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get on but lamely: and therefore they have been introduced, in different plenty, and more or less happily, in all Languages. And upon these two points-Abbreviation of Terms, and Abbreviation in the manner of signification 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 room.


Would you have me then pass over the two necesary Parts of Speech; and proceed immediately to their Abbreviations ?


If you will. For I suppose you agree with the common opinion, concerning the words which you have distinguished as necessary to the communication of our thoughts. Thofe you call neceffary, I fuppose you allow to be the figns of different forts of Ideas, or of different operations of the mind.

H. Indeed

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Indeed I do not. The bufiness of the mind, as far as it concerns Language, appears to me to be very simple. It extends no farther than to receive Impressions, that is, to have Sensations or Feelings.

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 impressions, or names of ideas. The other part of Speech, the Verb, must be accounted for from the necessary use of it in communication. It is in fact the communication itfelf: and therefore well denominated Popa, dictum. For the Verb is quod loquiinur *; the Noun, DE QUO.


Let us proceed then regularly; and hear what you have to say on each of your two necessary Parts of Speech,

* “ Alterum est quod loquimur ; alterum de quo loquimur.”

Quinctil, lib. i. cap. 4.

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OF the first Part of Speech-the Noun--it being the

best understood, and therefore the most spoken of by others, I shall need at present to say little more than that it is the fimple or complex, the particular or general sign or name of one or more Ideas.

I shall only remind you, that at this stage of our inquiry concerning Language, comes in most properly the consideration 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 himfelf to the consideration 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 signification, to which the Mind alone could never lead him.

B. Do B.

Do you say nothing of the Declension, Number, Case and Gender of Nouns?


At present nothing. There is no pains-worthy difficulty nor dispute 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 slightly hinted concerning it * : and has supported his reasoning by a long list of poetical authorities. What think you of that part of his book ?

Pythagorici fexum in cunctis agnoscunt, &c. Agens, Mas; Patiens, “ Fæmina. Quapropter Deus dicunt masculinè; Terra, fæmininè; &

Ignis, masculinè; & Aqua, fæmininè: quoniam in his Actio, in iftis Pafo relucebat.”


“ In rebus inveniuntur duæ proprietates generales, scilicet proprietas

Agentis, & proprietas Patientis. Genus est modus significandi nominis “ fumptus a proprietate activa vel passiva. Genus masculinum: est modus " significandi rem fub proprietate agentis : Genus femininum est modus " significandi rem sub proprietate patientis.”

Scotus-Gram. Spec.. Cap. xvi.

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That, with the rest of it, he had much better have let it alone. And as for his poetical authorities; the Muses (as I have heard Mrs. Peachum say of her own sex in cases of murder) are bitter bad judges in matters of philosophy. Besides that Reason is an arrant Despot; who, in his own dominions, admits of no authority but his own. And Mr. Harris is particularly unfortunate in the very outset of that—" subtle kind of reasoning (as he calls it) which

6 discerns 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 Asiatic Languages, and in all the northern Languages of this part of the globe which we inhabit, and particularly in our Mother-language the Anglo-saxon (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 miseаd Dr. Priestley, in his thirteenth lecture, hastily and without examination, to say—“ Thus, for example, "" the sun having a stronger, and the moon a weaker influence over the « world, and there being but two celestial bodies fo remarkable ; All nations, “I believe, that use genders, have ascribed to the Sun the gender of the " Male, and to the Moon that of the Female."

In the Gothic, Anglo-saxon, German, Dutch, Danish and Swedish, sun is feminine : In modern Russian it is neuter.


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