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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

220               The Loom of Language
stances and tastes A third is that it is easier to guess the meaning of
nouns, adjectives, and veibs when we meet them This ib partly because
an increasing piopoition of new words of this kind are international,
and also because the particles are the most unstable elements in a
language We do not borrow prepositions or conjunctions, but we
constantly borrow nouns, verbs, or adjectives, and such borrowed words
play an important part in modem life The word for a telephone or for
a museum is recognizably the same m English, Swedish, Serbo-Croat,
or Hungarian, but the Dane who leains the word rabbit in his first
lesson irom the English primer commonly used m Danish schools may
live ten years m Nottingham or correspond regularly with a friend m
New York without getting involved in a discussion about rodents of
any kind
If you learn only ten new words of the group which includes par-
ticles, pronouns, and pointer-words every day lor a fortnight, you will
have at your disposal at least twenty-live per cent of the total number
of words you use when you write a letter When you have done this, it
is important to have a small vocabulary of essential nouns, adjectives,
and verbs ready for use Beiorc you start trying to write or to read in
a foieign language, it is best to get a bnd'wyc view of us grammatical
peculiarities The birdVeyc view is easy to get in an hour's reading,
and is not diflicult to mcmon/e unless the language, like Russian, has
a large number of archaic and useless gummatical devices Even so,
much of the effort commonly put into learning the rules of grammar
can be capitalized for use m other ways, li you do not start reading or
wilting till you have a bxoad general outlook. It will help you to
remember the essentials, if you see them in an evolutionary context
Since it is relatively *casy to recall information when prompted by the
wntten word, a student who first gets a birdVcyc view of the grammar
of a new language will be able to recognize essential rules when he
meets them in newspapers, letters, or books. In this way, reading will
help to fix them from the start. Contrariwise, the beginner who starts
reading without the birdVcyc view may become colour-blind to conven-
tions which arc e^ential for correct self-expression facility m guesswork
may then become a hindrance to learning how to write or speak
correctly
To say that the bird's-eye view given in the next few chapters will
help the beginner to start writing to a correspondent who will correct
gross errors, or to begin reading without becoming colour-blind to
rules of grammar, docs not mean that they provide an insurance policy