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fingers the other. The figures 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, &c., are and always were pure symbols. And it is worthy of observation, that the whole system of Decimal Arithmetic hinges upon these symbolic figures, or has acquired immense addition to its range "of capabilities by the use of these figures. So in like manner will it be found by and bye, that the modern development of languages has hinged mainly upon symbolic words, and that their instrumentality has been the chief means of what progress has been made in the capabilities of expression.
The same general tendency which makes symbols take the place of pictures, makes or has made symbolic words take the place of presentives in a great number of instances. This tendency has led to the formation out of the large mass of presentive verbs of a select number of symbolic verbs, which are the light and active intermediaries, and the general servants of the presentive verbs. Thus the verbs partake of both characters, the presentive and the symbolic. But as regards the rest of the parts of speech, they fall into two natural halves under the influence of this distinction. The nouns, adjectives, and adverbs are presentive words; the pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions are symbolic words. But if the reader should find himself unable to establish so simple an adjustment between the two systems, I would observe that nothing depends on it. The attempt to effect a harmony between an artificial and a natural classification, is always liable to fail at certain points. Nature is not such a rigid classifier as man.
Moreover there is much of what is arbitrary in the denomination assigned by grammarians to many a word. Dictionaries and grammars are not quite at one on this head. Some will think perhaps that my symbolic words are found to invade the domain of noun, adjective, and adverb; while
they fail to cover and fully occupy what I have assigned to them, namely, the pronoun, conjunction, and preposition.
Therefore the grammatical scheme should not be trusted to as a frame for the new division. The student must seize the distinction itself; and the illustration of it by reference to the grammatical scale is only offered as a temporary assistance.
The best illustration of it will be found in its application when we come to the syntax. For the present we can only give a few examples of the transition of a word from a presentive to a symbolic use.
Thing. This is a very good example, on account of its unmixed simpleness. For it is almost purely symbolic, and devoid of presentive power.
It is still more. It is of universal application in its symbolic power. There is not a subject of speech which may not be indicated by the word thing. This will at once be acknowledged upon consideration of such passages as the following :
* All things serve Thee.'
* By these ways, as by the testimony of the creature, we come to find an eternal and independent Being, upon which all things else depend, and by which all things else are governed.'— John Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, Art. I.
By these quotations it is apparent that we cannot name a creature, whether visible or invisible, whether an object of sense or of thought, which may not be indicated by the word thing. It is therefore of universal application in its symbolical power
But if we ask, on the other hand, what idea does this word present? we answer, none ! There is no creature,
1 The few instances in which thing (with a faint rhetorical emphasis) is opposed to person, are to be regarded as stranded relics on the path of the transition which the bulk of the word has passed through.
no subject of speech or of thought, which can claim the word thing as its presenter. There was a time when the word was presentive like any ordinary noun, but that time is now far behind us. The most recent example I am able to quote is of the fourteenth century.
In Chaucer' Prologue it occurs twice presentively :
• He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixen Myddelburgh and Orewelle.' (1. 278.)
The fullness of tone which the rhythm requires for the word thyng in both these places, is by itself almost enough to indicate that they are not to be taken as when we say 'I would not do it for anything,' or 'Here's a thing will do.' In these trivial instances the word is vague and symbolical; but it would hardly have beseemed such a poet as Chaucer to bring the stroke of his measure down upon such gossamer. The Merchant desired that the sea should be protected for the sake of commerce at any price, condition, or cost, on any terms. For such is the old sense of the word thing. The old verb to thing, in Saxon þingian, meant to make terms, to compromise, pacisci. So also in German the word Ding had a like use, as may be seen through its compounds. The verb bedingen is to stipulate, bargain; and Bedingung is condition, terms of agreement, contract.
In Denmark and Norway the word still retains its presentiveness, and signifies a judicial or deliberative assembly. In Denmark the places where the judges hold session are called Ting. In Norway the Parliament is called Stor Ting, that is, Great Thing. In Molbech's Danish Dictionary there is a list of compounds with Ting, in its presentive power of adjudicating or adjusting conflicting interests.
In such a sense it is said by Chaucer that his Sergeaunt of
Lawe could endite and make a THYNG, meaning, he could make a good contract, was a good conveyancer. And when Burns wrote—
• Facts are chiels that winna ding,' I understand 'Facts are obstinate things,' or, to preserve his figure of speech, 'Facts are lads that will not be talked over,' will not make terms, will not accommodate matters by a compromise : ‘Facts are stubborn.'
'It may be objected to the above treatment of the word thing, that it still presents a definite idea, only at a high stage of generalisation. And this is not to be denied. The idea presented by thing is what the mediæval logicians would have called entity or quiddity or some such queer name. By the same rule nothing also presents an idea of its own, to wit, nonentity. But to enter into such matters in a work of this kind, would be to mistake the plane of metaphysics for that of philology. We take as the standard of philological reasoning the attitude and the glance of the mind as engaged in the direct use of language, and not as engaged in the reflective examination of it.
A question may be raised here: What part of speech is this symbolic thing? Grammar, which looks only to its literary action, will say it is a noun, and that however much it
may have changed in sense, it cannot cease to be a noun. Yet it will often be found to act the part and fill the place of pronouns
in the classic tongues. The Latin neuter pronouns hæc, ea, ista, their Greek analogues taūta, ékeiva, τοιαύτα, τοσαύτα, can hardly be rendered in English in any other way than by the expressions these things, those things, such things, so great things. If in all cases we must grammatically insist that thing is a noun, then what part of speech are something, nothing, anything, everything - It may
be a question at what stage of symbolism a noun passes over to the ranks of the pronoun, but it appears plain that there is a point at which this transition must be admitted, and that the whole question turns upon the degree of symbolism that is requisite. If the word thing has not quite attained that degree, it must be allowed that it approaches very near to it.
Grammar is apt to get bound by its own rules, and to become the slave of its own traditions. Now the word much (on which I promised some further remarks above, p. 188) has been traditionally called a noun in certain positions which have been specified in the place referred to. This is merely a consequence of the Latin Grammars and Dictionaries of an 'unphilological age having called multum a noun. English grammarians, taking their cue from Latin studies, have made much a noun accordingly. If we are to seek a principle in such matters, and not be guided entirely by chance accidents, we must call much, by reason of its purely symbolic nature, a pronoun, in such a phrase as Where much is given.'
Will, would; shall, should. The word shall offers a good example of the movement from presentiveness to symbolism. When it flourished as a presentive word, it signified to owe. Of this ancient state of the word a memorial exists in the German adjective schuldig, indebted. From this state it passed by slow and unperceived movements to that sense which is now most familiar to us, in which it is a verbal auxiliary, charging the verb with a sense fluctuating between the future tense and the imperative mood. This is that gossamer use of the word in which the well-known uncertainty arises, whether shall or will is the proper thing to say in particular situations. Into this muchworn theme we will not enter: it has been recently ex