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this illustrated ? Hence, to what have
ANALYSIS. we been accustomed; and why ? From the American style, what plainly ap- 1. Language. pears? Concerning what, may we A. Its signification. . consequently receive some light? On B. Its present state. this subject, what, at present, is it suffi c. Its origin. cient to observe ? When did language D. The first method of communilose this figurative character; and why?
cating thoughts. As style became more concise, what| E. The principle upon which lanfollowed; and what was its influence
guage was formed. on the imagination? As intercourse 2. Pronunciation. among mankind became more exten- A. Inflections, sive, what was the chief object of atten- B. Gestures. tion? How was prose introduced ? 3. Thecharacter of Language changed. Among the Greeks, who was the first 4. The style of early Languages. prose writer; what was now laid aside A. The employment of figures.. from the intercourse of men; and for B. These reasonings confirmed. what occasions was it resumed? Thus, c. The origin of Prose. how has language been considered ; and what remains to be done ?
RISE AND PROGRESS OF LANGUAGE, AND OF
When we attend to the order in which words are arranged in a sentence, or significant proposition, we find a very remarkable difference between the ancient and the modern tongues. The consideration of this will serve to unfold farther the genius of language, and to show the causes of those alterations, which it has undergone in the progress of society.
In order to conceive distinctly the nature of that alteration of which I now speak, let us go back, as we did formerly, to the most early period of language. Let us figure to ourselves a savage, who beholds some object, such as fruit, which raises his desire, and who requests another to give it to him. Supposing our savage to be unacquainted with words, he would, in that case, labour to make himself be understood, by pointing earnestly at the object which he desired, and uttering at the same time a passionate cry. Supposing him to have acquired words, the first word which he uttered would, of course, be the name of that object. He would not express himself, according to our English order of construction, "give me fruit;" but according to the Latin order, “ fruit give me;" “ fructum da mihi ;” for this plain reason, that his attention was wholly directed towards fruit, the desired object. This was the exciting idea ; the object which moved him to speak; and of course would be the first named. Such an arrangement is precisely putting into words the gesture which nature taught the savage to make, before he was acquainted with words; and therefore it may be depended upon as certain, that he would fall most readily into this arrangement.
Accustomed now to a different method of ordering our words, we call this an inversion, and consider it as a forced and unnatural order of speech. But though not the most logical, it is, however, in one view, the most natural order; because it is the order suggested by imagination and desire, which always impel us to mention their object in the first place. We might therefore conclude, a priori, that this would be the order in which words were most commonly arranged at the beginnings of language; and accordingly we find, in fact, that, in this order, words are arranged in most of the ancient tongues; as in the Greek and the Latin; and it is said also, in the Russian, the Sclavonic, the Gaelic, and several of the American tongues.
In the Latin language, the arrangement which most commonly obtains, is, to place first in the sentence, that word which expresses the principal object of the discourse, together with its circumstances; and afterwards, the person or the thing that acts upon it. Thus Sallust, comparing together the mind and the body:“Animi imperio, corporis servitio, magis utimur," which order certainly renders the sentence more lively and striking, than when it is arranged according to our English construction; “ we make most use of the direction of the soul, and of the service of the body.” The Latin order gratifies more the rapidity of the imagination, which naturally runs first to that which is its chief object; and having once named it, carries it in view throughout the rest of the sentence. In the same manner in poetry:
Justum et tenacem propositi virum,
Mente quatit solidà. ..... Every person of taste must be sensible, that here the words are arranged with a much greater regard to the figure which the several objects make in the fancy, than our English construction admits; which would require the “ Justum et tenacem propositi virum," though undoubtedly the capital object in the sentence, to be thrown into the last place.
I have said, that, in the Greek and Roman languages, the most common arrangement is, to place that first which strikes the imagination of the speaker most. I do not, however, pretend, that this holds without exception. Sometimes regard to the harmony of the period requires a different order; and in languages susceptible of so much musical beauty, and pronounced with so much tone and modulation as were used by those nations, the harmony of periods was an object carefully studied. Sometimes, too, attention to the perspicuity, to the force, or to the artful suspension of the speaker's meaning, alter this order; and produce such varieties in the arrangement, that it is not easy to reduce them to any one principle. But, in general, this was the genius and character of most of the ancient languages, to give such full liberty to the collocation of words, as allowed them to assume whatever order was most agreeable to the speaker's imagination. The Hebrew is, indeed, an exception ; which, though not altogether without inversions, yet employs them less frequently, and approaches nearer to the English construction, than either the Greek or the Latin.
All the modern languages of Europe have adopted a different arrangement from the ancient. In their prose compositions, very little variety is admitted in the collocation of words; they are mostly fixed to one order, and that order is, what may be called, the order of the understanding. They place first in the sentence, the person or thing which speaks or acts; next, its action; and lastly, the object of its action. So that the ideas are made to succeed to one another, not according to the degree of importance which the several objects carry in the imagination, but according to the order of nature and of time.
An English writer, paying a compliment to a great man, would say thus : “it is impossible for me to pass over in silence, such remarkable mildness, such singular and unheard of clemency, and such unusual moderation in the exercise of supreme power.” Here we have first presented to us, the person who speaks: “It is impossible for me;"next, what that person is to do, "impossible for him to pass over in silence;" and lastly, the object which moves him so to do, 6 the mildness, clemency, and moderation of his patron.” Cicero, from whom I have translated these words, just reverses this order; beginning with the object, placing that first which was the exciting idea in the speaker's mind, and ending with the speaker and his action. “Tantam mansuetudinem, tam inusitatam inauditamque • clementiam, tantumque in summa potestate rerum omnium modum, “ tacitus nullo modo præterire possum.” (Orat. pro. Marcell.)
The Latin order is more animated; the English more clear and distinct. The Romans generally arranged their words according to the order in which the ideas rose in the speaker's imagination.--We arrange them according to the order in which the understanding directs those ideas to be exhibited, in succession, to the view of another. Our arrangement, therefore, appears to be the consequence of greater refinement in the art of speech; as far as clearness in communication is understood to be the end of speech.
In poetry, where we are supposed to rise above the ordinary style, and to speak the language of fancy and passion, our arrangement is not altogether so limited; but some greater liberty is allowed for transposition and inversion. Even there, however, that liberty is confined within narrow bounds, in comparison of the ancient languages. The different modern tongues vary from one another in this respect. The French language is, of them all, the most determin- . ate in the order of its words, and admits the least of inversion, either in prose or poetry. The English admits it more. But the Italian retains the most of the ancient transpositive character; though one is apt to think it attended with a little obscurity in the style of some of their authors, who deal most in these transpositions.
It is proper next to observe, that there is one circumstance in the structure of all the modern tongues, which, of necessity, limits their arrangement, in a great measure, to one fixed and determinate train. We have disused those differences of termination, which in the Greek and Latin, distinguished the several cases of nouns, and tenses of verbs ; and which, thereby, pointed out the mutual relation of the several words in a sentence to one another, though the related words were disjoined, and placed in different parts of the sentence. This is an alteration in the structure of language, of which I shall have occasion to say more in the next lecture. One obvious effect of it is, that we have now, for the most part, no way left us to show the close relation of any two words to each other in meaning, but by placing them close to one another in the period. For instance; the Romans could, with propriety, express themselves thus :
Extinctum nymphæ crudeli funere Daphnim
Flebant. .............. Because " extinctum & Daphnim” being both in the accusative case, this showed, that the adjective and the substantive were related to each other, though placed at the two extremities of the line; and that both were governed by the active verb “flebant,” to which “nymphæ" plainly appeared to be the nominative. The different terminations here reduced all into order, make the connexion of the several words perfectly clear. But let us translate these words literally into English, according to the Latin arrangement; “ dead the nymphs by a cruel fate Daphnis lamented;" and they become a perfect riddle, in which it is impossible to find any meaning.
It was by means of this contrivance, which obtained in almost all the ancient languages of varying the termination of nouns and verbs, and thereby pointing out the concordance and the government of the words in a sentence, that they enjoyed so much liberty of transposition, and could marshal and arrange their words in any way that gratified the imagination, or pleased the ear. When language came to be modelled by the northern nations, who overran the empire, they dropped the cases of nouns, and the different terminations of verbs, with the more ease, because they placed no great value upon the advantages arising from such a structure of language. They were attentive only to clearness, and copiousness of expression. They neither regarded much the harmony of sound, nor sought to gratify the imagination by the collocation of words. They studied solely to express themselves in such a manner as should exhibit their ideas to others in the most distinct and intelligible order. And hence, if our language, by reason of the simple arrangement of its words, possesses less harmony, less beauty, and less force, than the Greek or Latin; it is, however, in its meaning, more obvious and plain.
Thus I have shown what the natural progress of language has been, in several material articles : and this account of the genius and progress of language, lays 'a foundation for many observations, both curious and useful. From what has been said in this, and the preceding lecture, it appears that language was at first barren in words, but descriptive by the sound of these words; and expressive in the manner of uttering them, by the aid of significant tones and gestures: style was figurative and poetical; arrangement was fanciful and lively. It appears, that, in all the successive changes which language has undergone, as the world advanced, the understanding has gained ground on the fancy and imagination. The progress of language, in this respect, resembles the progress of age in man.The imagination is most vigorous and predominant in youth; with advancing years, the imagination cools, and the understanding ripens. Thus language, proceeding from sterility to copiousness, hath, at the same time, proceeded from vivacity to accuracy; from fire and enthusiasm, to coolness and precision. Those characters of early language, descriptive sound, vehement tones and gestures, figurative style, and inverted arrangement, all hang together, have a mutual influence on each other, and have all gradually given place to arbitrary sounds, calm pronunciation, simple style, plain arrangement. Language is become, in modern times, more correct, indeed, and accurate; but, however, less striking and animated: in its ancient state, more favourable to poetry and oratory; in its present, to reason and philosophy.
Having finished my account of the progress of speech, I proceed to give an account of the progress of writing, which next demands our notice; though it will not require so full a discussion as the former subject.
Next to speech, writing is beyond doubt, the most useful art which men possess. It is plainly an improvement upon speech, and therefore must have been posterior to it in order of time. At first, men thought of nothing more than communicating their thoughts to one another, when present, by means of words, or sounds, which they uttered. Afterwards, they devised this further method, of mutual communication with one another, when absent, by means of marks or characters presented to the eye, which we call writing.
Written characters are of two sorts. They are either signs for things, or signs for words. Of the former sort, signs of things, are the pictures, hieroglyphics, and symbols, employed by the ancient nations ; of the latter sort, signs for words, are the alphabetical characters now employed by all Europeans. These two kinds of writing are generically and essentially distinct.
Pictures were, undoubtedly, the first essay towards writing. Imitation is so natural to man, that, in all ages, and among all nations, some methods have obtained, of copying or tracing the likeness of sensible objects. Those methods would soon be employed by men for giving some imperfect information to others, at a distance, of what had happened; or for preserving the memory of facts which they sought to record. Thus, to signify that one man had killed another, they drew the figure of one man stretched upon the earth, and of another standing by him with a deadly weapon in his hand. We find, in fact, that when America was first discovered, this was the only sort of writing known in the kingdom of Mexico. By his