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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Accidence—The Table Manners of Language   125
gold, silver, iron, copper, leather, and with the dictionary form of verbs
such as clean., dry, warm, free, open, loose
Since Mayflower tames the number of adjective-nouns, or, as Jesper-
sen calls them in recognition of the fact that they are no longer distin-
guishable, substantives, has increased yearly Some pedants who have
forgotten their Bible lessons in Sunday school object to night starvation,
ice man, sex appeal, petrol pump, or road traffic signal, without realizing
that they follow such impressive leadership as the Knight Templar,
Gladstone bag, Pnnce Consort, and our Lady mother. These objections
usually come from the gentry who call a man a Red if he wants income
tax relief for working-class parents. What is specially characteristic of
Anglo-American is the large and growing group of words which can be
verbs, nouns, or adjectives in the sense that we use them to translate
words "belonging to each of these three classes in languages which have
preserved the trade-marks of the parts of speech Even in this class, some
have the sanction of long usage.
For instance,, we speak of water lilies or water power, and we use the
municipal water supply to water the garden, when there is a shortage
of water If we have too little water, our local representative can put a
question at question time, and does not question our grammar when we
test his professions of goodwill by making the water shortage a test
case Even headmistresses who do not think that sex is a genteel word
can put love to the test by looking for a love match in books they love
Such words as water, question, testy and love in this sequence have a
single flexion -s which can be tacked on the same dictionary form as a
functionless personal affix, or as a signal of the plural number They
may also take the affixes -ing and -ed Other words of this class, such as
cut (a cut with the knife, a cut finger), or hurt, have no -ed derivative From
Chinese, which has no flexions at all, it is a small step to a language in
which the same root can take on the only three surviving flexions of
the Anglo-American verb, or the single surviving flexion of the English
noun, and can do service as the flexionless English adjective
Like the story of Frankie and Johnnie, our review of the decay of the
flexional system has a moral It is neither the plan of the text-books
which begin with the declension of the noun on page i, nor the advice
of phoneticians who advocate learning by ear. Though we cannot use a
dictionary with profit unless we know something about accidence, we
can lighten the tedium of getting a reading knowledge of a language, or
of writing it intelligibly, if we concentrate first on learning: (a) flexional
derivatives least easy to recognize, when we look up the standard form