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Iela 1 Stanford, Jr.
"Neque enim aut aliena vituperare, aut nostra jactantius prædicare, animus est."
1. LANGUAGE is the principal vehicle of thought; and so numerous and important are the ends to which it is subservient, that it is difficult to conceive in what inanner the aífairs of human society could be conducted without it. Its utility, therefore, will ever entitle it to a considerable share of attention in civilized communities, and to an important place in all systems of education. For, whatever we may think in relation to its origin—whether we consider it a special gift from Heaven, or an acquisition of industry—a natural endowment, or an artificial invention,-certain it is, that, in the present state of things, our knowledge of it depends, in a great measure, if not entirely, on the voluntary exercise of our faculties, and on the helps and opportunities afforded us. One may indeed acquire, by mere imitation, such a knowledge of words, as to enjoy the ordinary advantages of speech; and he who is satisfied with the dialect he has so obtained, will find no occasion for treatises on grammar; but he who is desirous either of relishing the beauties of literary composition, or of expressing kis sentiments with propriety and ease, must make the principles of language his study.
2. It is not the business of the grammarian to give low to language, but to teach it, agreeably to the best usage. The ultimate principle by which he must be governed, and with which his instructions must always accord, is that species of custom which critics denominate GOOD USE; that is, present, reputable, general use. This principle, which is equally opposed to fantastic innovation, and to a pertinacious adherence to the quaint peculiarities of ancient usage, is the only proper standard of grammatical purity. Those rules and modes of speech, which are established by this authority, may be called the Institutes of Grammar.
3. To embody, in a convenient form, the true principles of the English Language; to express them in a simple and perspicuous style, adapted to the capacity of youth; to illustrate them by appropriate examples and exercises; and to give to the whole ali possible advantage from method in the arrangement; are the objects of the following work. The author has not deviated much from the principles adopted in the most approved grammars already in use; nor has he acted the part of a servile copyist. It was not his design to introduce novelties, but to form a practical digest of established rules. He has not laboured to subvert the general system of grammar, received from time immemorial; but to improve upon it, in its present application to our tongue.
4. That which is excellent, may not be perfect; and amendment may be desirable, where subversion would be ruinous. Believing that no theory can better explain the principles of our language, and no contrivance afford greater facilities to the studenty the writer has in general adopted those doctrines which are already best known; and has contented himself with attempting little more than an improved method of incul. cating them. The scope of his labours has been, to definc, dispose, and exemplify those doctrines anew; and, with a scrupulous regard to the best usage, to offer, on that authority, some further contributions to the stock of grammatical knowledge. The errors of former gramınarians he has been more studious to avoid than to expose; and of their deficiencies the reader may judge, when he sees in what manner they aro here supplied.
5. This treatise being intended for general use, and adapted to ah classes of learners, was designed to embrace in a small compass a complete course of English Grammar, disencumbered of every thing not calculated to convey direct information on the subject. Little regard has therefore been paid to gainsayers. Grammarians have ever disputed, and often with more acrimony than discretion. Those who have dealt most in philological controversy, have well illustrated the couplet of Denham:
“The tree of knowledge, blasted by disputes,
Produces sapless leaves in stead of fruits." 6. They who set aside the authority of custom, and judge every thing to be ungrammatical which appears to them to be unphilosophical, render the whole ground forever disputable, and weary themselves in beating the air. So various have been the notions of this sort of critics, that it would be diflicult to mention an opinion not found in some of their books. Amidst this rage for speculation on a subjuct purely practical, various attempts have been made, to overthrow that system of instructioil, which long use has rendered venerable, and long experience proved to be useful. But it is mani. festly much easier to raise even plausible objections against this system, than to in
vent an other less objectionable. Such attempts have generally met the reception they deserved. Their history will give no encouragement to future innovators.
7. While some have thus wasted their energies in eccentric flights, vainly supposing that the learning of ages would give place to their whimsical theories; others, with more success, not better deserved, have multiplied grammars almost innumerably, by abridging or modifying the books they had used in childhood. So that they who are at all acquainted with the origin and character of the various compends thus introduced into our schools, cannot but desire a work which shall deserve a more extensive and more permanent patronage, based upon better claims. For, as Lord Bacon observes, the number of ill-written books is not to be diminished by ceasing to write, but by writing others which, like Aaron's serpent, shall swallow up the spurious.
8. The nature of the subject almost entirely precludes invention. The author has, however, aimed at that kind and degree of originality, which are to be commended in works of this sort; and has borrowed no more from others than did the most learned and popular of his predecessors. And, though he has taken the liberty to think and write for himself, he trusts it will be evident that few have excelled him in diligence of research, or have followed more implicitly the dictates of that authority which gives law to language.
9. All science is laid in the nature of things; and he only who seeks it there, can rightly guide others in the paths of knowledge. He alone can know whether his predecessors went right or wrong, who is capable of a judgement independent of theirs. But with what shameful serviiity have many false or faulty definitions and rules been copied and copied from one grammar to another, as if authority had canonized their errors, or none had eyes to see them! Whatsoever is dignified and fair, is also modest and reasonable; but modesty does not consist in having no opinion of one's own, nor reason in following with blind partiality the footsteps of others.
Grammar unsupported by authority, is indeed mere fiction. But what apology is this, for that author. ship which has produced so many grammars without originality? Shall he who cannot write for himself, improve upon him who cau? It is not deference to merit, but impudent pretence, practising on the credulity of ignorance! Commonness alone exempts it from scrutiny, and the success it has, is but the wages of its own worthlessness! To read and be informed, is to make a proper use of books for the advance. ment of learning; but to assume to be an a chor by editing mere common places and stolen criticisms, is equally beneath the ambition cf a scholar and the honesty of a
10. Grammar being a practical art, with the principles of which every intelligent person is more or less acquainted, it might be expected that a book written professedly on the subject, should exhibit some evidence of its author's skill. But it would seem that a multitude of bad or indifferent writers have judged theinselves qualified to teach the art of speaking and writing well; so that correctness of language and ncatness of style are as rarely to be found in grammars as in other books. There have been, however, several excellent scholars, who have thought it an object not unwortly of their talents, to prescribe and elucidate the principles of English Grammar. But these, for an obvious reason, have executed their designs with various degrees of suc. cess; and even the most meritorious have left ample room for improvement, though some have evinced an ability which does ho::our to themselves, while it gives cause to regret their lack of an inducement to further labour. The mere grammarian can neither aspire to praise, nor stipulate for a reward; and to those who were best qualified to write, the subject could offer no adequate motive for diligence.
11. Having devoted many years to studies of this nature, and being conversant with most of the grammatical treatises already published, the author conceived that thie objects above enumerated, might, perhaps, be better effected than they had been in any work within his knowledge. And he persuades himself that the improvements here offered, are neither few nor inconsiderable. He does not mean, however, to depreciate the labours, or to detract from the merits of those who have gone before him and taught with acknowledged skill. He has studiously endeavoured to avail himself of all the light they have thrown upon the subject. For his own information, he has carefully perused more than two hundred English grammars, and has glanced over many others that were not worth reading. With this publication in view, he has also resorted to the original sources of grammatical knowledge, and has not only critically considered what he has seen and heard of our vernacular tongue, bus has sought will Eome diligence the analogies of speech in the structure of several other languages.
12. His progress in compiling this work has been slow, and not unattended with labour and difficulty. Amidst the contrarieties of opinion, that appear in the various treatises already before the publis, and the perplexities inseparable from so complicated a subject, he has, after deliberate consideration, adopted those views and explanatioas which appeared to him the least liable to objection, and the most compatible with his ultimate object--the production of a practical school grammar.
13. Ambitious of making not a large but au acceptable book, he has compressed into this volume the most essential parts of a mass of materials from which he could as easily nave formed a folio. Whether the toil be compensated or not, is a matter of little consequence; he has neither written for bread, rior built castles in the air. Ho is too well versed in the history of his theme, too will aware of the precarious forturo
of authors, to indulge any confident anticipations of success ; yet he will not deny that his hopes are large, being conscious of having cherished them with a liberalily of feel ing which cannot fear disappointment. In this temper he would invite the reader to a thorough perusal of the following pages. A grammar should speak for itself.
In a work of this nature, every word or tittle which does not recommend the performance to the understanding and taste of the skillful, is, so far as it goes, a certificate against it. Yet, if some small errors have escaped detection, let it be recollected that it is almost impossible to print with perfect accuracy a work of this size, in which so many little things should be observed, remembered, and made exactly to correspond. There is no human vigilance which multiplicity inay not sometimes baftle, and minuteness sometimes elude. To most persons grammar seems a dry and difficult subject; but there is a disposition of mind, to which what is arduous, is for that very reason alluring. The difficulties encountered in boyhood from the use of a miserable epitome, and the deep impression of a few mortifying blunders made in public, first gave the author a foudness for grammar; circumstances having sirce favoured this turn of his genius, he has voluntarily pursued the study, with an assiduity which no man will ever imitate for the sake of pecuniary recompense.
14. This work contains a full series of exercises adapted to its several parts, with notices of the manner in which they are to be used, according to the place assigned them. The examples of false syntax placed under the rules, are to be corrected orally; the four chapters of exercises adapted to the four parts of the subject, are to be written out by the learner. In selecting examples for these exercises, the author has been studious to economize the learner's and the teacher's time, by admitting those only which were very short. He has, in general, reduced each example to a single line. And, in this manner, he has been able to present, in this small volume, a series of exercises, more various than are given in any other grammar, and nearly equal in number to all that are contained in Murray's two octavoes. It is believed that a grammatical treatise at once so comprehensive and concise, has not before been offered to the public.
15. The only successful method of teaching grammar, is, to cause the principal definitions and rules to be committed thoroughly to memory, that they may ever afterwards be readily applied. Oral instruction may emooth the way, and facilitate the labour of the learner; but the notion of communicating a competent knowledge of grammar without imposing this task, is disproved by universal experience. Nor will it avail any thing for the student to rehearse definitions and rules of which he makes no practical application. In etymology and syntax, he should be alternately exercised in learning small portions of his book, and then applying them in parsing, till the whole is rendered familiar. To a good reader, the achievement will be neither great nor difficult; and the exercise is well calculated to improve the memory, and strength. en all the faculties of the mind.
16. The mode of instruction here recommended is the result of long and successful experience. There is nothing in it, which any person of common abilities will find it difficult to understand or adopt. It is the plain didactic method of definition and ex. ample, rule and praxis; which no man who means to teach grammar well, will ever desert, with the hope of finding an other more rational or more easy. The book itsclf will make any one a grammarian, who will take the trouble to observe and practise what it teaches; and even if some instructors should not adopt the readiest aid most efficient method of making their pupils familiar with its contents, they will not fail to instruct by it as effectually as they can by any other. Whoever is acquainted with the grammar of our language, so as to lave some tolerable skill in teaching it, will here find almost every thing that is true in his own instructions, clearly embraced under its proper head, so as to be easy of reference. And perhaps there are few, however learned, who, on a perusal of the volume, would not be furnished with some important rules and facts which had not before occurred to their own observation.
17. The greatest peculiarity of the method is, that it requires the pupil to speak or write a great deal, and the teacher very little. But both should constantly remember that grammar is the art of speaking and writing well; an art which can no more be acquired without practice than that of dancing or swimming. And each should be careful to perform his part handsomely-without drawling, omitting, stopping, hesitating, faltering, miscalling, reiterating, stuttering, hurrying, slurring, mouthing, mis quoting, mispronouncing, or any of the thousand faults which render utterance disagreeable and inelegant. It is the learner's diction that is to be improved ; and the system will be found well calculated to effect that object; because it demands of him, not only to answer questions on grammar, but also to make a prompt and practical application of what he has just learned. If the class be tolerable readers, it will not be necessary for the teacher to say much; and, in general, he ought not to take up the time by co doing. He should, however, carefully superintend their rehearsals; give the word to the next, when any one errs; and order the exercise in such a manDer that either his own voice, or the example of his best scholars, may gradually cor. rect the ill habits of the awkward, till all learn to recite with clearness, understanding well what they say, and making it intelligible to others.
18. The exercise of parsing commences immediately after the first lesson of etymok ogy, and is carried on progressively till it embraces all the doctrines that are applica
ble to it. If it be performed according to the order prescribed, it will soon make the student perfectly familiar with all the primary definitions and rules of grammar. It requires just enough of thought to keep the mind attentive to what the lips are uttering; while it advances by such easy gradations and constant repetitions as leave the pupil utterly without excise, if he does not know what to say. Being neither wholly extemporaneous nor wholly rehearsed by rote, it has more dignity than a school-boy's conversation, and more ease than a formal recitation, or declamation; and is therefore an exercise well calculated to induce a habit of uniting correctness with fluency in ore dinary speech-a species of elocution as valuable as any other.
19. The best instruct'on is that which ultimately gives the greatest facility and skill in practice; and grammar is best taught by that process which brings its doctrines most directly home to the habits as well as to the thoughts of the pupil—which the most effectually conquers inattention, and leaves the deepest impress of shame upon blundering ignorance. In the whole range of school exercises, there is none of greater importance than that of parsing; and yet perhaps there is none which is, in general, more defectively conducted. Scarcely less useful, as a means of instruction, is the practice of correcting false syntax orally, by regular and logical forms of argument; nor does this appear to have been more ably directed towards the purposes of discipline. There is so much to be done, in order to effect what is desirable in the management of these things; and so little prospect that education will ever be generally raised to a just appreciation of that study which, more than all others, forms the mind to habits of correct thinking; that, in reflecting upon the state of the science at the present time, and upon the means of its improvement, the author cannot but sympathize, in some degree, with the sadness of the learned Sanctius; who tells us, that he had “always lamented, and often with tears, that while other branches of learning were excellently taught, grammar, which is the foundation of all others, lay so much neglected, and that for this neglect there seemed to be no adequate remedy.”—Pref. to Minerva. The grammatical use of language is in sweet alliance with the inoral; and a similar regret seems to have prompied the following exclamation of the Christian poet:
“Sacred Interpreter of human thought,
How few respect or use thee as they ought!"-Cowper. 20. No directions, either oral or written, can ever enable the heedless and the unthinking to speak or write well. That must indeed be an admirable book, which can attract levity to sober reflection, teach thoughtlessness the true meaning of words, raise vulgarity from its fondness for low examples, awaken the spirit which attains to excellency of speech, and cause grammatical exercises to be skillfully managed, where teachers themselves are so often lamentably deficient in them. Yet something may be effected by means of a better book, if a better can be introduced. And what with. stands ?-Whatever there is of ignorance or error in relation to the premises. And is it arrogant to say there is much? Alas! in regard to this, as well as to many a weightier matter, one may too truly affirm, Multa non sunt sicut multis videntur Many things are not as they seem to many. Common errors are apt to conceal themselves from the common mind; and the appeal to reason and just authority is often frustrated, because a wrong head defies both. But, apart from this, there are difficul. ties: multiplicity perplexes choice; inconvenience attends change; improvement requires effort; conflicting theories demand examination; the principles of the science are unprofitably disputed; the end is often divorced from the means; and much that belies the title, bas been published under the name.
21. It is certain, that the printed formularies most commonly furnished for the important exercises of parsing and correcting, are either so awkwardly written, or so negligently followed, as to make grammar, in the mouths of our juvenile orators, little else than a crude and faltering jargon. Murray evidently intended that his book of exercises should be constantly used with his grammar; but he made the examples in the former so dull and prolix, that few learners, if any, have ever gone through the series agreeably to his direction, The publishing of them in a separate volume, has probably given rise to the absurd practice of endeavouring to teach his grammar with• out them. The forins of parsing and correcting which this author furnishes, are also misplaced ; and when found by the learner, are of little use. They are so verbose, awkward, irregular, and deficient, that the pupil must be a dull boy, or utterly ignorant of grammar, if he cannot express the facts extemporaneously in better English. When we consider how exceedingly important it is, that the business of a school should proceed without loss of time, and that, in the oral exercises here spoken of, each pupil should go through his part promptly, clearly, correctly, and fully, we cannot think it a light objection that these forms, so often to be repeated, are badly write ten. Nor does the objection lie against this writer oply: Ab uno discc o.tnes. But the reader may demand some illustrations.
22. First_from his etymological parsing: "O Virtue! how amiable thou art!" Here his form for the word Virtue is" Virtue is a common substantive of the neuter gender, of the third person, in the singular number, and the nominative case." It should have been—"Virtue is a common noun, personified proper, of the second person, singular number, feminine gender, and nominative case." And, then the defini. tions of all these things should have followed in regular numerical order. He given
the class of this noun wrong, for virtue addressed becomes an individual; he gives the gender wrong, and in direct contradiction of what he says of the word, in his section on gender; he gives the person wrong, as may be seen by the pronoun thou; he re. peats the definite article three times unnecessarily, and inserts two needless preposi. tions, making them different where the relation is precisely the same: and all this, in a sentence of two lines, to tell the properties of the noun Virtue !-But, in etymological parsing, the definitions explaining the properties of the parts of speech, ought to be regularly and rapidly rehearsed by the pupil, till all of them are perfectly familiar, and till he can discern, with the quickness of thought, what is true or false in the des scription of any word in any intelligible sentence. All these the author omits; and, on account of this omission, his whole method of etymological parsing is miserably dec ficient.
23. Secondly—from his syntactical parsing: “ Vice degrades us. Here his form for the word Vice is—“ Vice is a common substantive of the third person, in the singular number, and the nominative case." Now, when the learner is told that this is the syntactical parsing of a noun, and the other the etymological, he will of course conclude, that to advance from the etymology to the syntax of this part of speech, is merely to omit the gender--this being the only difference between the two forms. But even this difference had no other origin ihan the compiler's carelessness in preparing his octavo book of exercises the gender being inserted in the duodecimo. And what then? Is the syntactical parsing of a noun to be precisely the same as the etymologi. cal? Never. But Murray, and all who admire and follow his work, are content to parse many words by halves-making a distinction, and yet often omitting, in both parts of the exercise, every thing which constitutes the difference. He should here have said—“ Vice is a common noun of the third person, singular number, neuter gender, and nominative case: and is the subject of degrades; according to the rule which says, 'A noun or a pronoun which is the subject of a verb, must be in the nominative case.' use the meaning is vice degrades." This is the whole description of the word, with its construction; and to say less, is to leave the matter unfinished.
24. Thirdly-from his " mode of verbally correcting erroneous sentences: "The man is prudent which speaks little.' This sentence," says Murray, "is incorrect; because which is a pronoun of the neuter gender, and does not agree in gender with its antecedent man, which is masculine. But a pronoun should agree with its antecedent in gender, &c., according to the fifth rule of syntax. Which should therefore be who, a relative pronoun, agreeing with its antecedent man; and the sentence should stand thus: “The man is prudent who speaks little.'" Again: “After I visited Europe, I returned to America.' This sentence," says he, "is not correct; because the verb visited is in the imperfect tense, and yet used here to express an action, not only past, but prior to the time referred to by the verb returned, to which it relates.
By the thirteenth rule of syntax, when verbs are used that, in point of time, relate to each other, the order of time should be observed. The imperfect tense visiter, should therefore have been had visited, in the pluperfect tense, representing the action of visiting, not only as past, but also as prior to the time of returning. The sentence corrected would stand thus: “After I had visited Europe, I returned to America.'" These are the first two examples of Murray's verbal corrections, and the only ones retained by Alger, in his improved, recopy-righted edition of Murray's Exercises. Yet, in each of them, is the argumentation palpably false ! In the former, truly, which should be who; but not because which is of the neuter gender; but because the application of that relative to persons, is now nearly obsolete. Can any grammarian forget that, in speaking of brute animals, male or female, we commonly use which, and never who? But if which must needs be neuter, the world is wrong in this. -As for the latter example, it is right as it stands: and the correction is, in some sort, tautological. The conjunctive adverb after makes one of the actions subsequent to the other, and gives to the visiting all the priority that is signified by the pluperfect tense.
“After I visited Europe," is equivalent to “When I had visited Europe." The whole argument is therefore void.
25. These few brief illustrations, out-of thousands that might be adduced in proof of the faultiness of the common manuals, the author has reluctantly introduced, to show that, even in the most popular books, the grammar of our language has not been treated with that care and ability which its importance demands. It is hardly to be supposed that men unused to a teacher's duties, can be qualified to compose such books as will most facilitate his labours. Practice is a better pilot than theory. And while, in respect to grammar, the evidences of failure are constantly inducing changes from one system to another, and almost daily giving birth to new expedients as constantly to end in the same disappointment; perhaps the practical instructions of an experienced teacher, long and assiduously devoted to the study, may approve themselves to many, as seasonably supplying the aid and guidance which they require.
26. From the doctrines of grammar, novelty is rigidly excluded. They consist of details to which taste can lend no charm, and genius no embellishment.
A writer may express them with neatness and perspicuity-tueir importance alone can commend them to notice. Yet, in drawing his illustrations from the stores of literature, the grammarian may select some gems of thought; which will fasten on the memory a