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casion to many curious Disquisitions, and fometimes perhaps to Conjectures, which to Readers unac. quainted with this kind of Study, cannot but ap. pear improbable and capricious. But it may be rea, sonably imagined, that what is so much in the Power of Men as Language, will very often be capriciously conducted. Nor are these Disquisitions and Conjectures to be considered altogether as wanton Sports of Wit, or vain Shews of Learning; our Language is well known not to be primitive or felf-originated, but to have adopted Words of every Generation, and, either for the Supply of its Necessities, or theEncrease of įts Copiousness, to have received Additions from very distant Regions ; To that in Search of the Progenitors of our Speech, we may wander from the Tropic to the Frozen Zone, and find fome in the Valleys of Palestine, and some upon the Rocks of Norway. :
Besides the Derivation of particular Words, there is likewise an Etymology of Phrases. · Expressions are often taken from other Languages; fome appa. rently, as to run a Risque, courier un Rifque; and fome even when we do not feem to borrow their Words ; thus, to bring about or accomplish, appears an English Phrase, but in Reality our native Word about has no fuch Import, and is only a French Expression, of which we have an Example in the common Phrafes venir à bout d'une affaire.
In exhibiting the Descent of our Language, our. Etymologists seem to have been too lavish of their
through various Tongues, only to shew what was Thewn fufficiently by the first Derivation. This Practice is of great Usein synoptical Lexicons, where mutilated and doubtful Languages are explained by their Affinity to others more certain and extensive, but is generally fuperfluous in English Etymologies. When the Word is easily deduced from a Saxon
Original, I shall not often enquire further, since we know not the Parent of the Saxon Dialect ; but when it is borrowed from the French, I shall fhew whence the French is apparently derived. Where a Saxon Root cannot be found, the Defeet may be supplied from kindred Languages, which will be generally furnished with much Liberality by the Writers of our Gloffaries ; Writers who deserve often the highest Praise, both of Judgment and Industry, and may expect at least to be mentioned with Honour by me, whom they have freed from the greatest Part of a very laborious Work, and on whom they have impoléd, at worst, only the eafy Talk of rejecting Sun perfluities. ' i . tis.,? .
By tracing in this Manner every Word to its Original, and not admitting, but with great Caution,
cure our Language from being over-run with Cant, from being crouded with low Terms, the Spawn of Folly or Affectation, which arise from no just Principles of Speech, and of which therefore no legitimate Derivation can be flewn. ..
When the Etymology is thus adjusted, the Analogy of our Language is next to be considered; when we have discovered whence our Words are derived, we are to examine by what Rules they are governed, and how they are inflected through their various Terminations. The Terminations of the English are few, but those few have hitherto remained unrcgarded by the Writers of our Dictionaries. Our Šubftantives are declined only by the plural Termination, our Adje&tives admit no Variation but in the Degrees of Comparison, and our Verbs are conjugated by auxiliary Words, and are only changed in the Preter Tense.
To our Language may be with great Juftness applied the Observation of Quintilian, that Speech was not formed by an Analgoy fent from heaven. It did
not defcend to us in a State of Uniformity and Per. fection, but was produced by Necessity, and enJarged by Accident ; and is therefore composed of dissimilar Parts ; thrown together by Negligence, by Affectation, by Learning, or by Ignorance. . .. Qur Inflections therefore are by no Means conftant, but admit of numberless Irregularities, which in this Dictionary will be diligently noted. Thus Fox makes in the Plural Foxes, but Ox makes Oxen. Sheep is the same in both Numbers. Adjectives are
as proud, prouder, proudeft ; and sometimes by Particles prefixed, as ambitious, more ambitious, moft ambitious. The Forms of our Verbs are subject to great Variety; fome,end their Preter Tense in ed, as I love, I loved, I have loved; which may be called the regular Form, and is followed by, most of our Verbs of southern Original. But many depart from this Rule, without agreeing in any other; as I Shake, I shook, I have faken, or shook, as it is fometimes written in Poetry; I make, I made, I have made ; I bring, I brought, I wring, I wrung, and many others, which, as they cannot be reduced to Rules, must be learned from the Dictionary rather than the Grammar.
The Verbs are likewise to be distinguished according to their: Qualities, as Actives from Neuters ; the Neglect of which has already introduced fome, Barbarițies in our Conversation, which if not obviated by juft Animadversions, may in Time creep into our Writings....ani
Thus, my Lord, will our Language be laid down, distinct in its minutest Subdivisions, and refolved into its elemental Principles. And who upon this Survey can forbear to wish, that these fundamental Atoms of our Speech might obtain the Firmness and Immutability of the primogenial and constituent Particles of Matter, that they might retain their Sub
Itance while they alter their Appearance, and be varied and compounded, yet not destroyed.
But this is a Privilege which Words are scarcely to expect: for, like their Author, when they are not gaining Strength, they are generally losing it. Tho Art "may sometimes prolong their Duration, it will rarely give them Perpetuity; and their Changes will be almost always informing us, that Language is the Work of Man, of a Being from whom Permanence and Stability cannot be derived.
Words having been hitherto considered as separate and unconnected, are now to be likewise examined as they are ranged in their various Relations to others by the Rules of Syntax or Construction, to which I do not know that any Regard has been yet shewn in English Dictionaries, and in which the Grammarians can give little Afisance. The Syntax of this Language is too inconstant to be reduced to Rules, and can be only learned by the distinct Consideration of particular Words as they are used by the beft Authors. Thus, we say, according to the present Modes of Speech, The Soldier died of his Wounds, and the Sailor perished with Hunger : and every Man acquainted with our Language would be offended by a Change of these Particles, which yet seem originally assigned by Chance, there being no Reason to be drawn from Grammar why a Man may not, with equal Propriety, be said to die with a Wound, or perilh of Hunger,
Our Syntax therefore is not to be taught by general Rules, but by special Precedents; and in examining whether Addison has been with Justice ac. cused of a Solecism in this Passage," fortes - The poor Inhabitant . .
Starves in the midst of Nature's Bounty curst,
Auch particulary Learneant to be the syn
It is not in our Power to have recourse to any eftas blished Laws of Speech; but we must remark how the Writers of former Ages have used the same Word, and conlider whether he can be acquitted of Impropriety, upon the Testimony of Davies, given in his Favour by a similar Paffage.
She loaths the watry Glass wherein she gaz'da.
When the Construction of a Word is explained, it is necessary to pursue it through its Train of Phra. Teology, through those Forms where it is used in a Manner peculiar to our Language, or in Senfes not to be comprised in the general Explanations; as from the Verb make arise these Phrases, to make Love, to make an End, to make Way; as, He made Way for his Followers, The Ship made Way before the Wind; to make a Bed, to make merry, to make a Mock, to make Prefents, to make a Doubt, to make out an Alfertion, to make good a Breach, to make good a Caufe,
to make nothing of an Attempt, to make Lamentation, - to make a Merit, and many others wihich will occur in reading with that View, and which only their Frequency hinders from being generally remarked.
The great Labour is yet to come, the Labour of interpreting these Words and Phrases with Brevity, Fullness, and Perspicuity ; a Tafk of which the Extent and Intricacy is sufficiently shewn by the Mifcarriage of those who have generally attempted it. This Difficulty is increased by the Necessity of explaining the Words in the same Language ; for there is often only one Word for one Idea; and though it be easy to translate the Words bright, sweet, falt, bitter, into another Language, it is not easy to explain them.
With regard to the Interpretatian, many other Questions have required Consideration. It was