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“ Paul has written this." Paul in the third person. Is the word Paul modified ? We are told that gender is that modification of a noun that distinguishes objects in regard to sex. The sexes are distinguished in three ways: 1st. . By different words. Is girl a modification of boy ? 2nd. By a different termination. There are three suffixes tbat denote female, « ess," "ine” and “ix.” Actress, heroine and administratrix are just as much derivatives of "act," "hero" and "administrate," as are actor, hero and administrator. My lady friend would hardly admit that her name is Joseph, gra.r.matically inflected so as to make it 6 Josepbine." Are derivatives modifications of primitives ? 3d. An attribute of distinction placed before a noun, as man-servant, she-bear. These are compound words as much as watchman, inkstand. Are compound words modifications of simple words? So much to express gender. Case is said to be another modification, and we are told in the same connection that the nominative and objective cases of nouns are always alike. What then becomes of the modification ? Nothing now remains but the possessive, and that is admitted by all to be a limiting adjective, and as such it cannot have case. The same fallacies exist in regard to the moods, voices, tenses, numbers and persons of verbs.
Englisb personal pronouns, standing for nouns, representing objects that have sex, must vary in the third person and singular number to indicate the sex. In the Latin, all the pronouns (except tbe first and second persons, wbich are either masculine or feminine), eighteen in number, are burdened with numerous and complicated rules to determine their gender, namber and case.
English adjectives are very simple, baving no modifications, except to express their degrees of comparison, while those of Latin bave no less tban three declensions, and all the varieties of gender, number and case of nouns.
Englisb verbs bave but three possible modifications. Of these, ing and ed are employed to denote the time of an act or state of being, and s or es to agree with its subject in the third person singular, when the verb is declarative, and present time. In the Latin, there are five hundred and eighty-four regular inflections to express the moods, tenses, voices, numbers and persons of the verbs, besides many others under the head of exceptions. The signification of voice, mood and tense in English is expressed by other words. In the Latin, the root remaining unchanged, every possible variety of signification is expressed by a dif. ferent termination, joined to the root. While the verb-form is the thing to be considered in Latin, the verb-signification is to be considered in English. The verb-forms aro established by rules which do not change, verb-significations are established by usage wbich is arbitrary and changeable.
The idea of gender and case in our language is borrowed from the Latin; so is that of voice, mood, tense, number and person in the conjugation of verbs. Their application to our language is factitious and absurd. In Bullivn’s Latin grammar, not one-half of a page is given to the explanation of person in nouns, because person has nothing to do, either with the form of a noun or its meaning, while nearly forty pages are devoted to gender, number and case. Now, gender and case bave nothing to do with the forms of English nouns, therefore less than balf a page sbould be devoted to tbem in English grammar.
The first English grammar was little else than a compilation of rules and definitions, copied from the Latin, and designed to be applied to a language that has little or nothing in common with it. All succeeding
grammars are based upon the general idea of the first, thus subjecting both teacher and learner to a vast amount of useless labor. The attempt to engraft our language upon a foreign stock has led the pupil into a labyrinth of perplexity and doubt, rendering the study of English grammar distasteful, and prevented a more rational method of its study.
A few of its absurdities will be noticed: We are told that the subject of a verb must be in the nominative case. Nominative means naming. In the example “ James beat John," is not John named as much as James ? The idea of nominative in Latin is that form of the noun sim. ply and directly named, and is called casus rectus, the straight case; and the other cases are called casus obliqui, tbe oblique cases. Now, these cases have reference only to tbe inflection of the noun; in English, the noun is not inflected. “James beat John," “ John beat James”-the nouns remain the same; then why make the distinction without the difference?
We are told, again, tbat finite verbs must agree with their subjects in number and person. The idea of number and person in Latin verbs bas reference to their inflections, being accidents of the verbs, and in that language must agree; but we have no form of number and person of the English verb. As before stated, we can run an English verb through all its so-called moods, tenses, voices, numbers and persons, with but three modifications; wbile in Latin verbs there are one hundred and forty-six inflections in each, and four different conjugations at that, besides many exceptions. Wbatever the subject in English may be, there is but one change in the verb, pamely, 68" or "es," and that depends as much on the mode and tense of the verb as upon the number and person of the subject. It is impossible to conceive in what way tbe prevailing method of parsing can benefit the student. Let us examine the parsing of a sentence and see wbat it amounts to.
"The scholars labored bard to win the prize.” We have to say the is an article, but since it performs the office of a limiting adjective, why not call it one? Scholars is a noun. The recognition of nouns is neces. sary for several reasons, but the construction of this sentence would not be modified by any possible change of modification of the subject “schol. ars," nor of the verb, except in the present tense. We are made to say 6 third person:" A noun cannot be used in construction except in the third person ; then wby are we required to mention it? When we come to tbat accident called gender, what can we say ? Some grammarian will tell us that “scholars” is common gender, but since gender is the distinction of sex, we are forced into the anomaly of a common distinction. But Mr. Brown tells us there is no common gender, and this leaves our poor scholars in a worse condition than ever. Since notbing is cbanged in construction by the consideration of gender, it is nothing to the grammarian to which sex these scholars belong. We are required to say splural number.". Tbe verb would not be changed if tbe subject were singular, as “the scbolar labored.” Case : Since no change in the noun is effected by its use in construction, no distinction is necessary. The idea of case in our language is identical with subjective or objective elements in syntax. What is called tbe possessive case is simply a lim. iting adjective, and as we do not ascribe "case" to adjectives, no more can we to possessive nouns or pronouns. The proposition and its regi. men constitute a pbrase which has the nature of an adjective or adverb.
" Labored” is a verb. The idea of a verb in Latin (from wbence we borrow it) is furnished by the fact tbat it is the principal word in construction, as by its particular form it expresses the mode of action or being, the time, the voice, the number and person, and in the first and second persons it usually supplies the subject; so, by way of distinction, it was called the word (verbum); but it has no such power in our own language. Having but few modifications, other words are employed to express what is expressed by the inflections of Latin verbs. Since all the modes, except the indicative and imperative, are expressed by other words, English verbs cannot be said to have mode. Our idea of mode is manner of affirmation; in Latin, mode is an inflection of the verb. Then mode in English is entirely different from mode in Latin. The verb “ labored” will go through all tbe modes except the imperative; then how can it be said to be indicative? The idea of number and person is forced upon the English verb without the least show of reason or sense. Our ideas of number and person are that they are attributes of entities, and 'all know that verbs are not entities. The modifications that we ascribe to verbs are arbitrary, fixed by custom and defy all reason and analogy. We can only learn their forms, and accept them as we find them; and by so doing, we dispense with what is termed etymological parsing
Language is learned more by the power of imitation and example than by all the rules of syntax that can be devised. Facility and elegance of expression are not learned by the study of grammatical rules. The meaning of words, the study of synonyms, and a careful and critical examination and study of the writings of the best authors, exercises in substituting otber language to express the same thoughts, and cultivation of the taste for elegant language; these will do more in the acquisition of language than dependence on the memory for rules and defini. tions, that have neither bearing upon the subject, practical application to ordinary use, nor relatoon to the purpose for which they were given. A thorough inductive drill in constructing sentences and joining them togetber in logical arrangement must be regarded as indispensable in the study of language. The cultivation of the imagination affords power, variety and beauty to the expression of language. The use of correct and elegant language is a matter of taste, formed by association and familiarity with general literature, rather than a knowledge of grammatical rules and definitions. The rules of syntax are designed to embrace two considerations—the first bas reference to the agreement of words, and the second to that of arrangement. The English language having few inflections, bas also few agreements. But few rules, therefore, are required to enable the learner to employ the requisite modifications. The most common errors in agreement are the use of plural pronouns having singular antecedents; the improper use in the comparison of adjectives and adverbs; the employment of the past tense of irregular verbs instead of their participial form; and adding the s or es to the verb in tbe indicative mode and present tense with a plural subject, and the unnecessary use and misapplication of propositions. A few general rules will reach all the changes in modification that agreement requires. In regard to arrangement, in common style, one general principle, if well understood, will be a sufficient guide for ordinary uses, and that is, that modifiers, whether words, phrases or clauses, shall stand as near to the words modified as possible. The benefit obtained from the use of rules and definitions is more apparent than real. There is a definite correspondence between signs and things signified. By a series of repetitions, forms and processes become automatically fixed in the mind. These mental processes are carried on by the law of association of ideas. All of these processes are automatic, and the will deals only with results, while the mental activities proceed unconsciously. In
speaking or writing the words como unbidden, the ideas always suggest the word-sigas; but in reading or learning language, the process is reversed, the word-sigus suggest the ideas; thus a reciprocal relation being establisbed, the processes are carried on unconsciously and inde. pendently of the will. So in the establisbed forms of language as in spelling, or agreement, or arrangement in syntax, these forms are fixed in the mind, and any variations will instantly be noticed without reference to rules or definitions. A person seeing the word “having” with the "e" retained, or “compelling” with but one “l," would detect the error without ever tbinking of the rule for dropping the final "e," or doubling the final consonant. And so a person familiar with general literature could not avoid noticing the disagreements, 66 You was," " His friends was there,” or the disarrangements, " He departed very instantly,"
I yesterday saw him." Such expressions offend the ear, are unpleasant to the eye, and are instinctively avoided when the true forms are established in the mind. These forms are not fixed by the application of rules, but by a long series of repetitions of the forms themselves. Anotber objectionable feature in the use of grammatical rules and definitions is, they are seldom, if ever, seen or beard of outside of the school room. There is nothing in the practical use of language with which to associate them, tberefore they are soon forgotten, and none but the teacber, who is in daily practice, is expected to retain them. The general law of mental action is, that all ideas expressed in language are reproduced in the mind of the recipient. One or two illustrations will explain my meaning. “California was admitted into the Union in 1850." The thought expressed by these characters bas been elaborated or reproduced in your minds wütb inconceivable rapidity. At one period in your lives the process of associating ideas with their signs was impossible, at another, slow and difficult, the facility increasing with time and the number of repetitions. Again, the thoughts I am now expressing are connected with your minds tbrough the mediumn of atmospheric vibrations. These vibrations give rise to certain sounds; these sounds, by a series of repetitions, are associated with certain ideas wbich become fixed and automatic in their action. In the communication of ideas there is mental activity on the part of the recipient, and not passivity, as many are led to suppose. In view of this law of mental action, and taking into consideration the definition of a grammatical rule, namely, an "abstract generalization of notions or conceptions of modifications, or agreements of words,” we see how difficult and laborious are the processes of mastering and applying so great a variety and number of rules as are required in our present method of teaching the English language. Mr. Brown has twenty-six rules, twenty-six exceptions, eighty-seven notes, wbich are subordinate rules, about two hundred observations, also subordinate rules, amounting to three hundred and thirty-nine. In his remarks on syntax Mr Brown says : “ The English language, baving few modifications, has few concords or agreements” (Brown's Institutes of Grammar, page 227); and yet three hundred and thirty-cine rules! You who are quick at figures may make an estimate of the time, labor and expense incurred in a struggle too often hopeless and ineffectual to attempt to master a subject so intricate and difficult. Long bave we looked for and desired a more simple and rational method of studying the English language. Grammarians, in their zeal for erudition, have gone beyond the capacity of the learner, and require him to come up to the standard that they alone bare reached after many years of severe and arduous labor. Ordinarily, it requires but a short time to forget what it has taken years to learn, and no person pretends to conform his language to rules and definitions. They do not enter into his mind-they are foreign to his purpose. In view, then, of arriving at a better metbod of acquiring a knowledge of the elements of the English language the following preamble and resolutions are submitted for consideration :
WAEREAS, The methods now in use of studying the English language being inadequate to the accomplishment of the desired object, and unsatisfactory in their results ; therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is deemed expedient by the teachers in convention for the President to appoint a committee of three experienced teachers, whose duty it shall be to prepare a series of formulas and exercises for the purpose of drilling pupils in the elements of the English language.
Resolved, That this committee shall make their report at the next State Teachers' Institute, and if it be favorably received. then further
Resolved, That the State Board of Education take it into consideration, with a view of substituting it for the grammars now in use in the public schools in this State; and if so substituted, then be it further
Resolved, That the copyright of such formulas and exercises be secured to the State of California, and that they be furnished to the schools at the actual cost of printing and furnishing them ; and further
Resolved, That the committee be allowed reasonable compensation for the preparation of such formulas and exercises prescribed by the State Board of Education.
I think it has been clearly shown, that the so-called "accidents' ascribed to English words, are foreign, inapplicable, factitious and absurd. The imaginative grammarian may, indeed, invest English words with them, but their enumeration and specification, in the process called etymological parsing, affords little or no aid to the learner.
If this conclusion be correct, then several important results may be arrived at, of great importance to the interests of the public schools, among which may be enumerated the following:
First-A vast amount of time and labor saved to the pupil, and interest developed by a method more in conformity with the principles of the Englisb language.
Second-Greater facility on the part of the teacher, by having more appropriate formulas and exercises.
Third-A great saving of expense to the patrons of the schools, in having abbreviated and simpler, and consequently cheaper books; and
Fourth-A more thorough and complete knowledge of our language.