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ORIGIN AND CONSTITUTION.
LEOPOLD HARTLEY GBJNDON.
The following Essay originated in a paper, read to a Literary Society, upon Figures of Speech, It was intended to publish that paper as it stood, or at most with a few additions. But soon after the printing had been commenced, it appeared desirable to deviate from the first purpose, and by incorporating appropriate matter, construct a short treatise on the constitution of language in general. The bulk of all language being figurative in essence, it is impossible to treat philosophically of the figures of rhetoric without recognizing those of daily converse; and this leads, as a natural pathway, to the subject of the original construction and imposition of words, in all their wide variety. To make room for this new matter, it became necessary to omit some part of the old, in order to keep the Essay within moderate limits. The remarks upon the unimportant figures called Irony, Hyperbole, and Periphrase, seemed the least worthy of retention, especially as they are amply described in other works; and hence, though promised in the programme, they will not here be found.
The chief aim, accordingly, of this little contribution to the history of language, in its amended shape, is to shew that language is of human construction, God having bestowed the instinct and capacity for it, though not the form; that its elements were procured from the sounds of external nature, including the inarticulate utterances of man's own voice; and that names have been given to objects,-acts, and qualities, according to fixed laws; the most efficient and extensively applied law being that of Correspondence, or the natural harmonies of things. Correspondence is the principle upon which all true figures of speech ultimately rest. Hence it forms the staple theme of the Essay; Etymology, technically so called, furnishing the remainder of the matter. By thus interrogating Correspondence, and comparing the relations of etymology therewith, indications of a more true and complete system of etymology than is yet recognized, will be found to have been insensibly evolved. For the mere tracing of words to an older language is but an imperfect procedure. To determine their pedigrees with accuracy, it is necessary constantly to view words in connection with external nature, and with the phenomena of our inner life.
It is also attempted to be shewn, that upon a clear and philosophic knowledge of language rests all practical inquiry into metaphysics; that the science of language is the ' golden key' to the full understanding and enjoyment of poetry; and that it is the foundation upon which must be based all genuine interpretation of Scripture. That these are high claims to assert for language is fully felt. Whether they be sufficiently supported the reader will judge. Whatever degree of failure in vindicating them may attach to the present performance, will simply illustrate the weakness of the advocate. The thoughtful and logical volume recently published by the Rev. Horace Bushnell, under the title of 'God in Christ,' admirably illustrates the intimate connection of a philosophic knowledge of language with consistent views in doctrinal theology.
Figurative language is a subject of such extent and variety, that many years' study, and many large volumes, would be required to do it full justice. Even the purely etymological part calls for so much research and caution, that the Author, though confident in the general truthfulness of his views, feels it quite necessary to ask a lenient treatment for errors which almost doubtlessly will have crept in. The classical scholar will detect a few mistakes in quotation, &c, but as they do not in the least interfere with the argument, it has been thought unnecessary to point them out to the general reader. Neither has it been thought needful to specify the typographical errata, nor the authorities from which the historical matter has been collected. The intelligent reader always corrects the former for himself; and to cite the latter, would merely be to enumerate the most esteemed and well-known works on philology and antiquities.
A few minds may possibly be indisposed to allow the inference drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures, as to the meaning of the name 'Adam.' Before passing final judgment, let them attentively consider the meaning of Genesis i. 26, 27. Let it also be explained who were the people who were warned from slaying the fugitive Cain, by the mark put upon him by Jehovah, and with whose assistance it was that he 'builded' his 'city.'— (Genesis iv. 15, 17.)
A work comprising such variety of detail, renders the assist