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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

134                The Loom of Language

is giving the Loom the once-over for the first time should SCAN THE
NEXT iwo SECIIONS without undue attention to the examples. There-
after we shall resume our narrative painlessly*


Many of the difficulties of learning a foreign language arise through
failure to recognize to what extent and m what circumstances words of
one language are strictly equivalent to woids in another If we start with
a clear grasp of what word-correspondence involves, we can greatly
reduce the tedious memory-work involved in fixing a minimum
vocabulary for constant and reliable use

Whether any word in one language corresponds more or less often
to a particular word in another depends largely on the class to which it
belongs, Numerals are the most reliable, and names or physical qualities
also behave well. If such words have homophones,, we have no diihculty
in recogni/ing die facts ^d a little common-sense prevents us from
assuming that we are enfjtded to transplant a metaphorical usage in
foreign soil So it is unnecessary to point out that we cannot correctly
translate such expressions as a yellow streak^ or a sugar daddy > by looking
up the corresponding name words or epithets in a small dictionary
People who aie not languagc~u>n&uous arc hablc to mishaps of this
sort, though few of us> are likely to commit the double crime of the
English lady who said to the Pans cabman: Cochon9 le pnntmps est

The most capricious words in a language hke our own arc particles,
especially those classified as directives (e.g. to, with> for) and the Imk-
words or conjunctions (c g* ands bi'cause^ tkougti). The difficulties which
arise when using parudes are of three kinds One is that in any lan-
guage particles are specially liable to idiomatic use. A second is that
the meaning of a single particle m any one language may embrace
the more restricted meaning of two or more particles in a second. The
third is thaf when two particles with the jsame meaning are assigned to
different situations, we need to know whether a foreign equivalent
given in the dictionary is appropriate to the context, before we can
translate them,
Any partide has a characteristic meaning m the sense that we can use
it in a laigc class of situations to signify the same kind of relationship.
Thus the characteristic meaning of the English word to involves direc-
* Cochon (pig) for cadter (aiachmon), The wont pnntetnpv mea«s tprtng
(season). The $pnn$ of a cab j* fa wwr