Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

Language Planning for a New Order     505
basic function In a language with rigid word order and empty words
as sign-posts of the sentence lay-out, we could generalize without loss
of clarity a process which has already gone far in Anglo-Amencan and
much farther in Chinese
Broadly speaking, for every one of our directives we can find an
adverbial qualifier, an adjective, a noun, and often even a conjunction,
with the same fundamental meaning Each of these may itself be one
of a cluster of synonyms It is merely their different grammatical
behaviour which prevents us from recognizing that semanticatty they
are comrades in arms Why cannot a single word do all the work
of after, since, afterwards, subsequently), succeeding), sequel, aftermath^
or of before, previously), preceding)., past, history? We could then make
about forty temporal, spatial, motor, instrumental and associative
directives do the job of about two hundred words and three or four
times as many synonyms or near synonyms sufficiently distinguishable
by context and situation alone Partly for this reason^ and partly be-
cause this class of words covers all the territory of auxiliaries which
express time and aspect (pp 103-4), it might be an advantage to extend
the range corresponding to the Basic English battery of directives by
making more refined distinctions. Such distinctions may occur in one
language, but be absent in another For instance, a special word sym-
bolizing physical contact is non-existent in Anglo-Amencan, but exists
in German and would deserve inclusion in an improved set of directives
For generations we have had chairs of comparative philology, but
investigations dictated by an instrumental outlook are as rare to-day as
in Grimm's time If it were not so we should now be able to specify
what relations and concepts tentatively or fully expressed in this or
that existing medium can justify then: claim to a place on the essential
word list of a properly constructed language
Basic English gives us another clue to word-economy As formal
distinction between noun and verb, when both stand for processes or
states, is an unnecessary complication, formal distinction between noun
and adjective is superfluous when both symbolize a property If we can
go out in the dark or the cold, we have no need of such distinctions as
warm—waimth, hot—heat, dry—dryness If we can discuss the good,
the beautiful, and the true, goodness, beauty, and truth are too much of a
good thong At the same time, we need a consistent rule about fusion of
such word-forms We cannot endorse such inconsistencies as exist in
Anglo-Amencan It may or may not be important to distinguish be-
tween good actions and good people when we speak of the good, but if we