Page images


THE following Grammar is not meerly the Product of

Reflection in the Study; but much Trial, and Practice, and Experience have likewife contributed to bring it to its prefent Form. As I have now been at the Head of a public School above thirty Years, I have, from daily Experience, had too much Occafion to obferve, that the Understanding of Children is not improved fo much as might be wished by the ufual Methods of teaching Grammar; and that thefe Methods are therefore irkfome, both to the Mafter and Scholar: Yet I have found by repeated Experience (and I fuppofe every one who has been long a School-Mafter has found the fame) that the Knowledge of Grammar is of abfolute Neceffity towards the perfect underftanding of any Language: So that however irksome the Labour of teaching or learning Grammar may be, it must be Submitted to, both by the Mafter and Scholar. The great Point therefore is, to make the Labour as eafy as the Nature of the Thing admits of.

The Subject is in itself fomewhat abftracted, and of Confequence, in whatsoever Manner it is taught, can afford little or no Entertainment to the Imagination: But it may be made the Means of fetting the difcurfive Powers to Work; and the Exertion of thefe Powers is agreeable, even to Children, if the Points on which the Powers are to be exerted be not too remote from their Comprehenfion.


a 2

Now thefe

thefe Points in the Latin Language are too remote from the Comprehenfion of English Children; for there is probably no Language fo different from the English as the Latin is; yet the Rudiments of Grammar have been usually taught in our Schools, folely or principally with regard to the Latin. Thus our Children have feveral Difficulties to encounter at once, feeing they are equally ignorant of the Art of Grammar, and of the Language to which they are to apply it ; but they have fome Knowledge of their Native Language, acquired by meer Custom: And although this Knowledge is by no Means diftin&t, yet it is a proper Subject on which to employ our Pains and Skill, in order to render it, by Degrees, more and more diftinct and perfect.

This must be done by firft putting the Learner upon claffing his Conceptions, and then by fhewing him how each Class is applied in the Conftruction of Language.

The claffing of his Conceptions will be accomplished, fo far as this Subject at firft requires, by fhewing a Learner how to diftinguish the feveral Parts of Speech one from another. This may be eafily fhewn to any Child who can read his own Language, by putting him upon resolving it into its conftituent Parts, and telling him the grammatic Name of the Part of Speech to which every Sort of Word that he meets with belongs. As to the Application of the Conceptions or Operations annexed to each Sort of Words, be has already fome Notion of it, acquired by Ufe from his Infancy; but this Notion is indiftinct, and therefore must be rendered more clear and determinate. To effect this, we muft begin, by fhewing the Child that feveral of the Parts of Speech admit of different Kinds of Application, and that on different Accounts, and for different Purposes. This introduces a Neceffity of confidering the different grammatic


[ocr errors][merged small]

Forms under which the fame Subftantive, Pronoun, and Verb, appear in Language: Or, in other Words, of fewing the Child the Declenfion of the Substantive and Pronoun, and the Conjugation of the Verb: Or if you do not choose to have the Declension and Conjugation drawn out in Form, you must of Neceffity cause the Learner to diftinguish readily the Signs and Prepofitions which anf-wer to the Declenfion of Subftantives, and the Signs and Auxiliars which answer to the Conjugation of Verbs. When thefe are well known, the Form of a Sentence may be confidered, and the Concords explained; all which may be done in a few Months, and then the reft will be easy. Please but to teach a Child that is eight or nine Years old, and of a tolerable Capacity, a few Leffons in this Manner, every Day, in any eafy English Book, and you will find that the Child will take more and more Pleasure in performing bis Tafk; and, in fix or eight Months, will be as ready at diftinguishing his Words, and giving his Rules, as you would defire: And if you will fet him sometimes to copy Portions from any good English Writer, and at other Times to compofe fhort Letters or Tales, and fhew him how to refer to the Rules for the rectifying of his Miftakes, when he makes any; you will find him improve daily, and proceed with Satisfaction to himself and you: At least I have found this to be the Event in numerous Trials during ten Years or more.

But as to the Directions by which fuch a Process may be beft conducted. It is manifeft that fome Rules for the Conftruction of the Language must be ujed, and thofe Rules redu ced to fome Kind of Syftem. But to what Form should the Rules be reduced? And to what Extent should they be carried? As to the Form of the Rules; that is undoubtedly the best which contributes moft to the ease of Memory: And I could think of no better Form for this Purpofe than Verfes in Rhime,

a 3

Rhime, with a Repetition in Profe of what each Rule contains. I have found by Experience, that Children easily get thefe Verfes by Heart, and are easily taught to apply them pertinently. If any better Method can be taken, I fhould be glad to be informed of it, and fhould as gladly put it in Practice. As to the Extent to which the Rules fhould be carried-It is manifeftly fo far as to account for every general Mode of Construction in the English Language.

I have at least attempted this in the following Syntax, which confifts of thirty-five Rules, containing about a hundred and feventy Verfes. Perhaps the Rules may admit of being diminished in Number, or reduced to fewer Verfes, or of being made more exact: But I have not been able to dif cover any Inconvenience arifing from their prefent Form; nor any general Mode of English Conftruction to which they do not extend. The Rules for the Order in which Words are placed in English Conftruction, and thofe for the Application of the Signs of the Cafes, are not of abfolute Neceffity for English Children: But they may be very useful to them, efpecially if they fhould ever learn any Language befides their own; because the former of these Rules will give them Jome Notion of the Purpose which is answered by this Order; and the latter will accuftom the Children to reduce their Conceptions to general Claffes as the Rules direct, and to con fider how each Class is applied in dependent Construction : But Foreigners will find thefe Rules of the greatest Advantage; for they are apt to miftake the most in thofe Parts of our Language to which these Rules relate.

I am of Opinion, that if an English Child is not intended for a learned Profeffion, no Part of Learning can be more neceffary for him than to be made very well acquainted with the Grammar of his Native Tongue: And if he be intended for fuch a Profeffion, that ftill it is the best to begin with


[ocr errors]

English Grammar. The Tranfition to the Grammar of the Latin or Greek, or to that of the French, or any Modern Language, will by Means of this become much easier; and the Turns of Conftruction in his own Language will be more readily adapted to thofe of any other, which he may have Occafion to speak or write: For the Child will have got fome Notion of the Intent and Use of Rules in a Language which he underftands, and will have begun to apply them to this Language by the fame Kinds of difcurfive Operation, which are exerted in applying Rules to any other Language.

[ocr errors]

If an English Grammar were to be made for the fole Purpofes of those who propose to learn, and to use no Language but the English only, it might be put into a different Form from that of the Grammars of the learned Languages: And if you take it for granted that every Learner is previously acquainted with the Latin Grammar, much of the English Grammar may be omitted. Dr. Wallis urote his Short Account of English Grammar for those who were in the latter Situation; and several small Pieces have been fince written, feemingly, for those who are in the former. Yet as no Man knows but he may have Occafion to learn Some other Language, why should he not be taught the English Rudiments in fuch a Manner as may be of Service towards his learning any other Language? Why therefore may not the Terms of Cafe, Declenfion, &c. be retained in English, as they are, by established Custom, in the Grammars of other Modern Languages? The Effect of the Declenfion and Cafes of Nouns, and of the Conjugation of Verbs, is and must be in every Language: Why then may not thofe grammatic Forms of Nouns and Verbs, which produce the fame Effects in different Languages, be called by the fame grammatic Names? And why may not Examples of Nouns and Verbs, varied according to the established English

« PreviousContinue »