Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

66                    The Loom of Language
be utterly impossible to learn a logograpluc script with enough
characters to accommodate all of them A large proportion of the
affixes of such derivatives are useless, eg the -? in lusts (see p 96),
So presumably they would have no place in a logographic script A
large proportion of our affixes do the same job, as illustrated by
pateratfjy, fathered, reproduce, guardians/**/?. The same character
would therefore serve for a single clustei Hence a logogiaphic script
m which Frenchmen or Germans could communicate with their
fellow cmzens would be a code based on conventions quite different
from the giammar of the spoken language
The Japanese, who got their scupt from Ghana, speak a language
which is totally different from Ghinese dialects They use symbols
(Figs 44 and 45) for syllables, i e. foi the sounds of affixes which go to
make up their words, and not merely foi objects, directions, quahues,
and other categories of meaning rcpiesentcd by separate vocables
The sounds corresponding to these symbols are more complex than
those represented by oui own letters, with four of which (a, <?, z, f)
we can make up eleven monosyllables (a, can, at> atCj eat, matc^ meat,
me3tnat9met9 tame* tea, team) So syllable writing calls for a larger battery
of symbols than an alphabet, reformed or otherwise None the less, it
is much easier to leain a syllabic script than a logographic script in which
the words have individual signs. The surprising thing about Japanese
script is the small number of characters which make up its syllabary.
We have examined the essential characteristics of the Chinese key
Let us now examine the Japanese lock, that is to say, the word-pattern
into which symbols corresponding to Chinese root words had to fit.
We can do this best, if we compare Japanese with English. If all
English words were made up like father^ we could equip it with a
syEable script from the logographic or picture scripts of any language
with a sufficiently rich collection of open monosyllables like fa; (far)
and 5o (the). This would take at most about four hundred signs. The
same would be true if all English words were built to the same design
as adage (ad + age) in which two open syllables with a final consonant
combine. The problem is immensely more complicated if a language
contains a high proportion of words like handsome or mandrill If
there are twenty consonants and twenty vowels all pronounceable
closed monosyllables then exceed eight thousand. This means that
the word-pattern of the language which borrows its script decides
whether the language itself can assimilate a syllabary which is not
too cumbersome for use