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This closes the analysis of the Parts of Speech, and prepares the way for the structural analysis. Hitherto the elements of speech have been classified; it remains to treat of their grouping. The task falls into the same two parts, whenever an elaborate plan has to be analysed with a view to production or reproduction. I witnessed the arrival of a pavement at the spot where it was to be laid down, and as it was unloaded I saw that it was packed in sorts and sizes, like with like. But as the work proceeded, the men took a piece from this lot and a piece from that lot, and shewed them out on the ground near their work, so as to compose partial groups in the order of the design. To some such a grouped analysis do we now proceed.
552. Syntax is a Greek word, signifying the order or array of words in a sentence. But the term signifies something beyond its- etymological contents. It signifies that nexus between words which constitutes them Sense; a web of delicate functional relations, apprehended not by the eye but by the mind.
Syntax will accordingly mean the presentation of the sentence in its constituent parts, and the enquiry by what contrivances these parts are made to produce a continuous and consistent signification. We shall find that there are three kinds of instrumentality which are the most active in the production of this effect.
553. The first of these is collocation, or the relative position of words. So far as this agency is exerted, the parts of a sentence tell their function by the mere order of their arrangement. This sort of syntax we call Flat.
The second is where the functions of the members of the sentence are shewn by modifications in the forms of words. This is the Flexional Syntax.
The third is where the same relations are expressed by symbolic words. This is the Phrasal Syntax.
The analytical action of syntax resolves the sentence not into words, but into parts of speech. The term Syntax is a necessary correlative of the term Parts of Speech, inasmuch as the things represented by these several terms have no existence apart from each other;—there is no Syntax but by combination of Parts of Speech, and there is no Speechpart-ship but by the analysis of Syntax. And for this reason many of the details which are ordinarily comprised under the head of Syntax have already been disposed of in the foregoing chapters on the Parts of Speech. Accordingly, we have in the present chapter only to consider the salient points, and such as are of the most essential value in the mechanism of the sentence; and these are comprised in the above division, which will therefore constitute the plan of this Chapter.
1. Of Flat Or Collocative Syntax.
554. How important an element mere position is in the structure of the English sentence, may readily be seen by the contrast which appears if we consider how unimportant, or at least secondary, the same element is in Latin. If we have to say that men seek victual, the words by which this would be expressed in Latin are so unaffected by the order of their arrangement that it is impossible to dislocate the sentence. It is good in any order :—
Homines quaerunt victum.
All these variations are possible, because each word has its inflection, and that inflection determines the relative office of each word and its contribution towards the meaning of the whole. But in English the sense depends upon the arrangement, and therefore the order of the English sentence cannot be much altered without detriment to the sense:—
Men seek victual.
All these examples present us with one, and that the simplest, scheme of a sentence: and in them we see that the sense requires the arrangement of the words in the given order of collocation.
555. Each of these three words is capable of amplification. In the first place the subject may be amplified by an adjective; thus,—
Hungry men seek victual.
This adjective has its proper collocation. We have no choice whether we will say hungry men or men hungry. The latter is inadmissible, unless it were for some special exigency, such as might rise in poetry; and then the collocation would so far affect the impression communicated, that after all it could not be called a mere alternative, whether we should say hungry men or men hungry.
The next thing is the placing of the article. The article stands immediately before the adjective :—
The hungry man seeks victual.
This amplification brings out to view an important consequence of the order last observed. As we put our adjective before our substantive, it results that when the article is put before both, it is severed from the substantive to which it primarily appertains.
The French, who can put the adjective either before or after its substantive, have the means of keeping the article and substantive together in most cases where it is desirable. This is a trifle, so long as it is confined to the difference between the wise man, a good man, and I'komme sage, un homme bon. But then the adjective being capable of amplification in its turn, the gap between the article and its substantive may be considerably widened. An adverb may be put to the adjective, and then it becomes the truly wise man, a really good man.
556. The severance between the article and its noun had not in English extended beyond such examples as these, until within the recent period which may be designated as the German era. Our increased acquaintance with German literature has caused an enlargement in this member of our syntax. We not unfrequently find a second adverb, or an adverbial phrase, or a negative, included in the interval between the article or pronoun and the substantive1; thus,—
In that not more populous than popular thoroughfare.—Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers, ch. xii.
And is it indeed true that they are so plied with the gun and the net and the lime that the utter extinction of their species in these islands may be looked upon as a by no means remote eventuality?
There he puts down the varied and important matter he is about to say, according to a large plan and tolerably strictly carried out arrangement.— Translation from German.
1 In Spanish this structure was already ridiculed as strange and romantic by Cervantes (1549-1617):—'el jamas coflio se debe alabado caballero D. Cniijote '—The never-euough-to-be-praised Don Quixote.—Ch. i.; translation by Charles Jarvis.