« IndietroContinua »
prefixes we see the relics of a time when the adverb stood before the verb. In the living English language the adverb has taken the opposite stand.
We retain comparatively few of the elder sort from our old mother tongue, but we have borrowed them abundantly from Latin and French ; and we may array the foreign borrowings against the genuine English :
561. The three languages are variously affected towards this movement. The French have the Left structure altogether, and this is the chief source of that curiously bookish savour which French conversation has upon an English palate that has for a long time been deprived of the pleasure of it. The Germans use either Left or Right according to some obscure and rigidly grammatical rules, which bring more trouble to the learner than profit to the diction. The English retain both in free option with the happiest effect as to copiousness and the increased power of suiting speech to time, place, person, and occasion; to be homely or dignified, playful or stately, as may be required.
Perhaps enough has been said to indicate traces of a law which the student may further explore for himself?. Of the
| The Japanese language offers an admirable illustration. The native grammarians distinguish their nouns, verbs, adjectives, numerals and pronouns very carefully from their particles, which they call Teniwoha. This grammatical term is composed of four of the commonest of those particles, namely, te, ni, wo, and ha. Under this class come the article and the
operative cause of this alternation, we shall have something to say in the last chapter. For the present we will only add that this double movement seems to deserve a name, such as Heteroblastēsis or Yon-strif1.
562. The movement is slow, and each age enjoys its own habits of collocation, with all the security of an immutable thing. Without this condition, an inversion of order could not be the great resource that it now is for conveying variety of signification. If the order of pronoun and verb in 'you are' were not firm, the mere change of order to are you' would not convey all the transition from assertion to interrogation. On this single variation there hinges in our family a series of syntactic consequences. Close to interrogation is contingency and hypothesis ; and consequently we make a Conditional Mood by this mere inversion of order. Thus · Were the whole realm of nature mine,' is equivalent to 'if it were mine.' More rarely in prose, as: “And what will you do should you find them out?'—Mrs. Trimmer, The History of the Robins, ch. iv. In English prose we commonly use conjunctions for this purpose, and we keep the inversion for poetry : that is to say, our prose is after the French ‘Si tout le monde était à moi,' while our poetry retains the Gothic faculty of collocative structure. In German
preposition, besides verbal and adjectival terminations. It is a standing rule of syntax, in this as in all the languages of the Altaic family, that every defining word precedes the word defined. • Thus the adjective precedes the noun, the adverb the verb, the genitive the word which governs it, the objective case the verb, and the word governed by a preposition the preposition. On the other hand, the Teniwoha which are the signs of Mood and Tense, and sometimes of Person, Number and Case, are suffixed to the words they modify; presenting us with a dual system of Collocation analogous to the instances cited above.—A Grammar of the Japanese Written Language; with a Short Chrestomathy. By G. W. Aston, M.A.
1 In the west country the liveliest expression for growth, whether of man or beast or plant, is the verb strive, which in this use provokes comparison with the German treiben.
and Danish this inversion is one of the commonest means of expressing modality even in prose, as in the following from Ludwig Holberg :
Men vil du giöre, hvad jeg beder dig, skal du nyde gode Dage.-Den pantsatte Bondedreng, Act. i. Scene 3.
But if thou wilt do, what I bid thee, thou shalt taste good days.— The Prentice Pawned, i. 3.
563. So well established is the general order of collocation, that marked divergences arrest the attention, and have, by reason of their exceptional character, a force which may be converted into a useful rhetorical effect; thus
beauties the most opposite.
Having been successively subject to all these influences, our language has become as it were a sort of centre to which beauties the most opposite converge.-H. T. W. Wood, The Reciprocal Influence of French and English Literature in the Eighteenth Century, 1870.
It occasionally happens that the surprise of an unusual order becomes the evidence to our minds that there is such a thing as a usual order of collocation. In the following sentence the putting of the comparative clause before the verb is an illustration of this :
And this it is that I think I have seen, and that I wish, if I can be so happy, to shew to those who need it more than myself, and who better than myself may profit by it.— James Hinton, The Mystery of Pain.
When in the Idylls we read of the “Table Round,' we experience a sort of pleasure from the strangeness of the collocation by which the adjective is put after its substantive : starting from the principle that the reverse is the true English order of collocation. This is proper to poetry and high style; and it is one of the traces which early French culture has left on our literature :
Seed royall.—2 Kings xi, 1.
Life eternal.—John xvii. 3.
A spring perennial rising in the heart.
Edward Young, Night Thoughts, viii. 958.
It lingers also in a few legal expressions which date from the French period; as, letters patent, sign manual.
564. Our habits of collocation are very firmly established, so much so, that the Part of Speech is chiefly determined by the position of the word. This is only the reverse statement of that which has been already exemplified above (554), where it has been shewn that each Part of Speech has its own proper situation. A crucial test of the importance of this habit may be found if we can get a word which has in the course of history changed its speech-partship. Such a word we have in only, which was mostly an adjective in our elder literature, and is now mostly an adverb. In the following line of Spenser, But th' only shade and semblant of a knight
The Faery Queene, iii. 2. 38,
only is an adjective equivalent to mere; as 'the mere shade.' If we preserve the order we must change the word: but if we will keep the word we must change the order, and say, 'only the shade.'
In such cases the unaccustomed reader is checked by meeting what seems a familiar word in a strange position:
Thou art only the most Highest over all the earth.—Psalm lxxxiii, 18, elder version.
In the manuscript Common Prayer Book of 1661 we read: 'In the time of the plague ... when none of the neighbours can be gotten to communicate with the sick, ... the Minister may only communicate with him.' The Fourth
Report (1870) of the Commissioners on Public Worship contains the proposed amendment: “the Minister alone may communicate with him. In this instance we have a change both of the word and of the position; and the double change carries withal a new ambiguity.
Collocation changes the grammatical character of the symbol of, which is an adverb if we say, according to English idiom, that which I have spoken to thee of, Genesis xxviii. 15; but a preposition if we use the French construction,
that of which I spoke to you.' Permanent characters are stamped on words from the accident of their having survived in some one particular collocation. The combination 'weird sisters' in Macbeth being the parent of all extant usage of weird, it has resulted that this word is known only as an adjective to the modern language, although in Saxon it was known only as a substantive, namely wyrd fate (425). And this affords an example of the next observation.
565. The palmary example of the great import of collocation in our language is that of the transformation of a substantive into an adjective by position alone. Instances abound of the alternate use of the same word as substantive and adjective; thus, horse chestnut, chestnut horse; School Board, Board School. There is hardly anything more characteristic of our language than this particular faculty. noontide solace, summer grass, mother earth.
Like a shadow thrown
William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Bk. VII. stone weapons, stone implements, stone age, Stone weapons of many kinds were still in use during the age of bronze, and even during that of iron, so that the mere presence of a few stone imple