« IndietroContinua »
the freedom of displacement is greater. Anything like the following would be simply impossible in English prose:—
Who meanes no guile be guiled soonest shall.
Another manifest illustration of the same lies in the fact that it is in the most musical languages we meet with the extremest liberty of collocation. How strangely variable was the collocation of the classical languages is pretty well known to all of us, whose education consisted largely in ‘construing Greek and Latin,' that is to say, in bringing together from the most distant parts of the sentence the words that belonged to one another functionally. If we have in English less of such violent and apparently arbitrary displacements, it should be remembered that we also have less of musical animation to render justice withal to the signification of such displacements. And further, if the modern languages generally have less variation of arrangement than the ancient classics had, it is supposed that even the most musical of the modern languages are less musical than were the Greek and Latin. But in this sovereign quality of music, a language is not doomed to be stationary. There is a progress in this no less than in syntax. And as an argument that musical progress has been made in English, we have only to reflect how modern is the public sense of modulation, and the general demand that is made for “good reading.” All things are double over against one another; and the demand for well-modul lated reading is one indication that the power and range of modulation is progressing. And with this modulatory progress there is certainly a collocatory progress afoot. The proofs are not perhaps very conspicuous, but they are visible to those who look for them, demonstrating that a greater elasticity and freedom of displacement (so to speak)
are being acquired by the English language. 631. The following quotation affords an example of the
point and force that may be gained by displacement:
The sphere of our belief is much more extensive than the sphere of our knowledge; and therefore, when I deny that the infinite can by us be known, I am far from denying that by us it is, must, and ought to be, believed.—Sir William Hamilton.
In public, speaking such a displacement would seem stilted, and it would have a bad effect unless it were borne out by an extraordinarily appropriate modulation.
The illustrative utterance of the English language is worthy of attention in the interest of national culture ; for if all who have something profitable to say were skilful modulators of their mother tongue, they would find more docility in the ranks of the popular audience, and better speed that moral improvement which lightens the cares and the expense of government. ‘The famous Bishop of Cloyne seems to have been fully convinced of this, when among his other queries, he put the following one: Q. Whether half the learning of these kingdoms be not lost, for want of having a proper delivery taught in our schools and colleges?”
This query of Bishop Berkeley's seems to imply that the modulation which makes the beauty of Language ought always to accompany cultivated speech;-that such accompaniment renders it more agreeable and more persuasive, more effective also for the conveyance of meaning and the diffusion of knowledge;—that a melodious command of the mother tongue is the natural and proper finish of a high
' Thomas Sheridan, Lectures on the Art of Reading, third ed. London 1787; p. 117.
education, and that something is wanting to the humanizing instrumentality of Speech unless it have the support and illustrative cooperation of Noble Sound.
2. OF Sound As A ForMATIVE AGENCY.
632. We now proceed to consider sound as a power which affects the forms of words. The attention must be directed to the accentuation and its consequences.
1. The simplest instance is where the accent has a conservative effect upon the accented syllable, while the unaccented syllable gradually shrinks or decays. Thus, in the word goodwise the accented syllable was preserved in its entirety, while the second syllable shrank up into such littleness as we are familiar with in the form of goody. This is a plain example of a transformation conditioned by the incidence of sound.
In American literature the word grandsire has assumed the form of grandsir from the same cause'. The accented syllable remains complete, while the unaccented dwindles. The following quotation will be sufficient to establish the fact:—
Viewing their townsman in this aspect, the people revoked the courteous
doctorate with which they had hitherto decorated him, and now knew him most familiarly as Grandsir Dolliver. . . . All the younger portion
* I have to thank Mr. Charles E. Stratton, of Boston, U.S., for a useful observation. He writes: ‘The form grandsir is of common use only in the country districts and among the farming class (and only in New England, I think), and would never be used, except in quotation, by educated people.' That is to say, the natural form has suffered restoration in America just as it has with us in England. Already, so early as the fifteenth century, we find the form which is now discarded on both sides of the Atlantic. In that treasury of English, the Paston Letters, No. 225 (ed. Gairdner) it stands: “she was maried to Sir Hug' Fastolf, graunsir to this same Thomas.’
of the inhabitants unconsciously ascribed a sort of aged immortality to Grandsir Dolliver's infirm and reverend presence.—Nathaniel Hawthorne. The way in which the accent has wrought in determining , the transformation of words from Latin into French, has been briefly and effectively shewn by M. Auguste Brachet, in his Historical Grammar of the French Tongue. The unaccented parts have often lost their distinct syllabification, while the syllable accented in Latin has almost become the whole word in French. Thus—
LATIN. FRENch. àngelus ange cómputum compte débitum dette pórticus porche
Mr. Kitchin's Translation, p. 33 seqq.
A good example is afforded by the modern Greek megative. The negative in modern Greek is 8év, and this is an abbreviation from the classical oë8év. A person who looked at oë8év might be inclined to say that the essential power of that negative is stored up in the first syllable, while the second is a mere expletive or appendage. From this point of view it would be inconceivable how the first part should perish and the second remain. But if we consider that the first is the elder part, and that the second was added for the sake of emphasis, it is plain that the second part would carry the accent, as indeed the traditional notation represents it.
This effect of the accent must be particularly attended to, as presenting, perhaps, the best of all keys for explaining the transformations which take place in language. Were we to disregard the influence of the laws of sound, and imagine that the sense only was to be taken into consideration, we should often be at a loss to understand why the most sense-bearing syllables have decayed, while the less
significant ones have retained their integrity. The national and characteristic Scottish word unco is an instance. It is composed of un and coulh, the ancient participle of the verb cunnan, “to know.' So that uncouth meant “unknown,' ‘unheard-of,’ and consequently “strange.” In England the word has retained its original form, because the accent is on the second syllable; but in Scotland, the accent having been placed on the first, and the word having been mostly used in such a position as to intensify the accent by emphasis, the second syllable has coiled up into its present condition. 2. So far we have been considering the formative effect of accent in its simplest instances, those namely where the accented syllable retains its integrity, while the unaccented seems to wither, as it were, by neglect. We now proceed to a somewhat more complicated phenomenon. The accent does not always prove so conservative in its operation. It is like wind to fire; a moderate current of air will keep the fire steadily burning, but if the air be applied in excess, it will depress the flame which it nourished before. So with the accent; if it be highly intensified it will not conserve, but rather work an alteration in the syllable to which it is applied. A familiar instance of the effect of an accent in altering the form of a syllable may be seen in the word woman. This word is compounded of wife and man, and the change which has taken place in the first syllable exhibits the altering effect of an intense accent'. The same thing may be observed in the word gospel. The word is composed of good and spel; but the first
* This is not the whole account of woman, because it does not explain the o, perhaps the plural would have made a better example for this place in its pronounced form wimmen.