« EdellinenJatka »
Thus the word person, is a name applying abselutely to any one of the human species, and the name continues to apply, so long as the being may
exist. The name uncle, on the other hand, is entirely relative : for the individual so called, can bear this title no longer than while he has a neph. w or niece ; but must, independent of any change in himself, cease to be an uncle, if all the persons to whom he is thus related should die, Parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, king, subject, citizen, teacher, captain, master, servant, soldier, judge, printer, and a vast number of similar words, which relate to man in his complicated character, are all mere relative terms.
The names of sensible objects also quently relative; as, the end of a stick, the top of the house, the north and south poles, the Zenith and nadir ; an extract, quotation, abridgment, the essence of lavender, valleys, mountains, hills, dales, banks.
104. Though these classes of things exist in the structure of every language, and have their foundation in nature, and the condition of man, at all times, no skill can draw a complete separating line between them. They run into each other by imperceptible degrees, and mingle in endless forms of combination. It is not therefore necessary, in practice, to aim at infallibility in the application of principles, the unerring use of which would require nothing less than the perfection of knowledge. The exercises under this system of explanation will be found exceedingly improving in expanding the mind; increasing its acumen, and forming habits of philosophic investigation : and though the beginning should be very defective, every step in the progress will increase the facility
of ulterior advance. The author has, in the way of his own experience, seen more benefit resulting to pupils from this philosophic adaptation of words to things, than in any other scholastic exercise on the science of language.
105. Having examined the different classes of things, in nature and art, to which nouns are applied, we shall next attend to them as consisting of a single object, or a of plurality.
The addition of s or es, or of any other modification to a noun singular, to denote more objects than one, may be called a grammatical plural. The manner of forming this plural depends on the special or conventional regulations of each particular tongue.
106. There are two ways of forming the plural of nouns, philosophically considered, and this is a principle, common perhaps to all languages.
ist. When for instance we speak of dollars, we mean simple numerical increas', from the singular. Ten thousand of these coins may be cast in the same die, and as to all perceivable qualities, may be exactly alike. Neither does the mind necessarily conceive of them under any idea of variety, but mere increase of numbe:.
2. But when we speak of drugs and medicines, the leading intention of the mind is variety; and the idea of number, which is vaguely implied, is consequential and subsidiaryThe general understanding is, that no two things of a kind are included under the idea contained in the expression; but different articles, used for medicinal purposes. The conception of specific number is so foreign from this kind of plural, that to say, twelve drugs and fifteen medicines, strikes the ear of every one as entirely new and whimsical.
* Paints and dyewoods” means different kinds of paint and dyewood, no two things of a kind being understood.
" He found his fears of whips and ropes.
By many a dram outweighed his hopes."-McFingal. This term outweigh, is precisely the one recognized by popular language ; so little does the thought of counting hopes and fears enter into the mind. What
intended and understood here, is the different modifications of hope and fear, from different causes, relations, and objects. Hope and fear are afections of the mind. Specific number is not applicable to them, and is not implied in their plurat forms, farther than as number is unavoidably included in variety. • Color” is a quality of matter, and so is “blackness." The latter has no plural form; because, however this quality may vary in its proportion, or degree of intensity, it is always considered as being the same thing in kind. “ Colors” means different kinds of color, or of coloring matter, the import always being variety, and not the numerical augmentation of things like each other. The same observations will apply to virtues, vices, terrors, remedies, crimes, punishments, laws, governments, religions, and a very numerous list of other words. It would be easy to follow these exemplifications through other languages; but this is not necessary to the purpose of the present work. When a merchant advertises “ Sugars and Fresh Teas,” he means different kinds of tea and sugar; for no one sort, whatever the quantity may be, can form a plural.
These principles, like many others, hitherto unnoticed, will be found important in their application.
107. Many nouns have no plural. The r'easons are founded in philosophy, according to the nature of the case. Wheat and rye are sensible objects, which have no plural; for the articles to which the names are applied are computed by bulk or quantity, and not by number.
Universe has no plural; because from the extent of the term, there can be but one. Immensity, infinitude, eternity, omniscience, omnipotence, and other words of this class, can have no plural; because the singular fills all conceivable extension. For the same reason, these terms cannot properly admit any specifying word; and their correlative adjectives, as eternal, infinite, &c. preclude the idea of comparative degrees. A want of attention to these principles has produced a remarkable vagueness in the expressions of authors who deservedly stand high in other respects.
The noun being thus philosophically attended to, it will be seen afterwards how the pronoun is substituted for it, the adjective refers to it, and the verb agrees with it, according to the nature of the thing.
108. Pro is the Latin preposition for.
Pronouns are words used instead of nouns, to prevent their tiresome repetition; as, John Brown is a good scholar: he learns well : we must reward him. The words he and him stand for John Brown, and the pronoun we stands for all the
persons whom the speaker represents.
109. The pronouns in English are, I, me, thou, thee, he, him, she, her, it, we, ye or you, they, them, who and whom.
Each of these words is special and invariable. The nominatives and objectives of these pronouns are indeed correlative by use and application, but one is not necessarily to be deemed a mere modification of the other, as in Greek and Latin declensions. The misconception of this fact has led to great error in practice. The words I and me; we and us; she and her, are from totally different roots; and there was no more reason to suppose from their mere relative employment, that one was a derivative from the other, than that William Tell is the objective case of Switzerland, or that the name knifeblade was derived from bucks-horn, because handles are sometimes made of that material. It is the general character of the English language that its distinct words are more numerous, and each word respectively more specific and absolute in its application, than those of almost any other system of human speech. In these respects it has in particular but little affinity with Greek and Latin, with which it has been most compared, and in which analogy has been most industriously sought.
110. Pronouns, like nouns, are of two numbers, the singular and the plural; but they do not form the plural, from the singular, by a different ending of the same word. The simple theory of English pronouns is that a specific and invariable word is prepared for each relative position in which a pronoun can be placed.
Pronouns are of three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter.
They have three persons, first, second, and third. The first person is the one who speaks; the second is spoken to ; and the third is spoken of;