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S Y N T A X.
The process named Concord enters very largely into the classical languages, and very little into ours. It is not a necessity of language, while in the degree that it prevails in Latin and in Greek, it is a serious incumbrance.
When by inflecting a noun for the plural, we intend to speak of more than one thing-book, books—there is not any call to operate also upon the verb, so as to state the same fact twice over: 'a book is', 'books are'. The hearer should be content with one clear indication of plurality. Still less is it necessary, as is done in Latin, to give every adjective one form for a singular noun and another form for a plural noun.
Although, as a general rule, these duplicate inflections are superfluous, there may arise occasions when they prevent ambiguity. If a verb is so placed that it may refer to either of two subjects, and if one is singular, and the other plural, the inflection decides between them. Examples will occur under ORDER OF WORDS.
It is proposed here to exemplify the doubtful and difficult cases of Concord, and farther to show how our concords may be turned to account in making composition more perspicuous and more forcible.
CONCORD OF NUMBER.
The Concord of NUMBER includes three cases—Noun and Verb, Noun and Pronoun, and Noun and Adjective. The same remarks apply to all.
The first point to be illustrated relates to plural nouns in singular form, the so-called Nouns of Multitude. In deciding whether a verb or a pronoun adjective is to be in the plural, we must look to the meaning of the noun, and not simply to the form. We
may have a singular meaning in a plural form, and a plural meaning in a singular form.
It is to be regarded as a principle of concord that the plural verb and the plural pronoun adjective should be brought into play for real plurality of the subject. The true idea of the Plural Verb is a condensation of singular assertions. For—' John is here, Peter is here, Mary is here ', we say, more shortly, “John, Peter, and Mary are here '. А number of propositions are expressed together, but are still to be understood separately and severally. Unless we can resolve a plural construction into a number of distinct singular affirmations, the employment of the plural is not justified.
We shall now furnish additional examples of the delicacies of plural concord.
* Nine-tenths of every man's happiness depends upon his reception among his fellows in society'. There is here the appearance, but not the reality, of a plural subject; ‘ninetenths' is merely a figure for a large amount, nearly the whole, of a man's happiness. We could not resolve the statement thus-one-tenth depends, and another tenth depends, and so on. If a property were divided into shares or portions, and one share allocated to one person, and three shares to another, the verb in concord with the three shares would be plural; there would be a real division of parts, and a distinct application of each separate part.
The collectives—a majority, a minority–have a singular verb for collective action: the majority is resolved ’; but a plural verb for individual action : 'the majority are on their way home'.
* The multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, •; and they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have com
passion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way'. In all these instances there is sufficient individuality of action to justify plural concords.
This people draweth (draw) nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me'.
Collectiveness preponderates in the following: 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it’.
All intimations to people generally when addressed as the public, must be plural: 'the public are requested to enter their names in the book'.
*A group of fine young children were growing up about him'.
• The Jewish people were all free'; the same as 'The Jews'. "The cattle on a thousand hills are his'. • The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea'. * All the pigeon tribe generally produce two eggs'. “The oviparous fish have a divided uterus’.
The following, though not a concord of noun and verb, but one of pronoun and antecedent, exemplifies the principle: 'He would not suffer his people to forget, he would not suffer them to hope'. 'Hoping' is an act that applies to individuals : 'people’ is the same as 'subjects ', and a real plural.
Still more numerous are plural forms with strictly singular meanings.
Portions of time, although taken collectively, are often expressed with the plural noun, but a plural verb is not to be used : With Thee, a thousand years is as one day'. (Compare with this— Ten thousand swords leap from their scabbards'.) " The first thirty years of this century (not were, but) was a dreary time for a liberal clergyman'.
It is the same with sums of money: 'two shillings is the
fare'. The principle applies also to the following: “Two dead languages is too much to impose upon the generality of students. The meaning is not—one dead language is too much, and a second is too much,-but that the sum of the two is too much.
Take now some examples of the concord of singular nouns and pronouns coupled with “and' and 'or'.
When 'and' couples two synonyms, or two words used for one meaning, the idea is singular, and so should be the verb: "a hue and cry was raised'. The sand and mud, produced by wearing down the land, gradually raises the sea bottom': 'sand' and 'mud' are not two distinct materials, but two separate names used to give complete expression to the material that fills up the sea depths.
· The long and the short of the matter is — '.
• The power and value of English literature was thereby impaired'. (M. Arnold.)
• One king, one law, one faith was still the maxim universally accepted'. The singular verb is justified by supposing a collectiveness in the subject.
* All the furniture, the stock of shops, the machinery which could be found in the realm, was of less value than the property which some single parishes now contain’. (Macaulay.)
* The sound, the rhythm, the modulation, the music, of the language was one entirely new'. This is taking the utmost possible liberty with the singular concord. The plea must be that the four terms are synonyms.
When the two names express distinct ideas, the general rule is rigid : “The continuation and the revival afford—'.
In this lies both its merit and its defect'-is bad grammar. Another exceptional case is furnished by combined couples : • Trial and error is the source of our knowledge’; "the composition and resolution of forces was largely applied by Newton'; 'the ebb and flow of (the) tides is now understood’; cause and effect has been called an intuitive conception'.
Disjunctives with 'or', according to the general rule, have a singular verb: but the disjunction is not always real.
* Either John or James is mistaken', is a case of strict singularity, there being only one subject in operation : we must choose between John and James, we cannot have both together. But 'or' is a word often very loosely applied ; in many instances, 'and’ would be more suitable to the meaning. * The Army or the Navy answer to that description': there is no real disjunction in such a case; the Army does not exclude the Navy, the predicate applies to each and to both. If, therefore, we choose to retain 'or', we must yet make the verb plural. But this construction is not to be encouraged.
De Quincey says 'Neither Coleridge nor Southey is a good reader of verse'. There would be an awkwardness in saying 'are', but the meaning is plural: ‘Both Coleridge and Southey are bad readers of verse'.
'More known, or less known, have two distinct meanings'. The disjunction here is formal and not real; it amounts only to this, that we should consider, in separate acts of study, or one at a time, 'more known' and 'less known'; but the predicate applies equally to both, and neither excludes the other. It is an abuse of 'or',
I now submit, for consideration, the following suggestions as to the best mode of turning to account the Plural Concord. Generally speaking, we have to pronounce it an otiose and superfluous formality; in particular instances it may lend force to the expression. Let us, therefore, in the employment of the concord, be guided by the circumstances.
It is not meant that we are to make good or bad grammar at pleasure. What I have in view is this. Our language affords us opportunities of evading the concord of subject and verb; we have not only singular forms, and plural forms, but also neuter forms. The neuter forms are the past tense, and the auxiliaries—shall, will, may, can, must; moreover, there is no concord when the noun
the object, and we can often throw a subject into an object position without changing the meaning.
Our policy, then, would be to use the singular form when singularity or individuality is marked and pronounced; to