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The English Language hath been much cultivated
during the last two hundred years. It hath been considerably polished and refined ; its bounds have been greatly enlarged; its energy, variety, richness, and elegance, have been abundantly proved, by numberless trials, in verse and in prose, upon all subjects; and in every kind of Kyle : but, whatever other improvements it may have received, it hath made no advances in Grammatical Accuracy. Hooker is one of the earlieft writers, of considerable note, within the period abovementioned ; let his writings be compared with the best of those of modern date; and, I believe, it will be found, that, in correctness, propriety, and purity of English style, he hath hardly been furpassed, or even equaled, by any of his fucceffors.. .
It is now about fifty years, since Doctor Swift made a public remonftrance, addressed to the Earl of Oxford, then Lord Treasurer, concerning the imperfect
State of our Language ; alleging in particular, " that « in many infances it offended against every part of 66 Grammar.” Swift must be allowed to have been a good judge of this matter; to which he was himself very attentive, both in his own writings, and in his remarks upon those of his friends : he is one of the most correct, and perhaps the best, of our prose writers. Indeed the jusiness of this complaint, as far as I can find, bath never been questioned ; and yet no effe&tual method hath hitherto been taken to redress the grievance, which was the object of it. . *
But let us consider, how, and in what extent, we are to understand this charge brought against the English Langưage : for the Author seems not to have explained himself with fufficient clearness and precision on this bead. Does it mean, that the English Lann guage, as it is spoken by the politest part of the nation, and as it stands in the writings of our most approved . authors, often offends against every part of Grammar? Thus far, I am afraid, the charge is true. 'Or does it further imply, that`our Language is in its nature irregular and capricious í not hitherto fubječi, nor ea-, fily reducible, to a System of rules? In this respect, I am persuaded, the charge is wholly without foundation,
The English Language is perhaps of all the present European Languages - by much the mot simple in its
i ? . de form
form and construction. Of all the antient Languages extant That is the most fimple, which is undoubtedly the most antient; but even that Language itself does not equal the English in fimplicity.
The words of the English Language are perhaps subjeet to fewer variations from their original form, than those of any other. Its Subfiantives have but one variation of Cafe; nor have they any dislination of Gender, beside that which nature hath made. Its Adjece tives admit of no change at all, except that which expreffes the degrees of comparison. All the poffible variations of the original form of the Verb are not above fix or seven ; whereas in many Languages they amount to fone hundreds : and almost the whole business of Modes, Times, and Veices, is managed with great ease by the assistance of eight or nine commodious little Verbs, called from their use Auxiliaries. The Construction of this Language is so easy and obvious, that our Grammarians have thought it hardly worth while to give us any thing like a regular and systematical Syntax. The English Grammar, which bath been last presented to the public, and by the Person best qualified to have given us a perfect one, comprises the whole Syntax in ten lines : for this reafon ; " because our Language has u so little inflexion, that its construction neither “ requires nor admits many rules.” In truth, the easier any subject is in its own nature, the harder
is it to make it more easy by explanation; and nothing
It doth not then proceed from any peculiar irregula-
A Grammatical Study of our own Language makes
But perhaps the Notes subjoined to the following pages will furnish a more convincing argument, than any thing that can be said here, both of the truth of
the charge of Inaccuracy brought against our Language, in as it fubfifts in Practice; and of the necesity of invefti
gating the Principles of it, and studying it Grammati1,cally, if we would attain to a due degree of skill in it.
It is with reason expected of every perfon of a liberal education, and it is indispensably required of every one wbo undertakes to inform or entertain the public, that be should be able to express himself with propriety and