Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER IX.
THE LINK-WORD GROUP.

520. Under the title of Link-word I comprise all that vague and flitting host of words which, starting forth from time to time out of the formal ranks of the previous parts of speech to act as the intermediaries of words and sentences, are commonly called Prepositions and Conjunctions.

These two parts of speech have a certain fundamental identity, combined with a bold divergence in which they appear as perfectly distinct from one another. Their distinction is based on the definition that prepositions are used to attach nouns to the sentence, and conjunctions are used to attach sentences or introduce them.

The neutral ground on which they meet, and where no such discrimination is possible, is in the generic link-words and, or, also, for, but, than.

1. Or Prepositions.

521. The preposition may be defined as a word that expresses the relation of a noun to its governing word. A few examples must suffice for the illustration of a class of words so familiarly known and so various in their shades of signification. The examples will be mostly of the less common uses, as we shall consider the common uses to be familiar to the mind of the reader; the object being to suggest the almost endless variety of shades of which prepositions are susceptible. First, the prepositions of the simpler and mostly elder sort.

Flat Prepositions.

At. Now used only (in its restful sense) of time and place, but formerly also with reference to persons:—

I may take my leaue att you all I

the flower of Manhoode is gone from mee!

Fflodden Ffeilde, 171.

for the great kindnesse I haue found att thee,
fforgotten shalt thou neuer bee.

Eger and Grime, 1343.

by.

But say by me as I by thee,
I faucie none but thee alone.

Ballad Society, vol. i. p. 244.

I think he will consider it a right thing by Mrs. Grant as well as by Fanny.—Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ch. v.

Where we should now say 'as regards Mrs. Grant,' or 'as far as Fanny is concerned.'

522. By having originally meant about, acquired in certain localities a power of indicating the knowledge of something bad about any person, insomuch that 'I know nowt by him' is provincially used for 'I know no harm of him.' And it is according to this idiom that in our version St. Paul witnesses of himself, 'I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified': and the expression occurs more than once in the curious book from which the following is quoted :—

Then I was committed to a darke dungeon fifteene dayes, which time they secretly made enquiry where I had lyen before, what my wordes and behauiour had beene while I was there, but they could find nothing by me.— Webbe his trauailes, 1590.

But still exists as a preposition in the connections no one but,

nothing but

No two objects of interest could be more absolutely dissimilar in kind than the two neighbouring islands, Staffa and Tona :—Iona dear to Christendom for more than a thousand years;—Staffa known to the scientific and the curious only since the close of the last century. Nothing but an accident of geography could unite their names.—The Duke of Argyll, Iona, init.

for.

Wherefore getting out again, on that side next to his own House; he told me, I should possess the brave Countrey alone for him: So he went his way, and I came mine.—Pilgrim's Progress, facsimile ed. p. 35.

like.

Out of that great past he brought some of the sterner stuff of which the martyrs were made, and introduced it like iron into the blood of modern religious feeling.—J. C. Shairp, John Keble, 1866.

nigh.

There shall no euell happen vnto the, nether shall eny plage come nye thy dwellyng.—Psalm xc. 10 (1539).

523. Of is the most frequent preposition in the English t language. Probably it occurs as often as all the other prepositions put together. It is a characteristic feature of the stage of the language which we call by distinction English, as opposed to Saxon. And this character, like so many characters really distinctive of the modern language, is French. Nine times out of ten that of is used in English it represents the French de. It is the French preposition in a Saxon mask. The word of is Saxon, if by ' word' we understand the two letters o and/, or the sound they make when

pronounced together. But if we mean the function which that little word discharges in the economy of the language, then the 'word' is French at least nine times out of ten.

Where the Saxon of was used, we should now mostly employ another preposition, as

Alys us of yfle.
Deliver tts from evil.

The following from the Saxon Chronicle, A.d. 894, shews one place where we should retain it, and one where we should change it :—

Ne cum se here oftor eall ute of Thet host came not all out of the

|)sem setum ponne tuwwa. oJ>re sipe encampment oftener than twice: once

pa hie aerest to londe comon. ser when they first to land came, ere the

sio Herd gesamnod waere. opre sipe Fierd was assembled: once when

pa hie of ]/sem setum faran wol- they would depart from the encamp

don. ment.

Thus the Saxon of has to be sought with some scrutiny by him who would find it in modern English. There was indeed one use in which it already coincided with French de, namely, as the link between the passive verb and the agent. Though we employ this Saxon of no longer, though by has entirely superseded it in this function, our ears are still familiar in Bible English with this passival of:

When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not downe in the highest roume: lest a more honourable man then thou be bidden of him.— Luke xiv. 8.

Paul after his shipwreck is kindly entertained of the barbarians Acts

xxviii. (Contents.)

I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Iesus. — Phil. iii. 12.

As before said, the common and current of which is so profusely sprinkled over every page, is French in its inward essence. Numerous as are the places in which this preposition now occurs, it is less rife than it was. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the language teemed with it. It recurred and recurred to satiety. This Frenchism is now much abated. I will add a few examples in which we should no longer use it.

How shall I feast him? What bestow of him?

Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 2.

What time the Shepheard, blowing of his nailes.

3 Henry VI, ii. 5. 3.

Doe me the favour to dilate at full,

What haue befalne of them and thee till now.

Comedy of Errors, i. 1. 124.

In the Fourth Folio this last of'is at length omitted.

524. Off, a modified of is now little used prepositionally; it is mostly reserved for such adverbial uses, as be off, take off, wash off, write off, they who are far off. But this is a modern distinction, and it exhibits one of the devices of language for increasing its copia verborum. Any mere variety of spelling may acquire distinct functions to the enrichment of speech.

In Miles Coverdale's Bible (1535) there is no sense-distinction between of and off: as may be seen by the following from the thirteenth chapter of the prophet Zachary :—

In that tyme shall the house off Dauid and the citesyns off Ierusalem haue an open well, to wash of synne and vnclennesse. And then (sayeth the Lorde off hoostes) I will destroye the names of Idols out off the londe.

On and its compound upon.

. . . and layde him on the Altar vpon the wood.—Genesis xxii. 9.

upon.

There were slaine of them, vpon a three thousand men 1 Maccabees

iv. 15.

And if any will judge this way more painfull, because that all things must be read upon the book, whereas before by the reason of so often repetition they could say many things by heart: if those men will weigh their

« IndietroContinua »