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POSTSCRIPT (1878). If there are any expressions in this chapter which seem to assert that Symphytism gives a complete and exhaustive account of Flexion, it is more than was intended. There are indeed philologers who favour the opinion that if a thorough analysis were possible, all inflections would be found to have been the product of combination. Horne Tooke was, I believe, the first to throw out this surmise :—'I think I have good reasons to believe that all terminations may likewise be traced to their respective origins; and that ... they were ... but separate words by length of time corrupted and coalescing with the words of which they are now considered as the terminations.' Of late years the subject has been a good deal discussed, and the prevailing opinion seems to be that there is a flexional differentiation which cannot be attributed to Symphytism, but rather to what the Germans call Ableitung, Derival. I would point to the forms in 316-318 as probable instances of Derival rather than of Combination.
THE VERBAL GROUP.
258. The verb is distinguished from all other forms of speech by very marked characteristics and a very peculiar organization. It has surrounded itself with an assortment of subordinate means of expression, such as are found in attendance on no other part of speech. The power of combining with itself the ideas of Person, Time, besides all the various contingencies which we comprise under the term Mood, is a power possessed by the verb alone. It makes no difference whether these accessory ideas are added to the verb by means of inflections or of symbolic words. The important fact is this,—that under the one form or the other, the verb has such means of expression at its service in every highly organized language.
The cause wherefore the verb is thus richly attended with its satellites becomes very plain when we consider what a verb is. A verb is a word whereby the chief action of the mind finds expression. The chief action of the mind is judgment; that is to say, the assertion or the denial of a proposition. This is explicitly done by means of the verb. Out of this function of the verb, and the exigencies of that function, have arisen the peculiar honours and prerogatives of the verb. This part of speech has, by a natural operation, drawn around it those aids which were necessary to it for the discharge of its function as the exponent of the mental act of judgment.
259. It will be well to distinguish the essence of the verb from that which is but a result of its essential character: The power of expressing Time by those variations which we call Tense (after an old form of the French word for time), has attracted notice as the most salient feature about the verb. Aristotle defined a verb as a word that included the expression of Time. The established German word for a verb is Zeit-wort, that is to say, Time-word. Others have thought that the power of expressing Action is the real and true characteristic of the verb. Ewald, in his Hebrew Grammar, calls the verb accordingly That-wort, that is to say, Deed-word. But in these expressions the essential is obscured by that which is more conspicuous. Madvig, in his Latin Grammar, seems to put it in the right light. He designates the verb as UDSAGNSORD, that is Outsayingsword; because it 'udsiger om en Person eller Ting en Tilstand eller en Virksomhed,' outsays, pronounces, asserts, delivers, about a person or thing a condition or an action. It is the instrument by which the mind expresses its judgments, or (in modern parlance) makes its deliverances.
260. To know a verb from a noun is perhaps the most elementary step in the elements of grammar. Assuming that the reader has thoroughly mastered this distinction, which is very real and necessary to be known, we proceed to a statement which may at first sight appear to contradict it. The verb and the noun spring from one root. It often happens that distinctions which are very real and useful for a certain purpose and in a certain view, are found to disappear or to lose their importance on a wider or deeper investigation. Grammatical distinctions will often vanish in
philology. Philologically speaking, the presentive verb is only a noun raised to a verbal power. As a ready illustration of this, we may easily form an alphabetical list of words which are nouns if they have a or an, and verbs if they have to prefixed :ape, bat, cap, dart, eye, fight, garden, house, ink, knight, land, man, number, order, pair, question, range, sail, time, usher, vaunt, wing, yell.
As soon as you put to any one of these the sign of a noun or of a verb, a great difference ensues—a difference hardly less than that between the gunpowder to which you have put the match and that over which you have snapped the pouch's mouth. Little by little, external marks of distinction gather around that word which the mind has promoted to the foremost rank. Pronunciation first, and orthography at a slower distance, seek gradually to give a form to that which a flash of thought has instantaneously created. Pronunciation takes advantage of its few opportunities, while orthography contends with its many obstacles. We have a distinction in pronunciation between a house and to house, between a present and to present, a record and to record, between a use and to use. But these distinctions of sound are as yet unwritten, and they may hereafter be lost. It is only known to us through poetic rhythm that the substantive of to manúre was once called mánure :The smoking manure and o’erspreads it all.
William Cowper, The Garden. In other cases orthography has added its mark of distinction also. We distinguish both by sound and writing an advice from to advise, a gap from to gape, and a prophecy from to prophesy. So also a device and to devise, life and live, strife and strive, breath and breathe.
This is perhaps as much as need here be said to account for the wide separation now existing between nouns and
verbs, though they were originally one. The difference of condition that now severs them as by a gulf is the accumulated result of the age-long continuation of that process whose beginnings are here indicated.
We have spoken of the verb as a transformed noun, because this is the most frequent occurrence. But any word, whether pronoun, or interjection, or whatever it may be, can be raised to this power. The mere act of predication, which is the most central and dominant of all the acts in which language is exercised, is sufficient to transform any word whatever, and constitute it a Verb.
261. By reason of its central position, and by its continual and unsuspended action, the verb has a greater tenacity of form than any other part of speech. Hence it is that the most remarkable antiquities of the English language are to be found in the verb. It is in the verb that we find the Saxon forms best preserved, and that we find the most conspicuous tokens of the relationship of our language to the German and Dutch and Danish and Icelandic. In fact, it would be hardly too much to say, that a description of the elder verbs of any of the Gothic languages would, with slight alterations, pass for a description of the elder verbs of any one of the others.
The verbs which we shall notice first, and which are known as the Strong verbs, have preserved tense-forms which are among the boldest features of the English language, which are among its most striking features of similitude with other Gothic tongues, and which at the same time are among the most peculiar characteristics of the Gothic family in its comparison with other families of speech. This coincidence of internal harmony with external contrast, knits together the Gothic family in a compact and separate unity, and seems to indicate that it must have remained undivided and