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