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The ancient metaphorical and poetical dress of language was now laid aside from the intercourse of men, and reserved for those occasions only on which ornament was professedly studied.

Thus I have pursued the history of language through some of the variations it has undergone : I have considered it, in the first structure and composition of words; in the manner of uttering or pronouncing words; and in the style and character of speech. I have yet to consider it in another view, respecting the order and arrangement of words; when we shall find a progress to have taken place, similar to what I have been now illustrating.



WHEN We attend to the order in which words are arranged in a sentence, or significant proposition, we find a very remarkable difference between the ancient and the modern tongues. The consideration of this will serve to unfold farther the genius of language, and to shew the causes of those alterations which it has undergone in the progress of society.

In order to conceive distinctly the nature of that alteration of which I now speak, let us go back, as we did formerly, to the most early period of language. Let us figure to ourselves a savage, who beholds some object, such as fruit, which raises his desire, and who requests another to give it to him. Supposing our savage to be unacquainted with words, he would, in that case, labour to make himself be understood, by pointing earnestly at the object which he desired, and uttering

Supposing him word which he

at the same time a passionate cry. to have acquired words, the first uttered would, of course, be the name of that object. He would not express himself, according to our English order of construction, "Give me "fruit;" but, according to the Latin order, “Fruit give me ;" "Fructum da mihi:" For this plain reason, that his attention was wholly directed towards fruit, the desired object. This was the exciting idea; the object which moved him to speak; and, of course, would be the first named. Such an arrangement is precisely putting into words the gesture which nature taught the savage to make before he was acquainted with words; and therefore it may be depended upon as certain, that he would fall most readily into this arrangement.

Accustomed now to a different method of ordering our words, we call this an inversion, and consider it as a forced and unnatural order of speech. But though not the most logical, it is, however, in one view, the most natural order; because it is the order suggested by imagination and desire, which always impel us to mention their object in the first place. We might therefore conclude, à priori, that this would be the order in which words were most commonly arranged at the beginnings of language; and accordingly we find, in fact, that in this order words are arranged in most of the ancient tongues; as in the Greek and

the Latin; and it is said also, in the Russian, the Sclavonic, the Gaelic, and several of the American tongues.


In the Latin language, the arrangement which most commonly obtains is, to place first in the sentence that word which expresses the principal object of the discourse, together with its circumstances; and afterwards the person, or the thing that acts upon it. Thus Sallust, comparing together the mind and the body: "Animi imperio, corporis servitio, magis utimur;" which order certainly renders the sentence more lively and striking than when it is arranged according to our English construction: "We make most use of the "direction of the soul, and of the service of the "body." The Latin order gratifies more the rapidity of the imagination, which naturally runs first to that which is its chief object; and having once named it, carries it in view throughout the rest of the sentence. In the same manner in poetry:

Justum et tenacem propositi virum,
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni,
Mente quatit sólida.-

Every person of taste must be sensible, that here the words are arranged with a much greater regard to the figure which the several objects make in the fancy, than our English construction admits; which would require the "Justum et tenacem propositi

"virum," though undoubtedly the capital object in the sentence, to be thrown into the last place.

I have said, that in the Greek and Roman languages the most common arrangement is, to place that first which strikes the imagination of the speaker most. I do not, however, pretend that this holds without exception. Sometimes regard to the harmony of the period requires a different order; and in languages susceptible of so much musical beauty, and pronounced with so much tone and modulation as were used by those nations, the harmony of periods was an object carefully studied. Sometimes, too, attention to the perspicuity, to the force, or to the artful suspension of the speaker's meaning, alter this order; and produce such varieties in the arrangement, that it is not easy to reduce them to any one principle. But, in general, this was the genius and character of most of the ancient languages, to give such full liberty to the collocation of words, as allowed them to assume whatever order was most agreeable to the speaker's imagination. The Hebrew is indeed an exception; which, though not altogether without inversions, yet employs them less frequently, and approaches nearer to the English construction than either the Greek or the Latin.

All the modern languages of Europe have adopted a different arrangement from the ancient. In their prose compositions, very little variety is

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