Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Latin Legacy                    325

of the noun had almost disappeared Scholars used to discuss whether
fixed word-order and the use of prepositions led to the elimination of
the case-marks, or whether slurring and decay of case-marks which
were not stressed brought in prepositions and fixed word-order Un-

(Reading from right to left)
doubtedly the first is nearer the truth than the second. Thus A D.
Sheffield explains in Grammar and Thinking.
"Phonetic change . . was the proximate cause of the 'decay3 of in-
flexions; but no mere physical cause can be viewed as acting upon
speech regardless of men's expressive intention in speaking Before the
analytical means of showing sentence-relations had developed, any
tendency to slur relating endings would be constantly checked by the
speaker's need of making himself understood The change, therefore,
more likely proceeded as follows Fixed word-order began to appear
within the inflected languages simply as a result of growing orderhness
of thought Relating particles were at the same time added to inflected
words wherever the inflexional meaning was vague After word-order
had acquired functional value, and the more precise relating-words were
current, relating endings lost their importance, and would become
assimilated, slurred, and dropped, from the natural tendency of speakers
to trouble themselves over no more speech-material than is needed to
convey their thought"
The first case-casualty was the genitive Caesar himself had written
pauci de nostns (a few of ours), which in modern Italian is pochi det
nostri Without doubt this was the way in which common people of
Vergil's tame talked. Towards the end of the Empire the use of the
ablative with de had universally displaced the old genitive without
a preposition, and we come across such modern forms as de poms,
equivalent to the modern French des pomrnes (some apples), oifihus de