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TO THE THIRD EDITION.
The following work, which has been for some time out of print, having been favoured with the gratifying approbation of the Rev. Professor Dale, and selected by that learned and worthy preceptor, as one of the text books for the class of English literature in the University of London, a new edition has become necessary.
The author's time and attention having been recently devoted to another publication, which was not completed until it became indispensable that this volume should be sent to press, the only additions here introduced are such as occurred to the author while the work was proceeding through the hands of the printer. They will be found, however, to be in number not inconsiderable ; and it is hoped, that in quality they will be thought not unworthy of the student's attention. They consist chiefly of examples of solecism and impropriety, accompanied with such critical remarks as these errors have suggested, and such illustrations as they seemed to require. This mode of enlargement the author has preferred, persuaded of the truth of Dr. Lowth's observation, that one of the most successful methods of conveying instruction is,“ to teach what is right, by showing what is wrong.”
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ETYMOLOGY AND SYNTAX
LANGUAGE consists of intelligible signs, and is the medium by which the mind communicates its thoughts. It is either articulate or inarticulate; artificial or natural. The former is peculiar to man; the latter is common to all animals. By inarticulate language, we mean those instinctive sounds, or cries, by which the several tribes of inferior creatures are enabled to express their sensations and desires. By articulate language is understood a system of expression, composed of simple sounds, differently modified by the organs of speech, and variously combined.
Man, like every other animal, has a natural language intelligible to all of his own species. This language, however, is extremely defective, being confined entirely to the general expression of joy, grief, fear, and the other passions or emotions of the mind; it is, therefore, wholly inadequate to the purposes of rational intercourse, and the infinitely-diversified ideas of an intelligent being. Hence arises the necessity of an artificial or articulate language; a necessity coeval with the existence of man in his rudest state, increasing also with the enlargement of his ideas, and the improvement of his mind. Man, therefore, was formed capable of speech. Nature has furnished him with the necessary organs, and with ingenuity to render them subservient to his purposes.
though at first his vocabulary was doubtless scanty, as his wants were simple, and his exigencies few, his language and his intellect would naturally keep pace. As the latter improved, the former would be enlarged.
Oral language, we have reason to suppose, continued long to be the only medium by which knowledge could be imparted, or social intercourse maintained. But, in the progress of science, various methods were devised for attaining a more permanent and more extensive vehicle of thought. Of these, the earliest were, as some think, picture-writing and hieroglyphics. Visible objects and external events were delineated by pictures, while immaterial things were emblematically expressed by figures representative of such physical objects as bore some conceived analogy or resemblance to the thing to be expressed. These figures or devices were termed hieroglyphicsa. It is obvious, however, that this medium of communication must not only have embarrassed by its obscurity, but must have also been extremely deficient in variety of expression.
At length oral language, by an effort of ingenuity which must ever command admiration, was resolved into its simple
a Beattie seems to think that the antediluvians had an alphabet, and that hieroglyphical was posterior to alphabetical writing. “ The wisdom and simple manners of the first men,” says he, " would incline me to think, that they must have had an alphabet; for hieroglyphic characters imply quaintness and witticism.” In this reasoning I cannot concur. Alphabetic writing is indeed simple, when known; so also are most inventions. But, simple and easy as it appears to us, we have only to examine the art itself, to be fully convinced, that science, genius, and industry, must have been combined in inventing it. Nay, the learned author himself acknowledges, " that though of easy acquisition to us, it is in itself neither easy nor obvious.” He even admits, “ that alphabetical writing must be so remote from the conceptions of those who never heard of it, that without divine aid it would seem to be unsearchable and impossible.” I observe also that in passing from picture-writing to hieroglyphical expression, and in transferring the signs of physical to intellectual and invisible objects, fanciful conceits would naturally take place. It is true also that the manners of the antediluvians were simple; but it is not from prudence nor simplicity of manners, but from human genius, gradually improved, that we are to expect inventions, which require the greatest efforts of the human mind.