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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Accidence—The Table Manners of Language   95
these derivatives they form Thus nouns and pronouns have number
and case flexion; verbs have tense, person., voice, and mood flexions.
Words which do not have such derivatives are called particles. The
distinction between these classes would be meaningless, if we tried
to apply it to Chinese For reasons which we shall now see, it is almost
meaningless when we try to classify English words in the same way.
The number of flexional derivatives in the older languages of the
Indo-European family is enormous. In English comparable derivatives
are relatively few, and are chiefly confined to flexions of number, time,
person, and comparison. Formation of the derivative houses (external) or
lice (internal) from house or louse illustrates flexion of number. The
derivatives bound (internal) and loved (external) from bind and love
illustrate tense flexion Person flexion turns up only in the addition of
-s to a verb c g the change as from bind to binds. Comparison is the
derivation of happier and happiest, or wiser and wisest, from happy and
wise English has a few relics oi case (e g he, him, his), and a trace of
mood (p. 119) flexion Flexion of gender has disappeared altogether,
and voice flexion never existed in our own language
Knowing the names for the flexions does not help us to speak or to
write correct English, because few survive, and we learn these few in
childhood. What it does help us to do is to learn languages in which the
flexional system of the old Indo-European languages has decayed far
less than in English or in its Eastern counterpart, modern Persian. The
study of how they have arisen, and of circumstances which have contri-
buted to their decay, also helps us to see characteristics to incorporate in
a world medium which is easy to learn without being hable to mis-
It is best to start with flexions of person and tense, because we have
more information about the way in which such flexions have arisen or
can arise than we have about the origin of number, case, gender, and
comparison Peison flexion is probably die older of the two, Smce
something of the same sort is cropping up again, (p. 99), it is easy to
guess how it began. Unlike tense, voice, number, and comparison,
flexion of person is absolutely useless in many modern European lan-
guages. All that remains of it in our own language is the final s of a verb
which follows certain words such as he, she, it, or the names of single
things, living beings, groups or qualities, eg, in such more or less
intelligible statements as Jie bakes, she types, or love conquers all The