The conventional English alphabet along with those of the Romance languages is known as the Latinate alphabet, because its origins are in ancient Latin. Many Latin terms survive in day-to-day English language, especially related to business, technical definitions, law, science, etc. The leet word for leet is I Most words in dictionaries tend to be lexemes.
Examples of lexeme forms are run, smile, give, boy, child, blond; whereas inflections of these lexemes include for example: In informal and recent use however late s onwards , the term 'literally' is used widely and arguably very incorrectly to express precisely the opposite, i. In this respect the term is potentially highly confusing, since the term 'literally' may mean in common use either that something is completely factual and true, or instead that something is highly exaggerated or distorted.
The term 'literally' is perhaps prone to confusion given the similar words 'literature' and 'literary', whose meaning quite correctly encompasses symbolic and figurative writing in books, poetry, plays, etc. Whatever, the original technical meaning derives from the Latin equivalent 'litteralis', in turn from litera, meaning 'letter of the alphabet'.
Many examples of litotes have entered common speech so that we don't think about them as understatement. The word litotes is from Greek litos meaning plain or meagre. From Greek logos, word or reason. The term derives from a character called Mrs Malaprop in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play called The Rivals, whose lines frequently included such mistakes. Other writers, notably Shakespeare, earlier made use of the technique without naming it as such. Lord Byron in is said to have been the first to refer specifically to a malaprop as a mistaken word substitution.
The term is far less popularly called a Dogberryism, after the watchman constable Dogberry character in Shakespeare's As You Like It, who makes similar speech errors. From Latin mater, mother.
What is a Vowel?
Also called a metronym. More specifically a meronym is a word technically referring to a part of something but which is used to refer to the whole thing, for example: From Greek meros, part, and onoma, name. Meronym is the opposite of a holonym a whole thing in relation to a part of the whole. From Greek, metonumia, 'change of name'. The expression 'Mother Earth' is perhaps the most fundamental universal example of all.
Some misomers originate first as correct and accurate terminology but then become misnomers because the meaning of language alters subsequently over many years. The 'ring' of a telephone is a misnomer because telephones no longer contain bells. When people refer to 'pulling the 'chain' in referring to flushing a lavatory this is also a misnomer because lavatories generally no longer have chain-pull mechanisms.
The Indian food 'Bombay duck' is a misnomer because it is actually a dried fish. Misunderstood scientific phenomena aften produce misnomers, such as the term 'shooting star', which technically are meteors. So too is 'thunderbolt' a misnomer, because it's actually a representation of a lightning strike. The 'lead' of a pencil is a misnomer, because it is graphite. When we suggest that someone will 'catch a cold' by not wearing enough clothes in winter this is a misnomer because a cold is a virus and cannot be 'caught' from or produced by cold weather.
Many creatures are named as misnomers, due to inferring a species by similarity of appearance, for example, a 'king crab' is not a crab, a 'koala bear' is not a bear, and a 'prairie dog' is not a dog. Changes in legal terminology can also produce misnomers, for example it is a misnomer to refer to sparkling wine as 'champagne' when it does not come from the Champagne region in France. The term 'football club' is a misnomer where in most cases the 'club' is a commercial company.
There are thousands more misnomers in common use, and commonly people don't appreciate that the terms are technically quite wrong. The word mnemonic is pronounced 'nemonic' and is commonly misspelled 'numonic'. It's from Greek mnemon, mindful. The study of the development and assistance of memory is called mnemonics or mnemotechnics.
The term mondegreen was suggested by US writer Sylvia Wright in a Harpers Magazine article 'The Death of Lady Mondegreen', in which she referred to her own long-standing mistaken interpretation: Mondegreens commonly arise in song lyrics because the art form is one which ordinarily contains lots of weird words and phrases anyway, and so the imagination requires very little stretching to accept even quite ridiculous misinterpretations. Popularly referenced mondegreens include the following and amusingly the first two examples are said to have been encouraged by the singers themselves who on occasions intentionally sang the mondegreen instead of the correct lyrics during live performances:.
A monophthong is also called a pure vowel, because it is constant and involves no alteration in voicing. There seems no absolute quantification of a mora, except that one mora is a short syllable and two or three 'morae' represent proportionally longer syllables. The term monomoraic refers to a syllable of one mora. Two morae is bimoraic. Three morae is trimoraic. The word mora is from Latin mora, linger or delay. Morph means form in Greek.
There are many other sorts of neologisms, which are effectively different ways in which new words evolve or become newly established. Obvious examples are words like happiness, sweetness, goodness, darkness, etc. In more modern times the 'ness' suffix is used to make new or made-up slang words, particularly for a specific situation, some of which can be quite amusing, or childish and silly, depending on your viewpoint, such as 'flatness of beer is a problem for drinkers who like froth', or 'over-eating produces a bigness of belly', or 'the workforce frequently suffered with can't-be-botheredness'.
The 'ness' suffix originated in old Germanic languages. Other suffixes which achieve a similar effect are 'hood' as in motherhood , 'th' as in strength, from strong , and 'ity' as in nudity. Nouns other than variants are also called 'common nouns'. From Latin nomen, name. A noun phrase may contain aother noun phrases, for example, 'a two-litre pot of green paint', or the best days of our lives', or 'the shops which were open for business during the storm'.
A noun phrase may be a subject or object or perform another nounal function in a sentence, for example, 'The touring party from Spain visiting Iceland noun phrase 'subject' - longed verb to preposition go verb back preposition to preposition - their homes in the warm sunny countryside noun phrase 'object'. Originally from Greek onoma, name, and poios, making.
It is from the Greek word with the same meaning, onumon, from onoma, name. A commonly quoted example is the phrase 'I scream', which by moving the joint may sound instead as 'ice cream', and vice-versa. Oronyms that are wrongly interpreted from heard song lyrics and poetry, etc. A popular and highly amusing category of oronyms is found among website domain names URLs , which accidentally or intentionally contain a usually rude or inappropriate and ironic double-meaning, for example the now famous pen website 'penisland.
Website domain names URLs are especially prone to oronymic effect because prime URL convention usually entails phrases without word-spaces. Other amusing apparently maybe real examples of website name oronyms include: There are many more. Palindromes tend to become increasingly daft and nonsensical with greater length, for example, 'Was it a car or a cat I saw? Palindrome may also refer to reversible numbers, notably numerical dates, for example Alternatively called a 'holoalphabetic sentence', the most famous and early English example is: A 'perfect pangram' is a sentence containing each letter of the alphabet once only, i.
Besides offering miniscule testing efficiences, a 'perfect pangram' is mostly a curiosity and creative challenge for language enthusiasts, although no one seems yet to have devised a 'perfect pangram' which makes actual sense. Wikipedia's best example is 'Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz' which definitely requires the translation: The best example of a 'perfect pangram' which contains abbreviated recognizable dictionary 'proper name' initials and other abbreviations is probably the: The letter pangram 'Pack my red box with five dozen quality jugs' is a pleasingly sensible modern alternative to 'The quick brown fox..
Quite separately, many ordinary pangrams in non-English languages produce delightful translations into English N. The non-English language versions are the pangrams, not the English translations given here , and prove that the pangram fascination is truly international, for example - 'A hiccoughing dragon spits at a driver who has reached someone else's campsite' Bulgarian ; 'Wrong practising of xylophone music bothers every larger dwarf' German ; 'A dust bat escaped through the air conditioner, which exploded due to the heat' Hebrew ; 'Lunch of water makes lopsided faces' Italian ; and the wonderful Polish perfect pangram: I am open to all sorts of suggestions on this subject, especially an English perfect pangram which makes perfect sense From Greek para, meaning beside.
The word paradox is Latin, originally referring in English s to a statement that opposed accepted opinion, from Greek paradoxon, contrary opinion, from para, distinct from, and doxa, opinion. Modern styling increasingly does not feature the first line indent. The term paragraph is often abbreviated by writers and editors, etc. A paragraph may contain just one sentence or very many sentences. This glossary contains entries which each may be termed a paragraph.
For example, 'I would not stoop so low as to exploit his past infidelities A common retort to a speaker obviously using paralipsis, i. From 'para', Greek for 'besides', used to refer to something resembling another, or an alternative, and 'onomasia', meaning 'naming', in turn from 'onoma' meaning 'name'. Para is Greek for beside. From Greek, pathos, suffering. I or we did or saw or gave or said, etc this or that, whatever ', and we refer to 'me' and 'mine' or 'us' and 'ours'.
In English the word 'you' acts as both second person singular and plural, although in many other languages these would be different words. Human beings have dramatically wide-ranging control over the way they 'voice' word-sounds, especially vowels, by controlling the vocal chords and larynx voice-box , and generally phonation refers to the study of this and the bodily processes entailed. The subtleties of phonemic theory are not difficult to understand - they are simply the individual sounds which make words sound different - although the detailed explanation of these effects via text-based information is only possible using quite complex phonetic symbols.
Phonetics particularly refers to very detailed sounds of words and syllables, letters, vowels, consonants, etc. From Greek phone, meaning sound or voice. A phrase is technically a single concept or notion: Phrases may be written or spoken, and feature fundamentally in every sort of word-based communication. This sentence is an example of a phrase. So is this one. Separated by this comma, this sentence contains two phrases. Less technically however many people would describe the previous sentence as a single phrase. The term is therefore potentially ambiguous when applied to short punctuated sentences.
In common use the term phrase is frequently incorrectly applied to quite long passages or sentences, or even short paragraphs. So clarification is required where the use of the term 'phrase' has legal or other serious implications. A one word phrase is for example, 'Go' or 'Stop' or 'Why? A two-word phrase is for example, 'No smoking' or 'Keep calm' or 'Maybe tomorrow'. Technically, very long phrases are difficult to conceive, other than long lists of single items. The word phrase derives from Greek phrazein, to declare. See ' turn of phrase '. The origins of the pilcrow symbol and name are subject to different opinions - possibly from French 'pelagraphe', paragraph, or more poetically, from 'pulled plucked crow'.
The symbol seems to have evolved from a C with a slash through it denoting a chapter Latin, capitulum , perhaps with other influences from old C and slash marks given in manuscripts by scribes a very long time ago. The term pitch has more recently developed also to mean directing a talk or presentation at a particular audience, as both a verb and noun, e. Pitch may also refer to the nature or quality of style or attitude of a communication. The most popular examples according to Google 'hits' by the end of the first decade of the s were: Technically the use of a placeholder name is metasyntactic, and a placeholder name is a metasyntactic variable, which is defined very well for linguistics in the terms usual computing field as: A conventional variable name used for an unspecified entity whose exact nature depends on context Generally points are considered passive don't move much and are acted upon whereas points are active mostly moving and acting on other parts.
These are the typically stepped points although there is actually a continuum of infinite points between each of these main points, producing an infinite variety of sounds:. Plagiarism is from Latin plagium, 'a kidnapping', in turn from the Greek word plagion for the same. There are hundreds more examples, many of them very clever and amusing. In political situations praeteritio can be a very subtle method of inferring inferiority or incompetence in a competitor, and at the same time implying negative conduct among other competitors, for example, ' Praeteritio may also be used for positive aims, for example, ' I am not claiming to be the best candidate by virtue of my previous highly successful record - please forget this; I am the best candidate because I have proven credentials, the best team, and our plans have the most popular support Paralipsis is probably the most common of alternative term.
Prepositions do not necessarily appear between subject and object, for example in the phrases 'the world object we subject live verb in preposition ', or 'in preposition which world object we subject live verb '. Historically conventional English rules asserted that a sentence should not end with a preposition, for example, 'What did you go there for? Examples of prepositions are: The word derives from its logical meaning, i.
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In recent years the prefixes 'i' and 'e' have become very widely seen prefixes in referring to 'internet' and 'electronic', for example the Apple brands iPhone, iTunes, etc. Understanding prefixes is helpful for interpreting the meaning of new words. From Latin pro, 'for, on behalf of', and noun. The pseudo prefix is commonly added to all sorts of terms to refer to a fake or imitation, especially something normally quite serious and well-qualified, for example, pseudo-science, or pseudo-intellectual.
Examples of pseudonyms are: There are thousands of them. Pseudonym is from Greek pseudes, meaning false. The famous quote 'Time flies like and arrow; fruit flies like a banana' features the pun on the word 'flies'. The quote 'A broken window is a pain' features the pun of 'pain' with window 'pane'. Puns may also entail phrases too, for example 'Cadaver industry regulation - bodies are weak and lack teeth' where 'bodies are weak and lack teeth' refers both to decaying corpses and also to regulatory bodies lacking power and authority.
Here are the main examples of punctuation and some other marks which have a punctuating or similar effect in language:. For example, mumbo-jumbo, higgledy-piggledy, helter-skelter, reet-petite, easy-peasy, maybe-baby, bananarama, tuti-fruiti, see-saw, curly-wurly, scooby-doo, looby-loo, hurly-burly, pac-a-mac, touchy-feely, in it to win it, etc. Reduplication generally entails the repeating of larger word-sections than alliteration. Typical users of rhetoric are salespeople, politicians, leaders, teachers, etc. The term 'rhetorical question' means a question designed to produce an effect - typically to make a statement or point - rather than seeking an answer or information.
The word is from ancient Greek, rhetor, an orator or teacher of persuasive effective speaking. The origins of the word are fascinating, from Roman Latin in which 'rubeus' meant red, and 'rubrica terra' referred to the 'red earth' and its derivative material used to make an early form of ink. Roman practice was to use red ink for laws and rules, which established the association between red 'rubrica' ink and formal written instructions. Context is genarally crucial to appreciate sarcasm. The word is commonly used to clarify that a disagreement might be semantic, or a matter of semantics interpretation of the meaning of words used to frame the argument , rather than a true disagreement about the matter itself.
For example it can be difficult to agree training methods with another person, until semantic agreement is first established about the word 'training', i. Semiotics relates to linguistics language structure and meaning , and more broadly encompasses linguistics and all other signage, metaphor and symbolism. The processing aspect of semiotics is called semiosis. Technically, depending on context, a single word may be considered to be a sentence, for example: The word 'as' is common in similes, or often a simile is constructed using the word 'like', for example, 'the snow fell like tiny silver stars', or 'he ordered food from the menu like he had not eaten for a month'.
The word simile is from Latin similis, like. A long-standing example is that of " The effect is named after Reverend William Archibald Spooner , a warden of New College, Oxford, who has long been said prone to the error. A spoonerism is apparently also known very rarely as a marrowsky, supposedly after a Polish count, reputed to be similarly afflicted. For an extreme example, the stem of the word 'antidisestablishmentarianism' is 'establish'. Separately and more generally, stress in language has an additional meaning, referring to placing emphasis on a particular word or phrase, as would be shown by emboldening or capitalizing the stressed sections of a passage of text.
There are many thousands of examples of suffixes, and almost unavoidably virtually any word of more than one syllable contains a suffix, and very many words of a single syllable contain a suffix too. Many suffixes alter the sense or tense of a word, for example, the simple 's' suffix is used in English to denote plural. The 'x' suffix denotes a plural in many French-English words. The ' ness ' suffix origin old Germanic refers to the state or a measure of a typically adjective term enabling it to be expressed as a feature or characteristic, for example, boldness, happiness, rudeness, etc.
The suffix 'ation' is very common - it turns a verb into a noun, for example examination, explanation, and the recently popular among financial markets commentators, 'perturbation'. The ' age ' suffix is another which develops a word to express a measurable degree. Not surprisingly the suffix ' onym ' features perhaps more commonly in this glossary than you will ever encounter it elsewhere, because it means a type of name, and specifically a word which has a relationship to another.
As you can see the number of letters and word-parts morphemes does not determine the number of syllables. For example the word 'antidisestablishmentarianism' has eleven syllables and only 28 letters. The following words each have ten letters yet only one syllable: The word syllable is from Greek sullabe, from sun, together, and lambanein, take.
Big cats are dangerous; a lion is a big cat; therefore lions are dangerous. Diamonds are precious gems; precious gems are sometimes stolen; therefore diamonds are sometimes stolen. A syllogism may comprise more than two 'facts' which together support the conclusion, for example: A mouse is bigger than a fly; a cat is bigger than a mouse; a horse is bigger than a cat; an elephant is bigger than a horse; therefore an elephant is bigger than a fly and so is a horse and a cat. The word is very logically derived from from Greek, suntaksis, from sun, together, taksis, arrangement, from tasso, I arrange.
Usually the words 'and' and 'also' next to each other in a statement produce a very simple tautology because 'also' and 'and' mean the same and so together represent an unnecessary repeat of the same thing. Where the repeat tautology is for stylistic or dramatic effect, for example: Second, in a more theoretical or scientific context, sometimes called the logical or rhetorical tautology a tautology is a lot more complex and potentially so difficult to explain that people may resort to using algebraic equations.
A simple example is a statement containing a claim whose validity is dependent on repeating the same point within the statement, or expressed another way, is a statement which is valid by virtue of the claims or assumptions within it, for example, "Civilizations have always sought to gather and protect gold because it is so valuable and desirable We can neither argue with this, nor prove it beyond the limits of its own assumptions. There are more complex mathematical and scientific interpretations of a tautology than cannot be explained here in this glossary, because this glossary is mainly concerned with grammar and day-to-day communications rather than scientific applications - and also because the complicated interpretations completely baffle me, as well as most other people aside from mathematicians.
Whatever, tautologies at a simple level are particularly fascinating because they are used and accepted without question by most audiences extremely frequently in political statements and media commentaries. Tautologies are commonly used to persuade others by weight of argument, rather than substance. Perhaps the biggest example of a persuasive tautology, even at the very highest level of leadership and government is, "Our decisions and actions were correct because it was the right thing to do Next time you hear this you will recognize it as a tautology, and if you hear it appended with the qualifying " The three main common tenses are: Some tenses are extremely complex, for example: Answers on a postcard please as to what that tense might be.
This is different to 'the indefinite article' a or an , which makes a non-specific or general reference to something. Tone of language may refer to qualities of sound, feeling, attitude, volume, pace, and virtually any other quality that might be imagined for verbal, or indeed written or printed communications too. Broadly when referring to communications, tone equates to the nature or type or description of the language and how the meaning is conveyed.
Using a genericized trademark to refer to the general form of what that trademark represents is a form of metonymy. There are several thousand other trichotomous rules, laws, principles, etc. For example, the expression 'Earn a crust' uses the word 'crust' as a trope. The expression 'It's raining cats and dogs' uses the phrase 'cats and dogs' as a trope. To say that someone has a 'razor wit' uses the word 'razor' as a trope.
From Greek, tropos, meaning turn or way. The slang term is nowadays used more widely in referring to a 'keyboard' mistake by writers of all sorts, and by agencies involved in printing and media, as distinct from an error due to a writer's poor spelling or inaccurate facts. Sometimes errors of interpretation or inaccuracy occurred at the typesetting stage, which might or might not be noticed before printing.
Such errors were called typos, and the term has survived and thrived into modern times. The technological development of publishing now enables writers and editors to control final output far more reliably and directly, so the 'typo' expression now mostly refers simply to a writer's keyboard error.
The word 'type' refers to the traditional lead letter-blocks used in traditional typesetting and printing. Historically a typeface referred more to a font family, comprising slightly varying styles of lettering and other glyphs all based around a main design. We might extend it to 'a doing or happening word'. More technically a verb is the 'predicate' this describes what is happening to the subject in a phrase or sentence. Most statements comprise as a minium: The cat subject sat verb on the mat object.
It is very difficult to compose a meaningful sentence without a verb. Some of the shortest sentences contain just a subject and a verb, for example: The word 'verb' is Latin, from 'verbum', meaning 'verb', and originally 'word'. Technically verbal may also refer to something related to a verb, such as verbal meaning or verbal application for example of a word which could be regarded as a noun or other form of grammar, such as 'The word plant may be used in a verbal sense, as well as referring to flower, which is a noun'.
It's from Latin verbum, meaning word. In the statement 'The children played noisily in the garden', the verb phrase is 'played noisily in the garden'. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a verb phrase as: Vernacular may also refer to one's native or mother tongue. Vernacular is a noun, although it seems like an adjective. The word derives from Latin vernaculus, 'native' or 'domestic', interestingly ultimately from verna, a 'home-born slave'.
Some other languages offer a 'middle voice' which is neither active nor passive. In communicating sensitively it is often helpful to consider whether active or passive voice is best for the situation, considering also the verb and context. Vowels generally form the basis or core of syllable. Vowels in English are commonly regarded as the letters a e i o u, although many more sounds are also vowels, such as those made by the letters ee, oo, oy, y as an 'ee' or 'i' sound , etc. Definition of 'vowel' therefore varies.
The letters a e i o u are generally considered to be the pure vowels, in terms of differentiating vowels from consonants in the English alphabet, although beyond this narrow context 'y' is certainly be regarded as a vowel sound represented by a single letter. Cynics might reasonably suggest that substantial and increasingly large proportions of 'news' and 'current afairs' broadcasting comprise completely meaningless and thoughtless vox pops, presented as if it were all objective and wise comment on the subject concerned.
Beyond this simple definition, the word 'word' is a fascinating concept to define, and is open to considerable debate.
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The modern Oxford English Dictionary gives these two basic definitions for the essential grammatical meaning of 'word': Traditionally printed book dictionaries were considered the arbiters of words, so that only 'words' which were listed and defined in printed book dictionaries were 'proper words'.
In more enlightened times however dictionaries have increasingly become regarded as records and collections of words which are in popular use in day-to-day conversation and various writing by people - despite what dictionaries contain. This is to say that words change and evolve and appear in actual real language far sooner than they do in dictionaries. Dictionaries of course record and organize words that are in use, but they do not dictate or design new words. Ordinary people do this. Lord Byron is noted for his amusing use of zeugma, for example the wonderful line in his epic poem Don Juan, "Seville is a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women Log in using your account on.
Back to course 0. Back to Glossary and Terminology Bank. Glossary and Terminology Bank sections. Alphabets and Grammar 9 Slang and Terminology 5. Other Resources in this section. Table of contents 1. This can be done by various methods, notably: Portmanteau words are not commonly regarded as abbreviations, but they certainly are. Exo-labial - upper lip Endo-labial - upper lip Dental - upper teeth Alveolar - gum just behind teeth Post-alveolar - ridge before roof Pre-palatal - front of roof Palatal - roof Velar - back of roof Uvular - hanging blob Pharyngeal - top of throat pharynx Glottal - windpipe entry epiglottis Epiglottal - flap at tongue-base and larynx entry Radical - tongue root Postero-dorsal - front tongue body Antero-dorsal - back tongue body Laminal - tongue-blade Apical - tongue tip Sub-apical - under-tongue Endo-labial - lower lip Exo-labial - lower lip.
Prefaces a list or example or quote or other referenced item, with a pause equating to a semi-colon. Prompts or demands an answer or consideration at the end of a phrase. Denotes loud speech or surprise or indignation. Slanted style is traditional and older. Slanted style is older traditional design, sometimes called 66 99, the designs are respectively called 'open quotes' and 'close quotes'. The first line of the new paragraph is usually indented.
Also called solidus, stroke, forward slash and more - it's a very useful and powerful symbol. Single underscore symbol is used as alternative to hyphen to make continuous unbroken filenames and other electronic data. The article the is applied to nouns of cither number: The is commonly required before adjectives that are used by ellipsis as nouns: The article an or a implies unity , or one , and of course belongs to nouns of the singular number only; as, A man,-- An old man,-- A good boy. An or a , like one , sometimes gives a collective meaning to an adjective of number, when the noun following is plural; as, A few days,--A hundred men,--One hundred pounds sterling.
Articles should be inserted as often as the sense requires them; as, "Repeat the preterit and [ the ] perfect participle of the verb to abide. Needless articles should be omitted; they seldom fail to pervert the sense: The articles can seldom be put one for the other , without gross impropriety; and of course either is to be preferred to the other, as it better suits the sense: Say, " A violation of this rule never fails to displease the reader. The definite article is the , which denotes some particular thing or things; as, The boy, the oranges.
The indefinite article is an or a , which denotes one thing of a kind, but not any particular one; as, A boy, an orange. The English articles have no modifications, except that an is shortened into a before the sound of a consonant; as, "In an epic poem, or a poem upon an elevated subject, a writer ought to avoid raising a simile on a low image.
Long & Short Vowels: Sounds & Word Examples
And, by reason of the various and very frequent occasions on which these definitives are required, no words are oftener misapplied; none, oftener omitted or inserted erroneously. I shall therefore copiously illustrate both their uses and their abuses ; with the hope that every reader of this volume will think it worth his while to gain that knowledge which is requisite to the true use of these small but important words.
Some parts of the explanation, however, must be deferred till we come to Syntax. Greene, and other writers, to degrade the article from its ancient rank among the parts of speech, no judicious reader, duly acquainted with the subject, can, I think, be well pleased. An article is not properly an " adjective ," as they would have it to be; but it is a word of a peculiar sort--a customary index to the sense of nouns. It serves not merely to show the extent of signification, in which nouns are to be taken, but is often the principal, and sometimes the only mark, by which a word is known to have the sense and construction of a noun.
There is just as much reason to deny and degrade the Greek or French article, or that of any other language, as the English; and, if those who are so zealous to reform our the, an , and a into adjectives , cared at all to appear consistent in the view of Comparative or General Grammar, they would either set about a wider reformation or back out soon from the pettiness of this.
On some occasions, these adjectives may well be substituted for the articles; but not generally. If the articles were generally equivalent to adjectives, or even if they were generally like them, they would be adjectives; but, that adjectives may occasionally supply their places, is no argument at all for confounding the two parts of speech. Distinctions must be made, where differences exist; and, that a, an , and the , do differ considerably from the other words which they most resemble, is shown even by some who judge "the distinctive name of article to be useless.
The articles therefore must be distinguished, not only from adjectives, but from each other. For, though both are articles , each is an index sui generis ; the one definite, the other indefinite. And as the words that and one cannot often be interchanged without a difference of meaning, so the definite article and the indefinite are seldom, if ever, interchangeable.
To put one for the other, is therefore, in general, to put one meaning for an other: This difference between the two articles may be further illustrated by the following example: Proper nouns in their ordinary application, are, for the most part, names of particular individuals; and as there is no plurality to a particular idea, or to an individual person or thing as distinguished from all others, so there is in general none to this class of nouns; and no room for further restriction by articles.
But we sometimes divert such nouns from their usual signification, and consequently employ them with articles or in the plural form; as, "I endeavoured to retain it nakedly in my mind, without regarding whether I had it from an Aristotle or a Zoilus, a Newton or a Descartes. Hence its effect upon a particular name, or proper noun, is directly the reverse of that which it has upon a common noun. It varies and fixes the meaning of both; but while it restricts that of the latter, it enlarges that of the former.
It reduces the general idea of the common noun to any one individual of the class: This article is demonstrative. It marks either the particular individual, or the particular species,--or, if the noun be plural, some particular individuals of the species,--as being distinguished from all others. It sometimes refers to a thing as having been previously mentioned; sometimes presumes upon the hearer's familiarity with the thing; and sometimes indicates a limitation which is made by subsequent words connected with the noun.
Such is the import of this article, that with it the singular number of the noun is often more comprehensive, and at the same time more specific, than the plural. Thus, if I say, " The horse is a noble animal," without otherwise intimating that I speak of some particular horse, the sentence will be understood to embrace collectively that species of animal; and I shall be thought to mean, "Horses are noble animals. Such limitations should be made, whenever there is occasion for them; but needless restrictions displease the imagination, and ought to be avoided; because the mind naturally delights in terms as comprehensive as they may be, if also specific.
Lindley Murray, though not uniform in his practice respecting this, seems to have thought it necessary to use the plural in many sentences in which I should decidedly prefer the singular; as, "That the learners may have no doubts. Of plural names like these, and especially of such as designate tribes and sects, there is a very great number. Like other proper names, they must be distinguished from the ordinary words of the language, and accordingly they are always written with capitals; but they partake so largely of the nature of common nouns, that it seems doubtful to which class they most properly belong.
Hence they not only admit, but require the article; while most other proper names are so definite in themselves, that the article, if put before them, would be needless, and therefore improper. But if the word river be added, the article becomes needless; as, Delaware river, Hudson river, Connecticut river. Yet there seems to be no impropriety in using both; as, The Delaware river, the Hudson river, the Connecticut river. And if the common noun be placed before the proper name, the article is again necessary; as, The river Delaware, the river Hudson, the river Connecticut.
In the first form of expression, however, the article has not usually been resolved by grammarians as relating to the proper name; but these examples, and others of a similar character, have been supposed elliptical: But in the second form, the apposition is reversed; and, in the third, the proper name appears to be taken adjectively. Without the article, some names of rivers could not be understood; as,. So, sometimes, when the phrase relates to a collective body of men: A similar application of the article in the following sentences, makes a most beautiful and expressive form of compliment: In this last example, the noun man is understood after " generous ," and again after " rich ;" for, the article being an index to the noun, I conceive it to be improper ever to construe two articles as having reference to one unrepeated word.
Priestley says, "We sometimes repeat the article , when the epithet precedes the substantive; as He was met by the worshipful the magistrates. It is true, we occasionally meet with such fulsome phraseology as this; but the question is, how is it to be explained? I imagine that the word personages , or something equivalent, must be understood after worshipful , and that the Doctor ought to have inserted a comma there.
See, in the original, these texts: So of other nouns. But the definite article of that language, which is exactly equivalent to our the , is a declinable word, making no small figure in grammar. It is varied by numbers, genders, and cases; so that it assumes more than twenty different forms, and becomes susceptible of six and thirty different ways of agreement. But this article in English is perfectly simple, being entirely destitute of grammatical modifications, and consequently incapable of any form of grammatical agreement or disagreement--a circumstance of which many of our grammarians seem to be ignorant; since they prescribe a rule, wherein they say, it " agrees ," " may agree ," or " must agree ," with its noun.
Nor has the indefinite article any variation of form, except the change from an to a , which has been made for the sake of brevity or euphony. An eagle is one eagle, and the plural word eagles denotes more than one; but what could possibly be meant by " ans eagles ," if such a phrase were invented? What a sample of grammar is this! The force of what? Of a plural an or a,! The error of the first of these sentences, Dr. Blair has copied entire into his eighth lecture. For the purpose of preventing any erroneous construction of the articles, these rules are utterly useless; and for the purpose of syntactical parsing, or the grammatical resolution of this part of speech, they are awkward and inconvenient.
The syntax of the articles may be much better expressed in this manner: Murray, contrary to Johnson and Webster, considers a to be the original word, and an the euphonic derivative. But if the h be sounded, the a only is to be used. To this he adds, in a marginal note, " A instead of an is now used before words beginning with u long. It is used before one. An must be used before words WHERE the h is not silent, if the accent is on the second syllable; as, an heroic action, an historical account. This explanation, clumsy as it is, in the whole conception; broken, prolix, deficient, and inaccurate as it is, both in style and doctrine; has been copied and copied from grammar to grammar, as if no one could possibly better it.
Besides several other faults, it contains a palpable misuse of the article itself: Before h in an unaccented syllable, either form of the article may be used without offence to the ear; and either may be made to appear preferable to the other, by merely aspirating the letter in a greater or less degree. But as the h , though ever so feebly aspirated has something of a consonant sound, I incline to think the article in this case ought to conform to the general principle: Within two lines of this quotation, the biographer speaks of " an heroic multitude!
An should be used before words beginning with any of these letters , or with a silent h. If these rules were believed and followed, they would greatly multiply errors. This, if it be worth the search, must be settled by consulting some genuine writings of the twelfth century. In the pure Saxon of an earlier date, the words seldom occur ; and in that ancient dialect an , I believe, is used only as a declinable numerical adjective, and a only as a preposition. In the thirteenth century, both forms were in common use, in the sense now given them, as may be seen in the writings of Robert of Gloucester; though some writers of a much later date--or, at any rate, one , the celebrated Gawin Douglas, a Scottish bishop, who died of the plague in London, in constantly wrote ane for both an and a: Gower and Chaucer used an and a as we now use them.
M'Culloch, in an English grammar published lately in Edinburgh, says, " A and an were originally ae and ane , and were probably used at first simply to convey the idea of unity; as, ae man, ane ox. For this idea, and indeed for a great part of his book, he is indebted to Dr. Crombie; who says, "To signify unity, or one of a class, our forefathers employed ae or ane ; as, ae man, ane ox. These authors, like Webster, will have a and an to be adjectives. Johnson says, " A , an article set before nouns of the singular number; as, a man, a tree. This article has no plural signification.
Before a word beginning with a vowel, it is written an ; as, an ox, an egg; of which a is the contraction. Webster says, " A is also an abbreviation of the Saxon an or ane, one , used before words beginning with an articulation; as, a table, instead of an table, or one table. This is a modern change ; for, in Saxon, an was used before articulations as well as vowels; as, an tid, a time, an gear , a year.
A modern change, indeed! By his own showing in other works, it was made long before the English language existed! He says, " An , therefore, is the original English adjective or ordinal number one ; and was never written a until after the Conquest. This author has long been idly contending, that an or a is not an article , but an adjective ; and that it is not properly distinguished by the term " indefinite. If a and one were equal, we could not say, " Such a one ,"--" What a one ,"--" Many a one ,"--" This one thing ;" and surely these are all good English, though a and one here admit no interchange.
Nay, a is sometimes found before one when the latter is used adjectively; as, "There is no record in Holy Writ of the institution of a one all-controlling monarchy. Burgh's Speaker , p. Matt , xii, 1. Mark , ii, Alger, the improver of Murray's Grammar, and editor of the Pronouncing Bible, taking this an to be the indefinite article, and perceiving that the h is sounded in hungered , changed the particle to a in all these passages; as, "And his disciples were a hungered.
The Greek text, rendered word for word, is simply this: An , as I apprehend, is here a mere prefix , which has somehow been mistaken in form, and erroneously disjoined from the following word. If so, the correction ought to be made after the fashion of the following passage from Bishop M'Ilvaine: He that died a Wednesday. That is, on Wednesday. So sometimes before plurals; as, "He carves a Sundays. That is, on Sundays. That is, on nights--like the following example: That is, in pieces, or to pieces.
Compounds of this kind, in most instances, follow verbs, and are consequently reckoned adverbs; as, To go astray,--To turn aside,--To soar aloft,--To fall asleep. But sometimes the antecedent term is a noun or a pronoun, and then they are as clearly adjectives; as, "Imagination is like to work better upon sleeping men, than men awake. For example, "You have set the cask a leaking," and, "You have set the cask to leaking," are exactly equivalent, both in meaning and construction. Building is not here a noun, but a participle; and in is here better than a , only because the phrase, a building , might be taken for an article and a noun, meaning an edifice.
In the last six sentences, a seems more suitable than any other preposition would be: Alexander Murray says, "To be a -seeking, is the relic of the Saxon to be on or an seeking. What are you a-seeking? It means more fully the going on with the process. I dissent also from Dr. Murray, concerning the use of the preposition or prefix a , in examples like that which he has here chosen. After a neuter verb , this particle is unnecessary to the sense, and, I think, injurious to the construction. Except in poetry, which is measured by syllables, it may be omitted without any substitute; as, "I am a walking.
Say--"be wandering elsewhere;" and omit the a , in all such cases. Thus we say, The landlord hath a hundred a year; the ship's crew gained a thousand pounds a man. Whether a in this construction is the article or the preposition, seems to be questionable. It is to be observed that an , as well as a , is used in this manner; as, "The price is one dollar an ounce.
Modern merchants, in stead of accenting the a , commonly turn the end of it back; as,. That the article relates not to the plural noun, but to the numerical word only, is very evident; but whether, in these instances, the words few, many, dozen, hundred , and thousand , are to be called nouns or adjectives, is matter of dispute. Lowth, Murray, and many others, call them adjectives , and suppose a peculiarity of construction in the article;--like that of the singular adjectives every and one in the phrases, " Every ten days,"--" One seven times more.
Churchill and others call them nouns , and suppose the plurals which follow, to be always in the objective case governed by of , understood: Neither solution is free from difficulty. Now, if many is here a singular nominative, and the only subject of the verb, what shall we do with are? Taken in either of these ways, the construction is anomalous. One can hardly think the word " adjectives " to be here in the objective case, because the supposed ellipsis of the word of cannot be proved; and if many is a noun, the two words are perhaps in apposition, in the nominative.
If I say, " A thousand men are on their way," the men are the thousand , and the thousand is nothing but the men ; so that I see not why the relation of the terms may not be that of apposition. But if authorities are to decide the question, doubtless we must yield it to those who suppose the whole numeral phrase to be taken adjectively ; as, "Most young Christians have, in the course of half a dozen years, time to read a great many pages.
Dozen , or hundred , or thousand , when taken abstractly, is unquestionably a noun; for we often speak of dozens, hundreds , and thousands. Few and many never assume the plural form, because they have naturally a plural signification; and a few or a great many is not a collection so definite that we can well conceive of fews and manies ; but both are sometimes construed substantively, though in modern English it seems to be mostly by ellipsis of the noun. Johnson says, the word many is remarkable in Saxon for its frequent use.
The following are some of the examples in which he calls it a substantive, or noun: In saying, 'A few of his adherents remained with him;' we insinuate, that they constituted a number sufficiently important to be formed into an aggregate: A similar difference occurs between the phrases: The word little , in its most proper construction, is an adjective, signifying small ; as, "He was little of stature.
And in sentences like the following, it is also reckoned an adjective, though the article seems to relate to it, rather than to the subsequent noun; or perhaps it may be taken as relating to them both: But by a common ellipsis, it is used as a noun, both with and without the article; as, " A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked. It is also used adverbially, both alone and with the article a ; as, "The poor sleep little. It is not vaguely therefore, but on fixed principles, that the article is omitted, or inserted, in such phrases as the following: Hence, while some have objected to the peculiar distinction bestowed upon these little words, firmly insisting on throwing them in among the common mass of adjectives; others have taught, that the definitive adjectives--I know not how many--such as, this, that, these, those, any, other, some, all, both, each, every, either, neither --"are much more properly articles than any thing else.
But, in spite of this opinion, it has somehow happened, that these definitive adjectives have very generally, and very absurdly, acquired the name of pronouns. Hence, we find Booth, who certainly excelled most other grammarians in learning and acuteness, marvelling that the articles "were ever separated from the class of pronouns. Whereas the other definitives above mentioned are very often used to supply the place of their nouns; that is, to represent them understood. For, in general, it is only by ellipsis of the noun after it, and not as the representative of a noun going before, that any one of these words assumes the appearance of a pronoun.
Hence, they are not pronouns, but adjectives. Nor are they "more properly articles than any thing else;" for, "if the essence of an article be to define and ascertain" the meaning of a noun, this very conception of the thing necessarily supposes the noun to be used with it. Let the general term be man , the plural of which is men: A man --one unknown or indefinite; The man --one known or particular; The men --some particular ones; Any man --one indefinitely; A certain man --one definitely; This man --one near; That man --one distant; These men --several near; Those men --several distant; Such a man --one like some other; Such men --some like others; Many a man --a multitude taken singly; Many men --an indefinite multitude taken plurally; A thousand men --a definite multitude; Every man --all or each without exception; Each man --both or all taken separately; Some man --one, as opposed to none; Some men --an indefinite number or part; All men --the whole taken plurally; No men --none of the sex; No man --never one of the race.
The definitions to be given in the Second Praxis, are two for an article, and one for a noun, an adjective, a pronoun, a verb, a participle, an adverb, a conjunction, a preposition, or an interjection. The is the definite article. The definite article is the , which denotes some particular thing or things. Task is a noun. A is the indefinite article. The indefinite article is an or a , which denotes one thing of a kind, but not any particular one. Schoolmaster is a noun.
Laboriously is an adverb. Prompting is a participle. Urging is a participle. An is the indefinite article. Indolent is an adjective. Class is a noun. Is is a verb. Worse is an adjective. Than is a conjunction. Drives is a verb. Lazy is an adjective. Horses is a noun. Along is a preposition. Sandy is an adjective. Road is a noun. In the pursuit of knowledge, the greater the excellence of the subject of inquiry, the deeper ought to be the interest, the more ardent the investigation, and the dearer to the mind the acquisition of the truth.
The boys in this great school play truant, and there is no person to chastise them. A legislature may unjustly limit the surgeon's fee; but the broken arm must be healed, and a surgeon is the only man to restore it. It was made the duty of the whole Christian community to provide for the stranger, the poor, the sick, the aged, the widow, and the orphan. Of this, round is an example. A column is a more agreeable figure than a pilaster; and, for that reason, it ought to be preferred, all other circumstances being equal.
An other reason concurs, that a column connected with a wall, which is a plain surface, makes a greater variety than a pilaster. But, according to a principle expressed on page th, " A is to be used whenever the following word begins with a consonant sound. But, according to a suggestion on page th, "Articles should be inserted as often as the sense requires them.
Murray's Octavo Gram , p. Two, the singular and plural. Three persons--the first, second, and third. Three--the nominative, possessive and objective. But, according to a principle on page th, "Needless articles should be omitted; they seldom fail to pervert the sense. A Noun Substantive common. But, according to a principle on page th, "The articles can seldom be put one for the other, without gross impropriety; and either is of course to be preferred to the other, as it better suits the sense.
Murray's , i, 53; Hiley's , Murray's Gram , i, p. Appropriately, and by way of distinction, the books of the Old and New Testament; the Bible. That he is regenerate? Many words commonly belonging to other parts of speech are occasionally used as nouns; and, since it is the manner of its use, that determines any word to be of one part of speech rather than of an other, whatever word is used directly as a noun, must of course be parsed as such. Song , vii, Interjections or phrases made nouns: Nouns are divided into two general classes; proper and common. A proper noun is the name of some particular individual, or people, or group; as, Adam, Boston , the Hudson , the Romans , the Azores , the Alps.
A common noun is the name of a sort, kind, or class, of beings or things; as, Beast, bird, fish, insect,--creatures, persons, children. The particular classes, collective, abstract , and verbal , or participial , are usually included among common nouns. The name of a thing sui generis is also called common. A collective noun , or noun of multitude , is the name of many individuals together; as, Council, meeting, committee, flock. An abstract noun is the name of some particular quality considered apart from its substance; as, Goodness, hardness, pride, frailty.
A verbal or participial noun is the name of some action, or state of being; and is formed from a verb, like a participle, but employed as a noun: A thing sui generis , i. Nouns have modifications of four kinds; namely, Persons, Numbers, Genders , and Cases. Persons, in grammar, are modifications that distinguish the speaker, the hearer, and the person or thing merely spoken of. The first person is that which denotes the speaker or writer; as, " I Paul have written it. The second person is that which denotes the hearer, or the person addressed; as, " Robert , who did this?
The third person is that which denotes the person or thing merely spoken of; as, " James loves his book. The speaker or writer, being the mover and maker of the communication, of course stands in the nearest or first of these relations. The hearer or hearers, being personally present and directly addressed, evidently sustain the next or second of these relations; this relation is also that of the reader, when he peruses what is addressed to himself in print or writing. Lastly, whatsoever or whosoever is merely mentioned in the discourse, bears to it that more remote relation which constitutes the third person.
The distinction of persons belongs to nouns, pronouns, and finite verbs; and to these it is always applied, either by peculiarity of form or construction, or by inference from the principles of concord. Pronouns are like their antecedents, and verbs are like their subjects, in person. Hence, it is necessary that our definitions of these things be such as will apply to each of them in full, or under all circumstances; for the definitions ought to be as general in their application as are the things or properties defined.
Any person, number, gender, case, or other grammatical modification, is really but one and the same thing, in whatever part of speech it may be found. This is plainly implied in the very nature of every form of syntactical agreement; and as plainly contradicted in one half, and probably more, of the definitions usually given of these things. But persons, in common parlance, or in ordinary life, are intelligent beings , of one or the other sex. These objects, different as they are in their nature, are continually confounded by the makers of English grammars: So Bicknell, of London: The second person has the speech directed to him , and is supposed to be present; as, Thou Harry art a wicked fellow.
The third person is spoken of, or described, and supposed to be absent ; as, That Thomas is a good man. And in the same manner the plural pronouns are used, when more than one are spoken of. And how can the first person be "the person WHO speaks ," when every word of this phrase is of the third person? Most certainly, it is not HE, nor any one of his sort. If any body can boast of being " the first person in grammar ," I pray, Who is it? Is it not I , even I? Many grammarians say so. Charles Adams, with infinite absurdity, makes the three persons in grammar to be never any thing but three nouns , which hold a confabulation thus: The noun that speaks [,] is the first person; as, I, James , was present.
The noun that is spoken to, is the second person; as, James , were you present? The noun that is spoken of is the third person; as, James was present. What can be a greater blunder, than to call the first person of a verb, of a pronoun, or even of a noun, " the noun that speaks? Nouns are of the second person when addressed or spoken to. Thou is the second person, singular. He, she , or it , is the third person, singular. We is the first person, plural. Ye or you is the second person, plural. They is the third person, plural. Murray's Grammar , p. Adams's , 37; A.
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Flint's , 18; Kirkham's , 98; Cooper's , 34; T. Now there is no more propriety in affirming, that " I is the first person ," than in declaring that me, we, us, am, ourselves, we think, I write , or any other word or phrase of the first person, is the first person.
Yet Murray has given us no other definitions or explanations of the persons than the foregoing erroneous assertions; and, if I mistake not, all the rest who are here named, have been content to define them only as he did. Some others, however, have done still worse: I, who is the person speaking ; 2d thou, who is spoken to; 3d he, she , or it, who is spoken of, and their plurals, we, ye or you, they.
Here the two kinds of error which I have just pointed out, are jumbled together. It is impossible to write worse English than this! Nor is the following much better: I , in the first person, speaking; Thou , in the second person, spoken to; and He, she, it , in the third person, spoken of. This exception takes place more particularly in the writing of dialogues and dramas; in which the first and second persons are abundantly used, not as the representatives of the author and his reader, but as denoting the fictitious speakers and hearers that figure in each scene.
But, in discourse, the grammatical persons may be changed without a change of the living subject. In the following sentence, the three grammatical persons are all of them used with reference to one and the same individual: Consequently, nouns are rarely used in the first person; and when they do assume this relation, a pronoun is commonly associated with them: But some grammarians deny the first person to nouns altogether; others, with much more consistency, ascribe it; while very many are entirely silent on the subject.
Yet it is plain that both the doctrine of concords, and the analogy of general grammar, require its admission. The reason of this may be seen in the following examples: Again, if the word God is of the second person, in the text, " Thou, God , seest me," why should any one deny that Paul is of the first person, in this one? And so of the plural: How can it be pretended, that, in the phrase, " I Paul ," I is of the first person, as denoting the speaker, and Paul , of some other person, as denoting something or somebody that is not the speaker?
Let the admirers of Murray, Kirkham, Ingersoll, R. Smith, Comly, Greenleaf, Parkhurst, or of any others who teach this absurdity, answer. In the following example, the patriarch Jacob uses both forms; applying the term servant to himself, and to his brother Esau the term lord: For when a speaker or writer does not choose to declare himself in the first person, or to address his hearer or reader in the second , he speaks of both or either in the third. So Judah humbly beseeches Joseph: And Abraham reverently intercedes with God: And the Psalmist prays: So, on more common occasions: Ye mountains , that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills , like lambs?
Tremble, thou earth , at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob. The plural number is that which denotes more than one; as, "The boys learn. The plural number of nouns is regularly formed by adding s or es to the singular: When the singular ends in a sound which will unite with that of s , the plural is generally formed by adding s only , and the number of syllables is not increased: But when the sound of s cannot be united with that of the primitive word, the regular plural adds s to final e , and es to other terminations, and forms a separate syllable: In some languages, as the Greek and the Arabic, there is a dual number, which denotes two , or a pair ; but in ours, this property of words, or class of modifications, extends no farther than to distinguish unity from plurality, and plurality from unity.
It belongs to nouns, pronouns, and finite verbs; and to these it is always applied, either by peculiarity of form, or by inference from the principles of concord. Pronouns are like their antecedents, and verbs are like their subjects, in number. The terminations which always make the regular plural in es , with increase of syllables, are twelve; namely, ce, ge, ch soft, che soft, sh, ss, s, se, x, xe, z , and ze: All other endings readily unite in sound either with the sharp or with the flat s , as they themselves are sharp or flat; and, to avoid an increase of syllables, we allow the final e mute to remain mute after that letter is added: In some instances, however, usage is various in writing, though uniform in speech; an unsettlement peculiar to certain words that terminate in vowels: There are also some other difficulties respecting the plurals of nouns, and especially respecting those of foreign words; of compound terms; of names and titles; and of words redundant or deficient in regard to the numbers.
What is most worthy of notice, respecting all these puzzling points of English grammar, is briefly contained in the following observations. To this rule, the plurals of words ending in quy , as alloquies, colloquies, obloquies, soliloquies , are commonly made exceptions; because many have conceived that the u , in such instances, is a mere appendage to the q , or is a consonant having the power of w , and not a vowel forming a diphthong with the y.
See Rule 12th for Spelling. So nouns in i , so far as we have any that are susceptible of a change of number, form the plural regularly by assuming es: Common nouns ending in y preceded by a consonant, are numerous; and none of them deviate from the foregoing rule of forming the plural: The termination added is es , and the y is changed into i , according to the general principle expressed in Rule 11th for Spelling.
But, to this principle, or rule, some writers have supposed that proper nouns were to be accounted exceptions. And accordingly we sometimes find such names made plural by the mere addition of an s ; as, "How come the Pythagoras' , [it should be, the Pythagorases ,] the Aristotles , the Tullys , the Livys , to appear, even to us at this distance, as stars of the first magnitude in the vast fields of ether?
This doctrine, adopted from some of our older grammars, I was myself, at one period, inclined to countenance; see Institutes of English Grammar , p. To pronounce the final a flat, as Africay for Africa , is a mark of vulgar ignorance. This class of words being anomalous in respect to pronunciation, some authors have attempted to reform them, by changing the e to y in the singular, and writing ies for the plural: A reformation of some sort seems desirable here, and this has the advantage of being first proposed; but it is not extensively adopted, and perhaps never will be; for the vowel sound in question, is not exactly that of the terminations y and ies , but one which seems to require ee --a stronger sound than that of y , though similar to it.
In words of this class, the e appears to be useful as a means of preserving the right sound of the o ; consequently, such of them as are the most frequently used, have become the most firmly fixed in this orthography. In practice, however, we find many similar nouns very frequently, if not uniformly, written with s only; as, cantos, juntos, grottos, solos, quartos, octavos, duodecimos, tyros. So that even the best scholars seem to have frequently doubted which termination they ought to regard as the regular one. The whole class includes more than one hundred words. Some, however, are seldom used in the plural; and others, never.
Wo and potato are sometimes written woe and potatoe. This may have sprung from a notion, that such as have the e in the plural, should have it also in the singular.
But this principle has never been carried out; and, being repugnant to derivation, it probably never will be. The only English appellatives that are established in oe , are the following fourteen: The last is pronounced dip'-lo-e by Worcester; but Webster, Bolles, and some others, give it as a word of two syllables only. Nay, for lack of a rule to guide his pen, even Johnson himself could not remember the orthography of the common word mangoes well enough to copy it twice without inconsistency. This may be seen by his example from King, under the words mango and potargo.
Since, therefore, either termination is preferable to the uncertainty which must attend a division of this class of words between the two; and since es has some claim to the preference, as being a better index to the sound; I shall make no exceptions to the principle, that common nouns ending in o preceded by a consonant take es for the plural.
Murray says, " Nouns which end in o have sometimes es added, to form the plural; as, cargo, echo, hero, negro, manifesto, potato, volcano, wo: This amounts to nothing, unless it is to be inferred from his examples , that others like them in form are to take s or es accordingly; and this is what I teach, though it cannot be said that Murray maintains the principle.
These, however, may still be called proper nouns , in parsing; because they are only inflections, peculiarly applied, of certain names which are indisputably such. So likewise when such nouns are used to denote character: The proper names of nations, tribes , and societies , are generally plural; and, except in a direct address, they are usually construed with the definite article: And those which are only or chiefly plural, have, or ought to have, such terminations as are proper to distinguish them as plurals, so that the form for the singular may be inferred: Here the singular must certainly be a Tungoose.
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Here the singulars may be supposed to be a Pawnee , an Arrapaho , and a Cumanche. Here all are regular plurals, except the last; and this probably ought to be Natchezes , but Jefferson spells it Natches , the singular of which I do not know. Sometimes foreign words or foreign terminations have been improperly preferred to our own; which last are more intelligible, and therefore better: As any vowel sound may be uttered with an s , many writers suppose these letters to require for plurals strictly regular, the s only; and to take es occasionally, by way of exception.
Others, perhaps with more reason, assume, that the most usual, regular, and proper endings for the plural, in these instances, are ies, oes, and ues: This, I think, is right for common nouns. How far proper names are to be made exceptions, because they are proper names, is an other question.
It is certain that some of them are not to be excepted: So the names of tribes; as, The Missouries , the Otoes , the Winnebagoes. Likewise, the houries and the harpies ; which words, though not strictly proper names, are often written with a capital as such. Like these are rabbies, cadies, mufties, sophies , from which some writers omit the e. Johnson, Walker, and others, write gipsy and gipsies ; Webster, now writes Gipsey and Gipseys ; Worcester prefers Gypsy , and probably Gypsies: Webster once wrote the plural gypsies ; see his Essays , p.
Yet there seems to be the same reason for inserting the e in these, as in other nouns of the same ending; namely, to prevent the o from acquiring a short sound. Harris says very properly, 'We have our Marks and our Antonies: Whatever may have been the motive for it, such a use of the apostrophe is a gross impropriety. The word India , commonly makes the plural Indies , not Indias ; and, for Ajaxes , the poets write Ajaces.
For example--in speaking of two young ladies whose family name is Bell--whether to call them the Miss Bells , the Misses Bell , or the Misses Bells. To an inquiry on this point, a learned editor, who prefers the last, lately gave his answer thus: This puts the words in apposition; and there is no question, that it is formally correct. But still it is less agreeable to the ear, less frequently heard, and less approved by grammarians, than the first phrase; which, if we may be allowed to assume that the two words may be taken together as a sort of compound, is correct also.
The following quotations show the opinions of some other grammarians: The foregoing opinion from Crombie, is quoted and seconded by Maunder, who adds the following examples: Stone, the editor above quoted, nor would his reasoning apply well to several of their examples. Yet both opinions are right, if neither be carried too far.
For when the words are in apposition, rather than in composition, the first name or title must be made plural, if it refers to more than one: Nor is that which varies the first only, to be altogether condemned, though Dr. Priestley is unquestionably wrong respecting the " strict analogy " of which he speaks. The joining of a plural title to one singular noun, as, " Misses Roy ,"--" The Misses Bell ,"--" The two Misses Thomson ," produces a phrase which is in itself the least analogous of the three; but, " The Misses Jane and Eliza Bell ," is a phrase which nobody perhaps will undertake to amend.
It appears, then, that each of these forms of expression may be right in some cases; and each of them may be wrong, if improperly substituted for either of the others. Sells; the two Miss Browns ; or, without the numeral, the Miss Roys. But in addressing letters in which both or all are equally concerned, and also when the names are different, we pluralize the title , Mr. If we wish to distinguish these Misses from other Misses, we call them the Misses Howard.
The elliptical meaning is, the Misses and Messrs, who are named Story. To distinguish unmarried from married ladies, the proper name , and not the title , should be varied; as, the Miss Clarks. When we mention more than one person of different names, the title should be expressed before each; as, Miss Burns, Miss Parker, and Miss Hopkinson, were present. In the following examples from Pope's Works, the last word only is varied: Three others in fe are similar: These are specific exceptions to the general rule for plurals, and not a series of examples coming under a particular rule; for, contrary to the instructions of nearly all our grammarians, there are more than twice as many words of the same endings, which take s only: The plural of wharf is sometimes written wharves ; but perhaps as frequently, and, if so, more accurately, wharfs.
Nouns in ff take s only; as, skiffs, stuffs, gaffs. But the plural of staff has hitherto been generally written staves ; a puzzling and useless anomaly, both in form and sound: Staffs is now sometimes used; as, "I saw the husbandmen bending over their staffs. In one instance, I observe, a very excellent scholar has written selfs for selves , but the latter is the established plural of self:. The word brethren is now applied only to fellow-members of the same church or fraternity; for sons of the same parents we always use brothers ; and this form is sometimes employed in the other sense.
Dice are spotted cubes for gaming; dies are stamps for coining money, or for impressing metals. Pence , as six pence , refers to the amount of money in value; pennies denotes the corns themselves. This last anomaly, I think, might well enough "be spared; the sound of the word being the same, and the distinction to the eye not always regarded. In this way, these irregularities extend to many words; though some of the metaphorical class, as kite's-foot, colts-foot, bear's-foot, lion's-foot , being names of plants, have no plural. The word man , which is used the most frequently in this way, makes more than seventy such compounds.
But there are some words of this ending, which, not being compounds of man , are regular: Thus we write fathers-in-law, sons-in-law, knights-errant, courts-martial, cousins-german, hangers-on, comings-in, goings-out, goings-forth , varying the first; and manhaters, manstealers, manslayers, maneaters, mandrills, handfuls, spoonfuls, mouthfuls, pailfuls, outpourings, ingatherings, downsittings, overflowings , varying the last.
So, in many instances, when there is a less intimate connexion of the parts, and the words are written with a hyphen, if not separately, we choose to vary the latter or last: The following mode of writing is irregular in two respects; first, because the words are separated, and secondly, because both are varied: Liberator , ix, According to analogy, it ought to be: Wright alleges, that, "The phrase, 'I want two spoonfuls or handfuls ,' though common, is improperly constructed;" and that, "we should say, 'Two spoons or hands full.
From this opinion, I dissent: Of the propriety of this, the reader may judge, when I shall have quoted a few examples: Such terms as these, if thought objectionable, may easily be avoided, by substituting for the former part of the compound the separate adjective male or female ; as, male child, male children. Or, for those of the third example, one might say, " singing men and singing women ," as in Nehemiah , vii, 67; for, in the ancient languages, the words are the same. Alger compounds " singing-men and singing-women. But, in all such cases, I think the hyphen should be inserted in the compound, though it is the practice of many to omit it.
Of this odd sort of words, I quote the following examples from Churchill; taking the liberty to insert the hyphen, which he omits: For, as there ought to be no word, or inflection of a word, for which we cannot conceive an appropriate meaning or use, it follows that whatever is of such a species that it cannot be taken in any plural sense, must naturally be named by a word which is singular only: But there are some things, which have in fact neither a comprehensible unity, nor any distinguishable plurality, and which may therefore be spoken of in either number; for the distinction of unity and plurality is, in such instances, merely verbal; and, whichever number we take, the word will be apt to want the other: It is necessary that every noun should be understood to be of one number or the other; for, in connecting it with a verb, or in supplying its place by a pronoun, we must assume it to be either singular or plural.
And it is desirable that singulars and plurals should always abide by their appropriate forms, so that they may be thereby distinguished with readiness. But custom, which regulates this, as every thing else of the like nature, does not always adjust it well; or, at least, not always upon principles uniform in themselves and obvious to every intellect.
Thus, a council , a committee , a jury , a meeting , a society , a flock , or a herd , is singular; and the regular plurals are councils, committees, juries, meetings, societies, flocks, herds. But these, and many similar words, may be taken plurally without the s , because a collective noun is the name of many individuals together. Hence we may say, "The council were unanimous. Where a purer concord can be effected, it may be well to avoid such a construction, though examples like it are not uncommon: Thus, cattle , for beasts of pasture, and pulse , for peas and beans, though in appearance singulars only, are generally, if not always, plural; and summons, gallows, chintz, series, superficies, molasses, suds, hunks, jakes, trapes , and corps , with the appearance of plurals, are generally, if not always, singular.
Webster says that cattle is of both numbers; but wherein the oneness of cattle can consist, I know not. The Bible says, "God made-- cattle after their kind. Here kind is indeed singular, as if cattle were a natural genus of which one must be a cattle ; as sheep are a natural genus of which one is a sheep: Gillies says, in his History of Greece, " cattle was regarded as the most convenient measure of value. Sheep is not singular, unless limited to that number by some definitive word; and cattle I conceive to be incapable of any such limitation.
Summonses is given in Cobb's Dictionary as the plural of summons ; but some authors have used the latter with a plural verb: Johnson says this noun is from the verb to summon ; and, if this is its origin, the singular ought to be a summon , and then summons would be a regular plural. But this "singular noun with a plural termination," as Webster describes it, more probably originated from the Latin verb submoneas , used in the writ, and came to us through the jargon of law, in which we sometimes hear men talk of " summonsing witnesses.
Chints is called by Cobb a "substantive plural " and defined as "cotton cloths , made in India;" but other lexicographers define it as singular, and Worcester perhaps more properly writes it chintz. Johnson cites Pope as speaking of " a charming chints ," and I have somewhere seen the plural formed by adding es. Walker, in his Elements of Elocution, makes frequent use of the word " serieses ," and of the phrase " series of serieses. This, however, is no rule for writing English.
Blair has used the word species in a plural sense; though I think he ought rather to have preferred the regular English word kinds: Specie , meaning hard money, though derived or corrupted from species , is not the singular of that word; nor has it any occasion for a plural form, because we never speak of a specie. The plural of gallows , according to Dr. Webster, is gallowses ; nor is that form without other authority, though some say, gallows is of both numbers and not to be varied: Some nouns, because they signify such things as nature or art has made plural or double; some, because they have been formed from other parts of speech by means of the plural ending which belongs to nouns; and some, because they are compounds in which a plural word is principal, and put last, are commonly used in the plural number only, and have, in strict propriety, no singular.
Though these three classes of plurals may not be perfectly separable, I shall endeavour to exhibit them in the order of this explanation. Plurals in meaning and form: Plurals by formation, derived chiefly from adjectives: To these may be added the Latin words, aborigines, antipodes, antes, antoeci, amphiscii, anthropophagi, antiscii, ascii, literati, fauces, regalia , and credenda , with the Italian vermicelli , and the French belles-lettres and entremets. Of this class are the following: The fact is, that these words have, or ought to have, the singular, as often as there is any occasion to use it; and the same may, in general terms, be said of other nouns, respecting the formation of the plural.
But the nature of a mass, or of an indefinite multitude taken collectively, is not found in individuals as such; nor is the name, whether singular, as gold , or plural, as ashes , so understood. Hence, though every noun must be of one number or the other, there are many which have little or no need of both. Thus we commonly speak of wheat, barley, or oats , collectively; and very seldom find occasion for any other forms of these words.
But chafferers at the corn-market, in spite of Cobbett, will talk about wheats and barleys , meaning different kinds or qualities; and a gardener, if he pleases, will tell of an oat , as does Milton, in his Lycidas, meaning a single seed or plant. But, because wheat or barley generally means that sort of grain in mass, if he will mention a single kernel, he must call it a grain of wheat or a barleycorn. And these he may readily make plural, to specify any particular number; as, five grains of wheat , or three barleycorns.
The word amends is represented by Murray and others, as being singular as well as plural; but Webster's late dictionaries exhibit amend as singular, and amends as plural, with definitions that needlessly differ, though not much. I judge " an amends " to be bad English; and prefer the regular singular, an amend. The word is of French origin, and is sometimes written in English with a needless final e ; as, "But only to make a kind of honourable amende to God.
The word remains Dr. Webster puts down as plural only, and yet uses it himself in the singular: There are also other authorities for this usage, and also for some other nouns that are commonly thought to have no singular; as, "But Duelling is unlawful and murderous, a remain of the ancient Gothic barbarity. It is some poor fragment, some slender ort of his remainder.