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This is perhaps as much as need here be said to account for the wide separation now existing between nouns and verbs, though they are one at the root. The difference of condition that now severs them as by a gulf is the accumulated result of the age-long continuation of that process whose beginnings are here indicated. So much is here said of the relation of the verb to the noun, merely in order to justify the statement that the present chapter is devoted to the presentive words. For we must regard the verbs — always excepting the symbolic verbs; that is, verbs which in whole or in part have shed their old nounal coat—simply as nouns raised to an official position in the mechanism of the sentence, and qualified for their office by receiving a predicative power. As the verb is most retentive of antiquity, and as it therefore offers the best point of comparison with other languages of the same Gothic stock, so, on the side of the noun we may say that it exhibits best the stratification of the language. By which is meant, that the traces of the successive influences which have passed over the national mind have left on the noun a continuous series of deposits, and that it is here we can most plainly read off the history and experiences of the individual language. The verb will tell us more of comparative philology; but the noun will tell more of the particular philology of the English language. And here we enter on a chapter which will peculiarly need the relief afforded by illustrative quotations. It may therefore be expedient to come to an understanding upon the object and aim of our quotations. Our present pursuit is not Grammar, nor Rhetoric, nor Belles Lettres. We are not concerned with taste, correctness, or conventional propriety. We neither commend any expression nor dissuade from the use of it. Our examples and illustrations are not presented to the reader to stimulate him to imitation; but merely in attestation of the hold which the form under consideration has upon the writers of the language. We simply endeavour to arrange in a consecutive and proportionate order the phenomena of the language. All that belongs to the domain of taste, or fancy, or fashion, we leave to be dealt with by the proper authorities in those departments. Our first object in quotation is to illustrate the form. And the form can often be exhibited to advantage in words of a strange and novel character, rather than in those wellestablished words which are so familiar to the eye, that they waken no feeling of analytical enquiry. Something may indeed here be learnt of the commendable use of the word. But this is a secondary and incidental advantage, and one which is available for that reader only who can judge for himself how far each expression is worthy of imitation. The second and more general object in quotation is to show the word in context. And for this reason:— Words out of context are not seen in their true light, because they are not seen in their natural element. The context is to a word what water is to a fish. It is only in its native element that it exhibits its native character. It should be remembered that words have not been invented and moulded by themselves, and then afterwards put together into sentences. The ordinary course of grammar is perhaps a little apt to betray the mind into an unconscious habit of thinking somewhat as if this were the case. But the forms which are the terminations of most substantives have that sort of natural relation to a context which the delicate spongioles at the tips of root-fibres have to the ingredients of the soil in which they have been generated, and on which they are still dependent for their life and usefulness.
The words inwardness and everlastingness would excite little admiration standing by themselves; perhaps they might hardly be credited with a right to be entitled words at all. But look at the quotations in which these words occur below among the substantives in -mess, and you will accord to them at least credit, if not admiration.
Under the title then of the Noun-Group three parts of speech are included—the Substantive, the Adjective, and the Adverb. For all these are in fact nouns under different aspects.
This chapter will consist of three sections corresponding to these three parts of speech.
I. OF THE SUBSTANTIVE.
The chief forms are the Saxon, the French, the Latin, and the Greek forms. The Saxon are generally to be found extant in one or more of the cognate dialects, such as the Icelandic, the Dutch, the German, the Danish, the Swedish. But substantives will not be found to unite all the languages in one consent so often as the strong verbs.
The oldest group consists of those short words which have no distinguishable suffix or formative attached to them, or whose formative is now obscured by deformation. The bulk of this class is monosyllabic, not always by origin, but often by condensation. Thus, for example, the words brain, brawn, king, sail, tile, stairs, snail, are disyllabic in Saxon, viz. bragen, cyning, segel, tigel, stager, smegel. So of many others which are now monosyllables.
The following words are mostly found in the cognate dialects.
Examples:—arm, ash, awe, awl, badge, beam, bear, bed, bee, bier, bliss, boat, borough, bread, breast, bride, buck, calf, chin, cloth, corn, cow, craft, day, deal, deed, deer, doom, door, down (on a peach), drink, drone, ear, earth, east, edge, elm, eye, sat (= vessel), field, fish, flesh, flood, fly, sold, foot, frog, frost, furze, ghost, goal, goose, glass, gnal, ground, guest, hand, head, heap, heart, hill, hood, hoof, horse, hound, house, ice, ivy, keel, King, knave, knee, knight, knot, lamb, land, laugh, leas, Lent, lore, louse, lust, man, mark, meed, mist, moon, mouse, mouth, nest, net, north, nose, oak, oath, ox, path, pith, rake, ram, rest, rick, rind, ring, roos, rope, salve, sap, sea, seal (phoca), seed, share, sheaf, sheep, shield, ship, shoe, sin, smith, son, song, sough, south, speed, staff, stall, star, steer, stone, slow, stream, sun, swine, fear, thies, tide, tongue, tooth, free, wain, way, west, wether, whale, wheel, whelp, wife, wind, wold, wolf, womb, wood, world, worm, yard, year, yoke.
These we may regard as simple words, that is to say, words in which we cannot see more than one element unless we mount higher than the biet of the present treatise. From these we pass on to others in which we begin to recognise the traces of nounal formatives, that is, of terminations as distinct from the body of the words.
Forms in -L:—churl, earl, evil, fowl, nail, settle (a bench), sail, snail, soul, shovel, spittle, file.
Bubble is an instance in which this formative seems to have a diminutive sense. See Richardson, v. Buff. Carpenters in Somersetshire call their plummet a plumb-bob. Halliwell, v. Bob, quotes the following from manuscript, where bobs are bunches:—
“They saw also thare vynes growe with wondere grete bobbis of grapes, for a mane myste unnethez bere ane of thame.’
Thimble is from thumb with a thinning of the internal vowel.
Forms in -M:—bosom, fathom, helm, seam. Forms in -N :—beacon, burden, chicken, heaven, maiden, main (A.S. maegen = strength), rain, raven, steven (Chaucer), thane (A.S. begen), token, weapon, welkin. Forms in R:—acre (A.S. aecer), brother, cock-chaser, daughter, father, feather, finger, leather, liver, mother, sister, stair, summer, thunder, timber, water, winter, wonder. Forms in T:—bight, blight, fight, height, might, sight. ‘Cross-examination resumed.—“I got the bight of the handkerchief behind the boy's head, and laid hold of the two corners of it. All this time
prisoner was trying, as well as I, to get the boy in. I was lying down, and so was prisoner, reaching across the water.”
The above are from well-known roots; but there are others of more obscure origin which bear a resemblance to the above, as light, right, wight. Forms in TH:—as breadth, length, strength, width. Here also belongs math in Tennyson’s “after-math,’ from the verb to mow. Faith is one of these, which was formed upon the French soi, anglicised sey. These two words went on for a long time together, with a tolerably clear distinction of sense. Fey meant religious belief, creed, as in the exclamation By my few 1 while faith signified the moral virtue of loyalty or fidelity. In -ing: as king (A.S. cyning), and those which in Saxon end in -ung, as blessing. In this form the noun comes into its closest contact with the verb. Into this group merged the old Saxon infinitive in -an, as we shall show in the Syntax. In the old language the noun and the substantive were well distinguished by the difference of form, but in modern English it is often so hard to say whether a word in -ing is a noun or a verb, that the decision must be merely arbitrary. Here it will be enough just to give a quotation to illustrate