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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

426

The Loom of Language

Tibeto-Burmese group which has agglutinative features With tins
qualification, it is broadly true to say that all the root words—i e all
words excluding compounds made by juxtaposition of vocables with
an independent existence like that of ale and house in alehouse—are
monosyllabic For what we can convey by internal or external flexion
Chinese languages rely wholly on position, on auxiliary particles and
on compounds

For the common ancestry of all the members of the family one clue
is lacking In their present form they have no clear-cut community of
vocabulary 5 and we have no means of being certain about whether

Gmpaunl
Character

bngktr

4-4-
/J 'j*

woods

Component

E/

son

A
i

che2

Left sbzp

p

KJ

moon

Son>

^      clui2

J       ru^dsbzp

mil,

wood

FIG* 42 —COMPOUND CHINESE CHARACTERS WITH Two MEANING COMPONENTS
(Adapted from Firth's The Tongues of Men)
they ever had a recogmsably common stock of word material The
literature of China goes back several thousand years,, but it does not
give us the information we need. Chinese writing is a logographic script
(p 57) It tells us very little about sounds corresponding to the
written symbols when writing first came into use When the Chinese
of to-day read out a passage from one of their classical authors, they
pronounce the words as they would pronounce the words of a news-
paper or an advertisement.
Some 400 million people of China5 Manchuria, and part of Mongolia
now speak the vernaculars which go by the name of Chinese. They
include, (a) the Mandarin dialects, of which the North Chinese of
about 250 million people is the most important, (b) the Kiangsi dialects,
(c) the Central-Coastal group (Shanghai, Ningpo, Hangkow), (d) the