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Introduction                        31
what other words do we need in order to define something when we do
not already know the right word for it?
For example, we can define a plough as the machine we make use of
to get the ground ready for the seed. For ordinary circumstances this
will make sufficiently clear what we are talking or writing about If
not, we can elaborate our definition by using other general words
like machine, or verbs like make and get> which serve for all sorts of
definitions In Basic English there are only sixteen of these verbs to
learn If we use only words in the 850-word list, it may take us a little
longer than otherwise to explain what we mean; but the result is still
correct, simple and lucid English. Indeed., the fact that we have to
examine the precise meaning of words which do not occur in the list
compels us to be more precise than we might otherwise be.
It is possible to go so far with so few words in good English because
a large number of words which belong to the verb class are not essential
We do not need burn, finish, err> because we can make a fire of, make
an end of, make a mistake about We do not need to fly in an aeroplane,
drive in a cafy cycle on a bicycle, travel in a train, nde on a horse, or
walk It is enough to say that we go on foot, on a horse, or in a vehicle
For straightforward, intelligible and correct statement in other Euro-
pean languages, we have to add between 300 and 600 words of the
verb class to our hst of essential words. This thrifty use of verbs is a
peculiar characteristic of English and of the Celtic group among
Euiopean languages Where a Swede uses a different verb, when a
child goes in a tram, and when a tiain goes> or when an aviator goes
up, and when he goes across the road, one English word suffices. If
we also make allowance for the usefulness of having single ordinary
names for common objects not included in the Basic Word-List,
a vocabulary of less than two thousand words is sufficient for fluent
self-expression in any European tongue This is less than a tenth of
the vocabulary which we meet when reading novels indiscriminately
So reading is a very laborious way of getting the thorough knowledge
of the iclauvely few words we need when speaking or writing.
One of the reasons why Basic is so thrifty in its use of verbs is that
we can do much in English by combining some verbs with another
class of words called directives We do so when we substitute go in for
enter> go up for a*cendt go on for continue^ go by foi pas$9 go through for
traverse^ go off for leave, and go away for depart. In modern European
languages, these words recur constantly There is a relatively small
number of them Unlike nouns (name-words), such as tram or auto-