« EdellinenJatka »
tha the on Judea synd; and nyther ne ástígath tha the on hyre middele synd." Finally, sæd (a seed) and treow (a tree) are both neuter; and so, in Matt. xiii. 32, where our version, respecting the mustard seed, says, "Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but, when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches of it,” the A.-S. has "That is ealra sæda læst: sóthlíce thonne hit wyxth, hit is ealra wyrta mæst, and hit wyrth treow; swá thæt heofnan fuhlas cumath and eardiath on his bogum.”
Like every other portion of English inflected speech, the third personal pronoun sustained remarkable changes in passing out of the old Englisc or Anglo-Saxon stage of the book-language into what is called Early English, or the book-English of the fourteenth century. Perhaps not till the close of the fifteenth century, or the first half of the sixteenth, when compromises among the dialects for the formation of a standard book-speech had been pretty well completed, could a fixed modern declension of the pronoun for all literary England have been written down. Then, in our usual spelling, it stood as follows:
Acc. and Dat.
On comparing this with the declension in the old literary Englisc or Anglo-Saxon, what had happened in the interval, it will be seen, consisted of three things:-I. Neglect and confusion of Inflections. II. Interblending with other Pronouns. This is seen in the substitution of she for the old nom. fem. sing. heó,-said she being the nom. fem. sing. of the old definite article, or demonstrative pronoun, se, seb, that (appropriated by northern writers for the purpose as early as the twelfth century, and passing through such variations as seó, scho, sco, scæ, sche); and it is also seen in the substitution of the plural cases of that same definite article or demonstrative pronoun-tha, thára, thám, tha—bodily, though with the usual corruption and confusion of inflections, for the cashiered old native plurals hi, hira, him, hi. This last substitution was introduced in the North in the thirteenth
century; and Chaucer stood out against it, as far as the genitive and accusative cases were concerned. III. The operation of the H-dropping Tendency. This tendency, so natural to the Southern English, had plenty of scope in a pronoun all whose parts originally began with h. The stress of the tendency, however, fell on the neuter singular of the pronoun. The old A.-S. hit passed, in books, at first optionally, into it, but at last decidedly and conclusively into it. The dropping of the h in hit is as early as the twelfth century; in the fourteenth century it and hit are found competing with each other, some districts and dialects preferring one, and others the other; in Chaucer's text both are found, though it predominates; but by the sixteenth century hit is obsolete in general literature and it established.
How about the possessive or genitive forms of the pronoun between the fourteenth century and the sixteenth? So far there was no difficulty. His, the proper old masculine possessive, went with he (nom.) and him (acc.), for males; her, the proper old feminine possessive, went with she (nom.) and her (acc.) for females; and the arrangement has held good to our day. Where the difficulty came to be felt was in the case of the much more numerous neuter nouns, or names for all inanimate objects. His was still, theoretically, as we have marked it in the last declension, the proper neuter poss. sing. as well as the proper masc. poss. sing. ; but practice and theory had begun to conflict. So long indeed as the hit form of the nominative or accusative neuter was kept up generally, or in any district, the difficulty hardly appeared. The old neuter possessive his could still vindicate itself by its obvious etymological connexion with hit. But, when the h was dropped, and hit became it generally or locally, there came a flutter among the grammarians. What had his to do with it? Was not his the masculine possessive, going properly with he and him? Why let it, which had not an h to show for itself, claim the same form? In this emergency we see a struggle of methods (1) To distribute the confusion by obliging the feminine form her to relieve the supposed masculine form his occasionally in the duty of serving as a possessive for it. The late Mr. Thomas Watts's quotations of Numbers iv. 9 from some of our versions of the Bible in chronological series are very pertinent here. In Wycliffe's Bible (1389)
the text runs, "And thei shulen take the iacyntyn mantil
with the which thei shulen cover the candelstik with the lanterns and her toonges and snyters." In the contemporary variety of Wycliffe's called Purvey's, however, we find "Thei schulen take also a mentil of iacynt with which thei schulen hile the candilstike with hise lanternes and tongis and snytels." In Tyndale's Pentateuch (1530) there is a return to her in the text and its continuation, thus : "And they shall take a cloth of jacyncte and cover the candelsticke of light and hir lampes and hir snoffers and fyre pannes, and all hir oyle vessels which they occupye aboute it, and shall put upon her and on all hir instrumentes a coverynge of taxus skynnes, and put it upon staves." In Coverdale's version (1535) his reappears: "And they shal take a yalowe clothe and cover the candilsticke of light therwith, and his lampes, with his snoffers and outquenchers." In Matthews's Bible (1537) we have the feminine again, "And they shall take a cloth of iacincte, and cover the candelstycke of lyght and her lampes and her snoffers and fyre pannes." Finally, in our authorised version (1611), "And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it." These vicissitudes of his and her in one passage seem clearly to prove that between the fourteenth century and the seventeenth her was allowed to compete with his in the office of possessive for the neuter it. Here we may detect, if we choose, a survival of the idea of grammatical gender, even in a case where the recollection of the Anglo-Saxon gender of a particular noun had perished; for candel-staf and candelsticca, the two words for "candlestick" in A.-S., are both masculine. (2) Another plan was to avoid giving it a possessive form at all, and resort to such substitutes as of it, thereof, of the same, or the repetition of the possessive of the noun designated by the pronoun. (3) Still the need of a distinct possessive for it was felt; and, at length, a third plan was adopted. The hint for this plan seems to have been furnished by the dialect of the West Midlands (Lancashire, etc.) There, if not elsewhere in England, the habit of ignoring inflections in every possible case had been pushed so far as to bring about such phrases as "The King wife" for "the King's wife," and the same habit had been extended
to the neuter pronoun hit, so as to make it indeclinable, or the same for nominative, possessive, and accusative. "Hit dedes of dethe duren there yet" ("Its deeds of death endure there yet") and "Of hit woe will I wete" ("Of its woe will I wit") are examples quoted by Dr. Morris from English poems of that dialect in the fourteenth century; and he reports that this possessive use of hit is quite common in those poems. Now, by extension, this possessive use of hit was easily transferred, in other dialects, to the it which had become the substitute for hit; and thus, in the sixteenth century, if not earlier, the duties of the possessive case, in addition to those of the other two, were imposed on the simple it. Mr. Aldis Wright, in his Bible Word-Book, quotes instances from Udal's Erasmus (1548), and from the Geneva Bible (1579): e.g. "Love and devocion towardes God also hath it infancie, and it hath it comying forewarde in groweth of age"; "The evangelicall simplicitee hath a politique cast of it owne too"; "This world hath it glorie." Such instances from sixteenth century writings could be multiplied. (4) But a possessive in t was an anomaly; and so there sprang up a fourth device. As it was a stray and seemingly kinless word, why not subject it to the common rule, and form a possessive for it by the ordinary plan of clapping on an s? As they said "Kit's hat," or "Bet's bonnet," why not say of the hat "it's band" or of the bonnet "it's ribbon"? Accordingly we find it's as a possessive creeping into use late in the sixteenth century. Where, or by whom, it was first used will perhaps never be known. I should not wonder if the form was of northern origin, s being a favourite inflectional factotum in northern parts, and the form it having been adopted there for book-use, though hit was vernacular. The oldest instances of it's quoted by Mr. Aldis Wright are from Florio's Worlde of Wordes (1598), and the same writer's Montaigne (1603); but, as instances are frequent there," for it's owne sake," "science had it's of-spring,' "doe it's best," "it's name," etc., it seems likely that Florio only confirmed a previous custom.
In our authorized version of the Bible (1611) the word its does not once occur. In one passage in our modern copies, indeed (Levit. xxv. 5), we read "That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap"; but this is a printer's substitution, in or about 1653, for the text of the
original edition, "That which groweth of it owne accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reape. While in this passage the authorized version uses that now obsolete possessive form it which we have marked as the third method in our historical enumeration, the prevailing methods there are the first and second. Evasion by "of it" "thereof," etc., is common enough; but, where the evasion is not resorted to, the true old form his, without recourse to the alternative her, is the rule. Whether this was from a cognisance of the fact that his was the true old neuter form, as well as the masculine, it might be difficult to determine. The example in Numbers iv. 9- "the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it"—rather suggests that it was; and so do Gen. i. II, "The fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself," and the phrase, Luke xiv. 34, "If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned ?" In any case, the utter omission of the word its from the authorized version, though that word was already in existence in London, seems to prove that it was not considered sufficiently respectable for an elevated purpose.
Nevertheless, the word was pushing itself into use at that time colloquially, and in popular, and especially dramatic, literature. Shakespeare's practice with respect to it may be taken as significant of what was going on around him. Mr. Aldis Wright finds the possessive form it in the First Folio exactly fifteen times, and the form its exactly ten times; and he quotes (Bible Word-Book) all the instances of each. Shakespeare, he proves, accepted its as a word that might be used occasionally, and that sometimes recommended itself by a necessity or a kind of emphatic fitness. Overwhelmingly predominant, however, in his text is the continued use of his where we should now employ its. Hardly a page or two of any good edition, when carefully read, but will furnish an example. There are also instances in Shakespeare of her where we should now use its, though these are rarer, and in some of them one may detect a tinge of that personifying mode of thought which might suggest her now in similar cases. Some instances of its have been produced from Bacon; and it has been found in Sylvester's Du Bartas (1605), and not unfrequently in Ben Jonson, and