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exceptions : 'sands', 'clays', 'coals', 'irons', 'leads', 'coppers', 'an earth', 'a water'. But in such instances the meaning is changed; instead of expressing the entire aggregate of the material, they signify portions of it, or things made of it, or kinds of it. They become common, general, or class nanies; being parsed accordingly.
Thus, although the Proper, the Abstract, and the Material Noun signify very different things, they agree grammatically among themselves, and differ from the Common Noun. They take neither the plural form nor the indefinite article.
The COLLECTIVE Noun— people', 'army', ' nation', court', 'commission', 'galaxy'—is for all ordinary purposes a common, general, or class noun, and need not be regarded in any other light. So far, therefore, there is no grammatical reason for constituting it a distinct class. There is, however, a pecial usage in connexion with these nouns, that needs to be brought out under SYNTAX, with reference to the Concord of Noun and Verb. Sometimes a collection of persons or things is spoken of as acting separately or individually : 'the assembly were unanimous' is the same as the persons assembled were-'; although the noun is singular the meaning is plural ; and the verb also must be plural.
It would be enough to reserve the mention of this peculiarity to Concord, under SYNTAX without specially bringing forward Collective Nouns as one of the grammatical classes of Nouns. The other four classes—Proper, Common, Abstract, Material—are constantly coming into view ; the Collective noun with a distributive or plural predicate is of
PROPER NOUNS. Proper names have been usually exemplified by persons and places. They may be extended to material objects and works of industry; as ships, locomotive engines, buildings, monster guns, or other implements. I have included in the class also the names of Days, Months, Festivals; the names of Branches of Knowledge ; and the names of Diseases. To all these may be applied the designations Proper, Singular, and Meaningless; and they all possess the two grammatical peculiarities of the Proper Noun—no plural and no indefinite article.
The parsing of this division of Nouns is rendered occasionally uncertain by the following circumstances. In the first place, proper names are not always confined absolutely to one object; they are not, therefore, strictly speaking Singular. There may be a few instances of names that have always been confined to a single individual. It would be hazardous to affirm this of ordinary names of persons; it is possible that some names of historical personages, as Charlemagne, have not been given to any second individual. In regard to places, however, some names have remained attached to one locality; while others have been borrowed, or adopted, if not independently created, for other localities. Norway, Arabia, Indus, California, Connecticut, are strictly Singular names'; England, London, York, and others have more than one application to places; while names originally of place come to be applied to natural products or works of industry, with or without modification. Such names, therefore, fail in the point of being strictly singular; but, nevertheless, they do not become general. We must call • Stanley' a Proper name, though there are many persons designated by it; we must call • Frankfort'a Proper name, although it is borne by two different places.
The repeating of the same Proper Name for persons is so frequent that we have classes formed from the circumstance, together with the usages of the common or class noun-a plural form, and the indefinite article before the noun in the singular—'the Stanleys '; 'a Macleod'. These names denote real classes, and are, therefore, for the time, Common or General Nouns, although based upon very slight bonds of community. The mere fact that any one is called
Stanley' or 'Macleod', indeed assimilates the person to a large number of men and women, but gives scarcely any common feature; they are not necessarily even allied in blood. Such names are to be treated as Proper Names, with an appearance or aspect of the class name.
Second, though the most rigid peculiarity of the Proper Name is given by the word 'meaningless', opposed to ‘significant the designation of the common orgeneral name, yet here, too, an explanation is needed. Many Proper names-nearly all, if we knew their history—still have or once had meaning. The names of persons have often decided meanings-Black, Brown, Green, White, East, West, South, North, Ironside, Cruickshank, Smith, Baker, Baxter, Glover, Wright, Clark, Watson, Johnson, Macgill, Young, Elder, Clubb, Gunn, Rough, Square, Blackhall, Silver, Horn, Ivory, Marshall, Playfair. So the names of places : as Mississippi (father of waters), Snowdon (snow down), Jungfrau (maiden), Himalaya (house of snow), Copenhagen (merchants harbour), Coblenz (the Roman Confluentes, at the junction of the Rhine and the Moselle), Cologne (Lat. Colonia Agrippinensis, colony founded by Agrippina), Ouse, Isis, Esk (water), Drachenfels (dragon's rock).
Names may sometimes have been invented by shaking letters in a hat, or by putting together combinations on no other principle than to get something that is new and therefore distinctive; but a very large number even of proper names have significations that are still understood. For all this, they are rightly called 'meaningless' names; and why? Because the meaning is not taken into account in applying them. 'Black’ is a significant name when used as an adjective to describe things that are black in colour; but when it is used as a proper name of persons, and handed down in a family, irrespective of the complexion of the individuals—being given alike to fair and to dark men and
-it is practically meaningless; what meaning it has is set aside, disregarded, and even contradicted. It is, therefore, a proper noun, in the most testing application ; it gives no information respecting the person. If we were to interpret it according to its meaning, we might incur a falsehood; we, therefore, try to forget, and often succeed in forgetting, the original sense of such words.
The designation meaningless' is, I am aware, a stumbling. block to many, who think it unsuitable to words that really have a meaning, although for the special purpose that meaning has to be trodden under foot. I should be glad to discover a word not open to this objection, but as yet I do not know of any such.
One other remark has to be made with reference to the Proper Name. In many cases it consists not of one word, but of two or more, which conjointly make up the name:Napoleon Bonaparte, John Milton, Monte Rosa, Peter Paul Rubens, Johann Christoph Friedrich Schiller. These double, triple, or quadruple names are useful for keeping distinct the great number of persons and places (especially persons) that have to be named. They must be treated as making each a single noun. In names of persons, the name and surname are equally meaningless, in the sense above understood ; 'John' and 'Milton' are not general names.
There are combinations applicable to singular objects, and coming within the scope of proper names, where one of the words is openly and avowedly significant; as King John, Venerable Bede, Peter the Hermit, the Church of England, the Straits of Dover, Cape Kater. The words John, Bede, Peter, England, Dover, Kater, by themselves, are proper and meaningless nouns; but they are each accompanied by a word whose meaning is intended to be taken into account, being not set aside but complied with : the word 'king' is used with John, because John belonged to the class of Kings; the adjective 'venerable' used with Bede is intended to suggest its proper meaning in connexion with Bede. These may be called the mixed Proper Names. They are Proper, Singular, and in part, although not wholly, Meaningless.*
The Common, General, Significant Noun, also called a Class noun, has some exceptional usages that need to be accounted for.
* I would recommend teachers to have by them, for reference, No. 106 of Chambers's Miscellany of Tracts, entitled 'Names of Persons'.
In a regular or typical example, all the four epithets given are severally applicable. The nouns-man, poet, tree, river, town, shilling-are common, general, significant, and names of classes. They are common to many individual objects; they are general, or express some fact or facts generally; they are significant, and used only when their signification is complied with ; each of them is a name for a class. All these designations point to one main circumstance, namely, that a number of objects have been found to agree in certain respects, while also, it may be, differing in other respects. The objects called by the name 'river', are numerous; but they have a number of features precisely alike—the flow of a body of water, &c.—while they have many differences as to locality, length, breadth, form, rapidity, and so on.
The common or significant name is a name for the points of agreement; these points are its signification or meaning. The names are wrongly used, if the things do not possess the properties included in the meaning; the word 'river' must not be applied to a building, to a soldier, or to a money coin.
There are instances where a Singular object is named by words that are neither wholly meaningless nor yet mixed, but that are wholly significant; as Providence, the Queen, the late Pope. The first of these examples is figurative and rare; the second and third are so abundant and usual as to be a regular process of the language. A common or general noun, as Queen, Pope, Minister, applies indifferently to a number of persons; it does not name any one in particular; but we can place with it some other significant word or words that will limit its application even to single persons, rendering it a Singular Noun. The Queen, our Queen, the Queen of this country; the present Pope, the late Pope; the first minister of the crown, -are all limited to an individual, yet without the use of a strictly proper name. "The house before us', 'the first man that you meet', 'the greatest modern poet', 'the leader of the expedition', 'the Mount of Olives', 'the Pole Star',--are all singular designations ;