Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

Pioneers of Language Planning           451
What remains for discussion is case-., mood*, and time-flexion Very
properly Leibniz casts doubt on the reason d'etre of the first two with
the following argument. As things are, case* and mood- flexions are
useless repetitions of particles Either case- and mood-flexions can do
without prepositions and conjunctions, or prepositions and conjunc-
tions can do without case and mood terminal Besides, it is impossible
for flexion to express the immense variety of relations which we can
indicate by means of particles Aftei some wavering between a highly
synthetic medium and an analytical one, Leibniz comes out in favour
of the latter When all this sanitary demolition is over, the only thing
left with the verb is time-flexion Leibniz considers this essential, but
wishes to extend it to adjectives (as in Japanese), to adverbs, and to
nouns Thus the adjective ndiculurus would qualify an object which
mil "be ridiculous, the noun amamtio would signify the fact of having
loved, and amatuntio the disturbing certainty of going to love Leibniz's
next and most revolutionary step is to reduce the number of parts of
speech Clearly, the adverbs can be merged with adjectives because
they have the same relation to the verD as adjectives have to a noun,
i e they qualify its meaning
For reasons sufficiently familiar to readers of The Loom (p 125),
distinction between adjective and substantive is also "of no great im-
portance in a rational language " The only logical difference between
the two is that the latter implies the idea of substance or existence
Every substantive is equivalent to an adjective accompanied by the
word Ens (Being) or Res (Thing) Thus Idem est Homo quod Ens hu-
manum (Man is the same thing as Human Being) Similarly (as in
Celtic idiom) every verb can be reduced to the single verb substantive
to be and an adjective. Petrus scribit, id est est scnbens (Peter writes,
i e is writing). So the irreducible elements of discourse boil down to
the single noun Ens or Res, the single verb est (is), together with a
congeries of adjectival qualifiers and particles which bind the other
parts of a statement together by exposing relations between them A
complete vocabulary is exhausted by a lexicon of roots and a list of
affixes each with its own and sharply defined meaning
All this tallies with the fruits of research in comparative grammar
two hundred years later. Leibniz was far ahead of his time in other
ways He was alive to what Mahnowski calls "the sliding of roots and
meanings from one grammatical category to another9' (p. 170), and
anticipates Ogden's Basic (p 473) by embarking on an analysis of the
particles to ascertain their meaning and the requisite rmrnrmim number.