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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Accidence—The Table Manners of Language   in
exceptions, use of such derivatives has ceased to be obligatory in
Anglo-American.' It is quite possible that they will eventually make
way for the roundabout expressions illustrated by mme firm, or the
most firm. We do not use a comparative or superlative form of long
adjectives which stand for qualities such as Iwspitable* Since gram-
marians also use the word adjective for numbeis, pointer-words (such
as this, that) each}, and other vocables which do not form flexional
derivatives of this class, no dear-cut definition of an adjective is appli-
cable to a rational classification of the Anglo-American vocabulary.
The monosyllables more and most in the roundabout expicssions
that are squeezing out flexion of comparison in Anglo-Amencan are
equivalent to words which have almost completely superseded it m all
the modem descendants of Latin. They are examples of a group of
particles called adverbs, including also such words as now, won, very,
almost^ quite, rather9 well, seldom, and already We use words of this
class to limit, emphasize, or otherwise quahfy the meaning oi a typical
adjective such as happy. We can also use such words to quahfy the
meanmg of a verb, as in to live well, to speak ill, to eat enough, or almost
to avoid. The class of Enghsh words which form fictional denvatives in
-er and -est generally form others by adding Iy9 as an happily> firmly,
steeply. We use such derivatives in the same way as adverbial particles
Thus we speak of an individual on whom we can depend as a really
reliable person
These adverbial derivatives are troublesome to a foreigner for two
reasons One is that the suffix ~ly is occasionally (as originally) attached
to words which have the characteristics of nouns, e g. in manly, godly,
or sprightly (originally spnte-hke or fairy-like)* Unlike happily or
firmly, such derivatives can be used in front of a noun, as in Shaw's
manly women and womanly mm Another difficulty for the foreigner is
that the adverbial flexion is disappearing Such expressions as to suffer
long, or to run fast, aie good Bible English, and Elizabethan gram-
marians who gave their beriedic lion to a goodly heritage did not put a
fence of baibed wire around the adverbial suEix. If we accept the
expression to run fast, we ought not to resist come quick, or to object to
the undergraduate headline, Magdalen man makes good (i c. the Duke
of Windsor has been promoted by the death of his father). No reason-
able man wants to suffer lengthily English has never been consistent
about this custom- It is at best a convention of context, and the com-
plete decay of the adverbial derivative would be a change for the
better Americans are more sensible about it than the British,