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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

378                The Loom of Language

Our list of personal and impersonal pronouns in the tables given
makes no allowance for situations in which the agent is indefinite or
generic (e g. you never can telly one wouldn't think that . . , they say
that . ) In medieval Latin., and perhaps in the popular Latin of
Caesar's time, the equivalent of our indefinite pronouns one (they or
you), was homo (man), e g homo debit con&derare (one must consider)
Since homo was unstressed in this context, it shrunk In French it
became on> in contradistinction to homme (man) To avoid a hiatus, on
becomes Von after et (and), st (if), ou (or), and oil (where) Parallel
evolution has produced the indefinite German, Dutch, or Scandinavian
man, which is derived from Mann,, etc The French equivalent on has a
far greater range than the English one We must always use it as subject
of the active verb when there is no definite agent of the equivalent
English passive construction The following examples illustrate its
variegated use:

on pourrait dire                           one might say

on dit                                         they say = it is said

on ferme *                                    closing time—time, please!

on demande une bonne                  wanted, a maidservant

on sonne                                      somebody is ringing

si I*en partait                              what about leaving ?

on pardonne tant que Von aime     we forgive as long as we love.

There as no equivalent idiom in Spanish or Italian The indefinite
pronoun of Spanish or Italian is the reflexive Thus the Spaniard says
se dice (or simply diceri) for it is said (= they say), se cree (or creen) = it
ts believed (they believe) Similarly the Italian says si crede (one believes),
si sa (one knows)

During the break-up of Vulgar Latin and subsequent evolution of its
descendants, simplification of the verb did not go nearly so far as that
of the noun Even to-day the tense-system of the Romance languages is
more elaborate than that of the Teutonic languages has ever been
According to the character of their tense or personal endings, the verbs
of Romance languages are arranged in classes called conjugations
(P io?)
We can group regular French verbs in three conjugations (p 37)
The first, like our weak class, includes the majority of verbs in the
language, and nearly all new ones It consists of those (about 4,000) like
chanter (sing), of which the infinitive ends in ~ER The second fairly