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THE following pages are laid before the public with the view of supplying beginners in Grammar with information more in accordance with the present state of learning than that which is afforded by the grammars currently in use. Of these, each and all have the same merits and the same defects. In the matter of Syntax they are the least faulty; although even in this department they err, at times, most grievously. Notwithstanding this, the strong sense that characterises the reasoning of Cobbett affords an intellectual exercise, even where the facts upon which it works are wrong; whilst the copiousness of illustration in Lindley Murray has its value as exercises and in the way of practice. Here, however, the praise of the usual grammarians ends. What they teach in the way of Etymology, what they exhibit as constituting the structure of language, and what they indicate as the general principles of language, are matters that they supply only for the sake of being unlearned when the researches of the student become extended. No person conversant with modern philology will consider this statement as overcharged.
What the following pages profess to exhibit is referrible to two heads: firstly, the special details of the structure of the English language; secondly, certain facts and reasonings in general grammar. These latter points are
incorporated with the former, for the following reasons. It is not from the grammars either of classical languages, or from those of any foreign tongue, that the first knowledge of the general principles of grammar is best derived; although such is a current, if not an universal opinion. We best learn the theory of a language when we study it independently of the practice. We may see this, by asking whether the meaning of words like Case, Concord, Government, Noun, &c., is best collected from the grammar of a known or an unknown language. In the latter case, the attention is divided between the general principles of grammar, common to all languages, and the special details of the particular language in question. In the former case, the familiarity with the details leaves the attention undivided for the comprehension of general principles. Whatever be the country of the student, the analysis of his native tongue is his best practice in general grammar.
Having indicated the mixed character of my work, I wish to state with what views I would have it judged. There is much in grammar that is indeterminate. Most of the terms are unsettled, and many of the definitions have yet to be agreed upon. Such being the case, an author has a choice between two modes of proceeding. He may either lay down his assertions peremptorily, demanding an acquiescence in his authority; or he may, by full and sufficient trains of reasoning upon each doubtful term, and upon each unrecognised generalisation, exhaust the subject, and convince his reader. To have taken up the former plan, would have been opposite to the purpose of the author, whose intention it was that the character of his book should be disciplinal; to
have ventured upon the latter would have extended the work to an indefinite length. Between these two methods, however, there was an intermediate one. In the first place, the present is no independent work, but an elementary form of a fuller and more critical volume; in which volume definitions are fixed, and doubts discussed. In the next place, the pretensions of the book are limited. There are a vast number of questions in respect not only to points of general grammar, but even in respect to special facts in the English language, to which no categorical answer in the present state of philology can be given to such questions as How many cases? How many parts of speech? How many irregular verbs are there in English? no cautious grammarian would venture an unqualified answer. The reply depends upon the definition of the words case, parts of speech, and irregular; and, in respect to these, it will be long before there is full unanimity. The present book will not enable the student to give offhand answers on doubtful points. It will, however, present him with new and numerous facts, and habituate him to the reasoning upon them.
For what precise age of the student any work of instruction may be designed is in few departments of knowledge easy to be accurately determined. A book addressed to the understanding should be taken up a few years later than one addressed more particularly to the memory. It is considered by the author that the same degree of attention, the same effort of thought, that understands the first principles of arithmetic and geometry, will also understand the subject-matter of the present volume. This, it is conceived, recommends the
work in question to the middle and higher, but not to the lower parts of schools.
The amount of preliminary knowledge on other subjects required for the study of the work in question is ascertained more easily. It can be wholly mastered independent of any knowledge either of the classical languages or of logic.
During the perusal of the first part, the student should have before him, and continually refer to, a map of Germany and northern Europe. A sufficient knowledge of the general history is presumed; since it cannot be said, that, in expecting a knowledge of what is meant by such terms as the Norman Conquest, we look for too much on the part of the learner. The words quoted from the Anglo-Saxon should be written down, and the parts wherein they differ from the English should be carefully marked by means of underlining. The pronunciation is a secondary affair.
In Part II. the assistance of the teacher will be most wanted. The description of a sound is difficult; so that he should be prepared to exhibit the nature of our elementary sounds orally, and to make the pupil repeat after him until his familiarity with the properties of the different sounds become perfect. (See §§ 40, 41, 43.) From Part II. the student may proceed to the Prosody (Part V.), since by so doing he completes his familiarity with points of grammar so essential and elementary as accent and quantity.
Of Part III. the fourteen first sections should be studied slowly and repeatedly, since upon his familiarity with these will depend the clearness of the student's views respecting the nature and number of the parts of