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E N GLISH TONG UE
JOHN EARLE, M.A.
RECTOR OF Swanswick
Formerly Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College, and sometime Professor of
PHILology may be described as a science of language based upon the comparison of languages. It is the aim of Philology to order the study of language upon principles indicated by language itself, so that each part and function shall have its true and natural place assigned to it, according to the order, relation, and proportion dictated by the nature of language. What the nature of language is, can be ascertained only by a wide comparison of languages taken at various stages of development. Such a work is to be performed, not by any one man, but by the co-operation of many: and many have now been co-operating this three quarters of a century past, and sending in from every land their contributions towards it.
In this newly gotten knowledge of human language there is matter for educational use. The relations of language to culture are so intimate that what betters our knowledge of the one should improve the process of the other. It is an open question in what way the lessons of language may best be converted to the purpose of education, but there is one fault which might at least be somewhat mended:—our knowledge of language has been too broken and divided: we have most of us known one language best vernacularly, and another best grammatically. Something would be gained if our cultivation of language could be rather more centred upon § mother tongue, so that our vernacular and our
philological acquirements might more effectually support one another. The lessons of philology would be taught more thoroughly, as well as more conveniently, if the materials for the instruction were supplied by the mother tongue. The effect of philological study is to quicken the perception of analogy between languages; and this advantage would be more immediate in its returns if our philology were more based on the mother tongue. Nothing would put the learner so readily or so implicitly in possession of all the essence of philological gains; nothing would be of such good practical avail when the knowledge of one language was needed to bear on the acquisition of another. Were the English language studied philologically, the faculty of acquiring other languages would soon be more generally an English faculty. There are two chief ways of entering upon a scientific study. One is by the way of Principles, and the other is by the way of Elements. If the learner approaches Philology by the way of principles, it is necessary that the principles should be familiarised to him by the aid of examples and illustrations drawn from various languages. Each of the methods excels in its own peculiar way; and the excellence of this method is, that the subject is presented with the greatest fullness and totality of effect—as a mountain is most imposing to the view on its most precipitous side. But it has this great drawback,--that the learner can ill judge of the examples; he must take them on authority; and so far forth as the instruction is based on facts which are not within the cognisance of the learner, the teaching is unscientific. The other method is by the examination of a single language; and here the course of treatment follows the order of natural growth, introducing the principles in an occasional and incidental manner, just as they happen to be called for in the course of the investigation. If the object-language be the learner's own vernacular, this course will be something like climbing a mountain by the side where the slope is easiest. When this path is chosen, the complete and compact view of principles as a whole will be deferred until such time as the learner shall have reached them severally by means of facts which lie within his own experience. It is upon this, which may be called the Elementary method, that the present manual has been constructed; the aim of which has been to find a path through most familiar ground up to philological principles.
It was assumed at starting that the English language would furnish examples of all that is most typical in human speech, and it has been the reward of the labourer in this instance that his anticipation of the fecundity of his material has been most abundantly and even unexpectedly verified.
I owe thanks for help to various friends, and to two more especially, for perusing and annotating my sheets—affording me thereby not only useful hints, but also a support and encouragement that they probably had little intention of. The excellent verbal Index is the work of H. N. Harvey, Esq., of the Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton; and while it is the most valuable addition that this handbook could have received, it is by me still more highly esteemed as a new token of an old friendship.