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get on but lamely: and therefore they have been introduced, in different plenty, and more or lefs happily, in all Languages. And upon these two points-Abbreviation of Terms, and Abbreviation in the manner of fignification of words-depends the respective excellence of every Language. All their other comparative advantages are trifling.
I like your method of proof very well; and will certainly put it to the trial. But before I can do that properly, you must explain your Abbreviations: that I may know what they stand for, and what words to put in their
Would you have me then pafs over the two necessary Parts of Speech; and proceed immediately to their Abbreviations ?
If you will. For I fuppofe you agree with the common opinion, concerning the words which you have distinguifhed as neceffary to the communication of our thoughts. Thofe you call neceffary, I fuppofe you allow to be the figns of different forts of Ideas, or of different operations of the mind.
Indeed I do not. The business of the mind, as far as it concerns Language, appears to me to be very simple. It extends no farther than to receive Impreffions, that is, to have Sensations or Feelings. What are called What are called its operations, are merely the operations of Language. A confideration of Ideas, or of the Mind, or of Things (relative to the Parts of Speech) will lead us no farther than to Nouns i. e. the signs of those impreffions, or names of ideas. The other Part of Speech, the Verb, must be accounted for from the neceffary ufe of it in communication. It is in fact the communication itfelf: and therefore well denominated Pμa, dictum. For the Verb is quod loquimur; the Noun, DE QUO.
Let us proceed then regularly; and hear what you have to fay on each of your two neceffary Parts of Speech.
*«Alterum eft quod loquimur; alterum de quo loquimur."
ΕΠΕΑ ΠΤΕΡΟΕΝΤΑ, &c.
OF THE NOUN.
OF the first Part of Speech-the Noun,—it being the best understood, and therefore the most spoken of by others, I fhall need at present to say little more than that it is the fimple or complex, the particular or general fign or name of one or more Ideas.
I shall only remind you, that at this ftage of our inquiry concerning Language, comes in moft properly the confideration of the Force of terms: which is the whole business of Mr. Locke's Effay; to which I refer you. And I imagine that Mr. Locke's intention of confining himself to the confideration of the Mind only, was the reason that he went no farther than to the Force of Terms; and did not meddle with their Manner of fignification, to which the Mind alone could never lead him.
Do you say nothing of the Declenfion, Number, Cafe and Gender of Nouns?
At present nothing. There is no pains-worthy difficulty nor difpute about them.
Surely there is about the Gender. And Mr. Harris particularly has thought it worth his while to treat at large of what others have flightly hinted concerning it: and has supported his reasoning by a long lift of poetical authoriWhat think you of that part of his book?
#CC Pythagorici fexum in cunctis agnofcunt,. &c. Agens, Mas; Patiens, "Fœmina. Quapropter Deus dicunt mafculinè; Terra, fœmininè; & Ignis, mafculinè; & Aqua, foemininè: quoniam in his Actio, in iftis. Paffio relucebat."
"In rebus inveniuntur duæ proprietates generales, fcilicet proprietas "Agentis, & proprietas Patientis. Genus eft modus fignificandi nominis "fumptus a proprietate activa vel paffiva. Genus mafculinum eft modus "fignificandi rem fub proprietate agentis: Genus femininum eft modus "fignificandi rem fub proprietate patientis."
Scotus-Gram. Spec.. Cap. xvi..
That, with the rest of it, he had much better have let it alone. And as for his poetical authorities; the Mufes (as I have heard Mrs. Peachum fay of her own sex in cases of murder) are bitter bad judges in matters of philofophy. Befides that Reason is an arrant Defpot; who, in his own dominions, admits of no authority but his own. And Mr. Harris is particularly unfortunate in the very outset of that" fubtle kind of reasoning (as he calls it) which ❝difcerns even in things without sex, a distant analogy to "that great natural distinction." For his very first inftances, the SUN and the MOON,-destroy the whole subtilty of this kind of reasoning *. For Mr. Harris ought to have known, that in many Afiatic Languages, and in all the northern Languages of this part of the globe which we inhabit, and particularly in our Mother-language the Anglo-faxon (from which SUN and MOON are immediately
* It can only have been Mr. Harris's authority, and the ill-founded praises lavished on his performance, that could mislead Dr. Priestley, in his thirteenth lecture, haftily and without examination, to fay" Thus, for example, "the sun having a stronger, and the MOON a weaker influence over the "world, and there being but two celeftial bodies fo remarkable; All nations, "I believe, that ufe genders, have afcribed to the Sun the gender of the "Male, and to the Moon that of the Female."
In the Gothic, Anglo-faxon, German, Dutch, Danish and Swedish, sun is feminine: In modern Ruffian it is neuter.