« PreviousContinue »
THE CLASSIFICATORY STAGE.
WE traced, in our last lecture, the origin and progress of the empirical study of languages from the time of Plato and Aristotle to our own school-boy days. We saw at what time, and under what circumstances, the first grammatical analysis of language took place; how its component parts, the parts of speech, were named, and how, with the aid of a terminology, half philosophical and half empirical, a system of teaching languages was established, which, whatever we may think of its intrinsic value, has certainly answered that purpose for which it was chiefly intended.
Considering the process by which this system of grammatical science was elaborated, it could not be expected to give us an insight into the nature of language. The division into nouns and verbs, articles and conjunctions, the schemes of declension and conjugation, were a merely artificial network thrown over the living body of language. We must not look in the grammar of Dionysius Thrax for a correct and wellarticulated skeleton of human speech. It is curious, however, to observe the striking coincidences between the grammatical terminology of the Greeks and the Hindús, which would seem to prove that there must be some true and natural foundation for the much
abused grammatical system of the schools. The Hindús are the only nation that cultivated the science of grammar without having received any impulse, directly or indirectly, from the Greeks. Yet we find in Sanskrit too the same system of cases, called vibhakti, or inflections, the active, passive, and middle voices, the tenses, moods, and persons, divided not exactly, but very nearly, in the same manner as in Greek. In Sanskrit, grammar is called vyâkarana, which means analysis or taking to pieces. As Greek grammar owed its origin to the critical study of Homer, Sanskrit grammar arose from the study of the Vedas, the most ancient poetry of the Brahmans. The differences between the dialect of these sacred hymns and the literary Sanskrit of later ages were noted and preserved with a religious care. We still possess the first essays in the grammatical science of the Brahmans, the socalled prátisakhyas. These works, though they merely profess to give rules on the proper pronunciation of the ancient dialect of the Vedas, furnish us at the same time with observations of a grammatical character, and particularly with those valuable lists of words, irregular or in any other way remarkable, the Gaņas. These supplied that solid basis on which successive generations of scholars erected the astounding structure that reached its perfection in the grammar of Pâņini. There is no form, regular or irregular, in the whole Sanskrit language, which is not provided for in the grammar of Pâņini and his commentators. It is the perfection of a merely empirical analysis of language, unsurpassed, nay even unapproached, by anything in the grammatical literature of other nations. Yet of
1 See M. M.'s History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 158.
the real nature, and natural growth of language, it teaches us nothing.
What then do we know of language after we have learnt the grammar of Greek or Sanskrit, or after we have transferred the network of classical grammar to our own tongue ?
We know certain forms of language which correspond to certain forms of thought. We know that the subject must assume the form of the nominative, the object that of the accusative. We know that the more remote object may be put in the dative, and that the predicate, in its most general form, may be rendered by the genitive. We are taught that whereas in English the genitive is marked by a final 8, or by the preposition of, it is in Greek expressed by a final 08, in Latin by is. But what this 08 and is represent, why they should have the power of changing a nominative into a genitive, a subject into a predicate, remains a riddle. It is self-evident that each language, in order to be a language, must be able to distinguish the subject from the object, the nominative from the accusative. But how a mere change of termination should suffice to convey so material a distinction would seem almost incomprehensible. If we look for a moment beyond Greek and Latin, we see that there are in reality but few languages which have distinct forms for these two categories of thought. Even in Greek and Latin there is no outward distinction between the nominative and accusative of neuters. The Chinese language, it is commonly said, has no grammar at all, that is to say, it has no inflections, no declension and conjugation, in our sense of these words ; it makes no formal distinction of the various parts of speech, noun,
verb, adjective, adverb, &c. Yet there is no shade of thought that cannot be rendered in Chinese. The Chinese have no more difficulty in distinguishing between “ James beats John,” and “ John beats James," than the Greeks and Romans or we ourselves. They have no termination for the accusative, but they attain the same by always placing the subject before, and the object after the verb, or by employing words, before or after the noun, which clearly indicate that it is to be taken as the object of the verb. There are other lan
i The following and some other notes were kindly sent to me by the first Chinese scholar in Europe, M. Stanislas Julien, Membre de l'Institut.
The Chinese do not decline their substantives, but they indicate the cases distinctly
A. By means of particles.
B. By means of position. 1. The nominative or the subject of a sentence is always placed at the beginning.
2. The genitive may be marked
(a) By the particle tchi placed between the two nouns, of which the first is in the genitive, the second in the nominative. Example, jin tchi kiun (hominum princeps, literally, man, sign of the genitive, prince.)
(6) By position, placing the word which is in the genitive first, and the word which is in the nominative second. Ex. koue (kingdom) jin (man) i. e., a man of the kingdom.
3. The dative may be expressed –
(a) By the preposition yu, to. Ex. sse (to give) yen (money) yu (to) jin (man).
(6) By position, placing first the verb, then the word which stands in the dative, lastly, the word which stands in the accusative. Ex. yu (to gire) jin (to a man) pe (white) yu (jade), hoang (yellow) kin (metal), i. e., gold.
4. The accusative is either left without any mark, for instance, pao (to protect) min (the people), or it is preceded by certain words which had originally a more tangible meaning, but gradually dwindled away into mere signs of the accusative. [These were first discovered and correctly explained by M. Stanislas Julien in his Vindiciæ Philologicæ in Linguam Sinicam, Paris, 1830.] The particles most frequently used for this purpose by modern writers are pa and tsiang, to grasp, to take. Ex. pa (taking) tchoung-jin (crowd of men) t'eou (secretly) k'an (he looked) i. e., he looked secretly at the crowd of men (hominum turbam furtim aspiciebat). In the more ancient Chinese (Kouwen) the words used for the same purpose are i (to employ, etc.), iu, iu, hou. Ex. i (employing) jin (mankind) t'sun (he
guages which have more terminations even than Greek and Latin. In Finnish there are fifteen cases, expressive of every possible relation between the subject and the object; but there is no accusative, no purely objective case. In English and French the distinctive terminations of the nominative and accusative have been worn off by phonetic corruption, and these languages are obliged, like Chinese, to mark the subject and object by the collocation of words. What we learn therefore at school in being taught that rex in the nominative becomes regem in the accusative, is simply a practical rule. We know when to say rex, and when to say regem. But why the king as a subject should be called rex, and as an object regem, remains entirely
preserves) sin (in the heart), i. e., humanitatem conservat corde. I(taking) tchi (right) wéi (to make) k'ið (crooked), i. e., rectum facere curvum. Pao (to protect) hou (sign of accus.) min (the people).
5. The ablative is expressed –
(a) By means of prepositions, such as thsong, yeou, tsen, hou. Ex. thsong (ex) thien (cælo) laï (venire); te (obtinere) hou (ab) thien (cælo).
(6) By means of position, so that the word in the ablative is placed before the verb. Ex. thien (heaven) hiang-tchi (descended, tchi being the relative particle or sign of the genitive) tsai (calamities), i. e., the calamities which Heaven sends to men.
6. The instrumental is expressed –
(a) By the preposition yu, with. Ex. yu (with) kien (the sword) cha (to kill) jin (a man).
() By position, the substantive which stands in the instrumental case being placed before the verb, which is followed again by the noun in the accusative. Ex. i (by hanging) cha (he killed) tchi (him).
7. The locative may be expressed by simply placing the noun before the verb. Ex. si (in the East or East) yeou (there is) suo-tou-po (a sthúpa); or by prepositions as described in the text.
The adjective is always placed before the substantive to which it belongs. Ex. meï jin, a beautiful woman.
The adverb is generally followed by a particle which produces the same effect as e in bene, or ter in celeriter. Ex. cho-jen, in silence, silently; ngeou-jen, perchance; kiu-jen, with fear.
Sometimes an adjective becomes an adverb through position. Ex. chen, good; but chen ko, to sing well.