Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Latin; thus entire is chosen rather than intire, because it passed to us not from the Latin integer, but from the French entier.

Of many words it is difficult to say whether they were immediately received from the Latin or the French, fince as the time when we had dominions in France, we had Latin service in our churches. It is, however, my opinion, that the French generally supplied us; for we have few Latin words, among the terms of domestick use, which are not French; but many French, which are very remote from Latin.

Even in words of which the derivation is apparent, I have been often obliged to sacrifice uniformity to custom; thus I write, in compliance with a numberless majority, convey and inveigh, deceit and receipt, fancy and phantom; sometimes the derivative varies from the primitive, as explain and explanation, repeat and repetition.

Some combinations of letters having the same power, are used indifferently without any discoverable reason of choice, as in choak, choke; soap, sopes fewel, fuel, and many others; which I have fometimes inserted cwice, that those who search for them under either form, may not search in vain.

In examining the orthography of any doubtful word, the mode of spelling by which it is inserted in the series of the dictionary, is to be considered as that to which I give, perhaps not often rafhly, the preference. I have left, in the examples, to every author his own practice unmolested, that the reader may balance suffrages, and judge between us: but this question is not always to be determined by reputed or by real learning; some men, intent upon

greater things, have thought little on founds and derivations; fome, knowing in the ancient tongues, have neglected those in which our words are commonly to be fought. Thus llammond writes feciileres for feasilleness, becaule I fuppose he imagined it derived inmediately from the Latin; and some words, such as dependant, dependent; dependance, dependence, vary their final fyllable, as one or another language is present to the writer.

In this part of the work, where caprice has long wantoned without control, and vanity fought praise by petty reformation, I have endeavoured to proceed with a scholar's reverence for antiquity, and a gramınarian's regard to the genius of our tongue. I have attempted few alterations, and among those few, perhaps the greater part is from the modern to rhe ancient practice; and I hope I may be allowed 10 recommend to those, whose thoughts have been perhaps employed 100 anxiously on verbal singularities, not to dillurb, upon narrow views, or for minute propriety, the orthography of their fathers. le has been aflerted, that for the law to be known, is of more importance than to be right. Change, says Icoker, is not made without inconvenience, even from worfe to better. There is in constancy and ilability a general and lasting advantage, which will always overbalance the low improvements of gradual correction. Much less ought our written language 10 comply with the corruptions of oral utterance, or copy that which every variation of time or place makes different from itfelf, and imitate those changes, which will again be changed, while imitation is employed in obferving them,

This recommendation of steadiness and uniformity does not proceed from an opinion, that particular combinations of letters have much influence on human happiness; or that truth may not be successfully caught by modes of spelling fanciful and erroneous: I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the fons of beaven. Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.

In settling the orthography, I have not wholly neglected the pronunciation, which I have directed, by printing an accent upon the acute or elevated syllable. It will sometimes be found, that the accent is placed by the author quoted, on a different syllable from that marked in the alphabetical series; it. is then to be understood, that custom has varied, or that the author has, in my opinion, pronounced wrong. Short directions are sometimes given where the found of letters is irregular; and if they are sometimes omited, defect in such minute observations will be more easily excused, than superfluity.

In the investigacion both of the orthography and fignification of words, their Etymology was necessarily to be considered, and they were therefore to be divided into primitives and derivatives. A primitive word, is that which can be traced no further to any English root; thus circumspect, circumvent, circumstance, delude, concave, and complicate, though compounds in the Latin, are to us primitives. Deriva04

tives,

tives, are all those that can be referred to any word in English of greater simplicity.

The derivatives I have referred to their primitives, with an accuracy sometimes needless; for who does not see that remoteness comes from remote, lovely from Lore, concavity froin concave, and demonstrative from demonstrate? But this grammatical exuberance the icheme of my work did not allow me to repress. It is of great importance, in examining the general fabrick of a language, to trace one word from another, by noting the usual modes of derivation and infection; and uniformity must be preserved in systematical works, though sometimes at the expence of particular propriety.

Among other derivatives I have been careful to insert and elucidate the anomalous plurals of nouns and preterites of verbs, which in the Teutonick diaJects are very frequent, and, though familiar to those who have always used them, interrupt and embarrass the learners of our language.

The two languages from which our primitives have been derived are the Roman and Teutonick: under the Roman I comprehend the French and provincial congues; and under the Teutonick range the Saxon, German, and all their kindred dialects. Most of our polysyllables are Roman, and our words of one fyllable are very often Teutonick.

In afligning the Roman original, it has perhaps fonctimes happened that I have mentioned only the Latin, when the word was borrowed from the French; and conlidering myself as employed only in the illustration of my own language, I have not been у cry careful to observe whether the Latin word be pure or barbarous, or the French elegant or ob. folete.

pure

For the Teutonick etymologies I am commonly indebted to Junius and Skinner, the only names which I have forborn to quote when I copied their books; not that I might appropriate their labours or usurp their honours, but that I might fpare a perpetual repetition by one general acknowledgment. Of these, whom I ought not to mention but with the reverence due to instructors and benefactors, Junius appears to have excelled in extent of learning, and Skinner in rectitude of understanding.' Junius was accurately skilled in all the northern languages, Skinner probably examined the ancient and remoter dialects only by occasional inspection into dictionaries; but the learning of Junius is often of no other use than to show him a track by which he may deviate from his purpose, to which Skinner always presses forward by the shortest way. Skinner is often ignorant, but never ridiculous : Junius is always full of knowledge; but his variety distracts his judgment, and his learning is very frequently disgraced by his abfurdities.

The votaries of the northern muses will not perhaps easily restrain their indignation, when they find the name of Junius thus degraded by a disadvantageous comparison; but whatever reverence is due to his diligence, or his attainments, it can be no cri. minal degree of censoriousness to charge that etymologist with want of judgment, who can seriously derive dream from drama, because life is a drama, and a drama is a dream; and who declares with a tone of defiance, that no man can fail to derive

moan

« ZurückWeiter »