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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Syivtax—The Traffic Rules of Language   159

question designed to check the whole situation Apart from the use
of interrogative pronouns or particles, and inversion of subject and
verb, or a combination of both, there are various other ways of putting
a question If we want to ascertain the identity of the subject we have
merely to substitute the English interrogative pronouns who, what,
which., and equivalent words m a Romance or Teutonic language with-
out any change of word order The question then takes the form- who
can face reading the rest of this chapter? To ascertain the identity of the
object demands more than the substitution of an interrogative pronoun
The latter comes at the beginning of the question and the subject
follows the verb, as m what can you face reading*

In English we can make a statement into a question by putting in front
of it the clause is it true that? This is roughly equivalent to a common
form of French interrogation introduced by est-ce que (is it that) French
permits a peculiar form of interrogation which lays emphasis on the
subject without calling for specific interrogation The following literal
translation illustrates it

Is my father here?        — Mon pere> est~i
My father, is he here?
In conversation we often do without devices on which we com-
monly rely when we put a question in writing A falling and rising
tone suffice to convey interrogation without change of word-order
appropriate to plain statement. Emphasis on one or another word indi-
cates doubt about the identity of subject, object, or activity denoted by
the verb We can do the same in writing by use of italics, but we have no
type convention to signify change of tone in print In everyday speech,
though less in writing, we can convert a statement into a question by
judicious or polite afterthought. The formula added is an idiom peculiar
to each language. In English we add such expressions as eh>, don'tyou?>
or isn't it? The German equivalent is mcht wahr? (not true?}. The
Swedish is wte sant (not true?} or etter hur (or how?*), the French is
n*e$t~ce pas (is this not?} and the Spanish is verdad (true?) The English
affirmative answer / did* etc , is a pitfall for the unwary. In other
European languages it is more usual to add a pronoun object, i e it
Thus in Swedish / did is jag gjordc det (I did it = / did so)
One very important class of rules about word-order regulate nega-
tion. Rules of negation, like rules of interrogation and the rule for the
position of the subject in ordinary statements, draw attention to a
fundamental difference between the syntax of Bible English and the
syntax of Anglo-American Subject to a qualification, mentioned later