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of little shoots will forthwith enter into a competition, which will increase in severity with every season, and nature's pruning will lop out year by year the weakest, until at length a very few will have established for themselves a post of permanence.
The sprays of language are these phrasal forms which are produced by the combination of symbolic words. They are constantly springing up in particular classes of society, in particular localities or crafts or schools; and in the same sphere they mostly pass their existence until they are ousted by some phrase of newer device. Now and then it happens that one escapes beyond the pale of its class and becomes more generally known, but even then, in most cases it is only to enjoy a short career, and be soon forgotten. An instance of this occurred in the recent expression to make it out; which originated about thirty years ago in the aristrocratic region, got enlarged so far as to be current among the whole of the educated classes, and then passed quietly into oblivion. A distinguished Queen's Counsel told me how he found himself one day seated at a dinner table where the company was mostly of higher rank than he had been used to, and that by way of opening conversation with the lady next him, he asked her the question of the hour, Whether she had been to the Royal Academy? She had not; she had not been able to make it out. “Make it out’! thought my friend to himself, 'What can that mean? This is one of their aristocratic phrases that they understand among themselves.' In course of time it became more public, and was heard on all sides, and it meant the same as to make time for a thing. But it had no chance of permanence, because there was already a well-established and more necessary use of this very phrase, 'to make it out,' in the sense of clearing up a difficulty or uncertainty.
Let us take an example from the other end of the community. In Somersetshire the ordinary phrase “to have to do a thing,' is in frequent and varied use. The negative not to have to do' is common as a euphemism for saying that the thing is prohibited. The parson came suddenly upon some rustic children who were swinging where they had no right to be, and as he drove them off, one boy made himself the spokesman: ‘Please, sir, we did n know as we had n had to swing here !
Concluding Remarks on Syntax.
594. There are two chief controlling influences in the formation of the sentence, namely Logic and Rhythm. Of rhythm we shall have to speak in the chapter on Prosody: logic associates itself with Syntax.
Logic as a mental faculty is not originative and creative; it is only regulative and continuative. A stock of thought is presupposed, and the part of logic is to arrange this in an intelligent order. For the purposes of philology we may define logic as an intellectual consistency in syntax, a regularity of language which guides thought smoothly and with a sense of consecutiveness.
The meaning may often be clear enough though the language may be so inconsequent as to deserve the name of nonsense. In a certain Improvement Act of the session of 1872, the interpretation clause lays it down as a rule
that the term “new building” means any building pulled or burnt down to or within ten feet from the surface of the adjoining ground. The meaning is plain enough, that no building shall be accounted as new, of which more than ten feet was old. But it is illogical, it creates a jumble and discord of thought, across which the mind has to scramble after the sense.
Sometimes in language, as in music, such a discord may be entertaining :
Some girls were asked by one of our inspectors of schools, whether they knew what was the meaning of the word scandal. One little girl stepped vigorously forward, and throwing her hand up in that semaphore fashion by which children indicate the possession of knowledge, attracted the notice of the inspector. He desired her to answer the question, upon which she uttered these memorable words: “Nobody does nothing, and everybody goes on telling of it everywhere.' ... Listen to it again. "Nobody does nothing (regard the force of that double negative), and everybody goes on (note the continuity of slander) telling of it everywhere.' -Good Words, August 1872 : “A Conversation of Certain Friends in Council.'
595. We have shewn abundant readiness to do justice to the claims of the logical sense. Our dismissal of the elder negative, and our rule that two negatives are equal to an affirmative, are an instance in which logical sense rather than speech-instinct has had the sway. In the latter part of last century we had reached a sort of culminating point in the matter of logical syntax, and since that time there has been a relaxation and some little disposition to admit structures that are expressive or pleasing, though they cannot quite give a logical account of themselves. Nothing is plainer, for example, than this, that two or more subjects united by and’ form plurality, and should logically have a plural verb; and therefore the following is logically right :
Mr. Jenkins's house was about a mile from Mr. Benson's: it was delightfully situated; there were a beautiful lawn and canal before it, and a charming garden behind ; Mrs. Trimmer, Fabulous Histories, ch. x.
No one hardly would write so now-a-days: it offends from excess of logic.
Here is another instance in which the logic is too rigid :
A very small number of similar reminiscences of my own is also added. Sir George Henry Rose, Marchmont Papers ; Preface.
And here is an example of the freedom resulting from watching the thought rather than the words:
Parliament were more particular about their sport than about the object of it.-J. B. Mozley, Essays, “ Archbishop Laud,' p. 137.
596. Nouns of multitude enjoy the privilege of construing either as singulars or as plurals: but if within the same sentence they take both constructions, there arises the sense of illogicality, as in this :Samaria for their sinnes, is captiuated.—2 Kings xvii ; - Contents.
The logical quality of speech is contingent on a variety of attendant circumstances. What has been logical once is not logical always.
In Exodus iv. Contents, we read, 'The people beleeueth them,' where we should now say “The people believe them.' There is here a double adjustment, first as concerns the grammatical Number of this collective noun, and secondly as to that of the termination -eth, which was once a plural termination. Not however to analyze all this, it suffices for the present to observe that while the two forms of this sentence above given have been equally logical each in its day, the latter only seems logical now.
By universal assent the French is reputed the most logical of languages. This is not due to any special sensitiveness which the nation has displayed upon this subject: on the contrary, they have followed the natural speech-instinct with greater simplicity than we have, as is witnessed by the different conduct of the two nations in the matter of the Double Negative. Nor is there any language which is fuller of idioms defying logical analysis. But the meaning upon the French page is transparent, and the mind follows the language not only without impediment, but also with the enjoyment of a perceptible concord between the structure and the sense.
597. In a general way of speaking, compounds are merely morsels of syntax which from being often together have become adherent, and have grown into something between phrases and words. A mature language makes fresh compounds after the pattern established; but the origin of the pattern is to be sought in the habits, often the earlier habits, of the syntactical structure.
Accordingly some of our compounds do and others do not represent the present order of syntax. Since income was formed, we have changed the syntax of the verb, and we say come in; but the modern compound break-water is in harmony with present syntax.
Compounds vary extremely as regards laxity or compactness of fabric. When first made they are very lax, and hardly to be distinguished as compounds from words in syntax. Such loose compounds are daily made by little more than the trick of inserting hyphens. In the Cornhill Magazine a writer upon rhetoric designates a certain style of diction as the allude-to-an-individual style. In those languages which have a ready faculty for compound-making, this sort