Front Page Titles (by Subject) INTRODUCTION. - 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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INTRODUCTION. - 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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You to whom, in comparison with the whole number of existing languages, but a very small number, at the utmost, of this whole can be, in any degree, known,—on what ground is it that you can undertake to give an account of Universal Grammar; that is, of the Grammar of all languages whatsoever?
Answer,—In a great degree, in respect of the character and mutual relations of the parts of speech—viz. of those classes of words of which language is everywhere composed,—the articles of which the subject of grammar is composed, as to which all languages cannot but agree: the demand, in that respect, being everywhere, to a certain degree, the same, the nature of the supply cannot fail also to be everywhere, in a great degree, the same.
When, in relation to these points of necessary and universal agreement, the connexion between the demand and the supply, between thought and the signs employed for the communication of thought, are brought to view, the points of possible difference will be found to lie within a compass comparatively narrow.
Under this identity of the demand, the greatest difference which, in regard to the texture of the supply, can possibly have place, will be found to be exemplified by a distinction which will here be brought to view,—viz. that between the sparingly and the copiously inflected languages,—and for the developing of this difference, the limited number of languages which, in the best informed parts of the world, are included within the ordinary compass of a liberal education, will be found to be amply sufficient.
Under these circumstances, whatsoever degree of diversity can have place, as between any language not included in the survey taken for this purpose, and those which have been included in it, such and so numerous will be found to be the points of necessary identity, as to form all together a ground or standard of comparison and reference, to which any language whatsoever, how numerous and various and widely distant soever its points of diversity with relation to the aggregate standard so formed may be referred; and, in this way, it is believed, such will be found to be the nature of the case, that, among those languages which have not, in any degree, been included in the survey taken for the present purpose, scarcely will any one be found to which the sketch here given,—supposing it applicable, with advantage, to those languages which have been included in the survey,—will not be found applicable with little, if any less, advantage, than even to the language in which this sketch is penned.
Absolute and relative—in the nature and properties of every object may these two branches be observed.
In the case of language in particular, to the absolute nature of each tongue or language belongs all those particulars, for the conception of which it is not necessary to keep in view any other tongue or language; to its relative nature, the points of agreement and disagreement, identity and diversity, similitude and dissimilitude, observable on comparison made of it with other languages.
For the attainment of the most clear, correct, and complete conception that can be attained of the points of similitude and dissimilitude, as between one language and another, there are no means so effectual as a view taken of the ends or purposes of language in general, with the addition of a view taken of the different degrees of success with which different courses are respectively taken by them towards the attainment of those ends.
The language in which, for the purpose of giving expression to the several modifications of import of which words are capable, no use whatever is made of inflection, in which, for the giving expression to all these several diversifications of import, no other instrument is employed than that of distinct addition, would not (it is believed) be found.
But some languages there are in which, on comparison with others, the use made of inflection is extremely small. These may be termed sparingly inflected languages; the others, copiously inflected languages.
Between sparingness and copiousness, taken according to the common acceptation of the terms, no naturally determinate line of separation would be to be found. But, in their application to language, to the several known languages, so wide and conspicuous, in every instance, will the difference be found, that, in the particular case here in question, no ambiguity will be found to be produced by that want of determinateness by which it might, in some cases, be produced.
From this distinction, between sparingly inflectedness and copiously inflectedness, as applied to language, a variety of results have been found deducible; most, if not all of them, such, that, in a practical point of view, the importance of them, if correct, will, it is believed, be generally and readily recognised.
In the character of propositions to be proved, they will now immediately be presented to view: what has presented itself as necessary in the shape of explanation and proof, will successively come to view as we advance.
In the field of universal grammar, four objects, or topics, present a principal claim to notice, viz:—
1. The uses or properties to which language has been, or is capable of being, rendered subservient.
2. The properties which, in the character of properties conducive to these purposes, are desirable on the part of a language; in a word, in the instance of every language.
3. The degrees in which, by the several known languages, in so far as they are known, these properties may be seen to be possessed.
4. The properties which, according to the occasion on which the language, whatsoever it be which is in question, is employed, are desirable on the part of the style, i. e. the language of an individual by whom, on that occasion it is employed.
I. The purposes to which language may be applied are 1, social, or principal; 2, solitary, or secondary.
II. The properties which, for all purposes taken together, are desirable on the part of language at large, i. e. as far as may be, in every language, will, it is believed, be found to be as follows:—1. Clearness, or perspicacity; 2. Correctness; 3. Copiousness, or comprehensiveness; 4. Completeness; 5. Non-redundance; 6. Conciseness, or compressedness; 7. Pronunciability, i. e. facility of pronunciation; 8. Melodiousness; 9. Discibility, i. e. facility of being learned; 10. Docibility; 11. Meliorability; 12. Ornability, i. e. facility of being made subservient to the purpose of ornament; 13. Impressiveness; 14. Dignity; 15. Patheticalness.*
Of the above-mentioned fifteen properties, the five first, regard being had to the difference in the degrees in which different languages are respectively susceptible of them, are, beyond comparison, the most important.
III. In respect of all these five properties, the sparingly inflected languages have, in a prodigious degree, the advantage over the copiously inflected languages.
By means of the sparingly inflected languages alone, and not by any of the copiously inflected languages, can the fundamental principle of universal grammar (and the nature of language in general) including the relation and correspondency between the nature of the thoughts requiring to be expressed and the nature of the signs capable of being employed for the expression of them, have been developed with that clearness of which they are susceptible.
To the class of copiously inflected languages, belong the ancient Greek, the ancient Latin, and the modern languages of the continent of Europe, of which, from those two, but most immediately from the Latin, the structure has been derived.
Of all known languages, the English is that which is most sparingly inflected.
Of all known languages, the English is accordingly that in which, in the highest degree, taken in the aggregate, the most important of the properties desirable in every language are to be found.
In particular, in a higher degree than any other, is the English language adapted for the purpose of a treatise on universal grammar, in which the essential characters of all language, and the fundamental principles of all grammar are intended to be brought to view.
In so inferior a degree are the copiously inflected languages, and, in particular, the Greek and Latin adapted to the purpose of being employed as instruments for the explanation of the principles of universal grammar, that it may be doubted whether, by any person unacquainted with any other than those languages respectively, a clear conception of the nature of language in general, and of the principles of universal grammar could have been conveyed or formed.
IV. By means of the lights afforded principally by this distinction between the sparingly inflected and the copiously inflected languages, and, in particular, by that enumeration by which it has been suggested, or, at least, accompanied, viz. the list of the properties desirable in language, observations may be suggested by which not only the attainment of the maximum of perfection in the style of each individual, on each occasion, may be facilitated, but the improvement of the whole body of the particular language which they respectively employ, may be placed in some degree within the reach of individuals.
For the purpose of conveying as early as possible a conception of the design and principal results of this essay, a distinction that has been observed, as between language and language, in relation to the parts of speech, must in this place be brought to view.
Essentially diversified, and not essentially diversified. Under one or other of these two heads will every one of them be found capable of being arranged.
Those which are essentially diversified, are those which are at the same time expressive of some one principal idea or import, and of some one or more accessory ideas, of which, according to the nature of the discourse, one or more are constantly and inseparably annexed to that principal one.
These will be seen to be, 1. The noun-substantive; 2. The verb called by grammarians the verb-substantive, the verb in its utmost degree of simplicity, the pure and simple verb, the sign of relative existence.
Necessarily attached to the principal idea, in the instance of the noun-substantive, there is but one accessory idea, and that is that of number. The objects meant to be brought to view by the word in question are meant to be represented either as one only, or as more than one, and in one of those two cases they cannot but be presented to view.
Necessarily attached to the principal idea in the instance of the verb, are the diversifications of which time is susceptible, and the ideas of absoluteness and conditionality, one or other of which is the inseparable accompaniment of every conception that can be formed on the subject of existence, considered as the attribute of the matter of fact, the idea of which is, by the portion of discourse in question, presented to the mind.
Considered with reference to time, as applied to the signs of existence in the case in question, the verb is said to present itself to view in different tenses.
Considered with reference to absoluteness and conditionality, it is said to present itself to view in different moods.
It will be shown presently how the imports of all the other parts of speech are resolvable into the import of these two, viz. the noun-substantive, and the verb-substantive, viz. as well those which in certain languages, though not of necessity, are in fact diversified, as those of which no diversifications are to be found in any language.
It will be seen presently how it is that the noun-adjective contains not any necessarily distinct diversification, its only diversifications being those of the noun-substantive, to which it makes reference.
It will also be seen how it is that, in addition to those just mentioned, the verb-substantive requires not any diversification.
It will moreover be seen that the import of any other verb than the verb-substantive admits not of any diversification other than those which belong to the verb-substantive, insomuch as the import of every verb, other than a verb-substantive, is resolvable into the import of the verb-substantive, added to the import of a noun-adjective.
And farther on will be explained the mode in which the import of the preposition, conjunction, and adverb, is resolvable into that of the noun-substantive, noun-adjective, and verb, one, two, or all of them.
For giving expression to the above-mentioned diversifications, the authors of language have had the choice of two modes. One is by the addition of so many separate words allotted to that purpose. The other is by some change in the letters of which the sign of the principal idea, or import, is composed. Say, in the first case, by detached signs, or, more strictly, though less clearly, by distinct addition. Say, in the other case, by modification, or, to employ the word already in common use, by inflection.
Of the ideas here hazarded, should they in any instance be deemed new, if they are at the same time regarded as correct and just, in that case, it is not from their novelty that any consideration can justly be deducible tending to forbid their being presented to view; in the idea of improvement, that of novelty is essentially an ingredient. Among such new ideas as have been ventured to be submitted to the public eye, the endeavour to render a thorough acquaintance with the whole nature and mechanism of language more general than it is, has never been lost sight of.
[* ] See these treated at length in the immediately preceding Tract on Language, where several of the other matters casually noticed in this Introduction are enlarged on.—Ed.