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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

492                The Loom of Language
unfamiliar words They are sign-posts of sentence landscape To that
extent they lighten the task of spotting the meaning.
One reply to this is that isolating languages or near-isolating Ian-
guages which have no (or few) labels to mark what are the parts of
speech in a flexional language can use other devices for guiding us
through the sentence landscape Four examples from our own language
illustrate them (a) the articles label an object with or without accom-
panying attributes; (b) the pronoun usually labels the succeeding word
as a verb in the absence of any flexional marks on the latter, (c) the
copula iS) are.> was, were separates the thing or person from what the
statement predicates, (d) without recourse to the adverb terminal -lyy
the insertion of and in. fast and sinking ship makes it clear that fast does
not qualify sinking All these examples imply the existence of definite
word-order Rules of word-order, with whatever safeguards such
particles as 0/, the, and other literally empty words provide, constitute
all the grammar of a language, if its vocabulary consists exclusively of
unchangeable independently mobile elements
Since interhnguists now lean far towards the isolating pattern we
might expect satisfactory rules of word-order to be a threadbare
theme This is far from true. In the Key to> and Pnmer of, Interhngua,
for instance, the subject is dealt with and dismissed in a few sentences,
the first of which contrives to state the truth upside down
The order of words in Interhngua presents no great difficulties,
grammar and inflection having been reduced to a minimum It is so
nearly similar to the English order of words that one may safely follow
that usage without fear of being misunderstood or being too greatly
incorrect
In fact, no author of a project for a constructed auxiliary has paid
much attention to this problem, and those who advocate simple methods
of teaching Anglo-American with a view to its use as an international
language are singularly silent about the pitfalls into which the vagaries
of English word-order can lure the beginner. These vagaries illustrate
some of the issues involved in designing satisfactory rules
While it is true that Anglo-American usage favours the method of
grouping together what is thought of together, there is no uniformity
about placing the qualifying expression immediately before or imme-
diately after what it qualifies Thus we place the qualifier enough
in front of the word it qualifies in enough fat sheep and behind in fat
enough sheep Neither is consistent with more common procedure,
the first because enough is not immediately in front of the sheep it