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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

124                The Loom of Language
navian dialects which have lost personal flexion, the uninflected verb
stem turns up as a separate word only m the imperative Both the
present tense and the infinitive after helper verbs in roundabout
expressions equivalent to Latin tenses have their characteristic affixes
One invariant English word docs seivice for the present tense form
(except in the third person singular), the imperative and the infinitive
of other Indo-European verbs. Many verb-roots are identical with
those of nouns; and English nouns of tins type are often identical with
the verb form which serves for the present tense, infinitive and impera-
tive of other European languages. In very many situations in which
English verbs occur, there is therefore no distinction between the form
of what we call the verb and the form of what we call a noun. The
following comparison between English and Norwegian illustrates
this:
a motor                                             en bil
I moror    .            .           .               )eg bikr
I shall motor                  ,.               jeg skal bile
A pedant may object to the choice of so new a word Bible English
provides many examples of the same tlung, for instance fear, sin, love,
praise, delight', promise, hope, needy water, and the day's work supplies
many others which have been in use as long as hammer', nail, screw, use,
dust, fire. When an electrician says he is going to eaith a terminal, a
bacteriologist says that he will culture a micro-organism, or a driver
says that he will park his taxi, each of them is exploiting one of the
most characteristic idiosyncrasies of Shakespeare's English. He is doing
something which would be quite natural to a Chinaman but very
shocking to the Venerable Bede.
We can press the comparison between English and Chinese a stage
further. By dropping gender-concord, English forfeited the distin-
guishing characteristic of the adjective about the time of Chaucer* The
only trade-mark left is that certain words equivalent to Latin, Greek,
or German adjectives still have (a) comparative and superlative deriva-
tives; (6) characteristic endings such as *ieal or -a/ in hblical, com-
mercial, logical, or ~ic in aesthetic, electric, magnetic. These adjectival
words are different from words (e g. Bible, commerce, logic, aesthetics,
electricity, magnetism) equivalent to corresponding German or Greek
nouns. A distinction of this sort was breaking down before the Pilgrim
Fathers embarked on the Mayflower. Bible English contains examples
of adjecnves identical both with the dictionary forms of nouns such as