Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

given to etymology; to the comparison of various languages, in the literal, transitive, idiomatic,

and figurative meanings of words; and to the best systems of logic and mental philosophy, compared with the consciousness of what is passing in the mind. The evidence which limited means could draw from these sources, was constantly referred to the civil and moral history; the physical and social condition, of man, in relation to which, all language is formed.

This volume may be regarded as a sketch of general principles, rather than a set of special rules. It is addressed chiefly to the reasoning faculties; not to the memory, as an arbitrary form of words; and is, in its general plan, purposely confined to the plain and literal modes of speech.

The author has, in practice, witnessed its effects in expanding and invigorating the minds of the young'; in leading to habits of philosophic scrutiny, and to the application of language to its legi

timate purposes.

If it should be thought, by some, that too much freedom is used, in this work, in speaking of the prevailing course of instruction in language, it is not from intentional want of candor; but from deliberate conviction, that a large portion of what is received as the exposition of speech, is alike opposed to fact, to science, and to common sense : for under no other name, but that of grammar, could such

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

li

las llacan

o

slaves of a lunatic mythology; the degraded åttendants on soothsayers and gladiators ? and why does Spain, at this age of the world, and after what Spain has been, choose to lie down at a tyrant's feet, and solicit the chains and tortures of a dun

geon ?

Should this Essay, in its crude outline, be favorably received, a second volume will be printed, designed to exemplify the principles of figurative language, in connexion with logic and rhetoric; natural and moral philosophy; including a slight view of the appropriate influence of a national tongue, on public literature, sentiments, pursuits, and character.

ESSAY ON LANGUAGE.

INTRODUCTORY DISSERTATION.

1. LANGUAGE has been long considered as a subject of great interest, and has occupied the ablest writers among most civilized nations. Yet, after all the learning employed in its investigation, a slight research will show, that most of the contradictory systems which have been proposed are radically defective, and that much remains to be done. It is not expected that the expositions about to be offered will be free from defect. The intention is to present, in a new point of view, a branch of learning deeply interesting to the literary world, and particularly to the American States, under existing circumstances.

2. The plan of the present treatise differs, probably, from what has been attempted in any country. The ideas advanced will vary in several important particulars from the received doctrines of the schools, and the prejudices of inwrought sentiment. Novelty, however, is not sought for the sake of innovation. The leading object is simple philosophic truth.

3. Many obvious difficulties are presented in connexion with such an undertaking. If the principles advanced should be considered just, it may not be easy to make them entertaining, and reconcile them to the prejudices resulting from a different course of instruction. These difficulties, however, do not consist in the want of interest in the nature of language itself, but in the want of skill properly to explain it.

4. Among persons of more conceit than intelligence, it is not uncommon to hear the study of language represented as being, under almost any form, a dull and frivolous pursuit. It may be so to those whose attention is confined to arbitrary rules, founded on the mere forms of words : but when we consider the faculty of speech as the distinguishing gift of the Creator to our race: as inwoven with all the wants, enjoyments, and improvements of man: as the index to the progress of society from barbarism to refinement, and of its downward course through luxury, imbecility, and crime to the depths of national degradation; contemplating the structure of speech as blended with the whole internal organization of society; with instruction, laws, religious sentiments, moral conduct, and habits of thought; when we consider it as the means of the Christian's present consolation and future hope, and still extend our views to the faculty of speech as the medium of social bliss for superior intelligences in an eternal world : what benighted man, rejecting the bounty of his Maker, shall come forward and say that the study of language is dull, or low, or unprofitable ?

5. Speech is to mind what action is to anima! bodies. Its improvement is the improvement of

« EdellinenJatka »