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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

CHAPTER  VII

OUR TEUTONIC RELATIVES-A BIRD'S-
EYE VIEW OF TEUTONIC GRAMMAR

THE object of this chapter is to give a bird's-eye view of the grammar
of four Teutonic languages., more especially German, for the benefit of
the home student who may wish to learn one of them by using the
methods outlined in the preceding chapter The reader who does not
intend to do so will find a more detailed treatment of principles already
stated in Chapter V. The reader who does must pay attention to each
cross-reference for relevant material printed in another context
Some striking peculiarities of English are (a) great reduction of its
flexional system owing to loss of useless grammatical devices such as
gender-, number-, or case-concord of adjectives, (i) great regularity of
remaining flexions, e g the plural -5 Both reduction and levelling have
taken place in all Teutonic languages, but in no other have these pro-
cesses gone so far German is the most conservative of those with which
we shall deal It has not gone far beyond the level of English in the
time of Alfred the Great Consequently it is the most difficult to learn.
A brief account of the evolution of English grammar will help to bring
the dead bones of German grammar to life, and lighten the task of
learning for the beginner
If Alfred the Great had established schools to make the Old English
Bible, like the Reformation Bible, accessible to the common people,
English-speaking boys and girls would have had much more grammar
to learn about than American or British boys and girls now need to
know Like Icelandic and German, Old English was still a highly
inflected language. The reader of the Loom has already met two examples
of this difference between the English of Alfred's time and the English
of to-day Old English had more case-forms of the personal pronoun
(p, 115) and more personal forms (p 97) of the verb
In modern English the personal pronouns and the relative pronouns
(who) have three case-forms, at least in the singular the nominative
(verb subject), the possessive or genitive, and the objective^ which may
be the "direct" or "indirect" object of a verb and is always used after a
directive Old English had four case-forms in the singular and plural,