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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

318                The Loom of Language
Brugman's Giundriss, or in Lindsay's Latin Language, where large
masses of facts which defy classification are brought together furnishes
convincing evidence that irregularity and absence of system are not
merely occasional, but are the fundamental characteristics of Latin
form-building "
When Latin became a literary language in the third century B c , its
case-system was already withering away. The old instrumental, if it ever
had a use, had merged with the ablative, when the latter was coalescing
with the dative The locative, which used to indicate where something
was, or where it took place, had dwindled to a mere shadow. It survived
only in place-names, e g Romae sum (I am in Rome), and a few fos-
silized expressions such as dom (at home), run (in the country) The
vocative, which was a kind of noun-imperative, eg et tu Brute (and
you, O Brutws), as when we use the expression say, pop, differed from
the nominative only in nouns of the second declension (Brutus or
DornmuS) Brute or Domrne). It was often ignored by classical authors.
One great difference between popular Latin and the Latin of the
literati and rhetoricians is the extent to which prepositions were used.
While the former made ample use of them, classical authors did so
with discretion (i e their own discretion). In an illuminating passage of
his Essay on Semantics the French linguist, Breal, has shown that the
tendency to use prepositions where literary style dictated that they
should be left out, was not confined to plebeian or rustic speech
Suetonius tells us that the Emperor Augustus himself practised the
popular custom in the interest of greater danty, and in defiance of
literary pedants who considered it more "graceful" and well-bred to
dispense with prepositions at the risk of being obscure (the prepositions
quae detractae affenmt ahquid obscurttatis, etst gratiam augenf) In the
long run, the prepositional construction was bound to bring about the
elimination of the case-marks, because there was no point in preserving
special signs for relations already indicated, and indicated much more
explicitly, by the preposition alone. In literary Latin, decay of the case-
system was arrested for centimes during which it went on unimpeded
in the living language, and ultimately led to an entirely new type of
grammar
The use of the Latin noun, like the use of the English pronoun,
involves a choice of endings classified according to case and number
The use of the adjective involved the same choice, complicated, as in
Old English or German, by gender. So every Latin noun, tke every
German or Old English noun, can be assigned to one of three genders,