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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

320               The Loom of Language
It is usually true to say that (a) most Latin nouns of the porta (door)
type are feminine, (&) a large majority of Latin nouns which end in
-us are masculine, and (c) all Latin nouns that end in ~um are neuter
So it is partly true to say that the noun itself carries the trade-mark of
its gender One consequence of the fact that a laige proportion of
Latin nouns are labelled in this way, and that a large class of adjectives
have corresponding affixes appropriate to the same gender, is that the
Latin adjective very often carries the same suffix as the noun coupled
with it, e g alii mun (high walls), portae novae (new doors), magnum
impenwn (great empire) Thus Latin sentences sometimes recall the
monotonous sing-song of the Bantu dialects (p. 210). The corre-
spondence of the Latin suffixes is less complete than that of the Bantu
prefixes, because all Latin adjectives do not have the same gender-
forms, and all Latin nouns assigned to the same declension do not
belong to the same gender
All these trade-marks of the adjective have disappeared in English,
and comparison (black, blacker, blackest) is now its most characteristic
feature. In Classical Latin the comparative and superlative derivatives
of the adjectives were also formed synthetically, i e. by adding appro-
priate suffixes to the ordinary or positive root Originally there must
have been a great variety of these accretions, but in written Latin
comparative uniformity had been established in favour of -101 (m or f)
or -ius (neut) corresponding to our ~er, and -issimus (-a, -um) corre-
sponding to our -est> e g : fortis (strong)—-fortior (stronger)—fortissimus
(strongest) A few of the most common Latin adjectives escaped this
regulanzation They had comparative and superlative forms derived
from stems other than that of the positive, e g bonus (good)—mehor
(better)—optimus (best)
The most backward class of words in modern English is made up of
the personal pronouns In Classical Latin (p 310) the personal pronoun
was a relatively rare intruder There was httle need for the nominative
forms /, he, we, etc, because person was sufficiently indicated by the
terminal of the verb Thus vendo could only mean "I sell," and vendimus
could only mean "we sell" In modern French, English, or German we
can no longer omit the personal pronoun, except when we give a
command (hurry1'} or find it convenient to be abrupt (couldn't say) In
speech we usually omit personal pronouns of Italian and Spanish,
whose verb-endings still indicate person and number clearly, e g. parlo
a vot, signore (I am speaking to you, Sir) When Latin authors used ego
(I), tu (thou), etc, they did so for the sole purpose of emphasis or con-