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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Latin Legacy                    315
of modern Romance languages. Another reason for doing so is that it
clarifies the task of language-planning for world peace For three
hundred years since the days of Leibniz and Bishop Wilkins, the move-
ment for promoting an inter-language which is easy to learn has been
obstructed by the traditional delusion that Latin is peculiarly lucid and
"logical"
In so far as the adjective logical means anything when applied to a
language as a whole,, it suggests that there is a reliable link between the
form and the function of words. If this were really true, it would mean
that Latin is an easy language to learn,, and there might be a case for
reinstating it as a medium of international communication Though no
one could seriously claim that Latin is as easy to learn as Italian, clas-
sical scholars rarely disclose the implications of the fact that it is not
The truth is that Italian is simpler to leara, and therefore better suited
to international use, because it is the product of a process which was
going on in the living language of Italy and the Empire, while further
progress towards greater flexibility and great regularity was arrested in
Roman literature.
In text-books of Latin for use in schools the Latin case-forms are set
forth as if the genitive, dative, and ablative derivatives have a definite
meaning, like the Finnish case-forms, e g
homims = of a man
homim = to a man
homme — with or by a man
In reality no Latin case-form has a clear-cut meaning of this sort The
five or—if we include a defunct locative (see below}—six possible distinct
case-forms, for which few nouns have more than four distinct affixes in
each number, could not conceivably do all the work of our English
directives. In fact, prepositions were constantly used in Classical Latin
Just as Englishmen once had to choose particular case-forms (p. 266)
of adjective or pronoun after particular prepositions, Latin authors had
to choose an appropriate case-affix for a noun when a preposition came
before it. Thus the use of case was largely a matter of grammatical
context^ as in modern German or Old English
Even when no preposition accompanies a noun, it is impossible to
give dear-cut and economical rules for the choice of the case-forms
which Latin authors used We might be tempted to thank that the
genitive case-affix, which corresponds roughly to the '$ or the apos-
trophe of our derivatives father's or fathers** has a straightforward