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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Accidence—The Table Manners oj Language   103
Though the Welsh use their verb to be of the written language with-
out a separate pronoun, they usually insert a pronoun after it in speech.
The necessities of daily intercourse compensate for the supposititious
ments of a flexional system when its agglutinative origin is no longer
recognizable to anybody except the grammarian. The need is greater
when a language is imposed on a conquered people, or adopted by its
conquerors. The absent pronoun of written Latin has come back in its
daughter dialect, French
TENSE FLEXION
Tense flexion, illustrated by the derivative forms loved or gave> may
be external or internal. We call the English dictionary form (e.g. love
or give) the present in contradistinction to the derivative past form. The
words past and present suggest that tense flexion dates an occurrence.
This would be a true description of what the French future tense
(p. 105) endings do. It is not an accurate description of what the
choice of our English present tense form does in she plays the piano
If we want to date the occurrence as present^ we do not use the so-called
present tense form We resort to the roundabout expression: die is
playing the piano. In reality the tense forms of a verb have no single
clear-cut function To a greater or less extent in different European
languages two distinct functions blend One is the time distinction
between past, present, and future. The other, more prominent in
English, especially in Russian and in Celtic languages, is what gram-
marians call aspect Aspect includes the distinction between what is
habitual or is going on (imperfect} and what is over and done with
(perfect) This is the essential difference involved in the choice of
tense forms in the following
(a) the eat th moves round the wn        (imperfect)
(6) he moved the pawn to qncenfour   (perfect)
The last two examples might suggest that the distinction between the
meaning of the simple present and past tense forms of English is
straightforward. This is not true We imply future action when we use
the present tense form in. / wilfor Nantucket at noon We imply know-
ledge of the past when we use the present in he often goes to Pans, The
particle often and the expression at noon date the action or tell us
whether it is a habitual occurrence In fact we rely, and those who
speak other European languages rely more and more, on roundabout
expressions to do what tense flexion supposedly does.