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One verbal structure which existed in Saxon, and was reinforced in the French period, has not rooted itself permanently, and that is the Reflexive. We find endeavour ourselves in the Common Prayer Book, but on the whole it may be said that the examples of this sort are now antiquarian curiosities.
Another verbal structure, which came to us through both sources, and which we inherited in all its fullness, has also fallen into disuse, and that is the Impersonal verb:
. . . there was an excellent doctour of dyuynyte in the royame of fraunce of the ordre of thospytal of Saynt Johns of Jherusalem whiche entended the same, and hath made a book of the chesse moralysed . whiche at such tyme as I was resident at brudgy's [Bruges] in the counte of Flaundres cam in to my handes / whiche whan I had redde and ourseen / me semed ful necessayre for to be had in englisshe-William Caxton, The Game of the Chesse, A.D. 1474; Preface.
. . . for this liketh you, O yee children of Israel.-Amos iv. 5 (1611).
Modern English has made a new phrasal verb, and one that yet waits for a name. In this new verb the pronoun IT, referring to no noun, acts as an objective accompaniment, and runs next after the verb:—
Come and trip it as you go,
John Milton, L'Allegro.
I'll prose it here, I’ll verse it there,
William Combe, Doctor Syntax in search of the Picturesque, Canto i.
Thus we have seen that the verbal symbolism, that which gives our verbs the phrasal turn, consists in pronouns and in symbol-adverbs, and most of all in symbol-verbs, namely the verb to BE and the Auxiliaries.
The Explicit Noun.
589. If we turn now from the symbolism that is found in and about the verb, to that which is attendant upon the noun, we shall see that the latter is most prominently drawn from the articles and the prepositions. These are the symbolic satellites of the noun. And there is perceivable a certain co-operation with one another in their action. When two substantives are united by a genitival relation, as ‘servus servorum,’ ‘haelepa hleo, “man-kind,' and you substitute of for the genitival flexion or genitival relation of the one noun, you find yourself often induced to give the other noun an article; thus, ‘a servant of servants’ “heroes' shelter’ avoiding both preposition and article,_or using them both, ‘the shelter of heroes,’ ‘the family of man.’ If we compare the Versions of 1535 and of 1611 in Daniel i. 2, the elder has ‘and there brought them into his gods treasury'; but the younger has it ‘’into the treasure-house of his god.’ The change of structure from flexional to symbolic has thus brought in two symbols to attend on the noun—namely, the preposition and the article.
590. There are in English two great formulas for the construction of substantival phrases, and there is perhaps no more convenient, as there certainly cannot be a more national medium of exhibiting these, than through the long and short titles of our Acts of Parliament.
According to one of these formulas, the words and phrases which constitute a substantival whole, are concatenated by means of symbols thus:–
An Act further to amend the Laws relating to the Representation of the People in England and Wales.
An Act for the Abolition of Compulsory Church Rates.
An Act to make further Amendments in the Laws for the Relief of the Poor in England and Wales.
An Act for the Amendment of the Act of Uniformity.
The other formula merely collocates the chief nounal words in juxtaposition, and that in a reversed order; as—
The Representation of the People Act.
And so for all complex notions we have a short familiar way of naming them, as well as a stately formula of designation ".
Our speech has acquired this faculty and range of variation by its historical combination of the two great linguistic elements of Western civilization, the Roman and the Gothic. The long style of structure is that which we have learned from the French: the short and (as it now seems) reversed style is our own native Saxon.
Between these two formulas, so widely divergent, there lies the whole region of Flexion, and the prepositions of the longer formula have come in as substitutes for case-endings.
As there is a triple variety in our syntax, so it is an hereditary and congenial usage to speak and write with that variation which the nature and growth of our speech has put within our power. And this variation has moreover its utility, as when in antithesis it removes the contrast from the ear, and leaves it only to the mind, thus purging the language of a certain sensual importunity; as may be seen by the following example, wherein the italics are happily placed for our purpose :—
* See I Cor. iii. 9; and compare the Contents.
God grant when men are at their wits end, they may be at the beginning of their faith, valiantly to hold out in the Truth.-Thomas Fuller, Abel Redevivus; the Epistle to the Reader, 1651.
591. The substitution of the preposition instead of the case of the noun, has been extended also to the pronoun. Hence a variety of pronounal phrases, such as few of us, one of you, all of them; and cumulative phrases also, as of my own, of yours, of theirs, /rom thence.
of itself. Warsaw is not of itself a strong fortress, but it closes the railway and defends the passage of the Vistula.
And the conjunctions which are formed from the pronouns Soon catch this phrasal habit.
out of which to.
But those wise and good men whose object it had been all along to save what they could of the wreck, out of which to construct another ark, &c.— Blunt, History of the Reformation, ch. ix.
This has been felt to be a Frenchism or a classicism, and the English humour has never thoroughly liked it. At best it is but book-English. It is one of the most salient of the features of Addison's style that he asserted the native idiom in this particular; as, ‘This is the thing which I spoke to you of.” This English reluctance to welcome ‘of which,' “to which,’ ‘from which, as conjunctions, is to be noted as the point where our instincts lead us to resist the further progress of the French element. At this point there is, however, much vacillation and uncertainty: the English ear not being quite satisfied with either construction. The following is from one of Addison's papers:– This Morning I received from him the following Letter, which, after The contact of the symbols of to is not pleasing. But notwithstanding the untowardness of these little collisions, it still holds, that when point is desired, the native fashion, the so-called Addisonian, is resorted to. In the following quotation, as usual, the typography is carefully preserved —
having rectified some little Orthographical Mistakes, I shall make a Present of to the Publick.-The Spectator, No. 499.
The next great question is, what they did this for. That it was for a miraculous story of some kind or other, is to my apprehension extremely manifest;—William Paley, Evidences, Prop. I. ch. x.
592. One of the prepositions has acquired for itself a
very remarkable function, in attendance not on a noun, but on a verb; and yet it is a noun also; it is at the point of union between noun and verb, that is to say, the Infinitive. Here the preposition to has made for itself a permanent place, just as at has in Danish, and a (Latin ad) in Wallachian.
DANIsh. ENGLish. WALLAchiAN.
Thus we perceive that the prepositional form of the infinitive is not peculiar to English, as against other Gothic tongues; nor yet to the Gothic, as opposed to the Romance family of languages; but that it springs up indifferently under various conditions, and therefore must be referred to some general tendency. What that tendency is I have already surmised in the chapter on the adverbs. 453.
593. We have now reached the final stage of development of speech in its effort to overtake the several meanings of the mind and invest them each with an appropriate distinctness of form. It is as if we had followed with our eye the branchings of a growing tree till we came to the tips of last year's spray. Of the year's new growth in tender wood, only a small part will permanently endure. This infinitude