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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

140                The Loom of Language
were sitting^ he will be standing^ etc In other European languages it is
impossible to find a single word which corresponds to any -ing deriva-
tive in such diverse expressions as a forgiving father., forgiving our
trespasses I am forgiving you So the -ing terminal is a danger-signal
We therefore recast our sentence in the form * / do not enjoy myself when I
skate. To handlethis correctly wehavetorememberthatthewordcfo (p. 158)
m such a context is also an English idiom. We omit it in translation
These examples illustrate one outstanding class of difficulties which
constantly arise in learning a foreign language Many of the obstacles
we meet exist because we are not sufficiently alert to the peculiarities of
our own language^ and fail to seize the opportunity of exploring different
ways of saying the same thing The directives listed in the tables on
PP 136-137 aie the ones which are really essential. We do not need
equivalents for roundabout directive constructions such as the one in
the phrase m case of difficulties We do not need it, if we have the
essential link-word if Anyone who knows the equivalent of z/, can
paraphrase it in several ways, eg if we have difficulties, if there are
difficulties.
Our next difficulty when dealing with particles is that the common
thread of meaning characteristic of a particle in one language may
embrace that of two particles each with a more restricted use in another
language For instance, we use the English word before to indicate
priority, whether a sencs consists of dates such as 54 B,CO A 0 1066,
and AJX 1832, or objects such as the members of a class of boys stand-
ing in single file We can thus dissect what we mean by before into
subsidiary categories of meaning such as before (place)> i.e in front of
and before (time)) i e. earlier than$ or antecedent to. This distinction
implied by the context in English, is essential m French, because a
Frenchman uses different words to signify before in such phrases as
before the door and before the dawn. When we are drawing up a basic
list of particles we have therefore to look beyond the characteristic
meaning of the English word.
One of the merits of our own language is that we leave much to the con-
text- Whether the English conjunction when refers to an event which has
happened once for all, to on event which happens repeatedly, or to some*
thing which is still going on, is inwnaterial if the set-up makes the dis-
tinction dear We do not customarily use whenever imless we wish to
emphasize the repetition of a process, and we are not forced to use while
unless we wish to emphasize simultaneity. This is not true of German or
of Norwegian. If he is talking about something that is over and done with
a German uses als where we should use when, A Norwegian uses da.