1.In the more simple state of the Arabs, the nation is free, because each of her sons disdains a base submission to the will of a master.—Gibbon.
By examining this sentence we notice several words used as names. The plainest name is Arabs, which belongs to a people; but, besides this one, the words sons and master name objects, and may belong to any of those objects. The words state, submission, and will are evidently names of a different kind, as they stand for ideas, not objects; and the word nation stands for a whole group.
When the meaning of each of these words has once been understood, the word naming it will always call up the thing or idea itself. Such words are called nouns.
2.A noun is a name word, representing directly to the mind an object, substance, or idea.
Classes of nouns.
3.Nouns are classified as follows:—
(2)Common. (a) CLASS NAMES: i. Individual.
(3)Abstract. (a) ATTRIBUTE.
4.A proper noun is a name applied to a particular object, whether person, place, or thing.
It specializes or limits the thing to which it is applied, reducing it to a narrow application. Thus, city is a word applied to any one of its kind; but Chicago names one city, and fixes the attention upon that particular city. King may be applied to any ruler of a kingdom, but Alfred the Great is the name of one king only.
The word proper is from a Latin word meaning limited, belonging to one. This does not imply, however, that a proper name can be applied to only one object, but that each time such a name is applied it is fixed or proper to that object. Even if there are several Bostons or Manchesters, the name of each is an individual or proper name.
Name for any individual of a class.
5.A common noun is a name possessed by any one of a class of persons, animals, or things.
Common, as here used, is from a Latin word which means general, possessed by all.
For instance, road is a word that names any highway outside of cities; wagon is a term that names any vehicle of a certain kind used for hauling: the words are of the widest application. We may say, the man here, or the man in front of you, but the word man is here hedged in by other words or word groups: the name itself is of general application.
Name for a group or collection of objects.
Besides considering persons, animals, and things separately, we may think of them in groups, and appropriate names to the groups.
These are called COLLECTIVE NOUNS. They properly belong under common nouns, because each group is considered as a unit, and the name applied to it belongs to any group of its class.
Names for things thought of in mass.
6.The definition given for common nouns applies more strictly to class nouns. It may, however, be correctly used for another group of nouns detailed below; for they are common nouns in the sense that the names apply to every particle of similar substance, instead of to each individual or separate object.
They are called MATERIAL NOUNS. Such are glass, iron, clay, frost, rain, snow, wheat, wine, tea, sugar, etc.
They may be placed in groups as follows:—
(1) The metals: iron, gold, platinum, etc.
(2) Products spoken of in bulk: tea, sugar, rice, wheat, etc.
(3) Geological bodies: mud, sand, granite, rock, stone, etc.
(4) Natural phenomena: rain, dew, cloud, frost, mist, etc.
(5) Various manufactures: cloth (and the different kinds of cloth), potash, soap, rubber, paint, celluloid, etc.
7. NOTE.—There are some nouns, such as sun, moon, earth, which seem to be the names of particular individual objects, but which are not called proper names.
The reason is, that in proper names the intention is to exclude all other individuals of the same class, and fasten a special name to the object considered, as in calling a city Cincinnati; but in the words sun, earth, etc., there is no such intention. If several bodies like the center of our solar system are known, they also are called suns by a natural extension of the term: so with the wordsearth, world, etc. They remain common class names.
Names of ideas, not things.
8.Abstract nouns are names of qualities, conditions, or actions, considered abstractly, or apart from their natural connection.
When we speak of a wise man, we recognize in him an attribute or quality. If we wish to think simply of that quality without describing the person, we speak of the wisdom of the man. The quality is still there as much as before, but it is taken merely as a name. So poverty would express the condition of a poor person; proof means the act of proving, or that which shows a thing has been proved; and so on.
Again, we may say, “Painting is a fine art,” “Learning is hard to acquire,” “a man of understanding.”
9.There are two chief divisions of abstract nouns:—
(1) ATTRIBUTE NOUNS, expressing attributes or qualities.
(2) VERBAL NOUNS, expressing state, condition, or action.
Attribute abstract nouns.
10.The ATTRIBUTE ABSTRACT NOUNS are derived from adjectives and from common nouns. Thus, (1) prudence fromprudent, height from high, redness from red, stupidity from stupid, etc.; (2) peerage from peer, childhood from child,mastery from master, kingship from king, etc.
Verbal abstract nouns.
II. The VERBAL ABSTRACT NOUNS Originate in verbs, as their name implies. They may be—
(1) Of the same form as the simple verb. The verb, by altering its function, is used as a noun; as in the expressions, “a long run” “a bold move,” “a brisk walk.”
(2) Derived from verbs by changing the ending or adding a suffix: motion from move, speech from speak, theft from thieve, action from act, service from serve.
(3) Derived from verbs by adding -ing to the simple verb. It must be remembered that these words are free from any verbal function. They cannot govern a word, and they cannot express action, but are merely names of actions. They are only the husks of verbs, and are to be rigidly distinguished from gerunds (Secs. 272, 273).
To avoid difficulty, study carefully these examples:
The best thoughts and sayings of the Greeks; the moon caused fearful forebodings; in the beginning of his life; he spread his blessings over the land; the great Puritanawakening; our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; a wedding or a festival; the rude drawings of the book; masterpieces of the Socratic reasoning; the teachings of the High Spirit; those opinions and feelings; there is time for such reasonings; the well-being of her subjects; her longing for their favor; feelings which their originalmeaning will by no means justify; the main bearings of this matter.
12.Some abstract nouns were not derived from any other part of speech, but were framed directly for the expression of certain ideas or phenomena. Such are beauty, joy, hope, ease, energy; day, night, summer, winter; shadow, lightning, thunder, etc.
The adjectives or verbs corresponding to these are either themselves derived from the nouns or are totally different words; as glad—joy, hopeful—hope, etc.
1. From your reading bring up sentences containing ten common nouns, five proper, five abstract.
NOTE.—Remember that all sentences are to be selected from standard literature.
2. Under what class of nouns would you place (a) the names of diseases, as pneumonia, pleurisy, catarrh, typhus, diphtheria; (b) branches of knowledge, asphysics, algebra, geology, mathematics?
3. Mention collective nouns that will embrace groups of each of the following individual nouns:—
4. Using a dictionary, tell from what word each of these abstract nouns is derived:—
Nouns change by use.
13.By being used so as to vary their usual meaning, nouns of one class may be made to approach another class, or to go over to it entirely. Since words alter their meaning so rapidly by a widening or narrowing of their application, we shall find numerous examples of this shifting from class to class; but most of them are in the following groups. For further discussion see the remarks on articles (p. 119).
Proper names transferred to common use.
14.Proper nouns are used as common in either of two ways:—
(1) The origin of a thing is used for the thing itself: that is, the name of the inventor may be applied to the thing invented, as adavy, meaning the miner’s lamp invented by Sir Humphry Davy; the guillotine, from the name of Dr. Guillotin, who was its inventor. Or the name of the country or city from which an article is derived is used for the article: as china, from China; arras, from a town in France; port (wine), from Oporto, in Portugal; levant and morocco (leather).
Some of this class have become worn by use so that at present we can scarcely discover the derivation from the form of the word; for example, the word port, above. Others of similar character are calico, from Calicut; damask, from Damascus; currants, from Corinth; etc.
(2) The name of a person or place noted for certain qualities is transferred to any person or place possessing those qualities; thus,—
Hercules and Samson were noted for their strength, and we call a very strong man a Hercules or a Samson. Sodom was famous for wickedness, and a similar place is called a Sodom of sin.
A Daniel come to judgment!—Shakespeare.
If it prove a mind of uncommon activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier, a Hutton, a Bentham, a Fourier, it imposes its classification on other men, and lo! a new system.—Emerson.
Names for things in bulk altered for separate portions.
15.Material nouns may be used as class names. Instead of considering the whole body of material of which certain uses are made, one can speak of particular uses or phases of the substance; as—
(1) Of individual objects made from metals or other substances capable of being wrought into various shapes. We know a number of objects made of iron. The material iron embraces the metal contained in them all; but we may say, “The cook made the irons hot,” referring to flat-irons; or, “The sailor was put in irons” meaning chains of iron. So also we may speak of a glass to drink from or to look into; a steel to whet a knife on; a rubber for erasing marks; and so on.
(2) Of classes or kinds of the same substance. These are the same in material, but differ in strength, purity, etc. Hence it shortens speech to make the nouns plural, and say teas, tobaccos, paints, oils, candies, clays, coals.
(3) By poetical use, of certain words necessarily singular in idea, which are made plural, or used as class nouns, as in the following:—
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Their airy earsThe winds have stationed on the mountain peaks.—Percival.
(4) Of detached portions of matter used as class names; as stones, slates, papers, tins, clouds, mists, etc.
Personification of abstract ideas.
16.Abstract nouns are frequently used as proper names by being personified; that is, the ideas are spoken of as residing in living beings. This is a poetic usage, though not confined to verse.
Next Anger rushed; his eyes, on fire,In lightnings owned his secret stings.—Collins.
Freedom’s fame finds wings on every wind.—Byron.
Death, his mask melting like a nightmare dream, smiled.—Hayne.
Traffic has lain down to rest; and only Vice and Misery, to prowl or to moan like night birds, are abroad.—Carlyle.
A halfway class of words. Class nouns in use, abstract in meaning.
17.Abstract nouns are made half abstract by being spoken of in the plural.
They are not then pure abstract nouns, nor are they common class nouns. For example, examine this:—
The arts differ from the sciences in this, that their power is founded not merely on facts which can be communicated, but on dispositionswhich require to be created.—Ruskin.
When it is said that art differs from science, that the power of art is founded on fact, that disposition is the thing to be created, the words italicized are pure abstract nouns; but in case an art or a science, or the arts and sciences, be spoken of, the abstract idea is partly lost. The words preceded by the article a, or made plural, are still names of abstract ideas, not material things; but they widen the application to separate kinds of art or different branches of science. They are neither class nouns nor pure abstract nouns: they are more properly called half abstract.
Test this in the following sentences:—
Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so.—Emerson.
And still, as each repeated pleasure tired, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired.—Goldsmith.
But ah! those pleasures, loves, and joysWhich I too keenly taste,The Solitary can despise.—Burns.
All these, however, were mere terrors of the night.—Irving.
By ellipses, nouns used to modify.
18.Nouns used as descriptive terms. Sometimes a noun is attached to another noun to add to its meaning, or describe it; for example, “a family quarrel,” “a New York bank,” “the State Bank Tax bill,” “a morning walk.”
It is evident that these approach very near to the function of adjectives. But it is better to consider them as nouns, for these reasons: they do not give up their identity as nouns; they do not express quality; they cannot be compared, as descriptive adjectives are.
They are more like the possessive noun, which belongs to another word, but is still a noun. They may be regarded as elliptical expressions, meaning a walk in the morning, a bank in New York, a bill as to tax on the banks, etc.
NOTE.—If the descriptive word be a material noun, it may be regarded as changed to an adjective. The term “gold pen” conveys the same idea as “golden pen,” which contains a pure adjective.
WORDS AND WORD GROUPS USED AS NOUNS.
The noun may borrow from any part of speech, or from any expression.
19.Owing to the scarcity of distinctive forms, and to the consequent flexibility of English speech, words which are usually other parts of speech are often used as nouns; and various word groups may take the place of nouns by being used as nouns.
Adjectives, Conjunctions, Adverbs.
(1) Other parts of speech used as nouns:—
The great, the wealthy, fear thy blow.—Burns.
Every why hath a wherefore.—Shakespeare.
When I was young? Ah, woeful When!Ah! for the change ‘twixt Now and Then!—Coleridge.
(2) Certain word groups used like single nouns:—
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.—Shakespeare.
Then comes the “Why, sir!” and the “What then, sir?” and the “No, sir!” and the “You don’t see your way through the question, sir!”—Macaulay
(3) Any part of speech may be considered merely as a word, without reference to its function in the sentence; also titles of books are treated as simple nouns.
The it, at the beginning, is ambiguous, whether it mean the sun or the cold.—Dr BLAIR
In this definition, is the word “just,” or “legal,” finally to stand?—Ruskin.
There was also a book of Defoe’s called an “Essay on Projects,” and another of Dr. Mather’s called “Essays to do Good.”—B. FRANKLIN.
20.It is to be remembered, however, that the above cases are shiftings of the use, of words rather than of their meaning. We seldom find instances of complete conversion of one part of speech into another.
When, in a sentence above, the terms the great, the wealthy, are used, they are not names only: we have in mind the idea of persons and the quality of being great orwealthy. The words are used in the sentence where nouns are used, but have an adjectival meaning.
In the other sentences, why and wherefore, When, Now, and Then, are spoken of as if pure nouns; but still the reader considers this not a natural application of them as name words, but as a figure of speech.
NOTE.—These remarks do not apply, of course, to such words as become pure nouns by use. There are many of these. The adjective good has no claim on the noungoods; so, too, in speaking of the principal of a school, or a state secret, or a faithful domestic, or a criminal, etc., the words are entirely independent of any adjective force.
Pick out the nouns in the following sentences, and tell to which class each belongs. Notice if any have shifted from one class to another.
1. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
2. Heaven from all creatures hides the book of Fate.
Stone walls do not a prison make.Nor iron bars a cage.
4. Truth-teller was our England’s Alfred named.
5. A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage.
Power laid his rod aside,And Ceremony doff’d her pride.
8. Learning, that cobweb of the brain.
A little weeping would ease my heart;But in their briny bedMy tears must stop, for every dropHinders needle and thread.
10. A fool speaks all his mind, but a wise man reserves something for hereafter.
11. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
12. Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.
And see, he cried, the welcome,Fair guests, that waits you here.
14. The fleet, shattered and disabled, returned to Spain.
15. One To-day is worth two To-morrows.
16. Vessels carrying coal are constantly moving.
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
18. And oft we trod a waste of pearly sands.
A man he seems of cheerful yesterdaysAnd confident to-morrows.
20. The hours glide by; the silver moon is gone.
21. Her robes of silk and velvet came from over the sea.
22. My soldier cousin was once only a drummer boy.
But pleasures are like poppies spread,You seize the flower, its bloom is shed.
24. All that thou canst call thine own Lies in thy To-day.