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customary and admitted already, were generalised and regularised, it would be sufficient for the purpose."
Here we have thirty-five words, and thirteen of them come from the Latin source. This gives 37 per cent. of foreign origin as compared with eleven per cent. in the former passage.
One more sample, this time a verse of Wordsworth's:
"Six feet in earth my Emma lay,
And yet I loved her more
For so it seemed,-than till that day
From these four lines, containing six-and-twenty words, the Latin element is altogether absent.
Now, how is it that the dictionary proportion of Latin words in English and the proportion in use are so different?
Because (1) in the dictionary every word counts once and only once. That, and, if, count as one English word each, and regularise, generalise, secondary, count as one word each. But we can hardly make a sentence without bringing in such words as that, and, if, whilst we may pass months or years or a life-time without bringing into our sentences such words as regularise, generalise, secondary. We should find it a troublesome business to make a sentence ten words long without using a single native English word, for the English words are the mortar, so to speak, by which the sentence is bound together. Take these words away, and the sentence tumbles to pieces. Take away the classical words, and we can in most cases substitute for them words of English origin.
Again, (2) by far the greater number of the words in the dictionary are words which we never use at all,-words which we should never meet with, unless we chanced to see them when we were looking in the dictionary. How many words there are in the English language, it is not an easy matter to say. Some persons would give 100,000 as the number, others 200,000, others 400,000. These startling discrepancies do not imply any incapacity to count correctly on the part of the people who furnish the estimates; they arise from a difference of opinion as to what is to be reckoned as a word. Suppose we accept the lowest of the three totals mentioned above, and say that there are 100,000 words now current in our language; we might then roughly distribute them thus without any great error in the proportion: Latin 60,000, English 30,000, Greek and other sources 10,000.
But how many of these words are in ordinary use? To this question it is impossible to give a definite answer. Shakespeare employed twice as many words to express his thoughts as anybody else, and he said all that he had to say with about 15,000 words. Milton needed only half that number. An educated man of to-day has a vocabulary of some five or six thousand words. Two thousand suffice for an average mechanic; one thousand for a schoolboy; half that number for an
agricultural labourer. We give these numbers by conjecture, but probably they are not very wide of the mark. At any rate we may safely say this, that for every word which the best educated man makes use of, there are at least ten, perhaps twenty, in the dictionary, which he never uses at all. And most of these are words of foreign extraction. The question may be asked,—What are these words for, if we never use them? Vast numbers of them are words of what we call a technical character; they belong to different arts and crafts and sciences, and are used by the men who follow those arts and crafts and sciences and by nobody else. Thus the doctor employs hundreds of technical words not used by the rest of us; then there are the words peculiar to botany and chemistry; the words of mining, of building, of seamanship, and so on. Every occupation furnishes its contribution of terms which are as completely unknown to people generally as so many words of Winchester slang.
But (3) even when we are dealing with words in ordinary use, words of which everybody knows the meaning, the more simple and familiar the subject in hand, the more does the English element predominate. The words which denote the things nearest and dearest to us, the things which we have known from our childhood, are of English origin. Father and mother, house and home, rain, wind, day, night, sun, moon,—these are English words. And hence it is that Wordsworth, describing an old man's feeling about his daughter's death, naturally uses an unmixed English diction as best suited to his purpose. How feeble a Latinized paraphrase would sound by the side of the simple English words which go home to our hearts!
"It appeared to me that I entertained an intenser affection for her than I had previously experienced." The force of the passage has gone, and the sentence reads as if it were taken from the pages of a third-rate novelist. On the other hand, the extract from Matthew Arnold abounds in Latin words, because he is dealing with a scientific subject and resorts to scientific language. Our English forefathers knew nothing of 'regularising' and 'generalising,' of 'secondary schools' and 'universities.' We should be puzzled to express the passage in words of English origin. Thus the Latin element in a man's style will vary according to his subject. If he is writing on a philosophical subject, the proportion of Latin words must necessarily be high, because English will not provide him with the vocabulary which he requires. If he is writing a story or a poem about love or family life, the proportion of Latin words will be low, because English words will be more effective for his purpose. But however high the proportion may be, we shall never come across a passage five lines long in which there are as many
Latin words as there are words of native origin. When we say of a man that he writes a Latinised or classical style, we mean that he often prefers to use a Latin noun, verb, or adjective, when an English noun, verb, or adjective would express his meaning. The other words in his sentences are for the most part English and must be English, since about these no choice is possible.
It is sometimes said that we ought always to use an English word instead of a Latin word if we can. But a hard and fast rule of this sort is not to be laid down for universal application as a maxim of style. The Latin word may sometimes be the more effective or exact, though an English word might also serve the purpose. A good writer will select the best word regardless of its derivation. Still, half-educated persons have such a hankering after Latin words in preference to English words, for the expression of common-place notions about things of every-day life, that there is safety in laying down the rule, at any rate for them, that the English word should always be taken, and the Latin word should be left. The habit of saying 'Allow me to assist you to potatoes,' instead of 'Let me help you to potatoes,' or 'Let me give you some potatoes'; of using 'period' or 'epoch' instead of 'time'; 'individual' instead of 'man'; 'commence' instead of 'begin,' and so on, is detestable1.
21. III. Greek words in English. The Greek element in English is important, and its amount is rapidly increasing. In date of introduction it corresponds with the Latin of the Fourth Period. There are indeed a few ecclesiastical terms of Greek origin, which reached us through a Latin channel before the Norman Conquest, e.g. deacon, monk, apostle, bishop, psalm. But with the exception of a score of words like these, belonging to the vocabulary of the Christian church, the Greek which we have in modern English has been adopted since the Revival of Learning for purposes of scientific nomenclature. Greek is a language which lends itself readily to the formation of compounds. So was old English, but this power of making new words by the combination of other words seems to have perished through the influence of the Norman French. At any rate, our language possesses it no longer. If we consider the ease with which long compound words can be formed in 1 See Abbott and Seeley's English Lessons, p. 105.
W. E. G.
modern German, it seems curious that our own Teutonic language should lack the same facility. But such is the case. And as compound terms are increasingly necessary to express the complex ideas of science, we fall back on Greek to supply our needs. Telephone, microscope, thermometer, photograph, are examples of Greek compounds, and, if we translate these words into their English equivalents, the advantage which we gain from the use of Greek is apparent.
22. IV. Scandinavian words in English. It is not always an easy matter to determine what words we owe to the Norsemen, as the Norsemen belonged to the Teutonic race, and their vocabulary resembled that of our own Low-German dialect. Still, there are some words which we can identify as Scandinavian in their origin. We may trace the Danes on the map of England by the ending -by, which means 'town,' as in Derby, Whitby: the same word is preserved in bye-law. This ending occurs for the most part in the district once occupied by the Danes, called the Danelagh, in the north and east of England. Fell, as in 'Scawfell,' force, 'a water-fall,' as in 'Stockgill-force,' are other examples of Danish geographical names. To the Danes we owe also the word are, which took the place of the English form of the 3rd person plural of the verb am. Other additions which they made to our vocabulary are seen in the words fellow, sky, scant, ugly. The common termination -son in names of persons, e.g. 'Johnson,' 'Anderson,' is Danish. Words meaning 'son of,' Patronymics as they are called in grammar, were formed in Old English by the addition of the ending -ing, e.g. 'Atheling.'
23. V. Words from various sources. We have now completed our account of the chief sources from which the vocabulary of modern English has been enriched.
Words have been borrowed from a large number of other
Spanish-armada, cigar, don.
Russian-czar, knout, drosky.
Hebrew-cherub, seraph, shibboleth.
Arabic-alkali, sheik, sherbet.
Persian-chess, lilac, orange.
Malay-amuck ('to run amuck'), gong, sago.
I. These six Latin words occur in names of places and are marks of the Roman occupation of Britain:-castra, 'a camp'; colonia, ‘a colony'; fossa, 'a ditch'; portus, 'a harbour'; strata, ‘a paved road'; vallum, 'a rampart." Mention names in which these Latin words survive.
2. The following Latin words furnish us with pairs of derivatives which came into our language (1) indirectly through the NormanFrench, (2) directly at the Revival of Learning. Give the pairs of derivatives:—fragilis, pœnitentia, securus, pauper, redemptionem.
3. What other forms have we of the words privy, royal, story, blame? Which of the forms came into the language first? Why do you think so?