allowed thirty; and none have acknowledged less than eight. But the errors of grammarians have arisen from fuppofing all words to be immediately, either the figns of THINGS, or the figns of IDEAS; whereas, in fact, many words are merely abbreviations employed for dispatch, and are the figns of OTHER WORDS. These are the artificial wings of Mercury (ETEX leptola), by means of which the Argus-eyes of philofophy have been cheated.'

The ingenious Author proceeds to ftrip Mercury of his wings: for they do not make a part of his body. It is only to loose the ftrings from his feet and take off his cap; and we shall then fee what fort of a figure he will make without them.

The first aim of language was to communicate our thoughts; the fecond, to do it with difpatch. The difficulties and disputes concerning language have arisen almost entirely from neglecting the confideration of the latter purpose of speech; which, though fubordinate to the former, is almoft as neceflary in the commerce of mankind, and has a much greater fhare in accounting for the different forts of words.

Abbreviations are employed in language three ways:

1. In terms.

2. In forts of words.
3. In conftruction.

Mr. Locke's Effay is acknowledged by our Author to be the beft guide to the firft; but it is the fecond only that he undertakes to illuftrate and unfold in the present work, because hitherto it hath escaped the proper notice of all who have written on the fubje&t of grammar.

In the fecond chapter. Mr. Tooke briefly confiders fome pofitions of Mr. Locke; and though he profeffes a veneration for his character, yet he hefitates not to fay, that in the Effay on Human Understanding, the great writer never did advance one ftep beyond the origin of ideas and the compofition of terms.

Mr. Locke was not fufficiently aware of the infeparable con nection between words and knowledge; if he had, it is prefumed that he would not have talked of the compofition of ideas; but would have perceived that it was merely a contrivance of language, and that the only composition was in the terms, and confequently that it was as improper to talk of a complex idea, as it would be to call a conftellation a complex ftar. In fact, they are not ideas, but merely terms, which are general and abftra&t.

Mr. Locke's reafoning againft innate ideas is equally cogent against the compeition of ideas. The former no more involve an B 2 absurdity

abfurdity than the latter. Both are impoffible on the principles of Mt. Locke's theory, and on a phyfical confideration of the fenfes and of the mind.

The chapter that treats of particles in the Effay on Human Understanding, is very unfatisfactory. The subject is treated in a loofe, uncertain manner, as if the Author had not fettled his opinion concerning the manner of fignifieation of words.

Mr. Locke fuppofed, with Ariftotle, Scaliger, and Meff. de Port Royal, that affirming and denying were operations of the mind; and referred all the other words to the fame fource;

though (fays Mr. Tooke), if the different forts of words had been (as he was willing to believe) to be accounted for, by the different operations of the mind, it was almoft impoffible they fhould have escaped the penetrating eye of Mr. Locke."

The reader ought by no means to lofe fight of Mr Tooke's pofition-for it is the leading principle of his whole work-viz. that particles or indeclinable words (as they have been called), such as conjunctions, prepofitions, and adverbs, are the figns of OTHER WORDS: they are merely abbreviations contrived for the dispatch of language: and the fource of all the errors into which grammarians have been led, arifeth from confidering them fimply as the figns of ideas, or the figns of things. Into what blunders might not the art of fhort-hand (practifed almost exclufively by the English) lead foreign philofophers, who, not knowing that we had any other alphabet, fhould fuppofe each part to be the fign of a single found?' In language there are not only figns of founds, but again, for the fake of abbreviation, figns of thofe figns, one under another, in continued progreffion.

In the third chapter the Author confiders the parts of Speech; and endeavours to establish this pofition, viz.

"

That in English, and in all languages, there are only two forts of words, which are neceflary for the communication of our thoughts: 1. NOUN, and

.

2. VERB.'

But if parts of fpeech are unneceffarily encreafed, there is no number to which they can be limited. In the strict sense of the term, no doubt but the neceffary words and the abbreviations are all of them parts of fpeech; because they are all useful in language, and each has a different manner of fignification. But it is of great confequence both to knowledge and to language, to keep the words employed for the different purpofes of fpeech as diftinct as poffible. The Author, therefore, is inclined to allow the denomination of parts of Speech only to the necessary words and to include all the others (which are not neceffary to speech, but merely fubftitutes of the first fort) under the title of abbrevia ions. Thofe fubftitutes are commodious, but not abfolutely effential, to the primary end of language. A fledge (fays he) cannot

be

[ocr errors]

be drawn along as fmoothly, and eafily, and fwiftly, as a car riage with wheels; but it may be dragged.' He therefore maintains, that without ufing any other fort of word whatever, and merely by the means of the noun and the verb alone, we can communicate or relate any thing that we can relate or communicate with the help of all the others.' Though, indeed, he acknowledges, that without abbreviations language can get on but lamely; and therefore they have been introduced, in different plenty, and more or lefs happily, in all languages.

Upon thofe two points, abbreviation of terms, and abbreviation in the manner of fignification of words, depends the excellence of every language.

In the farther progrefs of this ingenious work, the Author's pofition is fairly put to the trial. It is examined with the moft rigid exactness. Objections are propofed in their fulleft ftrength, and answered clearly, minutely, and fatisfactorily. Every affertion is fupported by reafon and illuftrated by example. The ground is cleared by the Author as he advances and the confidence which he hath in the truth and firmness of his fyftem, leads him to invite criticism, and even to feek out objections. He difguifes nothing: he paffes over nothing in hafte; and his fole with feems to be, to get fairly at the truth, and as fairly to communicate it to others.

The fourth chapter treats of nouns; and a noun is defined to be, the fimple or complex, the particular or general fign or name of one or more ideas.

In this chapter Mr. Tooke very fuccefsfully overthrows Mr. Harris's pofition relative to genders; and fays, that all his reafoning refpecting the genders of the fun and moon is fallacious; for in the northern languages fun is feminine, and moon is mafculine; indeed fo feminine is the fun, that our northern mythos logy makes her the wife of Tuifco.

Chap. V. Of the article and interjeclion.

The Author takes the part of the article against those gram marians who degrade it (like the Abbé Girard) to the humble ftation of avant-coureurs merely to announce the approach or entrance of a noun. Scaliger beftowed on it more opprobrious language ftill. He called it otiofum loquafiffimæ gentis inftrumentum.' Mr. Tooke endeavours to restore the article to its primitive honour; but in vindicating its rights, he falls foul on the interjection, and loads it with more abufive and contemptuous epithets, than Scaliger applied to the article. The brutish, inarticulate interjection (fays he), which has nothing to do with fpeech, and is only the miferable refuge of the fpeechless, has been permitted, because beautiful and gaudy, to ufurp a place among words, and to exclude the article from its well-earned dignity..... The neighing of a horfe, the lowing of a cow,

the

B3

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the barking of a dog, fneezing, coughing, groaning, fhrieking, and every other involuntary convulfion with oral found, have almoft as good a title to be called parts of speech as interjections have.... And, indeed, where will you look for the interjection? will you find it amongft law, or in books of civil institutions, in hiftory, or in any treatise of useful arts or sciences? No. You may feek for it in rhetoric and poetry, in novels, plays, and romances.'

Though Mr. Locke hath not once mentioned the article, yet he hath fufficiently proved its neceffity, by his obfervations on the ufe and importance of general terms. Our Author establishes the neceffity of the article on the ground of Mr. Locke's reafonings, and obferves, that it is the bufinefs of the article to reduce the generality of terms, and, upon occafion, to enable us to employ general terms for particulars. If, in combination with a general term, it is a fubftitute, yet it is a necessary substitute, which is more than can be faid of abbreviations that have been advanced into diftinct parts of speech: for they are not effential to the communication of our thoughts.

[ocr errors]

The fubftance of what is advanced in the four following chapters hath already been communicated to the Public in a letter addreffed by the Author to Mr. Dunning in the year 1778.

His reflections on the fate of his profecution + for a libel against the ftate, are partly ferious and partly ludicrous. We will not repeat them, because they have little concern with philology; though he declares, that it is probable that his papers (drawn up above twenty years ago) would have been finally configned with himself to oblivion, if he had not been made the miferable victim of-two prepofitions and a conjunction.

The conjunction that was made one of the fatal inftruments of Mr. Horne Tooke's civil extinction (for such hath actually been the confequence of his profecution), is largely treated of in the fixth chapter; and is no other than

The word THAT.

It is enquired if the conjunction that has any, the fmalleft, correfpondence or fimilarity of fignification with that the article or pronoun?

·

"In my opinion' (fays our Author), the word that (call it what you pleafe, either article, or pronoun, or conjunction) retains always one and the fame fignification.' He is fo confident of this, that he wishes to have the rule tried by every other language; and hath no doubt of its being found univerfally true.

See Rev. vol. lix. p. 161.

+ Our Author, as is well known, was profecuted by the Attorney General for an advertisement which was conftrued into a libel. He was found guilty, and fentenced to be imprifoned for one year.

He

[ocr errors]

He examines it by fome inftances, in which the fame fignification of the word is preferved, after the conftruction of the fentence is refolved.

EXAMPLE.

I wish you to believe THAT I would not wilfully hurt a fly.
RESOLUTION,

• I would not wilfully hurt a fly; I wish you to believe THAT [affertion.]

EXAMPLE.

⚫ She knowing THAT Crooke had been indicted for forgery, did fo and fo.

RESOLUTION.

"

Crooke had been indicted for forgery; fhe, knowing THAT, did fo and fo.

After the fame manner our Author prefumes, that all fentences may be refolved in all languages, where the conjunction that, or its equivalent, is employed; and by fuch refolution it will always be difcovered to have merely the fame force and fignifica tion, and to be in fact nothing else but the very fame word which, in other places, is called an article or a pronoun.

In a note the Author obferves, that it is not extraordinary that ur and quod fhould be indifferently used for the fame conjunc tive purpofe for as ur (originally written UTI) is nothing but ; fo is QUOD (anciently written QUODDE) merely Karlı . . . . . Kai (by a change of the character, but not of the found) became the Latin Que; and Koth became in Latin Qu' otti-Quodda—Quodde-Quod. ....The change of r into D, and vice versa, is familiar to all who have ever paid the fmalleft attention to language.'

Aa Example and a Refolution are produced.

4

Ex. Ur jugulent homines furgunt de no&te latrones.

·

Ras. Latrones jugulent bomines (A.) or furgunt de noƐte.” ›

от

Or, in English thus:

Ex. Thieves rife by night THAT they may cut men's throats. Ras. Thieves may cut men's throats (for) THAT (purpose) they rife by night.

In the feventh and eighth chapters the Author treats of conjunctions in general, and of the etymology of English conjunctions in particular.

The fate of conjunctions hath been various. Mr. Harris says, 'that they appear in grammar, like zoophytes in nature, a kind of middle beings of amphibious character; which, by sharing the attributes of the higher and the lower, conduce to link the whole together.'

[ocr errors]

Mr. Tooke makes himself very merry with this definition, and ` afferts, that it is impoffible to convey a nothing in a more ingenious manner.' And Lord Monboddo comes in for a share of the ridicule thrown on Mr. Harris's zoopbytes; for they have made fo wonderful an impreffion on his Lordship's fancy, that

of

B 4

« PreviousContinue »