Immagini della pagina
PDF

CHAPTER VIII.

THE PRON OUN GROUP.

462. WE now cross the greatest chasm in language—the chasm which separates the Presentives from the Symbolics. So profoundly has this separation been felt by philologers, that some would even regard these two spheres of speech as: radically and originally distinct from each other. The consideration of this theory would lead us beyond the track of the present treatise. It is only noticed here as a testimony to the greatness of the distinction between Nouns and Pronouns.

How far they were originally distinct and independent of each other, is a question for minute etymological investigation, and cannot be settled either one way or the other by the measure of current distinctions. It is plain that the most widely severed functions may be discharged by words which have been radically identical.

Professor Müller has in his Lectures (Second Series, 1864) given an excellent illustration of the way in which the one class of words may be transplanted into the place of the other. ‘The pronoun of the first person in Cochin-Chinese is not a pronoun, but means “servant.” I love is expressed in that civil language by servant loves.' If the word servant in this case is not a pronoun, it is at least in a fair way of becoming so. Already, in English ‘your humble servant,’

F f

when used playfully as a substitute for I, is a pronoun; as much so as your Honour, your Lordship, your Grace, your Highness, your Majesty. That all these have passed, or at least are passing, into the region of the symbolic, there can be little doubt. And these recent instances of the transference enable us to conceive how all pronouns may possibly have been generated from nouns. 463. The wide difference between nouns and pronouns is equally certain, whatever may become of any etymological theory, inasmuch as it is a difference which depends not upon origin, but upon function. It is not our earliest impression when we first consider a butterfly, that it is a transformed caterpiller; and when we have discovered their identity of origin, we have in no wise removed their difference of function. Although we know that the caterpiller and the butterfly are the same individual, this does not a whit alter the fact that they are two widely different things, and in very different conditions of existence. Should it ever become capable of proof that all the pronouns had sprung from presentive roots, this would not invalidate the statement, that in passing from nouns to pronouns we traverse a wide gulf, and one which can hardly be overrated as the great central valley dividing the two main formations of which language is composed (227). These two great hemispheres of language, which we designate as the Presentive and the Symbolic, which Bopp calls the Verbal and the Pronominal, may with equal propriety and greater brevity be simply called Nouns and Pronouns, for in fact every other part of speech branches out of these two. Of all the parts of speech hitherto noticed, it is the general quality (putting aside a few marked exceptions, such as the symbol verb to be and the auxiliaries) that they are presentive. Of all the parts of speech which remain to be noticed it is the general quality that they are (not presentive but) symbolic.

464. And yet we are not come to a dead level of symbolism. There are gradations of this character. The first pronouns that we shall consider, are a class which combine with their symbolism a certain qualified sort of presentive power. How completely the personal pronouns are entitled to the character of symbolic, we have already shewn (246). But here we have to add, that besides the symbolic character, the pronoun I (for instance) has also a sort of reflected or borrowed presentiveness;–what may be called a subpresentive power. Though this pronoun has absolutely no signification by itself, yet when once the substantive has been given like a keynote, then from that time the pronoun continues to have, by a kind of delegacy, the presentive power which has been deputed to it by that substantive. We may see the same thing, if we consider the third perSonal pronoun

him.

It has been my rare good fortune to have seen a large proportion of the

greatest minds of our age, in the fields of poetry and speculative philosophy,

such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Schiller, Tieck; but none that I have ever known come near him.—H. C. Robinson, Diary, 1831.

If we read this sentence, and ask “Who is him o' we acknowledge the two qualities which constitute the substantive-pronoun: for we imply (1) that the word does indicate somebody, and (2) that it does not say who the person indicated is. * * > . . he.

He was a delightful man to walk with, and especially in a mountainous country. He was physically strong, had excellent spirits, and was joyous and boyish in his intercourse with his children and pupils—H. C. Robinson, Diary, 1842. r 1 - pros - v.

This sub-presentive character belongs to the personal pronouns, as if by some right of contiguity to the great F f 2 " ' "

presentive body of words which we leave behind us. As we proceed with the catalogue of the pronouns, it will become less and less perceptible, until at length, when the pronoun passes into the conjunction, it entirely fades from the view, and leaves only the pure symbolic essence of speech, whose meaning is so slight as to be imponderable, and whose value for the highest purposes of language is so great as to be almost inestimable.

The pronouns are, as their name signifies, words which are the vicegerents of nouns. Accordingly, they vary in habit and function just in the same manner as nouns vary, and fall naturally into a similar division. This division is therefore into the same three groups as before, viz. I. Substantival, II. Adjectival, III. Adverbial.

I. SUBSTANTIVAL PRONoUNs.

465. These are the pronouns of which, if the reader asked himself what presentive word they symbolise, he must make answer by a substantive. Among these the first in every SenSe are The Personal Pronouns.

How ancient these are will best be seen by a comparative table. Most of them will be found to be radically the same in all the languages of the Gothic stock.

The statement would apply much more widely; but we must be on our guard against wandering when we are entering such a ‘forest primeval’ as that of the pronominal group. Hear Professor Max Müller on the antiquity of aham, which is the Sanskrit form of Z.

It belongs to the earliest formations of Aryan speech, and we need not

Wonder that even in Sanskrit the materials out of which this pronoun was framed should have disappeared.

And again,

The Sanskrit aham, a word carried down by the stream of language from such distant ages, that even the Vedas, as compared with them, are but as it were of yesterday.—Lectures, Second Series, p. 348.

466. The Pronoun of the First Person.

Moesogorhic IcFLANDic ANGLosAxon ENGLISH Singular. Nom. ik ek ic I Gen. meina min min Dat. mis mer me : - - me Acc. mik mik (mec) me Dual. Nom, wit wit wit - - Gen. unkara (?) okkar uncer Dat. ! unkis okkr unc • * * Acc. Plural. Nom. weis Wer We We Gen. unsara wär (user) ure Dat. unsis OSS us us Acc.

The point to be noticed here is the paucity of English forms, when these are compared with the elder languages. Practically the difference is made up by the use of words like of, to, which have many other uses besides their application in this place. So that this is a case of simplification, of economy of form, in the modern as contrasted with the elder languages.

The contrast which the above table exhibits between the English on the one hand, and the ancestral dialects on the other, is very striking. It shews how far we have moved from their condition in regard to that pronominal element of language which is justly esteemed as being among the most constant. This will appear more plainly if we now

« IndietroContinua »