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The English language, to express different connexions and relations of one thing to another, uses, for the most part, prepositions. The Greek and Latin among the ancient, and some too among the modern languages, as, the German, vary the termination or ending of the substantive, to answer the same purpose: an example of which, in the Latin, is int. eertcd, as explanatory of the nature and use of cases, viz.
Lord's, of a Lord-
Lords', of Lords,
Some writers think, that the relations signified by the addition of articles and prepositions to the noun, may properly be denominated cases, in English; and that, on this principle, there are, in our language, as many cases as in the Latin tongue. But to this mode of forming cases for our substantives, there are strong objections. It would, indeed, be a formal and useless arrangement of nouns, articles, and prepositions. If an arrangement of this nature were to be considered as constituting cases, the English language would have a much greater number of them, than the Greek and Latin tongues: for, as every preposition has its distinct meaning and effect, every combination of a preposition and article with the noun, would form a different relation, and would constitute a distinct case. This would encumber our language with many new terms, and a heavy and useless load of distinctions.*
On the principle of imitating other languages in names and forms, without a correspondence in nature and idiom, we might adopt a number of declensions, as well as a variety of cases, for English substantives. Thus, five or six declensions, distinguished according to the various modes of forming the plural of substantives, with at least half a dozen cases to each declension, would furnish a complete arrangement of English nouns, in all their trappings. See on this subject the fifth and ninth sections of the sixth chapter of Etymology.
* "If cases are to be distinguished by the different significations of the noun, or by the different relations it may bear to the governing word, then we have in our language as many cases almost, as there arc prepositions: and, above a man, beneath a man, beyond a man, round about a man, within a man, without a wao, &c. shall be cases, as well as, of a map, to a man, and with a man."
But though this variety of cases does not at all correspond with the idiom of our language, there seems to be great propriety in admitting a case in English substantives, which shall serve to denote the objects of active verbs and of prepositions; and which is, therefore, properly termed the objective case. The general idea of case, doubtless, has a reference to the termination of the noun: but there are many instances, both in Greek and Latin, in which the nominative and accusative cases have precisely the same form, and are distinguished only by the relation they bear to other words in the sentence. We are therefore warranted by analogy, in applying this principle to our own language, as far as utility, and the idiom of it, will admit. Now it is obvious, that in English, a noun governed by an active verb, or a preposition, is very differently circumstanced, from a noun in the nominative, or in the possessive case; and that a comprehensive case, correspondent to that difference, must be useful and proper. The business of parsing, and of showing the connexion and dependence of words, will be most conveniently accomplished, by the adoption of such a case; and the irregularity of having our nouns sometimes placed in a situation, in which they cannot be said to be in any case at all, will be avoided.
The author of this work long doubted the propriety, of assigning to English substantives an objective case: but a renewed, critical examination of the subject; an examination to which he was prompted by the extensive and increasing demand for the grammar, has produced in his mind a full persuasion, that the nouns of our language are entitled to this comprehensive objective case.
When the thing to which another is said to belong, is expressed by a circumlocution, or by many terms, the sign of the possessive case is commonly added to the last term: as, " The king of Great Britain's dominions."
Sometimes, though rarely, two nouns in the possessive case, immediately succeed each other, in the following form: "My friend's wife's sister;" a sense which would be better expressed by saying, "the sister of my friend's wife;" or, "My friend's sister in Jaw." Some grammarians say, that in each of the following phrases, viz. "A book of my brother's," "a servant of the queen's," "A soldier of the king's," there are two genitive cases; the first phrase implying, "one of the books of my brother," the next, "one of the servants of the queen;" and the last, "one of the soldiers of the king." But as the preposition governs the objective case; and as there are not, in each of these sentences, two apostrophes with the letter s coming after them, we cannot with propriety say that there are two genitive cases.
An Adjective is a word added to a substantive, to express its quality: as, "An industrious man;" "A virtuous woman;" "A benevolent mind."
In English, the adjective is not varied on account of gender, number, or case. Thus we say, "A careless boy; careless girls."
The only variation which it admits, is that of the degrees of comparison.
There are commonly reckoned three degrees of comparison; the Positive, the Comparative, and the
Grammarians have generally enumerated these three degrees of comparison; but the first of them has been thought by some writers, to be^ improperly, termed a degree of comparison; as it seems to be nothing more than the simple form of the adjective, and not to imply either comparison or degree. This opinion may be well founded, unless the adjective be supposed to imply comparison or degree, by containing a secret or general reference to other things: as, when we say,
"he is a tall man," "this is a/oir day," we make some reference to the ordinary size of men, and to different weather.
The Positive State expresses the quality of an object, without any increase or diminution: as, good, wise, great.
The Comparative Degree increases or lessens the positive in signification: as, wiser, greater, less wise.
The Superlative Degree increases or lessens the positive to the highest or lowest degree: as, wisest, greatest, least wise.
The simple word, or positive, becomes the comparative, by adding r or er; and the superlative, by adding st or est, to the end of it: as, wise, wiser, wisest; great, greater, greatest. And the adverbs more and most, placed before the adjective, have the same effect: as, wise, more wise, most wise.
The termination ish may be accounted in some sort a degree of comparison, by which the signification is diminished below the positive: as, black, blackish, or tending to blackness; salt, saltish, or having a little taste of salt.
The word rather is very properly used to express a small degree or excess of a quality: as, "she is rather profuse in her expenses."
Monosyllables, for the most part, are compared by er and est; and dissyllables by more and most: as, mild, milder, mildest; frugal, more frugal, most frugal. Dissyllables ending in y; as, happy, lovely; and in le after a mute, as able, ample; or accented on the last syllable, as, discreet, polite; easily admit of er and est: as, happier, happiest; abler, ablest; politer, politest. Words of more than two syllables hardly ever admit of those terminations. &
In some words the superlative is formed by adding the adverb most to the end of them: as, nethermost, uttermost or utmost; undermost, uppermost, foremost.
In English, as in most languages, there are some words of very common use, (in which the caprice of custom is apt to get the better of analogy,) that are irregular in this respect: as, "good, better, best; bad, worse, worst; little, less, least; much or many, more, most; near, nearer, nearest or next; late, later, latest or last; old, older or elder, oldest or eldest;" and a few others.
An adjective put without a substantive, with the definite article before it, becomes a substantive in sense and meaning, and is written as a substantive: as, "Providence rtwards 1h4 good, and punishes the bad."
Various nouns placed before other nouns assume the nature of adjectives 2 as, sea fish, wine vessel, corn field, meau dow ground, &c.
Numeral adjectives are either cardinal, or ordinal: cardinal, as one, two, three, &c.; ordinal, as first, second, third, fee.
Remarks on the subject of Comparison. If we consider the subject of comparison attentively, we shall perceive that the degrees of it are infinite in number, or at least indefinite. The following instances will illustrate this position.—A mountain is larger than a mite;—by how many degrees? How much bigger is the earth than a grain of sand? By how many degrees was Socrates wiser than Alcibiades; or by how many is snow whiter than this paper? It is plain, that to these, and many other questions of a similar nature, no definite answers can be returned.
In quantities, however, that may be exactly measured, the degrees of excess may be exactly ascertained. A foot is just twelve times as long as an inch; and an hour is sixty times the length of a minute. But in regard to qualities, and to those quantities which cannot be measured exactly, it is impossible to say how many degrees may be comprehended in the comparative excess.
But though these degrees are infinite or indefinite in fact, they cannot be so in language: it is not possible to accommodate our speech to such numberless gradations; nor would it be convenient, if language were to express many of them. In regard to unmeasured quantities and qualities, the degrees of more and less, (besides those marked above,) may be expressed intelligibly, at least, if not accurately, by certain adverbs, or words of like import: as, "virtue is greatly preferable to riches;" "Socrates was much wiser than Alcihiades;" " Snow is a great deal whiter than this paper;" "The tide is considerably higher to-day than it was yesterday;" "Epaminondas was by far the most accomplished of the Thehans;" " The evening star is a very splendid object, but the sun is incomparably more splendid;" "The Deity is infinitely greater than the greatest of his creatures." The inaccuracy of these, and the like expressions, is not a material inconvenience; and, if it were, it is unavoidable: for human