Language eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 278 pages of information about Language.
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.



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Language from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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