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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Diseases of Language              433

examples as 603; (colour), bay (tree), lay (sea), bay (bark)*, sea, see,
See or so> sew, sow, or the following pairs-

be,        bee                  doe,     dough               roe,        row

boy.,      buoy               hie,      high                  toe,        tow

bow,     bough              nay,     neigh                we,        wee

die,       dye                 no,       know                wayy

This enumeration does not include words which are also homophones
because of the silent English (as opposed to American and Scots) r, e g.
maw, more, saw, soar In spite of their great number, English homo-
phones cause no embarrassment in speech because the intended mean-
ing is indicated by the sentence in which they occur, and by
the situation in which speaker and hearer find themselves For this
reason, no naval decorator has painted the boys when asked to paint the
buoys No difficulty arises in real life because flag signifies a piece of
bunting, as well as a harmless English water-flower, or because spint
stands for an intoxicant and part of a medium's stock-in-trade.

Though homophones are more abundant in English than in any
other European languages, English homophones are few compared
with the total number of words in common use Indeed, we may well
ask how it is possible to communicate with only little over four hundred
monosyllables, most of which stand for scores of unrelated things The
answer is that Chinese possesses several peculiar safeguards against
confusion of sound and meaning To begin with, most of Chinese
homophones are not true homophones of the English by-buy type
On this page LI (pear), LI (phm), and LI (chestnut} look exactly the
same In speech they are not Difference of tone keeps them apart.
Tone differences which go with a difference of meaning exist in other
languages, as when we pronounce yes or yeah in a matter of fact,
interrogative, ironical, or surprised manner, but such differences are
casual The tone differences of Chinese are not casual intrusions Its
proper tone is an essential part of the word The number of tones
vanes in different Chinese languages Cantonese is said to have nine
Pekingese has now only four It is impossible to convey the differences
on paper, but we can get a hint from the language of music The first

is  the  high level tone 3E; the second the high rising

the third the low rising  jf-y-r.; the fourth the high falling

* (i) From French baz, (n) from Old French haze, Latin bacca (berry), (in) from
French baje, Latin baia> (iv) from Old French bayer> Modern French dboyer*