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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

From Greek he phusike techne


beauties_; _key, keys_.--Like the word _cargoes_, &c., these forms are points, not of etymology, but of orthography.

_Pence_.--The peculiarity of this word consists in having a _flat_ liquid followed by the sharp sibilant s (spelt ce), contrary to the rule given above. In the first place, it is a contracted form from _pennies_; in the second place, its sense is collective rather than plural; in the third place, the use of the sharp sibilant lene distinguishes it from _pens_, sounded _penz_. That its sense is _collective_ rather than _plural_, we learn from the word _sixpence_, which, compared with _sixpences_, is no plural, but a singular form.

_Dice_.--In respect to its form, peculiar for the reason that _pence_ is peculiar.--We find the sound of s after a vowel, where that of z is expected. This distinguishes _dice_ for play, from _dies_ (_diz_) for coining. _Dice_, perhaps, like _pence_, is collective rather than plural.

In _geese_, _lice_, and _mice_, we have, apparently, the same phenomenon as in _dice_, viz., a sharp sibilant (s) where a _flat_ one (z) is expected. The s, however, in these words is not the sign of the plural, but the last letter of the original word.

_Alms_.--This is no true plural form. The s belongs to the original word, Anglo-Saxon, _aelmesse_; Greek, [Greek: eleemosune]; just as the s in _goose_ does. How far the

word, although a true singular in its form, may have a collective signification, and require its verb to be plural, is a point not of etymology, but of syntax. The same is the case with the word _riches_, from the French _richesse_. In _riches_ the last syllable being sounded as ez, increases its liability to pass for a plural.

_News_, _means_, _pains_.--These, the reverse of _alms_ and _riches_, are true plural forms. How far, in sense, they are singular is a point not of etymology, but of syntax.

_Mathematics_, _metaphysics_, _politics_, _ethics_, _optics_, _physics_.--The following is an exhibition of my hypothesis respecting these words, to which I invite the reader's criticism. All the words in point are of Greek origin, and all are derived from a Greek adjective. Each is the name of some department of study, of some art, or of some science. As the words are Greek, so also are the sciences which they denote, either of Greek origin, or else such as flourished in Greece. Let the arts and sciences of Greece be expressed in Greek, rather by a substantive and an adjective combined, than by a simple substantive; for instance, let it be the habit of the language to say _the musical art_, rather than _music_. Let the Greek for _art_ be a word in the feminine gender; e.g., [Greek: techne] (_tekhnae_), so that the _musical art_ be [Greek: he mousike techne] (_hae mousikae tekhnae_). Let, in the progress of language (as was actually the case in Greece), the article and substantive be omitted, so that, for the _musical art_, or for _music_, there stand only the feminine adjective, [Greek: mousike]. Let there be, upon a given art or science, a series of books, or treatises; the Greek for _book_, or _treatise_, being a neuter substantive, [Greek: biblion] (_biblion_). Let the substantive meaning _treatise_ be, in the course of language, omitted, so that whilst the science of physics is called [Greek: phusike] (_fysikae_), physic, from [Greek: he phusike techne], a series of treatises (or even chapters) upon the science shall be called [Greek: phusika] (_fysika_) or physics. Now all this was what happened in Greece. The science was denoted by a feminine adjective singular, as [Greek: phusike] (_fysicae_), and the treatises upon it, by the neuter adjective plural, as [Greek: phusika] (_fysika_). The treatises of Aristotle are generally so named. To apply this, I conceive, that in the middle ages a science of Greek origin might have its name drawn from two sources, viz., from the name of the art or science, or from the name of the books wherein it was treated. In the first case it had a singular form, as _physic_, _logic_; in the second place a plural form, as _mathematics_, _metaphysics_, _optics_.

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