Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

then of adopting these cases is ideal: three more cases would be as easily learned as the two or three we are obliged to adopt; and, by doing so, we speak the general grammatical language of all the scholars in Europe: for it must be observed, that general utility, and not philosophical or abstract propriety, is the great object of grammar, as well as of language.

36 What has been observed of the cases of nouns is applicable to the declensions. We are obliged to form. nouns into classes according to their several modes of forming their plurals; and as we have five varieties of this formation, where would be the impropriety of calling each of these modes a declension ? I greatly mistake, if putting each of these varieties in a table declined with all their cases, will not make a better and more lasting impression of the plurals and genitives of nouns, which are so often confounded, than the short transient way in which they are generally mentioned.

“ The moods of verbs in Latin, except the optative, have been generally retained by some of the most respectable English grammarians; notwithstanding the strong reasons which may be brought to prove, that we have no more than one mood in English. To abolish these moods would be certainly to coin our grammar anew; but it is highly probable, that what it might gain by this in metaphysical value, it would lose in general currency.

6 It will scarcely be questioned, that for boys who are to have a Latin education, an English grammar in the Latin form would be by far the most eligible. But why, it will be said, should ladies be plagued with Latin terms and forms of construction? Why? it may be again answered, because they are as easily understood as any

other. What difficulty do we avoid by calling the noun or substantive, a name; the adjective, an adnoun or à quality; the verb, an affirmation; and the indeclinable parts of speech, particles ? Are the leading state and the following state of the noun, which are very inadequate and erroneous terms, more easily conceived than the nominative and the accusative cases ? or is the case of the substantive or personal pronoun, when a question is asked, better apprehended by saying the leading state of the substantive or pronoun follows the affirmation, instead of coming before it? One would think such egregious trifling as this could never have entered into the heads of men of sense. If these improvements then are merely visionary, I know not why ladies are to be instructed by a grammar different from that of men, any more than that they should learn composition by a different system of rhetoric.”—Walker's Grammar; Preface.

But if there are persons who think, that, for the convenience of students in the classics particularly, our language should be accommodated to the grammar of Greek and Latin, and strenuously contend for an equal number of cases with theirs, there are others who object to the plan in toto.

« Though the Greeks and Romans,” says the author of “A Treatise on the Etymology and Syntax of the English Language,' “ expressed the different relations by variety of inflexion, which they termed cases, it does not follow, that we are to acknowledge the same number of cases as they had, when these relations are expressed in English, not by inflexions, but by prepositions, or words, significant of these relations. The Latins would not have acknowledged absque fructu, without fruit, as forming a seventh case, though they acknowledged

fructu, by fruit, as making an ablative or sixth case. And why? Because the latter only was formed by inflexion. For this reason, I consider giving the name of dative case to the combination of words to a king, or of ablative case to the expression from a king to be a palpable impropriety. Our language knows no such cases; nor would an Englishman, unacquainted with Greek and Latin, ever dream of these cases, though perfectly master of his own language.”-Second Edition, page 129.

In further support of this latter opinion, it is said, by the compilers of “ Systematic Education,” that “if case mean a change in the word, to denote connexion with other words, then the plan of our language cannot be accommodated to that of the Latin : if of a man, to a man, &c. be considered as cases, there is certainly no reason why the same appellation should not be given to every noun to which a preposition is prefixed, and then we shall have above thirty cases.” · The term case being derived from cado, grammarians affix to it the meaning of falling, i. e. say they, the falling from the nominative : but if this is the accurate meaning of the term, it follows that in Latin the nominative itself, and the vocative (except that of the second declension, whose nominative ends in us) and also the accusative of neuter nouns, &c. are not cases: may not the meaning of the term more accurately be called the falling out, the event or accident of the agent and object, as connected with the verb ? This explanation, it is conceived, accords with the notion which grammarians entertain of the term syntax, as applied to the construction of a sentence ; but the other, i. e. the falling from the nominative, accords with the notion which is generally entertained of the term etymology, and the formation of

individual parts of speech. But the grammarians, in « Systematic Education,” say, that “the variation of our nouns is confined to mark one relation, that of property or possession ; and it is, therefore, with great propriety, called the possessive case. The appellation, genitive case, is sometimes applied to it; but the force of the Greek and Latin genitive is to denote relation in general, though capable of specific application, and is exactly equivalent to a noun preceded by of. The possessive case of a noun is not equivalent to the noun preceded by of, except where the latter has the specific force of belonging to. It may in all cases be represented by of with the noun following; but the latter mode of expression cannot in many instances be represented by the possessive case." For the purpose of ascertaining the value of these objections, let us view them separately. With respect to the variation of our nouns as being confined to mark one relation, viz. that of property or possession, it may be said that in the part of speech, father's, is contained the force of two nouns differing in signification, with the sign of between them. Whose advice is it? a father's. The answer comprehends the second noun, advice. A father's advice. The answer, therefore, might have been given thus—The advice of a father. And this accords with the affirmation of Dr. Crombie, that “ The relation which the English genitive most commonly denotes, is that of property or possession.”* It has been

* “ The nature of the relation, which the genitive expresses,” says the same grammarian, “must, in some instances, be collected from the scope of the context; for, in English, as in most other languages, this case frequently involves an ambiguity. When I say, 'neither life nor death shall separate us from the love of God,' it may mean, either from the love which we owe to God, or the love which he bears to us; for God's love may denote either the relation which the affection bears to its subject, or that which it bears to its object. If the latter be the meaning intended, the ambiguity may be prevented by saying, 'love to God.'

[ocr errors][merged small]

remarked by the late Walker (Grammar: page 10) 56 that the double genitive is an advantage peculiar to our language." But in this, it seems, he was mistaken: the German language has this advantage. “The Latins," says Walker, “can only say, corona regis,* and the French, la courronne du roi ; while the English can say, either the king's crown, or the crown of the king.The Germans, also, can say, Des Königs Krone, or Die Krone des Königs. Nor is the double genitive," continues Walker, a mere idle variety; for it not unfrequently indicates a very different relation of one thing to another. Thus, the king's picture may mean either his property or

.“ An ambiguity likewise arises from it, as expressing either the relation of the effect to its cause, or that of the accident to its subject. A little after the reformation of Luther,' says Swift. This may import either the change produced by Luther, or a change produced in him. The latter indeed is properly the meaning, though not that which was intended by the author. He should have said, the reformation by Luther. It is clear, therefore, that the relation expressed by the genitive, is not uniformly the same, that the phrase may be interpreted either in an active or passive sense. Amor Dei denotes either amor quo Deus amat, or quo Deus amatur.-Reformatio Lutheri, either qua refor mavit, or qua reformatus est. Injuria patris, desiderium amici, with many other examples, which might be produced, have either an active or passive sense: ♡ ảyánn rē Oɛē, l'amore di Dio, l'amour de Dieu, severally involve the same ambiguity with the love of God. The real import must be collected, not from the expression, but the context."Rev. Dr. Crombie's Treatise on Etymology and Syntax, &c. page 46.

* The Latins might have used one of their possessive adjectives : “ Corona regia.” Thus Ovid

Nomine in Hectoreo pallida semper eram

I was always pale at Hector's name, or the name of Hector. This construction is very frequent among the poets; it does not, how. ever, invalidate the remark of Walker. Corona Regia, strictly speaking, means kingly-crown, and “ Nomine in Hectoreomeans, at the Hector-name, or the Hectorean name. Thus, in English, we say, on a spring-morning, or spring's morning, or morning of spring ;-at the cost. tage-door ; i. e. the cottuge's door, or the door of the cottage. This procedure proves, that we have the possessive adjootive besides the double genitive, mentioned by Walker. Vide page 66 of this Treatise.

« AnteriorContinuar »