Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

lady, who, with the grave and gentle dignity that formed part of her beautiful character, disapproved of chimney-ornaments, on the ground that they were need-nois. Moreover, a plural form, on entering into composition, takes a new character as a singular, and withal a new power of receiving a new plurality. Thus, singular sixpence, plural sixpences.

Inasmuch then as compounds are in their nature and origin nothing but fragments of structure in a state of cohesion, it follows that they will most naturally be classified according to the divisions of syntax. Although a precise classification may hardly be practicable, owing to the vast play of fancy, and the consequent inter-crossing of the kinds of compounds, yet we shall experience in following such a division some of that practical convenience which attends a method that is substantially true to nature. The relation between the members of a compound is expressed in one of three ways; either (1) by their relative position, as in the difference between pathfield, racehorse, and fieldpath, horserace; or (2) by an inflection of one of the parts, as in subtlecadenced; or (3) by the intervention of a symbolic word, as in man-of-war, bread-and-cheese. The first and third are the methods in greatest vogue; the second is rather literary. Often it may be observed that the first and third are alternatives; thus in the north they say breadloaf, but in the south loaf-of-bread; and for a drink of water we find waterdrink in the Ormulum ii. 149 :—

Alls iff Jra drunnke waterrdrinnch.
As if thou drankst a waterdrink.

We will speak of these three as Compounds of the First Order, Compounds of the Second Order, and Compounds of the Third Order.

1. Compounds Of The First Order.

600. The most prevalent means by which compounds are made is by mere juxtaposition. This is the case in many important languages besides English. In Hebrew, for example, Beer signifies a well, and Sheba signifies an oath; and when these two are put together, we have the name Beersheba, which means the well of the oath. In tha true English analogue the positions of the parts would be reversed, and it would stand as Oath-well. In Welsh the order is the same as in Hebrew, and the reverse of the English order. Thus Llan is church, and Fair is an altered form of Mair, that is Mary, and the Welsh express Marychurch in the reverse order, Llanfair. So also Lampeter is Welsh for Peterchurch. In all these instances the compound follows the order usual in the syntactical construction of each language.

Our English order of juxtaposition is the most widely adopted, and it may be regarded as the most natural. The famous collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns is called the Rig-Veda, and this title answers part for part to our Hymnbook. The versified chronicle of Persian history which the poet Firdausy composed about A.d. Iooo is, in the old Pehlvi language in which it is written, called Shah-Nameh, which is a Compound of the First Order, as if we should say in English, King-Book.

The general principle of English compounds of the First Order is this,—that two words are united, with the understanding that the first is adjectival or adverbial to the second; in other words, the second is principal and the first modificatory. The simplest examples are those which are made of an adjective and a substantive, as blackbird, commonwealth.

601. But by far the most characteristic are those which are made of two substantives, the first acting as an adjective. Such are the following :—

air-balloon main-spring

boat-swain nut-shell

cart-horse oak-apple

dog-kennel path-way

edge-tool quern-stone

fish-wife rick-yard

gift-horse ship-mate

horse-guards time-piece

ink-horn upas-tree

jelly-fish vine-yard

king-cup water-hole (Australia)

lamp-oil yoke-fcllow

This form of compound is homely, idiomatic, and familiar; and it is put aside for the compound of the third order when dignity is aimed at. But there is a cycle in these things, and now we see this compound recovering some of its lost ground. In the following quotation, instead of 'music of the spheres,' we have sphere-music.

In any point of Space, in any section of Time, let there be a living Man; and there is an Infinitude above him and beneath him, and an Eternity encompasses him on this hand and on that; and tones of Sphere-music, and tidings from loftier worlds, will flit round him, if he can but listen, and visit him with holy influences, even in the thickest press of trivialities, or the din of busiest life.—Thomas Carlyle, State of German Literature, ad fin.

602. This is the sort of compound for which the German language is proverbial'. The flat syntax has disappeared from that language, and it has gone to swell the numbers of their flat compounds. Examples are such as •6anNftbub (hand-shoe) glove, <5finger4>ut (finger-hat) thimble, drfrfunt* (earth-knowledge) geography, 2f>rad)4ef)re speech-lore.

1 The following is from a newspaper:—' German Word-building.—The German name for a tram car is Pferdstrasseneisenbahnvvagen. It looks formidable, but so would the English equivalent if written in one word, in the German style, thus:—Horseroadrailwaycarriage.'

There is so close an affinity between the German and English compounds of the first order, that the one will occasionally supply a comment on the other.

Handywork affords an example of this. As we find it printed, it has the appearance of our adjective handy combined with a substantive work. But the German ^janlnrtrf suggests a truer etymology. It consists, in fact, of two substantives, namely hand and geweorc, or (mediaevally) ywork; so that it would be more correctly written thus handywork. But if this looks too archaic, it should be spelt handiwork. The Saxon original is found in Deuteronomy iv. 28:—

And ge beowiap fremdum godum, And ye (shall) serve foreign gods,

manna hand geweorc, treowene and men's handiwork, tree-en and stonen,

stsenene, ba ne geseop, ne ne gehirab, that see not, nor hear; and they eat

ne hig ne eta]), ne hig ne drincab. not, and drink not.

603. Other Saxon compounds there are of the same mould, but none that have so nearly preserved their original form as handiwork has. There is no hyphen in Saxon manuscripts, but words that have an accentual attraction were often written somewhat nearer to one anotherl. Some words were thus divided in two, which have coalesced since.

A.d. 495. (7T) aldor men aldermen

514. West Seaxe Wessex

633. biscepsetl bishop-seat = See

660. biscep dom bishopric

704. munuc had monk-hood

738. Eofor wic York

1 In the text of my Saxon Chronicles this is represented by a halfdistance.

[table]

604. The following have an adjective (or participle) in the second place, and the same relation holds good between the parts; for the first part, whatever its habit as a part of speech, is still the specific of the two :—

blood-thirsty

fancy-free (Shakspeare)

full-blown

foot-sore

heart-sick

heart-whole

life-long

rathe-ripe

thunder-struck

weather-wise

This is expressed by an accentual elevation, whereby the specific word is raised into a sharp prominence, while the generic word is let down to a low tone. There are some exceptions, as in the word mankind; but the general rule is that the accent strikes the first or speqific part of the compound. This is not the place to speak of accents, any further than just to notice that the accent indicates where is the stress of thought. This will be found to explain the occasional exception.

605. Out of this kind of composition has grown by insensible modifications a large part of that phenomenon so

« IndietroContinua »