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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Bird?$-Rye View of Teutonic Grammar   267
four case-forms in the singular and four in the plural., making eight
altogether, an$ the rules for using them were the same as the rules for
the corresponding pronouns (p. 262) The nouns chosen as museum
exhibits illustrate sound-changes described in the preceding chapter.
The change from daeg to day is an example of the softening of the Old
English gy and timge-Zunge, waeter-Wasser illustrate the shift from
T to Z (initial) or SS (medial)
Our table of Old English nouns with their modern German equiva-
lents discloses two difficulties with which our Norman conquerors
would have had to deal as best they could, if they bad condescended to
learn the language of the people To use a noun correctly they would
have had to choose the appropriate case-ending, and there was no
simple rule to guide the choice There were several classes (declensions)
of noun-behaviour. If the learner had followed the practice of modern
school-books, he (or she) would have to know which declension a noun
belonged to before he could decide what ending, singular or plural, the
direct object, the indirect object, the possessive, or the form appro-
priate to the preceding preposition ought to take.
During the two centuries after the Conq jest these difficulties solved
themselves. The distinction between nominative, accusative and dative
forms was not essential, because it either depends on a quite arbitrary
custom of using one or other case-form after a particular preposition,
or does something which can be expressed just as well by word-order
(pp 118 and 155) It had disappeared before the beginning of the four-
teenth century The distinction between the singular and the plural,
and the possessive use of the genitive case-forms do have a function,
and a plural flexion together with a genitive have persisted Tor reasons
we do not know the English people made the best of a bad job by the
chivalrous device of adopting the typical masculine nominative and
accusative plural ending -as (our -es or -s) to signify plurality Similarly
the typical masculine or neuter genitive singular ~es (our 's or ') spread
to nouns which originally did not have this genitive ending
Perhaps, as Bradley suggests, the growing popularity of the -5
terminal was the survival of the fittest. It gained ground because it
was easiest to distinguish The result was an immense simplification
The words waeter> tunge, and bera were once representative of large
classes of nouns, and there were others with plural endings in -a, -
and -e To-day there are scarcely a dozen English nouns in daily use
outside the class of those which tack on -5 in the plural Such levelling
also occurred in Swedish, Danish and Dutch, but standardization of