« IndietroContinua »
And if we are slow to accept their compounds with de, still less do we concern ourselves to imitate those which they so readily make with other prepositions; as—
So strong is our preference for our own old hereditary compound, that even where we substantially adopt a French compound, we alter it to the world-old form, as in the case of coup-de-Bourse, which in the following newspaper-cutting
is turned into Æxchange-stroke.
Secretary Boutwell was in New York almost on the eve of the outbreak. He was aware, as indeed the whole city was, that a conspiracy was brewing —that what we might call an ‘Exchange stroke’ was contemplated.
The Americans outstrip us in converting these French compounds of the Third Order into English compounds of the First Order. Thus we say point of view, after the French point de vue; but in American literature we meet with
The inmates of the Eureka House, from a social view-point, were not attractive.—Bret Harte, A Lonely Ride.
613. The transition from the construct to the compound state is a slight and delicate thing, but it takes time to accomplish. The symbolic syntax has produced few as yet; the flexional syntax has produced far more, for the compounds of the second order have been greatly fostered by the study of Greek. But the great shoal of English compounds is derived from the eldest form of syntax, and they have their roots in a time immeasurably old. They claim kindred with Red-Indian compounds like Tso-mec-cos-fee and Tso-me-cosfe-won-dee and Pah-puk-keena and Pah-Puk-Keewis and other such, of which the ready and popular repertory is the Song of Hiawatha.
A General Conclusion.
A word may here be said by way of general conclusion to all the foregoing chapters, for the one that now remains is in some respects a thing apart. If we turn and cast a glance behind us over the ground we have travelled, what does the general review suggest towards the formation of a comprehensive judgment upon the character of the English Language 2 We behold a stupendous aggregation of variety—a vast intermixture of diverse formations, powers, and processes; and when all this is compared with our models the ancient classics, we know that the general verdict is unfavourable to English, and that it is commonly expressed in some such form as the following sentence from a periodical of high educational standing:—‘Irregularity is the characteristic of the English language, as order and rule are, upon the whole, the characteristic of the Latin' (1873). This amounts to a charge of confusion, for Irregularity as against Order and Rule can mean nothing less. But if the reader has taken the trouble to follow the analysis step by step, especially if he has attended to the examples of Cumulation and Variation, I hope he will be prepared to form a very different conclusion;–I hope that he will be able to join me in the opinion that our language, though beyond precedent complicated, is not in a state of confusion, but on the contrary that it possesses at least the outlines of the most highly organised constitution that is to be found among the languages of the world. 1.
CHA PT E R XII.
OF PROSODY, OR THE MUSICAL ELEMENT IN SPEECH.
There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;
William Cowper, The Task, vi. 1.
614, THE first of these chapters was on the Alphabet, out of which, by a multiplicity of combinations, a conventional garb has been devised for the visible representation of language. By the artifice of literature, speech is presented to the eye as an object of sight. Partly in consequence of the pains which we are at to acquire literary culture; partly also, perhaps, in consequence of the greater permanency of the visual impressions upon the mind,-certain it is, that the cultivated modern is apt to think of language rather as a written than as a spoken thing. And this, although he still makes far greater use of it by the oral than by the literary process. It is, notwithstanding, quite plain that writing is but an external and necessarily imperfect vesture, while the natural and authentic form of language is that which is made of sound, and addressed to the ear.
Human speech consists of two essential elements, and these are Voice and Meaning. I say ‘meaning’ rather than ‘thought,' because it seems a more comprehensive term, including the whole sphere of cognisance, from its innermost and least explored centre to its outermost frontiers in physical sensation. Voice will, moreover, be found to consist of two parts, by a distinction worthy to be observed. For, in the first place, there is the voice which is the necessary vehicle of the meaning; and, in the second place, there is the voice which forms a harmonious accompaniment to the meaning. It is the former of these which is represented in literature; for the latter, literature is almost silent. Here the mechanical arts of writing and printing can do but little. One may put her words down, and remember them, but how describe her sweet tones, sweeter than musick?—W. M. Thackeray, Esmond, Bk. ii. ch. xv. 615. Here then we must distinguish between the necessary and the noble sound, between Articulation and Modulation. Poetry, which is the highest form of literature, makes great efforts to express, or at least to intimate to the mind, this finest part of the voicing of language. All the peculiar characteristics of poetry, such as alliteration, assonance, verse, metre, rhyme, are directed towards this end. In prose this is more faintly and remotely indicated by such means as punctuation and italics and parentheses. Yet the distinction here drawn applies to prose as well as to poetry. It is perfectly well known, and generally recognised. It lies at the base of the demand for “good reading.’ A man may articulate every word, pronounce faultlessly, read fluently, and observe the punctuation, and yet be far from a good reader. So much of voice as is the vehicle of sense is given, but the harmony is wanting, and there is no pleasure in listening to him. It is felt that, besides the sound which conveys the sense of the words, there is a further and a different kind of sound due as an illustrative accompaniment, and it is the rendering of this which crowns the performance of the good reader, as it is the perception of this which constitutes the appreciative listener. Or again. Consider the sound of a passionless Oh as it might be uttered by a schoolboy in a compulsory reading lesson, and then consider the infinite shades of meaning of which this interjection is capable under the emotional vibrations of the voice, and we must acknowledge that the distinction between these two elements of vocal sound is of a character not unlikely to be attended with philological consequences. Of sound as the necessary vehicle of speech, and as the passive material of those phenomena which our science is concerned to investigate, we have already treated in the first and second chapters. But of sound as bearing an accordant, concentive, illustrative part, as being an outer harmony to the strains of the inner meaning; of sound as an illustrative, a formative, and almost a creative power in the region of language, we must endeavour to render some account in this concluding chapter. The distinction here urged is akin to that which is mechanically effected by the musical instrument maker. A musical note on an instrument is a noble sound, from which another sort of sound, namely that which we call Noise, has been eliminated. All mechanical collision produces sound, and that natural sound is ordinarily of a complex kind, being in fact a noise with which a musical note is confusedly blended. It is the work of art to contrive mechanical means whereby these two things may be parted, so that the musical notes which give pleasure may be placed at the command of men. What the musical instrument maker does physically, we may do mentally.