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doomed. Not that it is the universal solvent of flexion, but it has been the chief means of undermining it in its own favourite stronghold, the verb. We are told by Sanskrit scholars that this symbol is found in the oldest Sanskrit monuments, and that none of the Aryan languages are without it. But if we compare its functions now in the great languages of Europe with those which it had in Greek and Latin, we shall find that the agency of this verb TO BE has greatly enlarged its sphere. Take for example the passive verb, which had a complete flexional apparatus in Greek as pillowual with its parts, and in Latin as 'amor with its parts all these flexions have disappeared, and in place of each one of them has stepped in a function of this symbolic verb.
This substitution of symbol-verbs for inflections is found equally in French and German :- Je suis aimé; Ich bin geliebt. But in English we have our own peculiar little openings for enlarging this ever-growing power of BE. Such idiomatic terms as “I am to go,' 'She is to do it,' Such a thing is to be,' 'I'm to be queen of the May,' are thoroughly English. On the other hand, “Where have you been? I have been to seek for you,' is French-Ou avez vous été? J'ai été vous chercher.'
The great power of this symbol-verb for revolutionizing flexional languages has lain a long time dormant. Especially has this been the case in sacred languages. The Hebrew is an eminently flexional language, especially in regard to its system of verbs. The symbol-verb is there found in full development, but in very limited action. The following little piece of statistics will give some idea of this.
In the English version of the little Book of Jonah, I count forty-two occurrences of the verb 'to be,' but when I refer to the original, I find that only six of these are represented by the verb 'to be' in Hebrew. And as one of the cases is not symbolic but substantive, we have the still wider ratio of five to forty-one.
I one day expressed to an intimate friend my regret that the collectors of vocabularies among savage tribes did not tell us something about the verb 'to be,' and especially I instanced the admirable word.collections of Mr. Wallace. To this conversation I owe the pleasure of being able to quote Mr. Wallace's own observations on this subject in his reply to my
says: • As to such words as “to be,” it is impossible to get them in any savage language
till know how to converse in it, or have some intelligent interpreter who can do so. In most of the languages such extremely general words do not exist, and the attempt to get them through an ordinary interpreter would inevitably lead to error.
Even in such a comparatively high language as the Malay, is difficult to express “to be” in any of our senses, as the words used would express a number of other things as well, and only serve for “to be” by a roundabout process.'
Keeping a sort of company with the verb to be, there is found in all the great languages a verb which signifies to come to be, to get to be. This is in Greek yiveo dai, in Latin fieri, in French devenir, and in German werden symbolverbs of great mark each in its own language. In our native tongue the old word was weordan, the analogue of the German werden, but we gradually lost it; and now we retain only a fossil relic of it in the imperative or subjunctive worth, as in the expression, 'Woe worth the day. Instead of this weordan we have qualified a new word for its place, a compound of the verb come, namely become. In early times the sense of coming was dominant in this word. In the Saxon Gospels, Luke ii. 38, “theos thære tide becumende' answers to our 'she coming-in that instant.'
Even as late as Shakspeare this sense was still vigorous;
But Madam, where is Warwicke then become ?
3 Henry VI. iv. 4. 25.
In our day where and become will not construe together, because the latter has lost all signification of locality. Either we should ask “Where is Warwick gone to?' or 'What is become of Warwick ?' In short, the word has been thoroughly symbolised, and so qualified to take the place of our lost verb weordan. And here again, as in so many other places, it has to be observed that we have followed the French. It is the French devenir, that we give expression to (nay, that we mimic) in our modern verb become.
But this is a matter of only superficial importance so far as syntax is concerned. What does it matter whether a certain function is discharged by weorčan or by devenir ? it is functions and not roots that structural philology attends to. In so far as we construe our become differently from the construction of the old weordan, so far is the change structural, and no further. Broadly speaking, the analogues of this become have a general resemblance of construction in all the great languages, so that the fact of our having changed our word under French tuition is a matter of small structural consideration.
But now we come to a symbol-verb of a peculiarly insular character, namely, the auxiliary Do.
This also is French under a Saxon exterior. It is the French faire, as in faire faire, 'to cause a thing to be done.' And, at first, even in English, its action was just the same as is that of the auxiliary faire to this day in French. Thus dede translate' (Early English Text Society, Extra Series,
vol. i. p. ix.) meant not, as now, our did translate,' but 'caused to be translated.'
Next it came to figure as a representative or vicegerent for any antecedent verb :
* A wise man will make better use of an idle pamphlet, then a fool will do of sacred Scripture.'—John Milton, Areopagitica. Then as a symbolic expression of tense, both in affirmative and negative sentences. This is its peculiarly English function.
But now it has dropped half its function, for it is not used with the affirmative verb unless something more than the ordinary force of assertion is required. The affirmative and negative verb therefore are thus declined:
Thus we see the affirmative side is clear of this auxiliary. Apart from emphasis, it is confined to the negative proposition, and to interrogations :
Where did you go?
What do you think? But the earlier usage still holds in provincial dialects, as in the following from the Dorset Poems :
• Where wide and slow
The stream did flow,
Below the grey-leaved withy tree ;
Did go the mill by cloty Stour.'
How thoroughly this is a word of the modern language, and how recently it ascertained its own final place and function, may be seen from the following quotation, wherein Spenser, a contemporary of Shakspeare, yokes did with a verb in the preterite :
* Astond he stood, and up his heare did hove.'
The Faerie Queene, i. 2. 31.
At present this auxiliary is not used to form tenses of the verb to be, but we find it so used in the Ballads and Romances. Thus, in Eger and Grime :
Gryme sayd, “how farr haue wee to that citye
•“why Sir," said shee, “but is it yee
• It was a heauenly Melodye
The verb do is thus an auxiliary which peculiarly belongs to English, though at its start it was a French-borrowed plume. But the great bulk of the auxiliaries of our language are of home origin and development, and they will be found to correspond to the verbal modes of expression which are used in German and the other dialects of the Gothic stock. I speak of such auxiliaries as shall, will, may, can, let, might, could, would, should. An example or two will suffice to indicate how greatly we are in a state of contrast with the Romanesque tongues on this feature.
SPANISH. amaré amaríamos amémos
ITALIAN. amerò ameremmo amiamo
FRENCH. aimerai aimerions aimons
I shall or will love.