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The universality of the French language furnishes sufficient proof of its utility. Throughout Europe, in many parts of Asia, Africa, and America, no education is complete without a knowledge of that tongue, which in more than one country of Europe is emphatically called " the language." Its merits are becoming 80 well appreciated in this country, that it is almost unnecessary to particularize them, to speak of its unsurpassed precision and clearness, and of its capability of expressing every idea, in the most laconic and in the most ornamental style. The language of France, that happy compound of the Celtic, the Romanic and the Teutonic elements, is equally adapted to the lightest literature and to the most profound diction of science. The rich mines of French literature, too long but imperfectly known here, offer in every department of knowledge treasures equal to those presented by the literature of any other nation.
Many works have been published in this country and in England to facilitate the acquisition of the French language; but during his more than twenty years' practice in teaching the modern languages, the author of this volume has in vain looked for the appearance of a book which, like several of the French grammars published in Germany, should unite in due proportions theory and practice. To the high merits of several of the theoretical grammars he bears his most cheerful testimony; yet, the student might go through them, and know but little of the idiomatic or practical part of the language. Several of the practical works, though well executed according to the plans which their authors bad laid, neglect grammatical rules, if not entirely, at least far too much ; and the student may, after having devoted a long time to the mere memorizing of sentences,
find himself in possession of a number of set phrases, valuable, it is true, but from which, destitute of landmarks, the slightest deviation must lead him into unknown regions.
A work which, uniting practice with theory, should attempt to avoid the difficulties mentioned above, had been long contem plated by the author of these pages, when “Woodbury's New Method with the German" made its appearance. Finding in that work the two systems, the analytic and the synthetic, beautifully blended and well elaborated, he had no hesitation in adopting the general plan of Mr. Woodbury's Grammar, in preparing his long intended treatise on the French.
The work commences with a comprehensive treatise on pronunciation. The power of the letters, as initials, medials and finals, is fully explained under the different letters. Peculiar care has been taken to render this part sufficiently full, in order to provide the student with a satisfactory guide and adviser, in the principal difficulties of the French pronunciation. The words presenting peculiarities of pronunciation are placed as exceptions to the rules given in this part.
In the commencement of the First Part of this grammar, the rules are given in the most simple form, and the idioms are gradually introduced and explained; copious references to the Second, or more theoretical Part, render further information easily attainable. After the rules of every lesson, comes a RÉSUMÉ OF EXAMPLES in illustration of them, as also of preceding ones, containing often new idioms and conversational phrases. The examples on the rules, the résumés, and the French exercises to be rendered into English and consisting almost entirely of questions and answers, combine, it is thought, all the benefits presented by the practical grammars, while the rules in the lessons, and the case with which reference may be had to the Second Part, present all the advantages of the theoretical treatises. It will be easily seen that the teacher and student will find here the practice, with as little or as much of the theory as they may desire.
The grammatical rules and idioms are introduced gradually, so as not to offer too many difficulties at once. Care has been taken not to present the rules as abstract and arbitrary laws;
while the resemblance or difference of construction between the two languages is carefully pointed out.
Exercises to be rendered into French are placed at the end of every lesson. The materials for these are found in the examples to the rules, in the résumés, in the French exercises and in the vocabularies preceding the same. Besides all this, the student is furnished with the means of carrying on, in connection with the regular course already indicated, a series of exercises in French composition, at once easy, interesting, and profitablo in the highest degree.
The grouping of the tenses of the verbs and the classification of the irregularities, will, it is hoped, simplify this part of gram
In the former, the student will see that by learning a tense in one conjugation, he often learns it in the others; in the latter, he will perceive that the deviations of the irregular verbs are often very trifling and confined to particular tenses.
An attempt is made in the “ Practical Résumés,” Lessons 98 and 99, to simplify as much as possible the somewhat complex subject of the past participle.
The rules of the Second, or theoretical Part, are deduced from the most reliable sources; they are nearly all illustrated by short extracts from the best French authors. This will, it is hoped, while giving classical authority to the rules, inspire the student with a desire of becoming more intimately acquainted with the authors from whose works the examples are taken. It will be perceived, also, that the sentiments contained in the extracts have not been overlooked..
In the Second Part, the verbs are given in their fullest form. The irregular, defective, peculiar (See § 49), and unipersonal verbs are placed alphabetically.
The author would here respectfully suggest, not with a view of offering advice to experienced teachers, but as a mode which he has found beneficial in practice, that the student commence to learn the verbs from the paradigms in the Second Part, as soon as he has acquired some little knowledge of the pronunciation, and this simultaneously with his learning the lessons of the First Part. The verbs, in the French, and in the other so called Romanic languages, are more complicated and require more
study than the verbs in the German and other Teutonic languages. Having, in this manner, acquired some knowledge of the verbs, the student will, by the time he, in his progress through the first part, reaches the groupings of the tenses mentioned above, be able to recognize the verbs as old friends, and better to appreciate the classification of the irregularities. This course is advised not as indispensable, but as beneficial.
The reading lessons, in prose and in verse, extracted from the best sources, and containing grammatical references to both parts of the work, will not be unacceptable to the student. A vocabulary for these lessons is placed immediately after them.
Among the numerous works which have been consulted during the preparation of this grammar, the author would mention with gratitude the labors of the French Academy, Laveaux, Lemare, Bescher, Girault-Duvivier, Boniface, Bescherelle, Landais, etc.
With a sincere hope that the present volume may assist the American student in obtaining a knowledge of the beautiful language of France, it is respectfully submitted.
The numerous editions of this grammar which have been issued, having rendered a renewal of the stereotype plates necessary, the Author has taken this opportunity of giving to the work a thorough review, and, without changing the arrangement, of introducing such improvements as the kind suggestions of several experienced Instructors, and its use in his own classes, for nearly ten years, have pointed out to him as desirable.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN,
Ann Arbor, May, 1860.