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Every man of education should make it the object of his unceasing concern, to preserve his lan- guage pure and entire, to speak it, so far as is in his power, in all its beauty and perfection. A nation whose language becomes rude and barbarous, must be on the brink of barbarism in regard to every- thing else.
' Spartam nactus es ; banc exorna,' — this should be our motto in respect alike of our country, and of the speech of our country.With this intense personal interest in this little book it gave me great pleasure to under- take at the publishers' request the task of re- vising it. At the same time various prudential considerations must determine for us how far up we will endeavour to trace the course of its history. Others, however, must be content with seeking such insight into their native language as may be within the reach of all who, unable to make this the subject of especial research, possessing neither that vast compass of knowledge, nor that immense apparatus of books, not being at liberty to yield to it that devotion almost of a life which, followed out to the full, it would require, have yet an intelligent interest in their mother tongue, and desire to learn as much of its growth and history and construction as may be fairly within their reach. I assume no higher ground than this for myself I know, indeed, that some, when invited at all to enter upon the past history of the English language, are inclined to answer—' To what end such studies to us ?Apart from personal considerations I felt that the book had strong claims to be kept before the public as a text-book on the English language. There are those who may seek to trace our language to the forests of Germany and Scandinavia, to investigate its relation to all the kindred dialects that were there spoken ; again, to follow it up, till it and they are seen de- scending from an elder stock ; nor once to pause, till they have assigned to it its proper place not merely in that smaller group of languages which are immedi- ately round it, but in respect of all the tongues and et putida, partim mendosa et perperam prolata, quid si ignavos et oscitantes, et ad servile quidvis jam olim paratos incolarum animos hand levi indicio declarant ? Why cannot we leave them to a few anti- quaries and grammarians ? 192 LECTURE VL Diminutions of the English Langv age— con^iimcci 253 LECTURE VIL Changes in the Meaning ok English Words . New ones are perpetually coined to meet the demand of an advanced understanding, of new feelings that have sprung out of the decay of old ones, of ideas 2 The English Vocabulary. that have shot forth from the summit of the tree of our knowledge ; old words meanwhile fall into disuse and become obsolete ; others have their meaning narrowed and defined ; synonyms diverge from each other and their property is parted between them; nay, whole classes of words will now and then be thrown overboard, as new feelings or perceptions of analogy gain ground. And as it is with ideas, so it is with their symbols, words.