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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

104                The Loom of Language

Such roundabout expressions are of two kinds. We may simply, as in
the last examples, insert some qualifying expression or particle which
denotes time (e g formerly, now, soon), or aspect (e g once, habitually)
Alternatively we may use the construction known as a compound tense
by combining a helper with the dictionary form of the verb (e.g / shall
sing) or with one of two derivatives called the present and past participles
The present participle of English verbs is the -ing derivative, as in / am
singing. The part participle is the corresponding form in / have sung.
We can use both to qualify a noun^ e g a singing bird or an oft-sung
song All English verbs (except some helpers) have an -mg derivative
Verbs which take the -ed or ~t suffix have one form winch we can use
to qualify a noun (e g a loved one)> as the simple past tense form (e g*
she loved him) or with helpers (e g she had loved him or she is loved) In
Anglo-American usage the Chinese trick of relying on particles often
overrides the distinction otherwise inherent in the use of the helper
verbj as in, (a) / am leaving to-morrow > (b) I am constantly leaving my
hat behind

There is therefore nothing surprising about the fact that so few of us
notice it when we have no tense flexion to lean on* A student of social
statistics finds himself (or herself) at no disadvantage because the verb
in the following sentences lacks present and past distinction'

Oars cost x dollars a bushel to-day
Oats cost y dollars a bushel last fall

Indeed, few people who speak the Anglo-American language realize
how often they use such verbs every day of their lives. Below is a list of
common verbs which have only three forms: the dictionary verb* its
~mg derivative and the -5 derivative of the third person singular present*
bet           cost          hurt         quit         shed         split
burst        cut          let            nd           shut         spread
cast          lut           put          set           slit           thrust
The foreigner who wishes to learn the language of Francis Bacon and
Benjamin Franklin has nothing more to learn about them, and the
time of young children is not wasted with efforts to memorize such
anomalies as:
give      gave       given             sing         sang          sung
live       lived      lived             bring       brought     brought
Fortunately most English verbs are weak. That is to say, they have a
Single past derivative with the suffix ~ed (or -*) added to the dictionary