Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

The Story of the Alphabet               53
of words. When we separate a word with a succession of vowels into
the bricks which come apart most easily as units of pronunciation, we
call each brick a syllable A syllable usually contains a vowel Thus
manager is a tri-syllabic word made up of the syllables ma-, -na-, -ger,
or, if you prefer it otherwise man-, -ag~, and -er. Syllables need have
no recognizable meaning when they stand by themselves It is an
accident that the syllables man and age in the word manage have a
meaning when they stand by themselves It has nothing to do with the
past history of the word, of which the first syllable is connected with
the Latin manus for hand, hence manual If we break up manliness into
man-, -h-, and -ness, the fact that man has a meaning is not an accident*
It is the foundation-brick of the word, which was originally built up as
man      +   ly         ó   manly
manly    -f   ness      =   manliness
Such syllables which have a meaning relevant to the meaning of
the whole word arc called roots, though root-words are not necessarily
single syllables. The part -ly, common to many English vocables,
comes from the Old English word (he) for hke. Originally it stuck to
names as compounds signifying qualities, i e manly is man-like Later
the process extended to many other words (e g normalónormally) long
after -ly had lost identity as a separate element of speech We do not
call syllables of this sort roots We call them prefixes or suffixes according
as they occur hke un- in unmanly, at the beginning, or like -ly, at the
end Suffixes or prefixes may be made up of more than one syllable
either because they came from words of more than one syllable (e g
anti*}, or because the process of adding an affix (prefix or suffix) has
happened more than once Thus manliness has a bi-syllabic suffix
The suffix -ly in unmanly reminds us that the line between an
affix and a root is not a clear-cut one Affixes are the product of growth.
In this process of growth three thongs occur We call one of them
agglutination,* or gluing of native words together A second is analo-
gical extension The third, which is self-explanatory, is borrowing
words hke pre or anti from another language
The same native word may combine with several others to form a
class of compound words like churchyard or brickyard, in which the
two roots contribute to the whole meaning. At a later stage, the on~
* Agglutination has also a more restricted meaning (p 93) which is not
important in this context