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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Accidence—The Table Manners of Language   97
We use it only when a word such as speak, love, type, write, bake, or
conquer follows he, she, or it, or the name of any single person, quality,
group, or thing which can be replaced by it The example on p 35
shows that there are five different personal forms of the French verb,
or class to which such words as love belong. In more old-fashioned
languages the verb root has all six different derivatives corresponding
to the singular and plural forms of all the personal pronouns or to the
names they can replace TJius the corresponding forms of the equivalent
Italian verb are
(10)      do       I give                    (noi)     diamo     we give
(tu)      dai      thou givest             (voi)      date        you give
(egli)    da       he gives                 (cssi)     danno     they give
The Danish equivalent for all these derivative forms of the Italian
root da- present in our words donation or dative is giver This is just the
same whether the Danish (or Norwegian) equivalent of /, we, thou,
you, he, she, it, or they stands in front of, or as in a question, immediately
after it. Since Danes, who produce good beer and good bacon, have no
personal flexions, and since Benjamin Franklin could discuss electricity
with only one, it is not obvious that the five of Voltaire's French are
really necessary tools. If we do not wish to encourage the accumulation
of unnecessary linguistic luggage, it is therefore instructive to know how
people collected them. The first step is to go back to the common
ancestor of French and Italian The table on p 98 furnishes a clue
One thing the table exhibits is this It was not customary to use the
personal pronoun equivalent to /, he, we, etc, m the older languages of
the Indo-European family. The ending attached to the verb really had
a use. It had to do the job now done by putting the pronoun m front of it.
So the ending in modern descendants of such languages is merely the
relic of what once did the job of the pronoun This leads us to ask how
the ending came to do so A clue to a satisfactory answer is also in the
table, which exposes a striking family resemblance among the endings
of the older verbs of the Indo-European family Of the five older
representatives, four have the suffix MI for the form of the verb
which corresponds to the first person singular.* This at once reminds
you of the English pronoun me, which replaces the first person / when
it comes after the verb in a plain statement Our table (p 99) of
* The exception is jpatin with the terminal -O. The Latin I is ego, shortened
m Italian to 10, Spanish yo«
D