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SYNTAX OF NOUNS.
232. SYNTAX deals with the relations of words when they are arranged so as to form sentences. Most of these relations come under the heads of Concord and Government. By Concord we mean the agreement of two or more connected words, as regards their gender, number, case, or person. By Government we mean the influence exercised upon the case of a noun or pronoun by another word: thus a transitive verb or a preposition is said to 'govern' a noun. Owing to the scanty supply of inflexions in modern English, the relation of a word to other words in the sentence is often indicated by its position. Hence we may say that syntax has to do with the Order or Arrangement of words, as well as with their Concord and Government.
The principles of Syntax might be enumerated under these three heads, but the student will obtain a clearer view of the subject, if we deal with the Syntax of the different parts of speech in succession, as we have already dealt with their Etymology. In our treatment of the meaning and use of words, we discussed many points which belong strictly to Syntax. What remains to be done in this section of the book is to give a short summary of these and to supply others which have been omitted.
Syntax of Nouns. Our remarks on the Syntax of Nouns may be grouped most conveniently under the different cases.
233. The Nominative case is used—
(1) When a noun stands as the Subject of a sentence, whether the verb of which it is the subject be active or passive: He works,' 'I have been wounded.' The concord of the verb with its subject is discussed under the Syntax of Verbs.
(2) As a Vocative, or Nominative of Address: 'Milton thou shouldst be living at this hour.'
(3) To complete the predicate after certain intransitive verbs of incomplete predication: such verbs as to be, become, continue, seem, feel, often require a complement: 'He became prime minister,' 'I continued secretary,' 'He seemed and felt a hero.'
(4) With certain transitive verbs in the passive to complete the meaning: 'He was made secretary,' 'I was appointed treasurer,' 'You were called John.' Such transitive verbs are called factitive or 'making' verbs, because the verb 'to make' (Lat. facio) is a type of the class.
(5) When a noun is in apposition with another noun in the nominative.
(6) When the noun or pronoun, combined with a participle, is in the absolute construction. Thus, 'The door being open, the steed was stolen,'' My partner having returned, I shall go for my holiday.'
(Absolutus means in Latin 'set free' or 'untied': an absolute phrase can be detached without affecting the construction of the sentence.)
It is disputed whether the case of the noun in the absolute construction is really the nominative in modern
English. In old English it was the dative. As the dative ending has disappeared from our nouns, it is only when one of the personal pronouns is used that we can still see what the case actually is. Should we say 'He excepted' or 'Him excepted'? 'I returning' or 'Me returning'? It scarcely admits of doubt that the nominative would be preferred to the objective as the absolute case at the present day.
234. The following sentences illustrate a very common blunder in connexion with the use of the participle in a construction which is meant to be absolute but is not.
'Walking across the common, my hat was knocked off by a cricket-ball.'
As the sentence stands, walking is a participial adjunct of hat, and the construction is therefore My hat walking across the common was knocked off by a cricket-ball,' which is absurd. The required correction may be made. in various ways: (1) By completing the absolute phrase. Add the missing pronoun and say 'I walking across the common, my hat was knocked off.' This makes the syntax regular, but the expression would be unusual. (2) By substituting 'I had my hat knocked off' for 'my hat was knocked off.' I is then the subject, and walking across the common is quite rightly the adjunct of I, instead of being the adjunct of my hat as before. (3) By converting the participle into a past imperfect tense indicative. Say 'As
I was walking across the common, my hat was knocked off.'
'Going into the garden, the grass wetted my feet.' We may correct this by substituting (1) 'I going into the garden (absolute phrase), the grass wetted my feet,' or (2) 'Going into the garden, I wetted my feet in the grass,' or (3) ‘On my going (gerund) into the garden, the grass wetted my feet.' The first expression is one which nobody would ever employ, but it is grammatically correct. A captious critic
may raise the further objection that, as my feet were wetted, probably after I had reached the garden and not on my way thither, having gone is more likely to suit the facts than going.
235. Apposition. This is a suitable point at which we may bring together remarks on Apposition that would otherwise be scattered in various parts of the book.
When one noun is used to explain the meaning of another, it is put in the same case, usually in the same number, if possible in the same gender, and is said to be in Apposition. The following sentences contain nouns in apposition:
'Turner, the baker, lives here': Turner is the subject, the baker is in the nominative case in apposition.
'I saw Turner, the baker': both nouns are in the objective case.
'This is Turner's, the baker's, shop': both nouns are in the possessive case.
In practice we rarely employ the last form of expression. Instead of saying 'This is Turner's, the baker's, shop,' we should say 'This is Turner the baker's shop.' Here there is no apposition, but Turner-the-baker is treated as a compound noun. Identity of case is essential to apposition.
The noun in apposition usually agrees in number, but not necessarily a collective noun in the singular may be used in apposition with a noun in the plural, and vice versâ : 'Four hundred boys, the whole school, turned out to receive him': 'This year's team, eleven well-tried men, will give a good account of themselves.'
Owing to the absence of any appropriate feminine form, it is often impossible to mark a concord of gender between the noun in apposition and the noun to which it refers. Thus we have to say 'Scott the novelist,' or 'writer,' and
'Miss Evans the novelist,' or 'writer,' as no feminine of novelist or writer exists. But we should say 'Scott the poet,' or 'author,' and 'Miss Evans the poetess,' or 'authoress,' making the noun in apposition agree as regards gender when it is practicable to do so.
236. Order of the Noun in the Nominative Case. The subject precedes the verb, as a general rule, but comes after it
i. in questions: 'Did you say so?'
ii. in commands: 'See thou to that.'
iii. in certain uses of the subjunctive mood: 'Were he here, you would not say this,' 'Would I could find him!' 'May you prosper!'
iv. when nor precedes the verb: 'I said I would not do it, nor will I,' 'He wanted only a pretext, nor was he long in finding one.'
v. in the phrases 'said I,' 'quoth he,' ' answered he,' etc.
vi. when the sentence is introduced by there, as 'There are some who deny this.'
vii. for emphasis: 'Great is Diana,' 'Indeed will I, quoth Findlay.'
237. Possession is only one of the relations indicated by nouns in the possessive case: 'John's hat' means 'the hat possessed by John'; 'the master's cane' means 'the cane possessed by the master.' But 'Byron's poems' does not mean 'the poems possessed by Byron'; 'Peel's Act' does not mean 'the Act possessed by Peel'; 'Cade's insurrection' does not mean 'the insurrection possessed by Cade'; 'an hour's detention' does not mean 'the detention possessed by an hour.' The term possessive is therefore inadequate as a description of the functions performed by this case.
What feature is common to all these uses of the socalled possessive case? The common feature is this: the noun in the possessive has the limiting force of an adjective. Just as 'John's hat' is a particular kind of hat, so 'Byron's poems' are a particular kind of poems,