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pictures of the things meant to be represented. This was the only sort of writing that existed among the Mexicans, when their fatal visitants, the Spaniards, arrived in their country; and by this method they transmitted the most important events which took place in their nation. To these succeeded contractions of those pictures, constituting certain symbols, that were used to give the ideas of invisible objects; on account of some resemblance they were imagined to bear to those objects. Thence the art of writing advanced to simple arbitrary marks which stood for objects, without resembling them, or having any particular analogy to them. Such was the mode of writing among the Peruvians, who contrived to convey information and communicate their thoughts by means of small cords of various colours, upon which they made knots of different sizes and differently arranged. Of such nature, also, are the written characters used by the Chinese, at present. They have no set of letters expressing the simple sounds that compose their words ; but every particular character of their written language signifies some particular idea, thing, or object. The number of these characters, as it must correspond to the number of objects or ideas, which they find necessary to express, is therefore, very great ; amounting, indeed, to about seventy thousand; so that to acquire a perfect knowledge of them, is the
business of nearly the whole life of a man. It is not known, who was the meritorious inventor of letters, or marks for the articulate sounds of the human voice, by which we are enabled to represent, in writing, all the combinations of those sounds that constitute speech. This wonderful and most useful invention was certainly antecedent to the time of Moses, and is generally supposed to bave taken rise among the Egyptians. The Phenicians brought it into Greece. Their alphabet is said to have contained only sixteen letters. The others were added successively ; and the letters which we now use may be traced back to that very alphabet. The letters were originally written from the right hand, towards the left, exactly contrary to the method, at present, followed. The Greeks, afterwards, adopted a new direction for the alphabetical characters, making them run alternately from right to left, and from left to right. This method of writing they called Boustrophedon ; from the manner in which oxen are guided in ploughing. For a considerable time, the letters forming words, were engraved on pillars and tables of stone, or on sheets of lead. Lighter substances were then employed for the purpose, when writing became more requisite in society. In some countries, the leaves and bark of trees; and in others, wooden tablets covered with wax were used, upon which the characters were impressed by a sharp-pointed metal rod, named stylus. The skins of animals, manufactured into what is called parchment, succeeded. The present mode of writing upon paper was not introduced until the fourteenth century. The stylus must then have been laid aside, and brushes and paint, or pens and ink, substituted for that instrument,
The word language appears to be regarded as a generic term, comprehending both methods of communicating thoughts; namely, speech and writing ; though its derivation from the Latin name for the tongue, might seem to refer it principally to the former.
The Grammar of any language is an analysis of the structure of that language, and rules for speaking and writing it with propriety, grounded upon experience, general custom, and the practice of the most celebrated authors, and public speakers.
The English language is founded entirely on the Gothic or Teutonic, which is prevalent in most of the northern countries of Europe.
The English grammar may be comprised conveniently in four divisions, which are indeed applicable to the grammar of almost every other language; namely, ORTIOGRAPHY, ETYMOLOGY, SYNTAX, PROSODY; to which may be added, PUNCTUATION.
Sect. 1. Of the Letters. The English alphabet consists of the twenty six letters following: Saxon. Roman. Italic.
Old English. Cap. Small. Cap. Small. Cap. Small. Cap. Small.
Note. The sounds represented by these characters should be taught orally, as it is almost impossible to give them accurately by any combinations of the characters themselves. The letters of the English language have been commonly reckoned to be twenty-four, because i and j, as well as u and v, were anciently expressed by the same character. But as those letters had always different powers, and as they are now represented by different marks, the English alphabet may justly be said to comprehend twenty-six letters.
This alphabet does not contain marks equal in number to the original simple sounds of the English language, nor is each one of its marks or characters expressive of only one distinct sound, for some of its letters represent several different sounds. The sounds represented by the combined letters, th, sh, ch, ng, are not expressed by single appropriate characters; and the letters, a and u, have, each, different sounds, as they are differently placed.
A letter which is capable of being distinctly sounded by itself, is called a vowel. Of tliese vowels, there are five,
age, i, o, u. But the letter y, is frequently used as a vowel ; having, in that case, the same sound as i. or e. For example, y is written instead of i, in the end of words, as holy, cleanly, fully, charity, lady, fury, where its sound is evidently that of e short, as custom has now fixed it. When two of the letter i are sounded together, the first is generally written y; as in the words dying, beautifying, fortifying. This change takes place also in the words, says, days, lays, rays,