The Theory of Language in Two Parts

Author(s): Beattie, James


PART I. Of the Origin and General Nature of Speech.
PART II. Of Univerſal Grammar.
Ex elementia conſtant, ex principiis oriuntur, omnia: Et ex judicii
conſuetudine in rebus MINUTIS adhibita pendet ſæpiſſime in maximis
vera atque accurata ſcientia. S. CLARKE. Pref. ad Homer.
A NEW EDITION, enlarged and corrected.
THIS Treatiſe was printed ſome time ago
in a Collection of Eſſays by the ſame
hand. It is now publiſhed ſeparate, by the
advice of ſeveral men of learning, who have
been pleaſed to approve of it; and to ſay,
that it may be particularly uſeful in Schools,
and to thoſe Young Perſons, who, in their
courſe of ſtudy, may be making a tranſition
from the more obvious to the abſtruſer parts
of knowledge; — from the elements of Grammar,
Hiſtory, and Phyſicks, to the firſt principles
of Logick and Moral Philoſophy. In
this laſt reſpect,the author has, from repeated
experience, and long before he thought
of making it publick, found it to have a beneficial
A Philoſophical Examination of the principles
of Grammar is a profitable exerciſe to
the mental powers of Young People; and
promotes, more perhaps than any other
ſtudy within their ſphere, clearneſs of apprehenſion,
and correctnefs of language. Nor
are the ſubtleties, inſeparable from this part
of ſcience, hard to be underſtood, even in
early life, when explained in a ſimple and
familiar ſtyle, and with a due regard to the
gradual expanſion of the human intellect.
Of the Origin and General Nature of Speech;
Man, the only animal capable of Speech. — Speech,
an art acquired by imitation. — Natural Signs of
human thought. — Artificial Signs of thought:—
firſt, Viſible; — ſecondly, Audible. - Page 1
Of the organs of Speech, and the nature and powers
of the human Voice. — Of Articulation. Vowel
and Confonant Sounds — their formation, and
various claſſes. Thirty-two or thirty-three elementary
ſounds in the Engliſh tongue. - 20
The Alphabet imperfect, and Spelling irregular;
but neither ought to be altered: — Pronunciation
cannot be the ſtandard of Orthography. — Of
teaching the Deaf to ſpeak, — Of Diphthongs,
Syllables, Words. — Of long and ſhort words.
Of Emphaſis. 1. Rhetorical. 2. Syllabick, which
is either Long-vowelled. or Short-vowelled. —
Of the Numbers or Meaſures of Engliſh Poetry;
as depending on Emphaſis; — their nature, and
varieties. - - - 59
Of Accent. Its nature and uſe. — Standard of Pronunciation.
- - - - - 86
Abſurdity of the Epicurean doctrine of the origin
of language: men muſt have ſpoken in all ages;
the firſt man, by inſpiration. — The variety of
Original tongues, a proof of the Scripture hiſtory
of Babel. — All languages have ſome things
in common; which it is the buſineſs of Univerſal
Grammar to explain. - - 95
Of the Art of Writing; its importance and origin.
— Different ſorts of it practiced by different nations.
— .A ſhort hiſtory of Printing. - 103
Of Univerſal Grammar.
Introduction. - - - 125
Sect. 1. Of Nouns Primary, or Subſtantives. — Of Number
and Gender: which (taking theſe Words in the Grammatical
ſenſe) depend, partly upon the nature of things,
and partly upon cuſtom and arbitrary rule. - 127
Sect. 2. The nature and uſe of Nouns Secondary, or Pronouns.
- - - - 147
Sect. 1. Of Attributives — Adjectives, Participles, Verbs. —
Their diſtinguiſhing characters. — Compariſon of Adjectives.
- - - - 16
Sect. 2. The ſubject of Attributives continued. Of Verbs:—
their general nature inveſtigated, and expreſſed in a definition.
— Conjectures in regard to the Greek and Latin
inflections. - - - - 184.
Sect. 3. The ſubject continued. Of the Times or Tenſes of
verbs. — Tenſes, 1. Definite in time; — 2. Indefinite in
time, or Aoriſt:— 3. Complete, or Perfect, in reſpect of
action; 4. Incomplete, or Imperfect, in reſpect of action;
—5. Compound, uniting two or more times in one; —
6. Simple, expreſſive of one time only. — Remarks. 209
Sect. 4. The ſubject continued. Of the Modes or Moods of
verbs. — Gerunds and Supines. — Species of verbs. 259
Sect. 5. The ſubject continued. — Further remarks on the
Participle. - - - - 286
Sect. 6. The ſubject of Attributivcs continued. — Of Adverbs.
Of Connectives and Articles. - - 321
Sect. 1. Of Connectives. — § 1. Of Prepoſitions: with
Remarks on the Caſes. 323. — § 2. Of Conjunctions.
Sect. 2, Of the Article. - - - 364
Page 7. line 19. read — He lived and died
110. line 11. read — characters imply
171. line 3. read — vehementer
180. line 1. read — idiom.
293. line ult. read — Il ſerpente
341. line 12. read — has never been
355• line 21. read — dependencies,
357. line 30. read — regular
The Theory of Language.
Of the Origin and General Nature
of Speech.
Man, the only Animal capable of Speech. —
Speech, an Art, acquired by Imitation. —
Natural Signs of human Thought. — Artificial
Signs of Thought; —
ſecondly, Audible.
THE faculties of the human mind have
long ago been divided into thoſe of Perception
and thoſe of Volition; the former
being ſuppoſed to be the inlets to knowlege;
the latter, the inſtruments of action.
But, in many caſes, we cannot perceive
without an exertion of the will; nor act,
without adding to our ſtock of knowlege:
and therefore, the diviſion, though ſufficiently
accurate perhaps, is not perfectly ſo.
The faculty of Speech is Active, becauſe we
act, while we make uſe of it; and may
alſo be called Perceptive, becauſe by means
of it we perceive what paſſes in the minds
of one another.
But whether we call it Active, or Perceptive,
or to what claſs of human powers we
refer it, is a matter of no conſequence. It
is one of the diſtinguiſhing characters of
our nature; none of the inferiour animals
being in any degree poſſeſſed of it.
For we muſt not call by the name of
Speech that imitation of human articulate
voice, which parrots and ſome other birds
are capable of; Speech implying thought,
and conſciouſneſs, and the power of ſeparating
and arranging our ideas, which are faculties
peculiar to rational minds. In Greek,
the ſame word Logos denotes both Speech
and Reaſon: a proof, that the Greeks conſidered
Reaſon and Speech as very nearly
That ſome inferiour animals ſhould be able
to mimick human articulation, will not ſeem
wonderful, when we recollect, that even by
machines certain words have been articulated.
But that the parrot ſhould annex
thought to the word he utters, is as unlikely,
as that a machine ſhould do ſo.
Rogue and knave are in every parrot's mouth:
but the ideas they ſtand for are incomprehenſible,
except by beings endued with reaſon
and a moral faculty.
It has however been a common opinion,
and is probable enough, that there may be,
among irrational animals, ſomething, which
by a figure we may call Language, even as
the inſtinctive economy of bees is figuratively
called Government. This at leaſt is certain,
that the natural voices of one animal are
in ſome degree intelligible, or convey particular
feelings, or impulſes, to others of the
ſame ſpecies. The ſummons of the hen is
underſtood by the chickens and a fimilar
mode of communication may be obſerved,
in many of the irrational tribes, between the
parents and offspring, and between one animal
and his cuſtomary aſſociate. Nay, to
dogs and horſes, and even to other creatures
of leſs ſagacity, the voice of their
maſter ſoon becomes familiar; and they
learn to perform certain actions, on receiving
certain audible or viſible ſignals, from
thoſe whom they are wont to obey. This,
however, is a proof, rather of their docility,
and of the quickneſs of their eye and ear, than
of any intelligence in regard to language.
And it is more to the preſent purpoſe to remark,
that in one and the ſame brute animal
different paſſions often expreſs themſelves
by different voices. How unlike, for
example, are the cries of the ſame dog,
when he barks at the ſtranger, ſnarls at his
enemy, whines with hunger or cold, howls
with ſorrow when he loſes his maſter, or
whimpers with joy when he finds him again!*
*Theſe, and ſome other varieties in the voice of this
animal, are deſcribed by Lucretius with exquiſite propriety.
But theſe, and the like animal voices, have
no analogy with human ſpeech. — For, firſt,
men ſpeak by art and imitation, whereas the
voices in queſtion are wholly inſtinctive: for
that a dog, which had never heard another
bark, would notwithſtanding bark himſelf,
admits of no doubt; and that a man, who
had never heard, any language, would not
ſpeak any, is equally certain. — Secondly, the
voices of brute animals are not broken, or
reſolvable, into diftinct elementary ſounds,
like thoſe of man when he ſpeaks, (who is,
from this circumſtance, called by Homer
Heſiod Merops or voice-dividing); nor are
they ſuſceptible of that variety, which would
be neceſſary for the communication of a
very few ſentiments: and it is pretty certain,
that, previouſly to inſtruction, the young
animals comprehend their meaning, as well
as the old. — And, thirdly, theſe voices ſeem
intended by nature to expreſs, not diſtinct
ideas, but ſuch feelings only, as it may be
for the good of the ſpecies, or for the adIrritata
canum cum primum magna moloſſûm
Mollia ricta fremunt duros nudantia dentes;
Longe alio ſonitu rabie diſtracta minantur,
Et cum jam latrant, et vocibus omnia complent.
At catulos blande cum lingua lambere tentant,
Aut ubi eos jactant pedibus, morſuque petentes,
Suſpenſis veros imitantur dentibus hauſtus,
Longe alio pacto gannitu vocis adulant;
Et cum deſerti baubantur in ædibus, aut cum
Plorantes fugiunt ſummiſſo corpore plagas.
V. 1062.
vantage of man, that they ſhould have the
power of uttering: in which, as in all other
reſpects, they are analogous, not to our
ſpeaking, but to our weeping, laughing,
groaning, ſcreaming, and other natural and
audible expreſſions of paſſion.
In this light they are conſidered by Ariſtotle,
in the following paſſage. "Man of
"all animals is only poſſeſſed of ſpeech.
"Bare ſound indeed may be the ſign of
"what is pleaſurable or painful; and for
"that reaſon is it common even to other
"animals alſo. For ſo far we perceive even
"their nature can go, that they have a ſenſe
"of thoſe feelings, and ſignify them to each
"other. But Speech is made to indicate
"what is expedient, and what hurtful, and,
"in conſequence of this, what is juſt, and
"unjuſt. It is therefore given to men:
"becauſe this, with reſpect to other ani"mals,
is to men alone peculiar, that of
"Good and Evil, Juſt and Unjuſt, they
"only poſſeſs a ſenſe or feeling*."
Some animals ſeem to employ their voice,
without any purpoſe of giving information
to others of the ſpecies. The lark ſings a
great part of the day, even when alone.
This affords a preſumption, that her ſong
has nothing in it of the nature of ſpeech.
* Tranſlated by Mr. Harris. See Treatiſe concerning
Happineſs, note fifteenth.
That energy ſeems natural to the animal
when ſoaring in the ſky: perhaps it may be
of benefit to her, as an amuſement: certainly
it is very pleaſing to the ear of man.
Some birds ſing, while preparing their
neſts, and taking care of their young, and
are ſilent the reſt of the year. But it is not
the nature of ſpeech to be periodical: whereas
thoſe energies muſt be ſo, which are the
effect of periodical feelings. Others of the
brute creation are moſt apt to utter their
voices, when the weather is about to change.
But can we ſuppoſe, that they are then
thinking of the weather, or that they intend
to give information concerning it? Is it not
more likely, that, as Virgil obſerves, their
bodies being affected by alterations of the
atmoſphere which we cannot perceive*, they
are then, without any purpoſe, expreſſing
inſtinctively certain pleaſant, or painful ſenſations;
even as the infant of a month old
does, while it is crying, or ſmiling?
We learn to ſpeak, by imitating others;
and therefore he cannot ſpeak, who does not
* Haud equidem credo, quia ſit divinitus illis
Ingenium, aut rerum fato prudentia major:
Verum, ubi tempeſtas et cœli mobilis humor
Mutavere vias, et Jupiter humidus auſtris
Denſat erant quæ rara modo, et quæ denſa relaxat,
Vertuntur ſpecies animorum, et pectora motus
Nunc alios, alios dum nubila ventus agebat,
Concipiunt. Hinc ille avium concentus in agris,
Et lætæ pecudes, et ovantes gutture corvi.
Georgic. i. 415
hear. It was once a vulgar notion, that a
perſon brought up from infancy without
hearing any language would of himſelf ſpeak
Hebrew; this having been thought the firſt,
the moſt ſacred, and the moſt natural dialect
But it is now acknowleged, and is
even ſaid to have been proved by experiment,
that ſuch a perſon would be dumb;
or, at leaſt, would employ his voice in imitating
the inarticulate ſounds he might have
heard, or in expreſſing certain feelings by
groans, laughter, cries, and the like modes
of natural utterance.
I formerly knew a poor man, who ſpoke
a very ſingular dialect. His name was William
More; his age about ſixty. He was ſo
deaf, that his neighbours doubted, whether
he could be made to hear any ſound whatever.
He had lived and died in the pariſh where he
was born, was never thirty miles from home,
and, ſo far as I know, never ſaw a foreigner.
The language he uttered was intelligible to
thoſe only, who had beſtowed ſome attention
upon it; and he himſelf underſtood no other.
It was made up, partly of Engliſh or Scotch
words, moſt of them much altered, and partly
of other words that were altogether his own.
Of the former claſs, I remember, that his uſual
affirmation was trot, probably corrupted from
troth; corn was tora; come was tum; and inſtead
of ſoldier he ſaid ſholta. Of the latter ſort
may be reckoned, odee, ſignifying good; blava,
evil; virrup, a duck; raad, vehemently
furrè, to cut, or kill; plode, a man; pitoot,
a gentleman. As he had little knowlege but
what belonged to the buſineſs of a labourer,
his ideas were few, and his language very
defective; conſiſting chiefly of nouns, adjectives,
and verbs, with ſome adverbs: his
words had no inflection: and I think he uſed
neither articles, nor conjunctions, and ſcarce
any pronouns. He looked ſteadily in the
face of thoſe who ſpoke to him, and ſeemed
to gather the meaning, by ſight, from the
motion of their lips.
Though I was then very young, I had
great curioſity to know the hiſtory of his
early years: but could never learn more than
this; that there was nothing remarkable in
it; and that his father, and mother, and all
his relations and neighbours, ſpoke like other
people. — It ſeems probable, that he had
never heard very acutely, but did not become
quite deaf till he was four or five years old:
the conſequence of which would be, his
retaining ſome words imperfectly, and forgetting
many others. For, if he had from
his birth been as deaf as when I knew him,
he never could have ſpoken at all: if he had
been under that age when he loſt his hearing,
he could hardly have articulated the letter
R ſo diſtinctly as he did; and if he had
been much older, he would no doubt have
remembered more of his mother tongue.
The peculiar formation of his own words it
is impoſſible to account for, unleſs we were
better informed in regard to his infancy and
education. All his ſyllables were eaſily pronounced;
he had little emphaſis, and no
accent, nor any diphthongal ſounds: and his
articulations were performed by the lips, the
tongue, and the palate, being ſeldom naſal,
and, I think, never guttural. He was a
chearful, ſober, honeſt man; and ſpoke reverently
of the Supreme Being, by a name,
which, though I have not forgotten, I do
not chuſe to ſet down.* — Theſe facts, though
little can be inferred from them, are not unworthy
of notice.
We ſpeak, in order to communicate our
thoughts to one another; which our ſocial
* Biſhop Burnet gives a ſimilar inſtance of M. Godet's
daughter of Geneva; who at the age of two years loſt her
hearing, and, never after could hear what was ſaid to her;
though ſhe was not wholly inſenſible to great noiſes. By
obſerving the motions of the mouth and lips of others, ſhe
had acquired ſo many words, that out of theſe ſhe had
formed a ſort of jargon, in which ſhe could hold converſation
whole days with thoſe who could ſpeak her language.
She knew nothing that was ſaid to her, unleſs ſhe
ſaw the motion of their mouths who ſpoke; ſo that in
the night they were obliged to light candles, when they
wanted to ſpeak to her. She had a ſiſter, with whom ſhe
had practiced her language more than with any body elſe:
and, what is ſtrange, though not unaccountable, by laying
her hand, in the dark, on her lips and face, ſhe could
perceive by their motion what was ſaid, and ſo could diſcourſe
with her in the dark.
Burnet. Letter iv. page 248.
affections incline us powerfully to do: and
the practice of ſpeaking improves our natural
faculty of ſeparating, arranging, and comparing
our ideas. I call that faculty natural,
and conſider it as the foundation of the art
of ſpeech: for, without it, though ſome
animals might be ſo taught, or a machine
ſo conſtructed, as to articulate words, it
would be impoſſible to ſpeak rationally, or
with intelligence.
As what paſſes in my mind cannot itſelf
appear to another man, it muſt be imparted
(if at all imparted) by means of ſigns, or
outward actions obvious to ſenſe. And they,
as expreſſive of human thought, may be divided
into Natural and Artificial.
The Natural Signs of thought are thoſe
changes in the complexion, eyes, features,
and attitude, and thoſe peculiar tones of
the voice, which all men know to be ſignificant
of certain paſſions and ſentiments.
Thus Anger, Joy, Sorrow, Hope, Fear,
Scorn, Contentment, Pity, Admiration,
when under no reſtraint, appear in the voice,
looks, and behaviour: and the appearance is
every where underſtood, either by a natural
inſtinct; or by our having learned experimentally,
that a certain ſign accompanies,
and indicates, a certain feeling, or idea.
And that this kind of ſigns admits of conſiderable
variety, is evident, not only from
the pantomime, in which the whole progreſs
of a dramatick fable is repreſented in dumb
ſhow, and by natural ſigns only; but alſo
from the manifold expreſſions of human
thought, which are exhibited to the eye by
painters and ſtatuaries. Yet, when compared
with the endleſs variety of our ideas,
theſe natural ſigns will appear to be but few.
And many thoughts there are, in the mind
of every man, which produce no ſenſible alteration
in the body.
Artificial Signs, or Language, have, therefore,
been employed univerſally for the purpoſe
of communicating thought; and are
found ſo convenient, as to have ſuperſeded
in a great meaſure, at leaſt in many nations,
the uſe of the Natural. Yet, where language
has been little improved, as among
ſavages, and is of courſe defective in clearneſs
and energy, it is for the moſt part enforced
by looks, geſtures, and voices, naturally
ſignificant: and even ſome polite nations,
the French for example, from an
inborn vivacity, or acquired reſtleſneſs, accompany
their ſpeech with innumerable geſtures,
in order to make it the more emphatical;
while people of a graver turn, like the
Engliſh and Spaniards, and who have words
for all their ideas, truſt to language alone
for a full declaration of their mind, and ſeldom
have recourſe to geſture, unleſs when
violence of paſſion throws them off their
guard. However, as the natural ſigns may
give ſtrength and grace to the artificial, it is
expected, even where the greateſt national
gravity prevails, that, in his publick performances,
the former ſhould, in ſuch a degree,
be adopted by the orator, as to ſhow
that he is in earneſt, and by the ſtage-player,
as that he may the more effectually imitate
For elocution is not perfect, unleſs the
artificial ſigns of thought are enforced by
the natural, or at leaſt by ſuch of them,
as are neither troubleſome to the ſpeaker,
nor offenſive to the hearer. Words of indignation
pronounced with a ſoft voice and
a ſmile, jokes accompanied with weeping,
or lamentation with laughter, would be ridiculous:
but, on the other hand, if a player,
in reciting a melancholy ſtrain, were to burſt
out into real tears, he would loſe that ſelf--
command, without which nothing can be
done with elegance. Actors will never expreſs
naturally what they do not intenſely
feel*: yet their feelings muſt not diveſt
them of their preſence of mind, nor diſqualify
them for any exertion that belongs
to their part. And I remember, that, on
aſking Garrick, how it was poſſible for one
who felt as he did, to act with ſo much nature
and grace, and with ſuch perfect ſelf--
* See Hor. Ar. Poet. ver. 99 — 111. — and an Eſſay
on Poetry and Muſick as they affect the Mind. Part i,
chap. 3.
command, he told me, that I had touched
upon the moſt eſſential, and what he had
always found the moſt difficult, point of
theatrical imitation.
In that oratory, which is addreſſed to the
paſſions, and which in this country is little
uſed, the natural ſigns of thought muſt enforce
the artificial with as ſtrong an energy,
as in the action of the theatre. But the
publick ſpeaker, whoſe aim is to inſtruct
and perſuade, gives ſcope to thoſe natural
expreſſions only, that imply conviction, and
earneſtneſs, with a mild and benevolent demeanour,
and ſometimes a modeſt dignity
becoming the cauſe of truth and virtue.
And in polite converſation, no voices, looks,
or attitudes are allowable, but ſuch as betoken
kindneſs, attention, good-humour, and
a deſire to pleaſe.
Des Cartes, and ſome other philoſophers,
have endeavoured to explain the phyſical
cauſe, which connects a human paſſion with
its correſpondent natural ſign. They wanted
to ſhow, from the principles of motion and
of the animal economy, why Fear, for example,
produces trembling and paleneſs; why
Laughter attends the perception of incongruity;
why Anger inflames the blood, contracts
the brows, and diſtends the noſtrils;
why Shame is accompanied with bluſhing;
why Deſpair fixes the teeth together, diſtorts
the joints, and disfigures the features; why
Scorn ſhoots out the lip; why Sorrow overflows
at the eyes; why Envy and Jealouſy
look aſkance; and why Admiration raiſes the
eyebrows, and opens the mouth. Such inquiries
may give riſe to ingenious obſervation;
but are not in other reſpects uſeful,
becauſe never attended with ſucceſs. He who
eſtabliſhed the union of ſoul and body knows
how, and by what intermediate inſtruments;
the one operates upon the other. But to man
this is a myſtery unſearchable. We can only
ſay, that tears accompany ſorrow, and the
other natural ſigns their reſpective paſſions
and ſentiments, becaufe ſuch is the will of
our Creator, and the law of the human conſtitution.

The Artificial Signs of thought derive
their meaning from human art and compact;
and are not underſtood, except by thoſe
who have been taught how to uſe them. Of
theſe any man may invent a ſyſtem; and by
their means converſe, with thoſe .who are in
the ſecret, ſo as that nobody elſe ſhall underſtand
They are divided into Viſible and Audible.
For, though human thoughts may be communicated
by touch, (as people of certain
profeſſions are ſaid to know a brother, and
to make themſelves known to him, by taking
hold of his hand; and Mr. Sanderſon of
Cambridge, who was born blind, ſtudied and
taught geometry by diagrams cut in wood;)
yet tangible ſigns of thought are not in
common uſe, nor at all requiſite on ordinary
Of Viſible Artificial Signs there may be
many ſorts. Dumb men uſe them in converſation,
and enforce them by a variety of
natural ſigns. And where a dumb man is
known to make his thumb (for example)
a ſign of good, and his little finger of evil,
his meaning is underſtood as well when he
holds up or points to thoſe organs, as if he
were to utter the words good or evil. And,
after he is inſtructed in the nature of written
language, it would be no difficult matter to
teach him how to make and uſe an alphabet,
by pointing to the ſeveral joints of his fingers,
or to other parts of his body; which
among his friends would be of great benefit
to him, both in the way of amuſement, and
as an inlet to knowlege. Dumb men of
quick parts do generally expreſs a word, or
an idea, by a ſingle ſign; which is a more
expeditious method than the other, but not
ſo accurate, or ſo comprehenſive.
This ſort of viſible alphabet, by which
different parts of the hand repreſent different
vowels and conſonants, is much uſed, as I
am told, in nunneries and boarding-ſchools;
and conveys, when one becomes expert in it,
ſentiments as clearly, though not ſo quickly,
as words could do.
At ſea, when ſhips ſail in company, viſible
ſigns are not only uſeful, but neceſſary. A
ſyſtem of theſe, for the uſe of the Britiſh
navy, was invented by James II, about an
hundred years ago; and is ſaid to be ſo convenient,
that it has not to this day been
materially improved. Every Britiſh ſeaman
in the King's ſervice is trained up in the
knowlege of them: and, to prevent miſtakes
from forgetfulneſs, every commander in the
navy receives from the Admiralty a book,
wherein are explained the meaning of the
ſeveral ſignals, and the method of conveying
orders or intelligence from one ſhip to any
other in the ſquadron. Theſe ſignals, many
of which, that they may be the more ſignificant,
are accompanied with the firing of
guns, are made, by hanging out, from the
ſeveral parts of the ſhip, lights in the nighttime,
and flags and ſtreamers of different
colours by day. The fulleſt account of them,
that I have ſeen, is in Chambers's Dictionary,
under the word Signal.
The antients, particularly the Greeks,
were remarkable for their ingenious contrivance
of ſignals by fire. We are aſſured,
that, in a mountainous country, they could
in a moment, by means of torches, convey
intelligence to a very great diſtance. They
even invented a method of expreſſing, by the
number and arrangement of flambeaus. every
letter of the alphabet; ſo that a guard on
one eminence could converſe, by ſpelling
their words, with another many leagues off.
There is an exact deſcription of it in Polybius;
and in the ſeventeenth book of the
Antient Hiſtory by Rollin; who adds, that
he had ſeen a pamphlet, printed in 1702,
and dedicated to the King of France by
Monſ. Marcel, which explained a ſyſtem of
ſignals, whereby any piece of news could be
communicated by one ſhip to another at a
diſtance, as quickly as it could be ſet down
in writing.
Fire-fignals are of great antiquity. Clytemneſtra,
at Argos, is ſaid to have received,
in this way, intelligence of the deſtruction
of Troy, the very night in which it was
taken. A fire, kindled by Agamemnon's
order on mount Ida, was ſeen at Lemnos,
where another was inſtantly lighted, which
was repeated on Athos, and ſo forwarded
from one eminence to another, where guards
had been placed on purpoſe, till at laſt it
ſhone on the heights of Arachne, and was
deſcried by a watchman ſtationed on the
top of Clytemneſtra's palace. The progreſs
of theſe ſignals is minutely deſcribed by Eſchylus,
in the tragedy of Agamemnon; which
opens with a ſoliloquy of the watchman,
complaining, that for nine years he had
paſſed the night in that place without ſleep,
looking out for the promiſed ſignal. While
he is ſpeaking, he diſcovers it, and gives notice
to the queen; who, in announcing the
good news, informs the chorus, by what
means it had been tranſmitted to her. The
paſſage is curious; and proves at leaſt, that
ſignals by fire were well known in Greece in
the days of Eſchylus; who flouriſhed five
hundred years before Chriſt. Quintus Curtius
relates, that they were frequent among
the Aſiatics in the time of Alexander: and
we learn from Ceſar and Livy, that they were
uſed by the Romans. Traces of them are
ſtill to be ſeen on the tops of mountains in
Spain. And in this kingdom there are ſeveral
high hills, hollowed a little on the ſummit,
which retain the marks of burning, and are
by ſome believed to have been volcanoes;
though I think it more probable, that they
may have been ſtations, where fires were occaſionally
lighted to alarm the country. Of
theſe I remember three in the neighbourhood
of Inverneſs, each viſible from the other,
and about ten miles diſtant; and one in the
county of Angus, not far from Aberlemno.
Any human action might be made the ſign of
thought; but all are not equally convenient.
Our ideas ariſe and ſhift with great quickneſs:
and therefore thoſe actions or ſigns
only can do them juſtice in the expreſſion,
which are eaſily performed, and of great
variety, and in each variety obvious to ſenſe.
By means of an alphabet formed by pointing
to the joints of the fingers, and by other ſorts of
geſticulation, many human ſentiments might
no doubt be expreſſed; but viſible ſigns of
this kind are of no uſe in the dark, and when
diſtant are not perceptible; nor do they admit
of ſufficient variety; nor are they ſo eaſy
in the performance, as the neceſſities of life
would often require. But Audible Signs are
equally uſeful by night and by day, and may
be underſtood at a conſiderable diſtance:
and the ſounds of one and the ſame human
voice may be varied without end, and are,
in all their varieties, eaſily managed, and by
the human ear diſtinctly perceptible. Indeed,
when we compare the ear with the
voice of man, we are at a loſs to determine,
whether the one is the more admirable for its
power of diverſifying ſounds, or the other
for that of diſtinguiſhing them. — Audible
Signs, therefore, conſtitute language in all
nations. And if men could always be preſent
with thoſe to whom they wiſh to give
information, ſignals, and every other viſible
ſign of thought, would be unneceſſary; and
ſpeech, as it is the readieſt, would be the
only, vehicle of human ſentiment.
Of the organs of Speech, and the nature and
powers of the human Voice. — Of Articulation.
Vowel and Conſonant Sounds, — their
formation, and various claſſes. Thirty two
or thirty three elementary ſounds in the Engliſh
NOTWITHSTANDING the endleſs variety
of human articulate voices, their
elementary ſounds are few and ſimple, at
leaſt in all the languages I am acquainted
with. — But before I proceed to the elements
of Speech, it may be proper to premiſe ſome
obſervations on the nature and powers of the
human voice.
Human Voice is air ſent out from the
lungs, and ſo agitated, or modified, in its
paſſage through the windpipe and larynx, as
to become diſtinctly audible. The windpipe,
wezand, or rough artery, is that tube,
which, on touching the forepart of our
throat externally, we feel hard and uneven.
It conveys air into the lungs for the purpoſe
of reſpiration and ſpeech. It conſiſts of
cartilages, circular before, that they may the
better reſiſt external injury; but ſoft and
flattiſh on the oppoſite ſide, that they may
not hurt the gullet, or eſophagus; which
lies cloſe behind, and is the tube whereby what
we eat and drink is conveyed into the ſtomach.
Theſe cartilages are ſeparated by
fleſhy membranes; by means of which the
windpipe may be ſhortened or lengthened
a little, and, when neceſſary, incurvated,
without inconvenience.
The top, or upper part, of the windpipe
is called the Larynx; conſiſting of four or
five cartilages, that may be expanded or
brought together, by the agency of certain
muſcles which operate all at the ſame time.
In the middle of the larynx there is a ſmall
aperture, called the Glottis, through which
the breath and voice are conveyed, but which,
when we ſwallow any thing, is covered by
a lid called the Epiglottis: for if any part of
our food or drink were to get into the windpipe
by this paſſage, it would occaſion coughing,
till it were thrown out again.
Galen, and many other philoſophers, affirm,
that both the larynx and the windpipe
co-operate in rendering the breath vocal.
But later authors have determined, and I
think on good grounds, that the human
voice is produced by two ſemicircular membranes
in the middle of the larynx, which
form by their ſeparation the aperture that is
termed the Glottis. The ſpace between them
is not wider than one tenth of an inch;
through which the breath tranſmitted from
the lungs muſt needs paſs with conſiderable
velocity, In its paſſage, it is ſuppoſed to
give a briſk vibratory motion to the membranous
lips of the glottis, and ſo to form
the ſound which we call voice: by an operation,
ſimilar to that of the two lips of the
reed of a hautboy, when one takes them in
one's mouth, and blows into them.
It ſeems, however, neceſſary, in order to
the production of voice, that, by an energy
of our will, a certain degree of tenſeneſſ
should be communicated to the larynx, or
at leaſt to the two membranes abovementioned:
for we find, that we can breathe
very ſtrongly without vocal ſound; and when
we ſpeak or ſing, we are ſenſible of a peculiar
tenſion or hardneſs in the organs of the
throat, which ſeem to be more lax when we
only breathe or whiſper. When we are in
great pain, theſe organs of themſelves become
tenſe, and transform our breathing into
groans; a circumſtance, that is often of uſe
to us; by raiſing pity in others, or bringing
them to our aid, when we are incapable of
ſpeech. And then, to repreſs our groans,
by keeping the vocal membranes lax, requires
an energy, which we do not care to continue,
becauſe it is fatiguing and painful. Hence
we ſay, that groaning relieves us; and in
fact it does ſo: at leaſt, it is then more
easy to groan, than to breathe without
The voice, thus formed, is ſtrengthened
and mellowed by a reverberation from the
palate, and other hollow places in the inſide
of the mouth and noſtrils: and as theſe are
better or worſe ſhaped for this reverberation,
the voice is ſaid to be more or leſs agreeable.
And thus the vocal organs of man appear to
be, as it were, a ſpecies of flute, or hautboy;
whereof the membranous lips of the glottis
are the mouth, or reed, and the inſide of the
throat, palate and noſtrils, the body: the
windpipe being nothing more than the tube
or canal, which conveys the wind from the
lungs to the aperture of this muſical inſtrument.

Take the reed of a hautboy, put it between
your lips, and blow into it; and a diſtinct
ſound is heard: preſs it a little with.
your lips, blowing as before, and the ſound
becomes more acute or ſhrill: preſs it
more, that is, bring the two ſides of the reed
ſtill cloſer, and the ſound is ſtill more acute.
From this example we may partly conceive,
in what manner the human voice is varied,
with reſpect to the acuteneſs or gravity of
its tones. The glottis is found to be narrower
in women and young perſons than in
men; and hence mens voices are deeper, or
graver, than thoſe of boys and women. And
we can at pleaſure dilate or contract this
aperture, and ſo faſhion the tones of our
voice into every variety of the muſical ſcale.
But all have not this faculty in the ſame degree,
Some voices comprehend two, and,
by ſtraining, even three octaves. Others
have hardly the command of one. Two
octaves are no uncommon medium. Voices
that go very deep can ſeldom riſe high; and
thoſe which are of a ſhrill treble are unable
to reach the low notes of the baſs. In other
words; when the aperture of the glottis is
naturally wide, it cannot be made very narrow;
and when it is naturally narrow, it
cannot be made very wide. At leaſt, this
ſeems to be a general rule; but it is not
without exceptions. And it is ſomewhat remarkable,
that of thoſe voices which are
moſt neceſſary in harmony, as trebles and
baſſes, there is great abundance; while counter-tenor
voices, whereof one is ſufficient in
a numerous chorus, are not often met with.
— As to the ſtrength, or weakneſs, of the
voice; it depends, on the ſtrength or weakneſs
of the lungs; on the greater or leſs force
that is exerted in emitting the breath; and
partly too, perhaps, on the ſhape and magnitude
of thoſe cavities in the throat and
mouth, by which the ſound is reverberated.
It is hardly poſſible for him, whoſe muſical
ear is naturally bad, ever to acquire ſuch a
command of the membranes that form the
glottis, as to ſeparate the tones of the voice
by their true muſical intervals; which to
perſons of a nice ear is ſo eaſy, even in
infancy, that they find it difficult to do otherwiſe.
Yet a nice ear is not always accompanied
with an exact voice. The voice, like
every other faculty, may be improved by
exerciſe, and grow worſe by neglect: and
there is, in the vocal organs of ſome people,
a certain unpliableneſs, which no cultivation
is able to overcome.
If we conſider the many varieties of ſound,
which one and the ſame human voice is capable
of uttering, together with the ſmallneſs
of the diameter of the glottis; and reflex,
that the ſame diameter muſt always produce
the ſame tone, and, conſequently, that to
every change of tone a correſpondent change
of diameter is neceſſary; we muſt be filled
with aſtoniſhment at the mechaniſm of theſe
parts, and the fineneſs of the fibres that operate
in producing effects ſo minute, ſo various,
and in their proportions ſo exactly uniform.
For it admits of proof, that the diameter
of the human glottis is capable of at
leaſt ſixty diſtinct degrees of contration or
enlargement, by each of which a different
note is produced; and yet the greateſt diameter
of that aperture does not exceed one
tenth of an inch. This, though certain in
fact, is conceivable by thoſe only, who can
form an idea of that diviſion, whereby an
inch is parcelled out into ſix hundred parts.
I ſpeak not of extraordinary voices, whoſe
powers may be incomparably greater; as indeed
ſome authors have by calculation proved
that they are* What is here affirmed will
be found to hold true of any muſical voice
of tolerable volubility and compaſs. And if
ſo, we need not wonder, that the beſt fingers
ſhould often fail in the command of their
voice. The fibres that miniſter to motions
ſo exceedingly minute muſt themſelves be
very delicate; and therefore liable to be affected
by the ſtate of the air, and of the
ſtomach, the general habit of the body, the
* That the variations of diameter here aſcribed to the
human glottis are only the half of what it is capable of,
may be evinced as follows. Suppoſe a man can ſing from
Gamut to Alamire of the treble which
is no extraordinary compaſs, being only two octaves and
one great tone. Let him take his fundamental note from
the third ſtring of the violoncello, and ſing two octaves.
Then let the inſtrument be tuned one comma (or the ninth
part of a great tone) higher, and let him take his fundamental
note, and ſing two octaves, as before: and ſo proceed,
raiſing the tone of the inſtrument in the ſame proportion,
and ſinging two octaves accordingly, till the ſound
of the ſtring be nine commas, or one great tone, higher
than it was at the firft. In this way he ſings ſixteen octaves,
every one of which is in every note different from
the reſt. Now in ſixteen different octaves there are one
hundred and twenty different tones, which are all ſounded
by the voice of him who makes this experiment: in the
courſe of which, the diameter of his glottis, though no more
than one tenth of an inch, muſt have undergone one hundred
and twenty diſtinct. variations. So that, if an inch
were divided into twelve hundred parts, the diviſions would
not be more minute than thoſe variations are, which in the
caſe ſuppoſed would affect the diameter of the human
emotions of the mind, and a thouſand other
When we ſing the notes of a tune without
applying ſyllables, we uſe and vary our voice
without articulation, and our vocal organs
perform no other part than that of a wind
inſtrument of muſick. Speech is made up
of articulate voices: and what we call Articulation
is performed, not by the lungs, windpipe,
or larynx, but by the action of the
throat, palate, teeth, tongue, lips, and noſtrils.
Yet, in ſpeaking with accent*, the membranes
of the glottis muſt be continually
employed in contracting and dilating themſelves;
becauſe, as will be obſerved hereafter,
the voice is then continually riſing and falling
in its tone: and, in ſpeaking with emphaſis *,
the lungs are continually employed, not only
in ſupplying that breath of which the voice
is made, but alſo in emitting it ſometimes
with more and ſometimes with leſs force;
becauſe, as will appear by and by, the voice
is then continually varying its energy in
reſpect of ſtrength and ſoftneſs. — Speech is
articulated voice: Whiſpering is articulated
Articulation begins not, till the breath, or
voice, has paſſed through the larynx. The
ſimpleſt articulate voices are thoſe which
proceed from an open mouth, and are by
Grammarians called Vocal or Vowel ſounds.
* See the fourth and fifth chapters.
In tranſmitting theſe, the aperture of the
mouth may be pretty large, or ſomewhat
ſmaller, or very ſmall: which is one cauſe
of the variety of vowels; a particular ſound
being produced by each particular aperture.
Moreover, in paſſing through an open mouth,
the voice may be gently acted upon, by the
lips; or by the tongue and palate; or by the
tongue and throat: whence another ſource
of variety in vowel ſounds.
Thus nine ſimple vowels may be formed;
which Wallis, in his excellent Grammar,
endeavours to prove are all heard in the
Engliſh language, though we have not nine
vowel letters to expreſs them. But Dr. Kenrick,
in the preface to his Rhetorical Dictionary,
ſhows, that the number of our ſimple
vowel ſounds is eleven*. Perhaps the
pronunciation of Engliſh may have changed
a little ſince the time of Wallis, who flouriſhed
an hundred and thirty years ago; and
there may be vowel ſounds in it now, which
were not in it then. This will not ſeem an
* Theſe eleven ſounds are, according to Kenrick, as
follows. Numb. 1. Cur, Sir, Her, Monk, Blood. —
2. Bull, Wolf, Puſh. — 3. Pool, Troop, — 4. Oft, Soft,
George. — 5. What, Was, War. — 6. No, Foe, Beau. —
7. Hard, Part, Laugh, Heart. — 8. And, Hat, Bar. —
9. Bay, They, Fail, Tale, Great, Dale, Vale. — 10, Met,
Sweat, Head, Bread, Realm, Ready. — 11. Fit, Guilt, Engliſh.
— But are not the vowels Number 2 and 3, the ſame
in the ſound, and different only in the quantity; the
former ſhort, and the latter long? If this be granted, our
ſimple vowel ſounds are reduced to Ten.
extravagant ſuppoſition, when it is conſidered
that Wallis gives the ſame ſound to the
vowel in lamb and dame, which are now pronounced
differently; makes the vowel found
in muſe ſimple, which is now diphthongal
and informs us, that ſome old people in his
time retained ſo much of Chaucer's pronunciation,
as to ſay housè and horsè, articulating
in theſe and the like words the final e*,
which is now invariably mute. In other
tongues there may be ſimple vowel ſounds
quite different from ours. Such is that of the
French u; which is not heard in England,
or in the North of Scotland; but in all the
lowland provinces of North Britain, from
the Grampian mountains to the Tweed, is
ſtill in very frequent uſe.
When the voice, in its paſſage through the
mouth, is totally intercepted, or ſtrongly
compreſſed, there is formed a certain modification
of articulate ſound, which, as expreſſed
by a character in writing, is called a
Conſonant. Silence is the effect of a total
interception; and indiſtinct ſound, of a strong
compreſſion: and therefore a conſonant is not
of itſelf a diſtinct articulate voice; and its influence
in varying the tones of language is
not clearly perceived, unleſs it be accompanied
by an opening of the mouth, that is, by
* This is ſtill done by the vulgar in Scotland; but the
words ſo pronounced are diminutives. Thus housè is a ſmall
houſe, horsè a little horſe. They alſo ſay, Mannie, Gunnie,
Staffie, &c. meaning a little man, a little gun, a little ſtaff.
a vowel. — The conſonants that proceed from
an interception of the voice, are called Clauſæ
or Cloſe by Wallis; who very ingeniouſly divides
them into claſſes, upon the following
The human voice, in paſſing through the
mouth, may be intercepted, by the lips, or by
the tongue and palate, or by the tongue and
throat: and each of theſe interceptions may
happen, when the voice is directed to go
out by the mouth only; or through the
noſtrils only; or partly through the mouth,
and partly through the noſe.
Thus, if the voice, directed to the mouth
only, be totally intercepted by the lips, we
articulate what is expreſſed by the letter P;
if by the tongue and palate, T; if by the
tongue and throat, K. Theſe three conſonants
are properly called mutes; becauſe theſe
interceptions, unleſs preceded or followed by
a vowel, produce abſolute ſilence.
Again; if the voice, directed to go forth,
partly through the mouth, and partly through
the noſe, be totally intercepted by the lips,
we form the ſound expreſſed by B; if by the
tongue and palate, D; if by the tongue and
throat, the ſimple ſound of G, as it is heard
in the word go. This triad of conſonants are
called Semi-mutes; becauſe without the aſſiſtance
of any vowel they produce a faint
ſound, which continues for a little time, and
ſeems partly to paſs out by the noſe, and
partly to reverberate from the roof of the
mouth. And hence, when the noſe is ſhut,
it is not eaſy for us to give them a diſtinct
Further; while the voice is paſſing out by
the noſtrils chiefly, if the lips be cloſed, we
hear the ſound of M; if the forepart of the
tongue be applied to the palate, N is formed;
and if the tongue be drawn a little backward
towards the throat, we produce the final
ſound of the words ſing, ring, long, &c.
Theſe are called Semi-vowels; becauſe of
themſelves, and without the aid of any vowel,
they make a ſound which is not very indiſtinct,
and may be continued as long as we
pleaſe. If, while we are ſounding them, we
ſuddenly ſhut our noſe, the ſound ceaſes
entirely; which is a proof, that it goes out
by the noſtrils. And if we attempt to articulate
them, after having firſt ſhut our noſe,
the ſounds produced will reſemble B, D, and
G, more than M, N, and ING; a proof,
that, in theſe two claſſes of conſonants, the
mode of interception is almoſt, if not altogether,
the ſame.
With the ſame diſpoſitions of the organs,
and the ſame modes of emitting the breath,
if the voice be not totally intercepted, but
ſtrongly compreſſed in its paſſage, there is
formed a ſecond order of conſonants, called
by Wallis Apertæ or Open; and which are
indeed the aſpirations of the mutes and ſemi--
mutes. For the ſemi-vowels, if they could
be aſpirated, would, in our author's opinion,
become Groans or Lowings, rather than articulate
voices. And yet perhaps in ſome
languages they may be aſpirated, though they
are not in ours.
Thus, if, in pronouncing P, or rather ip,
we permit the breath to paſs out with ſome
difficulty between our lips, we form that
ſound of F which is heard in off: And, in
the ſame manner, from B are formed V (or
that found of F which is heard in of) when
the aperture of the lips is ſmall and oblong;
and W, when that aperture approaches to
the circular form. So from T, if the breath
is allowed to paſs between the tongue and the
teeth, we derive that ſound of th which is
heard in the word think: from which if the
tongue is drawn a little backwards, and the
breath paſſes with a kind of whiffling found
between it and the palate, we articulate S.
And, by the ſame proceſs, we change D,
firſt, into that ſound of Th which is heard in
Thine; and ſecondly, into Z, or that ſound
of the letter S, which is heard in mans, laws,
&c. — Theſe two ſounds of Th, which
are ſo common in our tongue, and give us no
trouble, are of moſt difficult acquiſition to
foreigners*: a proof, that ſimple and eaſy
* "I have ſeen," ſays Sir David Dalrymple, "P. Weſ"ſeling,
the editor of Diodorus Siculus, diſtort his face into
articulations may be very laborious to thoſe,
who have not been uſed to them in infancy:
— adeo in teneris conſueſcere multum eſt.
In pronouncing S, if we draw, the point
of the tongue a little backwards, we change
the conſonant into the final ſound of the
word bluſh; which, though we mark it in
writing by two letters Sh, is as ſimple a
found as that of S. — In the ſame manner
namely, by drawing the point of the tongue
a little backwards while we articulate Z, we
form the ſimple ſound of the French J;
which, according to the analogy of our alphabet,
would be expreſſed by the letters
Zh. This ſound in its ſimple form is heard
in viſion, Aſia, deriſion, evaſion, &c.: and
makes the laſt part of the complex ſound of
the ſoft G, as it is heard in gem; which complex
ſound, if I miſtake not, might be reſolved
into dzh.
The liquids L and R are acknowledged by
Wallis to be anomalous. He is inclined to
derive them from D and N. He mentions
a tribe of American Indians adjoining to
New England, who cannot articulate R or
L; but, when they attempt either, fall into
N, and inſtead of lobſter ſay nobſten*: and
we know, that R is one of the laſt letters
"convuſions, while attempting to expreſs the juſt ſound
"of aGreek Theta." Annals of Scotland, vol. i.. p. 5.
* I have met with two perſons, natives of Scotland,
who did the ſame.
which European infants learn to pronounce,
and that they are apt to uſe L in its ſtead.
From all which we may gather, that the liquids
N, L, and R, bear a cloſe affinity one
with another.
If, while we articulate K, we let our
breath paſs with a pretty ſtrong compreſſion
between the middle of the tongue and throat,
there is formed that guttural ſound, which
in Scotland (where it is very common) is ſuppoſed
to expreſs the Greek X, and in the
vulgar dialect of that country is annexed to
the letters gh in the words might, light,
bright, ſigh, &c. In the ſame manner, by
permitting the ſimple ſound of G, as it is
heard in go, to eſcape from between the
tongue and throat, in the form of an aſpiration,
we pronounce another guttural,
not unlike the former, which in Scotland
makes the final ſound of the word lough or
loch, which ſignifies a lake. Theſe two gutturals
were certainly heard in the Anglo--
Saxon (or one of them at leaſt), but have
been long diſuſed in South Britain; and an
Engliſhman finds it difficult to pronounce
them; though to Scotchmen, who are inured
to them from infancy, nothing is more
eaſy *.
* On fecond thoughts, I am in doubt, whether this
account of the formation of theſe two gutturals be ſtricily
acccurate. To thoſe readers, who know them and can pronounce
them, it is ſubmitted, whether they may not be
The ſound of the conſonant Y (as in year,
yes, &c.) is alſo conſidered by Wallis as an
aſpiration of the ſimple G, formed by a large
and ſudden aperture of the organs; but I
am not entirely ſatisfied that this is the caſe. —
In ſome other reſpects, his ſyſtem may perhaps
be exceptionable: but, as it is ingenious
and ſimple, and in many particulars
true, I thought a brief account of it, interſperſed
with additional remarks, would give
an idea of the manner in which the articulations
of language are formed.
And now, we may aſcertain the exact number
of ſimple elementary ſounds, which are
heard in the language of England. Suppoſing
H to mark, not an articulate voice,
better explained thus. The letter C, as a ſubſtitute for
K, ſeems in Engliſh to have two ſounds, ſimilar indeed
but not the ſame; the one is heard in came, and the other
in come. In pronouncing the firſt, the point of the tongue
is directed towards the teeth of the lower jaw; and, to
produce the other, the tongue is drawn back a little towards
the throat. From the ſound of C in came the firſt
mentioned guttural ſeems to be derived by aſpiration, and
the other guttural from the ſound of the ſame letter in the
word come. In provinces, where theſe gutturals are not
uſed or known, I am afraid this account will hardly be
intelligible: but a North Briton may underſtand it, provided
he can articulate the word came in the Engliſh manner.
And this he will do, if he give to the vowel a in
came the ſame ſound which it bears in the words name,
tame, face, blame, &c. — The letter K, like its ſubſtitute
C, marks two diſtinguiſhable articulations of the ſame nature;
the one in the words key, king, keen, ſilk, milk, &c,
the other in ſkull, hock, cork, ſtroke, yoke, &c.
but only a breathing, (which is allowed by
moſt grammarians to be its character) there
will be found in the Engliſh tongue the following
ſimple conſonant ſounds. 1. B, as in
ebb. 2. D, as in deed. 3. F, as in off. 4
V, as in of, love, velvet. 5. G, as in egg
6. K, as in cook. 7. L, as in bell. 8. M;
as in gem. 9. N, as in nun. 10. P, as in
pope. 11. R, as in err. 12. S, as in aſs
13. Z, as in zeal, laws, as. 14. T, as in
it. 15. W, as in war, twang. 16. Y, as
in you, yes, year. 17. ING, as in king. 18.
SH, as in aſh. 19. TH, as in thumb. 20
TH, as in then, though, this. 21. ZH, as
in the French pronoun je; as in viſion, deriſion,
&c; and as in the final ſound of the
complex conſonant G, which is heard in the
words age, gem, George, and which, as obſerved
already, may be reſolved into dzh.
Of our other conſonants, C is ſuperfluous
in both ſounds, the one being expreſſed by
K, and the other by S; G, in the ſoft pronunciation,
is not a ſimple, but a complex
ſound; J is unneceſſary, becauſe its ſound,
and that of the ſoft G, are in our language
the ſame; Q, with its attendant U, is either
complex, and reſolvable into Kw, as in quality,
or unneceſſary, becauſe its ſound is the
ſame with K, as in opaque; X is compounded
of gs, as in exact, example, or of ks, as
in exerciſe, Alexander; PH is ſuperfluous.
becauſe F gives the ſame ſound; and CH is
either compounded of tſh as in church, or
ſimple, in which caſe it is ſuperfluous, being
the ſame with K, as in choler, chyle, archangel,
character, ſtomach.
Some think, that our Y and W are always
vowel ſounds, and that the one might be
expreſſed by I, and the other by U. If this
be admitted, the number of our ſimple conſonants
is reduced to nineteen. But this I
think is a miſtake. — It is true, that I is ſometimes
pronounced like the conſonant Y, as
in the laſt ſyllable of onion, opinion, William;
and Y like I, as at the end of a word, and
when it follows a conſonant, as in liberty,
my, thy, chyle. It is alſo true, that in perſuade,
ſuavity, and ſome other words, the u
has the exact ſound of the w; and that, in
the end of ſome diphthongal ſyllables, the
conſonant w is put improperly for the vowel
u, as in flew, view, &c. — But, on the other
hand, when we articulate the conſonant y,
as in yoke, we begin, not with a vowel ſound
reſembling i or e, but with a ſpringy ſeparation
of the tongue from the palate, which
opens a paſſage to a compreſſed or intercepted
voice, and is, in the judgment of Wallis,
an aſpiration of the ſimple G. And, in pronouncing
war, we begin, in like manner,
not with an open mouth, or vowel ſound
like u or oo, but with ſeparating, by a wide
and circular aperture, thoſe organs which,
if they had remained in cloſe contact, would
have articulated the conſonant B. — Beſides, in
analyſing the ſound of qu, as above, though I
ſaid, that it might be reſolved into kw, I could
not have ſaid that it was reſolvable into ku; for
this would have implied, that quality (for example)
was to be pronounced, not kwality,
which is its real ſound, but kewality. — To
which may be added, that the Italians, who
pronounce our vowel u, both when it is diphthongal,
as in muſe, piutoſto, and when it is
ſimple, as in pull, rumore, uccello, udire,
cannot without difficulty learn to pronounce
the Engliſh conſonant w; which is a proof,
that the articulations are different.
It appears then, that in the Engliſh tongue
there are twenty-one ſimple conſonant ſounds;
and, according to Dr. Kenrick, there are
eleven ſimple vowels. So that the elementary
ſounds of our language are thirty two;
or, reckoning H an articulation, thirty
In other languages however there may be
many others. The French U was already
taken notice of. He who articulates R in
the throat, and with an aſpiration, utters a
ſound never heard in England, but which is
a Celtick or Erſe word, and in the highlands
of Scotland denotes a horſe and
there they call a calf by a name, which I
can neither deſcribe nor articulate, but which
ſeems to begin with an aſpirated L. In the
Scotch dialect there are two gutturals, CH,
and GH, which are not in Engliſh; the
Welch have many peculiar articulations:
and if the language of the Hurons be, as is
ſaid, wholly guttural, its elementary ſounds
muſt be very unlike thoſe of the European
When I ſay, that the elementary ſounds
of our language are thirty two, or thirty
three, I mean, not that the enumeration is
abſolutely exact, but that it is ſufficiently ſo
for the purpoſe of ſhowing how the ſimple
articulations of language may be varied;
which is all that is intended in this place.
I know there are other ſimple ſounds in Engliſh,
ſome of which perhaps have never been
taken notice of by any writer on the ſubject.
The two ſounds of K and C were mentioned;
and if one had time to examine this
matter more minutely, one might no doubt
diſcover other articulations that are really
diſtinguiſhable, though commonly ſuppoſed
to be the ſame.
The Alphabet imperfect, and Spelling irregular;
but neither ought to be altered: — Pronunciation
cannot be the ſtandard Orthography.
— Of teaching the Deaf to ſpeak. —
Of Diphthongs, Syllables, Words. — Of long
and ſhort words.
IN order to be perfect, the Engliſh alphabet
ought, therefore, to conſiſt of about
thirty three letters; namely, eleven vowels,
and twenty two conſonants; for, H, whether
the ſymbol of a voice, or of a breathing,
cannot be diſpenſed with, becauſe in many
words it affects the pronunciation. But it
may be doubted, whether there ever was an
alphabet ſo perfect, as to contain characters
adapted to all the elementary ſounds of a
language, and not one more or fewer. In
moſt alphabets, perhaps in all, there are
both defects and ſuperfluities.
Thus, in Engliſh, C, X, and Q are unneceſſary;
and we have no ſingle character
to mark the ſimple conſonant ſounds uſually
expreſſed by TH, SH, and NG. Our alphabet
of vowels is particularly imperfect;
three diſtinct ſounds, or perhaps five, being
ſignified by the firſt vowel letter, two or
three by the ſecond, two by the third, five
by the fourth, and two or three by the
fifth*. Hence different vowels are often
uſed to denote one and the ſame found.
Thus in cur, fir, her, monk, the ſame vowel
ſound is heard, notwithſtanding the diverſity
of the vowel letters: and in many words,
vowels are ſeen, and conſonants too, which
have no ſound at all; as E in houſe, A in
realm, the ſecond O in honour, UGH in
though, G in gnomon, K in knowledge, W in
know, blow, &c. To which I may add, that
ſome of our diphthongs are marked by ſingle
vowels, as in the words, muſe, mind, chyle,
by; and that we often uſe two vowel letters
to ſignify a ſimple vowel ſound, as in head,
blood, good, &c. But theſe and the like imperfections
are not peculiar to Engliſh, but,
obtain more or leſs in all the tongues of Europe,
and probably in all written languages
Nor is there any thing wonderful in this.
There are not in Great Britain two pro*
According to Kenrick:, A has five ſounds, which are
heard in the words hat, hate, hard, what, ball: — E has
three, as in me, met, her: — I has two, as in thin, thine: —
O has five, as in no, not, ſoft, wolf; monk: — U has three,
as in pull, up, muſe; which laſt, however, is not a ſimple
vowel, but a diphthongal ſound. — Y in liberty is a vowel;
in yonder, a conſonant; and in by, thy, my, a diphthong.
According to Johnſon, A has three ſounds, as in malt,
father, place: E has two, as in me, met: I, two, as above:
O, two, as in got, drone: and U, three, as above.
vinces, which do not differ in ſome particulars
of pronunciation; and in moſt countries
the modes of ſpeech, eſpecially while
literature is in its infancy, are vague and
changeable. Hence, when men begin to
write their mother tongue, it may be ſuppoſed,
that they will differ greatly in their
ſpelling, and in their notions of the powers
of the letters: and he, who is in other reſpects
the moſt popular, will probably give
the law in theſe particulars, however injudicious
his ſpelling may be, and however inelegant
his pronunciation. Then, a laudable regard
to old authors, and to etymology, and a deſire
to fix the language, will determine ſucceeding
writers to retain the old ſpelling, even
when the pronunciation has become different.
Thus, the final E in houſe, horſe, &c. which
was certainly pronounced in the age of
Chaucer, and not wholly diſuſed in that of
Wallis, we ſtill retain in writing, though it
has been mute for more than a century.
Nor have we laid aſide the GH in the words,
light, bright, ſigh, though, &c. (which was alſo
pronounced in the antient language) notwithſtanding
that the guttural is now no
more articulated in any part of the Britiſh
empire, except Scotland. And, in the opinion
of our beſt grammarians, the words
honour, authour, oratour, &c. ought not to
loſe the u they have been ſo long poſſeſſed of,
becauſe they came to us, not from the Latin
honor, auctor, orator, but from the French
honeur, auteur, orateur.
Every thing deſerves praiſe, which is done
with a view to make language durable; for
on the permanency of any tongue depends
that of the literature conveyed in it. And
if new words, new letters, or new modes
of ſpelling, might be introduced at pleaſure,
language would ſoon be disfigured and altered;
the old authors would erelong be laid
aſide as unintelligible, and the new would
be conſigned to oblivion before their time.
Yet ſeveral attempts were made in the laſt
century, to alter the ſpelling, and even the
alphabet, of the Engliſh tongue. Sir Thomas
Smith, Dr. Gill, and Charles Butler,
thought it abſurd to ſpeak one way, and
write another; and ſeem to have founded
their reſpective plans of improvement upon
this principle, that pronunciation ought to
determine orthography: not confidering that,
as Dr. Johnſon well obſerves, "this is to
"meaſure by a ſhadow, and take that for a
"model or ſtandard, which is changing
"while they apply it." For, according to
this rule, pronunciation ought to be uniform
throughout the kingdom; which, however
deſirable, and however eaſy it may have appeared
to ſome projectors, is, I fear, impracticable;
and the alphabet, or the mode
of ſpelling, muſt vary continually as the pronunciation
varies; which would be a matter
of ſuch nicety, as no degree of human wiſdom
could regulate. Beſides, reformations
of this kind, ſuppoſed practicable, would
obliterate etymology, and, with that, the
remembrance of many old cuſtoms and ſentiments,
would take away from the ſignificancy
of many important words, and involve
in confuſion both our grammar and
our policy.
Let the language, therefore, be fixed, as
much as poſſible, in the phraſeology, ſpelling,
and alphabet; even though in all the
three reſpects it might have been better than
it is. A change in any of them would be
dangerous, and produce no other good effect,
than that of making the language now ſpoken
more eaſy to foreigners: for to them, as
well as to natives, it would increaſe the difficulty
of ſtudying our literature in its full
extent. — It may be ſaid, indeed, that all our
good authors might be tranſcribed or tranſlated
into the faſhionable letters and ſyllables.
But this could not be. We have no criterion,
univerſally acknowledged, for diſtinguiſhing
good authors from bad: we have
no laws to warrant the annihilation of property
in books and manuſcripts: nor is it in
the power of lawgivers, far leſs of philoſophers,
to make a whole people renounce the
written language of their fathers, wherein
they find no inconvenience, and which is
their only ſecurity for a great part of their
wealth, and adopt in its ſtead a ſyſtem of
cyphers and ſyllables, which they underſtand
not, and of the utility of which they have
had no experience *. In a word, our language
is the baſis of Britiſh learning, as our
laws are of the Britiſh government: if we
value the ſuperſtructure, let us venerate the
foundation, to which, if it is not compoſed
of unſound materials, length of time will
give more and more ſtability.
By attending to thoſe motions of the articulating
organs, whereby the elementary
ſounds of language are formed, ingenious
men have contrived the art of teaching the
deaf to ſpeak.
In order to this, the pupils are firſt taught
to utter vocal found, and to know when they
utter it: which, as an eminent profeſſor of
the art informed me, is one of the moſt difficult
parts of the whole procedure. For,
as the ſcholar never heard any ſound, it
muſt be long before he is made to know
what his maſter means when he deſires him
to exert his voice; and ſtill longer, before
he can either do what is defined, or know
when, or how, he does it. Internal feel*
The emperor Claudius, who though deſtitute of parts
was not without ambition, aſpired to the honour of introducing
three new letters into the Roman alphabet. They
were in uſe during his reign; but, as the hiſtorian expreſſes
it, were ſoon after obliterated. — Quæ uſui imperitante.
eo, mox obliteratæ, &c. Tacit. Annal. lib. xi.
ing, and external touch, muſt therefore ſupply
the want of hearing. The voice is accompanied
with certain perceptible tremors
and tenſions of the organs in the mouth and
throat: and when the ſcholar has long been
made to attend to theſe, he comes at laſt to
perceive, by the tangible effects of vocal ſound,
when he utters it, and how.
The next point is, to inſtruct him in articulation.
So far as this is performed by
viſible contacts or applications of the organs,
it is not difficult to conceive, by what ſteps
he may be led to it. But many articulations
depend upon the throat, the inner part of
the noſe, and other organs that in ſpeaking
are not viſible. In regard to theſe, the pupils
muſt receive information by touch.
The maſter articulates a certain ſound, and
deſires them to feel the tremors occaſioned by
it in his noſe, and the adjoining parts; and
then, after laying their hands on the ſame
part of their faces, to utter a variety of
ſounds, by way of trial, till they come to
utter that, which produces the ſame tremors
in their own mouth and noſtrils; giving
them, at the ſame time, directions for the
management of their tongue and lips; and
illuſtrating the nature of the ſound they are
in queſt of, by that of ſome other kindred
ſound wherewith they are already acquainted.
And thus, after long time and much labour,
they may be taught to articulate moſt of the
ſounds that are annexed to the ſeveral letters
of the alphabet; and to join articulations
together, ſo as to form ſyllables and
But this is not enough. They muſt alſo
learn to diſtinguiſh the vocal ſounds that are.
uttered by the perſon who ſpeaks to them.
This they cannot do by hearing, for they are
deaf; nor by touch, for it would be unſeemly,
if they were to handle the noſe, cheeks, and
lips, of the ſpeaker: it muſt therefore be
done by ſight. The ſpeaker pronounces very
ſlow, making a ſhort pauſe at the end of
each word, and gives a ſtronger energy than
uſual to the operation of every muſcle that
ſeparates or brings together his organs: and
the dumb man, looking him ſteadily in the
face, which is expoſed to the light, gueſſes at
his words from the viſible agitation of the
ſeveral parts of his countenance.
It is obvious, that the acquiſition of this
talent muſt be extremely difficult, the exerciſe
of it moſt laborious, and the words diſtinguiſhable
by it very few. Nor is it poſſible,
perhaps, for a dumb man ever to acquire
ſuch a readineſs in it as ſhall give more
pleaſure than pain to his company, or be of
any real benefit to himſelf. The time, therefore,
that is employed by thoſe unfortunate
perſons in this ſtudy, might, in my opinion,
be more advantageouſly laid out, in acquiring
the art of drawing, and the knowledge
of written language, whereof they are very
capable, together with the ready uſe of a convenient
ſyſtem of viſible ſigns, or ſymbols,
for the communication of thought.
It may to ſome appear ſtrange at firſt hearing,
that in the whole Engliſh tongue there
ſhould be no more than thirty two ſimple
elementary ſounds. But they, who know
any thing of the powers of combined numbers,
or who have conſidered in how many
ways our elementary articulations may be
formed into ſyllables and words, will not be
ſurpriſed when they are told, that of theſe
thirty two ſounds hundreds of languages
might be compoſed, equally copious with
the Engliſh, and all different from one another.

One of the ſimpleſt combinations in language
is the Diphthong: which is formed,
when two contiguous vowel ſounds coaleſce
in ſuch a manner, as that, though they form
but one ſyllable, the ſound of both, or at
leaſt a double ſound, is diſtinctly heard; as
oy in joy, ow in cow, ui in juice. A diphthong
is ſometimes marked by three letters, as eau
in beauty, ieu in lieu; and ſometimes by one
vowel letter, as u in muſe, i in mind, y in ſtyle:
but it derives its name, and nature, from its
ſound, and not from its letters: for the word
diphthong denotes a double vowel ſound; and
whatever marks the coalition of two diſtinct
vowel ſounds, whether it be two letters, or
three, or one, is really the mark of a diphthong.
And when a monophthong, or ſimple
vowel ſound, is marked by two vowel letters,
as oo in good, ea in bread; or by three, as eau
in beau; the combination is not a diphthong,
though it may be called a double or treble
Grammarians, indeed, ſpeak of triphthongs,
or three monophthongal ſounds
coaleſcing in one ſyllable; and give eye and
beau as examples. But, notwithſtanding the
number of the letters, eye is as much a diphthong
as i in mind, or as our affirmative particle
ay, (though in pronouncing the latter
a peculiar ſtreſs is laid upon the ſound of the
firſt vowel); and eau in beau is as truly
a monophthong, as the interjection O. —
Some triphthongs, however, there are in
Engliſh, though but few; and thoſe, I think,
are marked by a ſingle vowel letter. Such are
the ſounds annexed to the vowels in the
words ſky and kind: in which, the diphthong
expreſſed by y in the one, and i in the other,
is apparently introduced, in pronunciation,
with ſomething of the ſound of the Engliſh e
as heard in the words he, ſhe, be.
And here I muſt take notice of a ſlight
inaccuracy, which many Grammarians both
Latin and Engliſh have fallen into. The
former tell us, and indeed with truth, that
æ and œ are diphthongs, and yet in ſpeaking
Latin make them ſimple vowel ſounds: and
the latter refer to the claſs of diphthongs
oo in good, ea in bead, bread, realm, and ai in
vain, plain, &c; though the pronunciation
of theſe is as truly monophthongal, or ſimple,
as that of u in pull; e in bed, bred, helm; and
a in plane, vane. In this particular, therefore,
the Latin grammarian ought to reform
his pronunciation; and the Engliſh, his account
of the diphthong. For, that the Romans
pronounced æ and œ as double vowel
ſounds; the firſt ſimilar to our affirmative
particle ay, and the laſt not unlike oi in voice,
cannot, I think, be doubted. The firſt is
ſometimes reſolved, by their beſt verſifiers
Lucretius and Virgil, into two ſyllables,
materiæ into materiaï, aulæ into aulaï, auræ
into auraï; which I preſume would not have.
been done, if the ſound had been, as we make
it, perfectly monophthongal. Nor, if they
had pronounced Cæſar, as we do, Ceſar or
Keſar, is it to be imagined that the Greeks
would have expreſſed the vowel ſound of the
firſt ſyllable of that name by two vowel letters
Kaiſar. Nor would the Romans have
transformed the Greek * poinê into pœna, or
† Philopoimên into Philopæmen, if they had
not pronounced æ as a diphthong, But this
by the by.
Conſonants, by being joined to conſonants,
produce many combinations of articulate
ſound; and ſimple vowels, and diph*
ποινγ. † Φιλοποιμην.
thongs, may be joined to ſingle, or double,
or treble conſonants; and thus an endleſs
variety of ſyllables may be formed: and a
ſyllable may be joined to other ſyllables, or
ſtand by itſelf, ſo as to form ſhort or long
words; and each vowel ſound may be long,
or ſhort, and vary the import of the ſyllable
accordingly. So that, though the number
of elementary ſounds is not great in any language,
the variety of poſſible words, that may
be formed by combining them, is in every
language ſo great, as almoſt to exceed computation,
and much more than ſufficient to
expreſs all the varieties of human thought.
But the real words, even of the moſt copious
language, may without difficulty be numbered;
for a good dictionary comprehends
them all. In the Engliſh tongue, after deducting
proper names, and the inflections
of our verbs and nouns, I have reaſon to
think, that they do not exceed forty thouſand.

We muſt not however, eſtimate the number
of our ideas by that of our words; the
former being beyond compariſon more diverſified
than the latter. Many thoughts we
expreſs, not by particular terms appropriated
to each, but by a periphraſis, or combination
of terms, which under different forms of arrangement
and connection may be applied to
a great variety of different purpoſes; and
many thoughts are communicated in tropes
and figures and many may sometimes be
ſignified by one and the ſame word. There
are few terms in language that have not more
than one meaning; ſome have ſeveral, and
ſome a great number. In how many different
ways, and to how many different purpoſes,
may the verbs do, lie, lay, and take,
(for example) be applied! Johnſon's Dictionary
will ſhow this, and much more of
the ſame kind; and leave the reader equally
aſtoniſhed at the acuteneſs of the lexicographer,
and at the complex nature and uſe of
certain minute parts of human ſpeech. Even
of our prepoſitions (as will be obſerved hereafter)
one has upwards of twelve, one more
than twenty, and one no fewer than thirty
different meanings. And yet, when we underſtand
a language, we are not ſenſible of
any perplexity ariſing from theſe circumſtances:
all ambiguities of ſenſe being, in a
correct ſtyle, prevented by what Horace calls
Callida junctura, that is, by a right arrangement
of the words, and other artifices of
The quantity of diſtinct ſpeech that we
pronounce with one effort of the articulating
organs is called a ſyllable. In every ſyllable
there muſt be one vowel ſound at leaſt; becauſe
without an opening of the mouth there
can be no diſtinct articulation. A ſyllable
may be a ſingle vowel, as a, o; or a ſingle
diphthong, as ay, oi; or either of theſe modified
by one or more conſonants, placed before
it, or after it, or on both ſides of it: — as to,
of; boy, oyl; dog, foil; dry, art; ſwift, broils,
Language is made up of words; and words
are the ſmalleſt diviſions of ſpeech that have
ſignification. Syllables, as ſuch, have no
meaning; for a ſignificant ſyllable is a word.
Every word means ſomething, either of itſelf,
or as joined to other words; and words derive
their meaning from the conſent and
practice of thoſe who uſe them.
If one were to contrive a new language,
one might make any articulate ſound the ſign
of any idea: there would be no impropriety
in calling oxen men, or rational beings by the
name of oxen. But where a language is already
formed, they who ſpeak it muſt uſe
words in the cuſtomary ſenſe. By doing
otherwiſe, they incur the charge, either of
affectation, if they mean only to be remarkable,
or of falſehood, if they mean to deceive.
To ſpeak as others ſpeak, is one of
thoſe tacit obligations, annexed to the condition
of living in ſociety, which we are bound
in conſcience to fulfil, though we have never
ratified them by any expreſs promiſe; becauſe,
if they were diſregarded, ſociety would
be impoſſible, and human happineſs at an end.
It is true, that, in a book of ſcience founded
on definition, words may be uſed in any ſenſe,
provided their meaning be explained: in this
caſe there is no falſehood, becauſe there is no
intention to deceive: but, even in this caſe,
if the common analogies of language were
violated, the author would be juſtly blamed
for giving unneceſſary trouble to his readers,
and for endeavouring capriciouſly to abrogate
a cuſtom, which univerſal uſe had rendered
more reſpectable, as well as more convenient,
than any other that he could ſubſtitute in its
A word may be a ſingle ſyllable; or it may
conſiſt of two, or of ſeveral ſyllables. Hence,
in reſpect of length, as well as of ſound,
words admit of great variety.
Some have ſaid, that the words of barbarous
nations are very long; and that, as moſt
nations have at one time or other been barbarous,
moſt primitive tongues in their uncultivated
ſtate are remarkable for the extraordinary
length of their words; but that, by
refinement, and practice in ſpeaking and
writing, theſe come in time to be abridged,
and made more manageable. And it cannot
be denied, that into common diſcourſe abbreviations
of words are gradually introduced,
which were not at firſt in the language. —
But we find, that the radical words of antient
tongues are rather ſhort than long. This is
true of the Hebrew, and is ſaid to be true of
the Chineſe. In the Greek and Latin, though
ſome inflections of compound verbs ſhoot out
to a great length, the primitive verbs, nouns,
pronouns, and the moſt eſſential particles,
are comparatively ſhort. Of the Engliſh too
it has been obſerved, that its fundamental
words of Saxon original are moſt of them
monoſyllables. And though ſome words of
inconvenient magnitude may be found in
every tongue, as notwithſtanding and nevertheleſs
in Engliſh, verumenimvero in Latin,
and concioſiacoſache in Italian, (which by the
by are made up of ſhort words joined together)
yet it does not appear, that words are
always improved by being ſhortened. On the
contrary, our Engliſh abbreviations dont, cant,
ſhant, &c. though they have long been uſed
in converſation, are to this day intolerable in
ſolemn ſtyle.
Travellers, indeed, inform us of certain
words of monſtrous length, that are current
in ſavage nations; that, for example, in the
dialect of the Eſquimaux, wonnaweucktuckluit
ſignifies much; and that, on the banks of the
river Orellana in South America, the number
three is denoted by a word of twenty letters,
poetazzarorincouroac. But is it certain, that
thoſe travellers did not hear a ſentence, a circumlocution,
or a deſcription, when they
imagined they were hearing a ſingle word? —
A very great quantity is a phraſe of the ſame
import with much; and the third part of the
number nine is a periphraſis for three. Suppoſe
a foreigner, paſſionately fond of the
marvellous, and who had formed a theory
concerning long words, and was determined
to find them among us as well as in South
America, ſhould, after a week's reſidence in
London, take it in his head that the Engliſh
expreſs three by a word of twenty-ſeven letters,
and much by another of eighteen:
would not ſuch a miſtake be natural enough
in ſuch a perſon? — It is, I think, very improbable,
that long words ſhould abound
among barbarians. For ſhort ones are more
obvious, and leſs troubleſome, and are withal
capable of ſufficient variety. And we cannot
imagine, that they, whoſe garments are but
a rag, and whoſe lodgings a hole, ſhould affect
ſuperfluities in their language.
Long words are ſaid to give dignity to language,
and ſhort ones to be detrimental to
harmony. And there is truth in the remark;
but it muſt not be admitted without limitation.
Many long ones render language heavy
and unwieldy: and ſhort ones are not harſh,
unleſs where, by beginning or ending with
hard conſonants, they refuſe to coaleſce with
the letters that go before or follow. For, in
pronunciation, the voice does not make a
pauſe at the end of every word; and when
two or three little words run eaſily into one
another, the effect in point of harmony is
the ſame, as if one word of ſeveral ſyllables
were ſpoken, inſtead of ſeveral words of
one ſyllable. And therefore Engliſh lines of
monoſyllables, though ſome criticks condemn
them in poetry as diſſonant, may flow as eaſily
and ſweetly as any other: as,
I live in hope, that all will yet be well. —
Arms and the man I ſing, who forced by fate.—
And I know not whether there be in the whole
language a ſmoother paragraph than the following;
in which, of eighty two words ſixty
nine are monoſyllables. — "My beloved ſpake,
"and ſaid unto me, Riſe up my Love, my
"fair one, and come away: For lo, the
"winter is paſt, the rain is over and gone;
"the flowers appear on the earth, the time
"of the ſinging of birds is come, and the
"voice of the turtle is heard in our land:
"The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs,
"and the vines with the tender grape give a
"good ſmell: Ariſe, my Love, my fair one,
"and come away."
The truth is, that a mixture of ſhorter
with longer words may be neceſſary to harmony:
but, in our language, a better ſound
is heard from many ſhort words of Saxon
original, if their initial and final articulations
admit of an eaſy coaleſcence, than from a redundancy
of long words derived from the
Greek and Latin. For in Engliſh, though
there is much Latin, and ſome Greek, yet the
Saxon predominates; and its ſounds are moſt
acceptable to a Britiſh ear, becauſe moſt familiar.
And hence, with all its eaſe and apparent
careleſneſs, the proſe of Dryden is incomarably
more melodious, than that of the
learned and elaborate Sir Thomas Brown.
For the former adheres, where he can, to
plain words of Engliſh or Saxon growth;
while the other is continually dragging in
gigantick terms of Greek or Latin etymology
If a language were to be invented, and
words lengthened and ſhortened upon principles
of philoſophy, there can be no doubt,
that ſuch as either have little meaning of
their own, as articles, conjunctions, and
prepoſitions, or continually recur in ſpeaking
and writing, as auxiliary verbs and perſonal
pronouns, ought to be ſhort; and that
other words, of more important meaning,
or leſs neceſſary uſe, may admit of a more
complex articulation *. And in fact, though
languages are formed gradually; and though
their formation, depending upon cauſes too
minute to be perceived, is ſaid to be accidental,
or by chance; yet we find, that this
principle has influence in moſt nations.
Perfonal pronouns, articles, and auxiliary
words, are commonly ſhort; and though
ſome conjunctions are of unwieldy magnitude,
the moſt neceſſary ones are manageable
† Such as commenſality, decorticated, diſſentaneous, diaphanity,
ablactate, Stentorophonick, — and I know not how
many others.
* See Campbell's Philoſophy of Rhetorick. Book iii,
chap. 4.
Of Emphaſis, 1. Rhetorical. 2. Syllabick,
which is either Long-vowelled, or Short--
vowelled. — Of the Numbers or meaſures of
Engliſh Poetry, as depending on Emphaſis;
their nature, and varieties.
WORDS alone do not conſtitute ſpeech.
To all the languages we know, and
probably to all others, belong Emphaſis and
Accent; whoſe nature and uſe may be explained
as follows.
EMPHASIS, which is a ſtronger exertion
of the voice upon ſome words and ſyllables
than upon others, is neceſſary, to give ſpirit
and propriety to pronunciation, by marking,
firſt, the moſt important words in a ſentence;
and, ſecondly, thoſe ſyllables in a
word, which cuſtom may have diſtinguiſhed
by a more forcible utterance.
Firſt: to ſhow the neceſſity of pronouncing
ſome words of a ſentence with a ſtronger
emphaſis than others, let us make a trial upon
the ſeveral parts of this brief interrogatory,
Do you walk to town to-day? * — and we
ſhall find, that every variation of the em*
See the Preceptor, vol, i. page 43. Introduction.
phaſis gives a different meaning to the queſtion,
and requires a different anſwer. If we
exert our voice upon the pronoun, and ſay,
"Do you walk to town to-day?" the anſwer
might be, "No, but my ſervant does."
If it be ſaid, "Do you walk to town to"day?"
— it may be anſwered, "No, I ſhall
"ride." Let the, queſtion be, "Do you
"walk to town to-day?" — the anſwer, if
negative, may be, "No, I ſhall go down
"into the country." Laſtly, if we were
aſked, " Do you walk to town to-day?" —
we ſhould perhaps anſwer, "No, but I ſhall
"to-morrow." Again, let the emphaſis be
twice applied, "Do you walk to town to"day?"
— and an anſwer containing a double
emphaſis may perhaps be requiſite; "No,
"to-morrow I ſhall ride thither." And if
the ſame words were addreſſed to us without
any emphaſis on the part of the ſpeaker, we
ſhould be at a loſs what to anſwer, becauſe
his meaning would appear ambiguous.
One of the greateſt niceties in the art of
reading is the right application of the emphaſis.
And of this they only are capable,
who perfectly underſtand what they read,
and attend to the full import of every clauſe,
and of every word. If we read without underſtanding,
or without attention, we continually
miſapply the emphaſis; and the
hearer, if he is not very acute, muſt often
miſtake the ſenſe. And therefore I am ſurpriſed,
that Milton did not contrive a better
expedient for ſupplying his loſs of ſight, than
that of making his daughters read to him in
Latin, Italian, Greek, and Hebrew; languages,
whereof he had not taught them to
know any thing but the letters. A hearer of
ordinary talents could not put up with a reader
who affixes no idea to what he articulates.
Such readers muſt either puzzle, when they
do not apply emphaſis, or miſlead, when
they miſapply it. But Milton's memory and
learning were almoſt as wonderful as his genius:
and, after he grew blind, it is not
likely, that he would deſire to hear any foreign
books read to him, but ſuch as he was well
acquainted with.
Children are not often taught to read with
the proper emphaſis. Indeed, when books
are put before them which they do not underſtand,
it is impoſſible they ſhould. Let
them, therefore, read nothing but what is
level to their capacity; let them read ſlowly,
and with attention to the meaning of every
word; and let them be not only ſet right
when they miſapply the emphafis, but alſo
cautioned againſt the oppoſite extremes of
too forcible and too feeble an application of
it; for by the former of theſe faults they
become affected in their utterance, and by
the latter inſipid. I may add, that the pronunciation
ought not to be equally emphatical
on all ſubjects. If we rehearſe the words
of ſorrow, humility, or love, a loſt emphaſis,
being the moſt natural, is the moſt graceful
and expreſſive; but a more vigorous
energy ſhould enforce the language of indignation,
contempt, or earneſt remonſtrance.
Moderation, however, is neceſſary in this as
in other things. For when articulation becomes
ſtrictly imitative, it is called theatrical,
and gives offence in domeſtick life, becauſe
inconſiſtent with that modeſty, which forms
an eſſential part of true politeneſs. — Of the
bad effects of theatrical imitation in the pulpit,
I have ſpoken in another place *.
Hitherto we have conſidered emphaſis as
affecting the pronunciation of words; and
this may be called the rhetorical emphaſis.
I now remark, in the ſecond place, that there
are alſo emphatick ſyllables. In moſt words
of more than one ſyllable, the voice is more
vigorouſly exerted, and dwells longer, upon
ſome of the component ſounds, than upon
others; as upon the firſt of blameleſs, the
ſecond of revenge, and the third of magazine.
— Moreover, the firſt and third ſyllables of
the word melancholy are pronounced more
ſtrongly, though not more ſlowly, than the
ſecond and fourth: and of the word diſſipation
the firſt ſyllable has a forcible and quick
utterance, and the third is forcible and ſlow.
For, in our tongue, there are two ſorts of
ſyllabick emphaſis. The one, terminating
* Eſſay on Memory, chap. 3.
in a conſonant, is formed by a ſtronger or
ſmarter exertion of the voice: the other,
which frequently ends in a vowel or diphthong,
is diſtinguiſhed by a longer continuance,
as well as by a powerful energy. Thus
the firſt ſyllable of ſtudious and of nation is emphatical
and long; but the firſt ſyllable of
ſtudy, and of paſſion, though emphatical, is
not long.
This, however obvious, has not always
been attended to. In moſt Engliſh Dictionaries,
prior to that of Dr. Kenrick, the
emphatick ſyllable has the ſame mark, whether
it be long or ſhort: nay, ſome grammarians
have told us, that the emphatick ſyllable in
Engliſh is always long. But he, who compares
the firſt ſyllable of nation with the firſt
ſyllable of paſſion, will obſerve, that, though
both are emphatical, the former is long and
ends in a vowel ſound, and that the latter
is ſhort or quick, and ends in the conſonant
S. — It is true, that the long emphatick ſyllable
often ends in a conſonant ſound, as in
ſevere, redeem, divine, benign; but in this
caſe, it is ſtill the vowel or diphthong that
is lengthened. — It is alſo true, that the other
ſyllabick emphaſis is ſometimes long, as in
event, neglect; but here the vowel is obviouſly
ſhort, and the protrated ſound reſts
upon the conſonants, and is owing to their
duplicity, which forms a colliſion of the
articulating organs, and a neceſſary delay in
the pronunciation. Syllables of this latter
ſort are by the Latin grammarians ſaid to be
long by poſition.
Emphatick ſyllables are by ſome called accented;
which is improper; accent being a
thing totally different, as will appear hereafter.
And therefore, on account of their
reference to accent or tone, the epithets acute
and grave, whereby one author diſtinguiſhes
the two ſorts of ſyllabick emphaſis, muſt be
If it be aſked, in what reſpects they are
neceſſary or uſeful in language; I anſwer,
firſt, that, by their means, one and the ſame
word may be applied without inconvenience
to different purpoſes: which, though not
very material perhaps, is however of ſome
benefit. Thus ref-uſe is a noun, and re-fuſe
a verb; and the ſame diſtinction holds in
ſŭbjĕct and ſŭbjēct, ĭnſŭlt and ĭnſūlt, cŏnvĕrt
and cŏnvērt, and many others.
But ſecondly, Emphatick ſyllables are ſtill
more uſeful, as on them depends, in a great
meaſure, at leaſt in the modern tongues, and
particularly in Engliſh, thoſe varieties in the
ſound and motion of contiguous ſyllables,
which give riſe to rhythm * and poetical har*
Rhythm is that peculiar movement, of the notes in
muſick, and of the ſyllables in poetry, which may be imitated
by the drum, or by the fingers ſtriking on a board.
There is rhythm even in proſe: as the continuities and
mony. Nay, whether it be owing to the
very act of breathing, or to habits we have
contracted in the uſe of our mother tongue,
we find it almoſt impoſſible to pronounce a
number of ſignificant ſyllables, without giving
more emphaſis to ſome than to others.
Pronunciation without emphaſis, or the
voice applied with equal force upon every
ſyllable, would ſound very uncouth to our
ear, and ſeem to reſemble articulations produced
by mechaniſm, rather than the ſpeech
of an intelligent being. Without emphaſis
even muſick would be inſipid and inexpreſſive.
The Greeks and Romans were determined,
in the formation of their poetical meaſures,
by the quantity, that is, by the proportion
of time, in which their ſyllables were pronounced.
In this reſpect, they divided them
into long and ſhort. A ſhort and a long
ſyllable made what they called the Iambick
foot; and ſix Iambick feet, or a ſhort and
a long ſyllable ſix times repeated, formed
their Iambick Trimeter, whereof the following
line of Horace, when rightly pronounced
according to the quantity, is an example,
Bĕātŭs īllĕ qūī prŏcūl nĕgōtĭīs.
Two long ſyllables made the foot Spondeus,
and a long and two ſhort the Dactyl: and
intermiſſions of the voice in ſpeaking, and the variations
ariſing from long and ſhort, or from emphatick and non--
emphatick, ſyllables, may all be imitated in the ſame manner.
Of the effects of rhythm in muſick ſee an Eſſay on
Poetry and Muſick. Part 1. chap, 6. ſect. 2. § 4.
the verſe called Hexameter conſiſted of ſix
feet, whereof any one of the firſt four might
be either a Dactyl or a Spondee, the fifth
was a dactyl, and a ſpondee the laſt. And
thus, the iambick foot comprehending the
time of three ſhort ſyllables, and the hexameter
feet being each of them equal to four
ſhort, or two long; it appears that the diviſions
of the former were (to adopt a term of
modern muſick) in treble time, and thoſe of
the latter in common time.
But on what does the meaſure of Engliſh
verſe depend? — Some have ſaid, on the number
of fyllables. But that is a miſtake. —
The three following lines are of the ſame
Iambick ſpecies; and yet, the firſt conſiſts of
ten, the ſecond of nine, and the third of
eight, ſyllables:
And many a youth, and many a maid
Were dancing in the neighbouring ſhade,
In holiday attire array'd.
Of theſe four lines the firſt and third have
eight ſyllables, and the ſecond and fourth
have nine; yet the meaſure is the ſame
Yet do not my folly reprove;
She was fair; and my paſſion begun;
She ſmiled, and I could not but love;
She is faithleſs, and I am undone.
The four that follow might all ſtand in the
ſame verſe of the ſame ſong, and be ſung to
the ſame tune, though in the firſt there are
eleven ſyllables, in the ſecond twelve, thirteen
in the third, and fourteen in the laſt.
And when I am gone, may the better ſort ſay,
He had ſenſe, he was modeſt, and harmleſly gay,
And a kind, unaffected, and good honeſt fellow,
In the morning when ſober, in the evening when
Our heroick verſe, too, may conſiſt of ten
ſyllables (which is the ſimpleſt and moſt
common form of it), or of eleven, or of
twelve: as,
Arms and the man I ſing, who forced by fate. —
Bellowing along the plains the monſter ran. —
Many a wide lawn, and many a waving grove. —
The following has been given, as a heroick
line of fourteen ſyllables,
And many an humourous, many an amourous lay.
And, admitting a ſupernumerary ſyllable,
the ſecond line of this couplet might be tolerated,
though it has fifteen:
The hapleſs poet pen'd, alas! for pity,
Full many an amorous, many a querulous ditty.
It has indeed been thought by ſome criticks,
that in our heroick verſe, when the
ſyllables exceed ten in number, there muſt
be redundant vowels, which in reading are;
ſuppreſſed or cut off, and inſtead of which,
in printed books, the apoſtrophe is often inſerted.
But, whatever be the caſe in printing,
and writing, this is contrary to the
practice of all good readers; they pronounce
every ſyllable diſtinctly, and by ſo doing gratify
our ear much more than if they had
made the ſuppoſed eliſions. For, how ridiculous
would it be, if one were to read
laſt line thus!
Full man' an am'rous, man' a querlous ditty.
This might indeed be called meaſure,
could not be called Engliſh.
Some have imagined, that the rhythm of
our verſe depends, like that of the Greek and
Latin, not upon the number, but upon the
quantity, of ſyllables. And it is true, that
an Engliſh heroick line may be made up of
a ſhort and long ſyllable five times repeated;
in which caſe we may ſay, without any
impropriety, that it is a pure Iambick of five
feet: as,
Dĕſpaĭr, rĕvēnge, rĕmōrſe tŏrmēnt the ſōūl.
But it is no leſs true, that an Engliſh heroick
line may be compoſed, wherein there ſhall
not be one long ſyllable, except the laſt: as,
The buſy bodies flutter tattle ſtill.
Whatever may be ſaid of this line in other
reſpects, it will at leaſt be allowed to be of
the Engliſh heroick ſpecies: and yet, if we
were to pronounce the ſecond, fourth, ſixth,
and eighth ſyllables as if they were long, the
articulation would be ridiculous:
The buzz-y bode-ies flutt-er tatt-le
I grant, that thoſe heroick lines, which
abound in ſyllables that are at once emphatical
and ſhort, are not ſo proper for expreſſing
ſentiments or images of dignity: yet
they are of the heroick ſpecies; and no
critick will ſay, that they are inconſiſtent
with rule, or not juſtifiable by authority.
On what then does the meaſure of Engliſh
verſes depend? Not on the number of the
ſyllables, as we have ſeen: nor on their
quantity; ſince an Engliſh heroick line may
conſiſt of five ſhort and five long ſyllables,
or of nine ſhort and one long ſyllable. — In
fact, this matter is regulated by the emphaſis.
In our verſe, there muſt be in every foot one
emphatick ſyllable whether long or ſhort.
And the alternate ſucceſſion of emphatick
and non-emphatick ſyllables is as eſſential to
Engliſh numbers, as that of long and ſhort
is to the Latin and Greek. — Thus in that
The buſy bodies flutter tattle ſtill,
though there is not one long ſyllable till you
come to the end, there are five emphatick
ſyllables, each of them preceded by a ſyllable
of no emphaſis. And in the other line,
Deſpair, remorſe, revenge, torment the ſoul,
there are alſo five emphatick ſyllables, each
preceded by a non-emphatick ſyllable.
In what reſpect, then, do theſe two lines
(which are allowed to be of the ſame ſpecies)
reſemble each other, and in what reſpect do
they differ? They differ in this reſpect, that
one is made up of ſhort and long ſyllables
alternately diſpoſed, while the other has in it
only one long ſyllable: They agree in this,
that both the one and the other is computed
of non-emphatick and emphatick ſyllables
placed alternately. It follows, that, though
long and ſhort, or ſhort and long, ſyllables
may ſometimes form the rhythm of Engliſh
verſe, yet that which invariably and eſſentially
forms it, is the interchange of emphatick
and non-emphatick ſyllables.
In lines, that are intended to imitate the
ſenſe by the articulation, or to be remarkably
conciſe and ſignificant, an exuberance of
emphatick ſyllables may ſometimes be found.
But ſuch lines, whatever merit they may
have in reſpect of energy, are not well--
tuned; and perhaps could hardly be known
to be verſe, if we did not find them among
other verſes. The imperfection of their harmony,
however, we overlook, if they have
any other beauty to counterbalance it. Such
is this of Milton:
Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and ſhades
of death.
And ſuch is that, in a late Prologue, which I
have heard Mrs Abingdon pronounce very
Some great fat wife of ſome great fat ſhopkeeper.
Our language abounds in words of one
ſyllable, many of which, being of ambiguous
quantity, have no other emphaſis, but
the rhetorical, which is fixed upon them by
the ſenſe. In lines of monoſyllables, therefore,
that are well-tuned, thoſe words which,
by the rule of the verſe would have the ſyllabick
emphaſis, have alſo the rhetorical emphaſis
from the importance of their ſignification.
If we were to miſtake the following
line for proſe, —
The ſun was ſet, and all the plains were ſtill,
yet, if we read it with underſtanding, the
rhetorical emphaſis, coinciding with the ſyllabick,
and having indeed the ſame effect,
would prove it to be poetical, and of the
heroick ſpecies.
I ſhall conclude this part of the ſubject
with two remarks. The firſt is, that though
our poetry derives its meaſure from the emphaſis
of ſyllables, and the Greek and Latin
theirs from the quantity, we muſt not
look upon the former as barbarous, and upon
the latter as alone ſuſceptible of true harmony:
the only inference we can reaſonably
make is, that Greek and Latin verſes are
more uniform than ours in reſpect of time:
The rhythm of ſounds may be marked by the
diſtinction of loud and ſoft, as well as by
that of long and ſhort. Every nation has a
right to determine for itſelf in theſe matters;
and it is probable, that the Engliſh numbers
are as delightful to us, as the Latin and
Greek were to the Romans and Grecians.
In like manner, though rhimes are intolerable
in antient poetry, it does not follow
that they are contemptible in themſelves:
moſt modern nations have them, and children
and peaſants are charmed with them;
which could not be, if they had not in certain
circumſtances the power of pleaſing.
My ſecond remark is, that though thoſe
terms in antient grammar, trochæus, iambus,
dactylus, anapæſtus, ſpondæus, &c. do properly
ſignify certain limited arrangements of long
and ſhort ſyllables, it can do no harm to
adopt them in Engliſh proſody. For our
emphatick ſyllables are often long, and our
non-emphatick ſyllables are often ſhort; and
where this is the caſe, we uſe theſe terms
without impropriety. And where this is not
the caſe, if we call that foot a trochee (for
example) which conſiſts of an emphatick and,
non-emphatick ſyllable, both of them ſhort,
as body, we do not depart from the original
meaning of words more than is frequently
done, without blame, on other occaſions.
In fact, the cuſtoms of different countries
are ſo different. that when we borrow words
from a foreign tongue, it is not always poſſible
to confine them to their primitive ſenſe.
With us, an advocate is one who pleads a
cauſe in a court of judicature. An advocate
in antient Rome was one, who aſſiſted with
his countenance and advice the perſon who
was obliged to appear before the judges,
whether he ſpoke in his behalf or not.
Let us then have our trochees, iambuſes,
and anapeſts, and our trochaick, iambick,
and anapeſtick meaſures: only let it be remembered,
that, in Engliſh proſody, a trochee
is either a long and ſhort, (as lowly), or
an emphatick and non-emphatick, ſyllable,
(as body); an iambus, the reverſe, as renown,
repel; an anapeſt, an iambus preceded
by a ſhort ſyllable, as magazine; and
a dactyl, a trochee followed by a ſhort ſyllable,
as thunderer, profligate.
As our poetical numbers depend upon the
alternate ſucceſſion of emphatick and non--
emphatick ſyllables, it may be proper, before
I proceed to the ſubject of accent, to
give ſome account of the various ſorts of
meaſure, that have been eſtabliſhed in Engliſh
poetry; in deſcribing which, I muſt be
underſtood to uſe the words trochee, iambus,
dactyl, and anapeſt, in the ſenſe juſt now
explained. And I ſhall take the liberty to
mark our rhythmical emphaſis, and the
want of it, by the ſame characters, which
in Latin proſody denote long and ſhort ſyllables.

Engliſh poetical meaſure may be divided
into four kinds, Dactylick, Iambick, Trochaick,
and Anapeſtick.
I. The Dactylick meaſure being very uncommon,
I ſhall give only one example of
one ſpecies of it, which I find in Dryden's
Albion and Albanius.
Frōm thĕ lŏw pālăce ŏf ōld făthĕr Ōceăn
Come we in pity your cares to deplore;
Sea-racing dolphins are train'd for our motion,
Moony tides ſwelling to roll us aſhore.
II. The Iambick is of all meaſures the
moſt natural; for, as Ariſtotle obſerves, we
often fall into it in our ordinary diſcourſe.
Greek and Latin hexameters, and our own
trochaick and anapeſtick numbers, are more
artificial, becauſe more unlike the cadences of
converſation. Our Iambicks we may ſubdivide
into ſpecies, according to the number of
feet or ſyllables whereof they conſiſt; and I
ſhall follow the ſame rule of arrangement in
deſcribing the other meaſures.
I. The ſhorteſt form of the Engliſh Iambick
conſiſts of an iambus with an additional
ſhort ſyllable;; as
We have no poem of this meaſure, but it may
be met with in ſtanzas. The example is taken
from a ſong in the maſk of Comus.
2. The ſecond form of our Iambick is alſo
too short to be continued through any great
number of lines though in the following
example it has a very good effect. It conſiſts
of two iambuſes.
Wĭth rāvĭſh'd ēārs
The monarch hears,
Aſſumes the God,
Af-fects to nod.
It ſometimes takes, or may take, an additional
ſhort ſyllable; as,
Ŭpōn ă mōūntăin
Beſide a fountain.
3. The third form conſiſts of three iambuſes:
Nŏ wār, ŏr bāttlĕ's ſōūnd,
Was heard the world a-round.
with ſometimes an additional ſhort ſyllable
Yĕ lāȳs nŏ lōngĕr langŭiſh,
For nought can cure my anguiſh.
4. The fourth form is made up of four
iambuſes, with ſometimes an additional ſyllable,
which gives a pleaſing variety.
Ŏr whēthĕr, ās ſŏme ſāgĕs ſīng,
The frolick wind, that breathes the ſpring,
Young Zephyr with Aurora playing, &c.
This meaſure, which we uſe both in burleſque
and in ſerious poetry, is the ſame with
the Iambick Dimeter of the antients; whereof,
in its pureſt form, this is an example:
Ĭnārſĭt āēſtŭōſĭūs.
5. The fifth ſpecies of Engliſh Iambick is
no other than our common meaſure for heroick
poetry and tragedy. In its pureſt, or
ſimpleſt, form it conſiſts of five iambuſes:
Thĕ dūmb ſhăll ſīng, thĕ lāme hĭs crūtch fŏregō.
but, by the admiſſion of other feet, as trochees,
dactyls, and anapeſts, is capable of
more than thirty varieties. Indeed, moſt of
our common meaſures may be varied in the
ſame way, as well as by the different poſition
of their pauſes. And ſuch varieties, when
ſkilfully introduced, give wonderful energy
to Engliſh, Greek, and Latin numbers; and
have, for this reaſon, been ſtudiouſly ſought
after by Homer, Virgil, Milton, Dryden, and
all other harmonious poets: variety being
the ſoul of harmony, and nothing in language
or in muſick more tireſome to the ear
than an uniform ſameneſs of ſound and
meaſure. — Our heroick verſe is ſometimes
lengthened out by an additional ſhort ſyllable,
and then becomes nearly the ſame with
that of the modern Italians.
'Tis heaven itſelf that points out an hereafter. —
Che 'I gran ſepolchro liberò di Chriſto.
But in Engliſh, this is more common in blank
verſe, than in rhime; and in tragedy, than
in the epick or didactick poem; and among
tragedians it is leſs faſhionable now, than it
was formerly.
6. The ſixth form of our Iambick is commonly
called the Alexandrine meaſure; becauſe,
ſay the criticks, (but on what authority
I know not) it was firſt uſed in a
poem called Alexander. It conſiſts of ſix
Fŏr thōū ărt būt ŏf dūſt; bĕ hūmblĕ, ānd bĕ wīſe.
It is introduced ſometimes in heroick rhime;
and, when ſparingly, and with judgment,
occaſions an agreeable variety.
Waller was ſmooth; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verſe, the full reſounding line,
The long majeſtick march, and energy divine.
Spenſer makes it the laſt line of his great
ſtanza; where indeed it has a very happy
effect. By the ſame artifice, Milton gives
ſuperlative elevation to ſome of his ſtanzas on
the Nativity
But firſt to thoſe ychain'd in ſleep [the deep.
The wakeful trump of doom ſhall thunder through
and Gray, to the endings of his Pindarick
meaſures. This verſe is generally pleaſing,
when it concludes a poetical ſentence of dignity:
as where the aged champion in Dryden's
Virgil reſigns his arms, with a reſolution
not to reſume them any more:
Take the laſt gift theſe wither'd arms can yield,
Thy gauntlets I reſign, and here renounce the field.
In meaſure and number of feet it is the
ſame with the pure Iambick trimeter of the
Greeks and Romans; of which every ſecond
line of the ſixteenth epode of Horace is an
Sŭīs ĕt īpſă Rōmă vīrĭbus rŭīt.
Some criticks confound our Alexandrine with
the French heroick verſe. But the latter,
though it ſometimes contains the ſame number
of ſyllables, is not Iambick at all, but
rather Anapeſtick, having for the moſt part
two ſhort for one long ſyllable, and in rhythm
correſponds nearly to the following:
Now ſee, when they meet, how their honours behave:
Noble captain, your ſervant: Sir Arthur, your ſlave.
Pray how does my lady? My wife's at your ſervice.
I think I have ſeen her picture by Jervis.
The Alexandrine, like other Engliſh Iambicks,
may occaſionally take an additional
ſhort ſyllable
With freedom by my ſide, and ſoft-eyed Melancholy.
7. The ſeventh and laſt form of our Iambick
meaſure is made up of ſeven iambuſes
Thĕ Lōrd dĕſcēndĕd frōm ăbōve, ănd bōw'd thĕ
hēāvĕns hīgh,
which was antiently written in one line; but
is now for the moſt part broken into two,
the firſt containing four feet, and the ſecond
three. Chapman's tranſlation of Homer's
Iliad is the longeſt work I have ſeen in this
meaſure. It is now conſidered as a Lyrick
verſe; and is very popular, and indeed very
III. The ſhorteſt Trochaick verſe in our
language is that uſed by Swift in a burleſque
poem called a Lilliputian Ode, conſiſting of
one trochee and a long ſyllable.
Īn ămāze
Loſt I gaze.
This meaſure is totally void of dignity, and
cannot be uſed on any ſerious occaſion. I
am therefore ſurpriſed, that Brown, in his
excellent ode on the Cure of Saul, ſhould
have adopted it in a ſpeech aſcribed to the
Supreme Being:
Tumult ceaſe.
Sink to peace.
2. The ſecond Engliſh form of the pure
Trochaick conſiſts of two feet, and is likewiſe
too brief for any ſerious purpoſe;
Ōn thĕ mōūntăin,
By a fountain :
or of two feet and an additional long ſyllable:
Īn thĕ dāȳs ŏf ōld
Stories plainly told
Lovers felt annoy.
Theſe three lines are from an old ballad:
meaſure is very uncommon.
3. The third ſpecies conſiſts of three trochees;

Whēn thĕ ſēās wĕre rōārĭng,
Phyllis lay deploring:
or of three trochees with an additional long
Thēē thĕ vōīce thĕ dānce ŏbēȳ.
This is often mixed with the Iambick of four
feet, and makes an agreeable variety, when
judiciouſly introduced, as in the Allegro and
Penſeroſo of Milton;
Iamb. But come, thou goddeſs fair and free,
In heaven ycleped Euphroſyne.
Troch. Come, and trip it as you go;
On the light fantaſtick toe.
4. The fourth Trochaick ſpecies conſiſts of
four trochees:
Dāȳs ŏf ēāſe ănd nīghts ŏf plēāſŭre.
Which followed alternately by the preceding,
forms a beautiful Lyrick verſe, whereof we
have a ſpecimen in one of the fineſt ballads
in the Engliſh language:
Ās nĕar Pōrtŏbēllŏ lȳĭng Ōn thĕ gēntly ſwēllĭng
At midnight with ſtreamers flying Our triumphant
navy rode.
It is remarkable, that (as Mr. Weſt has ſomewhere
obſerved) the ſame meaſure occurs in
the Greek tragedians, as in this of Euripides:
* Proſkunô s' anax nomoiſi barbaroiſi proſpesôn.
And there is an elegant Latin poem called
Pervigilium Veneris, commonly aſcribed to
Catullus; of which, allowing for ſome varieties
incident to the Latin Trochaick verſe,
the meaſure is the ſame:
Ver novum, ver jam canorum; were nubent alites;
Vere concordant amores; vere natus orbis eſt.
With an additional long ſyllable, our fourth
Trochaick ſpecies would be as follows:
Īdlĕ, āftĕr dīnnĕr, īn hĭs chāīr,
Sat a farmer, ruddy, fat, and fair.
But this meaſure is very uncommon.
5. So is the fifth Trochaick ſpecies, conſiſting
of five trochees; whereof I do not remember
to have ſeen a ſpecimen in any printed
Āll thăt wālk ŏn fōōt ŏr rīde ĭn chāriŏts,
All that dwell in palaces or garrets.
* Πƻοσϰυνω σ' αναξ ναοοισι βαƻβαƻοισι πƻοσπισωγ.
This ſort of verſe, with an additional long
ſyllable, might be thus exemplified:
Plēāſănt wās thĕ mōrnĭng, ānd thĕ mōnth wăs Māȳ,
Colin went to London in his beſt array.
Some Scotch ballads are in this meaſure; but
I know not whether I have ever ſeen a ſpecimen
in Engliſh.
6. The ſixth form of the pure Engliſh Trochaick
conſiſts of ſix trochees; whereof the
following couplet is an example:
Ōn ă mōūntăin ſtrētch'd bĕnēāth ă hōāry wīllŏw
Lay a ſhepherd ſwain, and view'd the rolling billow.
which is, I think, the longeſt Trochaick
that our language admits of.
IV. The ſhorteſt poſſible Anapeſtick verſe
muſt be a ſingle anapeſt
Bŭt ĭn vāīn
They complain.
But this meaſure is ambiguous: for, by laying
the emphaſis on the firſt and third ſyllables,
we might make it Trochaick. And
therefore the firſt and ſimpleſt form of our
anapeſtick verſe is made up of two anapeſts:
Bŭt hĭs cōūrăge găn fāīl,
For no arts could avail.
or of two anapeſts with an additional ſhort
Thĕn hĭs cōūrăge găn fāīl him,
For no arts could avail him.
2. The ſecond conſiſts of three anapeſts:
Wĭth hĕr mīēn ſhĕ ĕnāmoŭrs thĕ brāve,
With her wit ſhe engages the free,
With her modeſty pleaſes the grave;
She is every way pleaſing to me.
This is a delightful meaſure, and much uſed
in paſtoral ſongs. Shenſtone's ballad in four
parts, from which theſe lines are quoted, is
an exquiſite ſpecimen. So is the Scotch ballad
of Tweedſide, and Rowe's Deſpairing beſide
a clear ſtream; which laſt is perhaps the
fineſt love-ſong in the world. And that the
ſame meaſure is well ſuited to burleſque, appears
from the very humourous ballad called
The tippling Philoſophers; which begins thus,
Diogenes ſurly and proud, &c. — Obſerve, that
this, like all the other anapeſtick forms, often
(indeed for the moſt part) takes an iambus in
the firſt place,
Dĕf āīrĭng bĕſīde ă clĕar ſtrēām;
and formerly in the firſt and third,
Grĭm kīng ŏf thĕ ghōfts, măke hāſte
And bring hither all your train:
But this laſt variety is unpleaſing to a modern
ear. — With an additional short ſyllable it is
as follows:
Săys my ūnclĕ, Ĭ prāy yŏu dĭſcōvĕr
Why you pine and you whine like a lover:
which, uſed alternately with the preceding,
makes the meaſure of the witty ballad of,
Molly Mog, written by Gay, and often
3. The third form of the pure Engliſh
anapeſtick conſiſts of four anapeſts:
Ăt thĕ clōſe ŏf thĕ dāy, whĕn thĕ hāmlĕt is ſtīll, —
If I live to grow old, as I find I go down. —
This meaſure, which reſembles the French
heroick verſe, is common in Engliſh ſongs
and ballads, and other ſhort compoſitions
both comical and ſerious. It admits a ſhort
ſyllable at the end,
On the cold cheek of Death ſmiles and roſes are
and ſometimes alſo between the ſecond and
third foot,
Ĭn thĕ mōrnĭng whĕn ſōbĕr, ĭn thĕ ēvenĭng whĕn
which is the longeſt form of the regular Anapeſtick
in the Engliſh language.
To one or other of theſe ſeven Iambick,
ſix Trochaick, and three Anapeſtick, ſpecies,
every line of Engliſh poetry, if we except
thoſe few that are compoſed of dactyls, may
be reduced. I have given only the ſimpleſt
form of each. The ſeveral licences or variations,
that theſe ſimple forms admit of, might
be without difficulty enumerated: but I cannot
at preſent enter into the niceties of
Engliſh proſody.
Sidney endeavoured to bring in Engliſh
hexameters, and has given ſpecimens of them
in the Arcadia. And Wallis, in his grammar,
tranſlates a Latin hexameter,
Quid faciam? moriar? et Amyntam perdet
into an Englifh one,
What ſhall I do? ſhall I die? ſhall Amyntas murder
Mr. Walpole, in his catalogue of Royal and
Noble authors, aſcribes the following to
Queen Elizabeth:
Perſius a crab-ſtaff, bawdy Martial, Ovid a fine
But this ſort of verſe has never obtained any
footing in our poetry: and I think I could
prove, from the peculiarities of its rhythm,
that it never can.
So much for the nature and uſe of EMPHASIS:
which I divided into Rhetorical and
Syllabick; ſubdividing the latter into the long--
vowelled emphatick ſyllable, which is always
long, and the ſhort-vowelled emphatick ſyllable,
which, when long, is made ſo by the
complexneſs of the final conſonants.
Of Accent. Its nature and uſe. — Standard of
EMPHASIS is the work of the lungs; but
ACCENT is performed by the contraction
ordilatation of the glottis. For, while we ſpeak
with underſtanding, our voice is continually
varying, not only its emphaſis, but alſo its
tone, from acute to grave, and from grave to
acute. This is Accent. Inaccurate obſervers
are not ſenſible of it in themſelves, but think
they ſpeak without any tone; though at the
ſame time they allow, that people who come
from a diſtance have a tone in their ſpeech,
that is perceptible enough, and not very
agreeable. And the ſtranger complains of
their accent in the ſame terms, and with
equal juſtice.
Thus I have heard a man of Edinburgh
ſay, We have no tone; our voice in ſpeaking
is uniform, and not more grave, or more
acute at one time, than at another; but go
to Glaſgow, and there you will hear a
tone; or go to Aberdeen, and you will hear
a tone ſtill more remarkable, though of a
different kind. Nay, a Londoner, a man
of wit and genius, affirmed in my hearing,
that the Engliſh ſpoken in the metropolis
was for this particular reaſon the moſt elegant,
becauſe there, in polite company, the
ſpeech was unaccented, whereas, in every
other part of the Britiſh empire, people ſpoke
with a tone. And a clergyman of Virginia
aſſured me very ſeriouſly, that the Engliſh of
that province was the beſt in the world; and
aſſigned the ſame reaſon in favour of the
Virginian pronunciation. But every word
theſe gentlemen ſpoke was to my ear a
convincing proof, that they were miſtaken.
It is true, the North-American Engliſh accent
is not ſo animated, as that of Middleſex,
and the adjoining counties; but it is very
perceptible notwithſtanding. In fact, there
is no ſuch thing in language as monotony,
or a continuation of the ſame note in ſpeech,
without ever riſing above, or falling below
it. Some children are taught to read in this
manner; but their pronunciation is inſipid
and ridiculous. And though a man, who
has a muſical ear, and the command of his
voice, might no doubt utter many words
without any variation of accent, yet, if he
were to ſpeak ſo in company, he would be
ſuppoſed to have loſt his wits.
But, if every body ſpeak with a tone,
why, it may be ſaid, does not every body
perceive his own, as well as his neighbour's?
It may be anſwered, that ſome, nay that
many, perſons do perceive their own accent;
and that they, who do not, become inſenſible
of it by habit. We ſometimes meet with
thoſe who have acquired a cuſtom of ſpeaking
very loud, or very low, and yet are not ſenſible,
that they ſpeak lower or louder than other
people. Nay profane ſwearers have been
heard to affirm with an oath, that they were
not ſwearing. Our native accent, eſpecially
if we have never been from home, being
continually in our ear, it is no wonder that
we ſhould not diſcern its peculiarities. But
let a man, who has been born and bred in
Aberdeen, live two or three years in Edinburgh
or London; and he ſhall become both
inſenſible to the tone of the place of his reſidence,
and alſo ſenſible of the accent that
adheres to the dialect of his native town.
In England, in Ireland, in the ſouth and in
the north of Scotland, the people ſpeak dialects
of one and the ſame language: and yet
it is not difficult to know, by the tone of his
voice in ſpeaking, even before we hear him
ſo plainly as to diſtinguiſh the words, whether
the ſpeaker be of England or of Ireland, a native
of Lothian, or of Kincardineſhire, of
Aberdeen, or of Inverneſs. And if even the
provincial dialects of the ſame tongue are
diffinguiſhable by their accents, we may
with reaſon conclude, that the languages of
different nations will be more remarkably
diſtinguiſhed in this way: which in fact is
found to be the caſe.
Of all the nations upon earth, the antient
Greeks ſeem to have been the moſt attentive
to language. Their own they ſtudied, both
in the compoſition, and in the pronunciation,
with extraordinary care. The tones of it
could not eſcape the notice of that ſagacious
people. In order to make theſe of eaſier acquiſition
to ſtrangers, they did what no other
nation ever thought of doing, they uſed in
writing certain characters, ſtill retained in
their books, and called the Greek accents, of
which the meaning was, to regulate the tone
of the voice in ſpeech. We know they were
invented for this purpoſe; though we cannot
now make any uſe of them in our pronunciation
of the Greek tongue.
It has been ſaid, that the ſyllable marked
with the acute accent was pronounced four
or five notes higher than the non-accented
ſyllables; that the grave accent ſignified a
fall of the voice through the ſame interval
nearly; and that the circumflex denoted a
riſe followed by a fall, which, as it took, up
double the time of a ſimple fall or riſe, made
the ſyllable ſo accented necessarily long. But
I am not ſatisfied with this account: for the
paſſage quoted by a learned author, from
Dionyſius of Halicarnaſſus, in proof of it,
is very obſcure. At any rate, theſe marks
could have regulated the ſyllabick accents
only: whereas, with us, accent is more diſtinguiſhable
in the cadence of words and
phraſes*, than in ſyllables. Be this, however,
as it will (for I affirm nothing poſitively
in a matter ſo little known) it is evident,
that the Latin word accentus (from ad
and cantus), and the correſpondent term in
Greek † prosôdia (from pros and ôdê, muſt,
in their primitive ſignification, have had a
reference to ſong, or muſical tone, and not
(as ſome have thought) to thoſe energies of
the human voice, which in the former chapter
are expreſſed by the word Emphaſis.
But let it be obſerved, that though in
ſpeech the voice is continually varying its
* Mr. Sheridan, in thoſe elegant Lectures which I heard
him deliver at Edinburgh about twenty years ago, diſtinguiſhed
(if I rightly remember) the Engliſh interrogatory
accent from the Iriſh and the Scotch, in this manner. His
example was: "How have you been this great while?" —
in pronouncing which, he obſerved, that towards the end
of the ſentence an Engliſhman lets his voice fall, an Iriſhman
raiſes his, and a Scotchman makes his voice firſt fall
and then riſe. The remark is well founded; but it is difficult
to expreſs in unexceptionable terms a matter of ſo
great nicety. I ſhall only add, that what is here ſaid of
the Scotch accent, though it may hold true of the more
ſoutherly provinces, is by no means applicable to the dialects
that prevail in Aberdeenſhire, and other parts of the
north: where the voice of the common people, in concluding
a clauſe or ſentence, riſes into a very ſhrill and
ſharp tone without any previous fall. "You bark in your
"ſpeech," ſays a man of Edinburgh to one of Aberdeen
"And you growl and grumble in yours," replies the
Aberdonian. In Inverneſs-ſhire, and the weſtern parts of
Moray, the accents become totally different, and reſemble
the tones and aſpirations of the Erſe
† Πƻοσωˠια, from πƻος ad, and ωˠη cantus.
tone, and is ſometimes more acute, and at
other times more grave, it does not, in modern
languages at leaſt, aſcend or deſcend,
by thoſe muſical intervals which are called
notes, but riſes and falls by degrees of variation
incomparably more minute, and which
our muſical language has no terms nor ſymbols
to expreſs. A muſician, ſounding the
ſtring of a violin by drawing his bow acroſs,
and at the ſame time making his finger ſlide
up and down the ſtring without lifting it,
would produce a ſort of ſound ſomewhat
ſimilar, in its mode of riſing and falling, to
thoſe varieties of accent which take place in
language. An attempt has lately been made
by Mr. Steele, to expreſs certain accents of
the Engliſh tongue by a new-invented ſort of
written characters. The work, I hear, is
very ingenious; but, as I have not ſeen it,
I can ſay nothing more about it.
From what has been ſaid, we may learn,
that, as every nation and province has a particular
accent, and as no man can ſpeak intelligibly
without one, we ought not to take
offence at the tones of a ſtranger, nor give
him any ground to ſuſpect, that we are diſpleaſed
with, or even ſenſible of them.
However diſagreeable his accent may be to
us, ours, it is likely, is equally ſo to him.
The common rule of equity, therefore, will
recommend mutual forbearance in this matter.
To ſpeak with the Engliſh, or with the
Scotch, accent, is no more praiſeworthy, or
blameable, than to be born in England, or
Scotland: a circumſtance, which, though the
ringleaders of ſedition, or narrow-minded
bigots, may applaud or cenſure, no perſon
of ſenſe, or common honeſty, will ever conſider
as imputable to any man.
Are, then, all provincial accents equally
good? By no means. Of accent, as well as
of ſpelling, ſyntax, and idiom, there is a
ſtandard in every polite nation. And, in
all theſe particulars, the example of approved
authors, and the practice of thoſe, who, by
their rank, education, and way of life, have
had the beſt opportunities to know men and
manners, and domeſtick and foreign literature,
ought undoubtedly to give the law.
Now it is in the metropolis of a kingdom,
and in the moſt famous ſchools of learning,
where the greateſt reſort may be expected of
perſons adorned with all uſeful and elegant
accompliſhments. The language, therefore,
of the moſt learned and polite perſons in
London, and the neighbouring Univerſities
of Oxford and Cambridge, ought to be accounted
the ſtandard of the Engliſh tongue,
eſpecially in accent and pronunciation: ſyntax,
ſpelling, and idiom, having, been aſcertained
by the pratice of good authors,
and the conſent of former ages.
And there are two reaſons for this preference.
One is, that we naturally approve as
elegant what is cuſtomary among our ſuperiours.And
another, and a better, reaſon
is, becauſe the moſt enlightened minds muſt
be ſuppoſed to be the beſt judges of propriety
in ſpeech, as well as in every other thing that
does not affect the conſcience.
The ſtandard of ſpeech being thus aſcertained,
provincial dialects are to be conſidered
as more or leſs elegant, according as they
more or leſs reſemble it. And it has been the
wiſh of many, that the ſame modes of language
ſhould prevail through the whole empire.
But this, however deſirable, is perhaps
impoſſible. At leaſt there never yet
was any inſtance of it in an extensive
country. The Greeks themſelves, with all
their philological accuracy, had different dialects:
— the apoſtle Peter, when at Jeruſalem,
was known by his ſpeech to be a man
of Galilee: — Livy has been accuſed of provincial
idioms, though his native city Padua
was but two hundred miles from Rome:
in the ſouthern part of this iſland there have
long been two diſtinct languages, the Engliſh
and Welch; and two others in the
north, the Scotch and Erſe, which are different
from theſe, as well as from one another:
— the dialects of Lancaſhire and Yorkſhire
are hardly underſtood in London: —
even in Kent, and in Berkſhire, we hear
words and ſounds, that are not known in
Middleſex: — the ſpeech of the learned
Londoner and Pariſian differs not a little,
both in idiom, and in accent, from that of
his unlettered fellow-citizens.
As Emphaſis gives energy to pronunciation,
Accent renders it graceful; and is no
doubt of further benefit, in diſtinguiſhing
from one another the ſeveral tribes of mankind.
For in many caſes, it might be inconvenient
to miſtake a ſtranger for a fellow--
ſubject; or not to have the means of proving
a man's identity, or his birth-place, from
the tone of his language. By their handwriting,
and features, individuals may be
diſtinguiſhed; and the national arrangements
of mankind, by their words and accent.
And of all the peculiarities of a foreign
tongue, accent is the moſt difficult for
a grown perſon to acquire. No Frenchman,
who has not paſſed his infancy or childhood
in England, will ever ſpeak Engliſh with the
true accent. Scotch men have lived forty
years in London without entirely loſing their
native tone. And it may be doubted, whether
it is poſſible for one, who has lived the firſt
twenty years of his life in North Britain,
ever to acquire all the niceties of Engliſh
pronunciation. — The ſame thing may be remarked
of other languages, and the natives
of other countries.
Abſurrdity of the Epicurean doctrine of the
Origin of language: men muſt have ſpoken
in all ages; the firſt man, by inſpiration. —.
The variety of original tongues, a proof of
the Scripture hiſtory of Babel. — All languages
have ſome things in common, which
it is the buſineſs of Univerſal Grammar to
WE learn to ſpeak, when our organs are
moſt flexible, and our powers of imitation
moſt active; that is, when we are infants.
Yet even then, this is no eaſy acquiſition,
but the effect of daily exerciſe continued for
ſeveral years from morning to night. Were
we never to attempt ſpeech, till we are grown
up, there is reaſon to think that we ſhould
find it exceedingly difficult, if not impracticable.
This appears, not only from what is
recorded of mute Savages found in deſerts,
who, though ſagacious enough and of no
great age, could never be taught to ſpeak
diſtinctly; one of whom, anſwering this deſcription,
was alive, and in England, a few
years ago, and perhaps is alive ſtill: but alſo
from a fact more obſervable, namely, that in
every language there are certain accents and
articulate ſounds, which they only can pronounce
with eaſe, who have learned to do ſo
when very young. Nay every province almoſt
has ſome peculiarities of pronunciation, which
the people of the neighbouring provinces find
it very difficult to imitate, when grown up,
but which, when they were children, they
could have learned moſt perfectly in a few
months. Infants, who have been taught to
ſpeak one language, acquire others with
amazing facility. I knew an inſtance of a
French child of ſix years old, who, on coming
to Britain, forgot his mother tongue, and
learned all the Engliſh he had occaſion for,
in little more than ſix weeks. A grown man,
on the contrary, with all the helps of grammars,
dictionaries, authors, maſters, and converſation,
ſeldom acquires a foreign tongue
ſo as to ſpeak it like a native.
If then, there ever was a time, when all
mankind were, as the Epicureans ſuppoſed,
mutum et turpe pecus, a dumb and brutal race
of animals, all mankind muſt, in the ordinary
courſe of things, have continued dumb
to this day. — For, firſt to ſuch animals
ſpeech could not be neceſſary; as they are
ſuppoſed to have exiſted for ages without it:
and it is not to be imagined, that dumb and
beaſtly ſavages would ever think of contriving
unneceſſary arts, whereof they had no
example in the world around them.
Lucretius tells us, that, at ſome early
period, nobody knows when, the woods being
ſet on fire, either by lightning, or by
trees grated againſt each other in the agitation
of a ſtorm, human creatures, who, like
the world and all things in it, had been
formed of atoms falling together without
order, direction, or cauſe, and who had
hitherto lived diſperſed and naked, as well
as dumb, were ſo enervated by the heat of
the conflagration, that they could never after
hold out againſt the injuries of the weather: —
that, conſtrained to take ſhelter in holes and
caverns, males and females, jumbled together
by accident, became known to each other,
and in time reſolved themſelves into ſmall
aſſociations or families: — that from henceforth
men knew their own offspring; which
formerly they did not; the intercourſe of
the ſexes being then fortuitous and temporary,
and without friendſhip on either ſide: —
that the minds of thoſe rugged ſavages, ſoftened
by the blandiſhments of domeſtick life,
became in time ſomewhat more rational; and,
after a little communication with the neighbouring
families, found it neceſſary, for the
general ſafety, to inſtitute certain artificial
diſtinctions of right and wrong, whereof,
till this period, they had never been conſcious.
Theſe new notions, however, could not
be enforced, nor obtain authority, without
promiſes and compact; for the making of
which, it was further requiſite to invent certain
ſigns of thought, that ſhould have a
more definite meaning, than the yells and
geſtures that had hitherto given expreſſion
to their feelings. And thus, both ſpeech and
moral ſentiments were invented; which, according
to this account, were as really the
work of human art, as houſes, waggons,
ſhips, or any other piece of mechaniſm.
The beauty of Lucretius's poetry made
this ſyſtem faſhionable at Rome. Horace
adopted it, and has in a few well-known
lines * given a ſummary of it; and Virgil,
in his youth, (for he afterwards became a
Platoniſt) is ſuppoſed to have been tinctured
* Cum prorepſerunt primis animalia terris,
Mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter,
Unguibus et pugnis, dein fuſtibus, atque ita porro
Pugnabant armis, quæ poſt fabricaverat uſus;
Donec verba, quibus voces ſenſuſque notarent,
Nominaque invenere; dehinc abſiſtere bello, &c.
Lib. i. Sat. 3. V. 97.
The following paraphraſe has nothing of the elegance of
Horace or Lucretius; but ſeems to have all the elegance
that ſo ridiculous a doctrine deſerves:
When men out of the earth of old
A dumb and beaſtly vermin crawl'd;
For acorns, firſt, and holes of ſhelter,
They, tooth and nail, and helter ſkelter,
Fought fiſt to fiſt; then with a club
Each learn'd his brother brute to drub;
Till, more experienced grown, theſe cattle
Forged fit accoutrements for battle.
At laſt (Lucretius ſays, and Creech)
They ſet their wits to work on ſpeech:
And, that their thoughts might all have marks
To make them known, theſe learned clerks
Left off the trade of cracking crowns,
And manufactured verbs and nouns.
with it. Nay Tully himfelf *, though no
admirer of Epicurean tenets, appears rather
partial to this account of the origin of ſpeech,
laws, and policy; which, though repugnant
to hiſtory, and fraught with abſurdity, ſeveral
authors of latter times have endeavoured to
One would wonder, what charms men
could find in a ſyſtem ſo degrading to our
nature; or what evidence in that which has
no other foundation, than poetical fancy and
wild hypotheſis. The Pagans, indeed, who
knew little of the origin of mankind, might
be excuſed for favouring an opinion, which,
as it appears in Lucretius, has at leaſt harmonious
numbers, and elegant deſcription
to recommend it. And yet, unſeduced by
poetical allurement, Quintilian declares, in
the language of true philoſophy, that moral
ſentiments are natural to us, and that men
had ſpeech from the beginning, and received
that choice gift from their Creator. And
Ovid's beautiful account of the firſt men
ſeems to have been compoſed, partly from
Heſiod's golden age, and partly from traditions
founded on the Moſaick hiſtory of the
creation. — That we were at firſt good and
happy, and loſt our felicity when we loſt our
innocence, — is it not an idea. more honourable
to our nature, more friendly to virtue,
and more conſonant to the general notions
* De Inventione, lib. 1. Tuſcul. quæſt. lib. 5.
of mankind, than that we were in the beginning
a ſpecies of wild beaſt, and afterwards
by improvement degenerated into wicked and
wretched men? If there be, in the conſciouſneſs
of honourable deſcent, any thing that
elevates the ſoul, ſurely thoſe writings cannot
be on the ſide of virtue which repreſent our
nature, and our origin, as ſuch as we ſhould
have reaſon to be aſhamed of. But he, who
tells me, upon the authority of Scripture,
and agreeably to the dictates of right reaſon,
that we are all deſcended from beings, who
were created in the image of God, wiſe,
innocent, and happy; that, by their and our
unworthy conduct, human nature is miſerably
degraded; but that, on the performance
certain moſt reaſonable conditions, we may
retrieve our primitive dignity, and riſe
to higher happineſs, than that of our firſt
parents; — the man, I ſay, who teaches the
doctrine, ſets before me the moſt animating
motives to virtue, humility, and hope, to
piety and benevolence, to gratitude and adoration.

Other abſurdities in this account of the
origin of ſociety I may poſſibly touch upon
hereafter. At preſent I would only obſerve,
that ſpeech could not have been invented in
the way here deſcribed. For to animals in
this ſtate of brutality I have already remarked,
that language could not be needful: and it
is hardly to be ſuppoſed, that dumb and
beaſtly creatures would apply themſelves to
the cultivation of unneceſſary arts, which
they had never felt any inconvenience from
the want of, and which had never been attempted
by other animals. To which I may
add, what is clear from ſome of the preceding
obſervations, that Speech, if invented at all,
muſt have been invented, either by children,
who were incapable of invention, or by men,
who were incapable of ſpeech. And therefore
reaſon, as well as hiſtory, intimates, that
mankind in all ages muſt have been ſpeaking
animals; the young having conſtantly acquired
this art by imitating thoſe who were
elder. And we may warrantably ſuppoſe,
that our firſt parents muſt have received it by
immediate inſpiration.
As the firſt language, whatever it was, muſt
therefore have been perfect; and liable to no
depravation from a mixture of foreign idioms;
and held in reverence by thoſe who ſpoke it,
that is, by all mankind, on account of its
divine original; we may believe, that it would
continue unaltered for many ages. Accordingly
Scripture informs us, that when the
building of Babel was begun, about eighteen
hundred years after the fall, the whole earth
was of one ſpeech. And, had no miraculous
interpoſition taken place, it is probable
that ſome traces of it would have remained
in every language to this day. For, though,
in ſo long a time, many words muſt have
been changed, many introduced, and many
forgotten, in every country, yet men being
all of the ſame family, and all deriving their.
ſpeech from the only one primitive tongue,
it may be preſumed, that ſome of the original
words would ſtill have been in uſe throughout
the whole earth: even as in all the modern
languages of Europe ſome Greek, and
ſome Hebrew, and a great deal of Latin, is
ſtill diſcernible. But Providence thought fit
to prevent this; and, by confounding the
language of the builders of Babel, to eſtabliſh
in the world a variety of primitive
This miracle could not fail to be attended
with important conſequences. Thoſe men
only would remain in the ſame ſociety who
underſtood one another: and ſo the human
race would be broken into a number of ſmall
tribes or nations, each of which would keep
together, and conſequently at ſome diſtance
from the reſt A general diſperſion would
follow: and in this way it is probable, that
the whole world would be ſooner inhabited,
than if all the ſpecies had remained united
in one great nation. And the diſtinctions
of friend and ſtranger, of citizen and foreigner,
would now take place: whence rivalſhip
would ariſe; than which nothing more
effectually promotes induſtry, and the various
arts of life.
If it were not for what is recorded of Babel,
the very great diverſities of human ſpeech
would be a marvellous phenomenon. Languages
are either Primitive, or Derived. That
thoſe which are formed out of the ſame parent
tongue ſhould all reſemble it and one
another, and yet ſhould all be different, is
not more wonderful, than that children and
their parents ſhould be marked with a general
family likeneſs, and each diſtinguiſhed by
peculiar features. Spaniſh, Italian, Portugueſe,
French, and a great deal of the Engliſh
tongue, are derived from the Latin; with
the addition of many new words, and new
modes of termination and ſyntax, which were
introduced by the northern nations. And
therefore all theſe languages reſemble the Latin
and one another; and yet each is different
from it, and from all the reſt. But, if we
could compare two original or primitive
tongues together, the Hebrew, for inſtance,
with the Gothick or with the Celtick, or the
language of China with that of the Hurons
in North America, we ſhould not diſcern,
perhaps, the leaſt ſimilitude: which, conſidering
that all mankind are of the ſame
family, could not be fully accounted for,
without ſuppoſing, that ſome preternatural)
event, like that of the confuſion at Babel,
had ſome time or other taken place. But
this hiſtory ſolves all difficulties. And we
have no more reaſon to be ſurpriſed, that
different nations, though related blood,
ſhould ſpeak languages totally unlike, than
that couſins of the twentieth remove, living
in different climates, ſome in houſes and
ſome in caves, ſome naked and others clothed,
ſome burning in the torrid zone, and others
freezing in the polar circle, ſhould differ in
their features and complexion.
But, as the miracle at Babel introduced no
material change into human nature; and as,
ever ſince the flood, men have had the fame
faculties, have been placed in the ſame or in
like circumſtances, have felt the ſame wants,
found comfort in the ſame gratifications, and
acted from the influence of the ſame motives;
it is reaſonable to infer, that the
thoughts of men muſt in all ages have been
nearly the ſame. In the moſt antient hiſtories
we find, that the modes of thinking and
acting, of believing and diſbelieving, of approbation
and diſapprobation, are perfectly
ſimilar to what we experience in ourſelves,
and in the world around us. Now, as human
thoughts diſcover themſelves by language,
and as the thoughts of men in one age and
nation are ſimilar to thoſe in another, is it
not probable, that there may be in all human
languages ſome general points of reſemblance,
in ſtructure at leaſt, if not in ſound? Since,
for example, all men in all ages muſt have
had occaſion to ſpeak of acting, and of being
acted upon, of good and of bad qualities,
and of the various objects of outward
ſenſe, muſt there not in every language be
verbs, and adjectives, and nouns? What one
nation calls * hippos, another may call equus,
a third cavallo, a fourth cheval, and a fifth
horſe; that is, different compoſitions of articulate
ſound may ſtand for the ſame animal
in different nations: but, in every nation,
where this animal is known and ſpoken of,
there muſt be ſome name for it; and words
alſo to expreſs its qualities, as good, bad,
ſtrong, ſwift, weak, ſlow, black, white, great
ſmall, and its actions, as running, walking,
eating, drinking, neighing, &c.
Languages, therefore, reſemble men in this
reſpect, that, though each has peculiarities,
whereby it is diſtinguiſhed from every other,
yet all have certain qualities in common.
The peculiarities of individual tongues are
explained in their reſpective grammars and
dictionaries. Thoſe things, that all Ianguages
have in common, or that are neceſſary
to every language, are treated of in a
ſcience, which ſome have called Univerſal or
Philoſophical Grammar; whereof I ſhall now
endeavour to unfold the principles. The
knowledge of it will not only illuſtrate what
we may already have learned of the grammatical
art; but alſo, by tracing that matter to.
its firſt elements, will give us more comprehenſive
views of it than can be obtained
from any particular grammar; and at the
* ίππος.
ſame time make us better judges of the nature
and extent of human language, and of
the connection, that obtains between our
words and thoughts. Conſidered as reſulting
from, and as founded in, the faculties and
circumſtances of human beings, the principles
of grammar form an important, and
very curious, part of the philoſophy of the
human mind.
Much new diſcovery is not to be looked
for, in an inveſtigation that has been ſeveral
times attempted already with good ſucceſs.
Yet moſt of thoſe who have gone before me
in this enquiry (as far at leaſt as I am acquainted
with them) have both profited by
the labours of their predeceſſors, and alſo
made conſiderable improvements of their
own. Whether I ſhall be thought to have
done ſo in any degree, I know not. This,
however, let me be permitted to ſay, that for
many of the following, as well as of the
preceding, remarks, I am not indebted to
former authors; that in ſome particulars
I have ventured to differ, and I hope not
without reaſon, from thoſe whom I eſteem,
and by whoſe writings I have been inſtructed;
and that, though ſeveral of the topicks are
not without obſcurity, the whole is delivered
in a ſtyle, which, by repeated experience,
I know to be intelligible, and not unintereſting,
even to very young perſons. Speculations
of this nature are not ſo ſoon exhauſted
as ſome people may imagine. Every writer
and teacher, who has taken pains to form
a ſtyle, and to underſtand his ſubject, will be
found to have a manner of his own: and as
long as readers and hearers differ in their
taſtes and powers of comprehenſion, ſo long
it may be uſeful, in explaining the ſciences,
to vary the modes of illuſtration and argument.

But before I proceed to Univerſal Grammar,
it will be proper to make ſome remarks
on language rendered viſible by
Of the Art of Writing; its importance, and
origin. — Different ſorts of it practiſed by
different nations. — A ſhort Hiſtory of Printing.

A WORD is an audible and articulate ſign
of thought: a Letter is a viſible ſign of
an articulate ſound. The uſe of letters is a
wonderful invention; but by no means univerſal.
Every man can ſpeak who is not
deaf; and men have ſpoken in all ages; but
in many nations the art of writing is ſtill
Words ſpoken make an immediate impreſſion,
but depend, for their permanence,
upon the memory of the ſpeaker and
hearer; and the beſt memory loſes more
than it retains: but words written may be
preſerved from age to age, and made as durable
as any thing human can be. — When we
ſpeak, we are underſtood no further than
we are heard: but what is written may be
ſent round the world, and circulated in all
nations. We can ſpeak no longer than we
live but the thoughts of men, who died
three thouſand years ago, are ſtill extant in
writing; and, by means of this divine art,
ſtill continue to entertain and inſtruct mankind
to the end of the world. — Moreover,
while we only meditate, our memory is not
always ſo faithful as to enable us to reviſe
our thoughts, compare them together, and
render them conſiſtent: but by writing we
make them paſs and repaſs in review before
us, till we have made them ſuch as we
wiſh them to be. — God has been pleaſed to
reveal his will to us in writing; and, without
this art, policy, which is the moſt venerable
of all human inſtitutions, would be
exceedingly imperfect.
The importance of writing to the virtue
and happineſs of mankind, as well as to the
aſcertaining, methodizing, preſerving, and
extending of human knowledge, is indeed ſo
great, that one is apt to wonder, how any
age or country ſhould be ignorant of an art,.
which may be acquired with ſo little difficulty,
and exerciſed with ſo much pleaſure.
But, though of eaſy acquiſition to us, it is in
itſelf neither eaſy nor obvious. Savages articulate
their mother tongue, without troubling
themſelves about the analyfis of ſentences, or
the ſeparation of words; of reſolving words
into the ſimple elementary ſounds they have
no idea: how then ſhould they think of expreſſing
thoſe ſimple ſounds by visible and
permanent ſymbols! In fact, alphabetical
writing muſt be ſo remote from the coneption
thoſe who never heard of it, that
without divine aid it would seem to be unſearchable
and impoſſible. No wonder then,
that ſome authors ſhould have aſcribed it to
Adam, and ſuppoſed it to be the effect of
Of the nature of Antediluvian, or of the
firſt, writing, whether it was alphabetical, or
by hieroglyphicks, we can only form conjectures.
The wiſdom and ſimple manners
of the firſt men would incline me to think,
that they muſt have had an alphabet, for
hieroglyphick characters, imply quaintneſs,
and witticiſm. That Moſes knew an alphabet,
is certain: and we may venture to ſay,
he learned it in Egypt, where he was born
and educated.
If this be granted, the hieroglyphicks of
Egypt and Ethiopia will appear of later date
than alphabetical writing; and to have been
contrived, as many learned men have thought,
by prieſts or politicians, for expreſſing, in a
way not intelligible to the vulgar, the myſteries
of religion and government. — A hieroglyphick,
or ſacred ſculpture, is an emblematical
figure, which denotes, not an articulate
ſound, as a letter does, but an idea, or thing:
It is a repreſentation of ſome part of the
human body, or of ſome animal, vegetable,
or work of art; but it means, not that
which it repreſents, but ſomething elſe that
is, or is ſuppoſed to be, of a like nature.
Thus, the figure of a lamp, among the
Egyptian prieſts, ſignified, not a lamp, but
life; a circle was the emblem of eternity;
and an eye on the top of a ſceptre denoted a
Hieroglyphicks muſt have been a very imperfect
mode of expreſſing thought. They
took up a great deal of room; could hardly
be connected ſo as to form a ſentence; were
made ſlowly, and with difficulty; and, when
made, were no better than riddles.
Ceſar, in his account of the Druids of
Gaul, relates, that they obliged their diſciples
to get by heart ſo great a number of
verſes, that the term of their education was
ſometimes lengthened out to twenty years.
And we are told, that they accounted it unlawful
to commit thoſe verſes to writing,
notwithſtanding that they underſtood the
Greek alphabet, and made uſe of it in their
ordinary buſineſs both publick and private.
"Two things," continues he, "ſeem to
"me to have determined them in this: firſt,
"that their tenets might not be publiſhed to
"the vulgar: and, ſecondly, that having no
"books to truſt to, they might be the more
"careful to improve their memory, and
"more accurate ſtudents of the myſteries of
"their order." * — May not the Egyptian
hieroglyphicks have been invented for the
ſame purpoſes? By the vulgar they could
not be underſtood: and their enigmatical
* Cæſar. Bell. Gall. lib. vi. cap. 13.
nature made it neceſſary for the prieſts to
ſtudy them, and conſequently the doctrines
implied in them, with extraordinary perſeverance
and application.
When the Spaniards invaded Mexico in
the fifteenth century, the news of their landing
was ſent to the emperor Motezuma, not
by writing, or by hieroglyphicks (for the
Mexicans had neither) but by a rude draught
or picture of the ſhips. This is no doubt a
natural way of expreſſing things viſible
but I cannot agree in opinion with thoſe authors,
who ſuppoſe it to have been the moſt
ancient form of writing; as it is ſo laborious,
ſo liable to be miſunderſtood, expreſſive of
ſo few ideas, and in general ſo very inconvenient.
The Mexican, who carried the news,
was certainly able to give a verbal account of
what had happened. If he carried alſo a
draught of the ſhips, it muſt have been, as
we carry plans, with a view to give a more
lively idea than words could convey. European
ſhips had never appeared in that part
of the world before; and if thoſe people had
any ſkill in drawing, it was as natural for
them to practiſe it on ſo memorable an occaſion,
as it would be for us, if a huge unknown
ſea-monſter were to be thrown upon
the land.
In Peru and Chili, when we firſt became
acquainted with thoſe countries, there was
found a curious art, that in ſome meaſure
ſupplied the place of writing. It was called
Quipos; and conſiſted in certain arrangements
of threads, or knots, of different colours;
whereby they preſerved, in a way which we
cannot explain, inventories of their moveables,
and the remembrance of extraordinary
events. The knowlege of the Quipos is ſaid
to have been a great myſtery, handed down
by tradition from fathers to their children,
but never divulged by the parent, till he
thought his life near an end. — Belts of wampum
(as it is called) are probably contrivances
of a like nature, made of a great number of
little beads of different colours artfully, and
not inelegantly, interwoven. Theſe belts are
uſed by the Indians of North America in
their treaties; and are ſaid to expreſs, I
know not how, the particulars of the tranſaction.

In China, if we believe what is reported
by travellers, the art of writing has been underſtood
theſe three or four thouſand years;
and yet they have no alphabet to this day *.
* This is the common opinion, and was once mine. But
I have been lately informed, by a Scotch gentleman, who
reſided long at Batavia, that a Chineſe, on hearing his
chriſtian name and ſurname, wrote ſomething upon paper,
and that another Chineſe, on ſeeing it, articulated two
words diſtinctly. This could hardly have been done, except
by thoſe who underſtood the art of expreſſing by
ten ſymbols the elementary ſounds of language. And yet it
is poſſible, that the ſyllables which compoſe the name
might be Chineſe words. The gentleman, however, is
of opinion, that the trading people of China have a ſort
of alphabet.
There is for each word a diſtinct character;
and the number of words is said to be fourſcore
thouſand: ſo that a Chineſe doctor
grows old and dies, before he has learned one
half of his letters. The characters are of the
nature of hieroglyphicks, but ſo curtailed or
contracted for the ſake of expedition, that
their primitive ſhape cannot be gueſſed from
their preſent form. They divide them into
four claſſes: the antient, which are preſerved
on account of their antiquity, but never
uſed; a ſecond ſpecies appropriated to publick
inſcriptions; a third, common enough
in printing and even in writing, but too
unwieldy for daily uſe; and a fourth, more
manageable, for ordinary buſineſs. — It is
further ſaid of the Chineſe tongue, that
every word in it is a monoſyllable; and that
one and the ſame ſyllable may have ten or a
dozen different meanings, according to the
tone with which it is pronounced. If this
be true, there muſt be more accent in it
than in any other language that has yet been
heard of; and we need not wonder, that it is
of ſo difficult acquiſition to ſtrangers.
Some of our modern philoſophers affect
to be great admirers of the genius, policy,
and morality of the Chineſe. The truth is,
that Europeans know very little of that remote
people; and we are apt to admire what
we do not underſtand: and for thoſe who,
like the Chineſe, obſtinately ſhut their eyes
againſt the light of the Goſpel, the French
authors, now-a-days, and their imitators, are
apt to cheriſh an extraordinary warmth of
brotherly affection. — But if we conſider, that,
though their empire is ſuppoſed to have ſtood
for upwards of four thouſand years, the Chineſe
are ſtill unskilled in almoſt every branch
of literature; that their moſt learned men have
never thought it worth while to invent or
adopt an alphabet, though they muſt have
heard that there is ſuch a thing in other parts
of the world; that their painting, though
gaudy, is without perſpective, and looks like
a maſs of things, men, trees, houſes, and
mountains, heaped on one another's heads;
that, when a fire broke out at Canton, whereof
Commodore Anſon was an eye-witneſs, they
did not know how to extinguiſh it, but held
out the images of their gods to it: if we alſo
conſider their proneneſs to deceit and theft;
their low cunning; their abſurd jealouſy and
timidity, which refuſes almoſt all communication
with the reſt of the world; their
exceſſive admiration of their own wiſdom,
and their contempt of other nations, although
they muſt be ſenſible, that one European
ſhip of war could have nothing to
fear from the whole force of their empire
if, I ſay, we reflect on theſe things, we
be inclined to think, that they are an ignorant
and narrow-minded people, dextrous
indeed in ſome petty manufactures, but incapable
of enterpriſe, and invention, and
averſe to inquiry. The long continuance
and ſtrictneſs of their policy, which ſome
admire as the effect of profound wiſdom, is
to me a proof of their want of ſpirit: thoſe
nations being moſt liberal in their conduct to
ſtrangers, and withal moſt liable to political
commotion, who are moſt eminently diſtinguiſhed
for Magnanimity and genius.
When we think, how difficult, and how
inadequate, the methods hitherto mentioned
are, of rendering language viſible and permanent,
we muſt be ſtruck with wonder at
the uſefulneſs and perfection of the alphabet.
By this invention, if it may be ſo called,
although every ſound in language has a correſpondent
ſymbol, yet the characters are ſo
few, and of a form ſo ſimple, that one may
learn the uſe of them in a very ſhort time.
Nay, with the help of a few additional ſymbols,
one alphabet might ſerve for many
languages. The Latin, and all the modern
tongues derived from it, have the ſame ſyſtem
of letters: and if we were accuſtomed
to ſee Greek and Hebrew in the Roman character,
we ſhould read them as well in that
as in their own. — When things. are fairly reduced
to their firſt principles, it is pleaſing
to obſerve, how the underſtanding is enlightened,
and how eaſy that becomes in practice,
which before ſeemed impoſſible from its multiplicity.
Chineſe Doctors have no doubt
been told, that by the European methods a
perfect knowledge of written language might
be acquired in half a year; I ſuppoſe
would be no eaſy matter to make them believe
The alphabets of different tongues differ
conſiderably in the number, order, and, ſhape
of the letters; and, as was before obſerved,
it is preſumable, that in all the alphabets
now extant there are both defects and redundancies.
But this, though an inconvenience,
is not very material; as the difficulties of
pronunciation that reſult from it are eaſily
The implements of writing have been different
at different periods. In very early
times, writing was performed by engraving
upon ſtone. Such at its firſt appearance was
the Decalogue. And in the deſerts that lie
between Egypt and Paleſtine, the rocks of
certain mountains are ſaid to be covered with
antient characters, ſuppoſed by ſome to have
been carved by the people of Iſrael, while
they ſojourned in that wilderneſs. Afterwards,
letters delineated with a coloured liquid
upon vegetable ſubſtances, as wood,
the bark of trees, the Egyptian papyrus,
(whence our word paper) were found more
convenient on all ordinary occaſions. The
Engliſh term book is ſuppoſed to be derived
from a Saxon word ſignifying a beech-tree;
whence it would appear, that wooden manuſcripts
were in uſe among our anceſtors; and
every body knows, that, in Latin, the bark
of a tree, and a book, are called by the ſame
name. Animal ſubſtances, eſpecially the.
ſkins of ſheep, goats, and calves, which in
time came to he manufactured into parchment
and vellum, were better ſuited to the
purpoſes of writing, on account of their
ſmoothneſs, pliableneſs, and durability: they
are ſtill uſed in conveyances; and the firſt
authentick copy of every Britiſh ſtatute is
engroſſed on parchment.
The Romans, while they were compoſing,
wrote with the ſharp end of a bodkin or
ſtylus upon tables covered with wax, and,
when they wanted to correct any thing,
eraſed the former impreſſion with the other
end, which was flat: whence Horace adviſes
the author, who would compoſe what ſhould
be worthy of a ſecond reading, to make frequent
uſe of the other end of his pen *, that
is, to correct much and carefully. When it
was finiſhed to their mind, they had it tranſcribed
upon paper or parchment, or ſomething
of the ſame nature, called by Horace
charta and membrana; which they rolled up,
and kept in a box commonly made of cedar
wood, or anointed with oyl of cedar; as a
ſecurity againſt worms and rottenneſs. This
roll of written parchment they termed volumen;
a word which we have adopted; al*
Sæpe ſtylum vertas, iterum quæ digna legi ſint Scripturus.
Sat. i. 10. 72.
though our way of making up our books
is very different, and much more convenient.
Pens, ink, and paper, according to the
preſent uſe, were first known in Europe
about ſix hundred years ago: but ſome
writers will not allow them to be ſo antient.
The learned Dr. Prideaux is of opinion, that
the art of making paper of linen or flax is an
eaſtern invention, and was introduced into
Spain by the Saracens. But obſerve, that
the charta mentioned by Pliny and other
claſſick authors, though, like our paper, uſed
both for writing and for binding up goods in
parcels *, and alſo compoſed of vegetable ingredients,
was however a different preparation:
being made of the filmy fibres of the
inner bark of the papyrus, laid on a table
firſt parallel and then tranſverſe, and glued
together by the muddy water of the Nile, or,
where that was wanting, by a paſte made of
fine flour and common water.
Printing, as well as paper-making, is of
high antiquity in China. But the Chineſe
printing is very different from ours, and much
more impeded. They carve the characters
of every page upon wood; ſo that their
printing reſembles our engraving. The firſt
European printers proceeded in the ſame
manner; but, as they had no intercourſe with
* See Horace. Lib. ii. 270,113. Lib. i.
Sat. x. 4.
China, their art was of their own invention.
Printing by types, or moveable letters, is a
great improvement; for, in this way, with
a ſmall proviſion of types, we may print many
books different from one another: whereas,
to make a book by the former method, there
muſt for every page be an engraved block of
wood; and the engravings could be of no
further uſe, if the ſame book were never reprinted.
This muſt have made our firſt efforts
in printing very expenſive and ſlow
but, ſlow and expenſive as they were, the diſcovery
was important, and made books incomparably
more numerous, and conſequently
cheaper, than ever they could have
been while manuſcripts only were in uſe.
For though the carving of the wooden plates
would take up more time than the tranſcribing
of ſeveral copies, yet when the plates
were finiſhed, thouſands of copies might be
printed off in a few days.
Little is known of the firſt printers: nor
has either the era or the birth-place of this
wonderful invention been exactly aſcertained.
The general opinion is, that printing with
moveable types was firſt praiſed at Mentz
about the year one thouſand four hundred
and fifty; and that an edition of the Bible
of that date was the firſt printed book, Auguſtin
de civitate Dei the ſecond, and Tully's
offices the third.
One of the firſt printers was Foſt, or Fauſt
or Fauſtus, who is thought by ſome to have
been the inventor of moveable types. He
did not chooſe to let the world into the ſecret
of his art, for fear of leſſening the price of
his books. And therefore, when he expoſed
a parcel of them to ſale at Paris, he gave out
that they were manuſcripts; which he might
the more eaſily do, becaufe no body could
ſuppoſe they were any thing elſe. And, that
they might paſs for ſuch, without ſuſpicion,
he had in printing left blank ſpaces for certain
capital letters, which he afterwards inſerted
with the pen, flouriſhed and illuminated,
according to the faſhion of the times.
But, when it was obſerved, how exactly
one copy correſponded with another, and
that there was not the ſmalleſt variation in
the ſhape, ſize, or place, even of a ſingle
letter, he was thought to have done what no
human power could execute, and conſequently
to have intercourſe with evil ſpirits;
and found himſelf obliged, in order to avoid
proſecution and puniſhment, to divulge the
myſtery of printing. Hence came the vulgar
tale of Doctor Fauſtus; who is ſaid in the
ſtory-book to have been a great magician,
and to have ſold himſelf to the devil.
On the uſefulneſs of Printing, as the means
of multiplying books without end, of promoting
the improvement of arts and ſciences,
and of diffuſing knowledge through all the
claſſes of mankind, I need not enlarge, as
the thing is too obvious to require illuſtration.
I ſhall only mention one particular,
which is abundantly ſtriking. Common bibles
are in this country fold in ſheets to the
retailer at fourteen ſhillings a dozen, or fourteen
pence apiece; as I was informed by a
perſon who dealt in that article to a very
great extent. Thus is the price of the beſt
book in the world reduced ſo low, that every
perſon, however poor, may have one, either
bought with his own money, or given him
in charity. But, before the invention of
printing, it would have been a great matter
if every pun could have afforded to have a
bible; as the expence of writing out ſo large
a book would have been at leaſt equal to that
of building an ordinary country church.
To us, who are acquainted with both arts,
it may ſeem ſtrange, that the Greeks and
Romans, who excelled in the engraving of
ſeals and medals, ſhould never think of plates
or types for printing. But arts may appear
obvious after they are known, which are very
far from the imagination of thoſe who never
heard of them. The affairs of this world
are ordered by Providence, who makes human
wiſdom ſubſervient to its own good purpoſes.
That the magnet attracts iron, was known
to the antients; but its power of giving a
polary direction to that metal was not found
out till the thirteenth century.
Few arts have ſo ſoon become perfect, as
this of Printing. In the library of Mariſchal
College there is a Latin tranſlation of Appian,
printed at Venice in the year fourteen hundred
and ſeventy-ſeven, that is, in the twenty--
ſeventh year of the art, which, in the nice
cut of the letters and neatneſs of the preſswork,
is hardly inferiour to any book of the
preſent age. Its only fault, which it has in
common with all the printed books of an
early date, is the great number of contractions.
Theſe were much affected by the firſt
printers, in imitation, no doubt, of the
manuſcript-writers, to whom they were a
conſiderable ſaving both of time and of paper.
They are now diſuſed in moſt languages,
except the Greek; and it is to be
wiſhed perhaps, that they were not uſed at
all. In writing for one's own uſe one may
employ abbreviations, or the cyphers of ſhort
hand, or any other characters that one is
acquainted with; though even this is not prudent,
except when one is obliged to write
with uncommon expedition: but what is to
be laid before the publick, or any other ſuperiour,
ſhould have all poſſible clearneſs, and
ought therefore to be free from contractions,
and the like peculiarities.
Before the middle of the ſixteenth century,
that is, in leſs than a hundred years after the
invention of printing, this art was brought
to its higheſt perfection, by the illuſtrious
Robert and Henry Stephen; who have a
claim to our admiration and gratitude, not
only as the greateſt of printers, but alſo as
the moſt careful editors, and moſt learned
men, of modern times. The former publiſhed
a Theſaurus, or Dictionary, of the Latin,
and the latter a Theſaurus of the Greek
tongue: works of aſtoniſhing accuracy and
erudition, and without doubt the greateſt,
works of their kind in the world. Henry's
Greek poets, in folio, is to this day ſtudied,
and imitated, as a model of typographical
excellence. And that edition by Robert, of
the Greek Newteſtament, of which a copy
is juſt now before me, printed in the year
one thouſand five hundred and forty-ſix, and
which is commonly called O mirificam, (poſſibly
from the ſuperlative elegance of the
printing, but probably from the two firſt
words of the Preface) is not yet ſurpaſſed
in reſpect of beauty, nor perhaps equalled.
Their ſtyle of printing has been ſucceſsfully
imitated by my lamented friends Robert and
Andrew Foulis of Glaſgow, who did much
for the improvement of their country, and
eſtabliſhed a taſte for elegant printing in
Scotland; and whoſe folio Homer is of
the fineſt and moſt correct books that ever
came from the preſs.
The Theory of Language.
Of Univerſal Grammar.
THE words of different languages differ
greatly in ſound. Nay, in this reſpect
two languages may be ſo unlike, that the
moſt perfect knowlege of the one would not
enable us to underſtand a ſingle word of the
other. If, therefore, all languages have ſome
things in common, thoſe things muſt be
ſought for, not in the ſound of the words,
but in their ſignification and uſe.
Now words are of various characters in
regard to ſignification: and if a perſon, ignorant
of grammar, were to look into the vocabulary
of any language, he would be ſo confounded
with their multitude, as to think it
impoſſible to reduce them into claſſes. And
yet the ſpecies (or ſorts) of words in the moſt
comprehenſive tongue are not many: in our
own, which is ſufficiently copious, they
amount to no more than TEN: and, in the
following ſhort ſentence, every one of the
ten may be found once, and ſome of them
twice. "I now ſee the good man coming,
but alas! he walks with difficulty." —
I and he are pronouns, now is an adverb, ſee
and walks are verbs, the is an article, good is
an adjective, man and difficulty are nouns,
coming is a participle, but a conjunction, with
a prepoſition, and alas an interjection. One
would think a language muſt be very imperfect,
that has not a word to anſwer each of
thoſe contained in this ſentence.
May we not then infer, that in every language
there muſt be nine or ten ſpecies of
words; or, to expreſs it otherwiſe, that Articles,
Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives, Verbs,
Participles, Adverbs, Prepoſitions, Interjetions,
and Conjunctions, muſt be in all languages?
— This, however, will not appear
with full evidence, till we have taken a more
particular view of there ſeveral ſorts of words?
and ſhown each of them to be neceſſary,
how far each of them may be neceſſary, for
expreſſing certain modes of human thought
to which, from the circumſtances of mankind
in every age and nation, we have reaſon
to think that all men would find it expedient
to give utterance. Thus ſhall we unfold the
principles of Univerſal Grammar, by tracing
out thoſe powers, forms, or contrivances
which, being eſſential to language, muſt be
found in every ſyſtem of human ſpeech that
deſerves the name.
Of Nouns Primary, or Subſtantives. — Of Number,
and Gender: which (taking theſe words
in the Grammatical ſenſe) depend, partly upon
the nature of things, and partly upon cuſtom
and arbitrary rule.
THAT nouns, or the names of things,
muſt make part of every language, will
not be diſputed. Men could not ſpeak of one
another, or of any thing elſe, without Subſtantives.
Man, houſe, ſtone, mountain,
earth, water, meat, drink, &c. muſt ſurely
be ſpoken of in every nation.
A Subſtantive, or Noun, is a word denoting
a ſubſtance; or, more properly, is
"a word denoting the thing ſpoken of."
Now the things we ſpeak of either have a real
exiſtence, as man, tree, houſe, hatchet; or
have had a real exiſtence, as Babylon, Eden,
Ceſar; or are ſpoken of as if they had exiſted,
or did exiſt, as Jupiter, Fairy, Lilliput;
or are conceived by the mind as having
at leaſt the capacity of being characteriſed
by qualities, as virtue, beauty, motion, ſwiftneſs.
— Theſe laſt are called Abſtract Nouns
and the underſtanding forms them, by abſtracting,
or ſeparating, from any natural or
artificial ſubſtance, either real, or imaginary,
certain qualities, and making thoſe qualities
the ſubject of meditation or diſcourſe: as —
the eagle flies — its flight is fwift: — the houſe
ſhakes; its ſhaking is terrible: — Voltaire was
witty; his wit was indecent: — Minerva and
Venus were beautiful; but the beauty of the
former was majetick, and the beauty of the
latter alluring.
That the formation of abtract nouns is
natural to man, in every condition wherein
he can be placed, will appear, if we conſider,
that it is for their qualities that things
are valued and attended to; and that, therefore,
we muſt often compare qualities with
one another, and conſequently ſpeak of them
as being deſirable, valuable, pleaſant, great,
ſmall, good, evil, indifferent, &c. In this
manner a quality is ſpoken of as ſome thing,
that is itſelf characteriſed by qualities; which
comes ſo near the deſcription of a ſubſtance,
that language gives it a name of the ſubſtantive
form. — Perhaps, however, it might be
doubted, whether abſtract ſubſtantives be eſſential
to language. Thouſands of them indeed
there are in all the tongues we are acquainted
with: but in many caſes their place
might be ſupplied by other words; though
I confeſs, that this would often give riſe to
awkward circumlocutions.
The qualities, aſcribed to abſtract nouns
or ideas, may themſelves be abſtracted, and
become the things ſpoken of, and ſo be characteriſed
by other qualities. Thus from beautiful
animal, moving animal, cruel animal, let
the qualities be ſeparated, and aſſume the ſubſtantive
form, and they become beauty, motion,
cruelty; which, as if they were real things,
may be characteriſed by qualities, great beauty,
ſwift motion, barbarous cruelty. Theſe
qualities alſo may be abſtracted, and tranſformed
into greatneſs, ſwiftneſs, barbarity;
which may have new qualities aſſigned them
equally ſuſceptible of abſtraction, tranſitory
greatneſs, inconceivable ſwiftneſs, brutal barbarity.

In ſpeaking of ſubſtances, or things, natural,
artificial, imaginary, or abſtract, all
men will have occaſion to mention, ſometimes
one of a kind, and ſometimes more
than one: a man is coming, or men are
coming: I ſee a ſhip, or I ſee ſhips: he thought
he ſaw a ghoſt, or he dreamed he was ſurrounded
with ghoſts: Auguſtus had many
virtues, Nero had not one virtue. In every
language, therefore, nouns muſt admit of
ſome variety in their form, to denote unity
and plurality. If the word man, for example,
had no plural, it could not be known, when
one ſaid, I ſee the man coming, whether
one or more than one was meant. The inconvenience
ariſing from this ambiguity would
ſoon ſhow the neceſſity of removing it, either
by altering the termination, or the middle or
initial letters of the word, or by ſome other
But this is not equally neceſſary in all
caſes. The word which denotes one individual
ſubſtance and no other, and which
Grammarians call a proper name, can never,
denote more than that one, and therefore
cannot have plurality. Epaminondas can
never be plural, ſo long as we know of no
more than one of that name. In like manner,
Weſtminſter abbey denotes one particular,
building, Rome one particular city, Etna one
particular mountain, and the Thames one
particular river.
When theſe, and the like words, aſſume a
plural, they then ceaſe to be proper names,
and ſignify a claſs or ſpecies of things, or
perhaps ſupply the place of general appellatives.
When I ſay, the twelve Ceſars, I uſe
the noun, not as the proper name of an individual,
but as a common appellative belonging
to twelve perſons, to each of whom it is
equally applicable. When I ſay, that twenty
Thameſes united would not form a river ſo
large as the Ganges, I uſe the word Thames
to denote in general a river, or a quantity
of running water, as large as the Thames.
We ſpeak of the Gordons, the Macdonalds,
the Howards, &c.; in all which caſes, it
is plain, that the noun, which bears the
plural termination, is not the diſtinguiſhing
name of one man, but a general name
common to every individual of a tribe or
Further: When any individual perſon has
rendered himſelf famous in a particular way,
his name is ſometimes given to ſuch as are
famous in the ſame way; and then, it becomes,
in like manner, a common appellative,
and admits of plurality. Mecenas was
a great patron of learning, and Virgil an
excellent poet whom he patroniſed: and Martial
has ſaid, that "Virgils will not be want"ing
where there are Mecenaſes." Who
does not ſee, that the meaning is, "Good
"authors will not be wanting, where there
"are great patrons?"
We are told, in our Grammars, that proper
names for the moſt part want the plural.
But the truth is, that proper names always
want it: for when a name, that is commonly
applied to one individual, aſſumes a plural
form, it ceaſes to be a proper name. And
as every ſuch name may aſſume ſuch a form,
the Latin Grammarians, as well as the Greek,
might have given examples of proper names
with plural terminations. For Cæſares, Cæſarum,
Cæſaribus, are as agreeable to Latin
analogy; as * Aineial, Aineiôn, Ainiais are
* Αινειαι, Αινειων, Αινειαις.
to Greek. — It will occur perhaps, that ſome
proper names are always plural, and have no
ſingular, as Athenæ, Mycenæ, Thebæ, the Deviſes,
&c. But this is merely accidental; and
reſults not from the nature of the thing, but
from the cuſtom of a particular language;
and is therefore a conſideration that belongs
not to Univerſal Grammar.
Every name in language, that denotes a
genus or a ſpecies, may be applied either to
one, or to many individuals of a kind or ſort * ,
* When a number of things are found to reſemble each
other in ſome important particulars, we refer them to one
ſpecies, or tribe, to which we give a name; and
this name belongs equally to each individual comprehended
in that claſs or ſpecies. Thus, the word man, homo, denotes
a claſs of animals, and is equally applicable to every
human being. — Again, finding ſeveral ſpecies or claſſes
to reſemble each other in certain common qualities, we
refer them to a higher claſs called a genus, to which we
give a name, that is equally applicable to every ſpecies and
every individual comprehended under it. Thus all living
things on earth reſemble each other in this reſpect, that
they have life. We refer them, therefore, to the genus
called Animal; and this word belongs to every ſpecies of
animals, and to each individual animal. — Moreover, all
things, animated and inanimate, agree in this, that they
are created; and in this view we refer them to a claſs ſtill
higher, called Creature; a word which belongs equally to
every genus and ſpecies of created things, and to each
individual thing that is created. — Further ſtill, All beings
whatever reſemble one another in this reſpect, that they are
or exist; whence we refer them to a claſs ſtill higher, and
indeed the higheſt of all, called Being — This gradation is
ſeen at one glance in the following words; Socrates, Man,
Animal, Creature, Being.
and muſt by conſequence be capable of expreſſing
plurality, as well as unity. Homo,
therefore, and man, muſt admit of ſome ſuch
variety as homines and men; becauſe the word
may be uſed of one perſon, or of any number
of perſons, of the human ſpecies. And
this diſtinction of Singular and Plural would
ſeem to be eſſential to the nouns of every
language: at leaſt we may venture to affirm,
that it could not be wanting without great
inconvenience. There are, indeed, in many
tongues, and perhaps in all, ſome nouns that
have no plural form, and others that have no
ſingular, even when there is nothing in their
ſignification to hinder it: but this, like the
plural proper names, is accidental, and might
have been otherwiſe, if cuſtom and popular
uſe had ſo determined.
In the Attick dialect, and poetical language,
of the Greeks, there is alſo a dual
number to exprefs two. this is not neceſſary;
though ſeveral other ancient tongues
That claſs is called a Species, which comprehends under
it, or is underſtood to comprehend, individuals; and that
a Genus, which comprehends a number of ſpecies.
Antiently the Engliſh noun Kind was the ſame with Genus,
and Sort with Species: but kind and ſort have long been
confounded by our beſt writers; and we are obliged to
borrow the words genus and ſpecies from the Latin
though, indeed, in good Latin authors, Species never has
that meaning which we here give it; and which in the language
of Cicero would be expreſſed thus, pars quæ ſubjecta
eſt generi, the claſs, or diviſion, that is ſubordinate to the
have it, particularly the Hebrew, the Gothick,
and the Celtick. For, languages being
formed in ſome meaſure by accident, it
is no wonder that there ſhould be redundancies
in them, as well as defects. — It has
been ſaid, that ambo in Latin, and both in
Engliſh, are duals. But it is hardly worth
while to introduce a new term into any
grammar, for the ſake of one example. Beſides,
there is this difference between the
words in queſtion and Greek dual nouns,
that the latter are joined in ſyntax to verbs,
adjectives and participles of the dual number;
whereas ambo takes a plural verb, adjective
and participle, and both takes a plural verb.
Another thing eſſential to nouns is gender.
For language would be very imperfect, if it
had no expreſſion for the ſex of animals.
Now all things whatever are Male, or Female,
or Both, or Neither.
The exiſtence of hermaphrodites being
uncommon, and even doubtful, and language
being framed to anſwer the ordinary
occaſions of life, no proviſion is made, in
any of the tongues we are acquainted with,
for expreſſing, otherwiſe than by a name
made on purpoſe, or by a periphraſis, Duplicity
of ſex. The genders therefore are
only two, the maſculine and the feminine: for
what we call the neuter gender implies properly
a negation of ſex, or that the thing
which is ſaid to be of this gender is neither
male nor female.
In Hebrew, there is no neuter; every noun
being either maſculine or feminine: and
when things without ſex are expreſſed by
pronouns, or alluded to by adjectives, they
are more frequently feminine than maſculine.*

All animals have ſex; and therefore the
names of all animals muſt have gender. But
the ſex of all is not equally obvious, nor
equally worthy of attention. In thoſe ſpecies
that are moſt common, or whole outward
appearance and circumſtances are particularly
attended to, the male is ſometimes
called by one name which is maſculine, and
* More particularly: The demonſtrative pronoun
uſed for this thing (anſwering to τατο hoc) when no
ſubſtantive is expreſſed, is feminine. Thus, in the Septuagint,
and in Matt. xxi. 42. Παοα χυζια εγενετο
άυτη χαι εςι αυμχρη: literally, A Domino facta eſt
hæc, et eſt miranda. — Alſo when an adjective is uſed indefinitely
without a noun, the gender in Hebrew is commonly
feminine. Thus in Pſal. xii. 4. "A tongue
"ſpeaking great things;" and Pſal. xxvii. 4. "One thing
"I deſired;" the adjectives anſwering to great and one, are
feminine: Lingua loquens magnas: Unam petivi.
Something like this idiom is obſervable in the vulgar
dialects of North Britain; at leaſt when things of eminence
are ſpoken of. A Kincardineſhire man ſays, of the
river, that ſhe is deep; of the watermill, that 'the froſt
will not permit her to go, &c. But things of leſs conſideration,
as a knife, a chair, &c. are neuter; and the ſun
is invariably maſculine, and the moon feminine.
the female by a different name which is feminine.
Thus in Engliſh we ſay man, woman;
huſband, wife; king, queen; lord, lady;
father, mother; ſon, daughter; nephew,
niece; uncle, aunt; boy, girl horſe, mare;
cock, hen; boar, ſow, &c. In others of
ſimilar diſtinction, the name of the male is
altered only in the termination when applied
to the female: as emperor, empreſs, antiently
empereſs; patron, patroneſs; ſhepherd,
ſhepherdeſs; widower, widow; maſter,
miſtreſs, antiently maſtereſs, and ſtill pronounced
ſo by the vulgar in ſome parts of
Scotland. Sometimes we apply the ſame
name to either ſex, only prefixing or ſubjoining
a particle to denote the gender; as
he-aſs, ſhe-aſs; cock-ſparrow, hen-ſparrow;
peacock, peahen; moor-cock, moor-hen.
When the ſex of any animal is not obvious,
or not material to be known, the ſame
name, in ſome languages, is applied without
variation to all the ſpecies, and that name is
ſaid to be of the common gender, and aſſumes
in concord either a maſculine or a feminine
adjective, participle, or pronoun, according
as the one ſex or the other is intended to be
ſpecified; as, in Latin Bos albus a white ox,
Bos alba a white cow: but if no account is
made of the ſex, and only the ſpecies of
animal ſignified, the gender of the name is
frequently determined by its final letters *.
* In Greek, when women are mentioned merely as
perſons, and without any regard to ſex, they are ſomeBeings
ſuperiour to man, though we conceive
them to be of no ſex, are ſpoken of as
maſculine in moſt of the modern tongues of
Europe, on account of their dignity; the
male being, according to our ideas, the
nobler ſex. But idolatrous nations acknowlege
both male and female deities; and ſome
of them have given even to the Supreme Being
a name of the feminine gender.
When we perſonify the virtues, we ſpeak
of them as if they were females; perhaps on
account of their lovelineſs; or rather in compliance
with the analogy of the Greek and
Latin tongues. Thus we call Juſtice the queen
of the virtues, not the king: and we ſay,
that if Virtue were to take a viſible form, all
the world would be enamoured (not of his,
but) of her charms.
The antients made females of the Furies;
thoſe dreadful beings, who were ſuppoſed to
haunt the guilty in this world, and torment
them in hell. This might be owing to the
accidental termination of their name, or to
ſome poetical fable concerning their origin:
or perhaps it was thought, that, as nothing is
times in ſyntax connected with pronouns, articles, and
participles, of the maſculine gender. Of this the learned
Dr. Clarke gives a variety of examples in his notes on
Hom. Iliad. lib. v. verſ. 778. Traces of the ſame idiom
are to be ſeen in Latin authors. Thus in Plautus we read
Quis ea eſt? Quis ea eſt mulier? And thus, in Virgil, Eneas,
ſpeaking of his mother Venus, ſays, Deſcendo, 'ac ducente
Deo. Æneid. ii. 632.
ſo amiable as a beautiful and virtuous woman,
ſo nothing is more hideous than extreme
uglineſs and rage united in the female
Some authors have ſuppoſed, that it is
natural for the human mind to conſider as
maſculine the names of ſuch things as are
eminent in power; and to make thoſe feminine
which denote what is peculiarly fitted
for receiving, containing, or bringing forth.
But though many plauſible things may be
ſaid for this theory, it is alſo liable to many
What in this world is more powerful than
Death, which no animal can reſiſt; or than
the Sun, which is, as it were, the parent of
life, both to animal, and to vegetable nature?
Yet, though Thanatos is maſculine
Greek, and though Mr. Harris ſeems to
think, that the notion of a female Death
would be ridiculous, mors in Latin, mort in
French, morte in Italian, and muérte in
Spaniſh, are all feminine*: and, though the
moon is feminine, and the ſun maſculine, in
many languages, yet, in the Saxon and
* One of our moſt correct poets ſcruples not to make
Death a female in the following paſſage:
Lo, in the vale of years beneath,
A grieſly troop are ſeen,
The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their queen.
Gray's Ode on Eton College.
ſome other northern tongues, the ſun is feminine,
and the moon maſculine.
If it is merely becauſe the earth is the common
mother of all terreſtrial productions,
that her name is feminine, it will be difficult
to aſſign a ſufficient reaſon, why the ſea
ſhould not alſo be feminine; ſince it is probable,
that as many animals and vegetables
may be produced in the ſea, as on the land.
Its deep voice and boiſterous nature entitle it
(according to Mr. Harris) to a maſculine
name: but in Virgil, the fury Alecto, who
was a female, and ſufficiently turbulent,
utters a more terrifick yell than ever proceeded
from the moſt tempeſtuous ocean†.
Catullus and Ovid mention the ſea as a
female, by the name Amphitrite ‡. And
the common people of Scotland, when expreſſing
the ſea by a pronoun, often call it
She, but I think never He: "Let us go and
"look at the ſea; they ſay ſhe is very rough
† Virg. Æneid. vii. 514. — The common Greek name
for the ſea is feminine. Ωϰεανος and ϑαλασσα are not
ſynonymous; at leaſt they did not appear ſo to Homer;
who uſes the former to ſignify the Great Deep, Ocean
or Source of waters; from which every ſea, (πα̃σα ϑαλασσα)
fountain, and river, takes its riſe.
— βαϑυῤρέ̔ιταο μέγα σϑένος Ωϰεανοι̃ο,
Εχ ˠπεƻ παντες ποταμοὶ, ϰαὶ πάσα ϑαλαττα,
Καὶ πασαι ϰƻηναι, ϰαὶ φƻέιατα μαϰƻά νάˠσιν.
Iliad. xxi. 195.
‡ Catull. de nupt. Pel. et Thet. verſ. 11. Ovid. Metamorph.
i. 14.
It ſeems to us quite natural, that a ſhip
ſhould be feminine; becauſe, as the learned
author of Hermes obſerves, it is ſo eminently
a receiver and container of various things, of
men, arms, proviſions, and goods. Accordingly
naus in Greek and navis in Latin are
feminine; and Engliſh ſailors, ſpeaking of
their veſſel, ſay, She is under ſail: nay,
thoſe very perſons who call a war-ſhip a
man of war, do ſtill adhere to the ſame idiom,
and ſay, The man of war ſent out her boats.
And yet, the French word for ſhip, navire,
though derived from the Latin, is maſculine.

It were vain to attempt to reduce theſe
peculiarities to general principles. Real animals,
when ſpoken of with a view to their
ſex, will no doubt in every country have
names of that gender which befits their nature.
But allegories are fantaſtick things;
and genders, that have no better foundation,
cannot be expected to be uniform in different
countries. And thoſe imaginary beings, who
are idolized by ignorant nations, may to a
capricious fancy appear in ſuch a variety
of lights, that it ſhall be impoſſible for a
ſtranger, from what he may know of their
ſuppoſed attributes, to determine any thing
a priori concerning the gender, which cuſtom
may in any particular country annex to their
names. We have heard both of a god and of
a goddeſs of war: and who will ſay, that BelIona
is not as proper a name as Mars, for
that imaginary demon? The god of ſtrength,
one would think, muſt be male; and this
may be given as one reaſon for the gender
of Hercules. And yet Neceſſity, who muſt
be ſtronger than Hercules, and all the heathen
gods put together, is repreſented by
Horace as a female perſonage *; for no
other reaſon, that I can gueſs, but becauſe
her name in Latin happens to have a feminine
termination. It is natural, one may
ſay, that the power who is ſuppoſed to preſide
over love ſhould be beautiful and feminine:
and yet the Romans aſcribed this paſſion
as much to the influence of a wicked
little Boy, whom Virgil calls Amor and Cupido,
as to that of his mother Venus. The
charioteer of the ſun was Phebus, according
to the claſſicks: but a Saxon poet would
undoubtedly have preferred a female to that
high office.
As things which have not animal life cannot
with propriety be ſaid to have ſex, (for the
ſexual arrangement of vegetables is a modern
diſcovery, hinted at indeed by Ariſtotle †, but
unknown to the authors of language) it
would ſeem moſt natural, that the names of
all inanimate things and abſtract ideas
ſhould be of the neuter gender; that is,
ſhould imply, that the things they ſtand for
* Hor. Od. i. 35. verſ. 17
† De Generat. Animal. lib. i. cap. 1.
are of neither ſex. And in ſome languages
this is no doubt the caſe. But in Greek and
Latin, Italian, French, and Spanniſh, many
nouns denoting abſtract ideas, and things
without life, are maſculine, and many are
feminine. The only good reaſon to be given
for this is, that certain words are conſidered
as of certain genders, on account of their final
letters; becauſe accident and cuſtom have ſo
determined. But, if it be aſked, why in Latin,
(for example) the termination a of the firſt declenſion
ſhould be feminine, and of the third
neuter; or why in either it ſhould be feminine
or neuter, and not maſculine; I know of no
reaſon, but what has been already aſſigned,
namely, that in the Latin tongue ſuch is
the rule, as eſtabliſhed by cuſtom: — by Cuſtom,
I ſay, which in all human affairs has
great authority, but which in giving laws to
language is abſolute and irreſitable *. — It
may be ſaid, indeed, that, while a people and
their language are in a rude ſtate, and before
men think of making grammars, it may be
natural to ſay bonæ pennæ (for inſtance), and
bonam pennam, on account of the ſimilar
ſound. There may be ſomething in this.
But it goes not far in accounting for the fact
I ſpeak of. For, to be according to rule,
the termination of the adjective and participle
muſt often differ from that of the correſponding
noun: ſplendidum diadema, plurimus
ignis, pii vates, res tranquillæ, being as much
* See Horat. Art. Poet. verſ. 71, 72.
according to rule, as ingenium bonum, viro
antennarum velatarum.
In Engliſh, moſt names of things without
ſex are, and all of them may be, neuter. We
may ſay, ſpeaking of the ſun, either that he
was, or that it was, eclipſed; and, of a
ſhip, that it was wrecked, or that ſhe was.
But, in all the other languages I know,
the gender of moſt ſubſtantives is fixed.
And, even in Engliſh, when ſpeaking of
things inanimate, or of things without ſex,
we cannot make that maſculine, which cuſtom
has made feminine, nor that feminine
which cuſtom has made maſculine, though
we may make either one or the other neuter.
Of the ſun I may ſay, he is ſet, or it is ſet,
but I cannot ſay, ſhe is ſet; and of the moon,
that ſhe is changed, or that it is changed, but
not that he is changed. In like manner,
ſpeaking of the human ſoul, I may ſay, that
it does not think always, or that ſhe does
not think always, but I cannot ſay, that he
does not think always.
In ſtrict propriety of ſpeech, all Engliſh
nouns, denoting what is without life, ought
to be neuter: and when we make them maſculine
or feminine, it muſt be underſtood to
be by the figure called Perſonification. And
it is no doubt an advantage in our tongue,
and (as a very learned * author remarks)
* Harris's Hermes.
ſerves to diſtinguiſh our logical or philoſophical
ſtyle from the poetical or rhetorical,
that we may always ſpeak of what is without
life, either as a thing, in the neuter, or, as
a perſon, in the maſculine or feminine, as
beſt ſuits our purpoſe. For this cannot be.
done ſo eaſily in other languages; at leaſt
cannot be done, ſo as to mark the figure, or
the want of it, by a variation of the gender.
In Latin, Greek, and French, for example,
virtue is always feminine: but, in Engliſh,
we may, as we pleaſe, make it either feminine
or neuter; and ſay, with equal propriety,
Virtue ſhall receive her reward,
(where we ſpeak of Virtue poetically,
rhetorically, as a perſon), or, Virtue ſhall
receive its reward, where we ſpeak of it with
more philoſophical exactneſs.
In old Engliſh authors, I find his ſometimes
uſed, where we now uſe its. Thus, in
Leviticus, we read of "the brazen altar, and
"his grate of braſs, his ſtaves, and all his
veſſels." Hence I was once led to think,
that this ſort of ſubſtantives, though neuter
in modern Engliſh, were ſometimes in our
antient language maſculine. But it was a
miſtake. For in the firſt chapter of Geneſis
we have the following words; and ſimilar
phraſes there are in other parts of Scripture.
"Let the earth bring forth graſs, the herb
"yielding ſeed, and the fruit-tree yielding
"fruit, after his kind whoſe ſeed is in itſelf."
* Now, if the noun fruit-tree had
been conſidered as maſculine by our tranſlators,
the ſentence would have run thus: —
"the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind,
"whoſe ſeed is in himſelf." But as they
apply to one and the ſame ſubſtantive, firſt
the pronoun his, and then the pronoun, itſelf-,
I infer, not that the ſubſtantive was
then both maſculine and neuter, but, that the
pronoun his was then uſed as a poſſeſſive, in
ſpeaking of neuter ſubſtantives, though it
is now invariably applied to ſuch as are maſculine.

* So in the third part of the Church's homily againſt
peril of Idolatrie, "What can an image, which when it is
"fallen cannot riſe again, which can neither help his
"friends, nor hurt his enemies, expreſs of the moſt mighty
† Dr. Campbell has fully explained this matter, by obſerving,
with his uſual accuracy, that the word its is not
to be found in our Bible: whence we may infer, that, in
the old language, it was not uſed, at leaſt in ſolemn
ſtyle. See The Philoſophy of Rhetorick, vol. ii. p. 394.
Inſtead of that word, we have always, in the common
Tranſlation, either his (as in the paſſages quoted) or a periphraſis,
as the path thereof, for its path. Itſelf, indeed,
occurs: hut, in the old editions, is printed it ſelf, in two
words, and, therefore, is to be conſidered as compounded,
not of its and ſelf; but of it and ſelf. And this is the
real origin of that reciprocal pronoun. Self in old Engliſh
means ſame. So Shakſpeare,
Shoot another arrow that ſelf way
Which you did ſhoot the firſt. Merchant of Venice.
From theſe remarks it will appear, how.
far the genders of nouns are fixed by the nature
of things, and how far they depend on.
cuſtom. — And ſo much for Subſtantives, or.
Nouns; a ſort of words, that muſt of neceſſity
be in all languages whatſoever.
And ſo Dryden; who, like Homer, Ennius, Virgil, and
other great poets, often affects the antique,
At that ſelf moment enters Palamon.
Knight's Tale.
Himſelf, therefore, itſelf, myſelf, thyſelf, &c. did probably
denote, according to etymology, the ſame him, the ſame
it, the ſame me, the ſame thee, &c.
The nature and uſe of Nouns Secondary, or
THE words now to be conſidered do not
form a numerous claſs; nor are they,
perhaps, ſo eſſential to human ſpeech as the
former: but they are ſo convenient, that we
have no reaſon to think there is any language
without them. They are called by the
Greeks * Antônumiai, and by the Latins Pronomina.
And the name well expreſſes their
nature; they being put † anti tou onomatos,
pro nomine, inſtead of the noun or name.
Their uſe, and the occaſion of introducing
them into language, may be thus illuſtrated.
Suppoſe me to meet with a perſon, whoſe
name I know not, and to whom I am equally
unknown; and that we find it neceſſary to
talk together. I want to give ſome information
concerning myſelf, and to addreſs that
information to him. But how is this to be
done? He knows not my name, and I know
not his. I might point to myſelf, when I
meant to ſpeak of myſelf, and to him when
I would ſpeak of him; but this would be
inconvenient in the dark, and awkward in any
*Αντωνυμιαι. † αντι τˠ ονοματος.
circumſtances. Shall I begin with informing
him of my name, and myſelf of his; and
afterwards repeat my own name when I ſpeak
of myſelf, and his when I ſpeak of him?
Perhaps he might not chooſe to tell me his
name, and I might be equally ſhy in regard
to mine. But ſuppoſe this difficulty got over,
and that I want to aſk, him the road. If I
confine myſelf to proper and ſubſtantive
names, I ſay, "James begs as a favour of
"Alexander, that Alexander would inform
"James, which is the road to ſuch a place:"
and, all the while, I muſt be pointing to
myſelf and to him alternately, to ſignify,
that I was ſpeaking of him and of myſelf,
and not of any other perſons of the ſame
names. If in ſo ſhort and ſimple an addreſs
there is ſo much difficulty, it may well be
imagined, that in a continued dialogue there
would be a great deal more*.
Now for removing theſe difficulties there
is a method very eaſy, and, I think, obvious
enough to any rational being. Inſtead of the
two proper names, ſubſtitute two pronouns
I and You; and there is no need either of
knowing one another's names, or of pointing
* Many queſtions might indeed be put, without either
the knowledge of names, or the uſe of pronouns. In the
caſe ſuppoſed, I might be well enough underſtood by saying
ſimply, Which is the road? But ſpeakers in ordinary
converſation continually refer to, and addreſs, one another
and if they had no words to mark ſuch reference, the whole
would be ambiguity and confuſion.
"I beg as a favour of You, that you would
"tell me, which is the road." Here, then,
we ſee in part the origin, the nature, and the
one, of Pronouns. They are the ſubſtitutes
of proper names. This is the firſt and
ſimpleſt idea of them; but it is not a complete
Further: Suppoſe two perſons to be talking
of a third perſon, whoſe name they either
know not, or do not care to be continually
repeating: it is evident, that the eaſieſt way
of managing ſuch a converſation would be
to adopt a pronoun, ſuch as he and him.
"I did not ſee Alexander to-day, but Alex"ander
ſent word, that Alexander would do
"Alexander the favour to call at my houſe
"in the evening:" — is not this more complex,
and leſs intelligible, than if I were to
fay, "I did not ſee Alexander to-day, but
"he fent word, that he would do himſelf the
favour to call at my houſe?"
Theſe three Pronouns, I, Thou, and He,
are called in our grammars the pronouns of
the firſt, ſecond, and third perſon. For it is
ſaid, that the ſpeaker, who denotes himſelf
by the pronoun I, is the chief perſon with
regard to his own diſcourſe. It ſhould rather
be ſaid, that he is the perſon, whom we firſt
attend to; for we naturally turn our eyes,
and incline our ears, to the perſon who
ſpeaks. He who is ſpoken to, and whom
the ſpeaker addreſſes, by the pronoun thou or
you, is the next who draws our attention.
And the perſon or thing ſpoken of, expreſſed
by he or it, is, in contradiſtinction to the
other two, called the third perſon.
That the uſe of pronouns may be conſidered
as poſteriour in time to that of nouns
and a kind of refinement upon it, appears
from a fact, which every body muſt have
obſerved, that when a child begins to ſpeak
and knows his own name, he is apt to uſe
it in ſpeaking of himſelf; and it requires
ſome pains, or ſome practice at leaſt, to teach
him how to ſupply its place by the pronouns
of the firſt perſon I, and Me.
If it be aſked, whether pronouns, like
nouns they repreſent, muſt admit the diſtintion
of unity and plurality, the anſwer is
obviouſly, yes. For one or more perſons
may ſpeak, or one may ſpeak the ſentiment
of many; and to one or to more perſons our
ſpeech may be addreſſed; and the perſons of
things ſpoken of may be either one or many.
And therefore I muſt have a plural we; those
muſt have ye or you; and he or it muſt have
they. And the ſame analogy muſt take place
in all languages.
The Greeks and Romans, in addreſſing
one perſon, uſed the ſingular of the pronoun,
thou; whereas we, and many other
modern nations, uſe the plural you. But in
very ſolemn ſtyle, as when we invoke the
Supreme Being, we uſe Thou: and, what is
remarkable, we ſometimes uſe the ſame form
of the pronoun in contemptuous or very
familiar language. This laſt mode of ſpeech
the French, who have it as well as we, expreſs
by the verb tutoyer; and Shakeſpeare
makes thou a verb of the ſame import "If
"thou thoueſt him three or four times it will
not be amiſs:" that is, if thou addreſſeſt
him by the contemptuous or familiar appellation
of Thou. — The people called Quakers
profeſs, in imitation of the ſcripture ſtyle, to
uſe thou on all occaſions, when ſpeaking to
one perſon; but many of them ungrammatically
put the oblique caſe thee in its place.
In the Latin tongue, it is a rule, when the
pronouns of the firſt and ſecond perſon are
joined by the copulative, to give precedency
to the former, and ſay, Ego et Tu; but we
uſe a contrary arrangement, You and I; for
it would look like arrogance if one were to
ſay in Engliſh, I and You. One Engliſh author,
indeed, has, in a certain controverſial
treatiſe, ſaid, not only, "I and Doctor ſuch--
"a-one," (naming his opponent), but alſo,
"I and the Publick:" but it is a ſingularity,
in which I believe he will not be imitated.
Cardinal Wolſey was blamed for writing in
one of his letters, Ego et Rex meus, I and my
king; for this, though agreeable to the idiom
of the language in which he wrote, is ſo repugnant
to our manners, that it was thought
nothing but the moſt extravagant vanity could
have induced him to adopt it.
It is difficult to preſcribe laws to ceremony.
A Spaniard, out of reſpect, walks
before you out of his houſe; to intimate,
that he has ſuch confidence in you, that he
could leave it in your poſſeſſion: we, out of
reſpect, make our friend walk out of our
houſe before us; to intimate, that we account
him the better man. The cuſtoms
are contrary, though they proceed from the
ſame principle.
A King, exerting his authority on a ſolemn
occaſion, adopts the plural of the firſt perſon,
"We ſtrictly command and charge:"
meaning, that he acts by the advice of counſellors,
or rather, that he is the repreſentative
of a whole people. The ſame form of ſpeech
was frequent in the mouth of an old Roman,
though a private man: and, in alluſion to
the Claſſick idiom", Engliſh authors do ſometimes,
in ſpeaking of themſelves, ſay We and
Us, inſtead of I and Me; but of late (except
when ſeveral writers are ſuppoſed to be concerned
in the ſame work) it has been thought
more elegant, becauſe it is become more
faſhionable, at leaſt in ſerious compoſition,
to uſe thoſe pronouns in the ſingular. — It
appears, then, that though the three pronouns
in queſtion are neceſſary in all languages,
the modes of applying them are not
in all nations uniform.
Thoſe of the firſt and ſecond perfons have
no diſtinction of gender in any language I
know *; nor is it neceſſary they ſhould.
For perſons converſing together muſt know
one another's ſex from the voice, dreſs, and
other circumſtances; and therefore it is not
more requiſite that their words ſhould imply
it, than that my friend, every time he ſpeaks
to me, ſhould tell me his name. I and You,
therefore, ego and tu, belong to both ſexes
indifferently, and are maſculine or feminine,
according to the ſex of the perſons whoſe
names they ſtand for. Thus a man would
ſay, Ego ſum ille quern quæris, I am he whom
you ſeek; but a woman would ſay, Ego ſum
illa quam quæris, I am ſhe whom you ſeek.
The pronoun ego, I, is the ſame in both
ſentences: the other words, that admit of
ſuch variation, aſſume the gender of the
The pronoun of the third perſon muſt
have the diſtinction of gender. It repreſents
that which is the ſubject of the converſation;
the gender whereof, if it be abſent,
cannot be known to the hearer, unleſs
notified by the words that are ſpoken. If
the ſubject of converſation be a man, the
pronoun that ſtands for it muſt be maſculine;
if a woman, it muſt be feminine;
* In Hebrew, the pronoun of the ſecond perſon has
the diſtinction of gender But this cannot be neceſſary in
language, becauſe it is particular.
if a thing, it may be neuter, unleſs the
cuſtom of the language determine otherwiſe.
So that in language it would ſeem neceſſary,
or at leaſt convenient, that there ſhould be
three pronouns of the third perfon, anſwering
to he, ſhe, it; ille, illa, illud; ekeinos, ekeinê,
The neceſſity, or the utility, of this, will
be ſtill more apparent, (as Mr. Harris ingeniouſly
obſerves) if we ſuppoſe it wanting.
Suppoſe then, that in Engliſh there is no
other pronoun of the third perſon but he and
him; and that, in an account of Adam and
Eve and the forbidden fruit, we read thus,
"He prevailed on him to eat him;" it is
plain, that from theſe words we ſhould not
know what was eaten, who did eat, or who
adviſed to eat. But let the genders of the
pronoun be diſtinguiſhed, "She prevailed
"on him to eat it;" and all ambiguity
Further: the thing or perſon ſpoken of,
which is notified by the pronoun of the third
perſon, may bear various relations to the
ſpeakers, as well as to other things: it may
be near, or diſtant, preſent or abſent, belonging
to the ſpeaker, or to the hearer, or
to ſome other perſon, &c. Hence it will be
convenient to have a variety of pronouns
expreſſive of the third perſon under theſe
various relations; as this, that, mine, thine,
his, hers, theirs, ours, &c. — But obſerve, that
theſe words are not of the nature of pronouns,
except when they ſupply the place
of a noun; which is not always the caſe.
They are pronouns, when we ſay, "Give me
"that" (pointing to it) — "I will keep this."
When they do not ſupply the place of a
noun; but are joined to a noun, in order to
aſcertain or define it, they belong to a claſs
of words, to be conſidered hereafter, and
may be called pronominal articles; as in
theſe examples: this man I eſteem; that man
I admire; your ſtature is tall; my health is
bad, &c.
The perſon who ſpeaks, and the perſon
who is ſpoken to, may either of them be the
ſubject of converſation; as "I am he who
"ſent you a letter yeſterday. You are the
"man I was looking for;" — ſo that the pronouns
of the firſt and ſecond perſon may
coincide with the third: but with one another
they cannot; for, to ſay, I am thou, or, thou
art I, would not be ſenſe in any language,
becauſe it implies a confuſion of perſons, and
that a man is not himſelf, but ſome other
The pronouns of the firſt and ſecond perſon
differ alſo in another reſpect from thoſe
of the third. I and Thou, We and Ye, Us
and You, Me and Thee, point out the perſons
whoſe names they ſtand for, and are therefore
underſtood even when nothing previous
has been ſaid. But He, She, It, &c. are
terms of univerſal application; and cannot
be underſtood, unleſs they are referred to
ſomething that went before, or is to come
after, in the diſcourſe. If I ſay, "I am
"hungry," or, "Thou art good," the perſon
ſignified by the pronoun is known to be
no other than myſelf the ſpeaker, or him or
her to whom I addreſs myſelf; and this is
equally known, whether I have ſaid any thing
previous or not. But if I begin a ſubject by
ſaying, "He is wiſe, She is fair, I want them,"
I am not underſtood, till I ſay expreſly, what
the perſons or the things are, to which I
The diviſions of pronouns into Primitive
and Derivative, and into Demonſtrative, Reciprocal,
Interrogative, Poſſeſſive, &c. may
be found in any common grammar; and
therefore I ſhall ſay nothing of them in this
place. But there is one diviſion of Pronouns,
which muſt not be overlooked, becauſe
it leads to ſome remarks of a more
general nature.
All the pronouns hitherto mentioned may
introduce a ſentence, and are therefore called
Prepoſitive. But there is alſo a Subjunctive
pronoun; the nature of which I ſhall illuſtrate
by an example ſimilar to that which
Mr. Harris has given.
If I ſay, "The magnet is a ſtone: The
"magnet attracts iron," I utter two ſentences,
that are diſtinct and perfectly independent;
for either may be underſtood without
the other. If inſtead of the noun magnet
in the ſecond ſentence I put the pronoun
it, and ſay, "The magnet is a ſtone: it
"attracts iron;" the two ſentences are ſtill
diſtinct in ſyntax, but in meaning not independent;
for, to find the ſenſe of it in the
laſt, you muſt look to what went before,
which informs you, that magnet is the noun
whoſe place is ſupplied by that pronoun.
Now it is eaſy to join theſe two ſentences into
one, by means of the copulative conjunction,
"The magnet is a ſtone, and it attracts
"iron." Remove the words and it, and in
their ſtead inſert the pronoun which or that
"The magnet is a ſtone, which attracts
"iron;" and you form one ſentence of the
ſame meaning, and ſomewhat more conciſe
than the other. This word which is the ſubjunctive
pronoun I ſpeak of. It expreſſes
the united powers of the copulative conjunction
and, and of the prepoſitive pronoun
it: and herein conſiſts its character. When
it relates to a rational being, it commonly
aſſumes, in modern Engliſh, the form who
or that; and which, or that, when it alludes
to things irrational or inanimate. In old
Engliſh, which is often uſed where in modern
Engliſh we ſhould ſay who; as in the
firſt clauſe of the Lord's prayer.* It is ſome*
Some clergymen, to ſhow their extreme delicacy
read "Our Father, who art in heaven." But if nothing
times omitted in colloquial ſtyle, as in this
example, "The perſon you ſpeak of is not
"the perſon I mean." The correſpondent
pronoun in Greek is * hos and hoſtis; in Latin,
qui, quæ, quod.
But I will not affirm, that this ſubjunctive
pronoun is either ſo neceſſary, or ſo frequent,
in all languages, as in thoſe which are moſt
familiar to us. Being framed for the purpoſe
of ſubjoining one ſentence to another,
and conſequently of making one complex
ſentence of two or more ſimple fentences,
it is evident, that if we could be ſatisfied
with expreſſing ourſelves in ſhort ſentences,
this pronoun might in many caſes be wanted.
And it is obſervable, that illiterate perſons
and children rarely uſe it; joining their ſhort
periods, where they chooſe to join them, by
the connective and; which is indeed a ſimpler
and more obvious expedient. In ſome very
antient languages, too, as the Hebrew, which
will pleaſe them, but what is modern, why do they not
alſo change pardoneth and abſolveth into pardons and abſolves,
ghoſt into ſpirit, world without end into through all eternity,
and all the other old words and terminations into new
ones? Theſe old modes of language, in writings conſecrated
to religious uſe, ſhould never be altered, till they
become unintelligible, or ludicrous, or likely to occaſion
a miſtake of the ſenſe. — Virgil, Salluſt, and Quintilian
knew, and all good writers and criticks are ſenſible, that
old words judiciouſly applied give an air of grandeur to
certain kinds of compoſition, and that familiar expreſſions
have often an effect directly contrary.
* — ός όστις.
have been employed chiefly for expreſſing
plain ſentiments in the plaineſt manner, without
aiming at any elaborate length or harmony
of periods, this pronoun occurs not
ſo often, as in Greek and Latin, and thoſe
other tongues, which have been embelliſhed
by the joint labours of the philoſopher and
rhetorician. Read the firſt chapter of Geneſis:
and you will find that the ſubjunctive
pronoun occurs but ſeldom; the ſentences
being ſhort, particularly towards the beginning,
and joined for the moſt part by the
connective. And the ſame ſimplicity of compoſition
is frequent in Scripture, eſpecially
in the hiſtorical parts; which in that Divine
book is a great beauty, and an evidence both
of its truth, and of its antiquity. For had
the diction been more elaborate, it would
have had too much the air of human contrivance,
and of the arts of latter times.
But in other compoſitions, the ſame unadorned
ſimplicity would not always be agreeable.
For we are not diſpleaſed to find human
decorations in a work of human art.
Beſides, the ſentiments of inſpiration ſupport
themſelves by their intrinſick dignity; whereas
thoſe of men muſt often be dignity; and
recommended by the graces of language.
The inſpired author commands our attention,
and has a right to it; but other writers
muſt flatter and amuſe, in order to prevail
with us to attend. — But this by the by. I
only meant to ſay, that complex ſentences,
which without the ſubjunctive pronoun could
not eaſily be framed, may be ſo contrived and
diſpoſed, as to contribute not a little to the
beauty of human compoſitions: though in,
writings of a higher order we neither expect
nor deſire them; becauſe we know, that,
however pleaſing, they are but human contrivances
at the beſt. The ſame ornaments
are unſeemly in a temple, which we admire
in a private apartment; and that rhetorical
art, which in Virgil and Cicero is ſo charming,
would be quite unſuitable to the majeſty
of Scripture.
The ſubjunctive pronoun may join two
ſentences ſo cloſely, that to a ſuperficial obſerver
they ſhall ſeem to be but one. What
can be more clearly one ſentence, than the
following, "The man whom you ſee is Peter?"
Is it poſſible, one might ſay, to analyſe
it into two? Nothing more eaſy. Here
are two diſtinct affirmations; and here, therefore,
may be two ſentences. "You ſee a
man. That man is Peter." Both theſe are
comprehended in the abovementioned propoſition;
and theſe two taken together expreſs
its full meaning. It is, therefore, not a ſimple,
but a compound ſentence. In fact,
wherever there is a ſubjunctive pronoun,
there muſt be the import of both a pronoun,
and a copulative conjunction: and all conjunctions
connect ſentences, as will be ſeen
Of Attributives — Adjectives, Participles,
Verbs. — Their diſtinguiſhing characters. —
Compariſon of Adjectives.
THE words hitherto conſidered have been
called by ſome writers Primary and Secondary
Subſtantives. Both claſſes denote
ſubſtances or things; the former, directly;
the latter, by ſupplying the place of the
But by nouns and pronouns alone not one
human ſentiment could be expreſſed. There
muſt, therefore, in all languages, be other
claſſes of words. Men not only ſpeak of
perſons and things, but alſo of the qualities,
characters, and operations, of perſons and
things. What would it ſignify to ſpeak of
Ceſar, if one were never to ſay whether Ceſar
was good or bad, or what were his qualities,
or what his actions?
If we were to hear ſuch an expreſſion as,
— was brave — was admired — invaded Britain,
we ſhould naturally aſk, who was ſo? and,
who did ſo? for till we be informed of this,
we cannot know what is meant. Not that
the words brave, admired, invaded, have no
meaning; but becauſe they denote certain
qualities, or attributes, which lead our
thoughts to the perſon or thing to whom
they are ſuppoſed to belong. For qualities,
imply ſomething in which they inhere, or to
which they pertain: and if there were no
perſons or things in the univerſe, there could
be no qualities or attributes. Now the word
that denote attributes or qualities are in general
called Attributives.
The antient Greek Grammarians called
them * rhêmata, verba, verbs: — whatever
may be ſaid, or, more accurately, whatever
may be affirmed, or denied, concerning anything
or perſon. Thus of Ceſar, it may be
affirmed, that he was brave, that he was admired,
that he invaded Britain; and of the
ſame Ceſar, it may be denied, that he was
cruel, that he was deſpiſed, that he conquered.
Britain. In theſe affirmations and negations,
Ceſar is a ſubſtantive, name, or noun; he is
a pronoun; and brave, cruel, admired, deſpiſed,
invaded, conquered, are attributives.
In all the languages we know, and probably
in all others, there are three ſorts of
attributives, which are called in the grammars,
Adjectives, Participles, and Verbs. —
* ρ'ηματα.
The Adjective denotes a ſimple quality, as
brave, cruel, good, ſwift, round, ſquare. —
The Participle is ſaid to denote a quality;
together with a certain modification of time;
as amans, loving, which relates to time preſent;
amatus, loved, which alludes to time
paſt; and amaturus, about to love, which
points at time future *. — The Verb is ſtill
more complex than the participle. It not
only expreſſes an attribute, and refers that
attribute to time, paſt, preſent, or to
come; but alſo comprehends an aſſertion
ſo that it may form, when joined to a noun,
a complete ſentence, or propoſition. Thus
when I ſay, Alexander ambulat, Alexander
walks, I utter, though in two words, a
complete ſentence: and this ſentence comprehends
in it theſe four things: firſt, a ſubſtantive
proper name, Alexander; ſecondly,
an attribute, quality, or operation of Alexander,
walking; thirdly, this quality or operation
fixed down to the preſent time, walks,
or is walking; and fourthly, this quality as
affirmed to belong to the perſon ſpoken of,
Alexander is walking.
From the verb take away the aſſertion, and
there remains the attribute and the time,
which are commonly thought to form the
* This idea of the Participle may ſuffice at preſent;
having been generally adopted by Grammarians. But it
is not accurate; nay it is very inaccurate. See the fifth
ſection of this chapter.
eſſence of the participle; and from the participle
take away the time, and there remains
the ſimple quality, as expreſſed by the
adjective. Thus from amat, the verb, loveth,
or is loving, take away the aſſection is, and
there remains loving, which is called a participle
of the preſent time: and if we conſider
the attributive loving, not as bearing reference
to the preſent or to any particular
time, but as expreſſing a perſon's general
character which remains with him at all
times, we transform it into an adjective; as
when we ſay, a loving parent, a ſympathiſing
friend, Ariſtides fuit amantiſſimus æqui.
Doctus, Spectatus, Probatus, and many of
attributives of the ſame nature, are participles,
when they imply any notion of time
but adjectives, when they denote a quality
ſimply, without regard to time.
All ſubſtances, natural; imaginary, artificial,
and abſtract, and all perſons; and
in a word, whatever is expreſſed by a ſubſtantive,
may be characteriſed by qualities,
and, conſequently, joined in ſyntax to adjectives,
to participles, and to verbs. We
may ſay, a tall man, a riſing man, a man
ſpeaks or runs: a mournful muſe, an inſpiring
muſe, the muſe inſpires or ſings: a ſwift ſhip,
a toſſed ſhip, the ſhip overtakes the enemy: of
virtue we may ſay, that it is lovely, that it is
praiſed, that it brings happineſs: and, of Socrates,
that he was wiſe, that he was condemned,
and that he drank poiſon. Pronouns,
too, as they ſtand for nouns, may be characteriſed
in the ſame manner; as in the
two laſt examples.
From the method of arrangement commonly
followed in grammars, we might be
apt to conclude, that adjectives are of the
ſame claſs with nouns, and that the participle
is a part of the verb. But when we
examine theſe claſſes of words philoſophically,
that is, according to their meaning
and uſe, and without regard to their derivations,
or final letters, we ſhall be ſatisfied,
that the arrangement here given is right, and
that the other, though not materially wrong,
is however erroneous. In their nature, no
two ſorts of words can be more unlike, than
the ſubſtantive and the adjective; and therefore
it muſt be a fault in diſtribution, to
refer both to the Noun. The Subſtantive is
the name of the thing ſpoken of, and in
Greek and Latin is called name, for it is
onoma in the one, and nomen in the other:
and it would have been better, if in Engliſh
we had called it the name, rather than the
noun; for this laſt word, being uſed only in
grammar, we are more apt to miſunderſtand,
than the other, which is in familiar
uſe. But the adjective is not the name either
of a thing or of a perſon; nor is it a name
at all: it denotes a quality; and the Greeks
called it, not onoma, but epitheton or epithet,
and ſometimes rhêma; which laſt
word means whatever is affirmed or denied
of a thing or perſon. It is true, the term
rhêma does not diſtinguiſh it from the verb
and participle; but then it does not confound
it with the noun or ſubſtantive. And
in fact, the adjective or epithet partakes
more of the verb and participle, than of the
noun. So that, if there be any reaſon for
diſtinguiſhing the noun from the verb, there
is equal reaſon for diſtinguiſhing the noun
from the adjective: and the term adjective--
noun, however common, is really as incongruous,
as verb-noun or participle-noun
would be.
The reaſon, why grammarians have confounded
the adjective with the noun, ſeems
to be, becauſe in Greek and Latin both are
declined by caſes, reſemble each other in
termination, and, when joined in ſyntax,
agree in caſe, gender, and number. But this
is no good reaſon. If it were, participles
alſo ſhould be called nouns: which in no
grammar, ſo far as I know, has ever been
done. — Adjectives are ſometirnes called adnouns;
which would ſeem not altogether
improper, becauſe they are joined to nouns;
but is not accurate, becauſe it does not
diſtinguiſh the adjective from the participle
and verb, which are alſo joined to nouns.*
* If adjectives may ever with propriety he called Adnouns,
it ſeems to be, when they are neceſſary to give the
The Participle, Participium, (in Greek
* metochê) was probably ſo called, becauſe it
partakes of the nature both of the verb and
of the adjective; of the former, by expreſſing
time, and of the latter, by denoting a
quality. But, though derived from the verb,
it is not to be conſidered as a part of it;
becauſe, though it may reſemble a verb in
expreſſing a quality with time, it implies no
affirmation, and conſequently wants the
verb's diſtinguiſhing character. If its derivation
were to give it any right to be conſidered
as a part of the verb, then the adverb
preſumptuouſly might as well claim to be a
part of the adjective preſumptuous, of the
noun preſumption, and of the verb preſume.
Accordingly, the Latin grammarians, while
they confound adjectives with nouns, do yet
very properly diſtinguiſh the participle from
every other part of ſpeech.
Wherever adjectives and participles admit
the diſtinctions of gender, number, and
caſe, it would ſeem natural, that, in theſe
three reſpects, they ſhould agree with the
full ſignification of a noun. Thus the golden eagle is no
more than the name of one ſpecies of the aquiline tribe.
Accordingly, what in one tongue is thus expreſſed by two
words may in another be ſignified by one. Thus χζυσαιετος
is the name of the ſame bird in Greek. Similar
are innumerable; as the Mediterranean ſea, a ſetting dog,
&c. See The Philoſophy of Rhetorick. Book iii. chap. 2.
* Μετοχη, from μετεχειν participare.
nouns to which they belong. Indeed,
cannot ſee, why adjectives and participles
ſhould have thoſe diſtinctions, unleſs it be,
that they may the more effectually coincide
with their reſpective nouns. For bonus, movens,
good, moving, or any other adjective or
participle, conſidered in itſelf, cannot be of
any number or of any gender: for it may be
aſſerted of one, or of many; and of that;
which is either maſculine or feminine, and of
that which is neuter. Twelve men or women,
for example, may be good, or in motion,
as well as one; and many ſorts of animals,
and inanimate things, as well as
one ſort. — Agreeably to theſe remarks, we
find, that in Latin, Greek, and ſome other
languages, wherein the termination of adjectives
and participles varies according to
the gender and number; — that in thoſe languages,
I ſay, adjectives and participles follow
the gender, number, and caſe of the
ſubſtantives to which they are joined: but
Engliſh adjectives and participles, which
never vary the termination, and are all of the
nature of indeclinable Latin adjectives (as
frugi, nequam, centum) adapt themſelves,
without any change, to nouns of all genders,
caſes, and numbers. — Whence we may infer,
that the declenſion of adjectives and participles,
though it takes place in many tongues,
and may contribute to elegance and harmony
of ſtyle, is not eſſential to language, and is
therefore a conſideration which belongs not
to Univerſal Grammar. And it will appear
afterwards, that the ſame thing is true of the
declenſion of nouns.
The compariſon of adjectives is another
ſource of variety, which demands attention;
that we may ſee how far it is, or is not, eſſential
to language. — Things or perſons, that
have a certain quality in common, may differ
in reſpect of the degrees in which they have
it. This paper is white, and ſnow is white;
but ſnow is whiter than this paper. Pliny
was eloquent, Ceſar was more eloquent, and
Cicero was the moſt eloquent of the three.
Sophocles was wiſe, Socrates was wiſer; but
Solomon was the wiſeſt of men. Theſe,
and the like degrees, of the ſame quality,
muſt be obſervable in all ages and nations,
muſt be ſpoken of by all men, and muſt
therefore in one way or other be expreſſed in
all languages.
In Latin and Engliſh, there are four ways
of expreſſing this variety. The firſt is, by
joining to the adjective an adverb of comparative
increaſe; as more hard, very hard, moſt
hard; magis durus, valde durus, maxime durus.
— The ſecond is, by varying the termination
of the adjective: wiſe, wiſer, wiſeſt;
ſapiens, ſapientior, ſapientiſſimus; * ſophos,
ſophôteros, ſophôtatos. — The third is, by aſſuming
other adjectives, which do themſelves
* Σοφος, σοφωτεƻος, σοφωτα˥ος.
denote both a quality and compariſon; as
good, better; bad, worſe; bonus, melior, optimus.
— The fourth is, by blending the two
methods laſt mentioned: as in Engliſh, good,
better, beſt; where beſt (contracted from the
Saxon Betteſt or Betſt) is plainly allied to
better, but better (though formed from the
Saxon Bet) is, in Engliſh, a primitive word,
not derived from good, nor from any other
adjective now in the language. So in Latin,
malus, pejor, peſſimus; and ſo in Greek
* kakos, cheirôn, cheiriſtos, — In other tongues,
other methods equally convenient, perhaps
and equally elegant, may have been adopted,
for marking thoſe increaſing degrees of qualities,
which are commonly called degrees of
As many verbs either denote, or imply
action; and as the ſame action may be performed
with greater or with leſs energy; it
ſeems reaſonable, that they, as well as adjectives,
ſhould admit of increaſe or of decreaſe
in their ſignification; which is probably
the caſe in all languages. But in every
language that we know, it is done by means
of adverbs, and not by varying the termination
of the verb: for this would have added
unneceſſarily to the compexneſs of that
attributive, which in moſt languages is complex
enough already. Thus we ſay in Eng*
ϰαϰος, χειƻων, χειƻιςος.
liſh, Brutus loved money much, Cato loved
it more, Craſſus loved it exceedingly. So in
Latin, amat, magis amat, vehementor amat.
Such adverbs as expreſs the meaning of
attributives, may admit of compariſon,
the attribute itſelf be capable of more and
leſs. Thus diu, for a long time, is varied
into diutius and diutiſſime; ſtulte, in a fooliſh
manner, or fooliſhly, into ſtultius and ſtultiſſime;
prope, in a near ſituation, into propius,
and proxime, &c. So in Engliſh we
ſay, adverbially, long, longer, very long;
fooliſhly, more fooliſhly, moſt fooliſhly;
near, nearer, neareſt or next.
Thoſe words admit not of compariſon,
which denote what is ſo definite as to be unſuſceptible
of more and leſs. Quality, ſays
Ariſtotle, admits of more and leſs; but ſubſtance
does not. If this be allowed, it follows,
that ſubſtantives do not admit of compariſon,
but that attributives do. Goliah
was taller and ſtronger than David; but David
was as much a male of the human ſpecies
as Goliah. If we ſay of any one, that he is
more a man than another, we give to the
noun the ſenſe of an attributive; for the
meaning muſt be, that he is more manly, or
that he poſſeſſes ſome other good qualities in a
higher degree. So when Pope ſays, of a
certain perſon, that he is "a tradeſman,
"meek, and much a liar," the laſt phraſe is
the ſame with much given to lying. And
when the Scripture declares, of the phariſee's
proſelyte, that he is more a child of hell, the
meaning is, that he is more liable to puniſhment,
becauſe more wicked; and therefore,
the words a child of hell, have the import of
an adjective.
Pronouns, as they ſupply the place of
nouns, muſt, like them, be incapable of
compariſon. It is true, we ſay in Engliſh
the very ſame, and in Plautus we find Ipſiſſimus
the ſuperlative of ipſe or ipſus. But
theſe are redundancies. For the ſame, and
ipſe, expreſs all that can be meant by the very
ſame, and ipſiſſimus. Many ſuch ſuperfluities
find their way into the language of converſation;
but in ſolemn and elegant ſtyle
is better to avoid them.
Adjectives, whereof the meaning is already
as extenſive as it can be, as omnis, cunctus,
totus, univerſus; and thoſe that denote
exact figure, or definite quantity or number,
admit not of degrees of compariſon, becauſe
they are unſuſceptible of more and leſs.
Seven grains of ſand are as much and as
really ſeven, as ſeven planets. My two-foot
rule is as much a two-foot rule as yours.
One circle cannot be more circular than
another. We may ſay, however, that one
figure is more circular than another figure.
But in this example the adjective ſignifies,
not exact figure, but approaching to the figure
of a circle; and therefore, being, in reſpect
of the figure, indefinite, is capable of more
and leſs, and conſequently of compariſon.
How many degrees of compariſon are
there? Every ſchool-boy can anſwer, Three; for three are mentioned by name in his grammar.
How many parts are in an inch? A
common joiner would perhaps anſwer, Eight,
or Ten; for that is the number marked on
his foot-rule. But if we conſider this matter
philoſophically, we ſhall ſee reaſon to
affirm, that the degrees of compariſon are,
like the parts of an inch, infinite in number,
or at leaſt indefinite. — A mountain is larger
than a mite: — by how many degrees? How
much bigger is the earth than a grain of
land? By how many degrees was Socrates
wiſer than Alcibiades? or Cleopatra more
beautiful than Octavia? or Varro more
learned than Cato? Or by how many degrees
is ſnow whiter than this paper? It is
plain, that to theſe and the like queſtions no
definite anſwers can be returned.
In quantities, however, that may be exactly
meaſured, the degrees of exceſs may be
exactly aſcertained, and definitely expreſſed.
A foot is juſt twelve times as long as an
inch; and a man ſeven feet high is double
the height of one of forty-two inches. But
in regard to qualities, and to thoſe quantities
which cannot be meaſured exactly, it is impoſſible
to ſay how many degrees may be
comprehended in the comparative exceſs.
But though theſe degrees be infinite or indefinite
in fact, they cannot be ſo in language.
Nor would it be convenient, if language
were to expreſs many of them. More
need not be expreſſed than two; the firſt, to
ſignify ſimple exceſs, which is commonly
called the Comparative; and the other to
denote very great exceſs, or the greateſt
which has obtained the name of the Superlative.*
As to the Poſitive degree of compariſon,
which grammarians talk of, it is
nothing more than the ſimple form of the
adjective, and implies not either compariſon
or degree. The reaſon, ſays Ruddiman
why it has been accounted one of the three
degrees, is, becauſe the other two are founded
upon and formed from it.
But how is it poſſible by two words to expreſs
accurately the various degrees of more
and leſs, in which the ſame attribute may
appear in thoſe things that we compare together?
I anſwer, that, in meaſured quantities,
and in qualities that may be aſcertained
by the application of quantity, this is
eaſily done by means of numbers: — as, a
foot is twelve times longer than an inch; an
hour is ſixty times longer than a minute;
boiling water is one hundred and ſixteen degrees
hotter than the human blood. — In re*
The expreſſion here is too brief to be accurate; but
it will be more fully explained by and by.
gard to unmeaſured quantities and qualities,
I anſwer, that the degrees of more and leſs
may be expreſſed, intelligibly, at leaſt, if not
accurately, by adverbs, or words of like import:
— as, Socrates was much wiser than Alcibiades;
Snow is a great deal whiter than this
paper; Epaminondas was far the moſt accompliſhed
of the Thebans; the evening--
ſtar is a glorious object, but the ſun is incomparably
more glorious; the Deity is infinitely
greater than the greateſt of his creatures.
The inaccuracy of theſe and the like expreſſions
is not a material inconvenience; and,
though it were, it is unavoidable; for human
ſpeech can only expreſs human thought; and
where thought is neceſſarily inaccurate, language
muſt be ſo too.
Sanctius, the author of a grammatical
treatiſe called Minerva, maintains, that the
Superlative degree does not imply compariſon.
But, though he was a learned man,
I muſt differ from him in this, as in many
other things: and the leſs regard is due to
his judgment, as he ſeems to have written.
with a view to eſtabliſh paradoxes, and abuſe
the grammarians. To me the Superlative
ſeems to be as really a comparative, as the
Comparative itſelf. But that this may appear
with full evidence, I muft obſerve, that, in
all the languages I know, and probably in
all others, there are two Superlatives; which,
though ſimilar in meaning, are different in
their uſe. The firſt may be called the ſuperlative
of compariſon; the ſecond, the superlative
of eminence.
I. When I ſay, that Cato was more learned
than Marius, and that Varro was the moſt
learned of all the Romans; is not a compariſon
of Varro with other learned Romans
as plainly implied in the laſt clauſe, as a
compariſon of Cato with Marius is in the
firſt? For I would aſk, whether one who
had never known or heard of any other Roman
could truly and rationally ſay, "that
"no other Roman was ſo learned as Varro;"
a ſentiment, which is plainly ſignified when
we ſay, that Varro was the moſt learned of
all the people of Rome; and which no man
(who had any regard to ſenſe or truth) would
entertain, or expreſs, till after a compariſon
had actually been made. So in this example,
Socrates was wiſer than any other Athe"nian,
but Solomon was the wiſeſt of men,"
Socrates is compared with the Athenians, and
Solomon with mankind in general.
What then, it may be ſaid, if both imply
compariſon, is the difference between the
Comparative and the Superlative? Is it, that
the ſuperlative always expreſſes a greater exceſs
than the Comparative? No. Socrates
was the wiſeſt of the Athenians, but Solomon
was wiſer than Socrates: — here a higher ſuperiority
of wiſdom is denoted by the comparative
wiſer, than by the ſuperlative wiſeſt.
— Is it, becauſe the Superlative implies a compariſon
of one with many, while the comparative
implies a compariſon of one with one?
No: this is not always the caſe neither. The
Pſalmiſt ſays, that "he is wiſir than all his
"teachers;" where, though the comparative
is uſed, there is a compariſon of one
with many. — The real difference between theſe
two degrees of compariſon may be explained
When we ufe the Superlative, it is in
conſequence of having compared individuals
with the ſpecies to which they belong, or
one or more ſpecies with the genus under
which they are comprehended. Thus, Socrates
was the wiſeſt of the Athenians; the
Athenians were the moſt learned of antient nations;
Homer, Virgil, and Milton, are the
greateſt of poets: — where obſerve, that Socrates,
though compared with his countrymen,
is at the ſame time conſidered as one
of them; that the Athenians, though compared
with antient nations, are conſidered
as one of thoſe nations; and that Homer,
Virgil, and Milton are conſidered as three
individuals of that ſpecies of authors, with
whom they are compared, and to whom it
is affirmed that they are ſuperiour. And
hence, this ſuperlative is in modern language
followed by the prepoſition and in Greek
and Latin by the genitive caſe of the plural;
to ſignify, that the object, which has the preeminence,
is conſidered as belonging to that
claſs of things or perſons, with which it is
But, when we uſe the comparative degree,
the objects compared are ſet in direct oppoſition,
and the one is not conſidered as a part
of the other, or as comprehended under it.
If I ſay, "Cicero was more eloquent than
"the Romans," I ſpeak abſurdly; becauſe
every body knows, that of the claſs of men
expreſſed by the word Romans Cicero was
one: but when I ſay, that Cicero was more
eloquent than all the other Romans, or than
any other Roman, I ſpeak not abſurdly; becauſe,
though the perſons ſpoken of were all
of the ſame claſs or city, yet Cicero is herelf
ſet in contradiſtinction to the reſt of his
countrymen, and is not conſidered as one of;
the perſons with whom he is compared. —
Moreover, if the Pſalmiſt had ſaid, "I am
the wiſeſt of my teachers,"the phraſe
would have been improper, becauſe implying
that he was one of them: but when he ſays,
"I am wiſer than my teachers," he does not
conſider himſelf as one of them, but ſets
himſelf in contradiſtinction to them, — Again,
"Solomon was the wiſeſt of men:" — here
Solomon is compared with a ſpecies of beings
whereof he himſelf was one, and therefore
the Superlative is uſed: but "Solomon was
"of men the wiſer," is nonſenſe, (at leaſt
in Engliſh) becauſe the uſe of the comparative
would imply, that he was ſet in oppoſition
to mankind; which is ſo far from being
the caſe, that he is expreſly conſidered as one
of them.
In Engliſh we cannot ſay, "he is the
"talleſt of the two;" it muſt be, "the taller
"of the two:" nor do we ſay, "he is the
"taller of the three;" it muſt be "the
talleſt." But this does not hold univerſally
in other languages. The Greeks ſometimes
have the ſuperlative, where we ſhould
uſe the comparative. * Outis allê duſtucheſtati;
atê gunê emou pephuken: "there is no other
"woman moſt wretched than I;" or, (to
give the meaning in better Engliſh) "there
"is no other woman more ſuperlatively
"wretched." They alſo uſe the comparative
inſtead of the ſuperlative. "And now
"abide (ſays the Apoſtle) Faith, Hope, Cha"rity;
theſe three; but the greater of theſe
"is Charity:" for the word in Greek is
† meizôn and not ‡ megiſtê. Or we might
render it thus: "And now abide Faith,
Hope, Charity, theſe three; but greater
"than thoſe that is, than faith and hope)
is charity." In like manner, it is ſaid
the Goſpel, that "a grain of muſtard-ſeed
"is the ſmaller of all ſeeds; but when grown
"up, it is the greater of herbs." In both
theſe places, our Tranſlators have preſerved
* Ουτις αλλη ˠυςυχεςατη γυνη εμˠ πεφυϰεν. † Μειζω.ν
‡ Μειγιςη.
the Engliſh idioms. — Some examples of the
ſame kind may be found in Latin authors:
but they are not frequent, either in Latin
or in Greek.
2. The other Superlative I took the liberty
to call the ſuperlative of eminence. It denotes
very great exceſs or defect, but is not joined
to any words that directly intimate compariſon:
as when we ſay, Cicero was a very
eloquent, or a moſt eloquent man; St. Kilda
is a very ſmall iſland; a mouſe is a moſt diminutive
Yet even in this Superlative, it may be
ſaid, that ſomething of compariſon ſeems to
be remotely or indirectly intimated; that,
for example, when we ſay, "he is a very tall
"man," it muſt be underſtood, that we
compare the perſon ſpoken of with other
men, or his ſtature with the ordinary human
ſtature. This is true: but yet we cannot
affirm, that compariſon is more clearly intimated
in this ſuperlative, than in the ſimple
attributive tall; for when we ſay, "he is a
"tall man," we muſt be underſtood to make
the ſame reference to the ordinary ſize of
men. So when we ſay, "Solomon was a
moſt wiſe, or a very wiſe man," we do in
deed diſtinguiſh him from other men who
were not ſo wiſe: but we mark a diſtinction
of the ſame kind, though not the ſame in
degree, when we ſay ſimply, that "Solomon
"was wife." Whereas, in the uſe of the
former ſuperlative, the compariſon is direct
and particular: for we not only expreſs great
ſuperiority or inferiority, but alſo mention
the perſons or things that are ſuperiour, as
well as thoſe that are inferiour.
In Engliſh, we diſtinguiſh theſe ſuperlatives,
by prefixing to the one the definite article
the, ſubjoining the prepoſition of or
among, with the name of the ſpecies or claſs
of things compared; as "Solomon was the
"wiſeſt of (or among) men: Hector was
"the moſt valiant of (or among) the Tro"jans."
To the other ſuperlative we only
prefix the indefinite article a: "he was a
"very good man; he is a moſt valiant foll"dier."
And obſerve, that our Superlative
termination eſt is peculiar to the former: we
may ſay "Homer was the ſublimeſt, or the
moſt ſublime, of poets ;" but we cannot
ſay, "Homer was a ſublimeſt poet;" it muſt
be, "Homer was a moſt ſublime, or a very
"ſublime poet." — Now, in Italian, the rule
is contrary; for the ſuperlative termination
denotes what I call the ſuperlative of eminence,
Cicerone fu eloquenetiſſimo, Cicero was
moſt eloquent, or very eloquent, or Cicero
was a moſt eloquent man: and the ſuperlative
of compariſon is expreſſed by the adverb
piu or more which, with the definite article
il prefixed, aſſumes the ſignification of moſt;
as Cicerone fu il piu eloquente dei Romani,
Cicero was the moſt eloquent of the
In a word, (that I may not take up more
time with the peculiarities of individual
tongues) different nations may have different
contrivances for expreſſing theſe degrees of
compariſon; but in one way or other it ſeems
neceſſary that they ſhould be expreſſed in all
In Hebrew, the compariſon of adjectives
is intimated, not by inflection, but by the;
aid of a prepoſition. Thus, in the comparative,
"Wiſdom is better than rubies,"
would be literally "Wiſdom is good above
"rubies." In the ſuperlative of compariſon,
"He is the beſt of them all," would
"He is good above them all." And, for
marking the ſuperlative of eminence, they
uſe adverbs correſponding to our moſt, very,
&c. This method is extremely ſimple, and
yet quite ſufficient for the purpoſe.
As I have here mentioned the Hebrew,
and ſhall have occaſion to ſpeak of it once
and again in the ſequel, I think it my duty to
ſay, that for the little knowledge I have of
the analogy of that language I am indebted
to my amiable friend and colleague, Dr.
Campbell; who in his Philoſophy of Rhetorick,
and other works, has given many proofs
of elegance as a writer, and of uncommon
penetration as a philoſopher and critick; and
who will ſoon (I hope) make an important
addition to the Theological Literature of his
country, by a new verſion of the four Goſpels,
with explanatory notes and critical Diſſertations:
a work for which he is eminently
qualified; not only by his natural talents
and philological accuracy, but alſo by his
comprehenſive knowledge of the languages,
and by that indefatigable zeal for religious
truth, which has engaged him to make the
ſtudy of the holy ſcriptures a great part of
his daily employment for many years.
The Subject of Attributives continued. — Of
Verbs; — their general nature inveſtigated
and expreſſed in a definition. — Conjectures in
regard to the Greek and Latin inflections.
THE Adjective denotes a ſimple quality,
the Participle, a quality with time*;
the Verb, a quality and time together with
an aſſertion. This account was already given
to diſtinguiſh theſe attributives from one an
other. But Verbs being of all words the
moſt complex and moſt curious, it will now:
be proper, to inquire more minutely into
their nature; and to ſhow, from what modifications
of human thought they derive their
We are endowed, not only with ſenſes to
perceive, and with memory to retain; but
alſo with reaſon and judgment, whereby we
attend to things, and compare them together,
ſo as to perceive their characters and mutual
relations. Thus I not only perceive the men
whom I ſee to-day, and remember thoſe whom
I ſaw yeſterday; but alſo form judgments concerning
them: and thoſe judgments I expreſs,
when I ſay, that one is ſtrong, another weak;
* See the fifth ſection of this chapter.
one tall, another ſhort; one young, another
old; one good, another bad; one wiſe, another
fooliſh, &c.
Take now any one of theſe judgments, and
expreſs it by itſelf; Solomon eſt ſapiens,
Solomon is wiſe. — Concerning theſe three
words, I obſerve, firſt, that they form a ſentence,
or a complete enunciation of thought:
ſecondly, that if the word eſt, is, were left
out, the other two words, Solomon wiſe, or
wiſe Solomon, would not form a ſentence
thirdly, that a ſubſtance or object is here
mentioned, Solomon, and a quality, wiſe; and
that the one is affirmed to be the character of
the other: and, fourthly, that if it were not
for the word eſt, is, nothing would be affirmed
of either the quality or the object;
for wiſe Solomon or Solomon wiſe contain no
affirmation. Now the word is, or eſt, is one
of thoſe words which are called verbs. — May
we not then ſay, that "it is the nature of a
verb, firſt, to expreſs an affirmation; and,
"ſecondly, to form, when united with a noun
"and a quality, a complete ſentence?"
Before I proceed, it may be neceſſary to
remark, that a ſentence comprehending a
thing, a quality, and an affirmation, is in Logick
called a propoſition; of which, the thing
ſpoken of is the ſubject; the quality, affirmed,
or denied, to belong to the ſubject, is the
predicate; and the word, or words, containing
the affirmation or negation, are the copula.
Thus, in the laſt example, Solomon is the
ſubject of the propoſition; is, the copula;
and wiſe, the predicate. Thus, in the following
propoſition, "To be juft is commendable,"
to be juſt is the ſubject, or that concerning
which the affirmation is made; is,
the copula; and commendable, the predicate
or that which is affirmed of the ſubject. —
Let it be further obſerved in this place, that
every propoſition is either affirmative, or
negative; that is, affirms or aſſerts, that the
predicate either does agree with the ſubject
or does not agree with it. When I ſay,
"God is good," I pronounce an affirmative
propoſition: when I ſay, "Poverty is not
criminal," I utter a negative propoſition,
wherein I affirm or aſſert, that criminal the
predicate does not agree with poverty the ſubject.
Every propoſition, therefore, whether
affirmative or negative, does ſtill imply affirmation
or aſſertion: for, to deny that a thing
is, is to affirm that it is not; to ſay that
"Pain is not good," is the ſame thing with
ſaying, "that it is evil," or "that it is in"different."
— Of propoſitions poſitively affirmative
the verb alone is the copula; as
"God is good:" ſuch as are negatively
affirmative have for their copula both the
verb and the negative particle, as "Poverty
"is not criminal." — This being premiſed
concerning propoſitions, I reſume the ſubject
of verbs.
I ſaid, that a verb is "a ſpecies of word,
which expreſſes an affirmation, and which
may form, when united with a name and
a quality, a complete ſentence. — It may
be worth while to conſider, whether the
latter clauſe of this definition does not comprehend
the former; that is, whether every
ſort of ſentence does not expreſs or imply
Sentences are of various kinds. A ſingle
word may convey the full import of a ſentence.
And this may happen in every part
of ſpeech; the article and conjunction excepted,
which can never ſtand by themſelves,
becauſe they have no meaning, unleſs when
they are joined with other words.
Firſt; a ſingle noun may ſtand for a ſentence,
and imply an affirmation. One aſks,
"Is Virgil or Lucan the better poet?" I
anſwer, "Virgil." And this word thus
connected comprehends an entire affirmative
ſentence; "Virgil is the better poet." — Secondly,
A pronoun may be a ſentence. If
it be aſked, "Is he or ſhe to blame?" and
anſwered, He; this ſingle pronoun is equivalent
to the following affirmative propoſition,
"He is blameable." — Thirdly, An adjective
may in its meaning be equally comprehenſive.
"Is the day good or bad?"
ſays one. I anſwer, "Good:" which means,
"the day is good." — Fourthly, the ſame
thing holds true of the participle. "Is he
"running or walking?" Running, may
the anſwer; which being reſolved amounts
to "He is running." — Fifthly, A verb often
comprehends a ſentence, eſpecially in the
antient languages. Albeo; that is, Ego ſum
albus, I am white: Dormit; Ille eſt dormiens;
He is aſleep. — Sixthly, An adverb
may ſtand for an affirmative ſentence. "Are
"you ſick?" it is aſked. I anſwer, No;
which is the ſame as if I had anſwered, negatively,
"I am not ſick," or, poſitively, "I
"am well." — Seventhly, An interjection
often contains a ſentence with affirmation;
as when one tells me a melancholy tale, and
I only anſwer, "Alas!" which implies,
"I am ſorry." — Eighthly, a prepoſition may
be an affirmative ſentence; "Was Virgil
before Livy, or after?" The anſwer
Before; which is as truly an affirmative ſentence
in this connection, as if I had ſaid
"Virgil was before Livy."
Nay, even a conjunction, an article, or a
letter, when taken materially, as the Grammarians
ſay, that is, when put for itſelf, and
not as the ſign of any thing elſe, may in a
certain connection amount to a complete
affirmative ſentence. "Is yet or nevertheleſs
"the more common adverſative conjunct"tion?"
Anſwer; Yet: which implies,
Yet is the more common. — "What is the
"definite article in Engliſh?" Anſwer The:
that is, The is the definite article. — "What
"letter in our language is moſt offenſive to
"the ear of a foreigner?" Anſwer, S; or
S is the moſt offenſive. — All the ſentences
hitherto ſpecified do plainly imply an affirmation;
and that affirmation is expreſſed by
is or was, or ſome other part of the verb eſſe,
to be.
Moreover, Every ſentence contains a verb
expreſſed or underſtood; and that verb muſt
be in one or other of thoſe forms, which
Grammarians call moods. Now every mood
has a particular meaning, and gives a peculiar
character to the ſentence: and, therefore,
ſimple ſentences may be divided into as
many ſorts, as there are ſuppoſed to be moods
in a verb. I ſhall give an example of each;
and it will appear, that whatever be the
mood of the verb, or the form of the ſentence,
there is ſtill in every ſentence an affirmation,
or aſſertion, either expreſſed, or implied.
Firſt, "He is good," is an indicative
and affirmative ſentence: and the ſame
thing may be ſaid of "He is not good;"
Which in a poſitive form may be expreſſed
thus, "He is evil." — Secondly, "I know not
"whether he be good," Neſcio an bonus ſit,
is a ſentence, wherein the ſubjunctive mood
is uſed; and, if analyſed, will appear to be
an affirmative propoſition to this purpoſe
"That he is good, (or, his goodneſs) is to me
"unknown." — Thirdly, We uſe the mood
called Potential, when we ſay, "He may be
"good," Licet illi eſſe bono; or "He ought
"to be good," Debet eſſe bonus; which are
alſo affirmative ſentences, and may be otherwiſe
expreſſed, "To be good is in his
power," and "To be good is his duty." —
Fourthly, When we ſay, "May he be good,"
the mood is optative; and the words comprehend
the following affirmation, "That
"he ſhould be good is what I wiſh for." —
Fifthly, When I aſk, "Is he good?" the
mood is interrogative; and the queſtion may
be reſolved ſo as to have the ſame character
with the foregoing propoſitions: "It is my
"deſire to be informed, whether he be
"good." — Sixthly, "Be thou good," Eſto.
bonus, which is the mood called imperative
implies alſo an affirmation to this purpoſe,
"It is my command, or it is my intreaty,
that thou ſhouldſt be good." — Theſe are the
principal moods acknowledged by grammarians:
how many of them may be neceſſary
in language, will appear hereafter. — As to
the infinitive mood, I ſhall ſhow in another
place, that it partakes more of the nature
of an abſtract noun, than of a verb; for it
denotes no affirmation, and only expreſſes
the pure meaning of the attributive, abſtracted
from all conſiderations of number and.
Having proved, more minutely than was
needful, that every ſentence may be made
affirmative; and it having been obſerved before,
that, in order to expreſs affirmation, a
verb is neceſſary in every ſentence; it remains,
that a verb (according to the view
we have hitherto taken of it) may be defined,
"A word, neceſſary in every ſentence, and
ſignifying affirmation."
Now in all the ſorts of ſentences hitherto
conſidered, the affirmation is, or maybe, expreſſed
by that verb, which the Latins call ſubſtantive,
but the Greeks, more properly, a verb
of exiſtence,* eſti, eſt, is. If then this verb may
alone expreſs every ſpecies of affirmation, it
would ſeem to follow, that no other verb is
neceſſary in language. And, in fact, no
other is ſo neceſſary as this: nay, if it were
as natural, or as convenient, for men to
ſignify their meaning in many words, as in
few, and to call every thing by its own
name, as to expreſs ſome things figuratively,
we might perhaps affirm, that no other verb
is neceſſary, nor any other form of it, but
the third perſon singular of the preſent of the
indicative, eſt, is.
But with the bare neceſſaries of life the
moſt needy ſavage is not contented; he aſpires
after convenience, and has even a taſte
for ornament. And, in framing language,
as in every other work, all men are more or
leſt actuated by the ſame motives; and, for
the ſake of elegance, as well as of utility,
* έςι.
ſubſtitute one word for another, and croud
the meaning of two or three into one; and
ſometimes diverſify the ſame word with a
number of inflections, ſo as to give it the
power of expreſſing, without the aid of other
words, a great variety of human thoughts.
Theſe contrivances are more obſervable in
Greek and Latin, than in the modern tongues
and in the verb more than in any other part
of ſpeech. I have hitherto conſidered this
attributive in its ſimpleſt, and moſt neceſſary
form, as ſignifying pure affirmation. I
now proceed to ſhow, how it comes to be
more complex, by being applied to other
Some truths are eternal and unalterable;
as, God is good; Virtue is praiſeworthy;
The three angles of a triangle are equal to
two right angles. To expreſs the affirmation
contained in theſe, and the like propoſitions,
the verb of exiſtence is, eſt, is alone
ſufficient: for truths like theſe have no dependence
on time, place, or perſon, but are
at all times, and on all occaſions, invariably
the ſame.
It may be ſaid, that the third perſon plural
of this verb, Sunt, Are, is equally neceſſary
with the third perſon ſingular; becauſe the
ſubject of a propoſition may be many, as
well as one. And it is true, that, in all the
languages we know, cuſtom has made this
third perſon plural neceſſary, by determining,
that the verb ſhall agree in number
with its nominative. But if cuſtom had determined
otherwiſe, we might have done
without it. If I were to ſay, "Health,
"peace, and a good name, is deſirable;"
there would be a fault in the ſyntax, but
nobody could be at a loſs to know my meaning:
and, if cuſtom had not ſubjoined a
plural verb to a plural nominative, or to two
or more ſingular nominatives, there would
have been no fault in the ſyntax. For, in
old Engliſh, a verb ſingular ſometimes follows
a plural nominative; as in the following
couplet from Shakſpeare's Venus and
She lifts the coffer-lids that cloſe his eyes,
Where lo, two lamps burnt out in darkneſs lies.
The ſame idiom prevails in the Scotch acts of
parliament, in the vernacular writings of
Scotch men prior to the laſt century, and in
the vulgar dialect of North Britain to this
day: and, even in England, the common
people frequently ſpeak in this manner,
without being miſunderſtood. Nay in
Greek, which ſome affirm to be the moſt
perfect of all languages; and in the Greek
of Attica, which is allowed to be the moſt
elegant dialect, the nominative plural of a
noun of the neuter gender, and ſometimes
even of maſculine and feminine nouns, is
followed by the third perſon ſingular of the
verb, And that, if the laws of the language
had permitted, the ſame thing might
have obtained without inconvenience in all
caſes whatever, will not, I think, be denied
by any perſon who conſiders the matter impartially.

But innumerable affirmations there are,
which have a neceſſary connection with time.
That may be true now, which was not true
yeſterday, and will not be true tomorrow.
I may affirm concerning actions, that have
been performed, or that are now performing,
or that will be performed hereafter. Hence
it would appear, that in a verb there muſt
be ſome contrivance for expreſſing time. —
I believe, however, it might be poſſible to
frame a language, wherein paſt, preſent
and future time, as connected with affirmation,
ſhould be expreſſed by adverbs, or other
auxiliary words: but this would make ſpeech
very unwieldy; and in fact we have no reaſon
to think, that there is ſuch a language
on earth. If therefore we conſider ſpeech,
not as it might be, but as it is, we muſt enlarge
the definition of a verb formerly given;
and call it, "A word, neceſſary in every
"ſentence, and ſignifying affirmation (or
''aſſertion) with time." According to this
idea, we may, by means of the verb alone,
and without having recourſe to auxiliary
words, affirm, or affect, not only what is
but alſo what was, and what will be.
Moreover, affirmations often have a connection
with perſons, as well as with time.
I may affirm ſomething concerning a quality,
which belongs, or did belong, or will belong,
to me, to you, or to another. I am reading;
you are hearing; he is attentive: I ſpoke; ye
were told; he was ignorant: I ſhall write;
you will be undeceived; he will be thankful.
This might be done, and often is, by prefixing
to the verb the name of the perſon or
perſons ſpoken of. But I may have occaſion
to affirm concerning the qualities of a perſon
whoſe name I know not: and if, in ſpeaking
of myſelf, I were to uſe my own proper
name prefixed to the verb, it would not be
known in many caſes, to the hearer, whether
I were ſpeaking of myſelf, or of ſome other
perſon of the ſame name. In a word, the
ſame reaſons, that prove the expediency of
uſing pronouns inſtead of proper names,
will alſo prove the neceſſity or propriety, of
contriving the verb ſo as that it may expreſs
three perſons; the firſt perſon, when one
affirms any thing concerning one's ſelf; I am;
the ſecond, when one affirms concerning the
perſon to whom one ſpeaks, thou art; the
third, when one affirms concerning another,
he is.
This might be effected by the ſimple contrivance
of prefixing the perſonal pronouns
to the verb, without any variation of the verb
itſelf. For, though the Latins ſay, nos ſumus,
vos eſtis, illi ſunt; giving to each perſon a
different form of the verb; we expreſs ourſelves
as intelligibly, when in Engliſh we ſay
we are, ye are, they are. And if this is intelligible
in the plural, it muſt have been
equally ſo in the ſingular, if cuſtom had permitted
us to ſay, I am, thou am, he am; or
I is, thou is, he is. In fact, I is, or Iſe, inſtead
of I am, is frequent in Yorkſhire; and by
illiterate people the pronoun of the firſt perſon
is often coupled with the verb of the third,
as I thinks, I goes; nay, ſays I may be met
with in good Engliſh authors, as well as in
common converſation. From all which we
may infer (theſe barbariſms being equally
intelligible with the Grammatical phraſes)
that different inflections of the verb are not
neceſſary to expreſs the different perſons. Yet,
in all the known languages, different inflections
of the verb are uſed, more ſparingly
in Engliſh than in moſt other European
tongues, and in Greek and Latin with very
great variety; which, as will be obſerved
hereafter, is one chief cauſe of the ſuperior
elegance and harmony of theſe languages.
As affirmations may be made concerning
one perſon, or concerning more than one, it
is obvious, that the verb muſt expreſs number
as wells as perſon: Sumus, we are, being as
neceſſary in language as Sum, I am. But
the plural pronoun be prefixed, a change in
the verb, however elegant, is not neceſſary
expreſſing number. For in the Engliſh
conjunctive mood, we ſay, without any ambiguity,
if I go, if thou go, if he go, if we
go, if ye go, if they go. And if this be done
in one mood, without inconvenience, it might
be done in another. Cuſtom alone would
ſoon render, We am, ye am, they am, as expreſſive
as we are, ye are, they are.
Our idea of a verb, thus enlarged, will give
riſe to the following definition. "A verb is
"a word, neceſſary in every ſentence, ſig"nifying
affirmation, or aſſertion, with the
"deſignation of time, perſon, and num"ber."

But, if we conſider language, not as it
might be in its rude ſtate, but as it has been
actually improved in many, and perhaps in
all nations, we ſhall ſoon be ſatisfied, that
we have not yet completed the idea of a verb.
In fact, the definition now given expreſſes
only the nature of that verb, which the Latins
call ſubſtantive, Sum, Fio, Forem, Exiſto,
and the Greeks the verb of exiſtence, * eimi,
ginomai, pelomai, tunchanô, huparchô.
As our thoughts ſhift with great rapidity,
it ſeems natural, that thoſe, who would by
adequate utterance do juſtice to what they
think, ſhould rather ſhorten, than lengthen
their expreſſion. Hence, in moſt languages,
the words that are in continual uſe, as per*
Ειμι, γινομαι, πελομαι, τυγχανω, ύπαƻχω.
ſonal pronouns, articles, and the moſt common
connectives, are generally ſhort. Hence
too, that tendency which we have in converſation,
to join two words in one, as dont for
do not, ſhant for ſhall not. ant for are not, isnt
for is not. And hence thoſe multitudes of
elliptical phraſes to be found in every language.
It needs not then ſeem wonderful
that men ſhould expreſs two or more meanings
by one word, when that can be done
Now ſome meanings more eaſily coaleſce
than others. Between the attribute which is
affirmed to belong to any ſubſtance, and the
affirmation itſelf, there is a very cloſe affinity
and we naturally comprehend both in or
word, and ſay, I go, inſtead of I am going,
He ſpoke, inſtead of he was ſpeaking.
And thus our idea of the verb is completed.
And we may now define it, "A
"word, neceſſary in every ſentence, ſignify"ing
the affirmation of ſome attribute, toge"ther
with the deſignation of time, number,
"and perſon." — Thus lego, I read, expreſſes,
the attribute reading, and affirms that attrbute
to belong, at the preſent time, to one
perſon, which perſon is myſelf. So that the
word lego, when analyſed, is found to comprehend
theſe five meanings; I, the perſon
and one perſon; am, the affirmation;
the time; and reading, the attribute: which
all together form a compleat propoſition, including
a ſubject, a predicate, and a copula,
and withal intimating unity of perſon, and
preſent time.
But the verbs of all languages are not quite
ſo complex: and the foregoing definition is
applicable, rather to Greek and Latin verbs,
than to thoſe of our modern tongues. In
Engliſh, the perſon muſt always be joined to
the verb, in the form either of a noun or of
a pronoun: for read, readeſt, reads, do not,
like lego, legis, legit, form a sentence, without
their reſpective pronouns, or nominatives,
I read, thou readeſt, he reads, or Alexander
reads. In Engliſh verbs, too, time paſt
is frequently, and time future always, expreſſed
by auxiliary words, as ſhall, will, have,
had, was, did, &c; whereas in Latin, and
ſome other tongues, theſe varieties of time
are ſignified by the inflections of the verb,
leget, legebat, legerat, &c. In like manner,
thoſe changes in the manner of affirmation,
which give riſe to what Grammarians call
the modes or moods of verbs, are ſignified in
Engliſh by auxiliary words; but in ſome
languages are expreſſed by varying the form
of the verb. Thus legiſſet in Latin is in
Engliſh he might have read; the perſon being
expreſſed by the pronoun he; the mood,
by the auxiliary might; the time, by might,
have, and read, conjunctly; and the attribute,
by the participle read.— Is it not ſelfevident,
that thoſe tongues which comprehend
ſo much meaning in their verbs, muſt
be more expreſſive and harmonious, than
thoſe that are forced to have recourſe to ſo
many auxiliaries?
Auxiliary words, however, are not unknown
either in the Latin verb, or in the
Greek. In the paſſive of the former, the
indicative perfect and pluſquamperfect, and
the ſubjunctive perfect, pluſquamperfect, and
future, are inflected by means of the verb of
exiſtence, and the participle of time paſt, as
amatus eram, amatus fuero, &c. And in the
perfect and pluſquamperfect of the ſubjunctive
and optative of the Greek paſſive verbs,
there is a ſimilar contrivance.
But in our modern verbs and nouns the
variety of auxiliary words is much greater.
For the northern nations, who overturned
the Roman empire, and eſtabliſhed themſelves
in the conquered provinces, being an
unlettered race of men, would not take the
trouble either to impart their own language to
the Romans, or to learn theirs with any degree
of exactneſs: but, blending words and
idioms of their own with Latin words inaccurately
acquired, or imperfectly remembered,
and finding it too great a labour to
maſter all the inflections of that language,
fell upon a ſimpler, though leſs elegant, artifice,
of ſupplying the place of caſes, moods,
and tenſes, with one or more auxiliary words,
joined to nouns, verbs, and participles. And
hence, in the Italian, Spaniſh, Portugueſe,
and French languages, the greater part of the
words are Latin (for the conquered were
more in number than the conquerors); but
ſo diſguiſed are thoſe words, by the mixture
of northern idioms, and by the ſlovenly expedient
now hinted at, as to have become at
once like the Latin, and very different from
antient Greek, compared with the
modern, is found to have undergone alterations
ſomewhat ſimilar, but not ſo great.
For with the northern invaders the Greeks
were never ſo thoroughly incorporated, as
were the Europeans of the weſt: and, when
conquered by the Turks, they maintained
their religion, and ſo preſerved their language
from total depravation, though they could
not prevent its debaſement.
On many topicks, it is eaſier to propoſe
than to ſolve difficulties, and to aſk queſtions
than to anſwer them. What is hinted in the
laſt paragraph may be thought to account
for the multitude of auxiliary words that belong
to the verbs and nouns of modern Europe.
But, for the multitude of Inflections,
that are found in the nouns and verbs of the
antient languages, how are we to account?
Why did not the Greeks and Romans abound
in auxiliary words as much as we?
Was it, becauſe their languages, like regular
towns and fortifications, were made by
men of learning; who planned them before
they exiſted, with a view to the renown of
the poets, philoſophers, and orators, who
were to compoſe in them, as well as to the
convenience of the people, who were to ſpeak
them: while the modern tongues, like poor
villages that extend their bounds irregularly.
are the rude work of a barbarous people
who, without looking before or behind them
on the right hand, or on the left, threw their
coarſe materials together, with no other view,
than juſt to anſwer the exigency of the preſent
hour? — This theory is agreeable to the
ideas of ſome learned authors: but, if we
pay any regard to hiſtory, or believe that human
exertions are proportioned to human
abilities, and that the Greeks and Romans
were like other men, we cannot acquieſce
in it.
They who firſt ſpoke Greek and Latin were
certainly not leſs ignorant, nor leſs ſavage,
than were thoſe moderns, among whom
aroſe the Italian, the Spaniſh, the French
and the Engliſh languages. If theſe laſt
were formed gradually, and without plan or
method, why ſhould we believe, that the
Claſſick tongues were otherwiſe formed?
Are they more regular than the modern? In
ſome reſpects they may be ſo; and it is
allowed, and will be proved in the ſequel,
that they are more elegant: for, of two towns
that are built without a plan, it is not difficult
to imagine, that the one may be more convenient
and more beautiful than the other.
But every polite tongue has its own rules;
and the Engliſh, that is according to rule,
is not leſs regular than the Greek that is
according to rule; and a deviation from the
eſtabliſhed uſe of the language is as much an
irregularity in the one as in the other: nor
are the modes of the Greek tongue more
uniform in Xenophon and Plato, or of the
Latin in Cicero and Ceſar, than thoſe of the
Engliſh are in Addiſon and Swift, or thoſe
of the French in Rollin, Vertot, and Fenelon.

But why ſhould the inflections of language
be conſidered as a proof of refinement and
art, and the ſubſtitution of auxiliary words
as the work of chance and of barbariſm?
Nay, what evidence can be brought to ſhow,
that the inflections of the Claſſick tongues.
were not originally formed out of obſolete
auxiliary words prefixed, or ſubjoined, to
nouns and verbs, or otherwiſe incorporated
with their radical letters? Some learned men
are of opinion, that this was actually the
caſe. And though the matter does not now
admit of a direct proof, the analogy of other
languages, antient as well as modern, gives
plauſibility to the conjecture.
The inflections of Hebrew nouns and
verbs may upon this principle be accounted
for. The caſes of the former are marked by
a change made in the beginning of the word;
and this change is nothing more than a contracted
prepoſition prefixed, anſwering to
the Engliſh of, to, from: as if, inſtead
animal, of animal, to animal, from animal,
were to pronounce and write animal, fanimal,
tanimal, franimal; which, if we were accuſtomed
to ſpeak ſo, would be as intelligible
to us, as animal, animalis, animali, were to
the Romans, — Of the Hebrew verb, in like
manner, the perſons are marked by contracted
pronouns ſubjoined or prefixed to the
radical letters. Thus, maſar, he delivered;
maſartha, thou deliveredſt, from maſar the
root, and atha, thou; maſarthi, I delivered,
from maſar, and aothi, me, &c. And
Erſe, a very antient ſpecies of Celtick, moſt
of the inflections of the nouns and verbs
may, if I am not miſinformed, be analyſed in
a way ſomewhat ſimilar.
If the Engliſh, and other modern tongues
had been ſpoken for ages before they were
written (which we have reaſon to think was
the caſe with the Greek and Latin) it is probable,
that many of our auxiliaries would
have been ſhortened and ſoftened, and at
length incorporated with the radical words,
ſo as to aſſume the form of initial or final
inflections. For it is while they are only
ſpoken, and not written, that languages are
moſt liable to alterations of this kind; as
they become in ſome degree ſtationary from
the moment they begin to be viſible in writing.
But we know, that writing was practiſed
in many, and perhaps in moſt European
nations, previouſly to the very exiſtence of
the modern languages: from which we may
infer, that attempts would be made to write
thoſe languages almoſt as ſoon as to ſpeak
them. And if thus our auxiliary words
were kept diſtinct in the beginning, and
marked as ſuch by our firſt writers, it is
no wonder that they ſhould have remained
diſtinct ever ſince.
Had the Greek and Latin tongues been
aſcertained by writing at as early a period
of their exiſtence, their fate would perhaps
have been ſimilar: and their inflexions might
now, like thoſe of the Hebrew, have been
eaſily analyſed, and found to be auxiliary
words ſhortened and ſoftened by colloquial
uſe, and gradually incorporated with the
radical part of the original nouns and verbs.
But it was the misfortune of the modern
languages (if it can be called a misfortune)
that their form was in ſome meaſure fixed,
before it became ſo complete as it might
have been; that, without paſſing through
the intermediate ſtages of childhood and
youth, they roſe at once (if I may ſo ſpeak)
from infancy to premature manhood: and
in regard to the Claſſick tongues it was a
lucky circumſtance, that their growth advanced
more gradually, and that their form
Was not eſtabliſhed by writing, till after it
had been variouſly rounded and moulded by
the caſual pronunciation of ſucceſſive ages.
Hence, if there be any truth in theſe conjectures
(for they lay claim to no higher character)
it will follow, that the Greek and
Latin tongues are for this reaſon peculiarly
elegant, becauſe they who firſt ſpoke them
were long in a ſavage ſtate; and that the
modern languages are for this reaſon leſs elegant,
becauſe the nations among whom they
took their riſe were not ſavage. This looks
very like a paradox. And yet, is it not
more probable, than any thing which can
be advanced in favour of that contrary ſuppoſition,
adopted by ſome learned men, that
the Claſſick tongues were planned by philoſophers,
and the modern languages jumbled
rudely into form by barbarians?
Before I proceed, it may be proper to obſerve,
that ſeveral definitions of the verb
have been admitted by Grammarians, different
from that which I have given, and ſome
of them perhaps equally good. — Some have
defined it thus: "A verb is a word, which
"forms, when joined to a noun, a complete
"ſentence." This is certainly true of the
verb, and of no other part of ſpeech; but
does not ſufficiently expreſs its character, as
proceeding from an operation of the mind. —
Others have ſaid, that a verb is "a word
"ſignifying to be, to do, and to ſuffer." And
true it is, that moſt of thoſe attributives,
which have a connection with perſons and
times, may be referred to one or other of
theſe three claſſes. But this definition does
not mark the difference between the verb
and the participle; becauſe it omits the affirmation,
which is the verb's moſt eſſential
character. — Ruddiman has very well expreſſed
the nature of a Latin verb, in theſe words,
"Verbum eſt pars orationis variabilis, aliquid
"de aliqua re dici ſeu affirmari ſignificans."
"A verb is a variable part of ſpeech, ſigni"fying,
that ſome affirmation or aſſertion
"is made concerning ſome thing." — Ariſtotle
ſays * Rhêma eſti to preſſemainon chronon:
"A verb is that which ſignifies time, toge"ther
with ſome other ſignification." But
this appears to me to be very inaccurate: for
it neither diſtinguiſhes the participle from
the verb; nor takes any notice of the attribute
or of the affirmation, both which belong
eſſentially to all verbs whatever. Nay,
according to this definition, certain adverbs,
as diu, heri, nudiuſtertius, cras, bodie, &c.
would be verbs; for they expreſs time, and
withal ſignify, that the time is long, that it
is limited to yeſterday, to the day before yeſterday,
to tomorrow, to the preſent day, &c. —
Buxtorff calls the verb Vox flexilis cum tempore
et perſona, "a declinable word with
"time and perſon," which likewiſe overlooks
both the affirmation and the attribute.
* Ρϰμα έ́ςι το προτσημαίνον χρονον.
— Some grammarians have ſaid, that "a verb
"is a word ſignifying actions and paſſions
But Sum, I am, is a verb, and yet it ſignifies
neither the one nor the ether, neither acting,
nor being acted upon: and percutiens
ſtriking, denotes action; and vulneratus,
wounded, denotes paſſion, in the preſent ſenſe
of the word; and yet both are participles. —
Scaliger thought, that "things fixed, per"manent,
and laſting," are ſigniſied by
nouns, and "things tranſient and tempo"rary
by verbs." But hora, ventus, amnis,
hour, wind, river, ſignify things tranſient,
and yet are nouns: and many verbs there
are, which denote permanency, as ſedet,ſtat,
eſt, habitat, dormit, obiit; he ſits, he ſtands;
he is, he dwells, he ſleeps, he died, or ceaſed to
The ſubject continued. Of the Times or Tenſes
of verbs. Tenſes, 1. Definite in time. —
2. Indefinite in time, or Aoriſt. — 3. Complete,
or Perfect, in reſpect of action. —
4. Incomplete, or Imperfect, in reſpect of
action. — 5. Compound, uniting two or more
times in one. — 6. Simple, expreſſive of one
time only. — Remarks.
I Hinted, that the attributes, which have a
connection with number and perſon, and
may be made the ſubjects of affirmation, are
reducible to one or other of theſe three heads,
to be, to act, and to be acted upon; to which
may be added a fourth, to reſt, or ceaſe, which
however may perhaps be implied in the firſt.
Verbs, therefore, therefore muſt be in all languages,
to expreſs, firſt, Being, as Sum,
I am; ſecondly, Acting, as Vulnero, I wound;
thirdly, Being acted upon, as Vulneror, I am
wounded; and fourthly, Being at reſt, as
Dormio, I ſleep, Sedeo, I fit.
Now, without ſome reference to Time,
not one of theſe attributes can be conceived.
For wherever there is exiſtence, it muſt continue
for ſome time, how ſhort ſoever that
time may be: and whatever exiſtence we
ſpeak of, we muſt confider, as paſt (he was),
as preſent (he is), or as future (he will be);
or as both paſt and preſent (he was and is);
or as both preſent and future (he is and will
be); or as extending through time future,
as well as through that which is preſent and
paſt, as, he was, he is, and he will continue
to be. — Further, wherever there is action
either exerted or received, there muſt be motion;
and all motion implies time. For when
many contiguous places are gone through in
a given time, the motion is ſwift; and when
few contiguous places are gone through in
the ſame time, the motion is ſlow. — Reſt, in
like manner, implies duration: for if the
want of motion did not continue for ſome
time, we ſhould not know, that there was
Time, therefore, muſt make a part of the
ſignification of all verbs, and of every part
of every verb, in all languages whatever.
And this leads me to ſpeak more particularly
of the Times of verbs, which in Engliſh are
improperly called the Tenſes; a word, whole
apparent etymology would never lead us even
to gueſs at its meaning; and which, if it
were not explained to us, we ſhould not think
of conſidering as a corruption of the Latin
tempus, or of the French temps.
Time is naturally divided into Paſt, Preſent,
and Future. All paſt time was once
preſent, and all future time will come at laſt
to be preſent. if therefore we deny the
reality of preſent time, as ſeveral philofophers
both antient and modern have done,
we muſt alſo deny the reality of paſt and
future time, and, conſequently, of time altogether.
Nay more: Senſe perceives nothing
but what is preſent, Memory nothing but
what is paſt, and Foreſight forms conjectures
in regard to futurity. If, therefore, we ſay,
that there is no preſent time, nor conſequently
any future or paſt time, it will follow,
that there are no ſuch faculties in man,
as ſenſe, memory, and foreſight.
The fundamental error in the reaſonings
of theſe philoſophers, on the ſubject of time,
is, that they ſuppoſe the preſent inſtant to
have, like a geometrical point, neither parts
nor magnitude; and that it is nothing more
than the commencement of time future, and
the concluſion of time paſt; even as the
point, in which two right lines meet and
form an angle, being itſelf of no magnitude,
muſt be conſidered as the beginning
of the one line, and the end of the other.
But, as nothing is, in reſpect of our ſenſes,
a geometrical point, (for whatever we ſee, or
touch, muſt of neceſſity have magnitude) ſo
neither is the preſent, or any other, inſtant
of duration, wholly unextended. Nay, we
cannot even conceive an unextended inſtant
and that which we call the preſent may in
fact admit of very conſiderable extenſion. —
While I write a letter. or read a book. I ſay.
that I am reading or writing it, though it
ſhould take up an hour, a day, a week, or a
month; the whole time being conſidered as
preſent, which is employed in the preſent
action. So, while I build a houſe, though
that ſhould be the work of many months,
I ſpeak of it in the preſent time, and ſay,
that I am building it. In like manner, in contradiſtinction
to the century paſt, and to that
which is to come, we may conſider the whole
ſpace of a hundred years as time preſent,
when we ſpeak of a ſeries of actions, or of a
ſtate of exiſtence, that is co-extended with
it; as in the following example: "in this
"century, we are more neglectful of the an"tients,
and we are conſequently more igno"rant,
than they were in the laſt, or than
"perhaps they will be in the next." Nay
the entire term of man's probationary ſtate
in this world, when oppoſed to that eternity
which is before him, is conſidered as preſent
time by thoſe who ſay, "In this ſtate we ſee
"darkly as through a glaſs; but in a future
"life our faith will be loſt in viſion, and we
"ſhall know, even as we are known."
Time paſt, and time future, are, in themſelves
infinitely, and, with reſpect to man,
indefinitely extended: and, in ſpeaking of time
paſt, or of time future, men may have occaſion
to allude to different periods or extenſions
of paſt or future time. And hence,
in all the European languages we know, and
probably in many other languages, there are
in verbs ſeveral preterites and futures. Thus,
in Engliſh, I did it, I was doing it, I have
done it, I had done it, are plainly diſtinct preterites:
and I ſhall do it, I ſhall be doing it,
I am about to do it, I ſhall have done it, convey
different ideas in regard to the tranſactions of
future time.
But, in deſcribing the neceſſary times or
tenſes of verbs, which is a curious part of
ſcience, and the moſt difficult thing, perhaps,
in the grammatical art, I muſt be ſomewhat
more particular.
As the verbs, that ſignify to act and to be
acted upon, are of all verbs the moſt complex,
and muſt therefore have as great a
variety of tenſes as any other verbs can have,
I ſhall confine myſelf to them in the following
analyſis of the tenſes. And when I have
diſtributed the tenſes of active verbs into their
ſeveral claſſes, and explained the nature of
each, the ſubject may be preſumed to be
ſufficiently illuſtrated.
The firſt attempt that was made in this
nation, ſo far as I know, towards a philoſophical
analyſis of the tenſes, may be ſeen in
a grammar publiſhed in Queen Anne's time,
and recommended by the Tatler, which is
Commonly called Steele's Grammar. It is in
ſome reſpects more complete, than any other
grammar of the Engliſh tongue that I have
met with; and diſcovers a preciſion and an
acuteneſs not to be found in the other writings
of Sir Richard Steele; whence I am incined
to think it is not his. Indeed, from
the variety of ſtyle and matter, as well as
from the Dedication to the Queen, which is
ſubſcribed The Authors, it would ſeem to
have been the work of ſeveral hands. —
About twenty years after, Doctor Clarke, in
his very learned notes on Homer's Iliad,
propoſed an arrangement of the tenſes;
which, though imperfect, is ingenious, and
did certainly throw light upon the ſubject. —
Mr. Harris, in his Hermes, publiſhed in the
year one thouſand ſeven hundred and fifty
one, gave a more complete account of the
tenſes, than any proceeding grammarian. His
theory has however been objected to, in many
particulars, by the author of a late work On
the origin and progreſs of language; who has
framed a new one, and a better, which he
illuſtrates with great learning, and grammatical
ſkill. — I have looked into all theſe authors;
but, though I have received uſeful
information from each, eſpecially from the
laſt, I am not perfectly ſatisfied with any
one of them. As there is ſomething peculiar
in each of their ſchemes, ſo is there in that
which follows. The truth is, that this is a
ſubject of great nicety; and, being withal
very complex, it is no wonder that it ſhould
appear in different lights to different perſons.
That I ſhould think favourably of my own
theory, is natural; but it would be arrogance
in me to preſume, that others will look upon
it with equal partiality.
It is impoſſible to analyſe the Tenſes, without
continual reference to ſome one language
or other. If we take our ideas of them from
the Greek and the Latin, we ſhall be inclined
to think, that nine tenſes, or ten, or perhaps
more, may be uſeful, or even neceſſary,
in language. But if we were to judge of
them according to the rules of ſome other
tongues, we ſhould greatly reduce their number:
no more than two, the paſt and the
fixture, being acknowledged by the Hebrew
grammarian. This ought to be kept in mind,
that we may not multiply tenſes without neceſſity:
at the ſame time let it not be forgotten,
that, without reaſoning from the
analogy of the Greek and the Latin, one
could not do juſtice to the ſubject; thoſe
being of all known languages the beſt cultivated,
and the moſt comprehenſive. Beſides,
in a ſpeculation of this nature, redundance
is leſs faulty than defect. The more minutely
we diſcriminate the tenſes, the more clearly
we ſhall ſee from what modifications of human
thought they derive their origin.
Some will not allow any thing to be a
tenſe, but what in one inflected word expreſſes
an affirmation with time: for that
thoſe parts of the verb are not properly called
tenſes, which aſſume that appearance by
means of auxiliary words. At this rate, in
English, we ſhould have two tenſes only,
the preſent and the paſt, in the active verbs
and in the paſſive no tenſes at all. But this
is a needleſs nicety, and, if adopted, would
introduce confuſion into the Grammatical
art. If amaveram be a tenſe, why ſhould
not amatus fueram? If I heard be a tenſe,
I did hear, I have heard, and I ſhall hear,
muſt be equally entitled to that appellation.
The Tenſes of Active verbs I divide, firſt,
in reſpect of time, into Definite and Indefinite.
Thoſe parts of the verb that expreſs
time indefinitely may be called Aoriſts. The
word is Greek, and ſignifies indefinite: but
the forms of the verb denoted by it are not
peculiar to the Greek tongue, but muſt be in all
languages, whether Grammarians take notice
of them or not. And though, in the Greek
Grammar, two aoriſts only of paſt time
are mentioned, it will appear, that there
may be, and in moſt languages probably
are, aoriſts of the future, and even of the
preſent, as well as of the paſt.
1. 1. When I ſay, I read, or I am reading,
I expreſs preſent time definitely: for
what I affirm of myſelf holds true at this
preſent moment, but perhaps will not be
true the next, and certainly was not true an
hour ago, when I was aſleep. But when I
ſay, "A merry heart maketh a chearful
"countenance," I expreſs what is always
true, what is not limited to any definite
time, and what may be ſaid at any period of
preſent time: that is, in pronouncing this
maxim, I uſe the preſent tenſe, but I ſpeak
of preſent time in general, or indefinitely;
or, in other words, I uſe an aoriſt of the
preſent. In all general aſſertions of this
nature, expreſſed by preſent time, the tenſe
is the ſame: as, Manners make the man;
The merciful man regardeth the life of his
beaſt; The tender mercies of the wicked
are cruel; A wiſe ſon maketh a glad father;
Grande dolori ingenium eſt; Two and two
are four, &c. And as all men muſt occaſionally
ſpeak in this manner, every cultivated
language muſt have a ſimilar contrivance;
though there may be, and certainly
are, many languages, in which the verb
aſſumes no particular form in order to expreſs
it; I mean, no form different from the
definite preſent. How then, you will ſay,
is it known? I anſwer, By the ſenſe of the
words. If a verb of the preſent tenſe expreſs
time indefinitely, that tenſe is truly an
aoriſt of the preſent, whatever be its form or
The Hebrews, whoſe verbs have no preſent,
expreſs the meaning of this tenſe by
the future. They who speak Erſe do ſo too,
though that language has a preſent. And in
fact we often the ſame, without ambiguity,
or any awkward deviation from the
idiom of the Engliſh tongue. We may.
ſay, A prudent man conſiders before he acts,
or, A prudent man will conſider before he
act: A wiſe ſon maketh a glad father, or, A
wiſe ſon will make a glad father. Theſe and.
the like expreſſions are equally connected
with the preſent and with the future. We
are not ſuppoſed to exclude the future, when
we affirm their truth with reſpect to preſent
time: and if the law of the language required
that we ſhould always expreſs them in
future time, we ſhould not be underſtood to
exclude the preſent, even in ſentences like
the following; Two and two will be four,
Virtue will be praiſeworthy, Honeſty will be
the beſt policy.
The other preſent, called here the Definite
preſent, and exemplified by Lego, I read, is, in
Hebrew, ſupplied, ſometimes by other tenſes,
but, moſt commonly, by a preſent participle
active (called Benoni*); and, in particular.
* This participle ſerves other purpoſes. It is ſometimes
a verbal noun. Thus moſer is not only tradens, but
alſo traditor: ſhofet is both judicans and judex. Shofetim,
the plural of the latter, is the title of that book which we
call Judges. The name is no doubt the ſame with that
given by Latin authors to the chief magiſtrates of Carthage,
Suffetes. See Liv. xxviii. 37. The Hebrew, the
language of Canaan, as Iſaiah calls it, and that of the
Phenicians, of whom the Carthaginians were a colony,
were originally the ſame, with perhaps ſome difference of
dialect. But the Romans, like the Ephraimites, could
not pronounce the letter Schin, and therefore turned it
into S. adding. as was uſual with them, a termination
caſes, by an imperſonal iſh, ſignifying there
is, or it is, which always has the import of
the preſent, and ſuits equally all perſons,
genders, and numbers. So that, though in
Hebrew verbs there is, properly ſpeaking, no
preſent tenſe, yet there are in the language
ſeveral contrivances that anſwer the ſame
purpoſe. Affirmation with reſpect to preſent
time is indeed ſo neceſſary in all nations, that
we cannot well conceive how any language
ſhould be unprovided of the means of expreſſing
1. 2. Secondly, when I ſay, Scribam,
* Grapſô, I ſhall write, I utter a promiſe,
in which future time is expreſſed indefinitely;
for I do not allot the action of writing to
any particular or definite part of time future.
This, therefore, is an aoriſt of the future. —
But when I ſay, Scripturus ſum,† mellô graphein,
I am about to write, or I am going to
write, I expreſs future time definitely, or
without an aoriſt: for the meaning is, that
from their own language. — Sometimes in the New Teſtament
we find the preſent participle active uſed in the ſame
way. Thus ό πειγαζων is the tempter, and ό βαπτιζων the
Baptiſt. — Benoni, the name of the active preſent participle,
ſignifies intermediate: and the participle is ſo called, perhaps,
becauſe it comes as it were between the two Hebrew
tenſes, the paſt and the future. It is ſpelled differently
from the name Benoni, which Rachel when dying gave
her new-born ſon, (Geneſ. xxxv. 18); though when expelled
by Roman characters they appear the ſame.
* γραψω †μελλω γραφειν.
I ſhall write immediately, or ſoon, after
making the declaration. And this is, by
moſt Grammarians, allowed to have been the
import of that paulo-poſt-futurum, which is
found in the paſſive verbs of the Greeks.
where ‡: tuphthéſomai ſignifies, indefinitely, or.
by the aoriſt, I ſhall be beaten; but ‖ tetupſomai,
the paulo-poſt-future, denotes, I ſhall be
immediately beaten, or I am about to be
beaten. This, both in Latin and Engliſh,
we expreſs by means of an auxiliary word or
two, Sum ſcriptarus, I am about to write: of
which it is remarkable, that the auxiliary
verb ſum, I am, points at preſent time; while
the participle ſcripturus, about to write, implies
future time; whence we gather, that
this form of the verb ſignifies time future
joined to time preſent, or, in other words,
that the futurity ſpoken of is preſently to
commence. — The Hebrews have no paulo--
poſt-future; but by joining to their future
ſuch adverbs as quickly, immediately, ſoon
&c. they eaſily expreſs the meaning. The
ſame thing may, I ſuppoſe, be done in all
other languages. Conſequently, the paulo--
poſt-future is not a neceſſary tenſe.
As general maxims may be ſignified by
the aoriſt of the preſent, ſo the aoriſt
the future is often uſed in legiſlative ſentences:
— Thou ſhalt not kill, Thou ſhalt
not ſteal; in which it is obvious, that no
particular period of future time is meant,
‡ τυφϑησομαι ‖ τετυψομαι.
but future time indefinitely, * aoriſtôs, or in
general. It is thy duty, at all times, and on
all occaſions, to abſtain from theft and from
murder. Here again we ſee a co-incidence of
the future with the preſent. By a change of
the phraſe, every precept of this ſort may be
referred to preſent time: It is thy duty not
to kill; It is thy duty not to ſteal: or, I command
thee not to kill; I forbid thee to ſteal
&c. — The Preſent, though it cannot be called
a part of the Future, is however an introduction
to it. But the Future and the Paſt
are of no kindred; and, being ſeparated
by the Preſent, can never be contiguous.
1. 3. That there is an aoriſt of the past
is eaſily proved. The Greek verbs, and the
Engliſh too, have a particular form to expreſs
it, without the aid of auxiliary words.
† Egrapſa, I wrote, or I did write, denotes,
that the action of writhig is paſt, but refers
to no particular period of paſt time. When
I ſay, "He ſent me a letter, and I- anſwered
"it," both ſent and anſwered are aoriſts,
and point at paſt time indefinitely: the letters
ſpoken of may, for any thing that appears
in the ſentence, have been written and ſent
a year ago, or twenty years ago, or laſt ſummer,
or laſt week, or yeſterday; for the
tenſes refer to no one portion of paſt time
more than another. — But if I ſay, "He ſent
* Αοριςως † Εγραψα
"me a letter, and I have anſwered it," the
verb he ſent is an aoriſt; but I have anſwered
is not an aoriſt; for it points at paſt time more
definitely, and means, that I anſwered it juſt
now, or lately. — It is worth while to attend
to this auxiliary verb, by which we expreſs
definite paſt time; I have anſwered; I have,
being the preſent tenſe, points at time preſent;
and anſwered, being the participle of
the paſt, refers to time paſt: whence we
infer, that the time expreſſed by theſe worth,
I have anſwered, is a mixture of the preſent
with the paſt, or rather, the paſt terminating
in or near the preſent. And that this is the
true character of the tenſe in queſtion, will
appear more clearly by and by.
We ſee then, that verbs expreſs not only
Preſent, Paſt, and Future time; but alſo
time paſt, preſent, and future, either, firſt
indefinitely, that is, by aoriſts, or, ſecondly,
But obſerve, that the Engliſh auxiliary
have is not always definite, even when joined
to the preterite participle. "I have heard it
"faid, I know not when, or by whom, that
"Charles the ſecond on his death-bed
"declared himſelf a papiſt." Here the
words I have heard, are ſo far from being
definite in regard to time, that they may
allude to a fact which happened ten, twenty,
thirty years ago, or not one year ago, or to
a fact of which no body knows when it
Obſerve, further, that, in order to define
or aſcertain time exactly, the verb alone,
even in the definite tenſes, is not ſufficient,
but muſt be illuſtrated by adverbs, or other
words ſignificant of exact time. For our
notions in regard to the extent of time vary
according to the nature of the actions ſpoken
of: and if theſe be important, or of long
continuance, or not uſual, we are apt to
conſider the time, which precedes or follows
them, as ſhort, becauſe they make a ſtrong
impreſſion, and appear of great magnitude.
A year after one's houſe is finiſhed, one may
ſay, "I have finiſhed my house,:" but "I
"have anſwered Alexander's letter," is underſtood
to have a ſhorter retroſpect; unleſs
the writing of the letter was a work of great
labour and time. In like manner, "I am
"to build a houſe," may be ſaid a year before
one begins to build; but, "I am to take a
"walk," expreſſes a very near futurity.
And therefore, as the expreſſion of time by
verbs, eſpecially of time paſt and future, is
rather relative than abſolute, adverbs, and
other words, come to be neceſſary, when
we would ſpeak with preciſion of paſt and
future time. "I am juſt going to take a
"walk; — I ſhall build a houſe this ſum"mer;
— I have this moment finiſhed my
"letter," &c.
II. The tenſes of active verbs may be divided,
ſecondly, in reſpect of the mode of action
ſignified, into Perfect, which denote complete
acion, and Imperfect, which denote incomplete
A late author mentions another claſs of
tenſes, which he calls Indefinite, and of which
he ſays, that they denote action, but without
ſpecifying, whether it be complete or incomplete.
And, as an example, he gives
the aoriſt of the paſt, * Egrapſa, I wrote, or
I did write. But I cannot ſee, that there is
any ground for this diviſion. No other
grammarian, ſo far as I know, either antient
or modern, has taken notice of it; while
the diſtribution of tenſes into perfect and
imperfect ſeems to be as old as grammar itſelf.
And the learned Author, whom I allude
to, affirms, that "in our grammatical
"inquiries we cannot quit the footſteps of
the antients, without the greateſt hazard
"of going wrong." This novelty, however,
I reject, not becauſe it is new, but becauſe
I do not underſtand it. I can conceive a complete
action, that is, an action, which has
had, or is to have, a beginning and an end:
I can alſo conceive an incomplete action, that
has had a beginning, but which is not, or is
not ſaid to be, ended. But an action, which,
though it muſt have had a beginning, is conſidered
as neither ended nor continued, as
* Εγραψα.
neither complete nor incomplete, I cannot
conceive at all. When I ſay, "I wrote a
letter," the paſt time is indefinite, but a
complete action is plainly ſignified: if the letter
had not been finiſhed, "I was writing,"
would have been the proper tenſe. In like
manner, "I wrote," though it does not imply,
that the thing written, whether book or
letter, was finiſhed, (for no particular writing
is ſpecified) does yet ſignify, that the act of
writing was both begun and ended. If it
had not been begun, it could not be referred to
paſt time; and if it had not been ended, or
diſcontinued, (for theſe words applied to the
ſimple act of writing are of the ſame import)
it would have been ſtill going on; and
the affirmation concerning it would be to
this purpoſe, "I have been writing all the
morning, and am ſtill writing." — But,
to return to the ſecond general diviſion of
tenſes, into Perfect, denoting complete action,
and Imperfect, which denote incomplete
II. 1. The aoriſt of the preſent may be
ſaid to denote incomplete action. When I
ſay, "A merry heart maketh a chearful
"countenance," I expreſs by the word
maketh an action, or operation, which is always
a doing, and never can be ſaid to be
done and over, For the time never yet was,
ſince man was made, when gladneſs of heart
did not diſplay itſelf in the countenance, and,
while human nature remains unaltered, the
time will never come when it ſhall ceaſe to
do ſo.
Further, the definite preſent, I mean the
preſent that is definite in reſpect of time,
does alſo denote incomplete action. While
I am writing a letter, I ſay, Scribo, I write,
or I am writing; which implies, that part of
the writing is done, and that part of it is
not done; that the action is begun, but
not ended.
But the moment the writing is completed,
I ſay, or I may ſay, "I have written;" in
which are comprehended theſe three things.
Firſt, that the action is complete; for which
reaſon the tenſe is called perfectum, the perfect:
a word, which, from the frequent uſe
of it in our grammars, may ſuggeſt to us the
idea of paſt time; but which in reality ſignifies
perfect or complete action: for, that there
is a perfect of the future, as well as of the
paſt, will appear in the ſequel. — Secondly,
the words "I have written" imply, that the,
action is not only complete, but alſo paſt;
for which reaſon, the tenſe is called preteritum
perfectum, the complete paſt, or the
preterite perfect, or more briefly the preter--
perfect. — Thirdly, theſe words imply, that
the action is juſt now completed, or very
lately. From this relation of the preterperfect
to preſent time, (for, as I already
obſerved, it denotes paſt time ending in the
preſent, or near it,) the Stoicks, who were
accurate grammarians, called it the perfect
or complete preſent: but, as it denotes what
is done, and, conſequently,what is not now
a-doing, I think it better to call it by its
ordinary name, the preterperfect.
For this tenſe the Greeks have a particular
form * gegrapha; the Engliſh, and
other moderns, expreſs it by an auxiliary
verb joined to the participle, I have written.
But it is remarkable, that for this tenſe the
Latin verb has no particular inflection; for
the ſame Latin word denotes both the preterperfect
and the aoriſt of the paſt. Scripſi,
for example, ſignifies, not only I wrote, or
I did write, (referring to paſt time indefinitely)
but alſo, I have written, referring
to an action paſt and lately compleated.
Hence ariſes a ſmall ambiguity in the uſe
of the Latin verb, from which the verbs of
many other languages are free. But, by
means of adverbs, and other auxiliary words
that hang looſely upon the ſyntax of language,
this ambiguity in the Latin tongue
may be prevented, wherever it is likely to
prove inconvenient.
And here we learn to correct an error in
ſome of the common grammars; where amavi
is tranſlated I have loved; as if it were a
true preterperfect, and nothing elſe, like the
Greek † pephilêka: whereas it is both a pre*
γεγραφα. † πεφιληϰα.
terperfect, and an aoriſt of the paſt, anſwering
both to pephilêka, and to * ephitêſa; and
ſhould therefore be rendered, I loved, I did
love, or I have loved. And children ſhould
be taught, that, though theſe three Engliſh
phraſes are here connected by the particle or,
and are every one of them expreſſed by the
Latin amavi, they are not of the ſame import;
for that the laſt may ſometimes differ
conſiderably in ſignification from the other
two. — One miſtake leads to another. The
imperfect amabam is in the common grammars
rendered, I loved or did love; as if it
were the aoriſt of the paſt, and the ſame with
the Greek ephilêſa: whereas, ſo far as it is
really the imperfect, it correſponds to the
Greek † ephiloun, and, as will appear by and
by, ought to have been tranſlated I was loving.
I do not however affirm, that it is never an
aoriſt of the paſt. But, in good authors,
that is not its common uſe; and when it is
the tenſe loſes that character which entitles it
to be called imperfect.
The Hebrews, having but one preterite
muſt confound, as the Latins do, the preterperfect
with the aoriſt of the paſt, and make
one word ſerve for both. When Job received
the news of thoſe accumulated calamities,
which at once diveſted him of all his property,
and of every domeſtick comfort, he
* έφιλησα. † έφιλου̃ν.
rent his clothes, fell down upon the ground,
and worſhipped; and, according to our tranſlation,
ſaid, "The Lord gave, and the Lord
hath taken away: bleſſed be the name of
"the Lord." Here, (as the learned Author
of the origin and progreſs of Language obſerves)
the two preterites are elegantly diſtinguiſhed;
the firſt being the aoriſt, the other
the preterperfect. "The Lord gave;" this
happened formerly, but at what period of
paſt time is not ſaid: — and, "the Lord hath
"taken away;" this had juſt happened, or
very lately, ſo that it might be ſaid to be felt
at the preſent moment. In the Hebrew, the
tenſe is in both clauſes the ſame: and the
paſſage literally tranſlated would be, "The
"Lord gave, and the Lord took away," or
perhaps, "The Lord hath given, and the
"Lord hath taken away." Job's meaning
may, no doubt, be underſtood from theſe
expreſſions; but ſeems to be more emphatically
ſignified in our Engliſh bible, than by
either of them, or even by the original Hebrew
itſelf. — The preterperfect, therefore, as
diſtinguiſhed from the aoriſt preterite, is rather
an uſeful, than a neceſſary, tenſe. In
Latin, by means of an adverb of preſent
time joined to the preterite, its full import
might in many caſes be given; though not
ſo elegantly, perhaps, as in Greek or Engliſh.
Jehova dedit; et nunc abſtulit Jehova: ſit
nomen Jehovæ benedictum.
The Latins, as Mr. Harris and other
learned authors have obſerved, ſometimes uſe
their perfect tenſe, to denote the annihilation
or diſcontinuance of the attribute expreſſed
by the verb: fuit, for example, to ſignify
he has been, he is no more; vixit, he has lived,
he is dead; and, at the concluſion of Academical
harangues, dixi, I have done ſpeaking,
I am ſilent. In this view, the verbs fuit,
vixit, and dixi are to be conſidered as preterperfect;
that is, as expreſſing an attribute
connected with that definite paſt time which
terminates in or near the preſent. — Thus,
when Cicero had, by virtue of a ſort of dictatorial
authority conferred on him by the Senate
for a temporary purpoſe, put to death
ſome noblemen of Rome, who had been concerned
in Catiline's conſpiracy, he appeared
in the forum, and, in the hearing of all the
people, who were anxious to know the events
cried out with a loud voice, "Vixerunt,"
they have lived; that is, they are dead;
"their life continued down to this time has
"juſt now terminated." Perhaps Cicero
might have a ſcruple to uſe a more explicit
term; death being one of thoſe words that
the Romans thought it ominous to pronounce
on certain occaſions. Or perhaps,
though what he had done was conſtitutional,
and of great publick utility, yet, being extraordinary,
and in a popular ſtate somewhat
hazardous at ſuch a time, he might
wiſh to mitigate the general opinion of its
ſeverity, by announcing it in ſuch a manner,
as ſhould fix the attention of the people rather
upon the lives and crimes of the conſpirators,
than upon their puniſhment.
Virgil has introduced the ſame idiom, with
the happieſt effect, in one or two paſſages of
the Eneid. On the night of the deſtruction
of Troy, Eneas, warned in a dream that the
city was betrayed and on fire, ſtarts from his
bed, and, alarmed by the uproar of the battle,
and the glare of the conflagration, ruſhes
out in arms to attack the enemy. In his way
he meets Panthus the prieſt of Apollo. What
is the ſtate of our affairs, Panthus, ſaid he;
what is to be done? Panthus with a groan
Venit ſumma dies, et ineltuctabile tempus
Dardaniæ: fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium, et ingens
Gloria Teucrorum.
"Our laſt hour is come: Troy has been:
"we have been Trojans." As if he had ſaid,
"Trojans, and their city, and all their glory,
"are to be reckoned among the things that
"have been, but are now no more." — The
ſame poet, ſpeaking of Ardea, an antient Rutilian
town, has theſe words,
— — et nunc magnum manet Ardea nomen,
Sed fortuna fuit.
"Ardea is ſtill a great name; but its fortune
"has been, or is over and gone." Rueus,
indeed, the learned editor of Virgil for the
uſe of the Dauphin, explains the word otherwiſe,
and makes it ſignify, that "fortune
"had ſo determined:" and in this he is
countenanced by Scaliger. But the interpretation
here given is more ſuitable to the
context, as well as to the ſolemn phraſeology
of the poet; and is, beſides, warranted by
Taubmannus and Mr. Harris.
Rex erat Æneas nobis * — ſays Ilioneus to
Dido, when he is deſcribing the forlorn condition
of the Trojans, then juſt landed in
Africa, and (as he imagined) without their
leader. The verſe would have admitted fuit,
which in this place might ſeem to have, but
really would not have, the ſame meaning.
For fuit would have implied that, in the opinion
of the speaker, Eneas was now no
more; whereas from what follows we learn,
that it ſeemed to him not improbable, that
their commander might ſtill be alive. The
imperfect tenſe erat, which only affirms, that
Eneas was formerly their king, without ſaying
that he had ceaſed to be ſo, has therefore
a propriety which fuit would not have had,
and which the ſcantineſs of the Engliſh verb
makes it impoſſible for a Tranſlator to expreſs
without circumlocution.
I ſaid, that the nature of the tenſe we now
ſpeak of is more fully expreſſed by the common
appellation of preterperfect, than by
* Æneid. i. 544.
that of the perfect preſent, which is the name
the Stoicks gave it. And ſo indeed it is
for the moſt part. But I ought to have
added, that this tenſe in Greek does ſometimes
imply, not paſt time terminating in
or near the preſent, nor even complete action,
but paſt and preſent time united; in which
caſe it becomes a ſort of preſent, and, in
Doctor Clarke's opinion, ſhould be called,
not the preterperfect, but the preſent perfect:
as in the following line of Homer:
* Kluthi meu, Argurotox', hos Chruſên amphibebêkas;

"Hear me, O God of the ſilver bow, who
"haft been and art the guardian of Chryſè."
Mr. Harris ſeems to think, that, in Virgil,
the preterperfect often implies the ſame ſort
of time with the preſent. That this is never
the caſe, I will not affirm. But, if I miſtake
not, moſt of the paſſages he has quoted will
be found to have a more expreſſive meaning,
if we ſuppoſe the tenſe in queſtion to ſignify
paſt time. For example,
— Si brachia forte remiſit,
Atque ilium in præceps prono rapit alveus
amni. †
I would render thus: "If he who rows
"againſt the ſtream has intermitted for a
* Κλυ̃ϑι μευ Αργυροτοξ' ός χρυσην άμφιβεβηϰας. Iliad i.
† Georg. 1. ver. 202.
"moment the exertion of his arms, head"long
he is inſtantly born by the current of
"the river." For atque is here uſed in the
antique ſenſe, and denotes immediately; as is
that line of Ennius,
Atque atque ad muros properat Romana juventus.

— So in the deſcription of the night-ſtorm
thunder, lightning, and rain,
Terra tremit, fugere feræ — *
"The earth is trembling" — you feel it, and
therefore that commotion is preſent: but,
when you look around you, fugere feræ, you
find that the wild beaſts have diſappeared, and
therefore had fled away, before you lifted up
your eyes. When the poet ſays,
— tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat
Mincius, et tenera prætexit arundine ripas: †
"The great Mincius rolls ſlowly windin
"along, and fringes (or borders) his banks
"with reeds;" I agree with Mr. Harris,
that the two verbs are the ſame in reſpect
of time; but I do not find, that the tenſes
are different. The learned author probably
miſtook the preſent of prætexo for the preterit
of prætego: which laſt is a word that
Virgil never uſes, and which I cannot recollect
to have ſeen in any Claſſick of the Auguſtan
* Georg. i. ver. 330. † Georg. iii. ver. 15.
Once more, when the ſame poet ſays, of a
— illa noto citius, celerique ſagitta,
Ad terram fugit, et portu ſe condidit alto.*
"Swifter than the wind, or an arrow, ſhe
"flies to land;" — this is preſent; "and
"now," before I can ſpeak the word, "ſhe
"has run into the harbour." There is in
this example the ſame diverſity of time, as
if I were to ſay: "See how ſwiftly the boy
"purſues the butterfly; he runs — and now
"he has caught it." — But of this, enough.
II. 2. The tenſes of paſt time denote two
ſorts of actions; firſt, actions complete or
perfect, and ſecondly, actions incomplete or
Firſt, I ſay, the tenſes of paſt time denote
complete actions. Of this kind, for the
moſt part, is the preterperfect above deſcribed,
which expreſſes paſt time as ending
in the preſent, or near it. — Of this kind,
alſo, is the aoriſt of the paſt † egrapſa, I
wrote, or I did write; as already obſerved.
And of the ſame kind is the tenſe called
Pluſquamperfectum; which denotes complete
action connected, not with preſent, but with
paſt time. That this is its import, will
appear from an example. "He came to
* Æneid. v. † εγαψα.
"forbid me to write, but I had written, be"fore
he came." Here obſerve, that the
words I had written refer, firſt, to a complete
action; ſecondly, to paſt time; and
thirdly, to an action that was prior in time
to another action which is alſo paſt. This is
the peculiar meaning of the pluſquamperfect:
ſo that in three reſpects it reſembles
the preterperfect, namely, in denoting
complete action, paſt time, and paſt time definite;
but from the preterperfect it differs
in this one reſpect, that the time expreſſed
by it terminates not in time preſent, but at
ſome point of the time that is paſt. And
the double reference which it bears to paſt
time appears in our complex way of expreſſing
it, I had written; in which it is obſervable,
that the auxiliary had and the participle
written are both ſignificant of paſt time.
The Greeks and Latins elegantly expreſs this
tenſe by one word, which is derived immediately
from the preterperſect, to which indeed
it bears a nearer affinity than to any
other tenſe: ſcripſi, ſcripſeram; * gegrapha,
egegraphein. — So much for thoſe tenſes
paſt time, which denote complete action.
Secondly, there is alſo a preterite tenſe,
which denotes incomplete action: Scribebam,
I was writing. In this expreſſion it is implied,
that the action is paſt, that it continued,
or might have continued for ſome
* γεγραφα, εγεγραφειν.
time, but that it was not finiſhed. The
tenſe therefore is very properly called the
imperfect preterite. The Greeks gave it a
name ſignifying * extended; and deſcribed it
more particularly, by ſaying, that "it is the,
"extended and incomplete part of the paſt.
— Eneas, in Virgil, ſpeaking of the deſtruction
of Troy, relates, that, after he had conducted
his father and followers to a place
of ſafety, he returned alone to the burning
city, in queſt of his wife Creuſa, who was
miſſing. He went firſt to his own houſe,
thinking, ſhe might have wandered thither
but there, he ſays,
— Irruerant Danai, et tectum omne tenebant;
"the Greeks had ruſhed in, and were poſſeſ"ſing
the whole houſe." Obſerve the effect
of the pluſquamperfect, and imperfect, tenſes.
The Greeks had ruſhed in, irruerant; that
action was over, and had been compleated
before he came: but the act of poſſeſſing the
houſe, tenebant, was not over, nor finiſhed,
but ſtill continuing. This example is taken
notice of by Mr. Harris. I ſhall give another
from Virgil, and one from Ovid.
In the account of the paintings, which
Eneas is ſurpriſed to find in the temple of
Juno at Carthage, they being all, it ſeems,
on the ſubject of the Trojan war, the poet
mentions the following circumſtance,
* παρατατιϰος.
Ter circum Iliacos raptaverat Hectora muros,
Exanimumque auro corpus vendebat Achilles:
which informs us both of the action of the
picture, and of the event that was ſuppoſed
to have preceded it. "Achilles had dragged
"the body of Hector three times round
"the walls of Troy;" — this is the previous
event; — "and was ſelling," that is, was repreſented
in the act of delivering, "the
"body to Priam, and receiving the ran"ſom."
All this is eaſily conceived; and
an excellent ſubject it is for a picture. But
if, without diſtinguiſhing the tenſes, we were
to underſtand the paſſage, as Dryden has
tranſlated it,
Thrice round the walls of Troy Achilles drew
The corpſe of Hector, whom in fight he ſlew, &c.
we ſhould be inclined to think, that Virgil
knew very little of the laws, or of the powers,
of painting. For, according to this interpretation,
Achilles muſt have been painted
in the act of dragging Hector three times
round Troy, and alſo in the act of delivering
the body to Priam. Pitt, Trapp, and Ogilvie,
in their Tranſlations, have fallen into
the ſame impropriety; a proof, that the
theory of tenſes has not always been attended
to, even by men of learning.
When Dido had juſt ſtruck the fatal blow,
and lay in the agonies of death, the behaviour
of her Siſter, as deſcribed by Dryden,
is ſomewhat extraordinary. Anna was at
a little diſtance from the pile, on which
lay the unfortunate queen: but, hearing of
what had happened, ſhe ran in diſtraction
to the place, and addreſſed Dido in a long
ſpeech. That being ended,
— She mounts the pile with eager haſte,
And in her arms the dying queen embraced;
Her temples chafed, and her own garments tore,*
To ſtanch the ſtreaming blood, and cleanſe the
The ſpeech is very fine, and very pathetick;
in Virgil, at leaſt, it is ſo: but, as it appears
in Dryden, (and Pitt commits the ſame
miſtake) never was any thing of the kind
more unſeaſonable. The poor lady was dying,
the blood ſtreaming from her wound; and
yet this affectionate ſiſter (for ſuch we know
ſhe was) would not attempt any thing for
her relief, till ſhe had declaimed for fourteen
lines together. — But, from Virgil's own account
we learn, that Anna did not loſe
a moment. She had mounted the lofty pile,
and was holding her dying ſiſter to her boſom,
and weeping, and endeavouring to ſtop the
effuſion of blood, all the while that thoſe
* Conſidering Dido's condition, to chafe her temples
was abſurd, if not cruel: and to inſinuate, that Anna on
occaſion did not ſpare her own clothes, is ridiculouſly
trifling. Virgil ſays not a word of chaſing temples, or
of tearing garments.
paſſionate exclamations were breaking from
— Sic fata, gradus evaſerat altos
Semianimemque ſinu germanam amplexa fovebat
Cum gemitu, atque atros ſiccabat veſte cruores.
This the Engliſh poet would have known,
if he had not confounded the imperfect tenſe
with the perfect and pluſquamperfect, and
ſuppoſed them all to mark the ſame ſort of
time and of action. Similar blunders are frequent
in Dryden, and in all the other tranſlators
of Virgil that I have ſeen.
In Ovid, when the Flood was abates
Deucalion, having concluded a very tender
ſpeech to Pyrrha with this ſentiment, "It
"has pleaſed the Gods, that we are the only
"ſurvivors of the whole human race;" the
poet adds,
Dixerat; et flebant: placuit celeſte precari
Numen, —
"He had done ſpeaking; and they were weep"ing;
when it occurred to them to im"plore
the aid of the Goddeſs of the place."
The ſpeech had been for ſome time concluded;
then followed a pauſe, during which
they wept in ſilence; and, while they were
weeping, they formed this pious reſolution.
The pluſquamperfect, followed by the imperfect,
is here very emphatical, and gives
in two words an exact view of the behaviour
Of this forlorn pair; which would be in a
great meaſure loſt, if, confounding the tenſes
in Engliſh, we were to tranſlate it, as is
vulgarly done; "He ſpoke, and they wept:"
which marks neither the continuance of the
laſt action, nor that it was ſubſequent to the
firſt. — If children are not well inſtructed in
the nature of the ſeveral tenſes, it is impoſſible
for them to enter into the delicacies of
claſſical expreſſion.
The Latins elegantly uſe this imperfect
tenſe to ſignify actions that are cuſtomary,
and often repeated. Thus dicebat may imply,
he was ſaying, or he was wont to ſay;
the ſame with ſolebat dicere. For actions
that have become habitual, or which are frequently
repeated, may be ſaid to be always
going on, and may therefore with philoſophick
propriety be expreſſed by the imperfect
It alſo deſerves notice, that the antient
painters and ſtatuaries, both Greek and Latin,
made uſe of this tenſe, when they put
their names to their performances. On a famous
ſtatue of Hercules ſtill extant are inſcribed
theſe words, * Glycôn Athênaios epoiei,
Glycon Athenienſis faciebat, Glycon an Athenian
was making it. The phraſe was thought
modeſt; becauſe it implied, that the artiſt
had indeed been at work upon the ſtatue,
* Γλυϰων Αϑηναιος έποιει.
but did not pretend, to ſay that he had
finiſhed it, or made it complete: which would
have been the meaning, if he had given it in
the aoriſt * epoiêſe, fecit, made it. Some of
our printers have adopted the ſame tenſe at
the beginning or end of their books; "Ex"cudebat
Henricus Stephanus: Excudebant
"Robertus et Andreas Foulis."
Ceſar, whoſe narrative is not leſs diſtinguiſhed
by its modeſty, than his actions were
by their greatneſs, often uſes the imperfect,
in ſpeaking of himſelf, where I think he
would have uſed the perfect, if he had been
ſpeaking of another. This muſt have been
wonderfully pleaſing to a Roman; who
would be much more ſenſible of the delicacy,
than we are. Indeed, the beſt antient and
modern criticks, particularly Cicero, Quintilian,
and Roger Aſcham, ſpeak with a ſort
of rapture of the exquiſite propriety of Ceſar's
ſtyle. And as to his narrative, though
he pretended to nothing more, than to write
a journal or diary, (for ſuch is the meaning
of the word, which is vulgarly tranſlated
Commentaries) — as to his narrative, I ſay
Cicero declares, that no man in his ſenſe
will ever attempt to improve it. The frequency
of theſe imperfects in Ceſar has,
I miſtake not, another uſe: for it keeps the
reader continually in mind, that the book
was written from day to day, in the midst
* έποιησε.
of buſineſs, and while the tranſactions there
recorded might be ſaid rather to be going on,
than to be completed.
From the few examples here given it will
appear, that the Imperfect and Pluſquamperfect
are very uſeful, and may be the ſource
of much elegant expreſſion; and that, if one
were not taught to diſtinguiſh, in reſpect of
meaning as well as of form, theſe tenſes from
each other, and the preterit from both, one
could not pretend to underſtand, far leſs to
tranſlate, any good Claſſick author. The
want of them, therefore, in Hebrew, muſt
be a deficiency. Yet, in a language, like the
Hebrew, which has been employed chiefly
in delivering ſentiments and recording facts,
in the ſimpleſt manner, with little rhetorical
art, and without any oſtentation of harmonious
and elaborate periods, this is not
perhaps ſo material a deficiency, as at firſt
ſight it may appear.
For firſt, if we are willing to diſpenſe with
elegance and energy, the preterit may often
be uſed for the pluſquamperfect. If I ſay,
"He came to forbid me to write, but I wrote
"before he came, (inſtead of I had writ"ten),"
the meaning is perceptible enough;
though not ſo grammatically expreſſed as it
might have been, nor indeed ſo ſtrongly. In
the tranſlation of the fourteenth chapter of
St. Matthew, we have theſe words: "And
"Herod ſaid unto his ſervants, This is
"John the Baptiſt; he is riſen from the
"dead; and therefore mighty works do ſhow
"forth themſelves in him. For Herod had
"laid hold on John, and bound him, and
"put him in priſon, &c." Here the pluſquamperfect
had laid hold and bound is elegantly
uſed. But the Greek, following, as
in many other parts of the Goſpels, (eſpecially
of Matthew's Goſpel) the Hebrew
idiom, has the aoriſt of the preterit: "For
"Herod, having laid hold on John, bound
"him, and put him in priſon." This gives
the ſenſe; though not ſo emphatically, as it
is expreſſed in the Engliſh Bible.*
Secondly: The preterit may be uſed, without
ambiguity, for the imperfect. This
change might often be made in Ceſar, as
already hinted. The French j'etois and je fus
are both rendered in Engliſh I was. And,
inſtead of Stephanus excudebat, at the bottom
of a title-page, if we were to read Stephanus
excudit, the phraſe, though leſs claſſical,
would be equally intelligible. So liable, indeed,
are theſe two tenſes to be confounded,
that in ſome Latin grammars (as formerly
obſerved) we find I loved or did love given as
the interpretation of amabam.
Thirdly: The Hebrews do ſometimes give
the full ſenſe of the pluſquamperfect, by pre*
Other examples of the preterit uſed for the pluſquamperfect,
ſee in Luke xix. 15. John v, i3. Apocalyps,
xxi. 1.
fixing, to the infinitive of the verb, or to a
ſort of verbal noun called a gerund, the
word calah, he finiſhed, or he made an end of.
"As ſoon as Iſaac made an end of bleſſing
"Jacob" — might, according to the ſyntax
of thoſe languages that have a pluſquamperfect,
be thus rendered without any impropriety,
"As ſoon as Iſaac had bleſſed Jacob."
* — A ſimilar idiom we have in
Engliſh; as when, inſtead of dixerat, we
ſay, be had done ſpeaking, or he had ceaſed to
III. 1. It remains now to ſhow, that the
tenſes expreſſive of future time may alſo denote,
firſt Incomplete actions, and ſecondly
Complete actions.
Firſt, Scribam, I ſhall write, denotes incomplete
action: for it does not ſay, whether
I am to write for a long or for a ſhort time,
or whether I am to finiſh what I begin.
This part of the verb, therefore, to which
the Greek † grapſô correſponds, is an imperfect
future; and is alſo (as was formerly
ſhown) an aoriſt of the future. In our way
of expreſſing it, by the auxiliaries ſhall and
will, its character appears manifeſt. Shall
or will refers to future time indefinitely; and
write refers to an action, which is indeed to
begin, but of whoſe completion nothing is
* Geneſ. xxvii. 30. See alſo Numb. xvi. 31.
† γαψω.
In like manner, Scripturus ſum, I am about
to write, though definite in regard to time,
becauſe it implies, that the action is immediately
to commence, is yet as much an
imperfect as the other future, becauſe it ſays
nothing of the finiſhing or compleating of
the action.
But, ſecondly, Scripſero, I ſhall have written,
or I ſhall have done writing, is a perfect
future, and denotes complete action. And
our complex way of putting it in Engliſh
does fully expreſs its character; I ſhall have
written: for ſhall denotes future time, written
implies paſt action; and have written
ſignifies complete action, with paſt time terminating
in the preſent. So that the whole
meaning is, that "when a certain time now
"future comes to be preſent, a certain ac"tion
will then, and juſt then, be finiſhed."
— This tenſe the Greek tongue, for all its
copiouſneſs, cannot expreſs in one word.
* Eſomai gegraphôs is the phraſe for it; eſomai
the future of † eimi I am, and gegraphôs the
preterperfect participle; "I ſhall be in the
condition of having written." The Latin
grammarians call it the future of the ſubjunctive
mood; for which they are ſeverely blamed
by Dr. Clarke, in his notes upon Homer;
who contends, and I think with reaſon, that
it is as really indicative, as Scribam, and
* εσομαι γεγραφως.
† έ̃ιμι.
Scriptus era. The learned Doctor calls it the
perfect future. Voſſius gives it the ſame
name; which Ruddiman* approves of; and
Mr. Harris, and the Author of a Treatiſe,
On the origin and progreſs of language, deſcribe
it under the ſame character. — In Hebrew,
the full import of this tenſe is given
by joining the future of calah (he made an
end of) to the infinitive or gerund of another
verb. Thus, "And it ſhall be, when the
"officers have made an end of ſpeaking unto
"the people, that they ſhall make captains
"of the armies to lead the people," — would
have been equally juſt in reſpect of ſenſe, and
better ſuited to the conciſeneſs of the, original,
if it had been rendered, "And it ſhall be,
"when the officers ſhall have fpoken unto
"the people," &c. †
IV. There is yet another light, in which
the tenſes may be conſidered. Some of them,
as we have ſeen, unite two times (as it were)
in one; others expreſs one time only. The
former may be called Compound tenſes; the
latter Simple.
1. Of the Compound Tenſes, one is the
preterperfect ‡ gegrapha; which unites the
paſt with the preſent; as particularly appears
in our way of expreſſing it, with an auxiliary
of the preſent, I have, and a participle of
* Rudiments of the Latin tongue, page 43.

Deuteron. xx. 9.
‡ γεγραφα.
complete action and paſt time, written; I
have written.
Another is the pluſquamperfect, Scripſeram,
which unites the paſt with the paſt,
by intimating, that a certain paſt action was
completed before another action which is alſo
paſt. The union of theſe two paſt times is
alſo ſignified by us, when we join the preterite
of the auxiliary had with the preterite of
the participle written; I had written.
A third compound tenſe is the future of
complete action, or the perfect future Scripſero,
I ſhall have written, * Eſomai gegraphôs;
which, as appears by the Engliſh and Greek
way of expreſſing it, forms an union of the
preterperfect, that is, of the complete paſt ending
in the preſent, with the future. Of this
tenſe it is remarkable, that in the Engliſh
(as in the Greek) way of expreſſing it, I ſhall
have written, or, I ſhall have done writing,
there is no auxiliary of the ſubjunctive
mood: a circumſtance, that ſufficiently ſhows
the abſurdity of calling it the future of the
A fourth is the definite future, Scripturus
ſum, I am going to write, or, I am about to
write: in which the preſent is united with
the future, Sum with Scripturus, to intimate
a futurity that is juſt commencing. We
expreſs it in Engliſh by a ſort of figure: I
* εσομαι γεγραφως.
am going to write; that is, I am engaged in
an action which is preparatory to, or will be
immediately followed by, the act of writing.
The other Engliſh phraſe is, I am about to
write; that is, I am at the point, the nearer
end, or the beginning of the action of writing:
for bout in French denotes point or end;
and au bout, at the point, or at the end; ſo
that it is probable we have derived this idiom
from the French language.
A fifth compound tenſe is in Latin Scripturus
eram; in Greek * Emellon graphein;
in Engliſh, I was about to write. We uſe
it, to expreſs an action, which at a certain
time now paſt would have taken place immediately,
if ſomething had not happened to
prevent or defer it, or at leaſt to claim a
prior attention. So in the tenth chapter
of the Apocalypſe; "And when the ſeven
"thunders had uttered their voices, I was
"about to write, Emellon graphein: and I
"heard a voice from heaven, ſaying unto
"me, Seal up thoſe things which the ſeven
thunders uttered, and write them not."
It is therefore a compoſition of the paſt
eram, with the definite or paulo-poſt future,
Scripturus. But there is not in any language,
ſo far as I know, a contrivance for
comprehending all this in one word; and
therefore, like ſome other tenſes, it muſt be
* εμελλον γραφειν.
ſignified by auxiliary words joined to the
participle of future time.
I ſhall be writing, * Eſomai graphôn, is the
laſt compound tenſe that I ſhall mention.
It occurs in ſentences like the following;
"I cannot come tomorrow before dinner,
"for. I ſhall be writing all the morning;"
and is therefore a coalition of the future with
the imperfect. It differs however from the
incomplete future formerly deſcribed, and
exemplified by Scribam, I ſhall write. This
laſt denotes incomplete action, and indefinite
(or aoriſtical) futurity: but I ſhall be writing
denotes both theſe, together with extended or
continued acion. — So much for compound
tenſes; which unite two or more times in
one. — If the reader will not allow theſe
two laſt forms of expreſſion to be Tenſes,
I ſhall not inſiſt on it, that they are. I call
them ſo, becauſe they have been ſo called by
2. The ſimple tenſes, expreſſive of one time
only, are theſe that follow. — 1. The definite
preſent, Scribo, I write. — 2. The aoriſt of the
preſent, "A merry heart maketh a chearful
"countenance." — 3. The aoriſt of the paſt,
† Egrapfa, I wrote, or I did write. — 4. The
aoriſt of the future, Scribam, I ſhall write.
— 5. The imperfect, or the continued and
incomplete paſt, Scribebam, I was writing. —
* εσομαι γραφων. † εγραψα.
Theſe tenſes have all been ſufficiently deſcribed
under other characters.
And now, of the ELEVEN TENSES here
explained, which, being a ſtrange as well as
an odd number, we may, by omitting the
two laſt, and retaining the Paulo-poſt-future
(becauſe there is a tense of that name in the
Greek Grammar) reduce to NINE, the number
of the Muſes; — of theſe eleven tenſes,
I ſay, the arrangement and general nature
may be ſeen at one glance, in the following
The Preſent. Scribo. I write. No 1
The Preterperfect. I have written. No 2.
The Paulo-poſt-future. Scripturus ſum.
No 3.
The Preſent. A merry heart maketh, &c.
No 4.
The Paſt. Egrapſa. I wrote, or I did
write. No 5.
The Future. Scribam. I ſhall write. No 6.
The Preterperfect. I have written. No 2.
The Aoriſt of the paſt. I wrote. No.5.
The Pluſquamperfect. I had written. No 7.
The Future perfect. Scripſero. I ſhall have
written. NO 8.
The Imperfect and continued paſt. I was
writing. No 9.
The Aorift of the future. Scribam. I ſhall
write. No 6.
The Paulo-poſt-future. Scripturus ſum
No 3.
The Preterperfect. Paſt with preſent. No 2.
The Pluſquamperfect. Paſt with paſt. No 7.
The Future perfect. Preſent and paſt with
future. No 8.
The Paulo-poſt-future. Preſent with future.
No 3.
The Paſt with future. Scripturus eram.
No 10.
The Imperfect with future. I ſhall be
writing. No 11.
The Definite preſent. No 1.
The Aoriſt of the preſent. No 4.
The Aoriſt of the paſt. No 5.
The Aoriſt of the future. No 6.
The Imperfect and extended paſt No 9.
The Tenſes, reduced to Nine, are, 1. The
Indefinite Preſent. 2. The Definite Preſent.
3. The Imperfect. 4. The Indefinite Preterit,
or Aoriſt of the Paſt. 5. The Preterperfect.
6. The Pluſquamperfect. 7. The Indefinite
or Aoriſt Future. 8. The Paulo-poſt-future.
9. The Perfect Future.
It will perhaps occur, that there are two
Greek tenſes, whereof in this long detail I
have given no account; namely, the ſecond
aoriſt, and the ſecond future. The truth is,
that I conſider them as unneceſſary. Their
place, for any thing I know to the contrary,
might at all times be ſupplied by the firſt
aoriſt and the firſt future. Some grammarians
are of opinion, that the firſt aoriſt
ſignifies time paſt in general, and the ſecond,
indefinite time paſt; and that the firſt future
denotes a nearer, and the ſecond a more remote
futurity. But this, I apprehend, is
mere conjecture, unſupported by proof. And
therefore I incline rather to the ſentiments
of thoſe who teach, that the ſecond future
and ſecond aoriſt have no meaning different
from the firſt future and firſt aoriſt; and that
they are the preſent and imperfect of ſome
obſolete theme of the verb, and, when the
other theme came into uſe, happened to be
retained, for the ſake of variety perhaps, or
by accident, with a preterite and future ſignification.
Be this as it will; as theſe tenſes
are peculiar to the Greek, and have nothing
correſponding to them in other tongues,
need not ſcruple to overlook them as ſuperfluous.

Different nations may make uſe of different
contrivances for marking the times of
their verbs. The Greeks and Latins diſtinguiſh
their tenſes, as well as their moods,
and the caſes of their nouns, adjectives, and
participles, by varying the termination, or
otherwise changing the form, of the word,
retaining, however, thoſe radical letters,
which prove the inflection to be of the
ſame kindred with its theme. The modern
tongues, particularly the Engliſh, abound in
auxiliary words, which vary the meaning of
the noun or attributive, without requiring
any conſiderable varieties of inflection. Thus,
I did read, I ſhall read, I ſhould read, have the
ſame import with legi, legam, legerem. It is
obvious, that a language, like the Greek and
Latin, which can thus comprehend in one
word the meaning of two or three, muſt have
ſome advantages over thoſe which cannot.
Perhaps indeed it may not be more perſpicuous:
but, in the arrangement of words,
and conſequently in harmony and energy, as
well as in conciſeneſs, it may be much more
elegant. Every idea that Greek or Latin can
expreſs may in one way or other be expreſſed
in Engliſh. But if we were to attempt the
ſame varieties of arrangement, we ſhould ſee
a wonderful ſuperiority in the former. Virgil
could ſay,
Formoſam reſonare doces Amaryllida ſilvas:
But we cannot ſay, "Fair to reſound thou
"teacheſt Amaryllis the woods." Had the
poet's verſe permitted, the ſyntax of his language
would not have hindered him from
changing the order of there five words in
many different ways, with equal ſignificancy.
But when we attempt more than two or
three modes of arrangement, we are apt to
fall into ambiguity or nonſenſe. Nay in
many caſes we are limited to one particular
arrangement. A Roman might have ſaid,
Achilles interfecit Hectorem, or Hectorem interfecit
Achilles, or Achilles Hectorem interfecit,
or Hectorem Achilles interfecit, or Interfecit
Hectorem Achilles, or Interfecit Achilles Hectorem:
but we muſt ſay, Achilles Hector;
for, if we vary the ſentence ever ſo little, we
produce ambiguity, nonſenſe, or falſehood;
ambiguity, as Achilles Hector ſlew; nonſenſe,
as Slew Hector Achilles; falſehood, as Hector
ſlew Achilles.
It has been obſerved of the Engliſh, that
they are much inclined to ſhorten their words
into monoſyllables; which a certain author
wittily aſſigns as a proof, that taciturnity is
natural to the people. It may alſo be remarked,
that we are not friendly to inflection:
for, few as the terminations of our
verbs are, we ſeem inclinable to reduce their
number. Thus ſome authors confound wrote
with written, or rather aboliſh written, and uſe
wrote inftead of it; and ſay, not only, he
"wrote a book," which is right; but alſo
"the book is well wrote," inſtead of
written." To miſtake the aoriſt of the
paſt for the preterite participle, would have
a ſtrange effect in Latin or Greek; and is
not leſs ungrammatical in Engliſh. — In like
manner, ſome of our writers ſeem to forget,
that Engliſh verbs have in the indicative
mood a ſecond perſon ſingular; for they ſay,
thou writes, inſtead of thou write: which is
as improper in our language, as tu
would be in Latin. And, both in ſpeech and
in writing, it has been too cuſtomary, of late
years, to diſcontinue the uſe of that conjunctive
or ſubjunctive mood, which was
formerly, by our beſt writers, introduced
after ſuch words as if, though, before, whether,
unleſs, &c.: as, "If he write, I will anſwer
"him," — "Though he ſlay me, I will truſt
"in him," — "I expect to ſee him before he
"go away," &c. inſtead of which phraſes,
many people would now ſay, leſs properly,
if he writes — though he ſlays — before he
"goes," &c. * — This however is the more
excuſeable, becauſe the indicative may ſometimes
be elegantly uſed in ſuch a connection:
as, "If there is a Power above us, he muſt
* This, and the preceding, and ſome other grammatical
and verbal improprieties, are frequent in Sterne.
delight in virtue."For the firſt clauſe,
though introduced by if, is not meant to expreſs
what is in any degree doubtful, indefinite,
or dependent: and therefore, it has not
that character, which diſtinguiſhes the ſubjunctive
from the indicative. — As our language
has too little inflection, it is pity it
should loſe any of the little it has.
Paſt time being prior to preſent, and preſent
to future, one would think, that grammarians,
in arranging the tenſes, ſhould have
given the firſt place to the preterites. Yet in
the Greek and Latin. and all modern grammars,
the order is different, and the preſent
has the precedency: which by Scaliger is thus
whimſically accounted for. What ſtands connected
with preſent time is perceived by ſenſe
alone, and may therefore be known in ſome
degree to all animals; but memory, as well
as ſenſe, is requiſite to give information of
what is paſt; and, in order to anticipate the
future, ſenſe, memory, and reaſon are all
neceſſary. — The true reaſon I take to be this.
The Preſent is put firſt, becauſe in Greek and
Latin it is conſidered as the theme or root
of the verb; every other tenſe being derived
from it, and it derived from no other tenſe:
and the Preterits take place of the Future,
in Latin, on account of the natural precedency
of paſt to future time; and, in
Greek, the Future takes place of the Preterits,
becauſe from the Future the Preterits
are derived.
Having finiſhed the ſubject of Tenſes,
proceed to explain the nature of Moods, and
to inquire, in what reſpects they are eſſential
to language.
The ſubject continued. — Of the Modes, or Moods
of verbs. — Gerunds and Supines. — Species of
IN ſpeaking, we not only convey our
thoughts to others; but alſo give intimation
of thoſe peculiar affections, or mental
energies, by which we are determined to think
and ſpeak. Hence the origin of Modes or
Moods in verbs. They are ſuppoſed to make
known our ideas, with ſomething alſo of the
intention, or temper of mind, with which
we conceive and utter them.
In moſt languages, the uſe of moods is
a matter of ſome difficulty; and the ſource
of much elegance, in marking with a ſignificant
brevity certain minute varieties of meaning,
which without this expedient would produce
awkward circumlocutions. This will
appear from ſome of the following examples.
And the advantages here hinted at are more
conſpicuous in Greek and Latin, than in
Engliſh. For in thoſe languages the moods
are marked by particular inflections of the
verb; and the rules for their uſe are aſcertained
more exactly than in our tongue, and
better adapted to the varieties of human
As the theory of moods is not altogether
the ſame in any two languages, one cannot
enter into it with any great degree of minuteneſs,
in an inquiry into the principles of Univerſal
Grammar. All therefore I have to do
in this place, is to give ſome account of their
general nature, and ſhow in what reſpects
they may be eſſential to language.
If I affirm concerning that which I conceive
abſolutely to be preſent, or paſt, or future,
I uſe what is called the Indicative of
Declarative mood: as I go, I was going,
had gone, I went, I ſhall go. In all hiſtory
and ſcience this mood predominates; and in
every language it is neceſſary. It is the buſineſs
of the hiſtorian to ſay, not what Ceſar
might have done, or what he might have been,
but what he was, and what he did: the truths
of geometry are invariable, and therefore
abſolute: and the philoſopher conſiders the
works of nature as they are, have been, and
will be, and not as they might have been under
the influence of different laws.
If, together with the ſimple affirmation of
the verb, I alſo expreſs ſome modification or
affection of it, ſuch as power, poſſibility, liberty,
will, duty, &c. the mood is called Potential;
as I may write, I might have been conſulted,
I could live on vegetables, I would ſpeak
if I durſt, He ſhould have acted otherwiſe.
If I ſignify, by means of a verb, ſomething
which is affirmed, not abſolutely by
itſelf, but relatively to ſome other verb on
which it is dependent, I uſe the Subjunctive
mood: as, I eat, that I may live; if he go,
I will follow; whether he be alive, I know
not. This has alſo been called the Conjunctive
mood; perhaps becauſe the verb ſo
modified is often uſhered in by a conjunction,
that, if, whether, &c.
The Optative mood is ſaid to expreſs a
wiſh or deſire; and in Greek is marked by a
particular form or inflection of the verb.
Yet, even in Greek, a wiſh may be expreſſed
by other moods beſides the optative; and,
without the aid of one or more auxiliary
words, cannot be expreſſed even by the optative
itſelf. Whence it may be inferred, that
this mood is ſuperfluous, even in Greek;
and, as it is found in no other tongue, that
it cannot be eſſential to language. In fact,
the Greek optative often conveys the meaning
of a Subjunctive, or Potential. By the
Attick writers it is ſometimes uſed to expreſs
thoſe contingencies that depend on the human
Latin, there is no need of an Optative;
wiſhes being ſignified by the Subjunctive
modified by certain auxiliaries expreſſed
or underſtood: as Utinam ſaperes (that is,
Opto ut, uti, or utinam ſaperes) "I wiſh that
* Origin and Progreſs of Language.
"you were wiſe:" O ſi Jupiter referat præteritos
annos (that is; O quantum gauderem
or O quantum proficeret, ſi Jupiter, &c.)
"O that Jupiter, (or I wiſh that Jupiter)
"would reſtore the years that are paſt:"
Sis bonus.felixque tuis; where utinam is underſtood,
or Precor ut ſis bonus, &c. Similar
contrivances take place in other tongues.
As to the Potential mood, it may, I think,
in all caſes, be reſolved into either the Indicative
or the Subjunctive: and therefore, and
becauſe in Latin and Greek it is not marked
by any peculiar inflection of the verb, I do
not conſider it as eſſential to language, or as
worthy of being diſtinguiſhed in Grammar
by a particular name. "I may go," is the
ſame with "It is in my power to go;" which
is a poſitive and abſolute affirmation, requiring
a verb of the indicative mood. "He
"ſhould have gone," appears to be equally abſolute,
when reſolved thus, "It was his duty
"to go." And in like manner, "He would
have gone," is nothing more than, "He
was willing to go." And "I might have
"been conſulted," is not materially different
from, "It was in the power of others to
"have conſulted me." In theſe examples,
the Potential coincides with the Indicative. —
And in the following paſſage from Horace,
Sed tacitus paſci ſi poſſet corvus, haberet
Plus dapis —
the laſt clauſe, which is commonly referred
to the Potential, may be reſolved into the
indicative and ſubjunctive thus: Si corvus
poſſet paſci tacitus, ita res eſt, or fieri poteſt,
ut haberet plus dapis; which is a ſentence
conſiſting of one abſolute affirmation, or indicative
verb, and of two ſubordinate or relative
clauſes, in both which the mood is ſubjunctive.

The imperative Mood ſeems to be only
an elliptical way of expreſſing that, which
implies abſolute affirmation, and which therefore
might be with equal clearneſs, though
not with equal brevity, expreſſed by the Indicative.
"Go thou," is the ſame in meaning
with, "I command, or I intreat thee to
"go:" "Spare us, good Lord," may be reſolved
into, "We beſeech thee, good Lord, to
"ſpare us."
The Infinitive may be called, if you pleaſe,
the infinitive, indefinite, or imperſonal form of
the verb: but a mood it certainly is not
becauſe it implies no mental energy, or intention.
Nay, if the eſſential character of
the verb be, what it has been proved to be,
to expreſs Affirmation, it will follow, that
the infinitive is not even a part of the verb.
For it expreſſes no affirmation; it has no reference
to perſons or ſubſtances; it forms no
compleat ſentence by itſelf, nor even when
joined to a noun, unleſs it be aided by ſome
real part of a verb either expreſſed or underſtood.
Lego, legebam, legi, legeram, legam,
I read, I was reading, I have read, I had
read, I ſhall read, do, each of them, amount
to a compleat affirmative ſentence: but legere,
to read, legiſſe, to have read, lecturum eſſe,
be about to read, affirm nothing, and are not
more applicable to any one perſon, than to
any other.
But, though the Infinitive is no part of
the verb, even as the ground whereon the
houſe ſtands is no part of the building, it
may be conſidered as the foundation of the
whole verb; becauſe it expreſſes the ſimple
attribute, on which, by means of inflections
and auxiliary words, the authors of
language have reared that vaſt fabrick
moods and tenſes, whereby are ſignified ſo
many varieties of affirmation, and action,
time, perſon, and number. And this attribute
it expreſſes abſtractly, as ſomething
capable of being characteriſed by qualities,
or made the ſubject of a propoſition; which
comes ſo near the deſcription of a noun,
that in moſt languages it may be uſed, and
frequently is uſed, as a noun: whence ſome
antient grammarians called it, the verbal noun,
or, more properly, the noun of the verb. *
* Non inepte hic modus (Infinitivus) a veteribus quibuſdam
Verbi Nomen eſt appellatum. Eſt enim (ſi non vere
ac ſemper, quod nonnulli volunt, Nomen Subſtantivum)
ſignificatione certe ei maxime affinis; ejuſque vices ſuſtine
per omnes caſus. Ruddiman. Gram. major. par. ii. p. 217.
Thus Scire tuum nibil eſt * is the ſame with
and Reddes dulce loqui, Scientia tua nihil eſt;
reddes ridere decorum, is equally elegant and
expreſſive with, Reddes dulcem loquelam, reddes
decorum riſum †. Thus, in Engliſh, we may
ſay, "Death is certain," or "To die is certain;"
"He loves learning;" or "He
"loves to learn." — In ſome languages, particularly
the Italian and Greek, the article is
prefixed to theſe infinitive nouns; which, if
poſſible, makes their ſubſtantive nature ſtill
more apparent; as Il mangiare, the eating;
l' eſſre, the being: ‡ To philoſophein boulomai
êper to ploutein, I chooſe to philoſophize rather
than to be rich; which is the ſame with, I
chooſe philoſophy rather than riches. But to
ſuch infinitives we do not prefix the article
in Engliſh, becauſe cuſtom has ſo determined;
nor in Latin, becauſe that language has no
article ‖. In the Claſſick tongues, they ſupply
the place of all the caſes: in Engliſh,
they may go before a verb, as nominatives,
as "To learn is deſirable;" or after it, as
accuſatives, as "I deſire to learn;" but they
never follow a prepoſition, ſo far as I recollect,
except in one paſſage of Spenſer,
which, being contrary to idiom, or at leaſt
obſolete, is not to be imitated:
* Perſius.
† Horace.
‡ Το φιλοσοφε̄̃ιν βόυλομαι ηπερ το πλόυατειν.
‖ Pronominal articles are ſometimes joined to theſe infinitives
in Latin: as, Cum vivere ipſum turpe ſit nobis.
Totum hoc diſplicet ph,iloſo.phari. Cicero.
For not to have been dipt in Lethe lake,
Could ſave the ſon of Thetis from to die:
that is, The having been dipt in Lethe could
not ſave the ſon of Thetis from death.
Some authors will have it, that there are
alſo in language an Interrogative mood, expreſſing
a deſire of verbal information; and
a Requiſitive, expreſſing a deſire of being
aſſiſted or gratified. And this laſt they ſubdivide
into two ſpecies, the Precative, when
we addreſs a ſuperiour, and the Imperative,
when we command an inferiour. But ſuch
a multiplying of moods appears to be unneceſſary.
The Requiſitive differs not in form
from the Imperative *. The Interrogative
is commonly expreſſed, not by any form of
the verb contrived on purpoſe, but by a particular
arrangement of the words, as It is ſo:
Is it ſo? — or by the addition of ſome particle,
as Eſt verum: eſtne verum? or merely by a
change in the emphaſis or tone of the ſpeaker,
as, I did ſo: You did? meaning, Did you ſo indeed?
— And it is well obſerved, by the learned
and accurate Ruddiman, "that if we will
"conſtitute as many moods, as there are
"various modifications wherewith a verb or
"affirmation may be affected, we muſt multiply
them to a very great number; and,
"beſides the Indicative, Subjunctive, Poten*
In Hebrew, an earneſt requeſt. is ſignified by adding
to the Imperative the particle na; as Hoſanna, Save, I beſeech
"tial, Optative, Imperative, and Interroga"tive,
have alſo a Permiſſive, an Hortative,
"a Precative, a Conceſſive, a Mandative, a
"mode to expreſs volition, and another to
"ſignify duty:" — which, inſtead of improving
the grammatical art, would only render
it the more confuſed and difficult, without
adding any thing to the regularity or ſignificancy
of language.
Since, then, it appears, that the Potential
may be reſolved into the Indicative and Subjunctive;
that the Optative is ſuperfluous,
being, even in Greek, a ſort of Subjunctive;
that the Imperative is an Elliptical form of
the Indicative; that the Infinitive is no mood
at all; and that the other ſuppoſed moods
abovementioned have no real foundation in
language, nor claim any particular notice
from the Grammarian; — it ſeems to follow,
that to verbs, conſidered as expreſſive of affirmation,
two moods only are neceſſary; the
Indicative, to ſignify affirmation abſolute; and
the Subjunctive, to denote affirmation relative,
dependent, or conditional. Indeed it is not eaſy
to conceive any mode of affirmation, which
may not be reſolved into one or other of theſe
two. And, in the Latin tongue, which is,
not defective in this particular, there are,
properly ſpeaking, no more than three moods,
the Indicative, Subjunctive, and Imperative:
which laſt I ſhall allow to be a mood, (as it
is found in ſo many languages) though not
a neceſſary one. — As to the Infinitive, it is
impoſſible to prove, by any juſt reaſoning,
that it has any title to the name of mood,
or even to be conſidered as a part of the
In fact, we might repeat, in regard to
Moods, a remark formerly made on the degrees
of compariſon of adjectives. Their
number is in nature indefinite: but as nothing
in language can be ſo, it is more convenient
to reduce them to two or three,
which by means of auxiliary words may be
ſufficient to comprehend them all, than
vainly to endeavour to provide an adjective
for every poſſible degree of compariſon, or
a mood for each particular energy of mind
that may give a character to affirmation.
That I may not be thought more paradoxical
than others, in what has been advanced
on this ſubject, I ſhall conclude it
with obſerving, that Perizonius reduces the
moods of a finite verb to three, the Indicative,
Subjunctive, and Imperative; that Ruddiman
includes the Optative and Potential in
the Subjunctive; that the learned author of
an Eſſay on the Origin and progreſs of language
admits, with me, only two moods of
affirmation; that Scaliger denies that moods
are neceſſary to the verb; and that Sanctius
explodes them altogether, as having no natural
connection with it.
And in behalf of this opinion of Sanctius
and Scaliger many plauſible things might be
ſaid. The moods ſeem reducible to two, the
Indicative and Subjunctive. Every ſcholar
knows, that a conſiderable part of the elegance
of the Latin verb ariſes from the right
application of them; and that, if in Cicero,
Ceſar, and Virgil (for example) the tenſes
of the latter were to be changed into the correſponding
tenſes of the former, the language
would appear even uncouth in the
ſound, as well as inaccurate with reſpect to
the ſenſe. But it may be queſtioned, whether
this is not in part the effect of habit. We
have always been accuſtomed to Subjunctive
tenſes in Latin; and can hardly conceive that
it would be intelligible without them. And
that without them it would not be elegant,
is allowed. But, ſetting elegance aſide, and
independently on the habits acquired in reading
the claſſicks, might we not, in one way
or other, expreſs every neceſſary affirmation,
by means of the Indicative only? Certain
it is that, in many caſes, if the laws of ſyntax
would permit, the ſenſe would not hinder
us from uſing that mood inſtead of the
other. In vulgar Engliſh, as already obſerved,
this is done every moment, without
any other inconvenience, than that of offending
the critick, and gradually corrupting the
purity of our tongue. Nay, there is reaſon
to think, that many people now ſpeak and
write Engliſh, without ever uſing a Subjunctive,
(except would, could, and ſome other
auxiliaries) or knowing that there is ſuch a
thing in the language. Even the Latin
Grammarian allows, of certain conjunctions,
that they may govern either of theſe
moods. And where the rule for the uſe of
the Subjunctive is more determinate, as in
ſentences like the following, Neſcio an bonus
ſit, I know not whether he be good, the Indicative
might, without ambiguity, expreſs
the meaning, Neſcio an bonus eſt, I know not
whether he is good.
If then the Subjunctive, however ornamental
and uſeful, is not to be reckoned
among the neceſſaries of ſocial life, we need
not be ſurpriſed, that in Hebrew, in which
ſimplicity is more ſtudied than ornament, the
moods ſhould be only two, the Indicative
and Imperative. The Infinitive, indeed, is
named as a third mood in the grammar of
the language; but that is in compliance
with the erroneous practice of other grammarians.

GERUNDS and SUPINES are of great importance
in Latin; but being in a manner
peculiar to that language, it belongs not to
Univerſal Grammar to conſider them particularly.
Yet a remark or two on the ſubject
may not be improper.
The Gerund is a noun derived from the
verb; but is no part of the verb, becauſe in
itſelf it does not poſſeſs the power of affirmation.
It has two diſtinct offices. When
in the nominative caſe it is joined to eft with
a dative, or in the accuſative to eſſe with a
dative, it denotes neceſſity or duty: as moriendum
eſt mihi, I muſt die; Scio moriendum
eſſe mihi, I know that I muſt die: Vivendum
eſt mihi recte, I ought to live honeſtly; Fateor
vivendum eſſe mihi recte, I confeſs that I ought
to live honeſtly. In this uſe, it is properly
called a gerund; for that word implies, that
ſomething muſt be, or is to be, or ought to
be, done. And there is in Greek a ſort of
participial adverb, ſometimes called the adverb
of poſition, which expreſſes the meaning
of this gerund, as * Iteon moi, Eundum
eſt mihi, I muſt go: † oiſteon kai elpiſteon
ferendum et ſperandum eſt, we ought to endure
and to hope. In Engliſh, and other modern
languages, there is nothing correſpondent to
this gerund; its place being ſupplied by an
auxiliary verb, of duty, ought, or of neceſſity,
In another view, the Latin gerund is a
verbal ſubſtantive, approaching in ſignification
to that of the infinitive noun; but having
this advantage over the Latin infinitive
that it admits of terminations to mark its
caſes, and coincides mere eaſily in ſyntax
With nouns and adjectives. Examples may
* ί́τεον μοι. † όιςεον ϰαι έλπιςεον.
be ſeen in the Latin grammar. In Greek
this ſort of Gerund is the leſs neceſſary, becauſe
the infinitive itſelf may be reſolved into
caſes, by means of the neuter article: as
* ek tou oran gignetai to eran, of ſeeing comes
loving; † to ploutein eſtin en tô chrêſthai,
Being rich conſiſts in uſing. We have in
Engliſh a verbal noun, of the ſame form
with our active participle, which noun coincides
in meaning with this Latin gerund: as
he is incapable of writing, he is addicted to
writing, he practiſes writing, he is fatigued
with writing.
From the infinitive of the Hebrew, by
means of certain prefixed letters, (which are
indeed contracted prepoſitions) are formed
four words called Gerunds; which are very
ſerviceable in that language, and ſometimes
ſupply the place of what in other tongues
we term the pluſquamperfect tenſe, and Subjunctive
mood. Thus from maſor, tradere;
are formed bemſor, in tradendo; chimſor, cum
tradidiſſem, &c.; limfor, ad tradendum; mimſor,
a tradendo. This ſomewhat reſembles
the uſe, which, in Greek, by the help of
prepoſitions and the neuter article, may be
made of the infinitive taken as a noun.
The origin of the word Supine, as a term
in grammar, has given riſe to ſeveral con*
εκ τον όραν γίγνεται το έραν.
† το πλόυατειν έςιν έν τω̃ χ ηρ̃ϑσϑαι.
jectures. Sanctius, who never heſitates, is
of opinion, that the word ſo called is an emblem
of a ſupine or indolent man: for that,
as the buſineſs of ſuch a man muſt be done
by others, ſo the office of the ſupine may be
executed by various other phraſes; diſcedo
lectum, for example, by diſcedo lecturus, by
diſcedo ad legendum, and by diſcedo ut legam.
Priſcian thinks, not leſs whimſically, that the
Supine, being placed in grammars at the
bottom of the verb, ſeems to ſupport the
whole weight of the conjugation; like a man
lying ſupine, or with his face upwards, and
preſſed down to the earth by a huge pile of
burdens. — But however myſterious their
name may be, the nature of the two Latin
ſupines is very well under-ſtood. Like the
gerunds, they are no parts of the verb, but
verbal nouns; the firſt ending in um, which
is always of the accuſative caſe, governed by
ad underſtood, and preceded by a verb of
motion; and the second in u, which is always
of the ablative, governed by in underſtood,
and preceded by an adjective: as abiit (ad)
deambulatum; facile (in) dictu. So they are
explained by the moſt accurate of all Latin
Grammarians, Ruddiman.
I ſhall now give ſome account of the ſeveral
ſpecies or ſorts of verbs, and ſo conclude this
part of the ſubject.
In all the languages I know, and probably
in all others, Verbs are of different ſorts.
Excluſive of the verb of exiſtence, which is
of a peculiar character, and has been already
deſcribed, they may all be divided into Active
Paſſive, and Neuter.
1. As human affairs depend upon Action,
and as human ſpeech is employed on human
affairs, it muſt happen, in all poſſible conditions
wherein we can be placed, that affirmations
will often be made in regard to actions.
Verbs, therefore, which affirm concerning
action, and which are called Active
there muſt be in all languages; as I love,
thou blameſt, he ſtrikes, they purſue.
2. Every created being that acts is
to be acted upon: and what we ſuffer, or feel;
from being acted upon, that is, from being
the ſubject or the objects of action, muſt be of
great importance to life and happineſs, and
therefore cannot fail to be ſpoken of, under
the form of affirmation, and ſo render Paſſive
verbs neceſſary; as thou art loved, I was
blamed, he is ſtricken, they are purſued. In
the Claſſick tongues, the greateſt part of the
paſſive Verb (or Paſſive Voice, as it is alſo
called) is formed from the active, by a change.
of termination; as amor, I am loved, from
amo, I love; * tuptomai, I am beaten, from
† tuptô, I beat. But, in the modern tongues
of Europe, the Paſſive verb is made up of
the participle paſſive, expreſſing the attribute,
* τυπτομαι. † τυπτω.
and of the verb of exiſtence denoting the
affirmation and the time; as Amor, I am
loved; Culpabitur, he will be blamed.
When the name of the being that acts, or
the pronoun which ſtands for that name,
leads the ſentence, the verb, aſſuming its
nature, is active; as Cæſar ſubegit Galliam,
Ceſar ſubdued Gaul. When the being which
is acted upon, that is, when the ſubject,
or when the object of the action, leads
the ſentence, the verb is Paſſive, as Gallia
ſubacta eſt a Cæſare, Gaul was ſubdued
by Ceſar.
I diſtinguiſhed between the ſubject, and
the object, of an action; and there is reaſon
for doing ſo in this place. The ſubject of
an action is affected by the action; the object
of the action is not ſo affected. Thus,
when I ſay, I hear a ſound, I ſee a man,
man and ſound are the objects and when I
ſay, I build an houſe, I break a ſtone, houſe
and ſtone are the ſubjects, of the action. The
firſt is called intentional action, the ſecond is
called real. Both are expreſſed by active
verbs. For, though in the actions called
intentional we are partly paſſive, becauſe an
impreſſion is made upon us; yet there is an
energy on our part, as we may exert our
will and employ our organs, for the purpoſe,
either of receiving that impreſſion, or of
excluding it.
Active verbs are ſubdivided into Tranſiitive
and Intranſitive. An active tranſitive verb
is ſo called, becauſe the action ſignified by it
paſſes from the agent (tranſit) towards ſome
other perſon or thing; as, I ſee a man, I build
an houſe. This verb, therefore, is naturally
placed between two ſubſtantives; the
firſt denoting the agent, which is of the
nominative caſe, becauſe there is nothing to
make it of any other; and the ſecond, denoting
the perſon or thing, towards which
the action is exerted; and which, in languages
that have caſes, is commonly of the
accuſative, though ſometimes alſo of the
genitive, the dative, or the ablative, according
to the arbitrary rules of the language
as, Potitur rerum, favet amico, utitur fraud
— In the modern tongues, which have little
or no variety of caſes, that which as
naturally put before the verb, (for the agent
is always prior to the action, as the cauſe
to the effect) and that which is acted upon
is put after the verb; as, Achilles ſlew Hector:
and, in alluſion to the terms of Greek
and Latin grammar, we call the firſt
nominative, and the laſt the accuſative
though they derive theſe names, not from
their inflection (for they have none), but
merely from their poſition, or from their dependence
upon the verb. Sometimes, however,
where the ſenſe cannot be miſtaken,
where we have an oblique caſe, we may
change this order, for the ſake of harmony
of energy, or of variety; and put the nominative
after the accuſative, or even after the
verb: as, Him they ſlew; Me they inſulted;
Created thing nor valued he, nor ſhun'd.
When one acts upon, or towards, any object,
that object is Paſſive in regard to the
action: and, therefore, all theſe active tranſitive
verbs may be changed into paſſives,
when that which is acted upon leads the
ſentence; as Ego laudo te, I praiſe thee; Tu
laudaris a me, thou art praiſed by me.
An Active Intranſitive verb is that whoſe
action does not paſs from the agent to any
other perſon or thing; as I live, I run, I
walk. This ſort of verb cannot properly
take an accuſative after it, becauſe the actions
have nothing exteriour to the agent upon
which they can be ſaid to be exerted; nor,
conſequently, can it be changed into a paſſive,
becauſe, where actions are not exerted upon,
or towards, any thing, there is nothing paſſive
in regard to thoſe actions. — Intranſitive
verbs are by moſt authors called Neuter, that
is neither active nor paſſive: but I think with
very little propriety. Paſſive indeed they are
not; but ſurely it will not be pretended, that
in running, walking, flying, &c. there is no
action. — When they take an accuſative after
them, as vivere vitam felicem, to live a happy
life; ire longam viam, to go a long journey,
they put off the Intranſitive character, and
are to be referred to the other claſs of active
verbs; and their place may be ſupplied by
verbs tranſitive. Thus, to live a happy life,
vivere vitam felicem, is the ſame with degere
vitam felicem, to lead a happy life; and, to
go a long journey, is the ſame with, to perform
a long journey.
3. That is properly a Neuter verb, which
affirms neither action nor paſſion; but ſimply
denotes the ſtate, poſture, or quality, of
things or perſons; as Sto, I ſtand; manes,
thou remaineſt; dormit, he ſleeps; floremus,
we are flouriſhing; albetis, ye are white;
mortui ſunt, they are dead. It is obvious,
that theſe verbs, like thoſe of the former
ſpecies, can neither take accuſatives after
them, nor be transformed into paſſives; becauſe,
where there is no action, nothing can
be acted upon. True it is, that in ſome
languages, both neuter and intranſitive verbs
are uſed in the paſſive imperſonally: but this
is an idiom, depending, not on the nature
of things, but on the arbitrary rules of thoſe
languages; and beſides, when this is done,
whatever the form of the verb may be, the
ſignification is not neceſſarily paſſive. Thus,
ſtatur may mean ſtant; curritur, currunt;
turbatur, eſt turba; pugnatur, pugnant.
Theſe, I think, are all the ſorts of verb
that are neceſſary in language, and, conſequently,
all that Univerſal Grammar has to
conſider. But, in the Greek and Latin grammars,
other kinds of verbs are ſpecified
which I ſhall give ſome account of, though
a very brief one. For, firſt, they do not
properly come within my plan; and ſecondly,
they may all, in reſpect of ſignification, be
referred to one or other of the claſſes already
When the ſame being that acts is alſo the
ſubject or object of the action, the verb may
be called Middle; as Acteon ſaw himſelf in
the ſtream, Cato ſlew himſelf. This, in moſt
languages, may be expreſſed by an active
verb governing the reciprocal pronoun: but,
antiently, it ſeems, the Greeks expreſſed it
by a particular ſeries of inflections, that have
been called by Grammarians the middle voice.
Few examples, however, of reciprocal action
ſignified by this middle verb, can now be
produced, except from the earlieſt authors *.
In latter times, it came to reſemble the Deponent
of the Latins; having a ſignification
purely active, though, in ſome tenses, a paſſive
The Hebrews have a form of the verb,
or, as it is called, a Conjugation, which reſembles
in its uſe the old middle verb of the
Greek tongue. Thoſe of their Grammarians,
who reject the vowel-points as a rabbinical
and modern invention, reduce the
* See Hom. Il. iii. 141. xiii. 168. Odyſſ. v. 491.
ix. 296.
conjugations to five, which they name Kal,
Niphal, Hiphil, Hophal, and Hithpael. Theſe
five may be reduced to three; for Kal and
Niphal are but the active and paſſiive voices
of the ſame verb; and ſo are Hiphil and
Hophal. Hithpael has no paſſive.
In Kal we have the primitive verb, as
maſar, tradidit, he delivered: for, among the
Hebrews, the third perſon ſingular of the
preterit is the root of the verb. In Hiphil
ſomething of Cauſation is implied; as himſir,
tradere fecit, he cauſed to deliver.
Hithpael is the form, that correſponds to
the old Greek middle verb: as hithmaſer,
tradidit ſe, he delivered himſelf. This at leaſt
is its moſt common ſignification. In neuter
verbs, however, it differs not materially
from the conjugation Kal: halach and hithhalach
both ſignify ambulavit, he walked. And
ſometimes it emphatically expreſſes aſſuming
the appearance of a character without the
reality. "There is, ſays Solomon, mith"ghaſher,
that maketh himſelf rich, yet
"hath nothing: there is mithroſheſh, that
"maketh himſelf poor, yet hath great
It may be remarked here, though foreign
from the ſubject, that in certain Engliſh
neuter verbs of Saxon original ſomething
is diſcernible, not unlike the analogy of the
Hebrew conjugations Kal and Hiphil. To
fit, to lie *, to riſe, to writhe, to fall, are neuters,
that might be referred to the former
conjugation; to which correſpond the following
actives in Hiphil, To ſet, to lay *, to raiſe,
to wreathe, to fell, that is, to cauſe to ſit, to
* Is it not ſtrange, that, in the preſent language of
England, not only in converſation, but even in ſome
printed books of conſiderable name, the neuter to lie, and
the active to lay ſhould be ſo frequently confounded; and
that, inſtead of he lies on the ground, and he lay on the
ground, it ſhould be ſaid he lays, and he laid? Would
not a man of education be aſhamed to be found ignorant
of the difference between an active and a neuter verb?
Or could he think it creditable to miſtake jecit, he threw,
for jacuit, he lay? Yet this vulgar idiom is not leſs barbarous.
If the humour of confounding active verbs with
neuter ſhould continue to prevail, we may ſoon expect to
ſee, and to hear, ſentences like the following: "I laid in
"bed till eight; then I raiſed, and ſet a while in a chair;
when on a ſudden a qualm came on, and I felled upon
"my face." — Our life muſt come to an end; but let us
live as long as we can: our language may alter; but let
us wiſh it permanent, and do our beſt to make it ſo.
Pope has in one place, for the ſake of a rhyme, admitted
this barbariſm. Priam, lying at Achilles's feet, ſays,
Iliad xxiv,
For him, through hoſtile camps I bent my way,
For him, thus proſtrate at thy feet I lay:
which is the more provoking, becauſe it is in one of the
fineſt paſſages of the poem, and in a paſſage where, in
general though not throughout, the Tranſlator has the
honour to outdo his original. It might have been eaſily
For him, through hoſtile camps I paſs'd, and here
Proſtrate before thee in the duſt appear.
cauſe to lie, to cauſe to riſe, to cauſe to writhe,
to cauſe to fall.
Inceptive verbs are appropriated to the beginnings
of action, or rather of condition;
as caleſco, I begin to be warm; tumeſco, I begin
to ſwell. In Latin, they are often productive
of elegance, by preventing circumlocution;
but they are not found in the
Greek, nor are they neceſſary in any language.

Equally unneceſſary, though not leſs elegant,
are the Greek and Latin Deſideratives,
which ſignify deſire; as * brôſeiô, eſurio, I deſire
to eat; † poleméſeiô, bellaturio, I have a
deſire to go to war.
Deponent verbs, which with an active ſignification
have a paſſive termination, as loquor,
I ſpeak; and Neutral-paſſive verbs,
which have an active termination and a paſſive
ſignification, as vapulare, to be whipped,
veneunt, they are ſold, are not uncommon
in the Latin tongue. The former are ſaid
to have their name from deponere; becauſe
they lay aſide that paſſive ſenſe, which one
would expect from their final ſyllables. —
The verb liceo is a very ſingular one; for
with an active termination it has a paſſive
ſenſe, and with a paſſive termination an active
ſenſe: Liceor means, I offer a price; and
Liceo, I am valued or ſet at a price.
* Βρωσειω.
† πολεμησειω.
The Latin Frequentative verb denotes frequency:
as pulſo, I ſtrike often, which is an
active tranſitive; curſito, I run often, which
is an active intranſitive; and dormito, I ſleep
often, which is neuter. This verb is not
neceſſary; but, like the inceptive and the
deſiderative, it contributes ſomething to that
elegant conciſeneſs, which is ſo peculiarly the
character of the Roman language.
Imperſonal verbs are uſed only in the third
perſon ſingular; and in Greek, Latin, and
Italian, never appear with a nominative before
them: as * dei, oportet; exeſti, licet;
baſta, it is enough; the perſon, concerning
whom they affirm, being expreſſed by an
oblique caſe dependent on the verb; as intereſt
omnium, all are concerned; licet tibi, you
may, or it is allowed you; penitet me, I repent;
mi baſta, it is ſufficient for me. The
Engliſh verbs, it behoves, it irketh, it becomes,
are alſo called Imperſonal by our
Grammarians; and do indeed reſemble the
Greek and Latin imperſonals in two reſpects,
that they are only uſed in the third perſon
ſingular; and that they expreſs the perſon,
concerning whom they affirm, by a ſubſequent
or dependent oblique caſe: for we cannot
ſay, I behove, or thou behoveſt; but we
ſay, It behoves me, it behoves thee. But theſe
Engliſh imperſonals differ from the antient
in this, that they have always before them
* όυει — έξεςι.
a nominative expreſſed: for, behoves me, irks
me, becomes me, without the pronoun it
prefixed, are not according to the Engliſh
It has been diſputed, whether the Greek
and Latin Imperſonal verbs are always dependent
on a nominative underſtood or expreſſed:
and by very able Grammarians the
matter has been decided in the affirmative.
Thus, to reſert omnium, negotium or res is
the ſuppoſed nominative: and delectat me
ſtudere ſeems to be nothing different from
ſtudere delectat me; where ſtudere, the infinitive
noun, is properly the nominative to delectat.
The controverſy is foreign from my
purpoſe, and therefore I will not enter upon
it. I ſhall only obſerve, that among the
Latin Grammarians it was carried on with
a vehemence that is ridiculous enough. Priſcian
had ſaid, that all Imperſonal verbs are
really Perſonals, becauſe they have nominatives,
which, whether expreſſed or not, are
ſtill implied. He was anſwered by Auguſtinus
Saturnius, in the following terms:
"May the Gods confound you, Priſcian,
together with that ſame doctrine of yours"
— and he goes on to urge his objections.
"Nay but," replies Sanctius, "may the
"Gods confound you, Auguſtine, together
"with thoſe cavillings of yours; for I do
"maintain, that Priſcian is in the right:" —
which in the ſequel he endeavours to prove.
Ruddiman, who had more ſenſe, as well as
more temper, than any of theſe wiſe men,
obſerves very coolly and properly, that, whatever
be determined concerning the ſuppoſed
nominative of imperſonal verbs, this we are
ſure of, that it never can be a perſon, but
muſt always be a thing: for which reaſon,
the verbs in queſtion are called imperſonal;
a name, that conveys a pretty juſt idea of
their nature.
The Subject continued. — Further Remarks on
the Participle.
THAT the Participle expreſſes a quality
or attribute with time, has more than
once been taken for granted in the courſe
of this inveſtigation, and is generally admitted
by Grammarians. Ruddiman, one of
the moſt cautious of them, declares it to
be eſſential to the Participle, firſt, that it
come immediately from a verb, and, ſecondly,
that in its ſignification it include
time. And therefore, continues he, larvatus,
maſked, is not a participle, becauſe it
comes from a noun, and not from a verb;
and tacitus, ſilent, though it comes from
a verb, is not a participle, becauſe it does
not ſignify time*. And all the writers on
Univerſal Grammar that I am acquainted
with concur in the ſame doctrine.
And this is, perhaps, the moſt convenient
light, in which the Participle can be conſidered
in Univerſal Grammar: for it is not
eaſy, nor, I believe, poſſible, to deſcribe it
more minutely, without entering into the
idioms of individual tongues. In fact, the
* Rudiments of the Latin tongue, page 62.
participles of ſome languages differ widely
in their nature from thoſe of others: and
even, of one and the ſame language, ſame
participles ſeem to be of one character, and
ſome of another.
I. As the firſt Grammarians drew all their
ideas from the Greek tongue, in which there
are participles correſpondent to the preſent,
preterit, and future tenſes; it was natural
for them to ſuppoſe preſent time to be included
in the participle of preſent time (as
it is called), paſt time in the preterit participles,
and future time in the participles of
the future. And this being once ſuppoſed
by the acuteſt of all Grammarians, the Greek,
might naturally be admitted unexamined, or
but ſlightly examined, by their brethren of
other countries, and of latter ages.
But the Greek participles of the preſent
do not always expreſs preſent time; nor is
paſt time always referred to by their preterit
participles: nay, on ſome occaſions, time
ſeems not to be ſignified at all, by either the
former, or the latter. When Cebes ſays,
Etunchanomen peripatountes en tô tou Chronou
hierô *, We were walking in the. temple of
Saturn, the participle of the preſent, walking,
is by means of the verb, were, applied to time
paſt, (which an adjective in the ſame connection
might have been); and therefore of
* Ετυγχανομεν περιπατόυντες εν τω̃ τόυ χρονόυ ίερω.
itſelf cannot be underſtood to ſignify any
ſort of time. If one chooſe to affirm, that
the participle thus applied muſt ſignify time.
then the words at a walk, or the adjective.
merry, muſt alſo ſignify time, when it is ſaid.
We were at a walk in the meadow, or, We
were merry in the meadow; — which no body
I think, will maintain. — Again, When we
read in the Goſpel, Ho piſteuſas ſôthêſetai*,
the participle belongs to the aoriſt of paſt
time, and the verb is of future time; yet we
muſt not render it, "He who believed ſhall
"be ſaved:" for it appears from the context,
that the believing here ſpoken of is
conſidered as poſteriour in time to the enunciation
of the promiſe. Here, therefore, the
participle loſes the ſignification of paſt time:
and may be rendered, by the indefinite preſent,
"He who believeth ſhall be ſaved;" or
by the future, (which often coincides in
meaning with the indefinite preſent) "He
"who will believe ſhall be ſaved;" or merely
by a noun, which in its ſignification is not
connected with time, "The believer ſhall be
"ſaved." — Can it be ſaid then, that the participle
in this place neceſſarily implies any
ſignification of time, when we ſee, that its
full import may be expreſſed, either by preſent,
or by future time, or without any reference
to time paſt, preſent, or future? —
Greek, as well as Latin and Engliſh, parti*
Ο πιςευσας σωϑησεται. See Mark xv. 16.
ciples, often take the ſignification of nouns,
and conſequently loſe that of time: as * ho
peirazón, the tempter, ho kektêmenos †, the
maſter, or proprietor.
2. In Latin, the future participle of the
active verb does indeed expreſs future time:
Scripturus, about to write. But the future
participle of the paſſive, in dus, "does not
ſo much import futurity" (I quote the
words of Ruddiman) "as neceſſity, duty,
"or merit. For there is a great difference
"between theſe two ſentences, Dicit literas
"a ſe ſcriptum iri, and Dicit literas a ſe
"ſcribendas eſſe; the firſt ſignifying, that
"a letter will be written by him, or that
"he will write a letter; and the ſecond,
"that a letter muſt be written by him, or
that he is obliged to write a letter. For
"(continues our Author) though Sanctius
"and Meſſ. de Port Royal contend, that
"this participle is ſometimes uſed for ſimple
"futurity, yet I think, that Perizonius and
Johnſon have clearly evinced the con"trary:"
‡ — that is, I preſume, that it is
never uſed for ſimple futurity.
The Latin active participle of preſent
time is frequently uſed to denote a quality
ſimply, and as it is at all times, or without
reference to any particular time; in which
* ό πειαζων. † ό ϰεϰτημενος.
‡ Rudiments of the Latin tongue, page 47.
caſe, it aſſumes the nature of an adjective,
or perhaps even of a noun: as amans æqui
a lover of equity; or, one whoſe general
character it is at all times, that he loves
The Latin paſſive participle of paſt time
(as it is called) may likewiſe, by loſing all
ſignification of time, become an adjective;
as in the words doctus, eruditus, ſpectatus, probatus,
&c.: and is ſometimes, by means of
the ſubſtantive verb, applied even to future
time in that tenſe, which is commonly called
the future of the ſubjunctive, but which ought
to be called the future perfect of the indicative:
amatus fuero, I ſhall have been loved.
It appears then, that of the Greek and
Latin Participle it is not enough to ſay,
that "it is a word derived from a verb,
and denoting an attribute with ſome ſigni"fication
of time." But this definition
will be found ſtill more inadequate, when
applied to the participles of the modern languages.

3. In Engliſh (and what is ſaid of the
Engliſh participle will in general hold true
of the French and Italian): — in Engliſh, I
ſay, we have but two ſimple participles;
which are here exemplified by writing, and
written. For about to write, or going to
write, is a complex, and indeed a figurative:
way of expreſſing the import of a Latin and
Greek participle, grapſôn, and ſcripturus.
The firſt, Writing, is the participle of
the active verb; the other, Written, is the
participle of the paſſive: I am writing a
paragraph; but it is not yet written. It may
be added, that the former ſignifies imperfect
action, or action begun and not ended; I am
writing a ſentence: and that the latter ſignifies
action complete, perfect, or finiſhed; the
ſentence is written. — This appears to be a
leſs exceptionable way of diſtinguiſhing them,
than if it had been ſaid, that the former
expreſſes preſent time, and the latter time
But, of itſelf, does not the firſt denote
preſent, and the ſecond paſt, time? I anſwer,
No. Let us examine them in their
By the firſt participle, Writing, when
joined to a verb of preſent time, preſent
action is no doubt ſignified: but it is ſignified,
not by the participle, but by the tenſe
of the verb; for the ſame participle, joined
to a verb of a different tenſe, may denote
either paſt or future action; — we may ſay,
not only I am writing, but alſo, I was writing
yeſterday, and I ſhall be writing tomorrow.
Nor let it be ſuſpected, that this participle
varies its time, when joined to the
ſubſtantive verb only. It may be joined, to
other verbs, and ſtill admit the ſame variety:
he went away muttering; he will return ſmiling;
he walks about meditating.
The ſecond, Written, which I call the
paſſive participle, may be thought to be
naturally enough referred to paſt time, becauſe
it expreſſes complete action: for an
action is certainly paſt, when it is compleated.
But this participle may, for all
that, be referred to preſent time, and to
future, as well as to paſt. The letter
now written: it was written yeſterday: it
will be written tomorrow. Is not the time,
in theſe examples, ſignified by the verb is,
was, and will be, as really as in the following;
the ſea is now calm: it was calm yeſterday:
it will be calm tomorrow? If then, in
the former ſentences, the participle written
ſignify an attribute with time, the adjective
calm, in the latter examples, muſt alſo ſignify
an attribute with time: in which caſe, it will
be difficult to diſtinguiſh between the nature
of the adjective, and that of the participle.
But, ſuppoſe the participle written to be
paſſive, and to ſignify complete action; and it
may, in its nature, be eaſily diſtinguiſhed
from the adjective calm, which does not
imply either action received, or action complete.

But if Written be a paſſive participle, why.
do we meet with it in the compound tenſes
of the active verb; in the preterperfect, I
have written; in the pluſquamperfect, I had
written; and in the future perfect; I ſhall:
have written? This queſtion will not appear
of hard ſolution, if we vary a little the order
of theſe auxiliaries. Inſtead, then, of, I
have written a letter; I had written a letter,
and I ſhall have written a letter, ſay, I had
a letter written; I have a letter written, and,
I ſhall have a letter written;; an order, which,
on ſome occaſions, and on ſubjects that admit
a more harmonious phraſeology, might
be tolerated in verſe: and it will appear, that
the participle written belongs, not to the
nominative I, the perſon who acts, but to
the accuſative letter, the thing acted upon, or
(to give it in other words) the thing which
in reſpect of the action is paſſive.
That this is a true ſtate of the caſe, and
no arbitrary ſuppoſition, may appear from
the analogy of other modern languages. In
French, wherever the participle is declined, it
agrees in gender and number, not with the
agent, but with the thing acted upon: as,
La harangue que j'ai faite, and Les vers que
j'ai faits; not fait in either caſe. The ſame
holds in Italian.*
* So in Diodati's Bible. Geneſ.. iii. 12, 12. Ed Adamo
diſſe, La donna che tu hai poſta meco, &c. — E la Donna
riſpoſe, I ſerpente m' ha ſoddotta, &c.
If it be aſked, whence this mode of ſpeaking
could take its riſe; it may be anſwered
that in the barbarous Latin uſed in the
eleventh and twelfth centuries (when the
modern tongues began to aſſume their preſent
form) it was not uncommon, inſtead
of Amavi illum, I have loved him, and Scripſi
literas, I have written the letter, to ſay Habeo
illum amatum, and Habeo ſcriptas literas.
The new languages adopted the idiom. Or
perhaps the idiom paſſed from the new languages
into the barbarous Latin of that
As the paſſive participle written, when
combined with the active auxiliaries have
and had, ſupplies tenſes in the active verb,
I have written, I ſhall have written, I had
written: ſo, when combined with the active
participle having, the ſame paſſive participle
forms an active preterperfect participle. For
having written is as really ſuch in Engliſh,
as * gegraphôs is in Greek. And this, being
further combined with the perfect participle
of the ſubſtantive verb been, ſupplies a preterperfect
paſſive participle, having been written,
which exactly correſponds to the Greek
gegrammenos †. The ſame perfect participle
paſſive written, joined with the imperfect
active participle of the ſubſtantive verb, being,
makes a preſent perfect participle paſ*
† γεγραμμενος.
ſive, being written, which gives the meaning
of the Greek * graphomenos.
One of the greateſt defects in the Engliſh
tongue, with regard to this part of ſpeech,
ſeems to be the want of an imperfect paſſive
participle. For example: If it be aſked, What
is your friend doing? and anſwered, He is
building a houſe; this is right: for the imperfect
active participle, with the preſent
tenſe of the ſubſtantive verb, expreſſes properly
enough action juſt now going on, but not
finiſhed. But if to the queſtion, Is your
friend's houſe built? the anſwer, which is
not uncommon, be given, No, but it is
building; this is not right, becauſe a paſſive
ſenſe is ſignified by an active participle.
We muſt, therefore, in this caſe, if we would
ſpeak grammatically, vary the phraſe, and
ſay, No, but he is building it; or ſomething
to that purpoſe.
In old Engliſh, this defect was ſometimes
ſupplied by prefixing the prepoſition in to
the active participle: as, "Forty and ſix
"years was this temple in building." But
this would now appear formal; and indeed,
in the caſe ſuppoſed, hardly intelligible:
The houſe is not built, but it is in
In the original Greek, of the paſſage
quoted in the laſt paragraph from the ſecond
* γ αφομενος.
chapter of St. John's Goſpel, the verb is of
the firſt aoriſt paſſive; which, it ſeems, might
ſignify imperfect and continued action, as
well as indefinite paſt time. In Latin, it
might be rendered, according to the idea
which our Tranſlators muſt have had of it,
Quadraginta et ſex annos hoc templum ædificabatur.
For that this is the true grammatical
ſenſe of the imperfect paſſive, though not
always adhered to by Roman writers, we
have the authority of Ruddiman.*
* The indicative tenſes of the Paſſive Latin verb are
thus diſtinguiſhed by that moſt accurate Grammarian. —
"Let the ſubject of diſcourſe be the building of a houſe.
"1. When I ſay Domus ædificatur, I mean that it is juſt
"now a building, but not finiſhed. 2. When Ædifi"cabatur,
that it was then, or at a certain paſt time,
"a building, but not then finiſhed. 3. Ædificabitur,
"that ſome time hence it ſhall be a building, without any
"formal regard to the finiſhing of it. — But when I make
"uſe of the Participle perfect, I always ſignify a thing
"compleated and ended: but with theſe ſubdiſtinctions.
"1. By Ædificata eſt, I mean ſimply, that it is finiſhed;
"without any regard to the time when. 2. Ædificata
"fuit, it is finiſhed; and ſome time ſince has intervened.
"3. Ædificata erat, it was finiſhed at a certain paſt time
"referred to, with which it was contemporary. 4. Ædi"ficata
fuerat; it was finiſhed before a certain paſt time
"referred to, to which it was prior. 5. Edificata erit,
"it ſhall be finiſhed ſome time hereafter, either without
"regard to a particular time when; or with reſpect to.
"a certain time yet future, with which its finiſhing ſhall
"be contemporary. 6. Ædificata fuerit, it ſhall be finiſhed
"and paſt before another thing yet future, to which its
"finiſhing ſhall be prior." — The Author then goes on to
ſhow, which he does in a very ingenious and ſatisfactory
If the Participle eſſentially implies time,
it would not be eaſy to give a reaſon, why
neuter verbs ſhould not, as well as active,
have participles both of preſent time, and of
paſt According to the common theory,
dormiens, ſleeping, is the preſent participle
of a neuter verb: but where is the preterit
participle? Of active. verbs we have participles
of either ſort; amans, loving, amatus,
loved; audiens; hearing, auditus, heard, &c.
But of dormio, I ſleep, ſedeo, I fit, floreo, I
flouriſh, though there are participles of preſent
time (as they are called) dormiens, ſleeping,
ſedens, ſitting, florens, flouriſhing, there
are none of paſt time. And yet, theſe attributes
may be ſpoken of as paſt, as well as
preſent. He ſlept, he ſat, he flouriſhed,
may be ſaid, as well as, he ſleeps, he ſits, he
How is this difficulty to be ſolved? By
rejecting the common theory, and adopting
what is here offered. Call the one participle
Active, and the other Paſſive: and then,
what is more eaſy, than to ſay, that to Neuter
verbs, which can never be Paſſive, no
paſſive participle can ever belong?
Excepting, therefore, the Greek participles,
which are more numerous, and perhaps
leſs underſtood, than thoſe of other
manner, how it comes to paſs, that theſe tenſes are ſo
often uſed promiſcuouſly by Latin writers. See Rudiments
of the Latin Tongue, page 45.
tongues; may we not, from what has been
ſaid, infer, that Participles, as expreſſing the
attribute of the verb without affirmation, ought
to be diſtinguiſhed, not into thoſe of paſt,
preſent, and future time, but into, 1. Active
and imperfect, which ſignify action, or condition,
begun, continuing, and unfiniſhed,
as ſcribens, writing, dormiens, ſleeping: 2.
Paſſive and Perfect, which denote action
complete, as ſcriptus, written: and, 3. Future,
expreſſive of action, or condition, which
is to commence, but has not yet commenced,
as ſcripturus, about to write, dormiturus, about
to ſleep, and (if you pleaſe) ſcribendus, about
to be written.
If now it be aſked, in what reſpects the
adjective differs from the participle: I anſwer,
firſt, that the former, though it may
be derived from a verb, (as tacitus, ſilent,
from taceo ) is not, like the participle, neceſſarily
derived from it: and, ſecondly, that
thoſe varieties of expreſſion and form, which
relate to the continuance, completion, and futurity,
of action and condition, and which be
long eſſentially to the participle, are not characteriſtical
of the adjective. Other diſtinctions
might be ſpecified, but theſe are ſufficient.
— The Adjective denotes a quality
ſimply: the Participle denotes a quality, together
with ſeveral other conſiderations relating
to the continuance, completion, and
futurity, of action and condition.
Theſe remarks were reſerved to this place:
becauſe, without the knowledge of ſome
things in the two laſt ſections, they could
not be underſtood. If, on account of the
unavoidable repetition of certain technical
terms, the reader ſhould find them in any
degree obſcure, he needs not be diſcouraged;
as none of either the foregoing, or the ſubſequent,
reaſonings depend upon them.
The ſubject of Attributives —
Of Adverbs.
THE Greek word * Epirrhêma, which
anſwers to adverb, properly ſignifies
ſomething additional to an attributive: for,
as was already obſerved, all ſorts of attributives,
the adjective and participle as well
as the verb, were called † rhêmata, or verbs,
by the antient grammarians. In this etymology
of the name, we partly diſcern the nature
of an Adverb. It is a word joined to
attributives; and commonly denotes ſome circumſtance,
manner, or quality, connected
with their ſignification.
Adverbs are joined — to verbs, as fortiter
pugnavit, he fought bravely; — to participles,
as graviter ſauciatus, grievouſly wounded; —
to adjectives, as egregie fidelis, remarkably
faithful. They are joined even to nouns:
but, when this happens, the noun will be
found to imply the meaning of an attributive;
as when Livy ſays, admodum puella,
very much a girl, the ſenſe plainly is, a girl
very young. Adverbs are alſo joined to adverbs:
for the circumſtances, manners, or
* έπιῤῥημα.
† ῥηματα.
qualities, denoted by this part of ſpeech,
may themſelves be characteriſed by other
circumſtances, manners, or qualities; as
multo minus audacter, much leſs boldly; ſat cito
ſi ſat bene, ſoon enough if well enough.
Some grammarians conſider the adverb as
a ſecondary attributive; or, as a word denoting
the attribute of an attribute. Theodore
Gaza ſays, that it is, as it were, the
verb's epithet or adjective: and Priſcian obſerves,
that, when added to verbs, it has the
ſame effect which an adjective has when
joined to a noun. And that this is a true
chatacter of many adverbs, cannot be denied:
for which reaſon I have referred this part of
ſpeech to the chapter of Attributives. A
verb, adjective, or participle cannot be where
a ſubſtantive is not, either expreſſed or underſtood:
and an adverb is equally dependent
on its verb. When I ſay, Ceſar fought
valiantly; the attribute fought is characteriſed
by the adverb valiantly, as Ceſar the
perſon is by the verb fought. Agreeably to
this notion of Adverbs, it would be eaſy to
ſpecify a great number of them, which limit,
enlarge, or otherwiſe modify, the meaning
of the verbs, participles, adjectives, and adverbs,
to which they are joined: as, he
walked much, he walked little, he walked
ſlowly, quickly, gracefully, awkwardly, &c.;—
he was wounded ſlightly, grievouſly, mortally,
incurably, dangerouſly; — more brave, leſs brave,
prudently brave, oſtentatiouſly brave, &c. —
bravely, more bravely, moſt bravely, very
bravely, much leſs bravely, &c.
Many adverbs there are, however, which
do not ſo properly mark the attributes of
attributes, as ſome remoter circumſtance
attending an attribute or our way of conceiving
it, and ſpeaking of it. Such are the
ſimple affirmative and negative yes and no.—
Is he learned? No. Is he brave? Yes. Here
the two adverbs ſignify, not any modification
of the attributes brave and learned; but a
total negation of the attribute, in the one
caſe; and, in the other, a declaration that.
the attribute belongs to the perſon ſpoken
of. — Such alſo are thoſe adverbs, of which
in every language there is a great number,
that denote time, place, certainty, contingency,
and the like: as, he is here, he will go tomorrow,
he will certainly come, he will probably
ſpeak. For, when I ſay, "He, goes
"ſlowly," I expreſs by the adverb a certain
modification of going; — but when I ſay,
"he will go the day after this day," or,
"he will go tomorrow," I ſay nothing as
to the mode of going, nor do I characterize
the attribute going at all; I only ſay, that,
at ſuch a time, going will be the attribute, or
the action, of ſuch a perſon.
Adverbs are indeed applied to many purpoſes
; and their general nature may be better
underſtood by reading a liſt of them, that
by any deſcription or definition. Moſt of
them ſeem to have been introduced into language,
in order to expreſs by one word the
meaning of two or three: in what place, for
example, by where? — to what place, by whither?—
in a direction aſcending, by upward;
— at the preſent time, by now; — at what time,
by when? — at that time, by then; — many
times, by often; — not many times, by ſeldom;
— it is done as it ſhould be, by well done; —
it is done with wiſdom, by wiſely done; — it is
certain that he will come, by he will certainly
come, &c. Even yes may be expreſſed
by circumlocution, without an adverb ; as,
Are you well? Yes; that is, I am well. And,
where the predicate of a negative propoſition
may be ſupplied by a word of contrary meaning,
No or Not may be diſpenſed with, and
the propoſition becomes poſitive: Are you
ſick? No: that is, I am well; — He is not
preſent, that is, he is abſent.
In Hebrew, though there are ſeveral adverbs
of negation, there is no affirmative
adverb anſwering to yes. Yea occurs only
once in the Engliſh Old Teſtament, namely,
in the third chapter of Geneſis, where it has
a different meaning. The defeat is always
ſupplied by a periphraſis, in the way here
hinted at: as, is he well? He is well. The
Latin ſeems originally to have been deficient
in the ſame reſpect. Ita, etiam, and maxime,
are, when used in this ſenſe, elliptical circumlocutions.

Hence it appears, that adverbs, though
of great uſe, becauſe they promote brevity
and conſequently energy, of expreſſion, are
not among the moſt eſſential parts of language;
becauſe their place might be ſupplied
almoſt all caſes, by other parts of ſpeech.
However they are found in great abundance,
in moſt languages: whence we may infer,
that it is natural for men to have recourſe to
them on certain occaſions.
Adverbs expreſſive of quality are in Greek,
Latin, Engliſh, &c. almoſt innumerable. In
Hebrew, they are not very many; but the
want is eaſily ſupplied. The maſculine of
the adjective is. often uſed adverbially; tob is
bonus and alſo bene; Rang is both malus and
male: — which is ſometimes done in Engliſh;
as when right, wrong, ill, well, &c. are uſed
adverbially, as well as for adjectives. But
this want the Hebrews more commonly ſupply
by a prepoſition and a noun: for truly,
they ſay in truth; for righteouſly, in righteouſneſs.
Even in adjectives they do not
greatly abound. They ſay, God of justice,
inſtead of juſt God; and throne of glory, inſtead
of glorious throne. We often do the
ſame : we may ſay indifferently, either a wiſe
man, a wealthy man, a courageous man,
&c. or a man of wiſdom, of wealth, of courage,
I ſaid, that Adverbs promote energy of
expreſſion. But this happens only when
they promote brevity too, and are ſparingly
uſed, and choſen with judgement. A ſuperabundance
of them, or of adjectives, makes
a ſtyle unwieldy and tawdry. For it is from
its nouns, rather than from its attributives,
that language derives ſtrength: even as a
building derives ſtability rather from the
walls and rafters, than from the plaſtering,
wainſcotting, and painting. Young writers,
however, are apt to think otherwiſe; and,
with a view to invigorate their expreſſion,
qualify every verb with an adverb, and every
noun with an epithet. And ſo, their compoſitions
reſemble a houſe, whole walls are
ſupported by poſts and buttreſſes; which not
only make it unſeemly to the eye, and inconvenient
by taking up too much room,
but alſo juſtify a ſuſpicion, of weakneſs in
the work, and unſkilfulneſs in the architect.
Such a period as the following will explain
what I mean. "I am honeſtly, ſeriouſly,
"and unalterably of opinion, that nothing
"can poſſibly be more incurably and em"phatically
deſtructive, or more deciſively
"fatal, to a kingdom, than the introduc"tion
of thoughtleſs diſſipation, and the
"pomp of lazy luxury." * Would not the
* The pomp of lazy luxury — a phraſe of Lord Shafteſbury's.
full import of this noiſy ſentence be better
expreſſed thus: "I am of opinion, that
"nothing is more ruinous to a kingdom,
"than luxury and diſſipation?" — Now obſerve,
that in the former there are eight adverbs
and four adjectives, and in the latter
one adjective, and one adverb. If two garments
are ſufficient for elegance and uſe,
who would burden himfelf with twenty?
But this by the by.
Some authors affirm, that adverbs may be
found in all the ten Categories; and think,
that the moſt effectual way of arranging
them, is to refer them to the ſeveral categories
to which they belong. The Categories,
or, as they are called in Latin, the
Predicaments, are ten general heads of diviſion,
to which Ariſtotle and his followers
ſuppoſed, that every thing, or idea, conceivable
by the human underſtanding, might
be reduced. They are as follows. 1. Subſtance.
2. Quantity. 3. Quality. 4. Relation.
5. Action. 6. Paſſion. 7. Time.
8. Place. 9. Situation. 10. Habit; or, the
being Habited*. This arrangement was
* "Cornelius was forced to give Martin ſenſible
"images. Thus calling up the coachman he aſked
"what he had ſeen at the bear-garden. The man an"ſwered,
he ſaw two men fight a prize; one was a fair
"man, a ſergeant of the guards; the other black, a
"butcher: the ſergeant had red breeches, the butcher
"blue: they fought upon a ſtage about four o'clock
long conſidered as Perfect; but has fallen
into diſrepute, ſince the Peripatetick philoſophy
began to decline. It muſt be owned,
however, that, if we arrange the Adverbs
according to it, we ſhall have a pretty extenſive
idea of their nature, and of the various
purpoſes to which they may be applied. But
this has never been done, ſo far as I know,
by any grammarian; and therefore I am
apprehenſive, that the following attempt may
be found erroneous.
1. Under Subſtance, the firſt category, may
be comprehended ſuch adverbs as Eſſentially,
ſubſtantially, ſpiritually, corporeally, angelically,
Socratically, &c.
2. Under Quantity, the ſecond, may be
arranged thoſe adverbs, that denote extenſion,
or number. Of the former ſort are,
much, greatly, exceedingly, enough, almoſt,
ſcarcely, and the like. Of the latter are,
once, twice, thrice, ſecondly, thirdly, fourthly,
3. Quality, the third category, is, according
to Ariſtotle, of four ſpecies: compre"and
the ſergeant wounded the butcher in the leg.
"Mark, quoth Cornelius, how the fellow runs through
"the predicaments. Men, ſubſtantia; two, quantitas;
"fair and black, qualitas; Sergeant of the guards and
"Butcher, Relatio; wounded, actio et peſſo, fighting,
"ſitus; ſtage ubi; four o'clock, quando; blue and red
"breeches, habitus:" — If the reader is unacquainted with
the categories, this example will be a help to his memory.
hending, firſt, Intellectual habits, to which
correſpond ſuch adverbs as virtuouſly, vitiouſly,
wiſely, valiantly, fooliſhly, &c.; ſecondly,
Natural powers of the mind or body, to
which may be referred powerfully, ſenſibly
willingly, forcibly, feebly, &c.; thirdly, Qualities
perceived by ſenſe, expreſſed, adverbially,
by ſoftly, warmly, coldly, loudly, ſweetly,
clearly, &c.; fourthly, Figures of things
with or without life, to which claſs we may
refer, elegantly (ſhaped), circularly, triangularly,
4. The adverbs that ſignify Relation (the
fourth predicament) are of various kinds.
They expreſs, firſt, Reſemblance, as, ſo, thus;
ſecondly, Contrariety, as, otherwiſe, differently,
contrariwiſe, &c.; thirdly, Order, as,
afterwards, next, firſt, ſecondly, &c. ; fourthly,
Coexiſtence, or Aſſemblage, as, together,
jointly, &c.; fifthly, Separation, as, ſeparately,
diverſely, only, chiefly, eſpecially, ſingularly,
&c.; ſixthly, Cauſe and Effect, as
therefore, conſequently, &c.
5. Action is the fifth category and, as
there are many ſorts of it, ſo are there
many claſſes of adverbs to expreſs it. As
firſt, Bodily action, ſwimmingly, ſnatchingly,
curſim, carptim, &c.: ſecondly, Mental action,
— as deſire, utinam, O that; — denying
or forbidding, no, not; — aſſuring, indeed,
certainly, undoubtedly; — granting, as well (be
it ſo); — affirming, as yes, truly; — preferring
as rather, eſpecially; — doubting and conjecture,
as perhaps, poſſibly, probably; — interrogation,
in regard, firſt, to time, as when?
ſecondly, to place, as where? thirdly, to
quantity, as quantum, quot, how much, how
many? fourthly, to quality, as how, quomodo?
— Motion, as ſwiftly, ſlowly, &c.; —
Reſt, as quietly, ſilently, ſtill.
6. Adverbs belonging to the ſixth category,
and expreſſive of Paſſion, are, confuſedly, diſtractedly,
feelingly, and the like.
7. Thoſe that belong to the ſeventh, which
is Ubi, or Place, are very numerous, and by
Ruddiman are divided into five claſſes. They
ſignify, firſt, in a place, as where? here:
ſecondly, to a place, as whither? hither:
.thirdly, towards a place, as, backward, forward,
upward, downwards, &c.: fourthly,
from a place, as whence? hence, thence:
fifthly, by or through a place, as (in Latin.)
qua? hac, illac, alia, which, however, are
no adverbs, but pronouns of the ablative
caſe, to which viâ is underſtood.
8. The eighth predicament, when? or
time, may be ſuppoſed to comprehend all the
adverbs of time; which are alſo very numerous,
and may be divided into, firſt, thoſe
of time preſent, as now, today: ſecondly,
thoſe of time paſt, as, then, yeſterday, lately:
thirdly, thoſe of time future, as, preſently,
immediately, tomorrow, not yet: fourthly,
thoſe of time indefinite, as when, ſometimes
always, never : fifthly, thoſe of continued
time, as, long, how long, long ago: ſixthly,
thoſe of repeated time, as, often, ſeldom
again, now and then, &c.
9. Situation, or Poſition, the ninth predicament,
has not many adverbs belonging
to it. Supinely, however, is one: and, obliquely,
pronely (if there be ſuch a word) ſideways,
&c. may be others.
10. The tenth, Habitus, denotes ſomething
additional and exterior to a ſubſtance,
but not a part of it; as a diadem, a coat,
a gown, &c. There are not in any of the
languages I know (ſo far as I remember)
adverbs of this ſignification; ſuch ideas being
moſt commonly expreſſed by nouns, as, he
wore a cloak, his head was encircled with
a diadem. Yet I do not deny the reality
of ſuch adverbs; and it is poſſible I may
have met with them, though they do not
now occur. If the Engliſh idiom would
allow the word ſuccinctly to have its original
meaning, it might perhaps be an adverb
of the tenth category; as in this example,
He was dreſt ſuccintly, that is, in garments
tucked up: — but this is not Engliſh; nor
is ſuccincte in Latin ever uſed in any other
ſenſe, than that of briefly, or compendiouſly. —
By the by, I cannot ſee, for what purpoſe
Ariſtotle made a ſeparate category of the
tenth for to me it ſeems included in for
of the preceding. A crown is as really a
ſubſtance, as the head that wears it, and may
laſt a thouſand years longer *. Or, if it is
the having of the crown, or the being crowned,
that diſtinguiſhes
the category, as when we ſay,
a crowned head, then crowned denotes a quality
perceived by ſenſe, and ſo belongs to the
third predicament. Indeed this is not the
only objection that might be made to the
doctrine of the categories. Whoever treats
of it in the way of detail, and without prejudice,
will find, if I miſtake not, that in
ſome things it is redundant, and in others
defective. Wiſhing, however, to give in this
place ſome account of that celebrated diviſion
as it was for many ages believed to be
the foundation of all human ſcience; I choſe
to arrange the adverbs by categories, rather
than according to that ſimpler (though not
leſs comprehenſive) ſcheme, which is given
by the learned and accurate Ruddiman in his
Rudiments of the Latin tongue.
Since this was written, PHILOSOPHICAL
ARRANGEMENTS have been publiſhed; a
work of uncommon erudition; in which
the doctrine of the Categories is unfolded at
large, with great preciſion of language, and
* "The greateſt difficulty was, when they came to
"the tenth predicament. Crambe affirmed, that his
"habitus was more a ſubſtance than he was; for his
"cloaths could better ſubſiſt without him, than he with"out
his cloaths." Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus.—
Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat?
in a ſtyle as entertaining, as can well be
applied to arguments ſo abſtracted, and of
ſo little uſe. I ſay, Of ſo little uſe: for
after all that the ingenious and elegant author
has advanced, I am ſorry to be obliged
to declare, that in this doctrine I ſee little
more, than an elaborate ſolution of trifling
difficulties made on purpoſe to be ſolved:
as conjurors are ſaid to have raiſed ghoſts
and other ſhadowy bugbears, merely to ſhow
their addreſs in laying them. It may have
been a convenient introduction to the verbal
part of the Greek philoſophy, and to the
art of ſophiſtical declamation: but of its
tendency to regulate the underſtanding, to
illuſtrate moral truth, or to promote the
improvement of art, or the right interpretation
of nature, I am not ſenſible at all.
This is ſaid, not with any view to detract
from others; but only to account for my
own conduct, in diſmiſſing, after ſo ſlight an
examination, that celebrated part of antient
As to the formation and derivation of adverbs,
it depends ſo much on the idiom of
particular languages, that one cannot enter
upon it, without going beyond the bounds
of Univerſal Grammar.
THE Interjection is a part of ſpeech in
all the languages known to Europeans.
Whether it be in all others, is not certain.
For, though it have its uſe, and may often
promote pathos or energy, we cannot ſay,
that it is ſo neceſſary, as the noun, the pronoun,
or the attributive. Its place might
indeed be ſupplied, in moſt caſes, by other
words, if the cuſtoms of ſociety would permit.
I am ſorry, conveys the ſame meaning
with alas! though perhaps not ſo emphatically:
but the defect of emphaſis may
be owing to nothing more than this, that
the one expreſſion is leſs common than the
other on certain occaſions. In like manner,
without being miſunderſtood, we might ſay,
inſtead of fye! I diſlike it, or, I abhor it;
and, inſtead of ſtrange! (papæ!), I am ſurpriſed,
or, I am aſtoniſhed, might be uſed
with no bad effect.
The name Interjection expreſſes very well
the nature of this part of ſpeech. It is a
word thrown into diſcourſe (interjectum) in
order to intimate or expreſs ſome emotion
of the mind as, I am, alas! a miſerable
ſinner : fye, fye! let it not be heard of : well
done! (euge!) thou haſt proved thyſelf a
man. It is, indeed, as Ruddiman obſerves,
a compendious way of conveying a ſentence
in a word, that the ſhortneſs of the phraſe
may ſuit the ſuddenneſs of the emotion or
paſſion expreſſed by it.
For Interjections are not ſo much the
ſigns of thought, as of feeling. And that
a creature, ſo inured to articulate ſound as
Man is, ſhould acquire the habit of uttering,
without reflection, certain vocal ſounds, when
he is aſſaulted by any ſtrong paſſion, or becomes
conſcious of any intenſe feeling, is
natural enough. Indeed, by continual practice,
this habit becomes ſo powerful, that in
ſome caſes we ſhould find it difficult to reſiſt
it, even if we wiſhed to do ſo. When attacked
by acute pain, it is hardly poſſible
for us not to ſay ah! or alas! — and, when
we are aſtoniſhed at any narrative or event,
the words, ſtrange! prodigious! indeed!
break from us, without any effort of the
In the Greek Grammar, Interjections are
referred to the claſs of adverbs; but, I think,
improperly. They are not adverbs in any
ſenſe of the word. They expreſs not the
attributes of attributes; nor are they joined
to verbs, to participles, or to adjectives, as
adverbs are; nor do they limit or modify
the ſignification of attributives in any reſpect
whatever. The Latin grammarians have,
therefore, done better, in ſeparating the interjection
from other parts of ſpeech, and
giving it a particular name. And in this
they are followed by all who have written
grammars of the modern tongues.
It has been ſaid, that interjections are the
remains of thoſe barbarous cries, by which
(according to the Epicurean ſyſtem) the
firſt men expreſſed their feelings, before the
invention of the art of ſpeech. But I deny,
that Speech is an art, in this ſenſe of the
word. I cannot conceive, how a ſet of
mute, ſavage, and beaſtly creatures ſhould
on a ſudden commence philoſophers, and
form themſelves into an academy, or meet
together in a large cave, in order to contrive
a ſyſtem of words, which, without
being able to ſpeak themſelves, they afterwards
taught their dumb and barbarous
brethren to articulate. Orpheus, performing
at a publick concert, for the entertainment
of lions, tygers, and other wild beaſts
of quality; or Amphion making the ſtones
and trees dance to the ſound of his harp,
till, after many awkward bounces and Caperings,
they at laſt took their ſeats, in the
form of towns and caſtles, are in my judgment
as reaſonable ſuppoſitions. It admits
of proof, from the nature of the thing,
as well as from hiſtory, that men in all
ages muſt have been ſpeaking animals; that
the young learned the art by imitating their
elders; and that our firſt parents muſt have
ſpoken by immediate inſpiration. *
Some grammarians maintain, that the interjection
is no part of ſpeech at all, but a
mode of utterance common to all nations,
and univerſally underſtood: — in other words,
that fye, alas, huzza, euge, apage, eh, bien,
ahilaſſo, &c. are as common, and as intelligible,
over the whole earth, as a diſpleaſed,
a ſorrowful a joyful, or an angry countenance.
It is ſtrange, thoſe authors did not
recollect, that, if we except O! Ah! and
one or two more, the interjections of different
languages are as different as their nouns or
verbs: ai in Greek being expreſſed by eheu
in Latin, and in Engliſh by alas! — and woes
me! being in Latin hei mihi, and in Greek
oimoi. Some interjections indeed may be borrowed
by one nation from the language of
another; :thus apage and euge are the ſame in
Latin and in Greek. But ſome nouns and
verbs are, in like manner, borrowed by one
nation .from another; yet we do not ſuppoſe,
that ſuch words, becauſe current in Greece,
Italy, and England, are univerſally intelligible,
or form any part of that language,
which, in contradiſtinction to artificial, I have
formerly deſcribed under the name of natural.

* See Part i. chap. 6.
† Part i. chap. 1.
Interjections, though frequent in diſcourſe,
occur not often in elegant compoſition. Unpractiſed
writers, however, are apt to exceed
in the uſe of them, in order, as they imagine,
to give pathos to their ſtyle: which is juſt as
if, in order to render converſation witty or
humourous, one were to interrupt it with
frequent peals of laughter. The appearance
of violent emotion in others does not always
raiſe violent emotion in us: our hearts, for the
moſt part, are more effectually ſubdued by a ſedate
and ſimple utterance, than by interjections
and theatrical geſture. At any rate, compoſure
is more graceful than extravagance;
and therefore, a multitude of theſe paſſionate
particles, will generally, at leaſt on common
occaſions, ſavour more of levity than of dignity;
of want of thought, than of keen
ſenſation. In common diſcourſe this holds,
as well as in writing. They who wiſh to
ſpeak often, and have little to ſay, abound
in interjections, wonderful, amazing, prodigious,
fye fye, O dear, Dear me, hum, hah,
indeed, Good life, Good Lord, and the like:
and hence, the too frequent uſe of ſuch words
tends to breed a ſuſpicion, that one labours
under a ſcantineſs of ideas. — In poetry, certain
ſuperfluities of language are more allowable
than in proſe; yet ſome elegant Engliſh
poets are at pains to avoid interjections.
Tragick writers are often intemperate in the
uſe of them We meet with entire lines of
interjections in the Greek plays. But it is
yet more provoking to ſee an Engliſh tragedian
endeavour to work upon the human
heart by ſuch profane expletives, as Flames
and furies! Damnation! Heaven and earth!
not to mention others of ſtill greater ſolemnity.
If the poet has no other way to make
up his verſe, or to ſhow that his hero is
in earneſt, I would recommend to him the
more harmleſs phraſeology of Fielding's Tom
Confuſion! horror! murder! guts! and death!
Interjections denoting imprecation, and
thoſe in which the Divine Name is irreverently
mentioned, are always offenſive to a pious
mind: and the writer or ſpeaker, who contraſts
a habit of introducing them, may
without breach of charity be ſuſpected of
profaneneſs. To ſay, with a devout mind,
God bleſs me, can never be improper: but
to make thoſe ſolemn words a familiar interjection
expreſſive of ſurpriſe or peeviſhneſs,
is, to ſay the leaſt of it, very indecent.
As to common oaths and curſes, I need
not ſay any thing to convince my reader,
that they are utterly unlawful, and a proof
that the ſpeaker has at one time or other
kept bad company. For to the honour of
the age let it be mentioned, that profane
ſwearing is now more generally exploded in
polite society, than it uſed to be in former
times. In this reſpect, as in many others,
the wits of Charles the ſecond's reign were
moſt infamous. Queen Elizabeth was addicted
to ſwearing : and moſt of our old
kings and barons are ſaid to have diſtinguiſhed
themſelves by the uſe of ſome one particular
oath, which was in their mouths continually.
There is a great deal of this ribaldry in the
poems of Chaucer.
In the antient Grammars we have adverbs
of ſwearing, and interjections of imprecation:
nay, I think I have been told formerly,
that in Latin, and in Greek too perhaps,
there are oaths for men, and oaths for
women; and that if either ſex invade the
privilege of the other in this matter, it is a
violation of the laws of ſwearing, and of
grammar. Swearing seems to have been more
frequent in the Grecian dialogue, than in the
Roman. Almoſt every affirmation in Plato
may be ſaid to be depoſed upon oath.
One interjection, we are told, expreſſes
laughter. But it is rather a mark in diſcourſe,
to denote, that the ſpeaker is ſuppoſed
to laugh in that place. For if, inſtead of
the inarticulate convulſion which we call
laughter, one were to pronounce thoſe three
articulate ſyllables, ha ha he, the effect would
be ridiculous. Laughter is no part of ſpeech,
but a natural agitation, common to all mankind,
and univerſally underſtood.
It is needleſs to ſubjoin a liſt of Interjections,
as they are but few, and may be ſeen
in any common grammar.
Of Connectives and Articles.
EVERY individual word, which is comprehended
under the ſeveral ſpecies hitherto
mentioned, conveys ſome idea to the
mind, even when pronounced ſeparate. Thus
love, the noun, lovely, the adjective, loveſt,
the verb, loving, the participle, lovingly, the
adverb; thus the pronouns I, thou, he, that,
this, ſhe, they, &c.; and thus the interjections,
alas, fie, ſtrange! — have, each of them,
ſome meaning.
But ſome ſorts of words there are, which,
like ciphers in arithmetick, have no ſignificancy
when ſeparate, though when joined to
other words they are very ſignificant. Thus,
from, in, and, with, the, -convey no idea.
But when I ſay, "He came from London,
"in the chariot, with a friend and ſervant,"
the ſenſe is compleat; and is made ſo by theſe
little words; which are now ſo important,
that, if we leave them out, and ſay, "He
"came London the chariot a friend ſervant,"
we ſpeak nonſenſe.
It may be obſerved, that there are in this
ſentence two other little words, that of themſelves
mean nothing, a and the, but which,
when connected as above, are found to be
uſeful, though not abſolutely neceſſary. For,
if we ſay, "He came from London in cha"riot
with friend and ſervant," there is a
meaning; which, though awkwardly expreſſed,
according to the idiom of our tongue,
may however be gueſſed at; and which, rendered
literally into Latin, Venit Londino
curru cum amico et ſervo, is neither awkward
nor ungrammatical.
Thoſe words, therefore, which become
ſignificant by being connected with other
words, may be divided into two claſſes; the
Neceſſary and the Uſeful. The former we
call Connectives; the latter Articles. Of which
in their order.
EVERY thing that is a Connective in
language muſt connect either words or
ſentences, that is, either ideas or affirmations.
When I ſay, "He came from home," the
word from connects two words, came and
home: when I ſay, "He came from home,
"and he comforted me," the word and connects
two ſentences; the firſt, "He came
"from home;" the ſecond, "He comforted
"me." The former ſort of Connectives are
termed Prepoſitions; the latter, Conjunctions.
§ 1. Of Prepoſitions: with Remarks on the
The term Prepoſition ſignifies placing before:
and it is true of almoſt all the words
of this claſs, that they are, or may be, put
before the word which they connect with ſomething
previous: as, "The enemy armed
"with darts, and mounted on horſes, fled
"from us, in confuſion, over the plain, to"wards
the river, at the foot of the moun"tains,
beyond which they could not paſs."
A Prepoſition may be defined; "A part
"of ſpeech, not ſignificant of itſelf, but of
ſuch efficacy, as to unite two ſignificant
"words, which, according to the nature of
"things, or the rules of the language, could
"not otherwiſe be united." The former
part of this definition muſt be plain enough
already: the latter may need illuſtration.
Let us inquire then, what is meant by ſaying,
"that ſome words, from the nature of
"things, and others, by the rule of the lan"guage,
can be united in no other way,
"than by prepoſitions."
Firſt, when things are intimately connected,
in nature, one would think, that the words
which ſtand for them might eaſily coaleſce
in language, without the aid of connectives.
And ſo in fact they often do. No two things,
can be more cloſely united, than a ſubſtance
and its quality; a man, for example, and
his character. Theſe therefore of themſelves
coaleſce in all the known languages: and we
ſay, a good man, a tall man; vir bonus, vir
procerus. Here prepoſitions are quite unneceſſary.
— Further, there is a connection
equally intimate between the agent and the
action; for the action is really an attribute
of the agent: and therefore we ſay, the boy
reads, the man walks; the noun coaleſcing
with the verb ſo naturally, that no other
word is requiſite to unite them. — Moreover,
an action, and that which is acted upon by
it, being contiguous in nature, and mutually
affecting each other, their names would ſeem
to be mutually attractive in language, and
capable of coaleſcing without external aid;
as, he reads a book, he beats his breaſt, he builds
an houſe, he breaks a ſtone. — Further ſtill;
an attributive is naturally and intimately
connected with the adverb which illuſtrates
or modifies its ſignification: and therefore,
when we ſay, he walks ſlowly, he is very
learned, he is prudently brave; it is plain that
no prepoſition can be neceſſary to promote
the coaleſcence. — Theſe few examples may
ſuffice to ſhow, that, from the very nature
of things, ſome words may be, and are connected,
without the aid of prepoſitions.
But, ſecondly, it is no leſs natural, that,
to mark the connection of ſome other words,
prepoſitions ſhould be neceſſary. If we ſay,
"the rain falls heaven; — the enemy ran the
"river; — Creuſa walked Encas; — the tower
"fell the Greeks; — ſhe led him the houſe;
— Lambeth isWeſtminſter-abbey;" — there
is obſervable in each of theſe expreſſions, either
a total want of connection, or ſuch a
connection as produces falſehood or nonſenſe:
and it is evident, that, before they
can be turned into ſenſe, the gap muſt be
filled up by ſome connecting word; as thus,
"the rain falls from heaven; — the enemy
"ran towards the river; — Creuſa walked be"hind
Eneas; — the tower fell upon the
"Greeks; — ſhe led him into the houſe; —
"Lambeth is over againſt Weſtminſterr-ab"bey."
— We ſee then, how prepoſitions
may be neceſſary to connect thoſe words, that
in their ſignification are not naturally connected.

Thirdly; It was hinted, that, by the rule
of certain languages, ſome words, though
coaleſcing in ſenſe, cannot be connected in
diſcourſe, without prepoſitions. When this
happens, if is owing to ſome peculiar defect,
or to ſome other peculiarity, in thoſe languages.
For example: the inſtrument wherewith
one performs an action muſt have a
natural connection with that action; ſo natural
indeed, and ſo intimate, that they
cannot be ſeparated. The words, therefore,
which ſtand for them, may, in languages
that decline their nouns by caſes, be united
without a prepoſition: as Scribit calamo.
But, if a language has no caſes, or very
few, it may ſo happen, that merely by
ſubjoining the name of the inſtrument to
the active verb we ſhall not be able to mark
the connection. Thus, in Engliſh, "he
"writes a pen," having no definite ſenſe,
cannot mark connection, or any thing
elſe. Here then, in our tongue, a prepoſition
comes to be neceſſary to aſcertain a
particular union of words, which, according
to the Engliſh idiom, cannot be ſo conveniently
united in any other way; and ſo
ſay, "he writes with a pen." I ſay, — "which
cannot be ſo conveniently united:'' for that
without a prepoſition the ſame ſenſe may be
expreſſed, admits of no doubt; as, "he
"writes, and a pen is the inſtrument."
What then is the advantage of uſing prepoſitions
in a caſe of this kind? The advantage
is conſiderable: for by this ſimple
expedient we ſignify in few words what
would otherwiſe require many. — Again, in
the Latin idiom, Arguitur furti has a definite
meaning; the firſt word denoting accuſation,
and the ſecond a crime; and the
connection between them being marked by
the caſe of the noun. But in Engliſh, "He
"is accuſed theft," has no clear meaning;
becauſe there is nothing to ſhow, how the
words are connected, or whether they be
connected or not. But, by means of a prepoſition
(which ſupplies the want of a caſe)
"He is accuſed of theft," we unite them
together, and remove all doubt in regard to
their ſignification.
The Latin Grammarians reckon up twenty-eight
prepoſitions governing the accuſative
caſe; fifteen that take the ablative; and four,
that have ſometimes the one caſe, and ſometimes
the other: — in all forty-ſeven. But
ſeveral of theſe are ſuperfluous; ſome rarely
occur; and a few are by the beſt Grammarians
accounted adverbs rather than prepoſitions.
Hence we may infer, that many
prepoſitions are not neceſſary in language.
Thoſe in our tongue hardly exceed thirty,
But it is to be obſerved, that almoſt every,
prepoſition we are acquainted with has more
than one ſignification, and that ſome of them
have ſeveral. The Engliſh of, for example,
denotes concerning, as, A Treatiſe of human
nature; denotes the matter of which
a thing is made, as, a cup of ſilver; denotes
the means, as, to die of hunger; denotes
among, as, Of three horſes two were lame;
denotes through, or, in conſequence of, as,
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not
conſumed; denotes from, as, London is ſouth
of York; denotes out of as, Of this little
he had ſome to ſpare; denotes extraction,
as, Alexander the ſon of Philip; denotes
belonging to, as, He is of the tribe of Judah;
denotes containing, or filled with, as,
a glaſs of wine, an hogſhead of ale; — and
has ſeveral other ſignifications. In like
manner, we might ſpecify thirty ſenſes of
the prepoſition for; about twenty of from,
and the ſame number nearly of with, by,
and ſome others: for which I refer to
Johnſon's Dictionary. Theſe varieties of
meaning give trouble to thoſe who are acquiring
a language; but are attended with
no inconvenience, when one is maſter of it.
So that we may repeat, that a ſmall number
of prepoſitions are ſufficient for the ordinary
purpoſes of life. In Greek, which
is ſaid to be more perfect than any other
tongue, there are only eighteen: moſt of
which, however, vary exceedingly in their
ſignification, according to the caſes that they
govern, and according as they are uſed in a
proper, or in a figurative, ſenſe.
For I ſpeak here of the ſeparable prepoſitions,
which are diſtinct and complete
words. Thoſe that are called Inſeparable,
are not to be conſidered in Univerſal Grammar;
being neither connectives, nor words,
but only ſyllables, which generally add ſomething
to the ſignification of thoſe words
wherewith they are compounded, but never
ſtand by themſelves: as (in Engliſh) a, be,
con, mis, de, dis, &c. in the words, abide,
bedeck, conjoin, miſtake, decipher, diſpleaſe, &c.
Prepoſitions, in their original and literal
acceptation, ſeem all to have denoted Relations
of place. This at leaſt is true (if I
miſtake not) of all the Latin and Greek
prepoſitions without exception, as well as
of all the Engliſh. Till, indeed, or until,
is now uſed of time only, as in this phraſe,
"I never heard of him till this moment:"
but antiently it had, and among the vulgar
in Scotland it ſtill has, a more general
ſenſe, being of the ſame import nearly with
to or towards; as in this line of Spenſer,
He rouſed himſelf full blithe, and haſten'd them
Priſcian thinks, that the Latin clam is not,
as it is commonly ſaid to be, a prepoſition,
but rather an adverb; and aſſigns this reaſon
among others, that it never has any re"ference
to place in its ſignification.
The importance of prepoſitions, in marking,
with equal brevity and accuracy, relations
in place, will partly appear from the
following ſentences. "He went to a city,
"at the foot of the hill, over againſt a lake,
"that ſtretches before a wide common. On
"this ſide of the city, the road winds about
"ſome great rocks, that riſe fifty feet above
"the level of the plain, then goes ſtraight
"towards the weſt, among buſhes, between
"two little hills. When he came within
"the walls, and had got nigh to the mar"ket-place,
beneath the citadel, the enemy
"fled from him, through the ſtreets, out of
"the city, and along the banks of the lake,
"without their baggage, till they eſcaped
"in boats beyond the river. He followed
"after, and was not far behind, them; hav"ing
with him ſome friends, whom he had"brought
from home," &c.
But, in all languages, Prepoſitions are
uſed figuratively, to ſignify other relations,
beſides thoſe of place. For example, as they
who are above have in ſeveral reſpects the
advantage of ſuch as are below, prepoſitions
expreſſing high and low place are uſed for
ſuperiority and inferiority in general: as,
"he is above all diſguiſe; — he ſerves under
"ſuch a captain; — he rules over the people;
— he will do nothing beneath his high
"ſtation." — Beyond implies, not only
diſtance of place, but alſo, that between us
and the diſtant object ſomething intervenes,
which is alſo at ſome diſtance; as, "he is
"beyond ſea." But perſons, or things, ſo
ſituated with reſpect to us, cannot be immediately
in our power : and hence, beyond
is uſed figuratively, and in general, to ſignify,
out of the reach, or out of the power
of: as "Goodneſs beyond thought, — Glorious
beyond compare, — Gratitude beyond
"expreſſion." — Take another example. By
denotes nearneſs; and with ſameneſs, of place:
as "She was with him; — I found him cloſe
"with Swift; — his dwelling is by the ſea;
"— By the rivers of Babylon we ſat and
"wept." Now they who are with us, or who
are by us, that is, who are in our company,
or who are near at hand, may co-operate
with and aſſiſt us; but the former with a
more immediate agency, and cloſer connection,
than the latter. Hence that figurative
uſe of the prepoſitions by and with, which
is obſervable in ſentences like the following:
He walks with a ſtaff, by moonlight; He
was taken by ſtratagem; and killed with a
ſword. — Put the one prepoſition for the
other; and ſay, He walks by a ſtaff with
moonlight: He was taken with ſtratagem,
and killed by a ſword: and it will appear,
that they differ in ſignification more than
one at firſt view would be apt to imagine.
Hitherto I have conſidered prepoſitions
as ſeparate words. But they are often prefixed
to, fo as to form a part of, other words;
as overvalue, undergo, &c. in which cafe, they
generally impart ſomething of their own
meaning to the word with which they are
compounded. And that this imparted meaning
has in many caſes an alluſion to place,
is well illuſtrated by Mr. Harris, in the following
manner. "Suppoſe a given ſpace.
"E and ex ſignify out of that ſpace; per,
"through it, from beginning to end; in,
"within it, ſo as not to reach the boun"dary;
ſub, under it. Hence, E and Per
"in compoſition augment. Enormis is
"ſomething not ſimply big, but big in ex"ceſs,
ſomething got out of the rule, and
"beyond the boundary: Dico, I ſpeak,
"Edico, I ſpeak out; whence edictum,
"ſomething ſo effectually ſpoken,
"as that all are ſuppoſed to hear and to
"obey it: Fari, to ſpeak, Effari, to ſpeak
"out; whence effatum, an axiom, or ſelf"evident
propoſition, addreſſed as it were
"to all Men, and calling for univerſal aſ"ſent:
Permagnus, perutilis, great through"out,
uſeful in every part. — On the con"trary,
In and ſub diminiſh and leſſen.
"Injuſtus, iniquus, unjuſt, unequitable;
"that lies within juſtice and equity, that
"reaches not ſo far, that falls ſhort of them.
"Subniger, blackiſh, ſubrubicundus, reddiſh;
"tending to black, and tending to red, but
"under the ſtandard, and below perfection."
So far Mr. Harris. I ſhall only add, that
it is not eaſy to account for ſome coalitions
of this nature; as, for example, the Engliſh
compounds underſtand and underſtanding. It
may, however, be offered, in the way of
conjecture; that, as he who ſtands under a
thing perceives its foundation, and how it
is ſupported, and whether it be well ſupported;
ſo he may be ſaid to underſtand a
doctrine, who comprehends the grounds or
evidences of it *. Many ſuch words there
are in every language, to exerciſe the wit of
the fanciful etymologiſt.
Words compounded with prepoſitions are
very numerous in moſt tongues, but eſpecially
in Greek. There we find prefixed to a
word, not only one prepoſition, but frequently
two, and ſometimes even three.
Thus † hupekproluein is compounded of three
prepoſitions (anſwering to under, from, and
forward) and a verb ſignifying to looſ; and
this word is uſed by Homer to denote the
unyoking of mules, by drawing them forward,
from under the chariot. Other languages
may expreſs the ſame ideas by means
of three or four words; but none, I be*
Mr. Harris gives another etymology. See Hermes,
page 371.
† ύπεϰπρολυειν. Odyſſ. vi. 88. See alſo Odyſſ. vi. 87.
lieve, but the Greek, could expreſs them all
in one. *
Some Engliſh prepoſitions change the
meaning of verbs, by being put after them,
Thus, to caſt, is to throw, but, to caſt up,
is to compute, or calculate: to give, is to
beſtow, but, to give over, is to ceaſe, to
abandon, to conclude to be loſt: to knock,
is to beat, but to knock under is a vulgar
idiom denoting ſubmiſſion. So, to take after,
to learn of, to reſemble; to take off, to
copy, or mimick; to take on, to be much
affected; to take up, to reform; to take up
with, to be contented with; and innumerable
A prepoſition often loſes its connecting
power, and becomes an adverb. Thus round.
is a prepoſition, when one ſays, He went
round the walls; and an adverb when it is
ſaid, I turned round, to ſee who called me.
The ſame thing happens in other languages.
There are two or three Latin words, of
which it is doubted by the beſt Grammarians,
whether they be adverbs or prepoſitions.
But it is not every prepoſition that
admits of ſuch a change. of, with, from;
and ſome others, are never adverbial.
* So λαμβανειν to take; καταλαμβανειν to take hold
of; προϰαταλαμβανειν to take hold of before another, to
preoccupy; άντιπροϰαταλαμβανειν, to preoccupy in oppoſition
to another.
It may ſeem ſtrange, that, in the courſe
of this long inquiry concerning the eſſentials
of language, ſo little ſhould have been ſaid
on the ſubject of CASES. The reaſon is,
that Caſes are not eſſential to language.
They are indeed of great importance in
Greek and Latin: but a language may be
ſignificant enough without them, or at leaſt
with very few. We have no Caſes in Engliſh,
except the addition of S in the genitive, as,
"the Lords day;" and in the pronouns,
I, we, thou, ye, he, they, ſhe, it, which in
the oblique caſe become me, us, thee, you,
him, her, them. And of our genitive in S
it may be obſerved, firſt, that it is leſs in
uſe now than formerly; and ſecondly, that
it has ſometimes a meaning different from
that of the other genitive formed by the
prepoſition of, as in the above example;
for, the Lords day, and the day of the Lord,
are not ſynonimous; the former ſignifying
Sunday, the latter, the day of judgment, or,
a day in which God will manifeſt himſelf
in an extraordinary manner. This however
may be owing to the repetition of the definite
article, which in the latter phraſe points out
one particular day (or time) different from
all others.
Thoſe varieties of ſignification, which in
the Greek and Latin nouns are marked by
caſes, are in Engliſh and the other modern
languages of Europe marked, for the moſt
part, by prepoſitions; ſuch as of, to, for,
by, with, and from. Our nominative and
accuſative, indeed, are known by their poſition,
the firſt being put before the verb, and
the laſt after: at leaſt this is the general
rule; from which, however, writers, eſpecially
poets, often deviate, (as already obſerved)
when that can be done without perplexing
the ſenſe.
In Hebrew, the caſe of the noun is
marked by a change made, not in the end,
but in the beginning of the word ; and this
change is plainly a prepoſition prefixed, but
contracted in pronunciation. Thus melech
is a king; lemelech, to a king; mimelech, from
a king: el being the prepoſition that correſponds
to the Engliſh to; and min being;
ſynonimous with from.
In the Erſe or Gaelick, the oblique caſe,
correſponding to the Latin genitive, is characteriſed
by a change in the vowel or diphthong
of the laſt ſyllable; as Oſſian, Oſſian
Oſſiain, of Oſſian: Sagard, a prieſt; Sagaird,
of a prieſt: — the accuſative being the ſame
with the nominative; and the dative and
ablative diſtinguiſhed (like our dative and
ablative) by prepoſitions.
There is ſome inaccuracy in the doctrine
of Caſes, as commonly received among Grammarians;
ſo that it is not easy, nor perhaps
poſſible, to expreſs the meaning of the word
cafe in a definition. For, what is it, that
conſtitutes a caſe? Is it a peculiar termination,
or inflexion of the noun? Then, firſt,
in the plural of Latin nouns, there can be
no more than four caſes, becauſe there are
no more than four terminations; the dative
being uniformly the ſame with the ablative,
and the nominative with the vocative. And
then, ſecondly, it cannot be ſaid, that there
are, in any one of the declenſions, ſo many
as ſix caſes of the ſingular: for, in the firſt,
the genitive and dative agree in termination;
in the ſecond, the dative and ablative; in
the third, the nominative and vocative; in
the fourth, the nominative, vocative, and
genitive; and in the fifth, both the nominative
and vocative, and the genitive and dative.
In fixing the number of their caſes, the
Latin grammarians ſeem to have been determined
by three conſiderations: firſt, by the
termination or inflection; ſecondly, by the
meaning, or the relation ſubſiſting between
the noun and the word that governs it; and
thirdly, by a regard to uniformity, or a deſire
of giving the ſame number of caſes to
the ſingular and to the plural, and of allowing
as many to one declenſion, as to another.
And I am inclined to think, that, by this
method, though not ſtrictly philoſophical,
both their declenſions and their ſyntax are
rendered more intelligible, than they would
have been upon any other plan.
If we admit the termination to be the ſole
characteriſtick of a Caſe, then there are in
Engliſh no more caſes, than the few above
ſpecified. If caſes are to be diſtinguiſhed by
the different ſignifications of the noun, or
by the different relations which it may bear
to the governing word, then we have in our
language as many caſes almoſt, as there are
prepoſitions: and, above a man, beneath a
man, beyond a man, round about a man,
within a man, without a man, &c. ſhall be
caſes, as well as, of a man, to a man, and
with a man. In fact, it can hardly be ſaid,
that there are Caſes, in any ſenſe of the
word, except in thoſe nouns that vary their
terminations: and therefore, we may repeat,
that there are no caſes in Engliſh, or very
few; and that, conſequently, Caſes are not
eſſential to language. For that, though the
few we have were ſtruck out of the Engliſh
tongue, it would ſtill be intelligible, though
not ſo elegant, is a point, which can hardly
admit of diſpute. In ſome parts of England,
ſhe is ufed for her, and we for us, without
inconvenience; the genitive in S is leſs frequent
than that other genitive which is
formed by the prepoſition of, and both are
equally perſpicuous; and, of I, to I, of thou,
with thou, I ſaw he, I ſaw they, if they were
as common, would certainly be as well underſtood,
as of me, to me, of thee, with thee,
I ſaw him, I ſaw them.
The origin of the word Caſe, and of ſome
other grammatical terms relating to nouns,
is very oddly explained by ſome authors;
but has plauſibility enough to deſerve notice.
They tell us, that, among the moſt antient
Greek Grammarians, a line falling perpendicularly
was the ſymbol of the nominative
caſe; and that lines falling, not perpendicularly,
but with different degrees of obliquity,
were conſidered as the ſymbols of
the other caſes. Hence the firſt obtained the
name of Caſus rectus, or the erect caſe; and
the others were called Caſus obliqui, the oblique
caſes: hence they were all denominated Caſus,
or Fallings: and hence, an enumeration
of the ſeveral caſes or fallings of the noun
is known by the name of a Declenſion; becauſe
it exhibits a ſort of declining progreſs,
from the noun's perpendicular form, through
its ſeveral ſymbolical obliquities.
If it were aſked, Whether a language with
caſes, like the Greek and the Latin, or one,
which, like the Engliſh, declines its nouns
by prepoſitions, deſerve the preference; I
ſhould anſwer; firſt, that in point of perſpicuity
neither has any advantage over the
other; Regis, regi, rege, of a king, to a
king, with a king, being all equally intelligible:
— and ſecondly, that the modern has
more ſimplicity than the antient; becauſe he
who can decline one Engliſh noun may, if
he know the ſingular and plural terminations,
decline any other; which is by no
means the caſe in the Latin and Greek.
But, thirdly, it muſt be allowed, that the
Claſſick tongues derive from the inflection of
their nouns a very great ſuperiority, in reſpect
of elegance. For, firſt, what they expreſs
by one word pennæ (for example) we
cannot expreſs by fewer than two, or perhaps
three, of pen, of a pen, of the pen.
Beſides, the varieties of termination in the
Greek and Latin nouns contributes not a
little to their harmony: while the unvaried
ſound of our ſubſtantives, with the perpetual
repetition of ſuch little words as of,
to, for, with, &c. give a harſhneſs to the
language, which would certainly be offenſive
to an ear, that had long been inured to the
modulation of the antient tongues.
But the chief advantage of diverſified termination,
both in nouns and in verbs, conſiſts
(as formerly hinted) in this, that it
leaves the compoſer at liberty to place his
words in any order, which he may think will
moſt effectually promote variety, and energy,
as well as harmony, of ſtile. Whereas, in
the modern tongues, the relation that one
word bears to another being in a great meaſure
determined by their poſition, are
often confined to one particular arrangement;
and, when we depart from that, and
attempt thoſe deviations from the
tical order which are ſo graceful in ancient
authors, are apt to write obſcurely and affectedly.
— In this reſpect, however, the Engliſh
tongue is more ſuſceptible of variety than
the French, and Engliſh verſe than Engliſh
proſe. Indeed, almoſt all arrangements of
words, that do not perplex the ſenſe, are
permitted in our poetry, eſpecially in our
blank verſe: a privilege, whereof Milton
availing himſelf in its full latitude, diſplays
in the Paradiſe Loſt a variety and elegance
of compoſition, which had never been equalled
in any other modern tongue, and may
bear to be compared with the moſt elaborate
performances of antiquity.
Our want of inflection in our nouns, adjectives,
and participles, makes us, in our
written language, more dependent upon
punctuation, than the antients were. Indeed,
of punctuation, as we underſtand it,
they had no idea: and it does not appear,
that they ſuffered any inconvenience from
the want of it. Whereas, in modern language,
the miſplacing or omiſſion of a point
will often alter the ſenſe and, if we had no
points, we ſhould find it difficult to write ſo
as to be underſtood; to write elegantly, and
yet intelligibly, would in that caſe be impoſſlbe.
There is a paſſage in Cato; which,
from being generally, it not always, miſpointed,
is, I think, generally miſunderſtood

The ways of heaven are dark and intricate,
Puzzled in mazes, and perplex'd with errors:
Our underſtanding traces them in vain,
Loſt and bewilder'd in the fruitleſs ſearch; &c.
Thus the lines are printed in all the edition
I have ſeen. And yet, it can hardly be ſuppoſed,
that Addiſon's piety would have permitted
him to ſay, or to make Cato ſay, that
"the ways of heaven are perplexed with er"rors;"
or that his taſte would have warranted
ſuch an expreſſion as, "the ways of
heaven are puzzled." I therefore preſume,
that the firſt line is a sentence by itſelf, and
ought to end in a point or colon; and that
the ſequel, ranged in the grammatical order,
amounts to this; "Our underſtanding, puz"zled
in mazes, and perplexed with error;
"traces the ways of heaven in vain:" which;
is both elegant and true. Now this ambiguity
could not have taken place in Latin or
Greek, nor indeed in French or Italian, even
though there had not been one point in theſentence:
becauſe the participles puzzled and
perplexed would have been made to agree
with the ſingular noun underſtanding; in
which caſe they could not alſo agree with the
plural noun ways,
In explaining- the ſeveral caſes, and ſhowing,
why there are neither more nor fewer,
and why ſo many, and what is the nature of,
each, ſome authors have been more particular,
and diſplayed greater ſubtlety, than
in my opinion was requiſite. As to the number
of caſes, grammarians have always differed
in their ſentiments, and are not reconciled
to this day. Many explode the ablative,
becauſe the Greeks could do without
it; and ſome will not allow the vocative to
be a caſe, becauſe it is often, both in Latin
and in Greek, the ſame with the nominative.
Ariſtotle and the Peripateticks maintained;
that the nominative is not a caſe; and the
Stoicks were equally poſitive, that it is. In
the Armenian language, the number of caſes
is ſaid to be ten: and I ſhould not wonder,
if a grammarian, much given to novelty and
paradox, were to affirm, that there are in
Engliſh as many caſes almoſt as there are
prepoſitions. While opinions are ſo different
in regard to the preciſe number, it is vain to
inquire, why there are neither more nor
fewer, and why ſo many.
The nature of each particular caſe may be
better underſtood by examples, than by logical
definition. Indeed, all the definitions
I have ſeen of the ſeveral caſes are liable to
objection; except, perhaps, that of the nominative,
which is given by Mr. Harris, who
calls it, "That caſe, without which there is
"no regular and perfect ſentence."
"The Accuſative," ſays the ſame author,
"is that caſe, which to an efficient nomi"native,
and a verb of action, ſubjoins,
"either the effect, or the paſſive ſubject:" —
the effect, as when I ſay, Lyſippus fecit
ſtatuas, Lyſippus made ſtatues; the ſubject,
as in this example, Achilles vulneravit Hectora,
Achilles wounded Hector. — But this,
though frequently, is not univerſally true.
When it is ſaid, Antonius læſit Ciceronem,
the firſt word is an efficient nominative, the
ſecond an active verb, and the third an accuſative,
according to the definition: but when
I ſay, Antonius nocuit Ciceroni, the efficient
nominative and active verb are followed, not
by an accuſative, but by a dative. And there
are other verbs of active ſignification, as Potior,
for example, which take after them,
rarely an accuſative, ſometimes a genitive,
and frequently an ablative. And what ſhall
we ſay of accuſatives governed by prepoſitions;
as habitat juxta montem, he dwells
near the mountain? For neither is habitat,
be dwells, an active verb; nor is the mountain,
in any ſenſe of the words, either the
ſubject or the effect of his dwelling; and yet
montem, the mountain, is the accuſative.
The Genitive, according to the ſame learned
writer, expreſſes all relations commencing
from itſelf; and the Dative, all relations,
tending to itſelf. Yet, when I ſay, editus
regibus, deſcended of kings, I expreſs a relation
commencing from the kings, who are,
notwithſtanding, of the ablative caſe, in the
Latin: and eripuit morti, he reſcued from
death, is in Latin dative, and expreſſes, for
all that, a relation tending, not to death, but
from it. — One may ſay indeed, that theſe are
refinements in the language, and deviations,
from the primitive ſyntax. But I know not,
how we are to judge of caſes, except from.
the purpoſes to which they are applied in the
languages that have them; nor on what authority
we have a right to ſuppoſe, that the
primitive ſyntax of Greek and Latin was different
from that which we find in Greek and
Latin authors.
In a word, every caſe, almoſt, is applied
to ſo many purpoſes in ſyntax, that to deſcribe
its uſe in a ſingle definition, ſeems
to be impoſſible, or at leaſt ſo difficult, and
withal ſo unneceſſary, that it is not worth
while to attempt it. None of the antient
grammarians, ſo far as I know, has ever
made the attempt: and I believe it will be
allowed, that in this ſort of ſubtlety they
are not inferiour to their brethren of modern
§ 2. Of Conjunctions.
I divided Connectives into two claſſes;
Prepoſitions, which connect words, and Conjunctions,
which connect ſentences.
A Conjunction may be thus defined: "A
"part of ſpeech, void itſelf of ſignification,
"but of ſuch efficacy, as to join ſentences
"together, and ſhow their dependence upon
"one another." The Conjunction, ſays
Ariſtotle, makes many one: and Ammonius
compares the words of this claſs to thoſe pegs
and nails by which the ſeveral parts of a machine
are united.
Perhaps it may be thought, that Conjunctions,
as well as prepoſitions, do ſometimes
connect words; as when we ſay, He
is a learned and a wiſe and a good man. But
this ſentence, when analyſed, will be found
to conſiſt of three diſtinct ſentences; — he is
a learned man; — he is a wiſe man; — he is a
good man; or, — he is learned, — he is wiſe, —
he is good: which three would for ever remain
diſtinct and ſeparate, if we had no
connecting words to unite them in one ſentence;
even as the ſeveral parts of a ſhip
would remain ſeparate, if we had no pegs or
nails to faſten them together. So, when it
is ſaid, Peter and John went to the temple,
it may ſeem, that the conjunction and connects
only the two names Peter and John:
but it really connects two ſentences, — Peter
went to the temple, — John went to the temple;
for unleſs we fuppoſe the words, went
to the temple, to belong both to Peter and to
John, the expreſſion has no meaning.
In this account of the Conjunction, Scaliger,
Sanctius, Voſſius, Urſinus, and Mr.
Harris agree. But Perizonius is of opinion,
and Ruddiman ſeems to think, that conjunctions
do ſometimes connect words, and
not ſentences; as in examples, like the following:
Saul and Paul are the ſame: This
book coſt a ſhilling and more: There is war
between England and France. Each of theſe,
no doubt, is one ſentence, and, if we keep
to the ſame phraſeology, incapable of being
broken into two. For, if inſtead of the
firſt we ſay, "Saul is the ſame — Paul is the
"ſame," we utter nonſenfe; becauſe the.
predicate ſame, though it agrees with the
two ſubjects in their united ſtate, will not
agree with either when ſeparate. If we ſay,
inſtead of the ſecond, "This book coſt a
"ſhilling — this book coſt more," we ſpeak
with little meaning, or at leaſt inaccurately.
And, inſtead of the third, if we ſay, "There
"is war between England — there is war
"between France," we fall into nonſenſe
as before; becauſe the prepoſition between,
having a neceſſary reference to more than
one, cannot be uſed where one only is
ſpoken of.
Yet, from theſe and the like examples, I
do not ſee that any exception arises to the
general idea of this part of ſpeech, as expreſſed
in the definition. For in each of
theſe a double affirmation ſeems to be implied;
and two affirmations certainly comprehend
matter ſufficient for two ſentences.
If, therefore, not one of the examples given
can, in its preſent form, be reſolved into
two, it muſt be owing, not to the want of
ideas, but to ſome peculiarity in the expreſſion.
Let us, then, without adding any.
new idea, change the expreſſion, and mark
the conſequence.
The firſt example, "Paul and Saul are
"the ſame," is very elliptical. Its ſeeming
import is, either that two different names are
the ſame name, which cannot be; or that
two different perſons are the ſame perſon,
which is equally abſurd. To expreſs the
whole thought, therefore, in adequate language,
we muſt ſay, "Paul and Saul are
"names that belong to one and the ſame
"man." And this plainly comprehends two
ſentences: Saul and Paul are names, — Saul
and Paul belong to one and the ſame perſon.*

In the ſecond example, are plainly implied
two affirmations, and conſequently two ſentences.
"This book coſt a ſhilling" — (which
is true, though not the whole truth) and —
"This book coſt more than a ſhilling."
Even three affirmations, and of courſe
three ſentences, may be ſuppoſed to be comprehended
in the third example. "France
"is at war — England is at war — They are
at war with one another." Taking it in
another view, we may ſay, that here one,
aſſertion is made concerning the one country,
and another of the ſame import con*
See Part i. Chap. I. Sect. 2.
cerning the other, and that there muſt by
conſequence be ideas to furniſh out two affirmative
ſentences: "England is at war
with France — France is at war with Eng"land."

In ſome ſentences of this nature, the conjunction
may be conſidered as ſuperfluous.
Where this happens, the meaning may be
expreſſed in one ſentence, without the aid
of any conjunction: as, Peter went with
John to the temple: Saul is the ſame with
Copulative conjunctions, therefore, where
they are not quite ſuperfluous, (as if we
were to ſay, I ſaw twenty and four men,
inſtead of twenty four), will I think be found
in moſt, or perhaps in all caſes, to connect
together either ſentences, or words that comprehend
the meaning of ſentences.
Sentences may be united, even when their
meanings are disjoined, or oppoſed to one
another. When I ſay, "Peter and John
"went becauſe they were called," I join three
ſentences in one; and the two laſt are, as it
were, the continuation of the firſt: Peter
went — John went — they went becauſe they
were called. But if it be ſaid, "Peter and
"John went, but Thomas would not go,"
though there are three ſentences joined in
one, as before, the import of the laſt is, by
means of the particle but, ſet in a ſort of
oppoſition to the two firſt. Hence Conjunctions
have been divided into two kinds,
Conjunctive, which join ſentences, and alſo
connect their meanings; and Disjunctive,
which, while they connect ſentences, disjoin
their meanings, or ſet them, as it were, in
Theſe two claſſes have been ſubdivided
by Grammarians into ſeveral ſubordinate
ſpecies. It would be tedious to enumerate
all the arrangements that have been propoſed.
I ſhall juſt give the heads of Mr. Harris's
ſubdiviſion; which will convey an idea of
the various uſes to which the Conjunction
may be applied.
"1. The Conjunctions, that unite both
"ſentences and their meanings, are either
"Copulative or Continuative. The Copula"tive
may join all ſentences, however in"congruous
in ſignification: as, Alexander
"was a conqueror, and the loadſtone is
"uſeful. The Continuative joins thoſe ſen"tences
only which have a natural connec"tion;
as, Alexander was a conqueror be"cauſe
he was valiant.
"Continuatives are of two ſorts, Suppo"ſitive,
and Poſitive. The former denote
"connection, but not actual exiſtence; as,
"You will be happy if you be good. The
"latter imply connection, and actual exiſt"ence
too; as, You are happy because you
"are good.
"Moreover Poſitive Continuatives are
"either Cauſal or Collective. Thoſe ſubjoin
"cauſes to effects; as, He is unhappy be"cauſe
he is wicked: theſe ſubjoin effects to
"cauſes; as, He is wicked, therefore un"happy.*

"2. Disjunctive Conjunctions, which
"unite ſentences while they disjoin their
"meaning, are either Simple, which merely
"disjoin; as, It is either John or James:
"or Adverſative, which both disjoin, and
"mark an oppoſition; as, It is not John,
"but it is James.
"Adverſative Disjunctives are divided into
"Abſolute and Comparative: Abſolute, as
"when I ſay, Socrates was wiſe, but Alex"ander
was not; Comparative, as in this
"example, Socrates was wiſer than Alex"ander.

"Adverſative Disjunctives are further di"vided
into Adequate and inadequate: Ade*
Therefore was formerly mentioned as an adverb.
And an adverb it is, when, without joining ſentences, it
only gives the ſenſe of for that reaſon. When it both
gives that ſenſe, and alſo connects, as when we ſay, "He
"is good; therefore he is happy," it is a conjunction.
The ſame thing is true of conſequently, accordingly, and
the like. When theſe are ſubjoined to and, or joined to
if; ſince, &c. they are adverbs, the connection being made
without their help; when they appear ſingle, and unſupported
by any other connective, they may be called conjunctions.

quate, as when it is ſaid, He will come un"leſs
he be ſick, that is, his ſickneſs only
"will be an adequate cauſe to prevent his
"coming; Inadequate, as if it were ſaid,
"He will come although he be ſick, that is,
"his ſickneſs will not be a ſufficient or ade"quate
cauſe to prevent his coming."
That all the Conjunctions neceſſary in
language may be referred to one or other
of theſe heads, I will not affirm. Perhaps
it is impoſſible to determine, how many may
be neceſſary. This we know, that barbarous
nations have but few; that cultivated tongues,
like the Greek and Latin, have a conſiderable
number, (the Latin upwards of eighty);
but that of this number ſome, being ſynonimous
with others, and introduced for the
ſake of variety, cannot be neceſſary; though
they are uſeful, becauſe they may be ornamental.

Yet from this laſt circumſtance it muſt
not be inferred, that there is a redundancy
of connectives in theſe languages. We ſhall
be inclined to think there is rather a deficiency,
when we conſider, that one and the
ſame conjunction has often ſeveral different
ſignifications. Thus, the Latin autem denotes,
but, nay, beſides, indeed, on the contrary;
and has other niceties of meaning,
to which perhaps there are no correſpondent
particles in the Engliſh tongue. The true
import of ſuch connectives, as well as of
other ambiguous words, can be aſcertained
only by the context. And it is a great fault,
in teaching the Claſſicks, when children are
not inured to give to the conjunctions, which
come in their way, that preciſe meaning,
which an intelligent maſter will perceive that
the context fixes upon them. For, if the
ſcholar is permitted invariably to render autem
(for example) by the Engliſh but, he
muſt often loſe the ſenſe of his author; and,
inſtead of being led by the connective to
trace out the dependence of ſentences, he
will be more at a loſs, than if that particle
had been omitted.
Plutarch, in his Platonick queſtions, in
order to account for that ſaying of Plato,
that language is made up of nouns and verbs,
has taken more pains than was neceſſary, to
ſhow, that the noun and the verb are of all
parts of ſpeech the moſt important. His
reaſoning, however, is rather too much in
the way of allegory, to convey clear ideas
and full conviction. True it is, as he ſays,
that nouns and verbs may form ſentences,
independently on prepoſitions, articles, conjunctions,
and adverbs; whereas theſe
cannot form ſentences, nor have any diſtinct
meaning, without nouns and verbs. It is
alſo true, that, (as he proves by a quotation.
from Demoſthenes), by leaving out conjunctions,
one may ſometimes join the more
ſignificant words in cloſer union, and ſo
give energy to particular paſſages: and that,
from the want of articles, the Latin tongue
is not the leſs perſpicuous; nor Homer's
Greek the leſs elegant, for the omiſſion of
them. Yet if, in the uſe of ſpeech, we were
to confine ourſelves to nouns and attributives;
and never have recourſe to prepoſitions,
to mark relations of place, nor to
conjunctions, to aſcertain the dependence
of one part of our diſcourſe upon another,
I apprehend, that we ſhould be much at a
loſs, even on common emergencies; and
that, in matters of inveſtigation and ſcience,
we muſt be abſolutely incapable of accurate
There are two ways of thinking, and,
conſequently, of ſpeaking, and writing. We
ſometimes think miſcellaneouſly, (as one may
ſay) when the preſent thought has little connection
with what goes before, or follows.
At other times, our ideas proceed in a train;
and the preſent is naturally introduced by
the foregoing, and naturally introduces the
ſubſequent. This laſt is no doubt the moſt
rational, as it is the moſt methodical, way
of thinking; for in this way, many different
ideas acquire one tendency, and are all
employed for the ſupport and illuſtration of
ſome one point, and of one another. In
the one caſe, our thoughts reſemble a multitude,
in which are many individuals,
but thoſe are unconnected; and, therefore,
though there be great number, there is not
proportionable ſtrength. In the other, our
thoughts may be compared to an army in
order of battle, where the ſtrength is in
proportion to the number; becauſe the individuals
are mutually dependent on, and ſupported
by, one another; ſo that the force
of each may add to that of all the reſt, and
all the reſt may be ſaid to ſecond the efforts
of each individual.
Now Conjunctions are thoſe parts of language,
that, by joining ſentences in various
ways, mark the connections, and various
dependencies, of human thought. And
therefore, if our thoughts be really connected
and mutually dependent, it is moſt
likely (as every man in ſpeaking and writing
wiſhes to do juſtice to his ideas) that conjunctions
will be employed, to make that
connection, and thoſe dependencies obvious
to ourſelves, and to others. And where
there is, in any diſcourſe, a remarkable deficiency
of connecting particles, it may be
preſumed, either that there is a want of
connection, or that ſufficient pains has not
been taken to explain it.
The ſtyle of the beſt authors of Greece
and Rome abounds in conjunctions and other
connecting words. Take any page in Cicero,
eſpecially where he ſpeaks in his own
perſon, and in the way of inveſtigation, as
in his books of Moral Duties; and you ſhall
hardly ſee a ſentence, that has not in, or near,
the beginning, an autem, or enim, ſed, or
igitur, or ſome other connective: by which
we may inſtantly diſcover the relation, which
the preſent ſentence bears to what went before;
as an inference, an objection, an illuſtration,
a continuation, a conceſſion, a condition,
or ſimply as one ſentiment ſubjoined
to another by a copulative. The ſtyle of
Seneca, on the other hand, and that of
Tacitus, are in this reſpect deficient. Their
ſentences are ſhort, and their connectives
few; ſo that the mutual dependence of their
thoughts is rather left to the conjecture of
the reader, than expreſſed by the author.
And hence, we are told, it was, that the
emperor Caligula remarked, (though we can
hardly ſuppoſe Caligula to have been. capable
of ſaying ſo good a thing) that the ſtyle of
Seneca was Arenam ſine calce, Sand without
lime; meaning, that matter, or ſenſe, was
not wanting, but that there was nothing to
cement that matter into one uniform and
ſolid maſs.
This uncemented compoſition has of late
become faſhionable among the French and
their imitators. One of the firſt who introduced
it was Monteſquieu, an author of
great learning and extraordinary penetration;
who, as he reſembled Tacitus in genius,
ſeems to have admired his manner, and copied
his ſtyle. Like him, and like Florus, of
whom alſo he was an admirer (as appears
from his Eſſay on Taſte) he affects ſhort ſentences,
in the way of aphoriſm; full of
meaning, indeed, but ſo conciſe in the expreſſion
as to be frequently ambiguous;
and ſo far from having a regular connection,
that their place might often be changed without
inconvenience. This in philoſophical
writing has a diſagreeable effect, both upon
the memory, and upon the underſtanding of
the reader.
Firſt, upon his memory. Nothing tends
more to impreſs the mind with a diſtinct
idea of a complex object, than a ſtrict and
natural connection of the parts. And therefore,
when a diſcourſe is not well connected,
the ſentiments, however juſt, are eaſily forgotten;
or, if a few be remembered, yet
their general ſcope and tendency, having
never been clearly apprehended, is not remembered
at all.
And, ſecondly, upon his underſtanding.
To read a number of detached thoughts, although
it may amuſe the fancy, does not
ſufficiently exerciſe the rational faculties. Of
ſuch thoughts, that only which is preſent is
attended to; and, if we underſtand it, we
do all that is required of us. But, when
we peruſe a regular inveſtigation, wherein
many ſentiments are employed to illuſtrate
or evince one leading point of doctrine, we
muſt attend, both to the preſent thought
and to that which went before, that we may
perceive the connection; we muſt alſo
compare the ſeveral ideas together, in order
to diſcern their agreement or diſagreement,
as well as the influence of all the premiſes
in eſtabliſhing the concluſion. This is a
moſt wholeſome intellectual exerciſe. It puts
all our rational powers in motion, and inures
us to a methodical way of thinking and ſpeaking:
and ſo quickens attention, ſtrengthens
memory, and gives direction and vigour to
our inventive powers.
As the faſhionable mode of unconnected
compoſition is leſs improving to the mind of
the reader, ſo it promotes a habit of inaccuracy
and negligence in a writer. One of
the greateſt difficulties in writing is, to give
a right arrangement to the ſeveral thoughts
and parts, whereof a diſcourſe is made up:
and that arrangement is the beſt, in which
the ſeveral parts throw moſt light upon one
another. But when an author thinks himſelf
at liberty to write without connection,
he is at little pains to arrange his ideas, but
lets them down juſt as they occur; ſometimes
taking up a ſubject in the middle, and
ſometimes at the end ; and often quitting one
point before he has diſcuſſed it, and recurring
to it again when he ought to be engaged
in ſomething elſe. In a word, he is
apt to be more intent upon the brilliancy
of particular thoughts, than upon their coherence:
which is not more wiſe in an author,
than it would be in an architect to
build a houſe rather of round, ſmooth, and
ſhining pebbles, than of ſtones of more
homely appearance hewn into ſuch figures
as would make them eaſily and firmly incorporate;
or, than it would be in any
man, rather to thatch his body with gaudy
feathers, or ſplendid rags, than to cover it
with one uniform piece of cloth, ſo ſhaped
and united, as to defend him from the cold,
without incumbrance.
Conjunctions, however, are not the only
words that connect ſentences. Relative pronouns,
as I formerly obſerved *, do the
ſame; for a relative implies the force both
of a pronoun and of a connective. Nay,
the union by relatives is rather cloſer, than
that by mere conjunctions. The latter may
join two or more ſentences in one; but, by
the former, ſeveral ſentences may incorporate
in one and the ſame clauſe of a ſentence.
Thus, You ſee a man and he is
called Peter, is a ſentence conſiſting of two
diſtinct clauſes united by the copulative and:
but, The man whom you ſee is called Peter,
is a ſentence of one clauſe, and not leſs comprehenſive
than the other. Yet relatives are
not ſo uſeful in language, as conjunctions.
The former make ſpeech more conciſe; the
* Part II Chap. i. Sect. 2.
latter make it more explicit. Relatives comprehend
the meaning of a pronoun and conjunction
copulative: conjunctions, while they
couple ſentences, may alſo expreſs oppoſition,
inference, and many other relations and dependencies.

Till men began to think in a train, and
to carry their reaſonings to a conſiderable
length, it is not probable, that they would
make much uſe of conjunctions, or of any
other connectives. Ignorant people and children
generally ſpeak in ſhort and ſeparate
ſentences. The ſame thing is true of barbarous
nations: and hence uncultivated languages
are not well ſupplied with connecting
particles. The Greeks were the greateſt reaſoners
that ever appeared in the world; and
their language, accordingly, abounds more
than any other in connectives: of which,
though we cannot now account for them
all, we may be aſſured that few or none were
Conjunctions are not equally neceſſary in
all ſorts of writing. In poetry, where great
conciſeneſs of phraſe is required, and every
appearance of formality avoided, too many
of them would have a bad effect. In paſſionate
language too, it may be proper to
omit them: becauſe it is the nature of
violent paſſion to ſpeak rather in disjointed
ſentences, than in the way of inference and,
argument. — Books of aphoriſm, like the Proverbs
of Solomon, have few connectives;
becauſe they inſtruct, not by reaſoning, but
in detached obſervations. And narrative will
sometimes appear very graceful, when the
circumſtances are plainly told, with ſcarce
any other conjunction than the ſimple copulative
and: which is frequently the caſe in
the hiſtorical parts of Scripture. — When narration
is full of images or events, the omiſſion
of connectives may, by crouding the
principal words upon one another, give a
ſort of picture of hurry and tumult, and ſo
heighten the vivacity of deſcription; as in
that line of Lucretius,
Vulneribus, clamore, fuga, terrore, tumultu.
But when facts are to be traced down through
their conſequences, or upwards to their cauſes;
when the complicated deſigns of mankind are
to be laid open, or conjectures offered concerning
them; when the hiſtorian argues
either for the elucidation of truth, or in order
to ſtate the pleas and principles of contending
parties; there will be occaſion for every
ſpecies of connective, as much as in philoſophy
itſelf. In fact, it is in argument,
inveſtigation, and ſcience, where this part
of ſpeech is peculiarly and indiſpenſably neceſſary.

Sometimes, the repetition of a connective,
even where it is not neceſſary, adds weight
to a remonſtrance, by calling the reader's
attention to each individual clauſe: as, "If
"there be any virtue, and if there be any
"praiſe, &c. Will you ſacrifice liberty,
"and truth, and honour, and conſcience,
"and preſent convenience, and future re"nown,
and eternal felicity, and all to gra"tify
a tyrant?"
Grammarians have diſtinguiſhed the conjunction
into Prepoſitive, Subjunctive, and
Common. The firſt is always the firſt word
of a clauſe or ſentence; as et, aut, nec, &c.
in Latin; and, unleſs, but, &c. in Engliſh.
The ſecond is never the firſt word of a ſentence
or clauſe; as too in Engliſh, and
autem in Latin. And the third may be
either the firſt, or not the firſt, as the writer
or ſpeaker pleaſes; as, in Engliſh, however,
conſequently, therefore, &c; and, in Latin,
namque, ergo, igitur, &c. This matter is to
be determined, not by the ſenſe of the words,
or the nature of the thing, but merely by
the faſhion of the language.
There are conjunctions, that have an influence
on the mood of the following verb;
ſome governing the Indicative, and ſome the
Subjunctive. If this were to depend on the
meaning of the connective, and the nature of
the mood, we might eſtabliſh it as a rule,
that all Conditional, Hypothetical, Conceſſive,
and Exceptive conjunctions ſhould take
the Subjunctive mood, on account of their
dependent character, which implies ſomething
doubtful or contingent: and that,
therefore, we ought to ſay, "If he come he
"will be welcome," — not, "If he comes;"
"Though thou ſlay me, yet will I truſt in
"thee," — not, "Though thou ſlayeſt;"
"Except a man be born again," (— not,
"is born") he cannot ſee the kingdom of
"God;" "Whether he come as a friend or
"as a foe, I will uſe him honourably;" —
not, "Whether he comes." Other conjunctions
of a more poſitive, abſolute, and
independent ſignification, ought for the ſame
reaſon to govern the Indicative: as "The
"room is dark becauſe the day is cloudy:
"Since he repents, I forgive him: As he is
"a worthy man, he may be aſſured of my
"friendfhip." — But this rule is not without
exception. It deſerves, however, to be
remembered; as it is generally attended to
by Latin authors; and as in Engliſh we
can ſeldom or never go wrong, if we follow
* See above, page 256.
THE words, that become ſignificant by
being joined to other words, I divided,
in the beginning of this chapter, into two
claſſes, the Neceſſary, and the Uſeful. The
former, called Connectives, being now conſidered,
it only remains, that I explain the
latter, which are known by the name of
The word article, articulus, * arthron, properly
ſignifies a joint. It would ſeem, that
the firſt Grammarians thought there was
ſomething of a joining power in the words
of this order. But, if they thought ſo, they
were miſtaken. The article is no connective.
It is a Definitive: being uſed for the
purpoſe of defining, aſcertaining, or limiting,
the ſignification of thoſe words to which
it is prefixed. Perhaps, however, they may
have given it this name, with a view to ſome
metaphorical alluſion.
In order to diſcover its uſe, we muſt recollect,
that all nouns, proper names excepted,
are general terms, or common appel*
latives. The word mountain is equally applicable
to all mountains, and the word man to
all men. Every veſſel of a certain ſize and
form, which is made for ſailing, May be
called ſhip: and the terms valour, bounty,
wiſdom, belong to every perſon, who is valiant,
bountiful, wiſe.
But, though it is true, of the names of
things, that they are of .general meaning,
things themſelves are all -individuals. No
one man is either leſs or more than one;
and every man has peculiarities, whereby he
may be diſtinguiſhed from all others.
How, then, are we to reconcile the univerſality
of names with the individuality of
things? In other words: when we make
uſe of a common appellative, as man, houſe,
mountain, what method do we take to intimate,
that we ſpeak of one, and not of
many; of an individual, and not of a ſpecies?
There are ſeveral ways of doing this: and,
particularly, it may be done by Articles, or
For example: I ſee an animated being,
which has no proper name, or of whoſe
proper name I am ignorant. In ſpeaking
of it, therefore, I muſt refer it to its ſpecies,
and call it man, dog, horſe, or the like; or,
if I know not the ſpecies, I refer it to
its genus, and call it animal. But this animated
being is itſelf neither a genus, nor a
ſpecies; it is an individual: and therefore,
in ſpeaking of it, ſo as to mark its individuality,
I call it a horſe, a man, a dog, an
animal: which intimates, that I ſpeak of
one, and not of many; of an individual being,
and not of a claſs of beings. This
article, therefore, A or An, has the ſame
ſignification nearly with the numerical word
one. And accordingly, in French and Italian,
the ſame word that denotes unity is alſo
the article of which I now ſpeak. Nay, in
ſome of the dialects of old Engliſh, this ſeems
to have been the caſe; for an is the ſame with
one in the Saxon; and the vulgar in Scotland
ſtill uſe a (pronouncing it, as in the word
name) in the ſenſe of one; as a day, one day,
"a morning I was early out," for, one
morning. — Now obſerve, that, when it is
ſaid, I ſee a man, I ſee an animal, the a or
an, though it aſcertains the individuality,
gives no further intimation concerning the
thing ſpoken of. It is therefore called the
Indefinite article.
Again: I ſee a certain animal, which I
never ſaw before, or of which, though I may
know to what ſpecies it belongs, I have no
previous acquaintance; and I ſay, I ſee an
elephant, a dwarf, a bear, &c. Next day,
the ſame animal comes again in view; and
I ſay, recognizing it as the ſame, There is
the elephant, the dwarf, the bear: changing
the former indefinite article into another,
which not only intimates individuality, but
alſo implies previous acquaintance. This,
from its power of aſcertaining ſome one individual,
in preference to others of the ſame
ſpecies, is called the Definite article: and it
will appear in the ſequel to be much more
uſeful than the other.
We have, therefore, in Engliſh, two articles
or definitives, A or An and The: the
former applicable to any one of a kind or
ſort; the other uſed for the purpoſe of
diſtinguiſhing ſome particular one. In French
and Italian there are two correſpondent articles.

In Greek, there is no indefinite article;
the noun without an article having the ſame
meaning with our indefinite article prefixed
to a noun; as * anêr, a man: but there is
a definite article † ho, hê, to, which is for
the moſt part of the ſame import with our
Engliſh the; as ‡ ho anêr, the man.
In the Hebrew, as in Greek, there is no
indefinite article; but there is a definite article,
which they prefix to the noun ſo as
to make one word with it; and which, like
the Engliſh article, has no diſtinction of
gender or number.
In the Erſe or Gaelick tongue, they have
alſo a definite, but no indefinite, article.
* α'νηρ. † ό, ή, το.̀ ‡ ό ανηρ.
And the uſe of the article ſeems to have been
pretty general in all the primitive tongues
of the north of Europe, the Gothick, and
Teutonick, as well as the Celtick; from
which we may account for the prevalence
of theſe little words in our modern tongues.
For it is remarkable, that, though all the
languages derived from the Latin have articles,
yet the Latin itſelf has none. Whence
then did they get theirs? I anſwer, from
thoſe northern nations who overturned the
empire of Rome, and who, though they in
part adopted the language of the vanquiſhed
Romans, did alſo introduce into it a great
variety of their own words and idioms.
That which is very eminent is ſuppoſed to
be generally known. Hence the definite article
may convey an idea of eminence, as
well as of previous acquaintance. A king
is any king; but the king is that perſon
whom we acknowlege for our ſovereign.
So when we ſay ſimply, the kingdom, the
nation, the government, we of Great Britain
mean the Britiſh government, nation,
kingdom, &c.
Sometimes we denote eminence by omitting
the article: we ſay, a member of parliament;
an act of parliament; rather than,
of the parliament. In this caſe, the thing
ſpoken of is ſo very eminent, that it needs
no article to make it more ſo: and beſides,
a parliament, in our ſenſe of the word, is
an inſtitution peculiar to Britiſh policy. The
twelve French Parliaments are rather courts
of juſtice than legiſlative aſſemblies. And,
among the vulgar of North Britain, whoſe
language abounds in French idioms, the
ſame idea appears to be ſtill annexed to the
term: for they ſpeak of appealing to the
Britiſh parliament from a ſentence of the
Court of Seſſion; though they know, that
the appeal is made, not to the Parliament,
(in the Engliſh ſenſe of the word) but to
the Houſe of Lords.
In Greek too, as in Engliſh, the article
is a mark of eminence: * ho poiêtês, the
poet, is uſed for Homer, the greateſt of
poets; and † ho ſtageiritês, the Stagyrite,
for Ariſtotle, who was the moſt famous of
all the natives of the city Stagyra.
That which is nearly connected with us,
or which from its vicinity we have been long
acquainted with, becomes eminent in our
eyes, even though, in itſelf, and compared
with other things of the ſame kind, it be of
no particular importance. One who lives
near a very little town ſpeaks of it by the
name of the town. Every clergyman within
his own pariſh is called the miniſter or the
parſon; and if in a village there be only one
merchant or one ſmith, his neighbours think
they diſtinguiſh him ſufficiently, by calling
* ό ποιητης. † ό ςαγειριτης.•
him the ſmith or the merchant. A tree, a
rock, a hill, a river, a meadow, may be
ſpoken of in the ſame manner, with the
ſame emphaſis. He is not returned from
the hill: he is bathing in the river: I ſaw
him on the top of the rock: Will you take
a walk in the meadow? A branch is blown
down from the tree. In theſe examples, the
definite article is uſed; becauſe the thing
ſpoken of, being in the neighbourhood, is
well known, and a matter of ſome importance
to the people who are acquainted with
That we may perceive, yet more clearly,
the ſignificancy of the articles, let us put the
one for the other, and mark the conſequence.
When it is ſaid, that "the anceſ"tors
of the preſent Royal Family were
"kings in England three hundred years be"fore
the Conqueror," the ſenſe is clear;
as every body knows, that the perſon here
ſpoken of by the name of the conqueror is
William duke of Normandy, who ſubdued
England about ſeven hundred years ago.
But if we ſay, that "the anceſtors of the
"Royal Family were kings in England three
"hundred years before a conqueror," we
ſpeak nonſenſe. — Again, when it is ſaid, that
"health is a moſt deſirable thing," there is
no man who will not acquieſce in the propoſition;
which only means that health is
one of thoſe things that are to be very
much deſired. But, take the other article,
and ſay, "Health is the moſt deſirable
"thing," and you change it from true to
falſe: for this would imply, that nothing
is ſo deſirable as health; which is very wide
of the truth; virtue, and a good conſcience,
being of infinitely greater value. — Moreover,
if, inſtead of "Man is born to trouble,"
we ſay "A man is born to trouble," there
is no material change in the ſenſe; only the
former is more ſolemn, perhaps becauſe it
is more conciſe: and here, by the by, we
may ſee, that the indefinite article is ſometimes
of no great uſe. But if we ſay, "The
man is born to trouble," the maxim is
no longer general; ſome one particular man
is hinted at; and they to whom we ſpeak
would naturally aſk, What man?
The learned Biſhop Lowth has ſhown, in
his excellent Engliſh grammar, that, in
ſome inſtances, our tranſlation of the New
Teſtament has miſrepreſented the ſenſe of
the original Greek, by not attending to the
article *. "When the Spirit of truth is
"come," ſays the tranſlation, "he will
"guide you into all truth:" a promiſe, or
* The very title of the fifth book of the New Teſtament
is miſtranſlated. It ſhould be ACTS of the Apoſtles,
not THE ACTS ; the original being πραξεις, and not
άι παξεις. The error may appear minute, but it ought
to be corrected; as the ſubject of the book correſponds
to the one title, but by no means to the other.
a prophecy, which was not fulfilled by the
event; for, after the coming of the Spirit
on the day of Pentecoſt, it is probable, that
the Apoſtles remained ignorant of many
truths; indeed, it is not poſſible, that they
could know every thing. But in the Greek
of this paſſage we have an article (omitted
in the Tranſlation) which gives a very different
ſenſe: — "he will guide you into
all the truth;" * that is, into all Evangelical
(or Chriſtian) truth; a prediction,
which the event did fully juſtify. — Take
another inſtance. When a Roman Centurion
perceived the miraculous circumſtances
that accompanied the Crucifixion,
our Bible informs us, that he ſaid, "Truly
this was the Son of God:" which would
imply, what is not likely, that this centurion
was acquainted with our Saviour's hiſtory
and doctrines, and particularly knew, that
he called himſelf the Son of God, in a peculiar
and incommunicable ſenſe. But the
Greek has not this article; and ſhould therefore
have been rendered, "Truly this was
"a ſon of God," † or an extraordinary
* Εις πασαν την αληϑειαν.
† Or rather, a ſon of a God; or, which is the ſame
thing here, the ſon of a God, as Dr. Campbell renders it,
in the work which he is now preparing for the preſs. See
above, Chap. II; concluſion of Sect. i. The expreſſion
in Greek is ϑεˠ ύιος, without any article; ſo that both
words are equally indefinite. The phraſe ύιος τˠ ϑεˠ,
which occurs ſometimes. is properly a ſon of God. But the
perſon, and ſuperior to a mere man: a remark,
which even heathens, though ignorant
of our Saviour's hiſtory, might reaſonably
make, on ſeeing the prodigies of earthquake
and darkneſs that accompanied his laſt
Sometimes, however, our two articles do
not differ ſo widely in ſignification. Thus,
we may ſay, "It is true as the proverb de"clares;"
or, "it is true as a proverb, or
"as a certain proverb declares, that," &c
and the change of the article does not make
any material change in the ſenſe. In like
manner we ſay, "That heaven ſmiles at the
perjury of lovers, is a pernicious maxim of
"the poet;" where the two laſt words allude,
not to Homer, or Virgil, or any other poet
of the firſt rank, but to Ovid, who was of
an inferiour order. And this ſentence would
loſe nothing of its ſignification, if we were
to ſubſtitute the other article, and ſay,
"A poet has delivered a pernicious maxim,
"when he affirms, that heaven ſmiles at
"the perjury of lovers." — A ſimilar idiom
may be found in Greek. Thus Ariſtotle:
"Change is the ſweeteſt of all things, ac"cording
to the poet *;" where the poet
title which our Saviour takes to himſelf, and which is
given him by his Apoſtles, is always in the Goſpel ό ύιος
τˠ ϑεˠ, the Son of the (true) God.
* Μεταβολη ˠε παντων γλυϰυτατον, ϰατα τον ποιητην.
Ethic. ad Nicom. lib. 7.
ſignifies, not Homer, but Euripides; an author
of great merit, but by no means equal
to Homer, even in Ariſtotle's judgment.
Now if the Greek article had been omitted,
"Change is the ſweeteſt of all things, as
a poet ſays," it is plain, that the ſentence
would have had the ſame meaning.
In ſome caſes, the definite article conveys
a peculiar ſenſe. A ſpeaker is any man who
ſpeaks ; but the Speaker is the perſon who
preſides in the Houſe of Commons. An
advocate, in Scotland, is any one who is entitled
to plead in the higher courts of juſtice;
but the advocate is he, whoſe office correſponds
to that which in England is held by
the King's Attorney General. A council is
any aſſembly of men met in conſultation;
but the council is, according to the Engliſh
idiom, the King's Privy Council. So, in
Greek, * anthrôpos is a man, but ho anthrôpos
is ſometimes (as in the Phædo of Plato) the
publick executioner † ploion is a ſhip, but
to ploion is that particular ſhip, which the
Athenians ſent every year, on a religious embaſſy,
to Delos.
Words, that are ſufficiently definite in
themſelves, ſtand in no need of the article to
make them more ſo. Such are the pronouns,
I, thou, he, ſhe, and it; to which,
accordingly, the article is never prefixed,
* άνϑρωπος, ό ανϑρωπος. † πλοιον, τοι πλοιον.
either in Greek, or in Engliſh*. And ſuch,
one would think, muſt thoſe proper names
be, that diſtinguiſh one individual from all
others. And it is true, that, in many languages,
the proper names of men and women
appear without any article. But in
Greek it is not always ſo: Socrates is ſometimes
called † ho Sôkratês; and his wife,
Xanthippê. Moſt grammarians conſider this
as a redundancy in the Greek; or, at beſt,
as an expedient to mark the gender.
The Author of an Eſſay On the origin
and progreſs of language affirms, that the
Greeks prefixed the article to the proper
names, either of perſons who were eminent;
or of ſuch perſons, whether eminent or not,
whoſe names had been formerly mentioned
in the diſcourſe: and that, therefore, ho
Sôkratês ſignifies, either the famous Socrates,
or the abovementioned Socrates. This once
appeared to me ſo plauſible, that I adopted
it; confiding in the accuracy and erudition
of the Author; both which I know to be
very great. But ſome Greek paſſages occurring
to my memory firſt made me doubtful:
* In paſſages, like the following from Shakſpeare,
Lady you are the cruelleſt ſhe alive —
The fair, the chaſte, the unexpreſſive ſhe —
The ſhees of Italy will not betray —
the word She is not pronominal, but a noun of the ſame
import with woman, or lady.
† ό σωϰρατης, ή ξανϑιππη.
and, on looking a little, into books with this
particular. view, I was ſatisfied, that the
learned writer is miſtaken. See the introductory
paragraph of the Anabaſis of Xenophon;
in which, without the article, Darius
is named three ſeveral times; Paryſatis twice
or thrice, and Artaxerxes as often. See alſo
the beginning of Xenophon's Memorabilia;
where Socrates himſelf is mentioned by name
twelve times (if I miſtake not) without the
article, before he is once mentioned with it.
I am now, therefore, convinced, that thoſe
Grammarians are in the right, who conſider
the Greek article, when prefixed to proper
names of men and women, as a pleonaſm,
or as an expedient, in certain caſes, to clear
the ſenſe, aſcertain the gender, or improve
the harmony.
The Italians prefix the definite article to
ſome of their moſt celebrated names; as
Il Dante, Il Petrarca, Il Taſſo; and even to
famous ſingers and fiddlers, as La Fraſi, Il
Seneſino, Il Tartini: in which they have of
late been imitated by ſome of the people of
London, who, ſpeaking of favourite muſicians,
ſay, The Mingotti, the Gabrielli, &c;
but this is affectation, and ſuits not the
idiom of the Engliſh tongue. — Another
faſhion-, not unlike this, has been lately introduced,
which, though alſo contrary to
idiom, will probably eſtabliſh itſelf in the
language, as it is now generally adopted:
"I was laſt night in company with a
"Mr. Such-a-one, who told us ſome good
ſtories." The indefinite article is here
put for the word one; and the meaning is,
that the perſon is not known, or very little
known, to thoſe who ſpeak of him in this
To the proper names of ſome great natural
obects, as mountains and rivers, we prefix
the definite article in Engliſh, as they
alſo do in French; and ſay, the Alps, the
Grampians, the Andes, the Thames, the
Tiber, the Dee: but to ſingle mountains
however large we do not prefix it; we ſay,
Etna, Atlas, Lebanon, Olympus, Morven,
not the Etna, the Atlas, &c. — In France,
they diſtinguiſh the names of certain countries
by the definite article; as la France,
l'Angleterre, l'Eſpagne; but this is not done
in Engliſh. Indeed our way of applying
the article differs in many reſpects from
theirs: but I cannot enter into particulars,
without quitting the tract of Univerſal
When a proper name belongs to ſeveral
perſons, it may become a ſort of common
appellative, and take the article; as the Ceſars,
the Gordons, the Howards. And the
article may alſo be applied to diſtinguiſh one
perſon from another of the ſame name; as
"The Pliny, who wrote the Natural Hiſ"tory,
is not the Pliny who compoſed the
"panegyrick on Trajan." In this uſe, the
definite article coincides nearly in ſenſe with
the pronominal article that. And this ſame
pronoun that we ſometimes uſe for the definite
Thus I preſume it is uſed in a very ſolemn
paſſage of Scripture; where Jehovah, appearing
in the burning buſh to Moſes, declares
his name in theſe words, "I am that I AM;"
that is, "I am the I AM;" or "I am the
"great I AM:" I am he, who alone poſſeſſes
perfect and independent exiſtence. This example
I the rather take notice of, becauſe
a learned author inſinuates, that there is no
ſenſe in it, as it ſtands in the Engliſh Bible;
and contends, that it ſhould have been rendered,
as in the Greek of the Septuagint,
"I am the being," or rather, "I am he
who is." * But it ſeems to me, that in
our verſion the paſſage is not leſs ſignificant.
Indeed, if we pronounce it, as is commonly
done, "I am that I am," laying the emphaſis
on the two verbs, and without any emphaſis
on the pronominal article that, it will not
appear to have any grammatical propriety.
But let an emphaſis be laid on that, which
is here a moſt emphatical word; and another
emphaſis on the concluding words I AM,
which are ſtill more emphatical, becauſe they
are the name by which the Deity is here
* Εγω ειμι ό ω̂ν.
pleaſed to make himſelf known; and the
paſſage will be found to be both intelligible
and ſublime. — The ſame emphatical uſe of
the pronoun that occurs in other parts of
the Engliſh Bible. "Art thou that my Lord
Elijah?" ſays Ahab's meſſenger to the
Prophet: that is, Art thou the great or the
celebrated Lord Elijah? "This is that king
"Ahaz," ſays the hiſtorian, after ſpecifying
ſome of his wicked actions: This is the king
Ahaz ſo notorious for his impiety.*
Articles being ſo important, it may be
doubted whether I expreſs myſelf properly,
when I affirm, that they are uſeful in language,
but not neceſſary; and whether the
Latin tongue, which is ſuppoſed to have no
article, muſt not, on that account, be very
deficient in both perſpicuity and energy. This
matter deſerves to be conſidered.
It is true, that many learned men have
thought, that the want of an article is a
great deficiency in the Latin tongue: and
ſome modern authors have gone ſo far as
to ſay, that this alone makes it improper
for philoſophy. Yet Quintilian, who underſtood
Greek and Latin better, as I ſuppoſe,
than any modern can pretend to do, and
who alſo appears to have been a proficient
in philoſophy, declares, that the Latin tongue
has no need of articles; and Scaliger, one
* 1 Kings xviii. 7. 2 Chron. xxviii. 22.
of the moſt learned men and ableſt grammarians
of latter times, is of the ſame opipion:
for that, by means of ipſe and ille,
and ſome other pronouns, every thing of real
importance, which the Greek article can expreſs,
may be ſignified in Latin. And I
think they are right. If, for example, I am
deſired to tranſlate thoſe words of Scripture,
in which the article is indeed moſt emphatical,
"And Nathan ſaid unto David, Thou
"art the man:" what is eaſier than to ſay,
Et dixit Nathan Davidi, Tu es ille homo; or,
more ſimply, Tu es ille; or, more ſimply
for the context would bear it, Tu es?
— "I am that I AM," may be rendered
as emphatically in Latin, as in Engliſh or
Greek, Ego ſum ille EGO SUM; or, Ego ſum
ille cui nomen EGO SUM.
The firſt verſe of St. John's Goſpel, in
which the articles are very ſignificant, and
which we tranſlate exactly and literally from
the Greek, "In the beginning was the
"Word, and the Word was with God, and
"the Word was God," may no doubt be
rendered ambiguouſly in Latin thus, In principio
erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Verbum erat Deus*. For this might be
ſo turned into Engliſh, as to produce nonſenſe
and blaſphemy. But that would be
the fault, not of the language, but of the
* Caſtalio's tranſlation of this verſe is not much better.
tranſlator. For one, who underſtands Greek
and Latin, and is attentive to the meaning,
and anxious to preſerve it, would render the
verſe, as in the Port Royal Greek Grammar
it is rendered, In principio erat Verbum illud,
et Verbum illud erat apud Deum, et illud Verbum
erat Deus: — which is as expreſſive, as
either the Engliſh, or the Greek. If it be
ſaid, that this Latin is not elegant, on
account of the repetition of the pronoun;
I anſwer, firſt, that elegance is not to be
expected in a tranſlation ſo exatly literal;
and, ſecondly, that in a ſentiment of ſuch
importance, and which human wiſdom could
never have diſcovered, accuracy of expreſſion
is more requiſite, than Claſſical purity.
Had St. John written in Latin, he would
have delivered this doctrine with equal
energy, and probably with more elegance:
which every perſon, who is acquainted with
that language, knows might eaſily be done,
if one is not limited to any particular phraſeology.

When words are materially taken; that
is, when they appear in a diſcourſe as words
only, and not as ſignificant of any idea; as
when we ſay, "The word Boiſterous has a
harſh ſound;" — the article is uſeful in
Greek, to indicate their nature. And I obſerve,
that verbal criticks often introduce
the Greek article in their Latin annotations,
in order to point out ſuch words when
they occur: as, "Deeſt T eft in manuſcriptis
quibuſdam, THE eſt is wanting
"in ſome manufcripts." But this is an
affectation, for which there is not the leaſt
neceſſity. "In Manuſcriptis quibuſdam
"deeſt ILLUD eſt," is good Latin, and perfectly
I deny not, that, in ſuch Greek books
as the Analyticks and Metaphyſicks of Ariſtotle,
there may be points of doctrine,
which the Roman language, from its want
of an article, cannot expreſs, without either
adopting ſome of the Greek terms, or giving
a licence to barbarous latinity. But this is
no material grievance. Many things are
delivered in thoſe books, as maxims of univerſal
ſcience, which are only grammatical
obſervations on particular Greek words
and which, therefore, cannot be tranſplanted
into a foreign tongue, unleſs thoſe Greek
words are tranſplanted along with them:
even as, in an Engliſh grammar of the Latin
language, you cannot ſpeak ſo as to be underſtood
unleſs you illuſtrate what you ſay by
Latin examples. — Beſides, when we borrow
arts or ſciences from another nation, we
muſt always borrow ſomething of their native
phraſeology. Thus, in fortification, we
uſe many French, in muſick many Italian,
and in rhetorick and medicine many Greek,
words. And thus, if we were to write the
Hiſtory of England in Latin, we ſhould be.
obliged to coin many words that were never
known in antient Rome; in order to expreſs
thoſe peculiarities of Government and manners,
of which the Romans could not ſpeak,
becauſe they had no idea; as parliament,
chancery, peers, commons, guns, bayonets,
cannon, &c. — In fact, Ariſtotle's metaphyſical
writings ſeem never to have been in
any repute among the Romans of the Claſſick
ages. That intelligent people adopted
what was valuable in the Greek philoſophy:
but thoſe verbal ſubtleties and ſpeculations,
that had nothing to do with buſineſs, or the
conduct of life, they neglected; and I think
with good reaſon.
That articles are not of neceſſary uſe,
even in Greek, may appear from this, that
the Grecian poets, eſpecially Homer, frequently
omit them: though I know not,
whether there be extant an author more
perſpicuous than Homer, notwithſtanding
his great antiquity. To which I may add,
that, in the Attick dialect, articles are either
uſed or omitted, according as they are
thought to be more or leſs ornamental in
diſcourſe. — In Engliſh, the definite article
may often be dropped, without any ambiguity;
as, "Horſe and man fell to the
"ground," for the horſe, and the man.
This omiſſion is common in our burleſque
poems; as, "And pulpit, drum eccleſi"aſtick,
Was beat with fiſt inſtead of a
"ſtick:" that is, the pulpit was beat with
the fiſt. And of ſo little account is our
indefinite article, that it is never prefixed
to nouns of the plural number: we ſay,
"A man is coming," if there be but one;
but, if more than one, we ſay, "Men are
coming." The French, indeed, give a
plural to their indefinite article; un homme,
a man, des hommes, men, or ſome men: but
this plural cannot in that, or in any, language
be neceſſary, when in our own we
hardly perceive that it is wanting.
Yet, that there are in Latin no ambiguities
ariſing from the want of an article,
I will not affirm. In the beginning of the
Eneid, Juno; calling to mind thoſe manifold
grievances, which made her reſolve
upon the deſtruction of the Trojan fleet
Pallaſne exurere claſſem
Argivum, atque ipſos potuit ſubmergere ponto!
Theſe words may bear two interpretations:
Could Pallas burn the Grecian fleet! or,
Could Pallas burn a Grecian fleet! The
laſt is the true one; for the whoſe Grecian
fleet was not burned by Pallas, but
that ſquadron only, which belonged to Ajax
the ſon of Oileus. Now here is an ambiguity,
which Virgil might eaſily have avoided.
if he had written in a language that
either had an indefinite article, like the
Engliſh, or, like the Greek, could have conveyed
an indefinite ſenſe by omitting the
article. But of ſo little importance is this
ambiguity, that I doubt whether the poet
would have thought it worth his while to
guard againſt it ; as no perſon, who knows
any thing of the poetical hiſtory, could be
at a loſs to diſcover the meaning. Many
things occur both in ſpeech and in writing,
which they only can underſtand, who attend
to what goes before, and to what comes
after. And if we be not in ſome meaſure
prepared for the ſtudy of an author, by
a little previous acquaintance with his ſubject,
we muſt in the cleareſt language find
obſcurity, eſpecially in the beginning of a
work. As to the obſcurity in queſtion, it
is certain, that, without the help of any
article, and by the native powers of the
Latin tongue, Virgil could have avoided it;
as it is probable he would, if he had thought
it a blemiſh.
I would not inſinuate, that the Latin is
as comprehenſive a language as the Greek.
Both Lucretius and Cicero complain, that
on the ſubject of philoſophy it is deficient.
But this, I preſume, is not owing to the
want of an article; nor do they ſay, that
it is: but to ſome other circumſtance;
whereof I need only mention this one; that
the Latin tongue was completely formed and
poliſhed, before any attempt was made to
write philoſophy in it. So that, when Cicero
introduced the Greek learning, he was obliged
to coin ſeveral words, which, notwithſtanding
his authority, never became
current; and often to expreſs the Greek
idea by a Greek word, becauſe he could
not find a Latin one of the ſame ſignification.

But, whatever we determine in regard to
the preſent queſtion, this at leaſt muſt be
granted; that if, from its want of articles,
the Latin tongue be leſs ſimple, and ſometimes
leſs perſpicuous, than the Greek or
Engliſh, it is in general more conciſe than
either. By the abſence of theſe little words,
the more important parts of the expreſſion
are permitted to have a cloſer coherence.
And therefore, though the Latin may be leſs
adapted to the abſtruſer philoſophy, it is,
however, as ſuſceptible, as even the Greek
itſelf, of all the charms of poetical, hiſtorical,
and oratorical compoſition.
The great excellence of the Greek is ſimplicity;
and that power, which it poſſeſſes
unrivalled, of adapting itſelf ſo eaſily to every
ſubject, and every ſcience. In Homer and
Iſocrates, it may be thought more harmonious,
than any other language: but I can
hardly admit, that in this reſpect the Latin
is inferiour, when modulated by Cicero and
Virgil. Its dual number, optative mood,
middle verb, ſecond aoriſt, and ſecond future,
from which ſome would fain perſuade
themſelves that it derives part of its preeminence,
I muſt, till I ſee them better explained
than they have hitherto been, conſider
as ſuperfluities: which make it more
difficult, indeed, in the acquiſition, and
ſomewhat more various in the ſound, but
contribute nothing to its ſignificancy. Its
preterperfect, aoriſt, and article, give it ſome
advantage over the Latin; but the Engliſh,
and other modern languages, have alſo an
article, aoriſt, and preterperfect. In fact,
Grammarians ſeem to me to ſpeak very abſurdly,
when they call every tongue barbarous,
except the Greek and Roman. The
language of ſuch men as Milton, Addiſon,
Boileau, Taſſo, and Metaſtaſio, cannot be
barbarous. Elſe how comes it, that the
greateſt maſters of Claſſick learning find it
ſo difficult to do juſtice to thoſe authors by
tranſlation. If Dobſon's Paradiſus Amiſſus,
the exacteſt poetical verſion, perhaps, that
ever was written*, does not deſerve to be
called barbarous, I ſhould be glad to know,
in what ſenſe of the word, or with what
* I once thought (ſee the Concluſion of an Eſſay on
the Uſefulneſs of Claſſical Learning) that Homer was of
all poets the moſt fortunate in a Tranſlator. I had not
then ſeen Dobſon's incomparable performance: and the
Engliſh Eſchylus, by my very learned, ingenious, and
worthy Friend, the Rev. Mr. Potter, was not then publiſhed.

propriety, the original Paradiſe Loſt can be
ſo called. — But Engliſh is not ſo elegant as
Latin and Greek. Be it ſo. Yet, would
it not be hard to call one a barbarian,
merely becauſe one has not reached the ſummit
of politeneſs? The leſs elegant a language
is in its ſtructure, the more merit
have they who write elegantly in it. If
St. Paul's Cathedral were of Parian marble,
inſtead of Portland ſtone, its appearance
might be more ſplendid; but the ſublime
imagination of Sir Chriſtopher Wren
would not be more conſpicuous.
It was ſaid, that in Engliſh the indefinite
article is not prefixed to nouns of
the plural. It ſhould have been added, that
when an Engliſh plural noun is a Collective,
that is, when by referring many, or
more than one, to a claſs, it beſtows unity
upon them, it may then aſſume the indefinite
article. Thus we ſay, not only a dozen,
a ſcore, a hundred, but alſo a few, and a great
many; a many is found in Shakſpeare. An
eight days is old Engliſh; for it occurs in
the Bible, and is ſtill a vulgar idiom in
Scotland. It was once, no doubt, conſidered
as a collective; like the word fort--
night or fourteen-night. But this remark,
like many others in the diſcourſe, belongs
not to Univerſal Grammar.
And now, to conclude. It appears, that,
to conſtitute a language as perfect as the
Latin, NINE ſorts of words, or parts of
ſpeech, are neceſſary the Noun, Pronoun,
Adjective, Participle, Verb, Adverb, Interjection,
Prepoſition, and Conjunction. The
Latin Grammarians, indeed, enumerate only
eight; becauſe they improperly refer Nouns
and Adjectives to the ſame claſs. In Greek,
Engliſh, Italian, French, Hebrew, and many
other languages, there are TEN parts of
ſpeech: the Noun, Pronoun, Adjedive, Participle,
Verb, Adverb, Interjection, Prepoſition,
Conjunction, and Article.
According to Ariſtotle, the parts of ſpeech
are four: the Article, Name, Verb, and Connective.
This is not ſo inaccurate, as at firſt
ſight it may ſeem to be: for we may ſuppoſe,
that to the Name he refers both the Noun,
and its repreſentative the Pronoun; to the
Verb, (or Attributive), the Adjective, Participle,
Verb (ſtrictly ſo called), and Adverb,
and conſequently the Interjection; and, to
the Connective, both the Conjunction and
the Prepoſition. Yet I do not think this
diviſion accurate. For there are many Adverbs,
thoſe of time and place, for example,
which cannot by any juſt reaſoning be proved
to belong to the claſs of Attributives; and the
ſame thing is true of the Interjections.
Plato reduces all the parts of ſpeech to
two, the Noun and the Verb: which his
followers endeavour to vindicate, by urging,
that every word muſt denote, either a Subſtance,
or the Attribute of a Subſtance; that
by the Noun, and Pronoun, Subſtances are
ſignified, as Attributes are by the Attributive;
and that Attributives are ſpoken of,
by the antient Grammarians, under the
general denomination of Verb. But neither
is this ſatisfactory. For there are many
words in language, as articles and connectives,
which in themſelves cannot be ſaid to
ſignify either Subſtance or Attribute; becauſe,
when taken ſeparately, they ſignify nothing
at all.
If it be aſked, What ſorts of words are
moſt, and what leaſt, neceſſary; the following
anſwer may be collected from what has
been evinced in the courſe of this long inveſtigation.
The Noun, Pronoun, Verb,
Participle, Adjective, Prepoſition, and Conjunction,
ſeem to be eſſential to language:
the Article, Interjection, and moſt of the
Adverbs, are rather to be called uſeful, than
neceſſary, Parts of Speech.
Lately publiſhed by the ſame Author;
And printed for A. Strahan; T. Cadell, in the Strand;
and W. Creech, at Edinburgh:
On Memory and Imagination — On Dreaming — The
Theory of Language — On Fable and Romance — On the
Attachments of Kindred — Illuitrations on Sublimity. —
4to. 1l. 1s.
briefly and plainly ſtated. 2 Volumes. 2d Edition. 6s.


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The Theory of Language in Two Parts

Document Information

Document ID 151
Title The Theory of Language in Two Parts
Year group 1750-1800
Genre Orthoepists
Year of publication 1788
Wordcount 89062

Author information: Beattie, James

Author ID 211
Forenames James
Surname Beattie
Gender Male
Year of birth 1735
Place of birth Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire, Scotland
Occupation Teacher, academic
Locations where resident Aberdeen
Other languages spoken Greek