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This precious stone set in the silver sea,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. But what about 'this England ?' If we refer to the original, we find that the remonstrance does not end there; but goes on as follows:
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
Richard II., ii. 1. This passage contains three distinct propositions, followed by an exclamation :
1. This royal throne of kings .. is now leased out. 2. England is now bound in with shame.
3. England hath made a shameful conquest of itself. Then follows the exclamation would the scandal vanish how happy were my . . . death!'
134. 3. The careless use of the Case Absolute gives occasion to a class of errors, into which Latin scholars are peculiarly liable to fall. As the Latin language has no perfect participle active, the perfect participle passive is used in its stead ; but both the participle and the substantive, with which it agrees, are put in the ablative case. Now, in Latin, this ablative case is a safeguard; because the noun or pronoun, so used absolutely, can never be mistaken for a nominative.
But when this construction is imitated in English, the safeguard is lost. Some grammarians tell us that nouns so employed are in the Nominative Absolute in English. If, then, a so-called nominative absolute be employed in the beginning of a sentence, the reader may mistake it for a subject-nominative; and afterwards, when the true subject- ominative is introduced, perplexity may arise. (See $ 27.) The confusion is made worse when a participle is used, unconnected with any substantive at all. Here is part of an advertisement, published by the proprietor of an educational establishment:
Having to pass an examination for admission, a few
months' preparation at -- is strongly recommended.' In this sentence the participle is used without any substantive at all. Of course, the meaning is, “ As pupils have to pass an examination for admission, a few months' preparation, &c. :' and the form which the writer had in his mind was Pupils having to pass an examination By further license, the writer omits the word “pupils,' and the phrase stands ' Having to pass,' without stating who is to pass. 135. So here : Having found that there were great difficulties on both
sides, it was resolved to proceed no further in the
business. From this collection of words we infer that a resolution was formed to proceed no further in a certain business. But we are not told who found difficulties, or who resolved to proceed no further; although the participle having found' leads us to expect a subject-nominative indicating persons. The passage is quoted from the Report of a Committee, who were ashamed to confess that they had abandoned the business in question. If they had said, ' we resolved to proceed no further,' they would not only have written correctly, but they would have told the whole truth. This confession, however, did not suit the purpose of the Committee; and, as one fault leads to another, their dissimulation led them into bad grammar.
136. In the early part of a sentence, before the introduction of the subject-nominative, it is dangerous to use the Case Absolute; and it is equally dangerous to employ introductory participles, referring to any noun, other than the subjectnominative: for example,
Having gone through this amount of villany, King George thought he was qualified to represent him at the court
of Lisbon, and thither Lord Tyrawley proceeded accordingly.'
-Doran, Annals of the Stage, ii. 275. The context shows that it was not King George, but Lord Tyrawley, who had gone through an amount of villany; and that therefore the King thought Tyrawley a suitable representative. But the phrase 'having gone through this amount of villany,' stands in treasonable proximity to King George ; and there is nothing in the form of the sentence to guard us against making a wrong application of the phrase.
137. The Possessive in English corresponds to the Genitive in Latin and other languages; and is the only case in English nouns where we find a change of termination. The form in 's is the only case-ending in our nouns. These exhibit no difference in form between the nominative and objective cases. The possessive alone exhibits a variation.
In Anglo-Saxon there are several declensions. Some nouns form their genitive singular in -es, as smith, smithes; others in an, others in e. But in the transition from Anglo-Saxon to English, the form in es seems to have been preferred in all instances; it was written -es, -is, -ys, and finally 's.
According to Ben Jonson, (English Grammar, c. xiii.) the change from es to is was the cause of a singular grammatical error, and brought in first the monstrous syntax of the pronoun his joyning with a noune betokening a possessor, as the Prince his house, for the Prince's house.'
Dr. Lowth thinks that • Christ his sake' in our Liturgy is a mistake of the printers, or of the compilers. He compares,
Nevertheless, Asa his heart was perfect with the Lord,' 1 Kings xv. 14; and “To see whether Mordecai his matters would stand,' Esther iii. 4; where, however, our more recent copies read ' Asa's heart,' and 'Mordecai's matters.'
Donne says :
Where is this mankind now? Who lives to age
Fit to be made Methusalem his page ? Pope, in his translation of the Odyssey, has,
By young Telemachus his blooming years. Addison writes : My paper is the Ulysses his bow, in which every man of
wit or learning may try his strength.-Guardian, 98.
And it is evident that Addison thus wrote advisedly; for elsewhere he tells us that the same single letter s on many occasions does the office of the whole word, and represents the his and her of our forefathers.' (Spectator, 135.)
"The latter instance,' says Dr. Lowth, ' might have shown him how groundless this notion is; for it is not easy to conceive how the letter s added to a feminine noun should represent the word her, any more than, if added to a plural noun, as the children's bread, it can stand for their. But the direct derivation of this case from the Saxon genitive is sufficient of itself to decide the matter.' (See Lowth, English Grammar, p. 32.)
138. But along with the form in 's, we have another method of expressing the genitive case, namely by means of the preposition of; we say the master's house,' and 'the house of the master.'
The origin of this second form is an interesting question Dr. Adams says (Elements, § 144), “The use of the preposition of to express the genitive was unknown in Anglo-Saxon. It was introduced from the Old Norse by the Danes.' Other grammarians think that it was introduced by the Normans, and that it is a translation of the French de.
There is a fashion in grammar, as in other things. Some grammarians have a tendency to trace everything to a Saxon or Danish origin; and some of them maintain that the Norman-French has had no influence upon our grammar. They cannot deny that our vocabulary is made up to great extent of Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French; but they tell us that the same combination finds no place in our grammatical forms.
Professor Max Müller holds that there is no such thing as a mixed language. Of course he does not dispute the mix, ture of words in a vocabulary; he admits that we can detect Celtic, Norman, Greek, and Latin ingredients in the English dictionary; but he denies the mixture of grammatical forms in a language. For he calls grammar the blood of the language;' and he asserts that, in this sense, the English language is Teutonic. He maintains (Science of Language, 1st Series, p. 70), that not a single drop of foreign blood has entered into the organic system of the English language. The grammar, the blood and soul of the language, is as pure and unmixed in English, as spoken in the British Isles, as it was when spoken on the shores of the German Ocean by the Angles, Saxons, and Juts of the Continent. Again he says
expressly (p. 74), 'Languages, though mixed in their dictionary, can never be mixed in their grammar. For,' he adds, we may form whole sentences in English consisting entirely of Latin or Romance words, yet whatever there is left of grammar in English bears unmistakeable traces of Teutonic workmanship.
139. We shall test this principle as we go along; but we premise that the argument from analogy leads us to regard the doctrine with suspicion. The English language, like the constitution, the law, the custom of the country, partakes of the nature of a compromise. We have commons and barons, common law and feudal tenure, democracy and aristocracy; so, too, in our vocabulary we have English words and French derivatives. It would, therefore, be strange it there were no traces of French idiom in our grammar. There are some forms which can be explained on no other principle; and I am inclined to think that, wherever we have double forms in English grammar, one of them has arisen from the Norman-French.
140. So much for the argument from analogy. Then, if we may quote one authority against another, Mr. Marsh' is decidedly of opinion that the English grammar is mixed; that although the traces of foreign idiom may not be numerous, they are still to be found.
He admits that grammatical structure is a much more essential and permanent characteristic of languages than the vocabulary; and that, therefore, it is alone to be considered in tracing their history and determining their ethnological affinities. But this theory, he thinks, is carried too far when it is insisted that no amalgamation of the grainmatical characteristics of different speeches is possible. The English language has been affected, in both vocabulary and structure, by the influence of all the Gothic and Romance tongues with which it has been brought into long and close contact. Doubtless, this influence is most readily perceived in the stock of words; but the same influence, though smaller in extent, is not less unequivocal in its effects upon the syntax.
He then gives instances; as, the double forms in the comparison of adjectives : (1) By the terminations -er and -est; (2) by prefixing the adverbs more and most. So also the double forms in the genitive of nouns. He
says, sessive relation between nouns was expressed in Anglo-Saxon by a regular possessive or genitive case, and not by a preposition; in Norman-French, in general, by a preposition only.