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our island ; and continued fo till the arrival of the Saxons in England, in the year of our Lord 450 ; who, having conquered the Britons, did not intermix with them, but expelled them from their habi. tations, and drove the.n, together with their language,
into the mountains of Wales, The Saxons were one of thoie northern nations that over-ran Europe ; and their tongue, a dialect of the Gothic or Teutonic, altogether distinct from the Celtic, laid the foundation of the present English tongue.
With foine intermixture of Danish, a language, . probably, from the same root with the Saxon, it
continued to be spoken throughout the southern part of the island, till the time of William the conquerer. He introduced his Norman or i'rench, as the language of the court, which made a considerable change in the feech of the nation ; and the English which was spoken afterwards, and continues to be spoken now, is a inixture of the ancient Saxon, and this Norman French, together with such new and foreign words as commerce and learning have, in progress of time, gradually introduced.
The history of the English language can, in this manner, be clearly traced. The language spoken in the low countries of Scotland, is now, and has been for many centuries, no other than a dialect of the English. How, indeed, or by what steps, the ancient Celtic tongue came to be banished from the low country in Scotland, and to make its retreat into the Highlands and islands, cannot be so well pointed out, as how the like revolution was brought about in England. Whether the southernmost part of Scotland was once subject to the Saxons, and for.ned a part of the kingdom of Northumberland or, whether the great number of English exiles that retreated into Scotland, upon the Norman conquest, and upon other occasions, introduced
to that country their own language, which afterwards, by the mutual intercourse of the two nations, prevailed over the Celtic, are uncertain and content' ed points, the discussion of which would lead us too far from our subject.
From what has been said, it appears, that the Teutonic dialect is the basis of our present speech. It has been imported among us in three different forms, the Saxon, the Danish, and the Norman ; all which have mingled together in our language. A very great number of our words, too, are plainly derived from the Latin. These, we had not dired ly from the Latin, but most of them, it is probable, eutered into our tongue through the channel of that Norman French, which William the conqueror introduced. For, as the Romans had long been in full poffeffion of Gaul, the language spoken in that country, when it was invaded by the Frarks and Normans, was a sort of corrupted Latin, mingled with Celtic, to which was given the name of Romanthe : and as the Franks and Normans did not, like the Saxons in England, expel the inhabitants, but, after their victories, mingled with them ; the language of the country became a compound of the Teutonic dialect imported by these conquerers, and of the former corrupted Latin. Hence, the French language has always continued to have a very considerable affinity with the Latin ; and hence, a great number of words of Latin origin, which were in use among the Normans in France, were introduced into our tongue at the conquest; to which, indeed, many have since been added, directly from the Latin, in consequence of the great diffusion of Roman literature throughout all Europe.
From the influx of so many streams, from the junction of so many diffimilar parts, it naturally follows, that the English, like every compounded language, must needs be somewhat irregular. We
cannot expect from it that correspondence of parts, that complete analogy in structure, which may be found in those simpler languages, which have been formed, in a manner, within themselves, and built on one foundation. Hence, as I before showed, it has but finall remains of conjugation or declension; and its syntax is narrow; as there are few marks in the words themselves that can show their relation to each other, or, in the grammatical style, point out either their concordance, or their government, in the sentence. Our words having been brought to us from several different regions, straggle, if we may so fpeak, asunder from each other; and do not coalesce so naturally in the structure of a fentence, as the words in the Greek and Roman tongues.
But these disadvantages, if they be such, of a compound language, are balanced by other advantages that attend it ; particularly, by the number and variety of words with which such a language is likely to be enriched. Few languages are, in fact, more copious, than the English. In all grave fubjects especially, historical, critical, political, and moral, no writer has the least reason to complain of the barrenness of our tongue. The studious reflecting genius of the people, has brought together great store of expressions, on such subjects, from every quarter. We are rich too in the language of poetry. Our poetical style differs widely from profe, not in point of numbers only, but in the very words themselves ; which shows what a stock and compass of words we have it in our power to select and employ, suited to those different occasions. Herein we are infinitely superior to the French, whose poetical language, if it were not distinguished by rliyme, would not be known to differ from their ordinary prose.
It is chieily, indeed, on grave subjects, and with respect to the stronger emotions of the mind, that our language displays its power of expression. We are said to have thirty words, at least, for denoting all the varieties of the passion of anger*. But, in defcribing the more delicate sentiments and emotions, our tongue is not so fertile. It must be confelled, that the French language far surpasses ours, in exprelling the nicer shades of character ; especially those varieties of manner, temper, and behaviour, which are displayed in our social intercourse with one another. Let any one attempt to translate, into English, only a few pages of one of Marivaux's novels, and he will soon be sensible of our deficiency of expression on these subje&ts. Indeed, no language is so copious as the French for whatever is delicate, gay, and amusing. It is, perhaps, the happiest language for conversation in the known world ; but, on the higher subjects of composition, the English may be justly estemed to excel it considerably.
Language is generally understood to receive its predominant tincture from the national character of the people who speak it. We must not, indeed, expect, that it will carry an exact and full impreffion of their genius and manners ; for, among all nations, the original stock of words which they received from their ancestors, remains as the foundation of their speech throughout many ages, while their manners undergo, perhaps, very great alterations. National character will, however, always have some perceptible influence on the turn of language ; and the gaiety and vivacity of the French, and the gravity and thoughtfulness of the English, are fufficiently impressed on their respective tongues. From the genius of our language, and the character of those who speak it, it may be expected to have itrength and energy. It is, indeed, naturally prolix; owing to the great number of particles and auxiliary verbs which we are obliged constantly to employ; and this prolixity muit, in some degree, enfeeble it. We seldom can express so much by one word as was done by the verbs, and by the no'ins, in the Greek and Roman languages. Our ftvle is less compact ; our conceptions being spread out among more words, and split, as it were, into more parts, make a fainter imprelion when we utter them. Notwith tanding this defect, by our abounding in terms for expreifing all the strong emotions of the mind, and by the liberty which we enjoy, in a greater degree than moit nations, of compounding words, our language may be estcem ed to potress considerable force of expression; comparatively, at least, with the other modern tongues, though much below the ancient. The style of Milton alone, both in poetry and prole, is a fuficient proof, that the English tongue is far from being destitute of nerves and energy.
* Anger, wrath, passion, rage, fury, outrage, fierceness, Marpness, animosity, choler, resentment, heat, heartburning; to fume, storm, infiame, be incensed ; to vex, kindle, irritate, enrage, exasperate, provoke, fret ; to be fullen, halty, hot, rough, four, peevith, &c. Preface to Greenwood's grammar.
The flexibility of a language, or its power of accommodation to different styles and manners, so as to be either grave and strong, or easy and fiowing, or tender and gentle, or pompous and magnificent, as occasions require, or as an author's genius prompts, is a quality, of great importance in fpeaking and writing. It seems to depend upon thred things; the copiousness of a language; the different arrangements of which its words are susceptible ; and the variety and bearity of the sound of those words, so as to correspond to many different subjects. Never did any tongue poffess this quality fo eminently as the Greek, which every writer of genius could fo mould, as to make the style perfectly expreflive of his own manner and peculiar turn,