« IndietroContinua »
These verbs have been multiplied indefinitely in our day, partly in consequence of their utility for scientific expression, and partly from the fact that about twenty years ago it became a toy of University-men to make verbs in -ize about all manner of things. A walk for the sake of bodily exercise having been called a “constitutional,” the verb constitutionalize was soon formed thereupon. It was then caught up in country homes, and young ladies who helped the parson in any way were said to parochialize. A. H. Clough, when engaged on his edition of Plutarch's Lives in English, used to report progress to his correspondents by saying that he devoted so much of his time to Plutarchizing.
311. These verbs are now more commonly written with -ise than with -ize. That is to say, we are met here again, as in so many other passages of our language, with that quiet unnoticed French influence. Here it will probably prove stronger than Greek, and recover that tenure which the Greek sentiment has long had in quiet possession.
This spelling-change is the more noticeable, because it has taken place against two naturally opposing forces. It was against the pronunciation, and also against the general persuasion of a Greek origin. Over both these the French influence, aided perhaps by the unpopularity of z, has induced us to imitate the French form -iser. They who helped to effect this change, little thought that they were promoting an etymological restoration.
This form may indeed be regarded as Greek because that view has been established and consciously acted upon for • a long time past. But though it has now acquired the
reputation of a Greek form, it does not follow that the first suggestion of it was due to the Greek language. Paradoxical as it may sound, it is nevertheless true, that words have the singular power of effecting a change of ancestry. As regards the present case, reason will be given in the next chapter for supposing that this Greek form' had a French origin.
312, The English verbs present so great a variety of age and featuring, that they may as a whole be compared to a venerable pile of buildings, which have grown by successive additions through a series of centuries. One spirit animates the whole, and gives it a unity of thought in the midst of the most striking diversities of external appearance. The later additions are crude and harsh as compared with the more ancient-a fact which is partly due to the mellowing effect of age, and partly also to the admission of strange models. In our speech, as well as in our architecture, we are now sated with the classic element, and we are turning our eyes back with curiosity and interest to what was in use before the revival of letters, and before the renaissance of classic art.
Except that the verbs require not their hundreds, but their thousands of years, to bę told off when we take count of their development, we might offer this as a fitting similitude. They are indeed variously featured, and bearing the characters of widely differing ages, and they are united only in a oneness of purpose; and by reason of these characters I have used the collective expression which is at the head of this chapter, and designated them as The Verbal Group.
THE NOUN GROUP,
313. We are now come to the backbone of our subject. The relation of the verb to the noun may be figured not unaptly by calling the verb the headpiece, and the noun the backbone.
When we say the noun, we mean a group of words which comprise no less than the whole essential presentives of the language. In grammars they are ordinarily divided into three groups, the Substantive, the Adjective, and the Adverb. We call these the presentives, and they will be found precisely co-extensive with that term.
It is true that many verbs are presentive, and this may seem a difficulty. More verbs are presentive than are not. But it is no part of the quality of a verb to be presentive; if it is presentive, that circumstance is a mere accident of its material condition. On the other hand all the words which we shall include in the noun-group are essentially presentive, and they constitute the store of presentive words of the language.
When verbs are presentive, they are so precisely in proportion to the amount of nounal stuff that is mixed up in their constitution. For we must regard the verbs—always excepting the symbolic verbs, that is, verbs which in whole or in part have shed their old nounal coat-simply as words raised to an official position in the organized constitution of the sentence, and qualified for their office by receiving a predicative power.
314. As the verb is most retentive of antiquity, and as it therefore offers the best point of comparison with other languages of the same Gothic stock, so, on the side of the noun we may say that it exhibits best the stratification of the language. By which is meant, that the traces of the successive influences which have passed over the national mind have left on the noun a continuous series of deposits, and that it is here we can most plainly read off the history and experiences of the individual language. The verb will tell us more of comparative philology; but the noun will tell more of the historical philology of the English language.
Under the title then of the Noun-Group three parts of speech are included—the Substantive, the Adjective, and the Adverb. For all these are in fact Nouns under different aspects.
This chapter will consist of three sections corresponding to these three parts of speech.
1. OF THE SUBSTANTIVE.
315. The chief forms are derived from the Saxon, the French, the Latin, and the Greek languages. The Saxon forms are generally to be found extant in one or more of the cognate dialects, such as the Icelandic, the Dutch, the German, the Danish, the Swedish; but substantives will not be found to unite the languages in one concent so often as the strong verbs.
The oldest group consists of short words, mostly found in the cognate dialects, which have no distinguishable suffix or formative attached to them, or whose formative is now obscured by deformation. The bulk of this class is monosyllabic, but this is sometimes by condensation. Thus lord was in Saxon hlaf-ord, awe was ege (disyllabic), door duru, head heafod, son sunu, star steorra, world woruld.
Examples :-ash, awe, badge, bear, bed, bee, bier, bliss, boat, bone, borough, bread, breast, bride, buck, calf, chin, cloth, corn, cow, craft, day, deal, deed, deer, doom, door, down on a peach, drink, drone, ear, earth, east, edge, elf, eye, fat (vessel), field, fish, flesh, flood, fly, foe, fold, foot, frog, frost, furze, ghost, goat, God, goose, glass, gnat, ground, guest, hand, harp, head, heap, heart, herd, hill, hood, hoof, horse, hound, house, ice, ivy, keel, knave, knee, knight, knot, lamb, land, laugh, leaf, Lent, life, lord, lore, louse, love, lust, man, mark, meed, mist, mood, moon, mouse, mouth, neat (cattle), need, nest, net, north, nose, oak, oath, 0x, path, pith, rake, ram, rest, rick, rind, ring, roof, rope, salve, sap, scar, sea, seal (phoca), seed, shame, share, sheaf, shears, sheep, shield, ship, shire, shoe, sin, skin, skull, smith, son, song, sough, south, speed, staff, stall, star, steer, stone, stock, stow, stream, sun, swine, sword, thief, thing, tide, tongue, tooth, tree, way, wear, well, west, wether, whale, wheel, whelp, while, wife, will, wind, wold, wolf, womb, wood, word, world, worm, yard, year, yoke.
These we may regard as Simple words; that is to say, words in which we cannot see more than one element unless we mount higher than the biet of the present treatise. From these we pass on to others in which we begin to recognise formative traces, that is, something of terminations as distinct from the body of the words.