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The Diseases of Language              431
The position of the adjective equivalent is the same in Chinese as
in Anglo-American The attributive adjective comes first as in HAO
jfiN (a good man) The predicative adjective comes after the noun but
without a copula equivalent to be Thus jfiN HAO means the man is
At other points Anglo-American and Chinese rules of syntax diverge
to greater or less degree Conditional statements and interrogation are
two of them Chinese uses if sparingly. It gets along by mere juxta-
position as in conveisational English
they                 slowly                speak         I        then       understand
0 e if they spoke slowly I should understand)
There is no inversion of word order in a question of the yes-no
type A Chinese question may be a plain statement with an interro-
gative particle equivalent to eh? at the end of it, e g. TŁA LAI MO
he comes eh?ie is he coming* Instead of adding MO (eh?} to TCA LAI
(he is coming) it is possible to add a negation reminiscent of the nursery
jingle she loves me, she loves me not. Thus TCA LAI PU LAI (he come,
not come) means the same as TCA LAI MO One feature of Chinese
has no parallel in European languages What corresponds to a tran-
sitive verb must always trail an object behind it. In effect the Chinese
say he does not want to lead looks or he does not want to write characters
where we should simply say he does not want to read or he does not
want to write Omission of an object confers a passive meaning, e g.
CHE-KO JEN TA-SSU LA (this man kill finished) means this man
has been killed
Everything said so fa^ underlines the likeness of the Chinese to our
own way of saying something, and there would be nothing left to write
about, if the sound-pattern of Chinese were comparable to an English
purged of polysyllables. With no rules of grammar but a few common-
sense directions about the arrangement of words, with no multiplicity
of words disguised for different grammatical categories, as we disguise
bible in biblical or as German duplicates its transitive and intransitive
verbs, a Chinese dialect would be the easiest language to learn In fact,
it is not.
The range of elementary sounds, i e simple vowels and consonants,
in no language exceeds about forty So it stands to reason that the
number of pronounceable syllables cannot be equal to the number of