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ne = nor.
“Ne wete hir fyngres in hir sauce depe.' (1. 129.)
ne in both senses.
When ne as a simple negative had been superseded by not, it still continued in the sense of nor, and thus we find it in Spenser :
• Then mounted he upon his Steede againe,
And with the Lady backward sought to wend.
He passed forth, and new adventure sought :
The Faerie Queene,
And there a noble crew
Id. i. 4. 7.
Jacob Grimm would distinguish the former ne from the latter, writing the simple negative as ně, and the equivalent of 'nor' as nē. This he educes from comparison of the collateral forms, such as nih in Gothic for ‘nor.' He thinks that this nē represented an older neh. The poetical quotations do not help us in this, for they show no distinction in
the quantity. Neither could we get any light from the Saxon poetry, for it had no regulated metres. But it is some confirmation of Grimm's view, that the ne to which he gives the long vowel, outlived the other, and that it took so much longer time to absorb it into newer forms. This is in itself an argument for the probability of its having been a weightier syllable.
Another form of this negative was the prefix un-, which has lived through the Saxon and English period without much change. It has always been a peculiarly expressive formula, and often strikingly poetical.
• Folde wæs þa gyt
The field was yet-wbiles
With grass not green; ocean covered all. Indeed, it is a very great factor in Anglo-Saxon. It stands in places where we have lost and might gladly recover its use, and where at present we have no better substitute than the unnatural device of prefixing a Latin non.
In the Laws of Ine, we have the distinction between landowners and non-landowners expressed by land ágende and unland dgende.
In Chaucer and in the Ballads we meet with unset steven' for chance-meeting, meeting without appointment.
Gavin Douglas, in The Palace of Honour, written in 1501, ranks Dunbar among the illustrious poets, and adds that he is yet undead: •Dunbar yit undeid.'
undescribed, unset-down. • When they urge that God left nothing in his word “undescribed,” whether it concerned the worship of God or outward polity, nothing unset-down,' &c. -Richard Hooker, Of the Laws, &c., III. xi. 8.
unchurch. Our position ... does not force us to “unchurch” (as it is termed) either of the other great sections of Christendom; as they do mutually one another and us.'— John Keble, Life, p. 425.
And this n-particle is not limited to the Gothic family. It appears in Latin ne, non, and in-, the negative prefix so well known in our borrowed Latin words, as indelible, intolerable, invincible, inextinguishable, &c. In Greek it
appears in the prefix an-, as in our borrowed Greek words, anodyne, which cancels pain; anonymous, which is unnamed.
There is something strange and fascinating about this faculty of negation in language. It has been often asserted that there is nothing in speech of which the idea is not borrowed from the outer world. But where in the outer world is there such a thing as a negative? Where is the natural phenomenon that would suggest to the human mind the idea of negation? There are, it is true, many appearances that may supply types of negation to those who are in search of them. They who are in possession of the idea of negation may fancy they see it in nature, in such antitheses as light and shade, day and night, joy and sorrow. But they only see a reflection of their own thought. There is no negative in nature. All nature is one continued series of affirmatives; and if this term seem too rigid, it is only because the very term 'affirmation’ is a relative one, and implies negation: in other words, the expression is improper only because of the lack of such a foil in nature as negation supplies in the world of mind. Negation is a product of mind. The first crude hint of it is seen in the mysterious analogies of instinct. A horse that has put his head into his manger and found nothing there but chaff, gives a toss and a snort that are strongly suggestive of negation. This is a case of expectation baulked.
The negative in speech seems to be of this kind. Man is essentially a creature of special pursuits and limited aims. Everything in the world but that which he is at the time in search of is a Nay to him. Call it the smallness and narrowness of his sphere, or call it the divine, the creative, the purposeful, which out of the vast realm of nature carves for itself a route, a course, a direction—it is to this intentness of man that every obstacle, or even every neutral and indifferent thing, becomes contrasted with his momentary bent, and awakens the sense of a negative in his mind.
The last great feature that rose in our path was the indefinite article. Nothing could be easier to understand how it came and what it was derived from; indeed, it seems the most obvious and natural thing in the world. One might almost imagine it to be unavoidable. And yet it is a rare possession, and a peculiar feature of modern languages. On the other hand, the negative is exceedingly mysterious in its nature and sources, and yet it seems to be common to all human speech, and to be as familiar at the earliest stage of primitive barbarism, as in the most cultured languages of the civilised world. I have never heard of a language that had no negative. But I have heard of native dialects in Australia, in which the negatives have been selected as the features of distinction, and have set the names by which the races named themselves, and were known to others? Just as the two main dialects of the Old French
1 «The aboriginal tribes on the western slopes of the Australian Cordillera, from the south of Queensland to Victoria, speak a language quite distinct from that of the neighbouring tribes to the east and west, whose people, in very rare instances indeed, are found to understand it.
• The language itself, and these tribes, are called by themselves, and by the coast and more central natives, Werrageries, from their negative Werri. The other great family or chain of tribes to the west of them again, occupying the vast western lands of Australia, are designated (I have been told) in their turn by their peculiar negative.'
language were distinguished by their several affirmatives, and were called the Langue d'oil and Langue d'oc.
Negation then being a sentient product, a subjective thing at its very root, we ask with curiosity out of what materials its formula was first made. Of this I have no opinion whatever to offer. But of the probable history of the n-formula I will boldly give my own notion, not so much from confidence in its certainty, as for the incidental illustration which will thus be called out. My conjecture is that our n-particle is the relic of some such a word as one, or an, or any, three words which, as the student knows, are radically identical. I conceive that of the primitive formula of negation we know nothing, or only know that it has perished. Like the primitive oak, it has passed away; but it has left others instinct with its organism. Men are markedly emphatic in denial, and hence such formulas as not one, not any, not at all, not a bit, not a scrap, not in the least, &c. See how any echoes back, and that with an emphasis, the antecedent negative :
• We come back to Sir Roundell Palmer's suggestion, and repeat the inquiry whether a majority is never to be allowed any rights or privileges ?' March 26, 1870.
Hence too, in French, the pas and point, which back up the negation, also rien and aucun and jamais, and other indifferent words which by long contact with the negative, like steel from the company of the loadstone, have got so instinct with the selfsame force that they often figure as negatives sole. Thus, pas encore, point du tout ; while the other three are so well known as negatives, that when they stand alone they
By the kind intervention of a friend, I have this very pertinent note from the pen of Mr. George Macleay, of Pendhill Court, many years resident in New South Wales.
To the same friend I am also indebted for the information that the natives of the Pacific Islands universally designate Frenchmen as We-Wees.