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The Story of the Alphabet              51
The difficulty of arriving at a definition of what we call separate
words is also complicated by the fact that languages are not static
Elements of speech once recognized as distinct entities become fused,
as when we condense I am to I'm, or do not to don't So long as you
write I am in the form Fmy you signify that it is to be regarded as
two separate words glued together When you write it in the form Im,
as Bernard Shaw writes it, you signify that we do not break it up
when we say it Thus we can distinguish between words of three kinds
Some are the smallest elements of speech of which ordinary people can
recognize the meaning Some, separated by careful study, are products
of grammatical comparison of situations in which they recur People of
a pre-hterate community would not recognize them as separate
elements of speech We recognize others as separate, merely because
of the usual conventions of writing The missionary or trader who
first commits the speech of a non-literate people to script has to use
his own judgment about what are separate words, and his judgment
is neces&anly influenced by his own language
For the present, we had better content ourselves with the statement
that words arc what are lifted in dictionaries. According to the conven-
tions of most English dicnonanes,#0^a#zr, father-, mdgod are different
words, and apples is a derivative (footnote, p 34) of the word apple We
shall see later why dictionaries do in fact list some noises as words, and
omit other equally common noises, i e derivatives in the sense defined
on p 34 Since dictionaries are our usual source of accessible necessary
information, when we set out to learn a language we shall put up with
their vaganes for the time being
When highbrows want a word for all pronounceable constituents of
a printed page, each with a distinct meaning or usage of its own,
they may speak of them as vocables Vocables include words listed in
dictionaries, and derivatives which are not We do not necessarily
pronounce two vocables in a different way Thus several vocables
correspond to the spelling and pronunciation of bay> as in dogs that
bay at the moon, a wreath of bay leaves, or the Bay of Biscay Such
vocables which have the same sound, but do not mean the same
thing, arc called homophones We do not speak of them as homophones
if derived from the same word which once had a more restricted mean-
ing- Thus 6qy, meaning immature male of the human species, and boyy
meaning juvenile male employee, are not homophones in the strict
sense of the term, as arc sun and son
To discuss scripts intelligibly we need to have some labels for parts