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work in the Academy the following illustrations are borrowed:—
‘For instance, the character tch'i, “to govern,” if placed before a substantive remains a verb, as tch'i kode, “to govern a kingdom;" if the order of these two characters is reversed, they signify, “the kingdom is governed; and if the character tch'i be placed after chi, “a magistrate,” it becomes a
substantive, and the two words are then to be translated, “the administration of the magistrates.””
Very remarkable is the plasticity of signification which such a grammatical system demands.
‘For instance, we find the expression i tsouan tsouan tebi. The primary meaning of the character tsouan is “an awl,” or anything with which a hole is bored; and in this sentence we recognise that, since the first tsouan is preceded by i, the sign of the instrumental case, it stands in the place of a substantive; i tsouan, therefore, means “with an awl;” but the character tebi being plainly the object of a verb, the second tsouan must, by virtue of its position, be considered as a verb, and the sentence will then read thus, “with an awl to bore it” (tcbi).’
It must not be supposed that the Chinese language stands alone in the possession of such a syntax: what it does stand alone in, is in the development of a great literature through means so rudimentary. The whole outer field of so-called Allophylian languages, those namely which lie outside the Aryan and Semitic families, appear to be of this character. Mr. Farrar in his Families of Speech, p. 160, divides these into—(1) Isolating, i.e. monosyllabic and unsyntactical; (2) Agglutinating; (3) Polysynthetic: and all these are but different stages and conditions of the positional. This is therefore to be regarded as the basement storey of all syntax, and it is largely discoverable in the English language,
II. SYNTAx of FLEXION.
Flexion is any modification of a word whereby its relation to the sentence is indicated. The syntax of the English language is weakest in this division. We can only collect a few remaining features, which have lived through the collision of the transition period, and have up to the present time defied the innovations of the symbolic movement. We have retained the genitive singular of nouns, as ‘Simon's wife's mother.’—Luke iv. 38. With regard to the possessive s there is a sort of canon stated by S. T. Coleridge in a letter to H. C. Robinson, which though perhaps a little off-hand, is worth consideration:— ‘I have read two pages of Lalla Rookh, or whatever it is called. Merciful Heaven I dare read no more, that I may be able to answer at once to any questions, “I have but just looked at the work.” Oh, Robinson l if I could, or if I dared, act and feel as Moore and his set do, what havoc could I not make amongst their crockery-ware! Why, there are not three lines together without some adulteration of common English, and the ever-recuring blunder of using the possessive case, “compassion’s tears,” &c. for the preposition “of”—a blunder of which I have found no instances earlier than Dryden's slovenly verses written for the trade. The rule is, that the case 's is always personal; either it marks a person, or a personification, or the relique of some proverbial personification, as “Who for their belly's sake,” in Lycidas.”—Diary, 1817. This doctrine cannot now be rigidly insisted upon. The following is from the editorial part of a leading English journal:— ‘President Woolsey [North American Review, October, 1870] incidentally raises one point which is at the present time being warmly discussed with us—the question whether international injuries are independent of municipal law or arise out of it and are to be measured by it. The American jurist
holds to the former opinion. The rights of other nations do not end with the provisions of any country's municipal law.”
The last clause would in French have to be expressed after in this manner - the provisions of the municipal law of any country.’
“Religious great men have loved to say that their sufficiency was of God. But through every great spirit runs a train of feeling of this sort; and the power and depth which there undoubtedly is in Calvinism, comes from Calvinism's being overwhelmed by it.”—Matthew Arnold, St. Paul and Protestantism, p. 12o.
Other inflections of the noun we have lost, but there sometimes remains in construction a reminiscence of some obsolete case-flexion. Thus in 1 Kings vii. 40, “The work that he made king Solomon, the two final words are in a dative position though not in dative forms. The same may be said of the words ‘their bodies’ in the following quotation:—
“They surely trust to win their bodies a resurrection to immortality.’— Homily on the Sacrament, Part I.
Of pronominal inflection there is but little remaining which really serves any purpose of syntax. In such cases as of me, to him, from them, it is true that me, him, them, are inflections; but then the relation which they once served to express is now expressed by the preposition. Mine may be regarded as a flexion by an archaeological effort of mind, for it is an old genitive of me. But in its ordinary use there is no call to think of this, for it appears as an adjectival pronoun. But when there is a phrase in which it shews a trace of its old genitival extraction, then it is accompanied with a preposition; as, ‘That boy of mine.’
We have, however, dative pronouns without the preposition, as in give me, tell him, and in our elder literature more frequently:—
‘That my hand may be restored mee againe.’—I Kings xiii. 6.
In the following quotation him in the second part is equivalent to the unfo him that went before:—
“Lend not vnto him that is mightier then thy selfe; for if thou lendest him, count it but lost.”—Ecclesiasticus viii. 12.
In the next quotation, we should now say to him —
Not even a poet in our day could write her for to her in Such a structure as this:— • His lovely words her seemd due recompence.” The Faerie Queene, i. 3. 30.
Methinks is now written as one word. It consists of me in the dative case, and thinks, an old impersonal equivalent to the Latin videfur, radically connected no doubt with our verb ‘I think,’ ‘he thinks,’ &c., but quite distinct from it. The distinction is kept up in German between benft the verb of thought, and binft of seeming, which is that now before us.
But the verb is the great stronghold of flexion. More than any other part of speech it attracts and attaches inflections to itself in times when flexion is growing: and on the other hand, when flexion is on the wane, the verb is the most retentive of its relics, and the most reluctant to part with them. There is no language of Western Europe in which the verb has parted with its flexion more than in English. The Gothic languages are the most advanced in this respect, and especially the Danish, Swedish, and English.
The verbal inflections which are still used to express person, tense, or mood, are as follows:–
(See) seest, sees, seeth, saw, sawest, seen, seeing.
(Look) lookest, looks, looketh, looked, lookedst, looking.
Half of these are antiquated, and all that are in habitual use are, sees, saw, seen, seeing,
looks, looked, looking.
A feature worthy of contemplation is that whereby the flexion which expresses past time is employed also for contingency or uncertainty. It appears as if the link of sympathy between the two things thus rendered by a selfsame formula were remoteness from the speaker's possession.
Looking at the word attempled by itself we should associate it with the idea of past time, but in the following sentence it expresses contingency and not time, or if it regards time at all, the time is future.
“His power would break and shiver like glass, if he attempted it.'
“I say not that she ne had kunnyng
Chaucer, The Booke of the Dutchesse, 996.
“If this man had not twelve thousand a-year, he would be a very stupid ... fellow.”—Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ch. iv.
“And some among you held, that if the King
In the single case of the verb to be, however, there are distinct forms or flexions for the subjunctive. Be was originally indicative, as it still is in Devonshire, and in our Bible: ‘They be blind leaders of the blind.”—Mait. xv. 14.