1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grammar
GRAMMAR (from Lat. grammatica, sc. ars; Gr. γράμμα, letter, from γράφειν, to write). By the grammar of a language is meant either the relations borne by the words of a sentence and by sentences themselves one to another, or the systematized exposition of these. The exposition may be, and frequently is, incorrect; but it always presupposes the existence of certain customary uses of words when in combination. In what follows, therefore, grammar will be generally employed in its primary sense, as denoting the mode in which words are connected in order to express a complete thought, or, as it is termed in logic, a proposition.
The object of language is to convey thought, and so long as this object is attained the machinery for attaining it is of comparatively slight importance. The way in which we combine our words and sentences matters Scope of grammar. little, provided that our meaning is clear to others. The expressions “horseflesh” and “flesh of a horse” are equally intelligible to an Englishman and therefore are equally recognized by English grammar. The Chinese manner of denoting a genitive is by placing the defining word before that which it defines, as in koue jin, “man of the kingdom,” literally “kingdom man,” and the only reason why it would be incorrect in French or Italian is that such a combination would be unintelligible to a Frenchman or an Italian. Hence it is evident that the grammatical correctness or incorrectness of an expression depends upon its intelligibility, that is to say, upon the ordinary use and custom of a particular language. Whatever is so unfamiliar as not to be generally understood is also ungrammatical. In other words, it is contrary to the habit of a language, as determined by common usage and consent.
In this way we can explain how it happens that the grammar of a cultivated dialect and that of a local dialect in the same country so frequently disagree. Thus, in the dialect of West Somerset, thee is the nominative of the second personal pronoun, while in cultivated English the plural accusative you (A.-S. eow) has come to represent a nominative singular. Both are grammatically correct within the sphere of their respective dialects, but no further. You would be as ungrammatical in West Somerset as thee is in classical English; and both you and thee, as nominatives singular, would have been equally ungrammatical in Early English. Grammatical propriety is nothing more than the established usage of a particular body of speakers at a particular time in their history.
It follows from this that the grammar of a people changes, like its pronunciation, from age to age. Anglo-Saxon or Early English grammar is not the grammar of Modern English, any more than Latin grammar is the grammar of modern Italian; and to defend an unusual construction or inflexion on the ground that it once existed in literary Anglo-Saxon is as wrong as to import a peculiarity of some local dialect into the grammar of the cultivated speech. It further follows that different languages will have different grammars, and that the differences will be more or less according to the nearer or remoter relationship of the languages themselves and the modes of thought of those who speak them. Consequently, to force the grammatical framework of one language upon another is to misconceive the whole nature of the latter and seriously to mislead the learner. Chinese grammar, for instance, can never be understood until we discard, not only the terminology of European grammar, but the very conceptions which underlie it, while the polysynthetic idioms of America defy all attempts to discover in them “the parts of speech” and the various grammatical ideas which occupy so large a place in our school-grammars. The endeavour to find the distinctions of Latin grammar in that of English has only resulted in grotesque errors, and a total misapprehension of the usage of the English language. It is to the Latin grammarians—or, more correctly, to the Greek grammarians, upon whose labours those of the Latin writers were based—that we owe the classification of the subjects with which grammar is commonly supposed Subdivision of grammar. to deal. The grammar of Dionysius Thrax, which he wrote for Roman schoolboys in the time of Pompey, has formed the starting-point for the innumerable school-grammars which have since seen the light, and suggested that division of the matter treated of which they have followed. He defines grammar as a practical acquaintance with the language of literary men, and as divided into six parts—accentuation and phonology, explanation of figurative expressions, definition, etymology, general rules of flexion and critical canons. Of these, phonology and accentuation, or prosody, can properly be included in grammar only in so far as the construction of a sentence and the grammatical meaning of a word are determined by accent or letter-change; the accentual difference in English, for example, between íncense and incénse belongs to the province of grammar, since it indicates a difference between noun and verb; and the changes of vowel in the Semitic languages, by which various nominal and verbal forms are distinguished from one another, constitute a very important part of their grammatical machinery. But where accent and pronunciation do not serve to express the relations of words in a sentence, they fall into the domain of phonology, not of grammar. The explanation of figurative expressions, again, must be left to the rhetorician, and definition to the lexicographer; the grammarian has no more to do with them than he has with the canons of criticism.
In fact, the old subdivision of grammar, inherited from the grammarians of Rome and Alexandria, must be given up and a new one put in its place. What grammar really deals with are all those contrivances whereby the relations of words and sentences are pointed out. Sometimes it is position, sometimes phonetic symbolization, sometimes composition, sometimes flexion, sometimes the use of auxiliaries, which enables the speaker to combine his words in such a way that they shall be intelligible to another. Grammar may accordingly be divided into the three departments of composition or “word-building,” syntax and accidence, by which is meant an exposition of the means adopted by language for expressing the relations of grammar when recourse is not had to composition or simple position.
A systematized exposition of grammar may be intended for the purely practical purpose of teaching the mechanism of a foreign language. In this case all that is necessary is a correct and complete statement of the facts. But Modes of treatment. a correct and complete statement of the facts is by no means so easy a matter as might appear at first sight. The facts will be distorted by a false theory in regard to them, while they will certainly not be presented in a complete form if the grammarian is ignorant of the true theory they presuppose. The Semitic verb, for example, remains unintelligible so long as the explanation of its forms is sought in the conjugation of the Aryan verb, since it has no tenses in the Aryan sense of the word, but denotes relation and not time.
A good practical grammar of a language, therefore, should be based on a correct appreciation of the facts which it expounds, and a correct appreciation of the facts is only possible where they are examined and co-ordinated in accordance with the scientific method. A practical grammar ought, wherever it is possible, to be preceded by a scientific grammar.
Comparison is the instrument with which science works, and a scientific grammar, accordingly, is one in which the comparative method has been applied to the relations of speech. If we would understand the origin and real nature of grammatical forms, and of the relations which they represent, we must compare them with similar forms in kindred dialects and languages, as well as with the forms under which they appeared themselves at an earlier period of their history. We shall thus have a comparative grammar and an historical grammar, the latter being devoted to tracing the history of grammatical forms and usages in the same language. Of course, an historical grammar is only possible where a succession of written records exists; where a language possesses no older literature we must be content with a comparative grammar only, and look to cognate idioms to throw light upon its grammatical peculiarities. In this case we have frequently to leave whole forms unexplained, or at most conjecturally interpreted, since the machinery by means of which the relations of grammar are symbolized is often changed so completely during the growth of a language as to cause its earlier shape and character to be unrecognizable. Moreover, our area of comparison must be as wide as possible; where we have but two or three languages to compare, we are in danger of building up conclusions on insufficient evidence. The grammatical errors of the classical philologists of the 18th century were in great measure due to the fact that their area of comparison was confined to Latin and Greek.
The historical grammar of a single language or dialect, which traces the grammatical forms and usages of the language as far back as documentary evidence allows, affords material to the comparative grammarian, whose task it is to compare the grammatical forms and usages of an allied group of tongues and thereby reduce them to their earliest forms and senses. The work thus carried out by the comparative grammarian within a particular family of languages is made use of by universal grammar, the object of which is to determine the ideas that underlie all grammar whatsoever, as distinct from those that are peculiar to special families of speech. Universal grammar is sometimes known as “the metaphysics of language,” and it has to decide such questions as the nature of gender or of the verb, the true purport of the genitive relation, or the origin of grammar itself. Such questions, it is clear, can only be answered by comparing the results gained by the comparative treatment of the grammars of various groups of language. What historical grammar is to comparative grammar, comparative grammar is to universal grammar.
Universal grammar, as founded on the results of the scientific study of speech, is thus essentially different from that “universal grammar” so much in vogue at the beginning of the 19th century, which consisted of a series of a priori assumptions based on the peculiarities of European grammar and illustrated from the same source. But universal Universal grammar.grammar, as conceived by modern science, is as yet in its infancy; its materials are still in the process of being collected. The comparative grammar of the Indo-European languages is alone in an advanced state, those of the Semitic idioms, of the Finno-Ugrian tongues and of the Bantu dialects of southern Africa are still in a backward condition; and the other families of speech existing in the world, with the exception of the Malayo-Polynesian and the Sonorian of North America, have not as yet been treated scientifically. Chinese, it is true, possesses an historical grammar, and Van Eys, in his comparative grammar of Basque, endeavoured to solve the problems of that interesting language by a comparison of its various dialects; but in both cases the area of comparison is too small for more than a limited success to be attainable. Instead of attempting the questions of universal grammar, therefore, it will be better to confine our attention to three points—the fundamental differences in the grammatical conceptions of different groups of languages, the main results of a scientific investigation of Indo-European grammar, and the light thrown by comparative philology upon the grammar of our own tongue.
The proposition or sentence is the unit and starting-point of speech, and grammar, as we have seen, consists in the relations of its several parts one to another, together with the expression of them. These relations may be regarded from various points of view. In the polysynthetic languages of America the sentence is conceived as a Differences in grammar of unallied languages.whole, not composed of independent words, but, like the thought which it expresses, one and indivisible. What we should denote by a series of words is consequently denoted by a single long compound—kuligatchis in Delaware, for instance, signifying “give me your pretty little paw,” and aglekkigiartoṙ-asuarnipok in Eskimo, “he goes away hastily and exerts himself to write.” Individual words can be, and often are, extracted from the sentence; but in this case they stand, as it were, outside it, being represented by a pronoun within the sentence itself. Thus, in Mexican, we can say not only ni-sotsi-temoa, “I look for flowers,” but also ni-k-temoa sotsitl, where the interpolated guttural is the objective pronoun. As a necessary result of this conception of the sentence the American languages possess no true verb, each act being expressed as a whole by a single word. In Cherokee, for example, while there is no verb signifying “to wash” in the abstract, no less than thirteen words are used to signify every conceivable mode and object of washing. In the incorporating languages, again, of which Basque may be taken as a type, the object cannot be conceived except as contained in the verbal action. Hence every verbal form embodies an objective pronoun, even though the object may be separately expressed. If we pass to an isolating language like Chinese, we find the exact converse of that which meets us in the polysynthetic tongues. Here each proposition or thought is analysed into its several elements, and these are set over against one another as so many independent words. The relations of grammar are consequently denoted by position, the particular position of two or more words determining the relation they bear to each other. The analysis of the sentence has not been carried so far in agglutinative languages like Turkish. In these the relations of grammar are represented by individual words, which, however, are subordinated to the words expressing the main ideas intended to be in relation to one another. The defining words, or indices of grammatical relations, are, in a large number of instances, placed after the words which they define; in some cases, however, as, for example, in the Bantu languages of southern Africa, the relation is conceived from the opposite point of view, the defining words being prefixed. The inflexional languages call in the aid of a new principle. The relations of grammar are denoted symbolically either by a change of vowel or by a change of termination, more rarely by a change at the beginning of a word. Each idea, together with the relation which it bears to the other ideas of a proposition, is thus represented by a single word; that is to say, the ideas which make up the elements of a sentence are not conceived severally and independently, as in Chinese, but as always having a certain connexion with one another. Inflexional languages, however, tend to become analytical by the logical separation of the flexion from the idea to which it is attached, though the primitive point of view is never altogether discarded, and traces of flexion remain even in English and Persian. In fact, there is no example of a language which has wholly forsaken the conception of the sentence and the relation of its elements with which it started, although each class of languages occasionally trespasses on the grammatical usages of the others. In language, as elsewhere in nature, there are no sharp lines of division, no sudden leaps; species passes insensibly into species, class into class. At the same time the several types of speech—polysynthetic, isolating, agglutinative and inflexional—remain clear and fixed; and even where two languages belong to the same general type, as, for instance, an Indo-European and a Semitic language in the inflexional group, or a Bantu and a Turkish language in the agglutinative group, we find no certain example of grammatical interchange. A mixed grammar, in which the grammatical procedure of two distinct families of speech is intermingled, is almost, if not altogether, unknown.
It is obvious, therefore, that grammar constitutes the surest and most important basis for a classification of languages. Words may be borrowed freely by one dialect from another, or, though originally unrelated, may, by the action of phonetic decay, come to assume the same forms, while the limited number of articulate sounds and conceptions out of which language was first developed, and the similarity of the circumstances by which the first speakers were everywhere surrounded, naturally produce a resemblance between the roots of many unconnected tongues. Where, however, the fundamental conceptions of grammar and the machinery by which they are expressed are the same, we may have no hesitation in inferring a common origin.
The main results of scientific inquiry into the origin and primitive meaning of the forms of Indo-European grammar may be summed up as follows. We start with stems or themes, by which are meant words of two or more syllables which terminate in a limited number of sounds. These stems can be classed in groups of Forms of Indo-European grammar.two kinds, one in which the groups consist of stems of similar meanings and similar initial syllables, and another in which the final syllables alone coincide. In the first case we have what are termed roots, the simplest elements into which words can be decomposed; in the second case stems proper, which may be described as consisting of suffixes attached to roots. Roots, therefore, are merely the materials out of which speech can be made, the embodiments of isolated conceptions with which the lexicographer alone has to deal, whereas stems present us with words already combined in a sentence and embodying the relations of grammar. If we would rightly understand primitive Indo-European grammar, we must conceive it as having been expressed or implied in the suffixes of the stems, and in the order according to which the stems were arranged in a sentence. In other words, the relations of grammar were denoted partly by juxtaposition or syntax, partly by the suffixes of stems.
These suffixes were probably at first unmeaning, or rather clothed with vague significations, which changed according to the place occupied in the sentence by the stem to which they were joined. Gradually this vagueness of signification disappeared, and particular suffixes came to be set apart to represent particular relations of grammar. What had hitherto been expressed by mere position now attached itself to the terminations or suffixes of stems, which accordingly became full-grown words. Some of the suffixes denoted purely grammatical ideas, that is to say, were flexions; others were classificatory, serving to distinguish nouns from verbs, presents from aorists, objects from agents and the like; while others, again, remained unmeaning adjuncts of the root. This origin of the flexions explains the otherwise strange fact that the same suffix may symbolize wholly different grammatical relations. In Latin, for instance, the context and dictionary will alone tell us that mus-as is the accusative plural of a noun, and am-as the second person singular of a verb, or that mus-a is the nominative singular of a feminine substantive, bon-a the accusative plural of a neuter adjective. In short, the flexions were originally merely the terminations of stems which were adapted to express the various relations of words to each other in a sentence, as these gradually presented themselves to the consciousness and were extracted from what had been previously implied by position. Necessarily, the same suffix might be used sometimes in a classificatory, sometimes in a flexional sense, and sometimes without any definite sense at all. In the Greek dative-locative πόδ–εσ–σι, for example, the suffix -ες is classificatory; in the nominative πόδ–ες it is flexional.
When a particular termination or suffix once acquired a special sense, it would be separated in thought from the stem to which it belonged, and attached in the same sense to other stems and other terminations. Thus in modern English we can attach the suffix -ize to almost any word whatsoever, in order to give the latter a transitive meaning, and the Gr. πόδεσσι, quoted above, really contains no less than three suffixes, -ες, -συ and -ι, the last two both denoting the locative, and coalescing, through σϝι, into a single syllable -σι. The latter instance shows us how two or more suffixes denoting exactly the same idea may be tacked on one to another, if the original force and signification of the first of them comes to be forgotten. Thus, in O. Eng. sang-estre was the feminine of sang-ere, “singer,” but the meaning of the termination has so entirely died out of the memory that we have to add the Romanic -ess to it if we would still distinguish it from the masculine singer. A familiar example of the way in which the full sense of the exponent of a grammatical idea fades from the mind and has to be supplied by a new exponent is afforded by the use of expletives in conversational English to denote the superlative. “Very warm” expresses little more than the positive, and to represent the intensity of his feelings the Englishman has recourse to such expressions as “awfully warm” like the Ger. “schrecklich warm.”
Such words as “very,” “awfully,” “schrecklich,” illustrate a second mode in which Indo-European grammar has found means of expression. Words may lose their true signification and become the mere exponents of grammatical ideas. Professor Earle divides all words into presentive and symbolic, the former denoting objects and conceptions, the latter the relations which exist between these. Symbolic words, therefore, are what the Chinese grammarians call “empty words”—words, that is, which have been divested of their proper signification and serve a grammatical purpose only. Many of the classificatory and some of the flexional suffixes of Indo-European speech can be shown to have had this origin. Thus the suffix tar, which denotes names of kinship and agency, seems to come from the same root as the Lat. terminus and trans, our through, the Sans. tar-āmi, “I pass over,” and to have primarily signified “one that goes through” a thing. Thus, too, the Eng. head or hood, in words like godhead and brotherhood, is the A.-S. hâd, “character” or “rank”; dom, in kingdom, the A.-S. dôm, “judgment”; and lock or ledge, in wedlock and knowledge, the A.-S. lâc, “sport” or “gift.” In all these cases the “empty words,” after first losing every trace of their original significance, have followed the general analogy of the language and assumed the form and functions of the suffixes with which they had been confused.
A third mode of representing the relations of grammar is by the symbolic use of vowels and diphthongs. In Greek, for instance, the distinction between the reduplicated present δίδωμι and the reduplicated perfect δέδωκα is indicated by a distinction of vowel, and in primitive Aryan grammar the vowel â seems to have been set apart to denote the subjunctive mood just as ya or i was set apart to denote the potential. So, too, according to M. Hovelacque, the change of a into i or u in the parent Indo-European symbolized a change of meaning from passive to active. This symbolic use of the vowels, which is the purest application of the principle of flexion, is far less extensively carried out in the Indo-European than in the Semitic languages. The Semitic family of speech is therefore a much more characteristic type of the inflexional languages than is the Indo-European.
The primitive Indo-European noun possessed at least eight cases—nominative, accusative, vocative, instrumental, dative, genitive, ablative and locative. M. Bergaigne has attempted to show that the first three of these, the “strong cases” as they are termed, are really abstracts formed by the suffixes -as (-s), -an, -m, -t, -i, -â and -ya (-i), the plural being nothing more than an abstract singular, as may be readily seen by comparing words like the Gr. ἔπο–ς, and ὄπε–ς, which mean precisely the same. The remaining “weak” cases, formed by the suffixes -sma, -sya, -syâ, -yâ, -i, -an, -t, -bhi, -su, -i, -a and -â, are really adjectives and adverbs. No distinction, for example, can be drawn between “a cup of gold” and “a golden cup,” and the instrumental, the dative, the ablative and the locative are, when closely examined, merely adverbs attached to a verb. The terminations of the strong cases do not displace the accent of the stem to which they are suffixed; the suffixes of the weak cases, on the other hand, generally draw the accent upon themselves.
According to Hübschmann, the nominative, accusative and genitive cases are purely grammatical, distinguished from one another through the exigencies of the sentence only, whereas the locative, ablative and instrumental have a logical origin and determine the logical relation which the three other cases bear to each other and the verb. The nature of the dative is left undecided. The locative primarily denotes rest in a place, the ablative motion from a place, and the instrumental the means or concomitance of an action. The dative Hübschmann regards as “the case of the participant object.” Like Hübschmann, Holzweissig divides the cases into two classes—the one grammatical and the other logical; and his analysis of their primitive meaning is the same as that of Hübschmann, except as regards the dative, the primary sense of which he thinks to have been motion towards a place. This is also the view of Delbrück, who makes it denote tendency towards an object. Delbrück, however, holds that the primary sense of the ablative was that of separation, the instrumental originally indicating concomitance, while there was a double locative, one used like the ablative absolute in Latin, the other being a locative of the object.
The dual was older than the plural, and after the development of the latter survived as a merely useless encumbrance, of which most of the Indo-European languages contrived in time to get rid. There are still many savage idioms in which the conception of plurality has not advanced beyond that of duality. In the Bushman dialects, for instance, the plural, or rather that which is more than one, is expressed by repeating the word; thus tu is “mouth,” tutu “mouths.” It may be shown that most of the suffixes of the Indo-European dual are the longer and more primitive forms of those of the plural which have grown out of them by the help of phonetic decay. The plural of the weak cases, on the other hand (the accusative alone excepted), was identical with the singular of abstract nouns; so far as both form and meaning are concerned, no distinction can be drawn between ὄπες and ἔπος. Similarly, humanity and men signify one and the same thing, and the use of English words like sheep or fish for both singular and plural shows to what an extent our appreciation of number is determined by the context rather than by the form of the noun. The so-called “broken plurals” of Arabic and Ethiopic are really singular collectives employed to denote the plural.
Gender is the product partly of analogy, partly of phonetic decay. In many languages, such as Eskimo and Choctaw, its place is taken by a division of objects into animate and inanimate, while in other languages they are separated into rational and irrational. There are many indications that the parent Indo-European in an early stage of its existence had no signs of gender at all. The terminations of the names of father and mother, pater and mater, for example, are exactly the same, and in Latin and Greek many diphthongal stems, as well as stems in i or ya and u (like ναῦς and νέκυς, πόλις and λῖς), may be indifferently masculine and feminine. Even stems in o and a (of the second and first declensions), though the first are generally masculine and the second generally feminine, by no means invariably maintain the rule; and feminines like humus and ὁδός, or masculines like advena and πολίτης, show that there was a time when these stems also indicated no particular gender, but owed their subsequent adaptation, the one to mark the masculine and the other to mark the feminine, to the influence of analogy. The idea of gender was first suggested by the difference between man and woman, male and female, and, as in so many languages at the present day, was represented not by any outward sign but by the meaning of the words themselves. When once arrived at, the conception of gender was extended to other objects besides those to which it properly belonged. The primitive Indo-European did not distinguish between subject and object, but personified objects by ascribing to them the motives and powers of living beings. Accordingly they were referred to by different pronouns, one class denoting the masculine and another class the feminine, and the distinction that existed between these two classes of pronouns was after a time transferred to the nouns. As soon as the preponderant number of stems in o in daily use had come to be regarded as masculine on account of their meaning, other stems in o, whatever might be their signification, were made to follow the general analogy and were similarly classed as masculines. In the same way, the suffix i or ya acquired a feminine sense, and was set apart to represent the feminine gender. Unlike the Semites, the Indo-Europeans were not satisfied with these two genders, masculine and feminine. As soon as object and subject, patient and agent, were clearly distinguished from each other, there arose a need for a third gender, which should be neither masculine nor feminine, but denote things without life. This third gender was fittingly expressed either by the objective case used as a nominative (e.g. regnum), or by a stem without any case ending at all (e.g. virus).
The adverbial meaning of so many of the cases explains the readiness with which they became crystallized into adverbs and prepositions. An adverb is the attribute of an attribute—“the rose smells sweetly,” for example, being resolvable into “the rose has the attribute of scent with the further attribute of sweetness.” In our own language once, twice, needs, are all genitives; seldom is a dative. The Latin and Greek humi and χαμαί are locatives, facillime (facillumed) and εὐτυχῶς ablatives, πάντη and ἄμα instrumentals, πάρος, ἑξῆς and τηλοῦ genitives. The frequency with which particular cases of particular nouns were used in a specifically attributive sense caused them to become, as it were, petrified, the other cases of the nouns in question passing out of use, and the original force of those that were retained being gradually forgotten. Prepositions are adverbs employed to define nouns instead of verbs and adjectives. Their appearance in the Indo-European languages is comparatively late, and the Homeric poems allow us to trace their growth in Greek. The adverb, originally intended to define the verb, came to be construed with the noun, and the government of the case with which it was construed was accordingly transferred from the verb to the noun. Thus when we read in the Odyssey (iv. 43), αὐτοὺς δ᾽ εἰσῆγον θεῖον δόμον, we see that εἰς is still an adverb, and that the accusative is governed by the verb; it is quite otherwise, however, with a line like Ἀτρείδης δὲ γέροντας ἀολλέας ἦγεν Ἀχαιῶν ἐς κλισίην (Il. i. 89) where the adverb has passed into a preposition. The same process of transformation is still going on in English, where we can say indifferently, “What are you looking at?” using “at” as an adverb, and governing the pronoun by the verb, and “At what are you looking?” where “at” has become a preposition. With the growth and increase of prepositions the need of the case-endings diminished, and in some languages the latter disappeared altogether.
Like prepositions, conjunctions also are primarily adverbs used in a demonstrative and relative sense. Hence most of the conjunctions are petrified cases of pronouns. The relation between two sentences was originally expressed by simply setting them side by side, afterwards by employing a demonstrative at the beginning of the second clause to refer to the whole preceding one. The relative pronoun can be shown to have been in the first instance a demonstrative; indeed, we can still use that in English in a relative sense. Since the demonstrative at the beginning of the second clause represented the first clause, and was consequently an attribute of the second, it had to stand in some case, and this case became a conjunction. How closely allied the adverb and the conjunction are may be seen from Greek and Latin, where ὡς or quum can be used as either the one or the other. Our own and, it may be observed, has probably the same root as the Greek locative adverb ἔτι, and originally signified “going further.”
Another form of adverb is the infinitive, the adverbial force of which appears clearly in such a phrase as “A wonderful thing to see.” Various cases, such as the locative, the dative or the instrumental, are employed in Vedic Sanskrit in the sense of the infinitive, besides the bare stem or neuter formed by the suffixes man and van. In Greek the neuter stem and the dative case were alone retained for the purpose. The first is found in infinitives like δόμεν and φέρειν (for an earlier φερε–ϝεν), the second in the infinitives in -αι. Thus the Gr. δοῦναι answers letter for letter to the Vedic dative dāvāne, “to give,” and the form ψεύδεσθαι is explained by the Vedic vayodhai, for vayās–dhai, literally “to do living,” dhai being the dative of a noun from the root dhā, “to place” or “do.” When the form ψεύδεσθαι had once come into existence, analogy was ready to create such false imitations as γράψασθαι or γραφθήσεσθαι. The Latin infinitive in -re for -se has the same origin, amare, for instance, being the dative of an old stem amas. In fieri for fierei or fiesei, from the same root as our English be, the original length of the final syllable is preserved. The suffix in -um is an accusative, like the corresponding infinitive of classical Sanskrit. This origin of the infinitive explains the Latin construction of the accusative and infinitive. When the Roman said, “Miror te ad me nihil scribere,” all that he meant at first was, “I wonder at you for writing nothing to me,” where the infinitive was merely a dative case used adverbially.
The history of the infinitive makes it clear how little distinction must have been felt at the outset between the noun and the verb. Indeed, the growth of the verb was a slow process. There was a time in the history of Indo-European speech when it had not as yet risen to the consciousness of the speaker, and in the period when the noun did not possess a plural there was as yet also no verb. The attachment of the first and second personal pronouns, or of suffixes resembling them, to certain stems, was the first stage in the development of the latter. Like the Semitic verb, the Indo-European verb seems primarily to have denoted relation only, and to have been attached as an attribute to the subject. The idea of time, however, was soon put into it, and two tenses were created, the one expressing a present or continuous action, the other an aoristic or momentary one. The distinction of sense was symbolized by a distinction of pronunciation, the root-syllable of the aorist being an abbreviated form of that of the present. This abbreviation was due to a change in the position of the accent (which was shifted from the stem-syllable to the termination), and this change again was probably occasioned by the prefixing of the so-called augment to the aorist, which survived into historical times only in Sanskrit, Zend and Greek, and the origin of which is still a mystery. The weight of the first syllable in the aorist further caused the person-endings to be shortened, and so two sets of person-endings, usually termed primary and secondary, sprang into existence. By reduplicating the root-syllable of the present tense a perfect was formed; but originally no distinction was made between present and perfect, and Greek verbs like δίδωμι and ἣκω are memorials of a time when the difference between “I am come” and “I have come” was not yet felt. Reduplication was further adapted to the expression of intensity and desire (in the so-called intensive and desiderative forms). By the side of the aorist stood the imperfect, which differed from the aorist, so far as outward form was concerned, only in possessing the longer and more original stem of the present. Indeed, as Benfey first saw, the aorist itself was primitively an imperfect, and the distinction between aorist and imperfect is not older than the period when the stem-syllables of certain imperfects were shortened through the influence of the accent, and this differentiation of forms appropriated to denote a difference between the sense of the aorist and the imperfect which was beginning to be felt. After the analogy of the imperfect, a pluperfect was created out of the perfect by prefixing the augment (of which the Greek ἐμέμηκον is an illustration); though the pluperfect, too, was originally an imperfect formed from the reduplicated present.
Besides time, mood was also expressed by the primitive Indo-European verb, recourse being had to symbolization for the purpose. The imperative was represented by the bare stem, like the vocative, the accent being drawn back to the first syllable, though other modes of denoting it soon came into vogue. Possibility was symbolized by the attachment of the suffix -ya to the stem, probability by the attachment of -a and -ā, and in this way the optative and conjunctive moods first arose. The creation of a future by the help of the suffix -sya seems to belong to the same period in the history of the verb. This suffix is probably identical with that used to form a large class of adjectives and genitives (like the Greek ἵπποιο for ἱπποσιο); in this case future time will have been regarded as an attribute of the subject, no distinction being drawn, for instance, between “rising sun” and “the sun will rise.” It is possible, however, that the auxiliary verb as, “to be,” enters into the composition of the future; if so, the future will be the product of the second stage in the development of the Indo-European verb when new forms were created by means of composition. The sigmatic or first aorist is in favour of this view, as it certainly belongs to the age of Indo-European unity, and may be a compound of the verbal stem with the auxiliary as.
After the separation of the Indo-European languages, composition was largely employed in the formation of new tenses. Thus in Latin we have perfects like scrip-si and ama-vi, formed by the help of the auxiliaries as (sum) and fuo, while such forms as amaveram (amavi-eram) or amarem (ama-sem) bear their origin on their face. So, too, the future in Latin and Old Celtic (amabo, Irish carub) is based upon the substantive verb fuo, “to be,” and the English preterite in -ed goes back to a suffixed did, the reduplicated perfect of do. New tenses and moods, however, were created by the aid of suffixes as well as by the aid of composition, or rather were formed from nouns whose stems terminated in the suffixes in question. Thus in Greek we have aorists and perfects in -κα, and the characteristics of the two passive aorists, ye and the, are more probably the suffixes of nominal stems than the roots of the two verbs ya, “to go,” and dhâ, “to place,” as Bopp supposed. How late some of these new formations were may be seen in Greek, where the Homeric poems are still ignorant of the weak future passive, the optative future, and the aspirated perfect, and where the strong future passive occurs but once and the desiderative but twice. On the other hand, many of the older tenses were disused and lost. In classical Sanskrit, for instance, of the modal aorist forms the precative and benedictive almost alone remain, while the pluperfect, of which Delbrück has found traces in the Veda, has wholly disappeared.
The passive voice did not exist in the parent Indo-European speech. No need for it had arisen, since such a sentence as “I am pleased” could be as well represented by “This pleases me,” or “I please myself.” It was long before the speaker was able to imagine an action without an object, and when he did so, it was a neuter or substantival rather than a passive verb that he formed. The passive, in fact, grew out of the middle or reflexive, and, except in the two aorists, continued to be represented by the middle in Greek. So, too, in Latin the second person plural is really the middle participle with estis understood, and the whole class of deponent or reflexive verbs proves that the characteristic r which Latin shares with Celtic could have had at the outset no passive force.
Much light has been thrown on the character and construction of the primitive Indo-European sentence by comparative syntax. In contradistinction to Semitic, where the defining word follows that which is defined, the Indo-European languages place that which is defined after that which defines it; and Bergaigne has made it clear that the original order of the sentence was (1) object, (2) verb, and (3) subject. Greater complication of thought and its expression, the connexion of sentences by the aid of conjunctions, and rhetorical inversion caused that dislocation of the original order of the sentence which reaches its culminating point in the involved periods of Latin literature. Our own language still remains true, however, to the syntax of the parent Indo-European when it sets both adjective and genitive before the nouns which they define. In course of time a distinction came to be made between an attribute used as a mere qualificative and an attribute used predicatively, and this distinction was expressed by placing the predicate in opposition to the subject and accordingly after it. The opposition was of itself sufficient to indicate the logical copula or substantive verb; indeed, the word which afterwards commonly stood for the latter at first signified “existence,” and it was only through the wear and tear of time that a phrase like Deus bonus est, “God exists as good,” came to mean simply “God is good.” It is needless to observe that neither of the two articles was known to the parent Indo-European; indeed, the definite article, which is merely a decayed demonstrative pronoun, has not yet been developed in several of the languages of the Indo-European family.
We must now glance briefly at the results of a scientific investigation of English grammar and the modifications they necessitate in our conception of it. The idea that the free use of speech is tied down by the rules ofthe grammarian must first be given up; all that the grammarian can do is to formulate the current uses Investigation of English grammar. of his time, which are determined by habit and custom, and are accordingly in a perpetual state of flux. We must next get rid of the notion that English grammar should be modelled after that of ancient Rome; until we do so we shall never understand even the elementary principles upon which it is based. We cannot speak of declensions, since English has no genders except in the pronouns of the third person, and no cases except the genitive and a few faint traces of an old dative. Its verbal conjugation is essentially different from that of an inflexional language like Latin, and cannot be compressed into the same categories. In English the syntax has been enlarged at the expense of the accidence; position has taken the place of forms. To speak of an adjective “agreeing” with its substantive is as misleading as to speak of a verb “governing” a case. In fact, the distinction between noun and adjective is inapplicable to English grammar, and should be replaced by a distinction between objective and attributive words. In a phrase like “this is a cannon,” cannon is objective; in a phrase like “a cannon-ball,” it is attributive; and to call it a substantive in the one case and an adjective in the other is only to introduce confusion. With the exception of the nominative, the various forms of the noun are all attributive; there is no difference, for example, between “doing a thing” and “doing badly.” Apart from the personal pronouns, the accusative of the classical languages can be represented only by position; but if we were to say that a noun which follows a verb is in the accusative case we should have to define “king” as an accusative in such sentences as “he became king” or “he is king.” In conversational English “it is me” is as correct as “c’est moi” in French, or “det er mig” in Danish; the literary “it is I” is due to the influence of classical grammar. The combination of noun or pronoun and preposition results in a compound attribute. As for the verb, Sweet has well said that “the really characteristic feature of the English finite verb is its inability to stand alone without a pronominal prefix.” Thus “dream” by itself is a noun; “I dream” is a verb. The place of the pronominal prefix may be taken by a noun, though both poetry and vulgar English frequently insert the pronoun even when the noun precedes. The number of inflected verbal forms is but small, being confined to the third person singular and the special forms of the preterite and past participle, though the latter may with more justice be regarded as belonging to the province of the lexicographer rather than to that of the grammarian. The inflected subjunctive (be, were, save in “God save the King,” &c.) is rapidly disappearing. New inflected forms, however, are coming into existence; at all events, we have as good a right to consider wont, shant, cant new inflected forms as the French aimerai (amare habeo), aimerais (amare habebam). If the ordinary grammars are correct in treating forms like “I am loving,” “I was loving,” “I did love,” as separate tenses, they are strangely inconsistent in omitting to notice the equally important emphatic form “I do love” or the negative form “I do not love” (“I don’t love”), as well as the semi-inflexional “I’ll love,” “he’s loving.” It is true that these latter contracted forms are heard only in conversation and not seen in books; but the grammar of a language, it must be remembered, is made by those who speak it and not by the printers.
Our school grammars are the inheritance we have received from Greece and Rome. The necessities of rhetoric obliged the Sophists to investigate the structure of the Greek language, and to them was accordingly due the first History of formal grammar.analysis of Greek grammar. Protagoras distinguished the three genders and the verbal moods, while Prodicus busied himself with the definition of synonyms. Aristotle, taking the side of Democritus, who had held that the meaning of words is put into them by the speaker, and that there is no necessary connexion between sound and sense, laid down that words “symbolize” objects according to the will of those who use them, and added to the ὄνομα or “noun,” and the ῥῆμα or “verb,” the σύνδεσμος or “particle.” He also introduced the term πτῶσις, “case,” to denote any flexion whatsoever. He further divided nouns into simple and compound, invented for the neuter another name than that given by Protagoras, and starting from the termination of the nominative singular, endeavoured to ascertain the rules for indicating a difference of gender. Aristotle was followed by the Stoics, who separated the ἄρθρον or “article” from the particles, determined a fifth part of speech, the πανδέκτης or “adverb,” confined the term “case” to the flexions of the nouns, distinguishing the four principal cases by names, and divided the verb into its tenses, moods and classes. Meanwhile the Alexandrian critics were studying the language of Homer and the Attic writers, and comparing it with the language of their own day, the result being a minute examination of the facts and rules of grammar. Two schools of grammarians sprang up—the Analogists, headed by Aristarchus, who held that a strict law of analogy existed between idea and word, and refused to admit exceptions to the grammatical rules they laid down, and the Anomalists, who denied general rules of any kind, except in so far as they were consecrated by custom. Foremost among the Anomalists was Crates of Mallos, the leader of the Pergamenian school, to whom we owe the first formal Greek grammar and collection of the grammatical facts obtained by the labours of the Alexandrian critics, as well as an attempt to reform Greek orthography. The immediate cause of this grammar seems to have been a comparison of Latin with Greek, Crates having lectured on the subject while ambassador of Attalus at Rome in 159 B.C. The zeal with which the Romans threw themselves into the study of Greek resulted in the school grammar of Dionysius Thrax, a pupil of Aristarchus, which he published at Rome in the time of Pompey and which is still in existence. Latin grammars were soon modelled upon it, and the attempt to translate the technical terms of the Greek grammarians into Latin was productive of numerous blunders which have been perpetuated to our own day. Thus tenues is a mistranslation of the Greek ψιλά, “unaspirated”; genetivus of γενική, the case “of the genus”; accusativus of αἰτιατική, the case “of the object”; infinitivus of ἀπαρέμφατος, “without a secondary meaning” of tense or person. New names were coined to denote forms possessed by Latin and not by Greek; ablative, for instance, was invented by Julius Caesar, who also wrote a treatise De analogia. By the 2nd century of the Christian era the dispute between the Anomalists and the Analogists was finally settled, analogy being recognized as the principle that underlies language, though every rule admits of exceptions. Two eminent grammarians of Alexandria, Apollonius Dyscolus and his son Herodian, summed up the labours and controversies of their predecessors, and upon their works were based the Latin grammar composed by Aelius Donatus in the 4th century, and the eighteen books on grammar compiled by Priscian in the age of Justinian. The grammar of Donatus dominated the schools of the middle ages, and, along with the productions of Priscian, formed the type and source of the Latin and Greek school-grammars of modern Europe.
A few words remain to be said, in conclusion, on the bearing of a scientific study of grammar upon the practical task of teaching and learning foreign languages. The grammar of a language is not to be confined within the rules Learning of grammar of foreign languages.laid down by grammarians, much less is it the creation of grammarians, and consequently the usual mode of making the pupil learn by heart certain fixed rules and paradigms not only gives a false idea of what grammar really is, but also throws obstacles in the way of acquiring it. The unit of speech is the sentence; and it is with the sentence therefore, and not with lists of words and forms, that the pupil should begin. When once a sufficient number of sentences has been, so to speak, assimilated, it will be easy to analyse them into their component parts, to show the relations that these bear to one another, and to indicate the nature and varieties of the latter. In this way the learner will be prevented from regarding grammar as a piece of dead mechanism or a Chinese puzzle, of which the parts must be fitted together in accordance with certain artificial rules, and will realize that it is a living organism which has a history and a reason of its own. The method of nature and science alike is analytic; and if we would learn a foreign language properly we must learn it as we did our mother-tongue, by first mastering the expression of a complete thought and then breaking up this expression into its several elements. (A. H. S.)
See Philology, and articles on the various languages. Also Steinthal, Charakteristik der hauptsächlichsten Typen des Sprachbaues (Berlin, 1860); Schleicher, Compendium of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-European Languages, translated by H. Bendall (London, 1874); Pezzi, Aryan Philology according to the most recent Researches, translated by E. S. Roberts (London, 1879); Sayce, Introduction to the Science of Language (London, 1879); Lersch, Die Sprachphilosophie der Alten (Bonn, 1838–1841); Steinthal, Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft bei den Griechen und Römern mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Logik (Berlin, 1863, 2nd ed. 1890); Delbrück, Ablativ localis instrumentalis im Altindischen, Lateinischen, Griechischen, und Deutschen (Berlin, 1864); Jolly, Ein Kapitel vergleichender Syntax (Munich, 1873); Hübschmann, Zur Casuslehre (Munich, 1875); Holzweissig, Wahrheit und Irrthum der localistischen Casustheorie (Leipzig, 1877); Draeger, Historische Syntax der lateinischen Sprache (Leipzig, 1874–1876); Sweet, Words, Logic, and Grammar (London, 1876); P. Giles, Manual of Comp. Philology (1901); C. Abel, Ägypt.-indo-eur. Sprachverwandschaft (1903); Brugmann and Delbrück, Grundriss d. vergl. Gram. d. indogerm. Spr. (1886–1900); Fritz Mauthner, Beiträge einer Kritik der Sprache vol. iii. (1902); T. G. Tucker, Introd. to a Nat. Hist. of Language (1908).