Immagini della pagina
PDF

of off-hand compound has always been one of the recog nised means of being humorous.

Index-learning.

How Index-learning turns no student pale,
Yet holds the eel of Science by the tail.

Alexander Pope, Dunciad, i. 279.

house-and-village-sprinkled.
Rough hills descend, and mingle with the wide
Grove-tufted, house-and-village-sprinkled plain;—

William Allingham, Laurence Bloomfield, c. v. 291.

Passing over this sort, which are hardly to be ranged as compounds at all, we have such loose examples as /orgesme-not, and such compact examples as mankind, mos/ri/, /oatswain, which through long use are so well knit as to be more like simple words than compounds. The compound state, properly so called, is an intermediate condition between the phrase and the word; a transition which the phrase passes through in order to become gradually condensed into a simple word. We are of old familiar with the grammatical idea that phrases are made out of words, but here we recognise that the reverse of this is also true, and that words are made out of phrases.

598. The distinctive condition which marks that a compound has been formed, is the change of accent. The difference between ‘black bird’ and ‘blackbird’ is one of accent. Or, when it is stated of a horse that he is ‘two years old, each of these words has its own several tone; but make a trisyllable of it, and say ‘a two-year-old,' and the sound is greatly altered. The second and third words lean enclitically upon the first, while the first has gathered up all the smartness of tone into itself, and goes off almost like the snap of a trigger.

The written sign which is used to signify that a compound is intended, is the hyphen; which may therefore be regarded as being indirectly a note of accent. This is the reason why the hyphen is so much more used in poetry than in prose. The poet is attending to his cadences, and therefore he appreciates the accentual value of the hyphen.

Our prose (on the other hand) is sprinkled with compounds which are written as if they were in construction. There is no need to search for examples, they offer themselves on the page of the moment. On the page that happens to be under my eye, I find two compounds, both without hyphens:–

coast-line.

Indeed these old coal layers call to mind our peat bogs. We find a layer of peat nearly everywhere on our coast line between high and low water mark. I think most people would read coal layers and peal bogs as compounds also ; but on these there might be a difference of opinion. The same may be said of millstone grit in the next quotation: but there can be no doubt as to

coal-producing.

You know that if you heat a poker it expands; the heat making it longer. The earth is in the same state as a hot poker, and parts of it expand or contract as the heat within it ebbs and flows. I have here a section of the coal measures of Lancashire. Upon a thick base of millstone grit, of which most of our hills are composed, you have the coal producing rocks, which, instead of being horizontal as they were originally, have been tilted up.–W. Boyd Dawkins, On Coal.

599. An incident which attends upon the act of compounding is this, that the old grammatical habit of the final member is subjected to the grammatical idea of the new compound. Any part of speech will assume in compounding the substantive character, and will pluralise as such. Thus /orget-me-not, plural sorget-me-nois. I remember a quaker

e

IN GENERAL. 565

lady, who, with the grave and gentle dignity that formed part of her beautiful character, disapproved of chimney-ornaments, on the ground that they were need-nots. Moreover, a plural form, on entering into composition, takes a new character as a singular, and withal a new power of receiving a new plurality. Thus, singular sixpence, plural sixpences. Inasmuch then as compounds are in their nature and origin nothing but fragments of structure in a state of cohesion, it follows that they will most naturally be classified according to the divisions of syntax. Although a precise classification may hardly be practicable, owing to the vast play of fancy, and the consequent inter-crossing of the kinds of compounds, yet we shall experience in following such a division some of that practical convenience which attends a method that is substantially true to nature. The relation between the members of a compound is expressed in one of three ways; either (1) by their relative position, as in the difference between pathfield, racehorse, and fieldpath, horserace; or (2) by an inflection of one of the parts, as in subtlecadenced; or (3) by the intervention of a symbolic word, as in man-of-war, bread-and-cheese. The first and third are the methods in greatest vogue; the second is rather literary. Often it may be observed that the first and third are alternatives; thus in the north they say breadloaf, but in the south loq/-of-bread; and for a drink of water we find waterdrink in the Ormulum ii. 149 :

Alls iff pu drunnke waterrdrinnch.
As if thou drankst a waterdrink.

We will speak of these three as Compounds of the First Order, Compounds of the Second Order, and Compounds of the Third Order.

1. CoMPounds of THE FIRST ORDER.

600. The most prevalent means by which compounds are made is by mere juxtaposition. This is the case in many important languages besides English. In Hebrew, for example, Beer signifies a well, and Sheba signifies an oath; and when these two are put together, we have the name Beersheba, which means the well of the oath. In the true English analogue the positions of the parts would be reversed, and it would stand as Oath-well. In Welsh the order is the same as in Hebrew, and the reverse of the English order. Thus Llan is church, and Fair is an altered form of Mair, that is Mary, and the Welsh express Marychurch in the reverse order, Llanfair. So also Lampeter is Welsh for Peterchurch. In all these instances the compound follows the order usual in the syntactical construction of each language. Our English order of juxtaposition is the most widely adopted, and it may be regarded as the most natural. The famous collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns is called the Rig-Veda, and this title answers part for part to our Hymnbook. The versified chronicle of Persian history which the poet Firdausy composed about A. D. Iooo is, in the old Pehlvi language in which it is written, called Shah-Nameh, which is a Compound of the First Order, as if we should say in English, King-Book. The general principle of English compounds of the First Order is this, that two words are united, with the understanding that the first is adjectival or adverbial to the second; in other words, the second is principal and the first modificatory. The simplest examples are those which are made of an adjective and a substantive, as &lackbird, commonwealth.

601. But by far the most characteristic are those which are made of two substantives, the first acting as an adjective. Such are the following:—

air-balloon main-spring
boat-swain nut-shell
cart-horse oak-apple
dog-kennel path-way
edge-tool quern-stone
fish-wife rick-yard
gift-horse ship-mate
horse-guards time-piece
ink-horn upas-tree
jelly-fish vine-yard
king-cup water-hole (Australia)
lamp-oil yoke-fellow

This form of compound is homely, idiomatic, and familiar; and it is put aside for the compound of the third order when dignity is aimed at. But there is a cycle in these things, and now we see this compound recovering some of its lost ground. In the following quotation, instead of ‘music of the spheres, we have sphere-music.

In any point of Space, in any section of Time, let there be a living Man; and there is an Infinitude above him and beneath him, and an Eternity encompasses him on this hand and on that ; and tones of Sphere-music, and tidings from loftier worlds, will flit round him, if he can but listen, and visit

him with holy influences, even in the thickest press of trivialities, or the din of busiest life.—Thomas Carlyle, State of German Literature, ad fin.

6O2. This is the sort of compound for which the German language is proverbial'. The flat syntax has disappeared from that language, and it has gone to swell the numbers of

* The following is from a newspaper:—‘GERMAN WoRD-BUILDING.—The German name for a tram car is Pferdstrasseneisenbahnwagen. It looks formidable, but so would the English equivalent if written in one word, in the German style, thus:–Horseroadrailwaycarriage.'

« IndietroContinua »