ページの画像
PDF
ePub

which is expressed in Dr. Blair's second rule for the preservation of the unity of a sentence, namely: “Never to crowd into one sentence, things which have so little connection, that they could bear to be divided into two or more sentences.”

The violation of this rule tends so much to perplex and obscure, that it is safer to err by too many short sentences, han by one that is overloaded and embarrassed.

Example. The Sultan was dangerously wounded. Thy conveyed him to his tent. Upon hearing of the defeat of his troops, they put him into itter. The litter transported him to a place of safety. The place of safety was at the distance of about fifteen

la gues.

Compound sentence formed from the preceding simple ones.

The Sultan being dangerously wounded, they carried him to his tent; and upon hearing of the defeat of his troops, they put him into a litter, which transported him to a place of safety, at the distance of about fifteen leagues.

This sentence will be better if it be constructed as follows so that there shall be but one governing word from the begin ning to the end of the sentence. Thus:

The Sultan being dangerously wounded, was carried to his tent; and on hearing of the defeat of his troops, was put into a litter, and transported to a place of safety, about fifteen leagues distant.

The following rules for the arrangement of worus should be particularly observed, in the composition of compound zentences.

Rule 1st. The words should be so arranged as to mark as distincıly as xossible by their location, the relation of the several parts to each other.

This rule requires that the verb should be placed as near as possible to che nominative; that the object should follow the verb in close succession, hat adverbs should be placed near the word whose signification they affect, that the preposition should be immediately followed by the word which it governs, and that pronouns should be placed in such a position as to leave no doubt in the nurd, with regard to their antecedents.

Rule 2d. When a circumstance is thrown into the midst of a sentenca !1 should not be placed between the capital clauses, nor so as to har loosely, but should be distinctly determined to its connexion by the po:si tion which it occupies.

The following sentence, composed of several simple sentences, is badly arranged. The parts in Italic show what the circumstance' is which is thrown into the midst of the sentence.

• The minister who grows less by his elevation, like a statue placed on a mighty pedestal, will always have his jealousy strong about him.

In this sentence, a beautiful simile, by its improper location, is not only deprived of its effect, but is an encumbrance. Let a slight alteration of the arrangement be made, and the simile is restored to its beauty, and becomes highly ornamental.

Thus : The minister, who, like 'a statue placed on a mighty pedestal, grows less by his elevation, will always have his jealousy strong about him.

Rule 3d. Every sentence should present to the mind a distinct picture, or single group of ideas. For this reason, the scene and the circumstances expressed within the compass of a sentence must not be unnecessarily changed.

In the formation of compound sentences, therefore, from simple ones, whatever cannot be grouped so as to form an harmonious picture, should be presented in a separate sentence. The following sentence shows very clearly the bad effects of a change from person to person

The Brittons left to shift for themselves, and daily harassed by cruel inroads from the Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons for their defence, who consequently reduced the great part of the island to their power, drove the Britons into the most remote and mountainous parts, and the rest of the country, in customs, religion and language, became wholly Saxon

This complicated sentence, by means of some slight alterations, and a division into several sentences, will appear clear and accurate; thus,

The Britons, left to shift for themselves, and daily harassed by the cruel inroads of the Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons for their defence. But these (the Saxons) soon reduced the greatest part of the island under their own power, and drove the Britons to the most remote and mountain ous parts. The consequence was, that the rest of the country became inhabited by a people in language, manners and religion wholly Saxon.

Rule 4th. The too frequent repetition of the same pronouns referring to different antecedents should be avoided.

The reason for this rule is, that such words being substitutes, can be ased with advantage only when that to which the pronoun refers is quite obvious. The following sentence exemplifies this remark:

One may have an air which proceeds from a just sufficiency and knowledge of the matter before him, which may naturally produce some motions of his head and body, which might become the bench better than the bar.'

In this sentence the pronoun which' is used three times; and each time with a different antecedent. The first time that it is used its antecedent is air, the second time it is sufficiency and knowledge, and the third, motions of the head and body. The confusion thus introduced into the sentence may be avoided by employing this for the second which, and such as for the third : thus,

“One may have an air which proceeds from a just sufficiency of knowl odge of the matter before him, and this may naturally produce soms motions of the head, such as might become the bench better than the bar

Rule 5th. All redundant words and clauses should be avoided.

The reason for this rule is, that whatever does not add to the meaning of a sentence must be useless if not hurtful.*

In conclusion, it may be remarked in the words of Archbishop Whately, It is a useful admonition to young writers, that they should always at tempt to recast a sentence that does not please; altering the arrangement And entire structure of it, instead of merely seeking to change one word for another. This will give a great advantage in point of copiousness also; for there may be, suppose a substantive (or noun) which, either because it does not fully express our meaning, or for some other reason, we wish to remove, but can find no other to supply its place. But the object may perhaps be easily accomplished by means of a verb, adverb, or other part of speech, the substitution of which implies an alteration in the conotrnction. It is an exercise, accordingly, which may be commended as highly conducive to the improvement of style, to practise casting a sen: ience into a variety of different forms.

XIX.

OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.+

The English Language consists of about thirty-eight thousand words. This includes, of course, not only radical words, but all derivatives; except the preterits and participles of verbs; to which must be added some few terms, which, though set down in the dictionaries, are either obsolete or have never ceased to be considered foreign. Of these, about twentythree thousand, or nearly five-eighths, are of Anglo-Saxon origin. The majority of the rest, in what proportion we cannot say, are Latin and Greek; Latin, however, has the larger share. The names of the greater part of the objects of sense, in other words, the terms which occur most frequently in discourse, or which recall the most vivid conceptions, are Anglo-Saxon. Thus, for example, the names of the most striking objects in visible nature, of the chief agencies at work there, and of the changes which we pass over it, are Anglo-Saxon. This language has given names to the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars; to three out of the four elements, earth, fire, and water; three out of the four seasons, spring, summer, and winter; and, indeed, to all the natural divisions of time, except one; as, day, night, morning, evening, twilight, noon, mid-day, midnight, sunrise, sunset; some of which are amongst the most poetical terms we have. To the same language we are indebted for the names of light, heat, cold, frost, rain, snow, hail, sleet, thunder, lightning, as well as almost all those objects which form the component parts of the beautiful in external scenery, as sea and land, hill and dale, wood ani stream, &c. It is from this language we derive the words which are ex. pressive of the earliest and dearest connexions, and the strongest and most nowerful feelings of nature; and which are, consequently, invested with

* See page 71, where the term Redundancy is separately consideral. + The account here given is from the “ Edinburgh Review," of Ontober 1939. See, also, pages 34 to 40, on the subject of Derivation.

our o.dest and most complicated associations. It is this language which has given us names for father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, daughter, child, home, kindred, friends. It is this which has furnished us with the greater part of those metonymies, and other figurative expressions, by which we represent to the imagination, and that in a single word, the reciprocal duties and enjoyments of hospitality, friendship, or love. Such are hearth, roof, fireside. The chief emotions, too, of which we are susceptible, are expressed in the same language, as love, hope, fear, sorrow, shame; and, what is of more consequence to the orator and the poet, as well as in common life, the outward signs by which emotion is indicated are almost all Anglo-Saxon; such are tear, smile, blush, to laugh, to weep, to sigh, to groan. Most of those objects, about which the practical reason of man is employed in common life, receive their names from the Anglo-Saxon. It is the language, for the most part, of business ; of the counting-house, the shop, the market, the street, the farm; and, however miserable the man who is fond of philosophy or abstract science might be, if he had no other vocabulary but this, we must recollect that language was made not for the few, but the many, and that portion of it which enables the bulk of a nation to express their wants and transact their affairs, must be considered of at least as much importance to gen eral happiness, as that which serves the purpose of philosophical science. Nearly all our national proverbs, in which it is truly said, so much of the practical wisdom of a nation resides, and which constitute the manual and vade mecum of “hobnailed” philosophy, are almost wholly AngloSaxon. A very large proportion (and that always the strongest) of the language of invective, humor, satire, colloquial pleasantry, is Anglo Saxon. Almost all the terms and phrases by which we most energeti cally express anger, contempt, and indignation, are of Anglo-Saxon origin.* The Latin contributes most largely to the language of polite life, as well as to that of polite literature. Again, it is often necessary to convey ideas, which, though not truly and properly offensive in them selves, would, if clothed in the rough Saxon, appear so to the sensitive modesty of a highly refined state of society; dressed in Latin, these very same ideas shall seem decent enough. There is a large number of words, which, from the frequency with which they are used, and from their being 60 constantly in the mouths of the vulgar, would not be endured in polished society, though more privileged synonymes of Latin origin, or some classical circumlocution, expressing exactly the same thing, shall pass unquestioned.

There may be nothing dishonest, nothing really vulgar about the old Saxon word, yet it would be thought as uncouth in a drawing-room, as the ploughman to whose rude use it is abandoned. † Thus, the word

* One of the most distinguished orators and writers of the present age is remarkable for the Saxon force and purity of his language. He asldom uses an Anglicized Latin word, when a pure English expression is at hand. This will account, in some degree, for the strength of his language and the vehemence of his style. The reader scarcely needs to be informed, that reference is here made to the late Secretary of State, Hon. Daniel Webster.

† To what is here said of the Saxon, may be added a short extract from Sir Walter Scott's “ Ivanhoe, ' in a dialogue between the jester and the iwineherd. (Vol. I. p. 25. S. H. Parker's edition.)

stench"

3 lavendered over into unpleasant effluvia, or an ili odor, * sweat," diluted into four times the number of syllables, becomes a very moffensive thing in the shape of “perspiration."* To “squint” is soften. ed into obliquity of vision; to be “drunk” is vulgar; but, if a man bo simply intoxicated or inebriated, it is comparatively venial. Indeed, we may say of the classical names of vices, what Burke more questionably said of vices themselves, that they lose half their deformity by losing all their grossness.” In the same manner, we all know that it is very poscible for a medical man to put to us questions under the seemly disguise of scientific phraseology and polite circumlocution, which, if expressed in the bare and rude vernacular, would almost be as nauseous as his draughts aud pills. Lastly; there are many thoughts which gain immensely by mere novelty and variety of expression. This the judicious poet, who knows that the connexion between thoughts and words is as intimate as that between body and spirit, well understands. There are thoughts in themselves trite and common-place, when expressed in the hackneyed terms of common life, which, if adorned by some graceful or felicitous novelty of expression, shall assume an unwonted air of dignity and ele gance. What was trivial, becomes striking; and what was plebeian, poble.

* See Euphemism.

XX.

PERIPHRASE, PERIPHRASIS, OR CIRCUMLOCUTION, EU

PHEMISM AND ANTONOMASIA.

Periphrase, periphrasis, and circumlocution, are words all meaning the same thing, and are equivalent to what is gener

[ocr errors]

“How call you these grunting brutes running about on their fore legs ? " demanded Wamba.

Swine, fool, swine," said the herd; “every fool knows that."

“And swine is good Saxon," said the jester. “But how call you the sow, when she is Hayed and drawn up by the heels like a traitor ? "

Pork," answered the swineherd. “I am very glad every fool knows that, too,” said Wamba; “ and pork, I think, is good Norman French; and so when the brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to feast among the nobles. There is old alderman Ox, continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondmen; but becomes Beef, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to con same him. Calf, too, becomes Veal, in the like manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name, when he becomes matter of

enjoymeni.”

« 前へ次へ »