Language - An Introduction to the Study of Speech
by Edward Sapir
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[Footnote 107: See page 110.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 107 refers to the paragraph beginning on line 3331.]

To return to inflection. An inflective language like Latin or Greek uses the method of fusion, and this fusion has an inner psychological as well as an outer phonetic meaning. But it is not enough that the fusion operate merely in the sphere of derivational concepts (group II),[108] it must involve the syntactic relations, which may either be expressed in unalloyed form (group IV) or, as in Latin and Greek, as "concrete relational concepts" (group III).[109] As far as Latin and Greek are concerned, their inflection consists essentially of the fusing of elements that express logically impure relational concepts with radical elements and with elements expressing derivational concepts. Both fusion as a general method and the expression of relational concepts in the word are necessary to the notion of "inflection."

[Footnote 108: See Chapter V.]

[Footnote 109: If we deny the application of the term "inflective" to fusing languages that express the syntactic relations in pure form, that is, without the admixture of such concepts as number, gender, and tense, merely because such admixture is familiar to us in Latin and Greek, we make of "inflection" an even more arbitrary concept than it need be. At the same time it is true that the method of fusion itself tends to break down the wall between our conceptual groups II and IV, to create group III. Yet the possibility of such "inflective" languages should not be denied. In modern Tibetan, for instance, in which concepts of group II are but weakly expressed, if at all, and in which the relational concepts (e.g., the genitive, the agentive or instrumental) are expressed without alloy of the material, we get many interesting examples of fusion, even of symbolism. Mi di, e.g., "man this, the man" is an absolutive form which may be used as the subject of an intransitive verb. When the verb is transitive (really passive), the (logical) subject has to take the agentive form. Mi di then becomes mi di "by the man," the vowel of the demonstrative pronoun (or article) being merely lengthened. (There is probably also a change in the tone of the syllable.) This, of course, is of the very essence of inflection. It is an amusing commentary on the insufficiency of our current linguistic classification, which considers "inflective" and "isolating" as worlds asunder, that modern Tibetan may be not inaptly described as an isolating language, aside from such examples of fusion and symbolism as the foregoing.]

But to have thus defined inflection is to doubt the value of the term as descriptive of a major class. Why emphasize both a technique and a particular content at one and the same time? Surely we should be clear in our minds as to whether we set more store by one or the other. "Fusional" and "symbolic" contrast with "agglutinative," which is not on a par with "inflective" at all. What are we to do with the fusional and symbolic languages that do not express relational concepts in the word but leave them to the sentence? And are we not to distinguish between agglutinative languages that express these same concepts in the word—in so far inflective-like—and those that do not? We dismissed the scale: analytic, synthetic, polysynthetic, as too merely quantitative for our purpose. Isolating, affixing, symbolic—this also seemed insufficient for the reason that it laid too much stress on technical externals. Isolating, agglutinative, fusional, and symbolic is a preferable scheme, but still skirts the external. We shall do best, it seems to me, to hold to "inflective" as a valuable suggestion for a broader and more consistently developed scheme, as a hint for a classification based on the nature of the concepts expressed by the language. The other two classifications, the first based on degree of synthesis, the second on degree of fusion, may be retained as intercrossing schemes that give us the opportunity to subdivide our main conceptual types.

It is well to recall that all languages must needs express radical concepts (group I) and relational ideas (group IV). Of the two other large groups of concepts—derivational (group II) and mixed relational (group III)—both may be absent, both present, or only one present. This gives us at once a simple, incisive, and absolutely inclusive method of classifying all known languages. They are:

A. Such as express only concepts of groups I and IV; in other words, languages that keep the syntactic relations pure and that do not possess the power to modify the significance of their radical elements by means of affixes or internal changes.[110] We may call these Pure-relational non-deriving languages or, more tersely, Simple Pure-relational languages. These are the languages that cut most to the bone of linguistic expression.

B. Such as express concepts of groups I, II, and IV; in other words, languages that keep the syntactic relations pure and that also possess the power to modify the significance of their radical elements by means of affixes or internal changes. These are the Pure-relational deriving languages or Complex Pure-relational languages.

C. Such as express concepts of groups I and III;[111] in other words, languages in which the syntactic relations are expressed in necessary connection with concepts that are not utterly devoid of concrete significance but that do not, apart from such mixture, possess the power to modify the significance of their radical elements by means of affixes or internal changes.[112] These are the Mixed-relational non-deriving languages or Simple Mixed-relational languages.

D. Such as express concepts of groups I, II, and III; in other words, languages in which the syntactic relations are expressed in mixed form, as in C, and that also possess the power to modify the significance of their radical elements by means of affixes or internal changes. These are the Mixed-relational deriving languages or Complex Mixed-relational languages. Here belong the "inflective" languages that we are most familiar with as well as a great many "agglutinative" languages, some "polysynthetic," others merely synthetic.

[Footnote 110: I am eliminating entirely the possibility of compounding two or more radical elements into single words or word-like phrases (see pages 67-70). To expressly consider compounding in the present survey of types would be to complicate our problem unduly. Most languages that possess no derivational affixes of any sort may nevertheless freely compound radical elements (independent words). Such compounds often have a fixity that simulates the unity of single words.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 110 refers to the three paragraphs beginning on line 2066.]

[Footnote 111: We may assume that in these languages and in those of type D all or most of the relational concepts are expressed in "mixed" form, that such a concept as that of subjectivity, for instance, cannot be expressed without simultaneously involving number or gender or that an active verb form must be possessed of a definite tense. Hence group III will be understood to include, or rather absorb, group IV. Theoretically, of course, certain relational concepts may be expressed pure, others mixed, but in practice it will not be found easy to make the distinction.]

[Footnote 112: The line between types C and D cannot be very sharply drawn. It is a matter largely of degree. A language of markedly mixed-relational type, but of little power of derivation pure and simple, such as Bantu or French, may be conveniently put into type C, even though it is not devoid of a number of derivational affixes. Roughly speaking, languages of type C may be considered as highly analytic ("purified") forms of type D.]

This conceptual classification of languages, I must repeat, does not attempt to take account of the technical externals of language. It answers, in effect, two fundamental questions concerning the translation of concepts into linguistic symbols. Does the language, in the first place, keep its radical concepts pure or does it build up its concrete ideas by an aggregation of inseparable elements (types A and C versus types B and D)? And, in the second place, does it keep the basic relational concepts, such as are absolutely unavoidable in the ordering of a proposition, free of an admixture of the concrete or not (types A and B versus types C and D)? The second question, it seems to me, is the more fundamental of the two. We can therefore simplify our classification and present it in the following form: I. Pure-relational / A. Simple Languages B. Complex II. Mixed-relational / C. Simple Languages D. Complex

The classification is too sweeping and too broad for an easy, descriptive survey of the many varieties of human speech. It needs to be amplified. Each of the types A, B, C, D may be subdivided into an agglutinative, a fusional, and a symbolic sub-type, according to the prevailing method of modification of the radical element. In type A we distinguish in addition an isolating sub-type, characterized by the absence of all affixes and modifications of the radical element. In the isolating languages the syntactic relations are expressed by the position of the words in the sentence. This is also true of many languages of type B, the terms "agglutinative," "fusional," and "symbolic" applying in their case merely to the treatment of the derivational, not the relational, concepts. Such languages could be termed "agglutinative-isolating," "fusional-isolating" and "symbolic-isolating."

This brings up the important general consideration that the method of handling one group of concepts need not in the least be identical with that used for another. Compound terms could be used to indicate this difference, if desired, the first element of the compound referring to the treatment of the concepts of group II, the second to that of the concepts of groups III and IV. An "agglutinative" language would normally be taken to mean one that agglutinates all of its affixed elements or that does so to a preponderating extent. In an "agglutinative-fusional" language the derivational elements are agglutinated, perhaps in the form of prefixes, while the relational elements (pure or mixed) are fused with the radical element, possibly as another set of prefixes following the first set or in the form of suffixes or as part prefixes and part suffixes. By a "fusional-agglutinative" language we would understand one that fuses its derivational elements but allows a greater independence to those that indicate relations. All these and similar distinctions are not merely theoretical possibilities, they can be abundantly illustrated from the descriptive facts of linguistic morphology. Further, should it prove desirable to insist on the degree of elaboration of the word, the terms "analytic," "synthetic," and "polysynthetic" can be added as descriptive terms. It goes without saying that languages of type A are necessarily analytic and that languages of type C also are prevailingly analytic and are not likely to develop beyond the synthetic stage.

But we must not make too much of terminology. Much depends on the relative emphasis laid on this or that feature or point of view. The method of classifying languages here developed has this great advantage, that it can be refined or simplified according to the needs of a particular discussion. The degree of synthesis may be entirely ignored; "fusion" and "symbolism" may often be combined with advantage under the head of "fusion"; even the difference between agglutination and fusion may, if desired, be set aside as either too difficult to draw or as irrelevant to the issue. Languages, after all, are exceedingly complex historical structures. It is of less importance to put each language in a neat pigeon-hole than to have evolved a flexible method which enables us to place it, from two or three independent standpoints, relatively to another language. All this is not to deny that certain linguistic types are more stable and frequently represented than others that are just as possible from a theoretical standpoint. But we are too ill-informed as yet of the structural spirit of great numbers of languages to have the right to frame a classification that is other than flexible and experimental.

The reader will gain a somewhat livelier idea of the possibilities of linguistic morphology by glancing down the subjoined analytical table of selected types. The columns II, III, IV refer to the groups of concepts so numbered in the preceding chapter. The letters a, b, c, d refer respectively to the processes of isolation (position in the sentence), agglutination, fusion, and symbolism. Where more than one technique is employed, they are put in the order of their importance.[113]

[Footnote 113: In defining the type to which a language belongs one must be careful not to be misled by structural features which are mere survivals of an older stage, which have no productive life and do not enter into the unconscious patterning of the language. All languages are littered with such petrified bodies. The English -ster of spinster and Webster is an old agentive suffix, but, as far as the feeling of the present English-speaking generation is concerned, it cannot be said to really exist at all; spinster and Webster have been completely disconnected from the etymological group of spin and of weave (web). Similarly, there are hosts of related words in Chinese which differ in the initial consonant, the vowel, the tone, or in the presence or absence of a final consonant. Even where the Chinaman feels the etymological relationship, as in certain cases he can hardly help doing, he can assign no particular function to the phonetic variation as such. Hence it forms no live feature of the language-mechanism and must be ignored in defining the general form of the language. The caution is all the more necessary, as it is precisely the foreigner, who approaches a new language with a certain prying inquisitiveness, that is most apt to see life in vestigial features which the native is either completely unaware of or feels merely as dead form.]

Note.—Parentheses indicate a weak development of the process in question.

- - Fundamental Type"II III IV Technique "Synthesis "Examples - - A " " " (Simple Pure- " a Isolating "Analytic "Chinese; relational) " " "Annamite " " " "(d) a,b Isolating "Analytic "Ewe " (weakly " "(Guinea Coast) " agglutinative)" " " " " "(b) a, Agglutinative "Analytic "Modern Tibetan " b,c (mildly " " " agglutinative-" " " fusional) " " " " " B " " " (Complex Pure- "b, a Agglutinative-"Analytic "Polynesian relational) "(d) isolating " " " " " "b a, Agglutinative-"Polysyn- "Haida " (b) isolating "thetic " " " " "c a Fusional- "Analytic "Cambodgian " isolating " " " " " "b b Agglutinative "Synthetic "Turkish " " " "b,d (b) b Agglutinative "Polysyn- "Yana (N. " (symbolic "thetic "California) " tinge) " " " " " "c, a,b Fusional- "Synthetic "Classical "d, agglutinative "(mildly) "Tibetan "(b) (symbolic " " " tinge) " " " " " "b c Agglutinative-"Synthetic "Sioux " fusional "(mildly " " "polysyn- " " "thetic) " " " " "c c Fusional "Synthetic "Salinan (S.W. " " "California) " " " "d,c (d) d, Symbolic "Analytic "Shilluk " c,a " "(Upper Nile) " " " C " " " (Simple Mixed- "(b) b Agglutinative "Synthetic "Bantu relational) " " " "(c) c, a Fusional "Analytic "French[114] " (d) "(mildly " " "synthetic)" " " " D " " " (Complex Mixed- "b, b b Agglutinative "Polysyn- "Nootka relational) "c,d "thetic "(Vancouver " "(symbolic "Island)[115] " "tinge) " " " " "c, b Fusional- "Polysyn- "Chinook (lower "(d) agglutinative "thetic "Columbia R.) " "(mildly) " " " " "c, c, Fusional "Polysyn- "Algonkin "(d) (d), "thetic " " (b) " " " " " "c c,d a Fusional "Analytic "English " " " "c,d c,d Fusional "Synthetic "Latin, Greek, " (symbolic " "Sanskrit " tinge) " " " " " "c, c,d (a) Fusional "Synthetic "Takelma "b,d (strongly " "(S.W. Oregon) " symbolic) " " " " " "d,c c,d (a) Symbolic- "Synthetic "Semitic " fusional " "(Arabic, " " "Hebrew) - -

[Footnote 114: Might nearly as well have come under D.]

[Footnote 115: Very nearly complex pure-relational.]

I need hardly point out that these examples are far from exhausting the possibilities of linguistic structure. Nor that the fact that two languages are similarly classified does not necessarily mean that they present a great similarity on the surface. We are here concerned with the most fundamental and generalized features of the spirit, the technique, and the degree of elaboration of a given language. Nevertheless, in numerous instances we may observe this highly suggestive and remarkable fact, that languages that fall into the same class have a way of paralleling each other in many details or in structural features not envisaged by the scheme of classification. Thus, a most interesting parallel could be drawn on structural lines between Takelma and Greek,[116] languages that are as geographically remote from each other and as unconnected in a historical sense as two languages selected at random can well be. Their similarity goes beyond the generalized facts registered in the table. It would almost seem that linguistic features that are easily thinkable apart from each other, that seem to have no necessary connection in theory, have nevertheless a tendency to cluster or to follow together in the wake of some deep, controlling impulse to form that dominates their drift. If, therefore, we can only be sure of the intuitive similarity of two given languages, of their possession of the same submerged form-feeling, we need not be too much surprised to find that they seek and avoid certain linguistic developments in common. We are at present very far from able to define just what these fundamental form intuitions are. We can only feel them rather vaguely at best and must content ourselves for the most part with noting their symptoms. These symptoms are being garnered in our descriptive and historical grammars of diverse languages. Some day, it may be, we shall be able to read from them the great underlying ground-plans.

[Footnote 116: Not Greek specifically, of course, but as a typical representative of Indo-European.]

Such a purely technical classification of languages as the current one into "isolating," "agglutinative," and "inflective" (read "fusional") cannot claim to have great value as an entering wedge into the discovery of the intuitional forms of language. I do not know whether the suggested classification into four conceptual groups is likely to drive deeper or not. My own feeling is that it does, but classifications, neat constructions of the speculative mind, are slippery things. They have to be tested at every possible opportunity before they have the right to cry for acceptance. Meanwhile we may take some encouragement from the application of a rather curious, yet simple, historical test. Languages are in constant process of change, but it is only reasonable to suppose that they tend to preserve longest what is most fundamental in their structure. Now if we take great groups of genetically related languages,[117] we find that as we pass from one to another or trace the course of their development we frequently encounter a gradual change of morphological type. This is not surprising, for there is no reason why a language should remain permanently true to its original form. It is interesting, however, to note that of the three intercrossing classifications represented in our table (conceptual type, technique, and degree of synthesis), it is the degree of synthesis that seems to change most readily, that the technique is modifiable but far less readily so, and that the conceptual type tends to persist the longest of all.

[Footnote 117: Such, in other words, as can be shown by documentary or comparative evidence to have been derived from a common source. See Chapter VII.]

The illustrative material gathered in the table is far too scanty to serve as a real basis of proof, but it is highly suggestive as far as it goes. The only changes of conceptual type within groups of related languages that are to be gleaned from the table are of B to A (Shilluk as contrasted with Ewe;[118] Classical Tibetan as contrasted with Modern Tibetan and Chinese) and of D to C (French as contrasted with Latin[119]). But types A : B and C : D are respectively related to each other as a simple and a complex form of a still more fundamental type (pure-relational, mixed-relational). Of a passage from a pure-relational to a mixed-relational type or vice versa I can give no convincing examples.

[Footnote 118: These are far-eastern and far-western representatives of the "Soudan" group recently proposed by D. Westermann. The genetic relationship between Ewe and Shilluk is exceedingly remote at best.]

[Footnote 119: This case is doubtful at that. I have put French in C rather than in D with considerable misgivings. Everything depends on how one evaluates elements like -al in national, -te in bonte, or re- in retourner. They are common enough, but are they as alive, as little petrified or bookish, as our English -ness and -ful and un-?]

The table shows clearly enough how little relative permanence there is in the technical features of language. That highly synthetic languages (Latin; Sanskrit) have frequently broken down into analytic forms (French; Bengali) or that agglutinative languages (Finnish) have in many instances gradually taken on "inflective" features are well-known facts, but the natural inference does not seem to have been often drawn that possibly the contrast between synthetic and analytic or agglutinative and "inflective" (fusional) is not so fundamental after all. Turning to the Indo-Chinese languages, we find that Chinese is as near to being a perfectly isolating language as any example we are likely to find, while Classical Tibetan has not only fusional but strong symbolic features (e.g., g-tong-ba "to give," past b-tang, future gtang, imperative thong); but both are pure-relational languages. Ewe is either isolating or only barely agglutinative, while Shilluk, though soberly analytic, is one of the most definitely symbolic languages I know; both of these Soudanese languages are pure-relational. The relationship between Polynesian and Cambodgian is remote, though practically certain; while the latter has more markedly fusional features than the former,[120] both conform to the complex pure-relational type. Yana and Salinan are superficially very dissimilar languages. Yana is highly polysynthetic and quite typically agglutinative, Salinan is no more synthetic than and as irregularly and compactly fusional ("inflective") as Latin; both are pure-relational, Chinook and Takelma, remotely related languages of Oregon, have diverged very far from each other, not only as regards technique and synthesis in general but in almost all the details of their structure; both are complex mixed-relational languages, though in very different ways. Facts such as these seem to lend color to the suspicion that in the contrast of pure-relational and mixed-relational (or concrete-relational) we are confronted by something deeper, more far-reaching, than the contrast of isolating, agglutinative, and fusional.[121]

[Footnote 120: In spite of its more isolating cast.]

[Footnote 121: In a book of this sort it is naturally impossible to give an adequate idea of linguistic structure in its varying forms. Only a few schematic indications are possible. A separate volume would be needed to breathe life into the scheme. Such a volume would point out the salient structural characteristics of a number of languages, so selected as to give the reader an insight into the formal economy of strikingly divergent types.]



Every one knows that language is variable. Two individuals of the same generation and locality, speaking precisely the same dialect and moving in the same social circles, are never absolutely at one in their speech habits. A minute investigation of the speech of each individual would reveal countless differences of detail—in choice of words, in sentence structure, in the relative frequency with which particular forms or combinations of words are used, in the pronunciation of particular vowels and consonants and of combinations of vowels and consonants, in all those features, such as speed, stress, and tone, that give life to spoken language. In a sense they speak slightly divergent dialects of the same language rather than identically the same language.

There is an important difference, however, between individual and dialectic variations. If we take two closely related dialects, say English as spoken by the "middle classes" of London and English as spoken by the average New Yorker, we observe that, however much the individual speakers in each city differ from each other, the body of Londoners forms a compact, relatively unified group in contrast to the body of New Yorkers. The individual variations are swamped in or absorbed by certain major agreements—say of pronunciation and vocabulary—which stand out very strongly when the language of the group as a whole is contrasted with that of the other group. This means that there is something like an ideal linguistic entity dominating the speech habits of the members of each group, that the sense of almost unlimited freedom which each individual feels in the use of his language is held in leash by a tacitly directing norm. One individual plays on the norm in a way peculiar to himself, the next individual is nearer the dead average in that particular respect in which the first speaker most characteristically departs from it but in turn diverges from the average in a way peculiar to himself, and so on. What keeps the individual's variations from rising to dialectic importance is not merely the fact that they are in any event of small moment—there are well-marked dialectic variations that are of no greater magnitude than individual variations within a dialect—it is chiefly that they are silently "corrected" or canceled by the consensus of usage. If all the speakers of a given dialect were arranged in order in accordance with the degree of their conformity to average usage, there is little doubt that they would constitute a very finely intergrading series clustered about a well-defined center or norm. The differences between any two neighboring speakers of the series[122] would be negligible for any but the most microscopic linguistic research. The differences between the outer-most members of the series are sure to be considerable, in all likelihood considerable enough to measure up to a true dialectic variation. What prevents us from saying that these untypical individuals speak distinct dialects is that their peculiarities, as a unified whole, are not referable to another norm than the norm of their own series.

[Footnote 122: In so far as they do not fall out of the normal speech group by reason of a marked speech defect or because they are isolated foreigners that have acquired the language late in life.]

If the speech of any member of the series could actually be made to fit into another dialect series,[123] we should have no true barriers between dialects (and languages) at all. We should merely have a continuous series of individual variations extending over the whole range of a historically unified linguistic area, and the cutting up of this large area (in some cases embracing parts of several continents) into distinct dialects and languages would be an essentially arbitrary proceeding with no warrant save that of practical convenience. But such a conception of the nature of dialectic variation does not correspond to the facts as we know them. Isolated individuals may be found who speak a compromise between two dialects of a language, and if their number and importance increases they may even end by creating a new dialectic norm of their own, a dialect in which the extreme peculiarities of the parent dialects are ironed out. In course of time the compromise dialect may absorb the parents, though more frequently these will tend to linger indefinitely as marginal forms of the enlarged dialect area. But such phenomena—and they are common enough in the history of language—are evidently quite secondary. They are closely linked with such social developments as the rise of nationality, the formation of literatures that aim to have more than a local appeal, the movement of rural populations into the cities, and all those other tendencies that break up the intense localism that unsophisticated man has always found natural.

[Footnote 123: Observe that we are speaking of an individual's speech as a whole. It is not a question of isolating some particular peculiarity of pronunciation or usage and noting its resemblance to or identity with a feature in another dialect.]

The explanation of primary dialectic differences is still to seek. It is evidently not enough to say that if a dialect or language is spoken in two distinct localities or by two distinct social strata it naturally takes on distinctive forms, which in time come to be divergent enough to deserve the name of dialects. This is certainly true as far as it goes. Dialects do belong, in the first instance, to very definitely circumscribed social groups, homogeneous enough to secure the common feeling and purpose needed to create a norm. But the embarrassing question immediately arises, If all the individual variations within a dialect are being constantly leveled out to the dialectic norm, if there is no appreciable tendency for the individual's peculiarities to initiate a dialectic schism, why should we have dialectic variations at all? Ought not the norm, wherever and whenever threatened, automatically to reassert itself? Ought not the individual variations of each locality, even in the absence of intercourse between them, to cancel out to the same accepted speech average?

If individual variations "on a flat" were the only kind of variability in language, I believe we should be at a loss to explain why and how dialects arise, why it is that a linguistic prototype gradually breaks up into a number of mutually unintelligible languages. But language is not merely something that is spread out in space, as it were—a series of reflections in individual minds of one and the same timeless picture. Language moves down time in a current of its own making. It has a drift. If there were no breaking up of a language into dialects, if each language continued as a firm, self-contained unity, it would still be constantly moving away from any assignable norm, developing new features unceasingly and gradually transforming itself into a language so different from its starting point as to be in effect a new language. Now dialects arise not because of the mere fact of individual variation but because two or more groups of individuals have become sufficiently disconnected to drift apart, or independently, instead of together. So long as they keep strictly together, no amount of individual variation would lead to the formation of dialects. In practice, of course, no language can be spread over a vast territory or even over a considerable area without showing dialectic variations, for it is impossible to keep a large population from segregating itself into local groups, the language of each of which tends to drift independently. Under cultural conditions such as apparently prevail to-day, conditions that fight localism at every turn, the tendency to dialectic cleavage is being constantly counteracted and in part "corrected" by the uniformizing factors already referred to. Yet even in so young a country as America the dialectic differences are not inconsiderable.

Under primitive conditions the political groups are small, the tendency to localism exceedingly strong. It is natural, therefore, that the languages of primitive folk or of non-urban populations in general are differentiated into a great number of dialects. There are parts of the globe where almost every village has its own dialect. The life of the geographically limited community is narrow and intense; its speech is correspondingly peculiar to itself. It is exceedingly doubtful if a language will ever be spoken over a wide area without multiplying itself dialectically. No sooner are the old dialects ironed out by compromises or ousted by the spread and influence of the one dialect which is culturally predominant when a new crop of dialects arises to undo the leveling work of the past. This is precisely what happened in Greece, for instance. In classical antiquity there were spoken a large number of local dialects, several of which are represented in the literature. As the cultural supremacy of Athens grew, its dialect, the Attic, spread at the expense of the rest, until, in the so-called Hellenistic period following the Macedonian conquest, the Attic dialect, in the vulgarized form known as the "Koine," became the standard speech of all Greece. But this linguistic uniformity[124] did not long continue. During the two millennia that separate the Greek of to-day from its classical prototype the Koine gradually split up into a number of dialects. Now Greece is as richly diversified in speech as in the time of Homer, though the present local dialects, aside from those of Attica itself, are not the lineal descendants of the old dialects of pre-Alexandrian days.[125] The experience of Greece is not exceptional. Old dialects are being continually wiped out only to make room for new ones. Languages can change at so many points of phonetics, morphology, and vocabulary that it is not surprising that once the linguistic community is broken it should slip off in different directions. It would be too much to expect a locally diversified language to develop along strictly parallel lines. If once the speech of a locality has begun to drift on its own account, it is practically certain to move further and further away from its linguistic fellows. Failing the retarding effect of dialectic interinfluences, which I have already touched upon, a group of dialects is bound to diverge on the whole, each from all of the others.

[Footnote 124: It is doubtful if we have the right to speak of linguistic uniformity even during the predominance of the Koine. It is hardly conceivable that when the various groups of non-Attic Greeks took on the Koine they did not at once tinge it with dialectic peculiarities induced by their previous speech habits.]

[Footnote 125: The Zaconic dialect of Lacedaemon is the sole exception. It is not derived from the Koine, but stems directly from the Doric dialect of Sparta.]

In course of time each dialect itself splits up into sub-dialects, which gradually take on the dignity of dialects proper while the primary dialects develop into mutually unintelligible languages. And so the budding process continues, until the divergences become so great that none but a linguistic student, armed with his documentary evidence and with his comparative or reconstructive method, would infer that the languages in question were genealogically related, represented independent lines of development, in other words, from a remote and common starting point. Yet it is as certain as any historical fact can be that languages so little resembling each other as Modern Irish, English, Italian, Greek, Russian, Armenian, Persian, and Bengali are but end-points in the present of drifts that converge to a meeting-point in the dim past. There is naturally no reason to believe that this earliest "Indo-European" (or "Aryan") prototype which we can in part reconstruct, in part but dimly guess at, is itself other than a single "dialect" of a group that has either become largely extinct or is now further represented by languages too divergent for us, with our limited means, to recognize as clear kin.[126]

[Footnote 126: Though indications are not lacking of what these remoter kin of the Indo-European languages may be. This is disputed ground, however, and hardly fit subject for a purely general study of speech.]

All languages that are known to be genetically related, i.e., to be divergent forms of a single prototype, may be considered as constituting a "linguistic stock." There is nothing final about a linguistic stock. When we set it up, we merely say, in effect, that thus far we can go and no farther. At any point in the progress of our researches an unexpected ray of light may reveal the "stock" as but a "dialect" of a larger group. The terms dialect, language, branch, stock—it goes without saying—are purely relative terms. They are convertible as our perspective widens or contracts.[127] It would be vain to speculate as to whether or not we shall ever be able to demonstrate that all languages stem from a common source. Of late years linguists have been able to make larger historical syntheses than were at one time deemed feasible, just as students of culture have been able to show historical connections between culture areas or institutions that were at one time believed to be totally isolated from each other. The human world is contracting not only prospectively but to the backward-probing eye of culture-history. Nevertheless we are as yet far from able to reduce the riot of spoken languages to a small number of "stocks." We must still operate with a quite considerable number of these stocks. Some of them, like Indo-European or Indo-Chinese, are spoken over tremendous reaches; others, like Basque,[128] have a curiously restricted range and are in all likelihood but dwindling remnants of groups that were at one time more widely distributed. As for the single or multiple origin of speech, it is likely enough that language as a human institution (or, if one prefers, as a human "faculty") developed but once in the history of the race, that all the complex history of language is a unique cultural event. Such a theory constructed "on general principles" is of no real interest, however, to linguistic science. What lies beyond the demonstrable must be left to the philosopher or the romancer.

[Footnote 127: "Dialect" in contrast to an accepted literary norm is a use of the term that we are not considering.]

[Footnote 128: Spoken in France and Spain in the region of the Pyrenees.]

We must return to the conception of "drift" in language. If the historical changes that take place in a language, if the vast accumulation of minute modifications which in time results in the complete remodeling of the language, are not in essence identical with the individual variations that we note on every hand about us, if these variations are born only to die without a trace, while the equally minute, or even minuter, changes that make up the drift are forever imprinted on the history of the language, are we not imputing to this history a certain mystical quality? Are we not giving language a power to change of its own accord over and above the involuntary tendency of individuals to vary the norm? And if this drift of language is not merely the familiar set of individual variations seen in vertical perspective, that is historically, instead of horizontally, that is in daily experience, what is it? Language exists only in so far as it is actually used—spoken and heard, written and read. What significant changes take place in it must exist, to begin with, as individual variations. This is perfectly true, and yet it by no means follows that the general drift of language can be understood[129] from an exhaustive descriptive study of these variations alone. They themselves are random phenomena,[130] like the waves of the sea, moving backward and forward in purposeless flux. The linguistic drift has direction. In other words, only those individual variations embody it or carry it which move in a certain direction, just as only certain wave movements in the bay outline the tide. The drift of a language is constituted by the unconscious selection on the part of its speakers of those individual variations that are cumulative in some special direction. This direction may be inferred, in the main, from the past history of the language. In the long run any new feature of the drift becomes part and parcel of the common, accepted speech, but for a long time it may exist as a mere tendency in the speech of a few, perhaps of a despised few. As we look about us and observe current usage, it is not likely to occur to us that our language has a "slope," that the changes of the next few centuries are in a sense prefigured in certain obscure tendencies of the present and that these changes, when consummated, will be seen to be but continuations of changes that have been already effected. We feel rather that our language is practically a fixed system and that what slight changes are destined to take place in it are as likely to move in one direction as another. The feeling is fallacious. Our very uncertainty as to the impending details of change makes the eventual consistency of their direction all the more impressive.

[Footnote 129: Or rather apprehended, for we do not, in sober fact, entirely understand it as yet.]

[Footnote 130: Not ultimately random, of course, only relatively so.]

Sometimes we can feel where the drift is taking us even while we struggle against it. Probably the majority of those who read these words feel that it is quite "incorrect" to say "Who did you see?" We readers of many books are still very careful to say "Whom did you see?" but we feel a little uncomfortable (uncomfortably proud, it may be) in the process. We are likely to avoid the locution altogether and to say "Who was it you saw?" conserving literary tradition (the "whom") with the dignity of silence.[131] The folk makes no apology. "Whom did you see?" might do for an epitaph, but "Who did you see?" is the natural form for an eager inquiry. It is of course the uncontrolled speech of the folk to which we must look for advance information as to the general linguistic movement. It is safe to prophesy that within a couple of hundred years from to-day not even the most learned jurist will be saying "Whom did you see?" By that time the "whom" will be as delightfully archaic as the Elizabethan "his" for "its."[132] No logical or historical argument will avail to save this hapless "whom." The demonstration "I: me = he: him = who: whom" will be convincing in theory and will go unheeded in practice.

[Footnote 131: In relative clauses too we tend to avoid the objective form of "who." Instead of "The man whom I saw" we are likely to say "The man that I saw" or "The man I saw."]

[Footnote 132: "Its" was at one time as impertinent a departure as the "who" of "Who did you see?" It forced itself into English because the old cleavage between masculine, feminine, and neuter was being slowly and powerfully supplemented by a new one between thing-class and animate-class. The latter classification proved too vital to allow usage to couple males and things ("his") as against females ("her"). The form "its" had to be created on the analogy of words like "man's," to satisfy the growing form feeling. The drift was strong enough to sanction a grammatical blunder.]

Even now we may go so far as to say that the majority of us are secretly wishing they could say "Who did you see?" It would be a weight off their unconscious minds if some divine authority, overruling the lifted finger of the pedagogue, gave them carte blanche. But we cannot too frankly anticipate the drift and maintain caste. We must affect ignorance of whither we are going and rest content with our mental conflict—uncomfortable conscious acceptance of the "whom," unconscious desire for the "who."[133] Meanwhile we indulge our sneaking desire for the forbidden locution by the use of the "who" in certain twilight cases in which we can cover up our fault by a bit of unconscious special pleading. Imagine that some one drops the remark when you are not listening attentively, "John Smith is coming to-night." You have not caught the name and ask, not "Whom did you say?" but "Who did you say?" There is likely to be a little hesitation in the choice of the form, but the precedent of usages like "Whom did you see?" will probably not seem quite strong enough to induce a "Whom did you say?" Not quite relevant enough, the grammarian may remark, for a sentence like "Who did you say?" is not strictly analogous to "Whom did you see?" or "Whom did you mean?" It is rather an abbreviated form of some such sentence as "Who, did you say, is coming to-night?" This is the special pleading that I have referred to, and it has a certain logic on its side. Yet the case is more hollow than the grammarian thinks it to be, for in reply to such a query as "You're a good hand at bridge, John, aren't you?" John, a little taken aback, might mutter "Did you say me?" hardly "Did you say I?" Yet the logic for the latter ("Did you say I was a good hand at bridge?") is evident. The real point is that there is not enough vitality in the "whom" to carry it over such little difficulties as a "me" can compass without a thought. The proportion "I : me = he : him = who : whom" is logically and historically sound, but psychologically shaky. "Whom did you see?" is correct, but there is something false about its correctness.

[Footnote 133: Psychoanalysts will recognize the mechanism. The mechanisms of "repression of impulse" and of its symptomatic symbolization can be illustrated in the most unexpected corners of individual and group psychology. A more general psychology than Freud's will eventually prove them to be as applicable to the groping for abstract form, the logical or esthetic ordering of experience, as to the life of the fundamental instincts.]

It is worth looking into the reason for our curious reluctance to use locutions involving the word "whom" particularly in its interrogative sense. The only distinctively objective forms which we still possess in English are me, him, her (a little blurred because of its identity with the possessive her), us, them, and whom. In all other cases the objective has come to be identical with the subjective—that is, in outer form, for we are not now taking account of position in the sentence. We observe immediately in looking through the list of objective forms that whom is psychologically isolated. Me, him, her, us, and them form a solid, well-integrated group of objective personal pronouns parallel to the subjective series I, he, she, we, they. The forms who and whom are technically "pronouns" but they are not felt to be in the same box as the personal pronouns. Whom has clearly a weak position, an exposed flank, for words of a feather tend to flock together, and if one strays behind, it is likely to incur danger of life. Now the other interrogative and relative pronouns (which, what, that), with which whom should properly flock, do not distinguish the subjective and objective forms. It is psychologically unsound to draw the line of form cleavage between whom and the personal pronouns on the one side, the remaining interrogative and relative pronouns on the other. The form groups should be symmetrically related to, if not identical with, the function groups. Had which, what, and that objective forms parallel to whom, the position of this last would be more secure. As it is, there is something unesthetic about the word. It suggests a form pattern which is not filled out by its fellows. The only way to remedy the irregularity of form distribution is to abandon the whom altogether for we have lost the power to create new objective forms and cannot remodel our which-what-that group so as to make it parallel with the smaller group who-whom. Once this is done, who joins its flock and our unconscious desire for form symmetry is satisfied. We do not secretly chafe at "Whom did you see?" without reason.[134]

[Footnote 134: Note that it is different with whose. This has not the support of analogous possessive forms in its own functional group, but the analogical power of the great body of possessives of nouns (man's, boy's) as well as of certain personal pronouns (his, its; as predicated possessive also hers, yours, theirs) is sufficient to give it vitality.]

But the drift away from whom has still other determinants. The words who and whom in their interrogative sense are psychologically related not merely to the pronouns which and what, but to a group of interrogative adverbs—where, when, how—all of which are invariable and generally emphatic. I believe it is safe to infer that there is a rather strong feeling in English that the interrogative pronoun or adverb, typically an emphatic element in the sentence, should be invariable. The inflective -m of whom is felt as a drag upon the rhetorical effectiveness of the word. It needs to be eliminated if the interrogative pronoun is to receive all its latent power. There is still a third, and a very powerful, reason for the avoidance of whom. The contrast between the subjective and objective series of personal pronouns (I, he, she, we, they: me, him, her, us, them) is in English associated with a difference of position. We say I see the man but the man sees me; he told him, never him he told or him told he. Such usages as the last two are distinctly poetic and archaic; they are opposed to the present drift of the language. Even in the interrogative one does not say Him did you see? It is only in sentences of the type Whom did you see? that an inflected objective before the verb is now used at all. On the other hand, the order in Whom did you see? is imperative because of its interrogative form; the interrogative pronoun or adverb normally comes first in the sentence (What are you doing? When did he go? Where are you from?). In the "whom" of Whom did you see? there is concealed, therefore, a conflict between the order proper to a sentence containing an inflected objective and the order natural to a sentence with an interrogative pronoun or adverb. The solution Did you see whom? or You saw whom?[135] is too contrary to the idiomatic drift of our language to receive acceptance. The more radical solution Who did you see? is the one the language is gradually making for.

[Footnote 135: Aside from certain idiomatic usages, as when You saw whom? is equivalent to You saw so and so and that so and so is who? In such sentences whom is pronounced high and lingeringly to emphasize the fact that the person just referred to by the listener is not known or recognized.]

These three conflicts—on the score of form grouping, of rhetorical emphasis, and of order—are supplemented by a fourth difficulty. The emphatic whom, with its heavy build (half-long vowel followed by labial consonant), should contrast with a lightly tripping syllable immediately following. In whom did, however, we have an involuntary retardation that makes the locution sound "clumsy." This clumsiness is a phonetic verdict, quite apart from the dissatisfaction due to the grammatical factors which we have analyzed. The same prosodic objection does not apply to such parallel locutions as what did and when did. The vowels of what and when are shorter and their final consonants melt easily into the following d, which is pronounced in the same tongue position as t and n. Our instinct for appropriate rhythms makes it as difficult for us to feel content with whom did as for a poet to use words like dreamed and hummed in a rapid line. Neither common feeling nor the poet's choice need be at all conscious. It may be that not all are equally sensitive to the rhythmic flow of speech, but it is probable that rhythm is an unconscious linguistic determinant even with those who set little store by its artistic use. In any event the poet's rhythms can only be a more sensitive and stylicized application of rhythmic tendencies that are characteristic of the daily speech of his people.

We have discovered no less than four factors which enter into our subtle disinclination to say "Whom did you see?" The uneducated folk that says "Who did you see?" with no twinge of conscience has a more acute flair for the genuine drift of the language than its students. Naturally the four restraining factors do not operate independently. Their separate energies, if we may make bold to use a mechanical concept, are "canalized" into a single force. This force or minute embodiment of the general drift of the language is psychologically registered as a slight hesitation in using the word whom. The hesitation is likely to be quite unconscious, though it may be readily acknowledged when attention is called to it. The analysis is certain to be unconscious, or rather unknown, to the normal speaker.[136] How, then, can we be certain in such an analysis as we have undertaken that all of the assigned determinants are really operative and not merely some one of them? Certainly they are not equally powerful in all cases. Their values are variable, rising and falling according to the individual and the locution.[137] But that they really exist, each in its own right, may sometimes be tested by the method of elimination. If one or other of the factors is missing and we observe a slight diminution in the corresponding psychological reaction ("hesitation" in our case), we may conclude that the factor is in other uses genuinely positive. The second of our four factors applies only to the interrogative use of whom, the fourth factor applies with more force to the interrogative than to the relative. We can therefore understand why a sentence like Is he the man whom you referred to? though not as idiomatic as Is he the man (that) you referred to? (remember that it sins against counts one and three), is still not as difficult to reconcile with our innate feeling for English expression as Whom did you see? If we eliminate the fourth factor from the interrogative usage,[138] say in Whom are you looking at? where the vowel following whom relieves this word of its phonetic weight, we can observe, if I am not mistaken, a lesser reluctance to use the whom. Who are you looking at? might even sound slightly offensive to ears that welcome Who did you see?

[Footnote 136: Students of language cannot be entirely normal in their attitude towards their own speech. Perhaps it would be better to say "naive" than "normal."]

[Footnote 137: It is probably this variability of value in the significant compounds of a general linguistic drift that is responsible for the rise of dialectic variations. Each dialect continues the general drift of the common parent, but has not been able to hold fast to constant values for each component of the drift. Deviations as to the drift itself, at first slight, later cumulative, are therefore unavoidable.]

[Footnote 138: Most sentences beginning with interrogative whom are likely to be followed by did or does, do. Yet not all.]

We may set up a scale of "hesitation values" somewhat after this fashion:

Value 1: factors 1, 3. "The man whom I referred to." Value 2: factors 1, 3, 4. "The man whom they referred to." Value 3: factors 1, 2, 3. "Whom are you looking at?" Value 4: factors 1, 2, 3, 4. "Whom did you see?"

We may venture to surmise that while whom will ultimately disappear from English speech, locutions of the type Whom did you see? will be obsolete when phrases like The man whom I referred to are still in lingering use. It is impossible to be certain, however, for we can never tell if we have isolated all the determinants of a drift. In our particular case we have ignored what may well prove to be a controlling factor in the history of who and whom in the relative sense. This is the unconscious desire to leave these words to their interrogative function and to concentrate on that or mere word order as expressions of the relative (e.g., The man that I referred to or The man I referred to). This drift, which does not directly concern the use of whom as such (merely of whom as a form of who), may have made the relative who obsolete before the other factors affecting relative whom have run their course. A consideration like this is instructive because it indicates that knowledge of the general drift of a language is insufficient to enable us to see clearly what the drift is heading for. We need to know something of the relative potencies and speeds of the components of the drift.

It is hardly necessary to say that the particular drifts involved in the use of whom are of interest to us not for their own sake but as symptoms of larger tendencies at work in the language. At least three drifts of major importance are discernible. Each of these has operated for centuries, each is at work in other parts of our linguistic mechanism, each is almost certain to continue for centuries, possibly millennia. The first is the familiar tendency to level the distinction between the subjective and the objective, itself but a late chapter in the steady reduction of the old Indo-European system of syntactic cases. This system, which is at present best preserved in Lithuanian,[139] was already considerably reduced in the old Germanic language of which English, Dutch, German, Danish, and Swedish are modern dialectic forms. The seven Indo-European cases (nominative genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, locative, instrumental) had been already reduced to four (nominative genitive, dative, accusative). We know this from a careful comparison of and reconstruction based on the oldest Germanic dialects of which we still have records (Gothic, Old Icelandic, Old High German, Anglo-Saxon). In the group of West Germanic dialects, for the study of which Old High German, Anglo-Saxon, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon are our oldest and most valuable sources, we still have these four cases, but the phonetic form of the case syllables is already greatly reduced and in certain paradigms particular cases have coalesced. The case system is practically intact but it is evidently moving towards further disintegration. Within the Anglo-Saxon and early Middle English period there took place further changes in the same direction. The phonetic form of the case syllables became still further reduced and the distinction between the accusative and the dative finally disappeared. The new "objective" is really an amalgam of old accusative and dative forms; thus, him, the old dative (we still say I give him the book, not "abbreviated" from I give to him; compare Gothic imma, modern German ihm), took over the functions of the old accusative (Anglo-Saxon hine; compare Gothic ina, Modern German ihn) and dative. The distinction between the nominative and accusative was nibbled away by phonetic processes and morphological levelings until only certain pronouns retained distinctive subjective and objective forms.

[Footnote 139: Better, indeed, than in our oldest Latin and Greek records. The old Indo-Iranian languages alone (Sanskrit, Avestan) show an equally or more archaic status of the Indo-European parent tongue as regards case forms.]

In later medieval and in modern times there have been comparatively few apparent changes in our case system apart from the gradual replacement of thouthee (singular) and subjective ye—objective you (plural) by a single undifferentiated form you. All the while, however, the case system, such as it is (subjective-objective, really absolutive, and possessive in nouns; subjective, objective, and possessive in certain pronouns) has been steadily weakening in psychological respects. At present it is more seriously undermined than most of us realize. The possessive has little vitality except in the pronoun and in animate nouns. Theoretically we can still say the moon's phases or a newspaper's vogue; practically we limit ourselves pretty much to analytic locutions like the phases of the moon and the vogue of a newspaper. The drift is clearly toward the limitation, of possessive forms to animate nouns. All the possessive pronominal forms except its and, in part, their and theirs, are also animate. It is significant that theirs is hardly ever used in reference to inanimate nouns, that there is some reluctance to so use their, and that its also is beginning to give way to of it. The appearance of it or the looks of it is more in the current of the language than its appearance. It is curiously significant that its young (referring to an animal's cubs) is idiomatically preferable to the young of it. The form is only ostensibly neuter, in feeling it is animate; psychologically it belongs with his children, not with the pieces of it. Can it be that so common a word as its is actually beginning to be difficult? Is it too doomed to disappear? It would be rash to say that it shows signs of approaching obsolescence, but that it is steadily weakening is fairly clear.[140] In any event, it is not too much to say that there is a strong drift towards the restriction of the inflected possessive forms to animate nouns and pronouns.

[Footnote 140: Should its eventually drop out, it will have had a curious history. It will have played the role of a stop-gap between his in its non-personal use (see footnote 11, page 167) and the later analytic of it.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 140 refers to Footnote 132, beginning on line 5142.]

How is it with the alternation of subjective and objective in the pronoun? Granted that whom is a weak sister, that the two cases have been leveled in you (in it, that, and what they were never distinct, so far as we can tell[141]), and that her as an objective is a trifle weak because of its formal identity with the possessive her, is there any reason to doubt the vitality of such alternations as I see the man and the man sees me? Surely the distinction between subjective I and objective me, between subjective he and objective him, and correspondingly for other personal pronouns, belongs to the very core of the language. We can throw whom to the dogs, somehow make shift to do without an its, but to level I and me to a single case—would that not be to un-English our language beyond recognition? There is no drift toward such horrors as Me see him or I see he. True, the phonetic disparity between I and me, he and him, we and us, has been too great for any serious possibility of form leveling. It does not follow that the case distinction as such is still vital. One of the most insidious peculiarities of a linguistic drift is that where it cannot destroy what lies in its way it renders it innocuous by washing the old significance out of it. It turns its very enemies to its own uses. This brings us to the second of the major drifts, the tendency to fixed position in the sentence, determined by the syntactic relation of the word.

[Footnote 141: Except in so far as that has absorbed other functions than such as originally belonged to it. It was only a nominative-accusative neuter to begin with.]

We need not go into the history of this all-important drift. It is enough to know that as the inflected forms of English became scantier, as the syntactic relations were more and more inadequately expressed by the forms of the words themselves, position in the sentence gradually took over functions originally foreign to it. The man in the man sees the dog is subjective; in the dog sees the man, objective. Strictly parallel to these sentences are he sees the dog and the dog sees him. Are the subjective value of he and the objective value of him entirely, or even mainly, dependent on the difference of form? I doubt it. We could hold to such a view if it were possible to say the dog sees he or him sees the dog. It was once possible to say such things, but we have lost the power. In other words, at least part of the case feeling in he and him is to be credited to their position before or after the verb. May it not be, then, that he and him, we and us, are not so much subjective and objective forms as pre-verbal and post-verbal[142] forms, very much as my and mine are now pre-nominal and post-nominal forms of the possessive (my father but father mine; it is my book but the book is mine)? That this interpretation corresponds to the actual drift of the English language is again indicated by the language of the folk. The folk says it is me, not it is I, which is "correct" but just as falsely so as the whom did you see? that we have analyzed. I'm the one, it's me; we're the ones, it's us that will win out—such are the live parallelisms in English to-day. There is little doubt that it is I will one day be as impossible in English as c'est je, for c'est moi, is now in French.

[Footnote 142: Aside from the interrogative: am I? is he? Emphasis counts for something. There is a strong tendency for the old "objective" forms to bear a stronger stress than the "subjective" forms. This is why the stress in locutions like He didn't go, did he? and isn't he? is thrown back on the verb; it is not a matter of logical emphasis.]

How differently our I: me feels than in Chaucer's day is shown by the Chaucerian it am I. Here the distinctively subjective aspect of the I was enough to influence the form of the preceding verb in spite of the introductory it; Chaucer's locution clearly felt more like a Latin sum ego than a modern it is I or colloquial it is me. We have a curious bit of further evidence to prove that the English personal pronouns have lost some share of their original syntactic force. Were he and she subjective forms pure and simple, were they not striving, so to speak, to become caseless absolutives, like man or any other noun, we should not have been able to coin such compounds as he-goat and she-goat, words that are psychologically analogous to bull-moose and mother-bear. Again, in inquiring about a new-born baby, we ask Is it a he or a she? quite as though he and she were the equivalents of male and female or boy and girl. All in all, we may conclude that our English case system is weaker than it looks and that, in one way or another, it is destined to get itself reduced to an absolutive (caseless) form for all nouns and pronouns but those that are animate. Animate nouns and pronouns are sure to have distinctive possessive forms for an indefinitely long period.

Meanwhile observe that the old alignment of case forms is being invaded by two new categories—a positional category (pre-verbal, post-verbal) and a classificatory category (animate, inanimate). The facts that in the possessive animate nouns and pronouns are destined to be more and more sharply distinguished from inanimate nouns and pronouns (the man's, but of the house; his, but of it) and that, on the whole, it is only animate pronouns that distinguish pre-verbal and post-verbal forms[143] are of the greatest theoretical interest. They show that, however the language strive for a more and more analytic form, it is by no means manifesting a drift toward the expression of "pure" relational concepts in the Indo-Chinese manner.[144] The insistence on the concreteness of the relational concepts is clearly stronger than the destructive power of the most sweeping and persistent drifts that we know of in the history and prehistory of our language.

[Footnote 143: They: them as an inanimate group may be looked upon as a kind of borrowing from the animate, to which, in feeling, it more properly belongs.]

[Footnote 144: See page 155.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 144 refers to the paragraph beginning on line 4795.]

The drift toward the abolition of most case distinctions and the correlative drift toward position as an all-important grammatical method are accompanied, in a sense dominated, by the last of the three major drifts that I have referred to. This is the drift toward the invariable word. In analyzing the "whom" sentence I pointed out that the rhetorical emphasis natural to an interrogative pronoun lost something by its form variability (who, whose, whom). This striving for a simple, unnuanced correspondence between idea and word, as invariable as may be, is very strong in English. It accounts for a number of tendencies which at first sight seem unconnected. Certain well-established forms, like the present third person singular -s of works or the plural -s of books, have resisted the drift to invariable words, possibly because they symbolize certain stronger form cravings that we do not yet fully understand. It is interesting to note that derivations that get away sufficiently from the concrete notion of the radical word to exist as independent conceptual centers are not affected by this elusive drift. As soon as the derivation runs danger of being felt as a mere nuancing of, a finicky play on, the primary concept, it tends to be absorbed by the radical word, to disappear as such. English words crave spaces between them, they do not like to huddle in clusters of slightly divergent centers of meaning, each edging a little away from the rest. Goodness, a noun of quality, almost a noun of relation, that takes its cue from the concrete idea of "good" without necessarily predicating that quality (e.g., I do not think much of his goodness) is sufficiently spaced from good itself not to need fear absorption. Similarly, unable can hold its own against able because it destroys the latter's sphere of influence; unable is psychologically as distinct from able as is blundering or stupid. It is different with adverbs in -ly. These lean too heavily on their adjectives to have the kind of vitality that English demands of its words. Do it quickly! drags psychologically. The nuance expressed by quickly is too close to that of quick, their circles of concreteness are too nearly the same, for the two words to feel comfortable together. The adverbs in -ly are likely to go to the wall in the not too distant future for this very reason and in face of their obvious usefulness. Another instance of the sacrifice of highly useful forms to this impatience of nuancing is the group whence, whither, hence, hither, thence, thither. They could not persist in live usage because they impinged too solidly upon the circles of meaning represented by the words where, here and there. In saying whither we feel too keenly that we repeat all of where. That we add to where an important nuance of direction irritates rather than satisfies. We prefer to merge the static and the directive (Where do you live? like Where are you going?) or, if need be, to overdo a little the concept of direction (Where are you running to?).

Now it is highly symptomatic of the nature of the drift away from word clusters that we do not object to nuances as such, we object to having the nuances formally earmarked for us. As a matter of fact our vocabulary is rich in near-synonyms and in groups of words that are psychologically near relatives, but these near-synonyms and these groups do not hang together by reason of etymology. We are satisfied with believe and credible just because they keep aloof from each other. Good and well go better together than quick and quickly. The English vocabulary is a rich medley because each English word wants its own castle. Has English long been peculiarly receptive to foreign words because it craves the staking out of as many word areas as possible, or, conversely, has the mechanical imposition of a flood of French and Latin loan-words, unrooted in our earlier tradition, so dulled our feeling for the possibilities of our native resources that we are allowing these to shrink by default? I suspect that both propositions are true. Each feeds on the other. I do not think it likely, however, that the borrowings in English have been as mechanical and external a process as they are generally represented to have been. There was something about the English drift as early as the period following the Norman Conquest that welcomed the new words. They were a compensation for something that was weakening within.



I have preferred to take up in some detail the analysis of our hesitation in using a locution like "Whom did you see?" and to point to some of the English drifts, particular and general, that are implied by this hesitation than to discuss linguistic change in the abstract. What is true of the particular idiom that we started with is true of everything else in language. Nothing is perfectly static. Every word, every grammatical element, every locution, every sound and accent is a slowly changing configuration, molded by the invisible and impersonal drift that is the life of language. The evidence is overwhelming that this drift has a certain consistent direction. Its speed varies enormously according to circumstances that it is not always easy to define. We have already seen that Lithuanian is to-day nearer its Indo-European prototype than was the hypothetical Germanic mother-tongue five hundred or a thousand years before Christ. German has moved more slowly than English; in some respects it stands roughly midway between English and Anglo-Saxon, in others it has of course diverged from the Anglo-Saxon line. When I pointed out in the preceding chapter that dialects formed because a language broken up into local segments could not move along the same drift in all of these segments, I meant of course that it could not move along identically the same drift. The general drift of a language has its depths. At the surface the current is relatively fast. In certain features dialects drift apart rapidly. By that very fact these features betray themselves as less fundamental to the genius of the language than the more slowly modifiable features in which the dialects keep together long after they have grown to be mutually alien forms of speech. But this is not all. The momentum of the more fundamental, the pre-dialectic, drift is often such that languages long disconnected will pass through the same or strikingly similar phases. In many such cases it is perfectly clear that there could have been no dialectic interinfluencing.

These parallelisms in drift may operate in the phonetic as well as in the morphological sphere, or they may affect both at the same time. Here is an interesting example. The English type of plural represented by foot: feet, mouse: mice is strictly parallel to the German Fuss: Fuesse, Maus: Maeuse. One would be inclined to surmise that these dialectic forms go back to old Germanic or West-Germanic alternations of the same type. But the documentary evidence shows conclusively that there could have been no plurals of this type in primitive Germanic. There is no trace of such vocalic mutation ("umlaut") in Gothic, our most archaic Germanic language. More significant still is the fact that it does not appear in our oldest Old High German texts and begins to develop only at the very end of the Old High German period (circa 1000 A.D.). In the Middle High German period the mutation was carried through in all dialects. The typical Old High German forms are singular fuoss, plural fuossi;[145] singular mus, plural musi. The corresponding Middle High German forms are fuoss, fueesse; mus, muese. Modern German Fuss: Fuesse, Maus: Maeuse are the regular developments of these medieval forms. Turning to Anglo-Saxon, we find that our modern English forms correspond to fot, fet; mus, mys.[146] These forms are already in use in the earliest English monuments that we possess, dating from the eighth century, and thus antedate the Middle High German forms by three hundred years or more. In other words, on this particular point it took German at least three hundred years to catch up with a phonetic-morphological drift[147] that had long been under way in English. The mere fact that the affected vowels of related words (Old High German uo, Anglo-Saxon o) are not always the same shows that the affection took place at different periods in German and English.[148] There was evidently some general tendency or group of tendencies at work in early Germanic, long before English and German had developed as such, that eventually drove both of these dialects along closely parallel paths.

[Footnote 145: I have changed the Old and Middle High German orthography slightly in order to bring it into accord with modern usage. These purely orthographical changes are immaterial. The u of mus is a long vowel, very nearly like the oo of English moose.]

[Footnote 146: The vowels of these four words are long; o as in rode, e like a of fade, u like oo of brood, y like German ue.]

[Footnote 147: Or rather stage in a drift.]

[Footnote 148: Anglo-Saxon fet is "unrounded" from an older foet, which is phonetically related to fot precisely as is mys (i.e., mues) to mus. Middle High German ue (Modern German u) did not develop from an "umlauted" prototype of Old High German uo and Anglo-Saxon o, but was based directly on the dialectic uo. The unaffected prototype was long o. Had this been affected in the earliest Germanic or West-Germanic period, we should have had a pre-German alternation fot: foeti; this older oe could not well have resulted in ue. Fortunately we do not need inferential evidence in this case, yet inferential comparative methods, if handled with care, may be exceedingly useful. They are indeed indispensable to the historian of language.]

How did such strikingly individual alternations as fot: fet, fuoss: fueesse develop? We have now reached what is probably the most central problem in linguistic history, gradual phonetic change. "Phonetic laws" make up a large and fundamental share of the subject-matter of linguistics. Their influence reaches far beyond the proper sphere of phonetics and invades that of morphology, as we shall see. A drift that begins as a slight phonetic readjustment or unsettlement may in the course of millennia bring about the most profound structural changes. The mere fact, for instance, that there is a growing tendency to throw the stress automatically on the first syllable of a word may eventually change the fundamental type of the language, reducing its final syllables to zero and driving it to the use of more and more analytical or symbolic[149] methods. The English phonetic laws involved in the rise of the words foot, feet, mouse and mice from their early West-Germanic prototypes fot, foti, mus, musi[150] may be briefly summarized as follows:

[Footnote 149: See page 133.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 149 refers to the paragraph beginning on line 4081.]

[Footnote 150: Primitive Germanic fot(s), fotiz, mus, musiz; Indo-European pods, podes, mus, muses. The vowels of the first syllables are all long.]

1. In foti "feet" the long o was colored by the following i to long oe, that is, o kept its lip-rounded quality and its middle height of tongue position but anticipated the front tongue position of the i; oe is the resulting compromise. This assimilatory change was regular, i.e., every accented long o followed by an i in the following syllable automatically developed to long oe; hence tothi "teeth" became toethi, fodian "to feed" became foedian. At first there is no doubt the alternation between o and oe was not felt as intrinsically significant. It could only have been an unconscious mechanical adjustment such as may be observed in the speech of many to-day who modify the "oo" sound of words like you and few in the direction of German ue without, however, actually departing far enough from the "oo" vowel to prevent their acceptance of who and you as satisfactory rhyming words. Later on the quality of the oe vowel must have departed widely enough from that of o to enable oe to rise in consciousness[151] as a neatly distinct vowel. As soon as this happened, the expression of plurality in foeti, toethi, and analogous words became symbolic and fusional, not merely fusional.

[Footnote 151: Or in that unconscious sound patterning which is ever on the point of becoming conscious. See page 57.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 151 refers to the paragraph beginning on line 1797.]

2. In musi "mice" the long u was colored by the following i to long ue. This change also was regular; lusi "lice" became luesi, kui "cows" became kuei (later simplified to kue; still preserved as ki- in kine), fulian "to make foul" became fuelian (still preserved as -file in defile). The psychology of this phonetic law is entirely analogous to that of 1.

3. The old drift toward reducing final syllables, a rhythmic consequence of the strong Germanic stress on the first syllable, now manifested itself. The final -i, originally an important functional element, had long lost a great share of its value, transferred as that was to the symbolic vowel change (o: oe). It had little power of resistance, therefore, to the drift. It became dulled to a colorless -e; foeti became foete.

4. The weak -e finally disappeared. Probably the forms foete and foet long coexisted as prosodic variants according to the rhythmic requirements of the sentence, very much as Fuesse and Fuess' now coexist in German.

5. The oe of foet became "unrounded" to long e (our present a of fade). The alternation of fot: foti, transitionally fot: foeti, foete, foet, now appears as fot: fet. Analogously, toeth appears as teth, foedian as fedian, later fedan. The new long e-vowel "fell together" with the older e-vowel already existent (e.g., her "here," he "he"). Henceforward the two are merged and their later history is in common. Thus our present he has the same vowel as feet, teeth, and feed. In other words, the old sound pattern o, e, after an interim of o, oe, e, reappeared as o, e, except that now the e had greater "weight" than before.

6. Fot: fet, mus: mues (written mys) are the typical forms of Anglo-Saxon literature. At the very end of the Anglo-Saxon period, say about 1050 to 1100 A.D., the ue, whether long or short, became unrounded to i. Mys was then pronounced mis with long i (rhyming with present niece). The change is analogous to 5, but takes place several centuries later.

7. In Chaucer's day (circa 1350-1400 A.D.) the forms were still fot: fet (written foot, feet) and mus: mis (written very variably, but mous, myse are typical). About 1500 all the long i-vowels, whether original (as in write, ride, wine) or unrounded from Anglo-Saxon ue (as in hide, bride, mice, defile), became diphthongized to ei (i.e., e of met + short i). Shakespeare pronounced mice as meis (almost the same as the present Cockney pronunciation of mace).

8. About the same time the long u-vowels were diphthongized to ou (i.e., o of present Scotch not + u of full). The Chaucerian mus: mis now appears as the Shakespearean mous: meis. This change may have manifested itself somewhat later than 7; all English dialects have diphthongized old Germanic long i,[152] but the long undiphthongized u is still preserved in Lowland Scotch, in which house and mouse rhyme with our loose. 7 and 8 are analogous developments, as were 5 and 6; 8 apparently lags behind 7 as 6, centuries earlier, lagged behind 7.

[Footnote 152: As have most Dutch and German dialects.]

9. Some time before 1550 the long e of fet (written feet) took the position that had been vacated by the old long i, now diphthongized (see 7), i.e., e took the higher tongue position of i. Our (and Shakespeare's) "long e" is, then, phonetically the same as the old long i. Feet now rhymed with the old write and the present beat.

10. About the same time the long o of fot (written foot) took the position that had been vacated by the old long u, now diphthongized (see 8), i.e., o took the higher tongue position of u. Our (and Shakespeare's) "long oo" is phonetically the same as the old long u. Foot now rhymed with the old out and the present boot. To summarize 7 to 10, Shakespeare pronounced meis, mous, fit, fut, of which meis and mous would affect our ears as a rather "mincing" rendering of our present mice and mouse, fit would sound practically identical with (but probably a bit more "drawled" than) our present feet, while foot, rhyming with boot, would now be set down as "broad Scotch."

11. Gradually the first vowel of the diphthong in mice (see 7) was retracted and lowered in position. The resulting diphthong now varies in different English dialects, but ai (i.e., a of father, but shorter, + short i) may be taken as a fairly accurate rendering of its average quality.[153] What we now call the "long i" (of words like ride, bite, mice) is, of course, an ai-diphthong. Mice is now pronounced mais.

[Footnote 153: At least in America.]

12. Analogously to 11, the first vowel of the diphthong in mouse (see 8) was unrounded and lowered in position. The resulting diphthong may be phonetically rendered au, though it too varies considerably according to dialect. Mouse, then, is now pronounced maus.

13. The vowel of foot (see 10) became "open" in quality and shorter in quantity, i.e., it fell together with the old short u-vowel of words like full, wolf, wool. This change has taken place in a number of words with an originally long u (Chaucerian long close o), such as forsook, hook, book, look, rook, shook, all of which formerly had the vowel of boot. The older vowel, however, is still preserved in most words of this class, such as fool, moon, spool, stoop. It is highly significant of the nature of the slow spread of a "phonetic law" that there is local vacillation at present in several words. One hears roof, soot, and hoop, for instance, both with the "long" vowel of boot and the "short" of foot. It is impossible now, in other words, to state in a definitive manner what is the "phonetic law" that regulated the change of the older foot (rhyming with boot) to the present foot. We know that there is a strong drift towards the short, open vowel of foot, but whether or not all the old "long oo" words will eventually be affected we cannot presume to say. If they all, or practically all, are taken by the drift, phonetic law 13 will be as "regular," as sweeping, as most of the twelve that have preceded it. If not, it may eventually be possible, if past experience is a safe guide, to show that the modified words form a natural phonetic group, that is, that the "law" will have operated under certain definable limiting conditions, e.g., that all words ending in a voiceless consonant (such as p, t, k, f) were affected (e.g., hoof, foot, look, roof), but that all words ending in the oo-vowel or in a voiced consonant remained unaffected (e.g., do, food, move, fool). Whatever the upshot, we may be reasonably certain that when the "phonetic law" has run its course, the distribution of "long" and "short" vowels in the old oo-words will not seem quite as erratic as at the present transitional moment.[154] We learn, incidentally, the fundamental fact that phonetic laws do not work with spontaneous automatism, that they are simply a formula for a consummated drift that sets in at a psychologically exposed point and gradually worms its way through a gamut of phonetically analogous forms.

[Footnote 154: It is possible that other than purely phonetic factors are also at work in the history of these vowels.]

It will be instructive to set down a table of form sequences, a kind of gross history of the words foot, feet, mouse, mice for the last 1500 years:[155]

[Footnote 155: The orthography is roughly phonetic. Pronounce all accented vowels long except where otherwise indicated, unaccented vowels short; give continental values to vowels, not present English ones.]

I. fot: foti; mus: musi (West Germanic) II. fot: foeti; mus: muesi III. fot: foete; mus: muese IV. fot: foet; mus: mues V. fot: fet; mus: mues (Anglo-Saxon) VI. fot: fet; mus: mis(Chaucer) VII. fot: fet; mous: meis VIII. fut (rhymes with boot): fit; mous: meis (Shakespeare) IX. fut: fit; maus: mais X. fut (rhymes with put): fit; maus: mais (English of 1900)

It will not be necessary to list the phonetic laws that gradually differentiated the modern German equivalents of the original West Germanic forms from their English cognates. The following table gives a rough idea of the form sequences in German:[156]

[Footnote 156: After I. the numbers are not meant to correspond chronologically to those of the English table. The orthography is again roughly phonetic.]

I. fot: foti; mus: musi (West Germanic) II. foss:[157] fossi; mus: musi III. fuoss: fuossi; mus: musi (Old High German) IV. fuoss: fueessi; mus: muesi V. fuoss: fueesse; mus: muese (Middle High German) VI. fuoss: fueesse; mus: mueze[158] VII. fuos: fueese; mus: mueze VIII. fuos: fueese; mous: moeueze IX. fus: fuese; mous: moeueze (Luther) X. fus: fuese; maus: moize (German of 1900)

[Footnote 157: I use ss to indicate a peculiar long, voiceless s-sound that was etymologically and phonetically distinct from the old Germanic s. It always goes back to an old t. In the old sources it is generally written as a variant of z, though it is not to be confused with the modern German z (= ts). It was probably a dental (lisped) s.]

[Footnote 158: Z is to be understood as French or English z, not in its German use. Strictly speaking, this "z" (intervocalic -s-) was not voiced but was a soft voiceless sound, a sibilant intermediate between our s and z. In modern North German it has become voiced to z. It is important not to confound this sz with the voiceless intervocalic s that soon arose from the older lisped ss. In Modern German (aside from certain dialects), old s and ss are not now differentiated when final (Maus and Fuss have identical sibilants), but can still be distinguished as voiced and voiceless s between vowels (Maeuse and Fuesse).]

We cannot even begin to ferret out and discuss all the psychological problems that are concealed behind these bland tables. Their general parallelism is obvious. Indeed we might say that to-day the English and German forms resemble each other more than does either set the West Germanic prototypes from which each is independently derived. Each table illustrates the tendency to reduction of unaccented syllables, the vocalic modification of the radical element under the influence of the following vowel, the rise in tongue position of the long middle vowels (English o to u, e to i; German o to uo to u, uee to ue), the diphthongizing of the old high vowels (English i to ei to ai; English and German u to ou to au; German ue to oeue to oi). These dialectic parallels cannot be accidental. They are rooted in a common, pre-dialectic drift.

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