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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Introduction                           33
mate EVEN IN a single month the departure FROM simple
elliptic motion is QUITE appreciable, OWING CHIEFLY TO
the disturbance called the Variation The disturbance known
AS the Evection causes the eccentricity TO change APPRE-
CIABLY FROM month TO month FURTHER, the motions
described cause the xoughly elliptical orbit TO change its position.
The complete investigation OF these changes belongs TO the
domain OF gravitational astronomy It will be necessary HERE
TO enumerate the chief perturbations ON account OF the
important part they play IN determining the circumstances OF
eclipses
In these selections words belonging to the class called particles are
in capital letters. If you count the various classes of words* you can
tabulate your results as follows:
Dream of               Mathematical
John Ball                Astronomy
Words of Latin or Greek origin         11 per cent           30 per cent
Particles      ..        .         .         .31 per cent           27 per cent
Though the sources of the figures are so different m content,, and
though they use such a different stock in trade of words, they contain
almost exactly the same number of particles, i e. 29  2 per cent, or
nearly a third of the total. A similar estimate would not be far out for
languages spoken by our nearest European neighbours Since more than
a quarter of the words we meet on the printed page are particles, it is
interesting to ask how many essential, and how many common, particles
we need or meet For two reasons it is impossible to cite absolute figures.
One is that people who speak some languages make distinctions which
others do not recognize Thus a Swede or a Frenchman has to use
different words for the Enghsh before according as it signifies at an
earlier time than, or in front of Apart from this, some common particles
are synonymous in a particular context, as when we substitute as or
since for the more explicit link-word because. With due allowance to
these considerations, we may put the number of essential particles at
less than one hundred, and the total number which we commonly meet
in speech or reading at less than two hundred
This leads us to a very simple recipe for getting ahead quickly with
the task of biulding up a word-list which will suffice for self-expression
It also shows us how to reduce by more than 25 per cent the tedium of
continual reference to a dictionary when we first begin to read. Our
first concern, and it is usually the last thing grammar books help us to
do, should be what a foreigner has to do when he starts to learn Basic
English. We should begin our study of a modern European language
B