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GRAMMAR, HISTORY, AND DERIVATION
WITH CHAPTERS ON
PARSING, ANALYSIS OF SENTENCES, AND PROSODY
REV. EVAN DANIEL, M.A.
PRINCIPAL OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY'S TRAINING COLLEGE, BATTERSEA
HON. CANON OF ROCHESTER CATHEDRAL
IT IS COMMONLY ASSUMED that Grammar is a purely verbal science, in which the student is mainly occupied in learning definitions, paradigms, and rules of syntax, and that it is, consequently, far inferior as an instrument of mental discipline to natural history and experimental science. The mode in which it has been too frequently taught gives some colour to this view; but, rightly taught, grammar is as much a real study as botany or chemistry. Words are things, as well as the symbols of things, and are subject to definite natural laws—to laws of growth and decay, to laws of inflexion and syntax, to laws affecting their signification. The facts of language are still where the grammarian originally found them, and the learner may, under proper direction, find them for himself, classify them for himself, and reason from them for himself. It is obvious, therefore, that grammar affords room for original observation, for generalization, for induction and deduction, and that, if it were taught in this scientific spirit, its value as a formative study would be very high.
The distinguishing feature of this Grammar is set forth in the opening paragraph. Starting with the recognition of the fact that all the truths of which the grammar of a language takes cognizance are to be found in the language itself, the Author has everywhere invoked the co-operation of the student in the collection and investigation of those truths. The exercises are, for the most part, not mere echo-questions asking for the matter of the chapters to which they are appended, but questions based on specimens submitted for original examination, just like the specimens put before a class in Botany or Chemistry. These specimens have been carefully collected during a period of teaching extending over twenty years, and will be found to embrace most of the difficulties which the language presents.
The Author has paid special attention to what are generally called the exceptions of accidence and construction, with a view to getting rid of them. The exceptions of grammar are not infractions of law, but instances of laws that, in accordance with higher laws, are becoming, or have become, obsolete. It is of the highest importance to the student to recognize this truth, and to narrow, wherever he can, the area of knowledge that still remains outside the domain of investigated law. Thus only can knowledge be rendered scientific. Much has been done of late years (notably by Dr. Morris) to explain the peculiarities of English accidence ; the Author hopes that, by reference to the syntax of Old English, he has himself done something to remove the anomalies of English syntax.
The method of the Grammar is not exclusively inductive. Wherever it is possible the student is called upon to apply, in deductive exercises, the knowledge which he has acquired. Mr. Fitch, in one of the admirable lectures on Teaching delivered by him before the University of Cambridge, says, on the subject of textbooks: One good test of a grammar or delectus, or of a manual of any kind, is this: Does it, as soon as it has helped the student to know something, instantly set him to do something which requires him to use that knowledge, and to show that he has really acquired it ? E.g., if it explains a new term, does it require the learner soon to use that term ? If it states a rule, does it give him instantly occasion to put the rule in practice ? If it points out a new logical or grammatical distinction, does it challenge him forthwith to find new instances and illustrations of that distinction?' The Author trusts that the Grammar now submitted to teachers and students will not wholly fail to give satisfaction under the application of this test.
The history and derivation of the language are treated at greater length than in most school-books, but it is hoped that the importance of the subject will afford a sufficient justification for the course taken in this respect. In tracing the derivation of words the student will take care not to be deceived by mere coincidences of form and meaning. Dr. Donaldson used to say to his pupils, Whenever you come across an ingenious
· Lectures on Teaching, p. 84.