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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

222               The Loom of Language
group, including English For this reason sentences and expressions
mrde up of such words can be used to illustrate giammatical affinities
and differences which an American or a Briton with no previous know-
ledge of oilier members of the group can iccogm/e without difficulty.
The resemblance between members of the group is so close than many
linguists speak of them as the Teutonic dialects * Bngksh stands apart
from other members of the Teutonic group in two ways. Its grammar
has undergone much greater simplification,, and it has assimilated an
enormous proportion of words from other language groups, more
especially the Latin In fact, if we set out to discover its place in the
Indo-European family by mciely counting the Teutonic and Latin
root-words (sec p 16) in a large dictionary, we could make a good case
for putting it m the Romance group*
This conclusion would be wrong I hough it is tiue that more than
half the words m a good dictionary aie of Laun ongm, it is also true
that nearly all the root-woids which we use mo\t often—the class re-
ferred to on pp 127-128—are Teutonic However freely we sprinkle
our prose with foreign words, we cannot speak or write Kngksh with-
out using native (i e Teutonic) elements Native are (a) all pronouns,
(b) all demonstrative and possessive adjectives, (c) the articles,, (fl) the
auxiliaries, (c) the strong verbs, (/) nearly all prepositions and conjunc-
tions, (#) most of the adverbs of time and place, (A) the numerals,
except dozen} million* "billion^ and mtlliaid Native also are the few
flexions which English has retained* Thus the majority of words on a
printed page, even if it is about technical mutters which rely on a large
vocabulary of Latin derivatives, arc Teutonic; and though it is possible
to write good English prose in which all, or nearly all, the vocabulary
is based on Teutonic roots* it would be difficult to write a representa-
tive specimen of sustained and intelligible English containing a bare
majority of Latin-French words.
* The word dialect is used m two senses In everyday hie we associate it
With local variations of pi onuncution and minor local dille* cnccs of vocabulary
within a single political unit Since the members of a single political unit are
usually able to understand one another in spite of such local variations, dialect
diJffercnces also signify differences which do not make it absolutely impossible
for people to understand one another In this sense dialects overrun national
boundaries The "Doric" oi Robert Burns differs trom Bible English or from
Anglo-American both with respect to pronunciation and to spelling conven-
tions, as much as Norwegian diners Irom Swedish or Danish Anyone who can
read Norwegian can read Swedish or Danish* and Norwegians can understand
Swedes or Danes when they speak their own languages. We only, speak of them
a<? different languages because they are dialects of dilierent sovereign states It is
Impossible to draw a hard-and-fast line between language and dialect differences.