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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

90                  The Loom of Language
(a) Substantives, or individual words used for distinct objects or events
which can be indicated by pointing at things, i e such as our
words dog or thunde?, and at a later j>tage, for qualities of a
group^ such as red 01 noisy
(p) Vocatives^ or short signals used to call forth some response, such as
our words where?, stop) run> come, pulJf3 and namts ot indi-
viduals
(c)  Demonstratives) or gesture substitutes which direct the attention
of the listener to a particular point m the situation, e g that) here,
behtnd, in front,
(d)  Incorporative^ or recitative combinations of sound used m ntual
incantations  without any recognition  of separate  elements
corresponding to what we should call word1!,
From a biological point of view, it is reasonable to guess that the last
antedate anything we can properly call speech^ that they take us back
to die monkey-chorus of sundown when the mosquitoes are about,
that they persisted long after the recognition of separate words emerged
out of active co-operation in hunting., fishing, or building, and that
they were later refined into sequences of meaningful words by a process
as adventitious as the insertion of the vocables into such a nursery
rhyme*sequence as "Hickory, dickoiy, dock! The mouse ran up the
clock. . . ." Perhaps we can recognize the first separate vocables in
warning signals of the pack leader If so, the second class* or wcatwesy
are the oldest sound elements of co-operation m mutually beneficial
activities. What seems almost certain is this. Until writing forced
people to examine more closely the significance of the sounds they used,
the recognition of words was confined to sounds which they could
associate with gesture
opposite eKtreme, and primitive speech is supposed to be hoiophrastic, x.c
without discrete words, This sing-song view, like nonsense written at one
tjjne about so-called incorporattve languages (e g tho$e of the Mexicans or
Greenland Esquimaux), and now disproved by the work of Sapir, is essentially
a concoction of the study. It is the product of academic preoccupation with the
works of poets or other forms of sacred composition. Practical biologists or
psychologists have to give consideration: (a) to how children, travellers* or
immigrants learn a language without recourse to interpreters and grammar-
books, (b) to how human speech differs from the chatter of monkeys or the
mimetic exploits of parrots, In contradistinction to such animal noises, human
speech is above all an instrument of co-operation in productive work or mutual
defence, and as such is partly made up of discrete signals for individual actions
and manipulation of separate objects. To this extent (see p. 51) the recognition
of some sounds as words is presumably as old as the first flint instruments
Conversely, other formal elements which we also call words are products of
grammatical comparison. They do not emerge from the speech matrix before
the written record compels closer analysis                ,                   (EDITOR)