Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

148               The Loom oj Language
Reflexive pronouns of Romance languages and of Teutonic languages
other than English are not the same as the emphatic ones Thus a
Frenchman says
Je le JK moi-meme        -- I say it myself
Je me lave                   -~ I wash (myselt)
In Teutonic and m Romance languages, the reflexive forms of the
first and second person are the same as the object (accusative in German)
form; and theie is a special reflexive pronoun tor the third person singu-
lar or plural which betrays family likeness The Romance torm is
se or siy Scandinavian s^g} German wch
Many people who rcali/e the vagancs of prepositions and have no
need to be told about the use of pronouns for polite and intimate
address do not fully realuc the anarchy of the verb The verb (cf wak>
dig> post) is the most highly condensed and the most highly abstract
element of discourse Because it can condense so much meaning, it
may be impossible to find a foreign equivalent with exactly the same
territory Because it is so highly abstract it is liable to semantic erosion
by metaphorical extension To construct a list of words for self-expres-
sion m another language it is important to rcali/e how few of our
English verbs in common use have a single clear-cut meaning
We have met two examples (p 39), but ask and by arc not excep-
tional Sometimes a common thread of meaning is easy to recogm/e, as
when we speak of beating (defeating) the Germans and beating (chas-
tising) a dog. It is less obvious why we should use the same word when
we admit visitors and admit the possibility of a printer's error m this
paragraph When we make full allowance for metaphorical extension of
meaning and for the peculiarly Anglo~Amencan tack (see below) of
using the same verb intransitively and causatively according to context,
we have not disposed of our difficulties M we leave a train we cease to
remain in it; but when we leave a bag in a train the result of our negli-
gence is that the bag continues to remain in it. Few ordinary primers
accessible to the home student emphasize how much effort we can
waste by trying to learn foreign equivalents for the wrong verbs To get
by with the least effort, we must have a lively familiarity with synonyms
at our disposal That is the explanation for the choice of verbs listed in
the basic vocabularies at the end of The Loom (pp. 512 et $eq). Many
common English verbs are not there j but the reader will be able to
discover the most explicit synonym for every one of them; and may well
find that it is helpful to hunt them down.