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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
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?' we acknowledge the two qualities which constitute the substdntive-pronoun: for we imply (1) that the word does indicate somebody, and (2) that it does not say who the person indicated is.
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.
This sub-presentive character belongs to the personal pronouns, as if by some right of contiguity to the great 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 Miiller on the antiquity of aham, which is the Sanskrit form of /.
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 hare disappeared.
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.
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 proceed to compare the same member in French and Italian.
It is plain that our language has retained its native material throughout this pronoun, but that the shaping of that material is almost entirely copied from the Romance languages. It will not be necessary to take up space with displaying the same fact throughout the pronouns of the second and third person, as it is obvious that the example applies to them equally.
467. The Pronoun of the Second Person.
Mcesogothic Icelandic Anglosaxon English Singular.
The form thee is both Dative and Accusative, and in both aspects it is frequent in the Bible of 1611. In the following quotation it appears three times in the Dative case:
The field giue I thee, and the caue that is therein, I giue it thee, in the presence of the sonnes of my people giue I it thee.—Genesis xxiii. 11.
The observations which have been made upon the previous group apply again. The paucity of the modern forms is even more remarkable here, because three out of the four, namely thou, thee, ye, are restricted in use, and you alone remains in the ordinary practice of the language. Here again, as in the case of the first pronoun, the blanks of the English column are supplied by a method of expression which we have learned from the French.
468. The Pronoun of the Third Person.
The pronoun of the third person is of three genders, and this distinguishes it not only from all other pronouns, but from all the rest of the language. For this, and the few relics of feminine substantives noticed in 383, 384, are all the Gender that remains in the English language. These remnants of the ancient accidence are so pared down, that they rather indicate the two sexes and non-personality than that traditional and inherited mysterious thing which is called grammatical Gender. Almost the only instances of masculine and feminine that the grammarians can muster (beyond sex) are these, 'The sun he is getting,' and 'The ship she sails well.'
This pronoun was in Saxon declined as follows:—
Masc. Fem. Neut.