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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Accidence—The Table Manners of Language   91
Here we are on speculative ground It will not be possible to get any
further light on the early evolution of speech till anthropologists have
made more progress m researches for which Professor Malinowski has
made an eloquent plea *
The point of view of the philologist who deals only with remnants
of dead languages must differ from that of the ethnographer who, de-
prived of the ossified^ fixed data of inscriptions, has to rely on the living
reality of spoken language m fluxu The former has to reconstruct the
general situation^ i e the culture of a past people, from the extant state-
ments y the latter can study directly the conditions and situations charac-
teristic of a culture and interpret the statements through them Now I
claim that the ethnographer's perspective is the one relevant and real
for the formation of fundamental linguistic conceptions and for the
study of the life of languages . , For language in its origins has been
merely the free, spoken sum total of utterances such as we find now in a
savage tongue
Study of speech in backward communities from this point of view
is still in its infancy. Many years must elapse before it influences the
tradition of language-teaching in our schools and universities. Mean-
while, the infant science of language carnes a load of unnecessary
intellectual luggage from its parental preoccupation with sacred texts
or ancient wisdom. Grammar, as the classification of speech and writing
habits, did not begin because human beings were curious about their
social equipment What originally prompted the study of Semitic
(p. 421), Hindu (p, 408)—and to a large extent that of European—
grammar was the requirements of ritual. Though the impact of bio-
logical discovery has now forced European scholars to look at language
from an evolutionary point of view, academic tradition has never out-
grown the limitations imposed on it by the circumstances of its origin
Modern European grammar began about the time when the Pro-
testant Reformation was m progress. Scholars were busy producing an
open Bible for the common people, or translations of texts by the
political apologists of the Greek city state. Those who did so were
primarily interested in finding tricks of expression corresponding to
Greek and Latin models in modern European languages. Usually they
had no knowledge of non-European languages, and, if they also knew
languages now placed m the Semitic group, gained their knowledge by
applying the classical yardstick. It goes without saying that they did
not classify ways of using words as they would have done if they had
been interested m finding out how English has changed since the time
* Vtde The Mt.amn% of Mfarnng* by C K. Ogden and I A, Richards