Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V.: OF IMPROVEMENT CONSIDERED AS APPLICABLE TO LANGUAGE, OR THE MEANS BY WHICH, IN SO FAR AS THE PARTICULAR LANGUAGE EMPLOYED BY AN INDIVIDUAL ADMITS OF THE POSSESSION OF THEM, THE PROPERTIES DESIRABLE IN LANGUAGE MAY, ON EACH OCCASION, BE SECURED - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 8 (Chrestomathia, Essays on Logic and Grammar, Tracts on Poor Laws, Tracts on Spanish Affairs)
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CHAPTER V.: OF IMPROVEMENT CONSIDERED AS APPLICABLE TO LANGUAGE, OR THE MEANS BY WHICH, IN SO FAR AS THE PARTICULAR LANGUAGE EMPLOYED BY AN INDIVIDUAL ADMITS OF THE POSSESSION OF THEM, THE PROPERTIES DESIRABLE IN LANGUAGE MAY, ON EACH OCCASION, BE SECURED - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 8 (Chrestomathia, Essays on Logic and Grammar, Tracts on Poor Laws, Tracts on Spanish Affairs) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). In 11 vols. Volume 8.
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OF IMPROVEMENT CONSIDERED AS APPLICABLE TO LANGUAGE, OR THE MEANS BY WHICH, IN SO FAR AS THE PARTICULAR LANGUAGE EMPLOYED BY AN INDIVIDUAL ADMITS OF THE POSSESSION OF THEM, THE PROPERTIES DESIRABLE IN LANGUAGE MAY, ON EACH OCCASION, BE SECURED.
Questions applicable to Improvements in Language.
To make an improvement, or improvements, in a language, is to cause it to possess, in a higher degree than it does at the time in question, some one or more of the qualities desirable in a language; of these, a list, as complete as it could be made, has already been given.†
An imaginable ulterior species of improvement would be the putting language in general, or this or that language in particular, in possession of some quality, of which, till the time in question, no language was ever possessed. But, if the list above referred to be what it was intended to be—a complete one, on this supposition this imaginary species is incapable of being exemplified and realized.
In connexion with this subject, the following are the questions which seem to call for an answer:—1. What alterations have a just claim to the title of improvements? 2. In what way, and in what manner, have they actually been brought about without design? 3. Whether any, and what improvements are capable of being brought about by design; in other words, in what shape, or shapes, the nature of language admits of improvement? And, 4. By what hands, and in what manner, improvement in these several shapes may be effected or promoted?
What Alterations may be deemed Improvements.
Short is the answer which, for this question, may suffice. Of the qualities desirable in language, the following list has been given,—viz. 1. Clearness; 2. Correctness; 3. Copiousness; 4. Completeness; 5. Non-redundance, or simplicity; 6. Compressedness; 7. Pronunciability; 8. Melodiousness; 9. Discibility; 10. Docibility; 11. Meliorability; 12. Decorability; 13. Impressiveness; 14. Dignity; 15. Patheticalness. In so far as this list is correct and complete, the answer to this question has been already given.
If the list above given be a complete one, then it is that, in the qualities contained in it, added to their respective opposites, we have all the qualities, good and bad, of which a language is susceptible; and, if so, then will every alteration, to which the name of improvement can with propriety be applied, consist in bestowing upon the language,—i. e. the aggregate of the words of which the language is composed, one or more of these qualities in a higher degree than that in which it was respectively in possession of them before. After, and in consequence, and in virtue of the improvement, the language will, pro tanto, and to the extent of the improvement, be more copious, more simple, more compressed, more clear, i. e. freer from ambiguity and obscurity, more impressive, more melodious, more easy of utterance, more ornamental, &c., than before.
What Improvements take Place without Design.
Improvements made without design? No certainly; in all the several shapes in which all the several improvements that have ever been made, in none of them has it ever been made any otherwise than with the design of doing what was done. In what sense, then, without design? In this sense,—viz. without any general survey taken of the language; without any such thought as that of doing, on the individual occasion in question, that which, on that individual occasion, was done.
1. Copiousness. For the purpose which the individual had in hand, a new word is thought wanting,—he accordingly makes one.
2. Simplicity. On the occasion in hand, a phrase, a word, a part of a word, which by others had been employed, presents itself to him, but presents itself to him in the character of a superfluous one, or as not better adapted, or as less fit than some other which presents itself at the same time,—he, in consequence, according to the nature of the case, leaves it, or throws it out,—forbears to employ it, or excludes it.
And so in the instance of the several other desirable qualities.*
By what Hands, and in what way Improvements in Language are capable of being effected, or promoted.
Individual and simple practice, individual instruction, free association, government authority,—by these several expressions, so many different hands by which, or so many modes in which, improvement, in this field, is capable of being effected or promoted, may be brought to view.†
In so far as in the nature of the case, improvement is capable of being introduced into language by practice,—by mere individual practice,—any individual may, with more or less prospect of success, take his chance for introducing it.
And by what means? Answer,—By clothing the discourse employed by him on each individual occasion, with all the several properties desirable on the part of human discourse; regard being had to the particular occasion on which it is so employed; these several properties being such as are subservient and contributory, to the several ends in view, for which, on the individual occasion in question, language is employed.
If, of these same properties, the above enumeration is complete, then so it is that, of every alteration held up in the character of an improvement, the effect, if that character does in any way belong to it, will be to invest it with those same properties, one or more.
In England, we hear of this or that man, operating in his individual capacity, having made improvements in language. We hear of Voltaire, of Junius, of Burke, of Johnson, of Goldsmith, as having given force to, or put a polish upon, the language of their respective countries.
Now, in what way can these men, any one of them, have made any improvement in the language?—that is to say, in the language employed by other persons, one or more or all? Answer,—Voltaire, &c., writes, other persons in number and proportion, more or less considerable, write, on this or that subject; with or without thinking that they are endeavouring to imitate him, they endeavour to write in the same or a similar manner.
Externally applied Instruments of Improvement.
External instruments of improvement for augmentation of the usefulness of the several desirable properties of language, are—
I. For abbreviation of the signs; thence saving in the labour employed in forming, and thereby making use of them.
1. Short-hand applicable and applied to all subjects.
2. Alegomorphic abbreviation,—viz. 1. Figures instead of letter-press; 2. Algebraic characters instead of figures.
II. For diffusion, or say, giving increase to the number of the persons capable of receiving participation in the benefit.
1. Instruments whereby increase is given to the diffusion of audible and evanescent signs:—1. Stentorophic tubes; 2. Pipes, such as those employed in the conveyance of water and gas; 3. Cannon—for, to a limited degree, neither are these hostile instruments altogether incapable of being applied to a peaceable and useful purpose.
2. Diffusion by means of signs visible and permanent, independent of conveyance:—1. Letter-press substituted to manuscript; 2. Manifold mode of writing; 3. Means of presenting to the view of a speaker or writer the words he has need of,—Synonymation, as in the Gradus ad Parnassum; 4. Dictionaries, whereby of the idea expressed in this or that language, corresponding equivalents are presented in this or that other language.
3. Diffusion by means of conveyance:—1. Letter-post; 2. Telegraphs, diurnal and nocturnal.
III. Durability—increase given to.
Instruments of durability are engravings in stone or metal.
Rules for Clearness, i. e. the Avoidance of Ambiguity, Obscurity, and Debility, so far as depends upon the choice of Words taken singly.‡
Rule I. When the language affords a word appropriated exclusively to the expression of the import which alone it is your intention to express, avoid employing any word which is alike applicable to the expressing of that import, and a different one which may require to be distinguished from it.
Examples:—Substantives, adjectives, adverbs,—in the instance of all these parts of speech, frequent breaches of this rule may be found.
I. Substantives.—1. The word taste employed instead of the word relish. To relish a thing is to taste it with pleasure. Do you relish this peach? In this question there is no ambiguity, not even for a moment. But instead of this, oftentimes we find,—Do you taste this peach? and so in the case of almost any other source of pleasure; for example, a poem, a sonata, a building, a landscape.
In the French language, there exists no appropriate word by which pleasure is represented as an accompaniment of the perception indicated; no word expressive of, I taste with pleasure. Gouter is to taste, and for, to relish, there is again this word, and no other. In French, therefore, this imperfection, this ambiguity and inadequacy, this incompleteness, and consequent incorrectness of expression, is the result of necessity. In the word taste, when employed instead of the word relish, this imperfection is needlessly and inelegantly copied. Why? Answer,—from affectation and vain glory, to give the hearer or reader to understand that the speaker or writer is so well acquainted with that foreign language, that it is more readily present to his memory than his own language.
II. Adjectives.—Either employed instead of each. To the word either belongs an exclusive signification, which belongs not to the word each. Where the idea of exclusion is not intended to be conveyed, how slovenly and absurd is it not to employ a word by which the exclusion is expressed? Yet of negligence in this shape, examples are continually occurring.
Poetry is the species of composition in which it is most frequent. There it has its excuse,—1. In cases where the monosyllable each would not, so it may be that the dissyllable either will suit the measure. 2. In poetry, distinctness is less requisite than in prose. A uniform distinctness would even be incompatible with the nature of the composition, and fatal to the design of it. To produce and keep up in the mind, confusion, so it be but accompanied with pleasure, is an object not of aversion, but of endeavour and study.
To affectation may the sin against propriety be imputed in this case, as well as in the last preceding one.
In saying taste, when he means relish, a man pleases himself with the thought of showing how familiarly he is acquainted with the language of France.
In saying either, when he means each, a man pleases himself with the thought of showing how familiarly he is acquainted with the language of poetry.
Affectation the genus, pedantry the species; formerly the dress most frequently worn by pedantry was Greek and Latin; latterly, it is French and poetry.
To the ambiguity attached to this impropriety, one circumstance alone operates in some measure as a palliative. If so it be, that for predicating what you meant to predicate alike of two things, A and B, the word you have employed is a word by which one of them is excluded: conceive the word repeated, then, one after the other, they are both of them comprised. First introduce A without B, then introduce B without A,—both of them are introduced; but how much better would it not be if, without any such unintended exclusion, both were introduced at once.
All, every, each, either,—these collective adjectives are none of them absolutely incapable of being employed for and instead of any of the rest; but they have each of them its appropriate and most proper sense.
Thus it is throughout, in regard to words which with reference to one another, in common acceptance and discourse, pass for synonyms. Take any two of them; by neither, perhaps, is exactly the same idea expressed as is expressed by the other. In many instances, however, so it is that without impropriety, and without inconvenience, one of them, perhaps either may be employed instead of the other.
III. The word future employed instead of the word subsequent. Future and subsequent are both of them names of relations, terms of reference. By each of them, two portions of time, an antecedent and a consequent, are brought to view. By the term subsequent, the point of time brought to view in the character of an antecedent, is that which, with reference to the state of things or transaction spoken of, was present; this alone, and not the time at which that same state of things or transaction, is spoken of. Thus stands the matter, in so far as concerns the word subsequent. In the use of it nothing of ambiguity is to be found.
Now as to the term future; but for the context,—from which, upon reflection, it may be concluded that the time from which the futurity is reckoned, was the time when the state of things or transaction spoken of was present,—that time would always be the time in which the discourse, if oral, was spoken, if in writing, was written.
From the promiscuous use made of these two words, suited to very different purposes, confusion and absurdity are continually arising.
IV. Restrictives, such as alone and only. By these words, what is constantly understood is, that the purpose for which they are employed is the narrowing the import of some word or other to which they are respectively annexed; that which in many cases cannot be collected but from the context, nor from the context without some difficulty, is, to which, of all the words in the sentence, the restriction is meant to be applied.
1. Substantive in the nominative case, (i. e. name of the agent.) 2. Adjective agreeing with do., (i. e. quality ascribed to the agent.) 3. Verb. 4. Substantive in the accusative case, name of the patient. 5. Adjective, agreeing with do., (i. e. quality of the patient.) 6. Adverb, in the character of the name of a quality, of a quality annexed to one or other of the adjectives or to the verb; frequently to any one of these, with more or less propriety, may the restriction be considered as applicable.
In English, what thickens the confusion is, the indeterminate character of the restrictives, alone and only. Each of them is employed sometimes in the character of an adjective, sometimes in the character of an adverb; to exhibit the different cases in which each, in contradiction to the other, is most proper, would of itself be a task of no inconsiderable length.
Required to exhibit so many forms, by means of which in the several cases, where the restriction is meant to be applied exclusively to the objects respectively signified by several parts of speech, it may in such sort be applied to these several subjects, that no misapplication whatsoever, howsoever transient and momentary, can take place.
To solve this problem would be a task of no inconsiderable length and labour,—but at the same time, of no inconsiderable use.
If of the words alone, and only, the one were always an adjective, the other always an adverb, the difficulty of the task would be much less than it is; but, unfortunately, as has been just observed, no such constant distinction has place.
V. Ordinals: more especially the word first.
Of the aptitude of this term to involve in ambiguity the import of the sentence in which it is employed, the causes are of the same nature in this instance, as in that of the restrictives, alone and only, viz.—
1. Uncertainty of the part of speech, and thence of the subject, to which the attributive is meant to be applied.
2. Uncertainty in regard to the part of speech to which it is meant to be considered as belonging, viz. whether an adjective or an adverb.
Example of the mode in which the ambiguity may be avoided.
1. Ambiguous expression.—Columbus first saw Hispaniola.
2. Correspondent pair of sentences, by which the existence of the ambiguity, and at the same time, the mode of avoiding it, are indicated.
(1.) Columbus was the first person who ever saw Hispaniola.
(2.) Of the islands now called the West India Islands, Hispaniola was the first that Columbus discovered.
The plural number is, in a particular degree, liable to be productive of perplexity and misstatement.
Rule II. For remedy, substitute the singular to the plural number where substitutable without impropriety; and by one means or other it may generally be so substituted.
Rule III. Unless for special reason, by whatsoever name an object has once been designated, by that same name and no other, continue to designate it, or if, on any account, you find it matter of necessity or convenience to employ for that purpose this or that other name, take care to give notice of the change.
Eadem natura, eadem nomenclatura.
Converse of the above Rule.—Whatsoever be the object, for the designation of which a given word has been employed, employ not that same word for the designation of any other object; unless so it be, that the word being a generic one, on the first occasion it was employed for the designation of the whole genus or of one species; on the other occasion, for the designation of another species of the same genus.
Rule IV. Prefer verbal substantives to verbs.
Numerous are the instances in which, for the giving expression to the import in question, a single word in the form of a verb, may in some sort suffice, and is frequently made to suffice; and a verbal noun from the same root, with the addition of some verb of extensive sign, and proportionally frequent use may also serve; as when, instead of to apply, the phrase to make application is used. From this substitution convenience is frequently found to result.
The noun from the same root is commonly a verbal noun; a verbal noun of that sort, which serves to designate, in the first place, the species of action, for the designation of which, the verb, including all the several adjuncts and modifications* belonging to that complex part of speech is used; and thence, by an almost imperceptible transition, the state of things produced by that same act.
This verbal noun, when thus obtained in a state of separation from these adjuncts, which, form so many parts in the composition of the very complex part of speech called a verb, and which in this its separate state, becomes the name of a sort of fictitious entity, of a sort of fictitious body or substance, is, in this state, rendered more prehensible. Being thus prehensible, it is more easily, and thence, directly brought to view, and being thus brought to view, it is capable of being employed as a common subject to any number whatsoever of propositions that may be requisite for predicating, whatsoever the nature of the case requires to be predicated, of the sort of act in question, or of its result.
By means of a few verbs of extensive import, such as the above word make, capable of serving, as it were, in an auxiliary character, introduction may, in most cases, be given by each of them to a large number of names of fictitious entities, and the advantage in question compassed to the utmost extent, of which it is susceptible.
When a characteristic verb, thus capable of being resolved, into a correspondently characteristic verbal noun-substantive and an uncharacteristic auxiliary verb, has been employed, a practice not unfrequent is, to follow it by some relative which has for its antecedent the verbal noun, the import of which is implied in that of the characteristic verb; subjoining, or not subjoining, to it the antecedent noun thus implied.
Example 1. The implied antecedent brought to view as if repeated.
If you would gain the populace, upon every favourable occasion apply yourself to their senses; this application will do more for you than the closest train of reasoning.
2. The implied antecedent not brought to view, but only tacitly and implicitly referred to.
If you would gain the populace, apply yourself upon every favourable occasion to their senses; this will do more for you than the closest train of reasoning.
If the verbal noun, the name of the fictitious entity, have, in a preceding sentence, been expressly brought to view, the repetition of it in the succeeding sentence, will have the good effect of reviving and strengthening the first impression. On the other hand, insert the verbal noun in the succeeding sentence, without having inserted it in the first, the consequence is that, in this way of speaking, a sort of false intimation is conveyed,—an intimation, that the verbal noun employed in the succeeding sentence, had already been employed in the preceding one.
Leave the verbal noun altogether uninserted, the result is still more awkward. “This will do so and so;” what is it that will do so and so? To this question no answer being given by the writer, the reader is left to hunt for one.
Rule V.—When, for the designation of the idea in question, no other appellative is in use but one which is tainted with ambiguity, presenting in conjunction with the idea required, another which is different from it, and which, on pain of being led into error by it, must be distinguished from it, or say, seen to be different from it,—substitute another word which is free from all ambiguity, presenting to view no idea other than that which is wished and endeavoured to be presented by it.
Example gathered from the field of penal law.—To acts considered as having been taken for the subjects of prohibition, is universally applied the appellation of offence. But when in regard to these acts, the desire is, to present to view the quality, or say, property, on account of which they have been constituted, or it is in contemplation to constitute them, offences; for conveying this idea, no other word is in use than this same word offence. By law the act is made an offence,—and why? Answer.—Because in its own nature it is an offence. Generally speaking, the idea, which in this case is associated with the word offence, is that of maleficence, that is to say, the property which the act, to which this appellative is attached, has, or is supposed to have, of making a defalcation more or less considerable, from the aggregate happiness of the community. In so far as the greatest happiness principle is the ruling principle, on no other ground can any species of act be taken in hand by the legislator, and by prohibition and eventual punishment, constituted an offence.
This ambiguity, it has seemed to me, matter of high importance to remove. Accordingly, continuing to employ the term offence, for designating the fact of the act having been taken for the subject of prohibition,—for the purpose of bringing to view the quality, in consideration of which it was my desire to see it thus dealt with, I employed the word maleficence; giving to the act in which this quality was beholden by me, the appellation of a maleficent act.
Once having become sensible of the need there was of a word for this purpose, and having accordingly formed the determination of being on the look-out for such an one, I soon found that I had not far to look: beneficent, beneficence, were words already not only in the language but in every mouth; in the language (the Latin) from which they were derived, correspondent and opposite to them I saw the words maleficent and maleficence.
Thenceforward, instead of not knowing what to say, unless it were in a roundabout way, or saying, this act is an offence, and therefore ought to be made an offence, it has been my custom to say the sort of act thus described is a maleficent act, and that in such sort and to such an amount, that by apt prohibition, backed by apt eventual suffering, it ought to be constituted an offence.
Rules for Clearness, and thence for Impressiveness, so far as depends upon Collocation.
Rule I. Wheresoever it is of importance that two objects be distinguished from each other, be careful so to order the expression as to render the distinction between them as clear, i. e. the contrast between them as strong, as may be.
Rule II.—When the two objects belong to the same scale, the difference between them is in degree, and in degree only. In that case, what is to be endeavoured at is, that that which is considered as entitled to stand at the higher degree, shall not be placed at any lower degree, that which ought to stand at the lower degree not at any higher degree, so that the difference of degree may be correctly indicated.
Rule III.—When the objects belong to the same scale, placing in the situation of contradictory propositions the two propositions whereby they are spoken of, does not place the differences between them in so strong or in so clear a point of view as that in which they would be placed by an indication of the degrees which they respectively occupy. Milled corn is not cold; ice is cold. By these expressions, how feebly and inadequately the difference in temperature between the two bodies is represented, is sufficiently manifest.
Rule IV.—When contrast is meant to be exhibited, keep to the same words throughout, till you come to those by which the contrast is meant to be exhibited.
Rule V.—For impressiveness, put not the names of two leading objects in one sentence, unless when they are under the same regime. One thing at a time.
Rule VI.—Of that idea which is the principal one, and to which in the sentence in question the purpose requires that the attention should be principally attached, put the sign in the first place, or as near the first place as the state of the grammatical relation will admit.
An inconvenience attendant on this mode of collocation is, that it will seldom be that which would be pursued, or without presenting the idea of affectation could be pursued, in oral discourse. It is on this account with reference to the most usual order of discourse, termed inversion.
But the reasons which perhaps would render this mode of collocation difficult and unusual, and thence unpleasant, in oral discourse, do not apply, at least with equal force to written; since in this case for marshalling his words in such sort as to him seems best, a man may then take whatever time is necessary.
Rule VII.—Use antecedent modifications. 1. They prevent instead of correcting misconception. 2. They excite the collateral idea of self-command on the part of the speaker or writer. This is the, or a, reason why I find it not pleasant to begin a sentence with a nominative case.
Rule VIII.—Every clause not expressly ampliative is restrictive.
Rule IX.—When in relation to the clause in question, having the effect of a limitative, ampliative, or in any other way modificative, clause, your intention is that the import of it shall be understood as applying exclusively to some one, to the exclusion of one or more other clauses, the nature of the case affords two expedients, either of which will suffice for insuring the production of the desired effect.
1. It is only in one case that the first of them applies; and that is, when the clause to which it is intended that the modification should be considered as applied, is that which it is intended should stand before any of the others to which it would be capable of being applied. In this case put the modificative clause before the clause intended to be modified; and in this way modificative clauses in any number may be made to precede, and by that means exclusively attach upon one and the same modificand.
2. The other expedient is applicable to all sorts of cases. It consists in inserting the modificative clause within the modificand. By this means it is to this modifiable clause to the exclusion of all other modifiable clauses, that it will be found applicable.
In the wording of acts of Parliament, and indeed in discourses in general, this expedient is pretty generally employed, and that with manifest good effect.
Rule X.—Between an antecedent substantive and its relative, be careful not to interpose any word, capable of being, though it be but for a moment, understood as meant to be taken for the antecedent of that same relative.
Rule XI.—The list of topics given, treat them in the same order,—change not the order.
Rule XII.—When of two or more ideas brought to view in the course of the same proposition, sentence, or clause, there is some one to which, whether to the exclusion of, or in preference to, the rest, it is your wish that for the purpose of its being impressed into his mind with a pre-eminent degree of force, the attention of the hearer or reader, to the end that he may take particular cognizance of it, should be pointed, contrive so to turn the phrase, as that the word or words designative of that idea, shall occupy the front of the sentence.
Example.—Say, “When it is by word of mouth that the communication is made;”—rather than, “When the communication is made by word of mouth.”
In the latter form, the attention is divided between the consideration of the general fact of the making the communication in question, and that of the particular mode in which that operation is proposed to be performed, and by this division, the impression made by the words indicative of the particular mode is more or less weakened,—in the first form, the attention is without division fastened at once upon the only one of the two objects to which on the particular occasion in question it was meant to attach it; the attention is pointed to one of the two objects in preference to the other at least, if not to the exclusion of it.
Rule XIII.—Place not in a strong light,—place not in an impressive point of view, two propositions,—two clauses in the same sentence.
For example,—a principal clause and a clause which is employed to modify it,—or say a modificative clause.
Reason.—When upon the same level in the scale of importance, two objects are thus placed at the same time, the consequence is, that between the one and the other the attention is distracted; it takes not a sufficient hold of either of them. Present them to the mind one after another, it grasps them with its undivided force.
Rules for Correctness and Completeness.
Rule I.—Correctness.—The more extensively general the terms you have occasion to employ, be the more careful in examining the species contained under the generic appellation employed, and in considering whether that, whatever it be, which you predicate of the genus, is with truth predicable of these several species.
Rule II.—Completeness, or say comprehensiveness.—When on the occasion of any sort of operation which is productive of beneficial effects when performed in relation to a certain species of subject matters, look round for the several genera within which the species in question is contained, and consider whether with correspondent beneficial effects the same operation may not be performed upon the other species contained in that same genus, all or some of them.
So as to objects analagous to the one in question, without being congeners to it. By this means are inventions produced.
Of the Improvement of Language in respect of Copiousness.
General Rule.—Exceptions excepted, the more copious a language the better. New words and new combinations, to one or other of these heads may every improvement of which language is susceptible in respect of copiousness be referred.
In whichsoever mode any addition is made to the pre-existing state of instruments of discourse, the addition is primâ facie, and, saving particular exceptions entitled to be set down to the account of improvement.
Particular reasons apart, for the same reason that the first word that was ever invented was an addition to the stock of instruments of enjoyment and security; in a word, to the instruments of wellbeing, so has every other been, and so will every other be.
On this head, therefore, the general rule is, The more copious a language is, the better,—the better adapted to the purposes of language.
But to this general rule particular exceptions are not wanting. As to the grounds of these exceptions, and thence as to the rules in cases of exception that have place under this general rule, their place will be found under the head of the next-mentioned article upon the list of qualities desirable in language, viz. simplicity.*
Generally speaking, there exists in language a natural tendency to improve itself, or, to speak strictly, to become improved in respect of this desirable quality. The same causes, by the operation of which the earliest and scantiest stock of the instruments of thought and conversation were produced, continue in action, and will continue in action, without end. Observation, experiment, experience, reflection, discovery, invention: all these are so many seeds of language, seeds from which new additions to the stock of words and combinations in every language are continually springing up.
As there exist cases in which the alteration made in language by increase given to the number of words, and combinations of words, of which it is composed, cannot, with propriety, be set down to the account of advantage, so are there cases in which, though the addition, if made, is or would be of an advantageous nature, yet, the addition finds the introduction of it opposed, by various springs of human action, by various principles of human nature.
Indigenous weakness, viz. in the intellectual faculty, sinister interest, interest-begotten prejudice, adoptive prejudice; in this part of the field of action, as in every other, will human felicity find these its enemies set in array against it, and opposing its progress at every step; while, in so far as the mode of enrichment is unserviceable in any instance, the interests of all mankind are opposed to it.
Modes of Enrichment.
On the occasion of the explanation of the modes in which a language is capable of being enriched, two objects require to be considered, viz. 1. The source from which the addition is derived; 2. The mode in which it is made.
Say enrichment ab intra, or home-drawn, in so far as the addition is drawn from the same language,—ab extra, in so far as it is drawn from any foreign language.
Simple modes of enrichment are,
1. Indication of particular properties as applied to a given genus—as expressed by a generic name of any degree of amplitude. Examples of this mode of enrichment are afforded by the several branches of Natural History and Natural Philosophy.
2. Spiritualization or psychologization, in so far as of any name of any physical substance, operation or quality, application is made to the purpose of giving designation to any correspondent, or supposed correspondent, psychological substance, operation, or quality; the psychological object being modelled from the physical archetype, as a bust in clay from any part of the human figure.
3. Formation of new words on the ground of analogy. Example—from beneficence, maleficence; from beneficial, maleficial.
4. By composition. The composite mode in which enrichment is performed, is per inequalitatem, the words conjoined being in their import of unequal importance with relation to each other, the one may be considered as the principal, the other as being, with relation to it, the accessory word.
In this case, let the number of words thus related and entering into the composition of the compound word be supposed to be no more than two, the place of the accessory word will either be anterior or posterior to the principal; if anterior, it may be termed, with relation to it, a prefix,—if posterior, it has been called, in Latin, a suffix.
Where the mode of enrichment is by composition, it may be distinguished into:
(1.) Composition by simple aggregation, or agglutination, or coalition, viz. without change in the signification of either of the two constituent elements, and without the need of supposing the addition of any other word as necessary to complete the sense. Of this sort is that which has place between a subject in the grammatical form of a substantire, and the name of an epithet or adjunct in the grammatical form of an adjective, as in the case of the words vain-glory, fee-simple, plaindealing.
(2.) By aggregation with ellipses. Examples, 1. Churchyard, i. e. yard of the church: words omitted by ellipses, of and the. 2. Foot-ball, ball for the foot to play with by kicking it. 3. Mother-country, country which was as it were a mother to the person or persons in question.
5. By importation of words from other languages, dead or living.
6. By addition to, not to say completion of, each set of conjugates. A noun, taken in its several cases and numbers; a verb, taken in its several moods, tenses, numbers, and persons. These aggregates may be considered as so many grammatical conjugates. By the term logical conjugate, may be designated the aggregate of these same aggregates,—the whole stock of the aggregates capable of being formed of those aggregates.
In the Greek and Latin Lexicon, or, say Dictionary, of Scapula, may be seen the several lists, of logical conjugates made to grow out of the same root; say, out of some noun-substantive, taken in hand and considered as a root. Of the several branches, or, say ramifications, thus seen growing out of one and the same root, each one is expressive of an idea bearing a determinate relation to the idea designated by that same root.
Importation of Words from Foreign Languages, dead and living—its Advantages and Disadvantages.
There exists not that state in life, be it ever so humble, in which a man’s wellbeing is not, in some shape or other, in some degree or other more or less dependent on the acquaintance he has with his own language,—of the language in which he not only converses but thinks. Language being not merely the instrument of discourse but, moreover, the instrument of thought, the stock of a man’s ideas is limited and determined by the stock of the words which he finds at his command for giving expression to those ideas.
In every language, words are found in clusters growing out of the same root. Whatsoever be the cluster to which the word in question belongs, the comprehension a man has of its import is comparatively imperfect, if it include not a more or less general acquaintance with the whole cluster to which it belongs. In the stock of words of which the English language is composed, a very considerable, not to say the largest, portion, are borrowed from some one or other of several foreign languages, in some instances at a very early date, in others at different points of time from the remotest down to the most recent. In some instances these words so borrowed were transplanted in a single state, in others in large clusters, in others in smaller clusters, which, after transplantation, have gradually grown into larger ones.
When a word has thus been transplanted and naturalised in a single state, the conception entertained of its import by persons altogether unacquainted with the cluster to which it belonged in the language from which it was borrowed, is always very obscure and imperfect in comparison with that which he has of a word which forms one of a cluster, more or less complete, originally of the growth of his own language, or fully rooted and naturalised in it.
These languages are some of them of a northern, some of them of a southern origin; of the northern, the one principally borrowed from is the German; of the southern, the French. Among ancient languages, those principally borrowed from are the Latin and Greek. The Latin being the language from which the French has borrowed a great part, perhaps the largest part, of its words; hence in the instance of many words of Latin origin, it remains a question whether the word was derived from the Latin immediately, or remotely, through the medium of the French. The Greek being the language of the writers from whom the first crude notions respecting most of the arts and sciences were derived to us; hence the appropriate terms, expressive of the subject-matters and operations belonging to those several branches of art and science, have in a large proportion been borrowed from that language. Even when the subject-matter, instrument, or operation, is itself new, a convenience is found, on several accounts, in taking its name from a foreign language, more especially from the Greek, rather than from our own.
For characterizing an object which not only is new, but is designed to be presented as such, a word as plainly new as the object itself is meant to be represented as being, is much more convenient than any old word taken from the old-established stock of words belonging to the language; for when any such old-established word is taken and thus employed, it comes with the whole of its original import adhering to it; and the consequence is that it presents to the mind instantly and to a certainty, a multitude of old ideas which on the new occasion it is not intended to present; and this in the most perfect manner, while it is only in a manner comparatively imperfect that it presents the new idea which it is intended to present.
Borrow the word from a foreign language, and that a dead one, from the Greek, for example, this confusion is avoided. Let but the reader have once succeeded in his endeavours to establish an adequately constant association between the new idea you mean to impress upon his mind, and the new-coined or imported word employed by you for expressing that idea, (for which purpose, in the first instance, an explanation, more or less particular, will, to persons unacquainted with the language so borrowed from, be always necessary,) thenceforward, as often as the new word is presented to his mind, the idea which it brings with it will be the very idea which it is your desire it should present; that and no other, that idea alone, unaccompanied by, and unclogged with, any other. By the very description of it thus given, this mode of proceeding, it is however evident, has its difficulties, and thereby its inconvenience.
The difficulty consists in getting men to give themselves the trouble of establishing this association; whereas, when the language from which the word is taken is a man’s own language, the association, such as it is, is already formed; and howsoever clumsy the new appellative appears, and howsoever troublesome the cluster of collateral and (with reference to the purpose in question) irrelevant ideas it stands associated with, and however confused and inadequate the import is which it has the effect of presenting, still it can scarcely fail of bringing to view an import having some similarity to the one which it is intended to present; whereas, if it be a word of altogether foreign original, no other word of the cluster it belongs to being presented to the mind of the person in question, the necessary result is that, if the explanation attached to it has either never been received into the mind, or, after having been so received, has dropped out, the word is so much unmeaning sound, not presenting any the faintest intimation of the import which it is intended to present.
[† ] See chapter v.
[* ] There is here a notandum, “go on bringing them to view in the same manner.”—Ed.
[† ] With the exception of a sentence or two on instruction, merely initiatory, individual practice is the only one of these that has been found discussed in the MSS.—Ed.
[‡ ] For further remarks by the author on the subjects embraced in this and the succeeding section, see Nemography, in vol. iii. p. 233, et seq.
[* ] Viz. The adjuncts designative of the time of an action, the number of the person or persons concerned in it, and the point of view in which in respect of certainty, the act in question was contemplated.
[* ] See above p. 310, and note † attached to it.