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the plural of phenomenon is phenomena, of oasis oases, of terminus termini, of fungus fungi. But occasionally we see the plurals in English form, as when Dr. Badham entitles his book, not Edible Fungi, but Esculent Funguses, and uses this plural all through it, as
No country is perhaps richer in esculent Funguses than our own ; we have upwards of thirty species abounding in our woods. (p. xiii.)
Some few substantives which we have made out of unaltered Latin words, not being nouns in that language, have no Latin plurality. These we have pluralised with English s, as items, interests.
Benevolent subscribers too seldom examine the items of a report.-Ginx's Baby, ix.
Gender of Substantives.
383. The Saxon formative of the substantive feminine was -en, as God Deus, gydem dea; wealh servus, wylen serva, ancilla; Šegen minister, /ymen ministra.
But this formative- has been supplanted and so nearly extinguished that it is difficult to find an extant specimen to serve for an illustration. Beyond sporting circles, not one person in a thousand is aware that vixen is the feminine of fox. In general speech it is only known as a stigma for the character of a shrewish woman. Yet this is the history of zoven; and it is a very well preserved from, having enjoyed the shelter of a technical position. Not only is there the -en termination, but also the thinning of the radical vowel by Umlaut, as in the Saxon examples above. So also in German Šudjé, Sitdijinn.
An example which maintained itself long after the extinction of its congeners was mynchyn Saxon MyNECEN, the feminine of monk, Saxon MUNUC. At the time of the suppression
of the religious houses Dr. London wrote as follows from Godstow, April 17, 1535, to Crumwell:—
And if the kings grace's pleasur be, notwithstonding her (the lady abbess's) desyer for suche considerations as movith hys grace for the reformation of suche abuses, to tak the howse by surrendyr, then I besek yor lordeshipp to admytt me an humble sutar for my lady and herre sisters, and the late Abbasse, and suche as haue covent seales for lyvings in that howse, that they may be favorably orderyd, specially my lady wich lately payd herre fyrst fruyts and was indaungeryd therfor unto herre frynds. Many of the mynchyns be also agyd, and as I perceyve few of the other haue any frynds, wherefor I besek yor lordeschipp to be gude lord unto them. 384. That which superseded the Saxon feminine was the French -ess, as abbess, arbitress, countess, duchess, empress, giantess, goddess, governess, laundress, marchioness, peeress, princess, sempstress, songstress, trailress. Governess is not invariably applicable as the feminine of governor. There are considerations which override grammar, as our practice of Common Prayer witnesses. Yet I remember where I heard ‘Queen and Governess’ in church. Grammar has brought this class of cases under another rule which she has made, namely this, that the masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine. But this is only one of the many indefinable limitations that tend to repress this -ess formative, and to confine it to an area much narrower than that which it once occupied. Numerous are the examples now obsolete which are found in books:—architectress, buildress, captainess, daunceress, flatseress, intrudress, knightess, neighbouress, pedleress, sovemainless, thralless, vengeress, waileress'. In Doncaster the feminine of Alderman is A/dress or Aldresse”.
1 An extensive list may be seen in Dr. Trench's English Past and Present, seventh ed. (1870), p. 213.
* Jackson's History of Doncaster Church, folio 1855, plate ix.; where we see next to the pew of the Mayor and Aldermen one that it marked as ‘Aldresses' Pew.’ The expression occurs in other parts of the same work.
In fact the application of this form has been so narrowed, that we cannot properly be said to have a feminine formative at all. A limited number of privileged examples there are, but not a free feminine formative. We cannot make new feminines for every emergency, as the Germans can with their -inn. We can say lioness and figress, but not elephantess nor cameless.
As an illustration that we cannot make a feminine substantive to meet a new occasion, I instance the following. There is a place in the Psalms where our word ‘preachers’ is in the original a feminine form. Dr. Marsh, in a collection of notes from Scripture concerning the ministry of women, brings in this passage, but he can only array his Hebrew fact is an English dress by an ungainly compound:—
Psalm lxviii. 11 reads in the original thus:—‘The Lord gave the word, great was the company of women-publishers.”—Memoir of the Rev. William Marsh, D.D., by his Daughter (1867), p. 398. This example opens to us the fact that the only means we have which is of general application for the expression of gender, is a compound expression, as man-child, man-servant, maid-servant, men-singers, women-singers, he-ass, she-ass, hegoal, she-goal, boar-pig, dog-wolf, cock-sparrow, hen-sparrow, billy-goal, nanny-goal, som-cat. 385. Examples like sempstress, songstress, remind us that a Saxon termination ESTRE was sometimes used as a feminine formative, whereof a trace remains in these words between the root and the French termination. Thus we find FröELERE and FröELESTRE, fiddler and fiddleress; RAEDERE, reader, with a feminine RAEDESTRE ; witHGA prophet and witHGESTRE prophetess. The only pure example now surviving is spinster, which was the feminine of spinner. But we cannot recognise the termination -sfer as being, or as having been at some time past, a formative exclusively feminine. Not only does the present use of such old words as Baxter, huckster, malister, songster, Webster, not to urge the more recent oldster, youngster, punster, roadster, make it hard to prove them all feminines, but if we push our enquiries in every direction, we nowhere find the group clearly defined as such, except in modern Dutch. There was in AngloSaxon BAECERE and BAECISTRE, and yet Pharaoh's baker in Genesis xl. is BAECISTRE. A fine historical example, which is not likely to have been feminine at any time, is
The isle [of Man] is divided into ‘sheddings’ (German Scheidungen, boundaries or separations). The judges are called ‘deemsters,’ that is, doomsters, or pronouncers of judgment. The title of the king is “our doughtful' Lord.’ The place of proclaiming the law is the ‘Tinwald.’— H. C. Robinson, Diary, 1833.
Grimm has conjectured that these nouns in -estre are all that is left of an older pair of declensions, whereof one was
masculine in -estra, the other feminine in -esire.
Concluding Observation on the Substantive.
386. If from this point we cast a look back over the verbs and substantives, we perceive a certain quietude in the former, and a corresponding energy in the latter. In making this remark I am naturally taking as my standard of comparison those languages with which the philological student is most likely to be equipped. The remark will hold good, as against the Latin language, still more so as against the Greek, and most of all as against the Hebrew. In all of these languages, but especially in the latter, the mental activity of the nation is gathered up and concentrated in the verb. This is displayed by the immense superiority of
the verb over the substantive in its attractive power of symphytism, and its expressive stores of variability. Time has been when this was partially true of our ancestral verb in the Gothic family. But it is no more so. It certainly is not so in our own insular branch. During the modern period, which dates from the fourteenth century, in which we have the movements of the language historically before us, it is equally remarkable on the one hand how little our verb has done to extend its compass, and on the other hand how much the substantive has done to increase its variability. The quotations of this section are a sufficient proof that some of the strongest lineaments of character in the English language are now and have long been finding their chosen seat of expression in our substantives. But while this remark is made here at the close of the substantives, and with a particular application to them, I would add that it applies in a general way to the whole nounal group, and that its structural significance will become apparent in the third division of the chapter on Syntax. 582.
2. OF THE ADJEctive.
387. The adjective, or word fit for attachment, is a word which presupposes a substantive, and is for this reason essentially relative and secondary. This inward nature of adjectives is beautifully expressed in Greek and Latin by the outward conformation of their physical aspect. Whereas the bulk of the Latin substantives are in -us or -a or -um, and the bulk of the Greek substantives are in -os or -n or -ov, their adjectives are, for the most part, not in some one, but in all the three forms, as becomes those whose business it is to agree with their consorts in gender, number,