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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

82                 The Loom oj Language
a Teutonic W and a Greek Y The situation is much the same with
most olhei European languages, except Spanish which stands close to
Italian Several devices aie in use to deal with shortage of vowel
symbols*
(i) Introduction of new vowel symbols Thus modern Norwegian
(Fig. 32) has two, the 0 of Danish and the a of Swedish, The Russian
alphabet, based on the Greek, has nine instead of seven vowel symbols,
of which four correspond precisely to the Greek models
(il) Introduction of accents, such as the dots placed above o or a in
Swedish and German, or those used to distinguish the two French
sounds 4 £
(no) Use of combinations such as aa to distinguish the long a of
father from the short a of fat m bazaar is specially characteristic of
Dutch spelling* On this account Dutch words look rather long. The
same plan (see table of vowels on p, 84) would meet all the needs
of a reformed English spelling As things stand we have only three
combinations which we use consistently—aw (m daw)y ee (in mecf)>
and ot or oy (in soil, joy) The last is a signpost of Norman-French
origin
(iv) The more characteristically Engbsh trick of using a silent e after
a succeeding consonant to distinguish the preceding vowel, as in mad-
made^ Sam-same, pin-pme<> win-wine A silent h may also lengthen the
preceding vowel in Geiman, as in our words a/z', ehfy oh!
(v) The use of a double consonant to indicate that the foregoing
vowel is short* German and the newest Norwegian spelling (1938)
rely on this consistently.
From rhymes in poems, we have good reason to beheve that English
spelling was regular at the time of the Norman Conquest, The present
chaos, especially with reference to the vowels, is partly due to the prac-
tice of Norman scribes when a large number of French words invaded
English during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Thus coincided
more or less with a profound change m the pronunication of English
vowels, and the decay of endings In other words, the spelling conven-
tions we now use became curtent coinage at a time when the sound
values of English words were m a state of flux The Norman scribes
were responsible for several important changes affecting the consonants
as well as the vowels They introduced J for a new sound which came
with the Conquest. The Old English C became K, The symbols )> and
fl for two sounds which do not occur in French disappeared in favour
of TH and Y. After a time the Y (as in the solecism^ olde tea shoppe)