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Title: Language - Its Nature, Development and Origin
Author: Jespersen, Otto
Language: English
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Transcriber's Note

Bold text is indicated by ‡double daggers‡, italics by _underscores_,
and superscript by caret symbols, e.g. R^x.



  ‡Articulation of Speech Sounds‡ (Marburg: Elwert)

  ‡Studier over engelske kasus‡ (out of print)

  ‡Chaucers liv og digtning‡ (out of print)

  ‡Progress in Language‡ (out of print)

  ‡Fonetik‡ (Copenhagen: Gyldendal)

  ‡How to Teach a Foreign Language‡ (London: George Allen & Unwin)

  ‡Lehrbuch der Phonetik‡ (Leipzig: Teubner)

  ‡Phonetische Grundfragen‡ (Leipzig: Teubner)

  ‡Growth and Structure of the English Language‡ (Leipzig: Teubner)

  ‡A Modern English Grammar: I, II‡ (Heidelberg: Winter)

  ‡Sprogets logik‡ (Copenhagen: Gyldendal)

  ‡Nutidssprog‡ (Copenhagen: Gyldendal)

  ‡Negation in English and Other Languages‡ (Copenhagen: Höst)

  ‡Chapters on English‡ (London: George Allen & Unwin)

  ‡Rasmus Rask‡ (Copenhagen: Gyldendal)








  _First published in 1922_

  (_All rights reserved_)



  Glæde, når av andres mund
      jeg hørte de tanker store,
  Glæde over hvert et fund
      jeg selv ved min forsken gjorde.


The distinctive feature of the science of language as conceived
nowadays is its historical character: a language or a word is no longer
taken as something given once for all, but as a result of previous
development and at the same time as the starting-point for subsequent
development. This manner of viewing languages constitutes a decisive
improvement on the way in which languages were dealt with in previous
centuries, and it suffices to mention such words as ‘evolution’ and
‘Darwinism’ to show that linguistic research has in this respect been
in full accordance with tendencies observed in many other branches of
scientific work during the last hundred years. Still, it cannot be
said that students of language have always and to the fullest extent
made it clear to themselves what is the real essence of a language.
Too often expressions are used which are nothing but metaphors--in
many cases perfectly harmless metaphors, but in other cases metaphors
that obscure the real facts of the matter. Language is frequently
spoken of as a ‘living organism’; we hear of the ‘life’ of languages,
of the ‘birth’ of new languages and of the ‘death’ of old languages,
and the implication, though not always realized, is that a language
is a living thing, something analogous to an animal or a plant. Yet
a language evidently has no separate existence in the same way as a
dog or a beech has, but is nothing but a function of certain living
human beings. Language is activity, purposeful activity, and we should
never lose sight of the speaking individuals and of their purpose
in acting in this particular way. When people speak of the life of
words--as in celebrated books with such titles as _La vie des mots_,
or _Biographies of Words_--they do not always keep in view that a word
has no ‘life’ of its own: it exists only in so far as it is pronounced
or heard or remembered by somebody, and this kind of existence cannot
properly be compared with ‘life’ in the original and proper sense of
that word. The only unimpeachable definition of a word is that it is
a human habit, an habitual act on the part of one human individual
which has, or may have, the effect of evoking some idea in the mind
of another individual. A word thus may be rightly compared with such
an habitual act as taking off one’s hat or raising one’s fingers to
one’s cap: in both cases we have a certain set of muscular activities
which, when seen or heard by somebody else, shows him what is passing
in the mind of the original agent or what he desires to bring to the
consciousness of the other man (or men). The act is individual, but
the interpretation presupposes that the individual forms part of a
community with analogous habits, and a language thus is seen to be one
particular set of human customs of a well-defined social character.

It is indeed possible to speak of ‘life’ in connexion with language
even from this point of view, but it will be in a different sense from
that in which the word was taken by the older school of linguistic
science. I shall try to give a biological or biographical science of
language, but it will be through sketching the linguistic biology
or biography of the speaking individual. I shall give, therefore, a
large part to the way in which a child learns his mother-tongue (Book
II): my conclusions there are chiefly based on the rich material I
have collected during many years from direct observation of many
Danish children, and particularly of my own boy, Frans (see my book
_Nutidssprog hos börn og voxne_, Copenhagen, 1916). Unfortunately, I
have not been able to make first-hand observations with regard to the
speech of English children; the English examples I quote are taken
second-hand either from notes, for which I am obliged to English and
American friends, or from books, chiefly by psychologists. I should be
particularly happy if my remarks could induce some English or American
linguist to take up a systematic study of the speech of children, or
of one child. This study seems to me very fascinating indeed, and a
linguist is sure to notice many things that would be passed by as
uninteresting even by the closest observer among psychologists, but
which may have some bearing on the life and development of language.

Another part of linguistic biology deals with the influence of the
foreigner, and still another with the changes which the individual
is apt independently to introduce into his speech even after he has
fully acquired his mother-tongue. This naturally leads up to the
question whether all these changes introduced by various individuals
do, or do not, follow the same line of direction, and whether mankind
has on the whole moved forward or not in linguistic matters. The
conviction reached through a study of historically accessible periods
of well-known languages is finally shown to throw some light on the
disputed problem of the ultimate origin of human language.

Parts of my theory of sound-change, and especially my objections to
the dogma of blind sound-laws, date back to my very first linguistic
paper (1886); most of the chapters on Decay or Progress and parts
of some of the following chapters, as well as the theory of the
origin of speech, may be considered a new and revised edition of the
general chapters of my _Progress in Language_ (1894). Many of the
ideas contained in this book thus are not new with me; but even if a
reader of my previous works may recognize things which he has seen
before, I hope he will admit that they have been here worked up with
much new material into something like a system, which forms a fairly
comprehensive theory of linguistic development.

Still, I have not been able to compress into this volume the whole
of my philosophy of speech. Considerations of space have obliged
me to exclude the chapters I had first intended to write on the
practical consequences of the ‘energetic’ view of language which I
have throughout maintained; the estimation of linguistic phenomena
implied in that view has bearings on such questions as these: What is
to be considered ‘correct’ or ‘standard’ in matters of pronunciation,
spelling, grammar and idiom? Can (or should) individuals exert
themselves to improve their mother-tongue by enriching it with new
terms and by making it purer, more precise, more fit to express subtle
shades of thought, more easy to handle in speech or in writing, etc.?
(A few hints on such questions may be found in my paper “Energetik
der Sprache” in _Scientia_, 1914.) Is it possible to construct an
artificial language on scientific principles for international use?
(On this question I may here briefly state my conviction that it is
extremely important for the whole of mankind to have such a language,
and that Ido is scientifically and practically very much superior to
all previous attempts, Volapük, Esperanto, Idiom Neutral, Latin sine
flexione, etc. But I have written more at length on that question
elsewhere.) With regard to the system of grammar, the relation of
grammar to logic, and grammatical categories and their definition, I
must refer the reader to _Sprogets Logik_ (Copenhagen, 1913), and to
the first chapter of the second volume of my _Modern English Grammar_
(Heidelberg, 1914), but I shall hope to deal with these questions more
in detail in a future work, to be called, probably, _The Logic of
Grammar_, of which some chapters have been ready in my drawers for some
years and others are in active preparation.

I have prefixed to the theoretical chapters of this work a short survey
of the history of the science of language in order to show how my
problems have been previously treated. In this part (Book I) I have, as
a matter of course, used the excellent works on the subject by Benfey,
Raumer, Delbrück (_Einleitung in das Sprachstudium_, 1st ed., 1880; I
did not see the 5th ed., 1908, till my own chapters on the history of
linguistics were finished), Thomsen, Oertel and Pedersen. But I have in
nearly every case gone to the sources themselves, and have, I think,
found interesting things in some of the early books on linguistics
that have been generally overlooked; I have even pointed out some
writers who had passed into undeserved oblivion. My intention has
been on the whole to throw into relief the great lines of development
rather than to give many details; in judging the first part of my
book it should also be borne in mind that its object primarily is to
serve as an introduction to the problems dealt with in the rest of the
book. Throughout I have tried to look at things with my own eyes, and
accordingly my views on a great many points are different from those
generally accepted; it is my hope that an impartial observer will find
that I have here and there succeeded in distributing light and shade
more justly than my predecessors.

Wherever it has been necessary I have transcribed words phonetically
according to the system of the _Association Phonétique Internationale_,
though without going into too minute distinction of sounds, the object
being, not to teach the exact pronunciation of various languages, but
rather to bring out clearly the insufficiency of the ordinary spelling.
The latter is given throughout in italics, while phonetic symbols
have been inserted in brackets [ ]. I must ask the reader to forgive
inconsistency in such matters as Greek accents, Old English marks of
vowel-length, etc., which I have often omitted as of no importance for
the purpose of this volume.

I must express here my gratitude to the directors of the Carlsbergfond
for kind support of my work. I want to thank also Professor G. C. Moore
Smith, of the University of Sheffield: not only has he sent me the
manuscript of a translation of most of my _Nutidssprog_, which he had
undertaken of his own accord and which served as the basis of Book II,
but he has kindly gone through the whole of this volume, improving and
correcting my English style in many passages. His friendship and the
untiring interest he has always taken in my work have been extremely
valuable to me for a great many years.


  _June 1921_.



  PREFACE                                                       7
  ABBREVIATIONS OF BOOK TITLES, ETC.                           13
  PHONETIC SYMBOLS                                             16

  _BOOK I_


  I. BEFORE 1800                                               19
  II. BEGINNING OF NINETEENTH CENTURY                          32
  III. MIDDLE OF NINETEENTH CENTURY                            63
  IV. END OF NINETEENTH CENTURY                                89


  V. SOUNDS                                                   103
  VI. WORDS                                                   113
  VII. GRAMMAR                                                128
  VIII. SOME FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS                             140
  X. THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHILD (_continued_)                 172


  XI. THE FOREIGNER                                           191
  XII. PIDGIN AND CONGENERS                                   216
  XIII. THE WOMAN                                             237
  XIV. CAUSES OF CHANGE                                       255
  XV. CAUSES OF CHANGE (_continued_)                          276


  XVI. ETYMOLOGY                                              305
  XVII. PROGRESS OR DECAY?                                    319
  XVIII. PROGRESS                                             337
  XIX. ORIGIN OF GRAMMATICAL ELEMENTS                         367
  XX. SOUND SYMBOLISM                                         396
  XXI. THE ORIGIN OF SPEECH                                   412

  INDEX                                                       443


Bally LV = Ch. Bally, _Le Langage et la Vie_, Genève 1913.

Benfey Gesch = Th. Benfey, _Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft_,
München 1869.

Bleek CG = W. H. I. Bleek, _Comparative Grammar of South African
Languages_, London 1862-69.

Bloomfield SL = L. Bloomfield, _An Introduction to the Study of
Language_, New York 1914.

Bopp C = F. Bopp, _Conjugationssystem der Sanskritsprache_, Frankfurt

  AC = _Analytical Comparison_ (see ch. ii, § 6).

  VG = _Vergleichende Grammatik_, 2te Ausg., Berlin 1857.

Bréal M = M. Bréal, _Mélanges de Mythologie et de Linguistique_, Paris

Brugmann VG = K. Brugmann, _Grundriss der Vergleichenden Grammatik_,
Strassburg 1886 ff., 2te Ausg., 1897 ff.

  KG = _Kurze Vergleichende Grammatik_, Strassburg 1904.

ChE = O. Jespersen, _Chapters on English_, London 1918.

Churchill B = W. Churchill, _Beach-la-Mar_, Washington 1911.

Curtius C = G. Curtius, _Zur Chronologie der indogerm.
Sprachforschung_, Leipzig 1873.

  K = _Zur Kritik der neuesten Sprachforschung_, Leipzig 1885.

Dauzat V = A. Dauzat, _La Vie du Langage_, Paris 1910.

  Ph = _La Philosophie du Langage_, Paris 1912.

Delbrück E = B. Delbrück, _Einleitung in das Sprachstudium_, Leipzig
1880; 5te Aufl. 1908.

  Grfr = _Grundfragen der Sprachforschung_, Strassburg 1901.

E. = English.

EDD = J. Wright, _The English Dialect Dictionary_, Oxford 1898 ff.

ESt = _Englische Studien_.

Feist KI = S. Feist, _Kultur, Ausbreitung und Herkunft der
Indogermanen_, Berlin 1913.

Fonetik = O. Jespersen, _Fonetik_, Copenhagen 1897.

Fr. = French.

Gabelentz Spr = G. v. d. Gabelentz, _Die Sprachwissenschaft_, Leipzig

  Gr = _Chinesische Grammatik_, Leipzig 1881.

Ginneken LP = J. v. Ginneken, _Principes de Linguistique
Psychologique_, Amsterdam, Paris 1907.

Glenconner = P. Glenconner, _The Sayings of the Children_, Oxford 1918.

Gr. = Greek.

Greenough and Kittredge W = J. B. Greenough and G. L. Kittredge, _Words
and their Ways in English Speech_, London 1902.

Grimm Gr. = J. Grimm, _Deutsche Grammatik_, 2te Ausg., Göttingen 1822.

  GDS = _Geschichte der deutschen Sprache_, 4te Aufl., Leipzig 1880.

GRM = _Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift_.

GS = O. Jespersen, _Growth and Structure of the English Language_, 3rd
ed., Leipzig 1919.

Hilmer Sch = H. Hilmer, _Schallnachahmung, Wortschöpfung u.
Bedeutungswandel_, Halle 1914.

Hirt GDS = H. Hirt, _Geschichte der deutschen Sprache_, München 1919.

  Idg = _Die Indogermanen_, Strassburg 1905-7.

Humboldt Versch = W. v. Humboldt, _Verschiedenheit des menschlichen
Sprachbaues_ (number of pages as in the original edition).

IF = _Indogermanische Forschungen_.

KZ = Kuhn’s _Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung_.

Lasch S = R. Lasch, _Sondersprachen u. ihre Entstehung_, Wien 1907.

LPh = O. Jespersen, _Lehrbuch der Phonetik_, 3te Aufl., Leipzig 1920.

Madvig 1857 = J. N. Madvig, _De grammatische Betegnelser_, Copenhagen

  Kl = _Kleine philologische Schriften_, Leipzig 1875.

ME. = Middle English.

MEG = O. Jespersen, _Modern English Grammar_, Heidelberg 1909, 1914.

Meillet DI = A. Meillet, _Les Dialectes Indo-Européens_, Paris 1908.

  Germ. = _Caractères généraux des Langues Germaniques_, Paris 1917.

  Gr = _Aperçu d’une Histoire de la Langue Grecque_, Paris 1913.

  LI = _Introduction à l’étude comp. des Langues Indo-Européennes_, 2e
  éd., Paris 1908.

Meinhof Ham = C. Meinhof, _Die hamitischen Sprachen_, Hamburg 1912.

  MSA = _Die moderne Sprachforschung in Afrika_, Berlin 1910.

Meringer L = R. Meringer, _Aus dem Leben der Sprache_, Berlin 1908.

Misteli = F. Misteli, _Charakteristik der haupts. Typen des
Sprachbaues_, Berlin 1893.

MSL = _Mémoires de la Société de Linguistique de Paris_.

Fr. Müller Gr = Friedrich Müller, _Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft_,
Wien 1876 ff.

Max Müller Ch = F. Max Müller, _Chips from a German Workshop_, vol. iv,
London 1875.

NED = _A New English Dictionary_, by Murray, etc., Oxford 1884 ff.

Noreen UL = A. Noreen, _Abriss der urgermanischen Lautlehre_,
Strassburg 1894.

  VS = _Vårt Språk_, Lund 1903 ff.

Nyrop Gr = Kr. Nyrop, _Grammaire Historique de la Langue Française_,
Copenhagen 1914 ff.

OE. = Old English (Anglo-Saxon).

Oertel = H. Oertel, _Lectures on the Study of Language_, New York 1901.

OFr. = Old French.

ON. = Old Norse.

Passy Ch = P. Passy, _Les Changements Phonétiques_, Paris 1890.

Paul P = H. Paul, _Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte_, 4te Aufl., Halle

  Gr = _Grundriss der germanischen Philologie_.

PBB = _Beitrage zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache_ (Paul u. Braune).

Pedersen GKS = H. Pedersen, _Vergl. Grammatik der keltischen Sprachen_,
Göttingen 1909.

PhG = O. Jespersen, _Phonetische Grundfragen_, Leipzig 1904.

Porzezinski Spr = V. Porzezinski, _Einleitung in die
Sprachwissenschaft_, Leipzig 1910.

Progr. = O. Jespersen, _Progress in Language_, London 1894.

Rask P = R. Rask [Prisskrift] _Undersögelse om det gamle Nordiske
Sprogs Oprindelse_, Copenhagen 1818.

  SA = _Samlede Afhandlinger_, Copenhagen 1834.

Raumer Gesch = R. v. Raumer, _Geschichte der germanischen Philologie_,
München 1870.

Ronjat = J. Ronjat, _Le Développement du Langage chez un Enfant
Bilingue_, Paris 1913.

Sandfeld Jensen S = Kr. Sandfeld Jensen, _Sprogvidenskaben_, Copenhagen

  Sprw = _Die Sprachwissenschaft_, Leipzig 1915.

Saussure LG = F. de Saussure, _Cours de Linguistique Générale_,
Lausanne 1916.

Sayce P = A. H. Sayce, _Principles of Comparative Philology_, 2nd ed.,
London 1875.

  S = _Introduction to the Science of Language_, London 1880.

Scherer GDS = W. Scherer, _Zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache_,
Berlin 1878.

Schleicher I, II = A. Schleicher, _Sprachvergleichende Untersuchungen_,
I-II, Bonn 1848, 1850.

  Bed. = _Die Bedeutung der Sprache_, Weimar 1865.

  C = _Compendium der vergl. Grammatik_, 4te Aufl., Weimar 1876.

  D = _Die deutsche Sprache_, Stuttgart 1860.

  Darw. = _Die Darwinische Theorie und die Sprachwissenschaft_, Weimar

  NV = _Nomen und Verbum_, Leipzig 1865.

Schuchardt SlD = H. Schuchardt, _Slawo-Deutsches u.
Slawo-Italienisches_, Graz 1885.

  KS = _Kreolische Studien_ (Wien, Akademie).

Simonyi US = S. Simonyi, _Die Ungarische Sprache_, Strassburg 1907.

Skt. = Sanskrit.

Sommer Lat. = F. Sommer, _Handbuch der latein. Laut- und Formenlehre_,
Heidelberg 1902.

Stern = Clara and William Stern, _Die Kindersprache_, Leipzig 1907.

Stoffel Int. = C. Stoffel, _Intensives and Down-toners_, Heidelberg

Streitberg Gesch = W. Streitberg, _Geschichte der indogerm.
Sprachwissenschaft_, Strassburg 1917.

  Urg = _Urgermanische Grammatik_, Heidelberg 1896.

Sturtevant LCh = E. H. Sturtevant, _Linguistic Change_, Chicago 1917.

Sütterlin WSG = L. Sütterlin, _Das Wesen der sprachlichen Gebilde_,
Heidelberg 1902.

  WW = _Werden und Wesen der Sprache_, Leipzig 1913.

Sweet CP = H. Sweet, _Collected Papers_, Oxford 1913.

  H = _The History of Language_, London 1900.

  PS = _The Practical Study of Languages_, London 1899.

Tegnér SM = E. Tegnér, _Språkets makt öfver tanken_, Stockholm 1880.

Verner = K. Verner, _Afhandlinger og Breve_, Copenhagen 1903.

Wechssler L = E. Wechssler, _Giebt es Lautgesetze?_ Halle 1900.

Whitney G = W. D. Whitney, _Life and Growth of Language_, London 1875.

  L = _Language and the Study of Language_, London 1868.

  M = _Max Müller and the Science of Language_, New York 1892.

  OLS = _Oriental and Linguistic Studies_, New York 1873-4.

Wundt S = W. Wundt, _Die Sprache_, Leipzig 1900.


  ' stands before the stressed syllable.

  · indicates length of the preceding sound.

  [a·] as in _a_lms.
  [ai] as in _i_ce.
  [au] as in h_ou_se.
  [æ] as in h_a_t.
  [ei] as in h_a_te.
  [ɛ] as in c_a_re; Fr. t_e_l.
  [ə] indistinct vowels.
  [i] as in f_i_ll; Fr. qu_i_.
  [i·] as in f_ee_l; Fr. f_i_lle.
  [o] as in Fr. s_eau_.
  [ou] as in s_o_.
  [ɔ] open _o_-sounds.
  [u] as in f_u_ll; Fr. f_ou_.
  [u·] as in f_oor_l; Fr. ép_ou_se.
  [y] as in Fr. v_u_.
  [ʌ] as in c_u_t.
  [ø] as in Fr. f_eu_.
  [œ] as in Fr. s_œu_r.
  [~] French nasalization.
  [c] as in G. i_ch_.
  [x] as in G., Sc. lo_ch_.
  [ð] as in _th_is.
  [j] as in _y_ou.
  [þ] as in _th_ick.
  [ʃ] as in _sh_e.
  [ʒ] as in mea_s_ure.
  [’] in Russian palatalization, in Danish glottal stop.





  § 1. Antiquity. § 2. Middle Ages and Renaissance. § 3.
  Eighteenth-century Speculation. Herder. § 4. Jenisch.

I.--§ 1. Antiquity.

The science of language began, tentatively and approximately, when
the minds of men first turned to problems like these: How is it that
people do not speak everywhere the same language? How were words
first created? What is the relation between a name and the thing it
stands for? Why is such and such a person, or such and such a thing,
called _this_ and not _that_? The first answers to these questions,
like primitive answers to other riddles of the universe, were largely
theological: God, or one particular god, had created language, or
God led all animals to the first man in order that he might give
them names. Thus in the Old Testament the diversity of languages is
explained as a punishment from God for man’s crimes and presumption.
These were great and general problems, but the minds of the early
Jews were also occupied with smaller and more particular problems of
language, as when etymological interpretations were given of such
personal names as were not immediately self-explanatory.

The same predilection for etymology, and a similar primitive kind of
etymology, based entirely on a more or less accidental similarity of
sound and easily satisfied with any fanciful connexion in sense, is
found abundantly in Greek writers and in their Latin imitators. But
to the speculative minds of Greek thinkers the problem that proved
most attractive was the general and abstract one, Are words natural
and necessary expressions of the notions underlying them, or are they
merely arbitrary and conventional signs for notions that might have
been equally well expressed by any other sounds? Endless discussions
were carried on about this question, as we see particularly from
Plato’s _Kratylos_, and no very definite result was arrived at, nor
could any be expected so long as one language only formed the basis of
the discussion--even in our own days, after a century of comparative
philology, the question still remains an open one. In Greece, the
two catchwords _phúsei_ (by nature) and _thései_ (by convention) for
centuries divided philosophers and grammarians into two camps, while
some, like Sokrates in Plato’s dialogue, though admitting that in
language as actually existing there was no natural connexion between
word and thing, still wished that an ideal language might be created
in which words and things would be tied together in a perfectly
rational way--thus paving the way for Bishop Wilkins and other modern
constructors of philosophical languages.

Such abstract and _a priori_ speculations, however stimulating and
clever, hardly deserve the name of science, as this term is understood
nowadays. Science presupposes careful observation and systematic
classification of facts, and of that in the old Greek writers on
language we find very little. The earliest masters in linguistic
observation and classification were the old Indian grammarians. The
language of the old sacred hymns had become in many points obsolete,
but religion required that not one iota of these revered texts should
be altered, and a scrupulous oral tradition kept them unchanged from
generation to generation in every minute particular. This led to a
wonderfully exact analysis of speech sounds, in which every detail
of articulation was carefully described, and to a no less admirable
analysis of grammatical forms, which were arranged systematically
and described in a concise and highly ingenious, though artificial,
terminology. The whole manner of treatment was entirely different
from the methods of Western grammarians, and when the works of Panini
and other Sanskrit grammarians were first made known to Europeans in
the nineteenth century, they profoundly influenced our own linguistic
science, as witnessed, among other things, by the fact that some of the
Indian technical terms are still extensively used, for instance those
describing various kinds of compound nouns.

In Europe grammatical science was slowly and laboriously developed
in Greece and later in Rome. Aristotle laid the foundation of the
division of words into “parts of speech” and introduced the notion
of case (_ptôsis_). His work in this connexion was continued by the
Stoics, many of whose grammatical distinctions and terms are still
in use, the latter in their Latin dress, which embodies some curious
mistakes, as when _genikḗ_, “the case of kind or species,” was rendered
_genitivus_, as if it meant “the case of origin,” or, worse still, when
_aitiatikḗ_, “the case of object,” was rendered _accusativus_, as if
from _aitiáomai_, ‘I accuse.’ In later times the philological school of
Alexandria was particularly important, the object of research being the
interpretation of the old poets, whose language was no longer instantly
intelligible. Details of flexion and of the meaning of words were
described and referred to the two categories of analogy or regularity
and anomaly or irregularity, but real insight into the nature of
language made very little progress either with the Alexandrians or
with their Roman inheritors, and etymology still remained in the
childlike stage.

I.--§ 2. Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Nor did linguistic science advance in the Middle Ages. The chief thing
then was learning Latin as the common language of the Church and of
what little there was of civilization generally; but Latin was not
studied in a scientific spirit, and the various vernacular languages,
which one by one blossomed out into languages of literature, even less

The Renaissance in so far brought about a change in this, as it widened
the horizon, especially by introducing the study of Greek. It also
favoured grammatical studies through the stress it laid on correct
Latin as represented in the best period of classical literature: it now
became the ambition of humanists in all countries to write Latin like
Cicero. In the following centuries we witness a constantly deepening
interest in the various living languages of Europe, owing to the
growing importance of native literatures and to increasing facilities
of international traffic and communication in general. The most
important factor here was, of course, the invention of printing, which
rendered it incomparably more easy than formerly to obtain the means
of studying foreign languages. It should be noted also that in those
times the prevalent theological interest made it a much more common
thing than nowadays for ordinary scholars to have some knowledge of
Hebrew as the original language of the Old Testament. The acquaintance
with a language so different in type from those spoken in Europe in
many ways stimulated the interest in linguistic studies, though on
the other hand it proved a fruitful source of error, because the
position of the Semitic family of languages was not yet understood, and
because Hebrew was thought to be the language spoken in Paradise, and
therefore imagined to be the language from which all other languages
were descended. All kinds of fanciful similarities between Hebrew and
European languages were taken as proofs of the origin of the latter;
every imaginable permutation of sounds (or rather of letters) was
looked upon as possible so long as there was a slight connexion in
the sense of the two words compared, and however incredible it may
seem nowadays, the fact that Hebrew was written from right to left,
while we in our writing proceed from left to right, was considered
justification enough for the most violent transposition of letters in
etymological explanations. And yet all these flighty and whimsical
comparisons served perhaps in some measure to pave the way for a more
systematic treatment of etymology through collecting vast stores of
words from which sober and critical minds might select those instances
of indubitable connexion on which a sound science of etymology could
eventually be constructed.

The discovery and publication of texts in the old Gothonic (Germanic)
languages, especially Wulfila’s Gothic translation of the Bible,
compared with which Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Old German and Old
Icelandic texts were of less, though by no means of despicable,
account, paved the way for historical treatment of this important
group of languages in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But
on the whole, the interest in the history of languages in those days
was small, and linguistic thinkers thought it more urgent to establish
vast treasuries of languages as actually spoken than to follow the
development of any one language from century to century. Thus we
see that the great philosopher Leibniz, who took much interest in
linguistic pursuits and to whom we owe many judicious utterances on the
possibility of a universal language, instigated Peter the Great to have
vocabularies and specimens collected of all the various languages of
his vast empire. To this initiative taken by Leibniz, and to the great
personal interest that the Empress Catherine II took in these studies,
we owe, directly or indirectly, the great repertories of all languages
then known, first Pallas’s _Linguarum totius orbis vocabularia
comparativa_ (1786-87), then Hervas’s _Catálogo de las lenguas de las
naziones conocidas_ (1800-5), and finally Adelung’s _Mithridates oder
allgemeine Sprachenkunde_ (1806-17). In spite of their inevitable
shortcomings, their uncritical and unequal treatment of many languages,
the preponderance of lexical over grammatical information, and the
use of biblical texts as their sole connected illustrations, these
great works exercised a mighty influence on the linguistic thought
and research of the time, and contributed very much to the birth of
the linguistic science of the nineteenth century. It should not be
forgotten, moreover, that Hervas was one of the first to recognize the
superior importance of grammar to vocabulary for deciding questions of
relationship between languages.

It will be well here to consider the manner in which languages and
the teaching of languages were generally viewed during the centuries
preceding the rise of Comparative Linguistics. The chief language
taught was Latin; the first and in many cases the only grammar with
which scholars came into contact was Latin grammar. No wonder therefore
that grammar and Latin grammar came in the minds of most people to be
synonyms. Latin grammar played an enormous rôle in the schools, to the
exclusion of many subjects (the pupil’s own native language, science,
history, etc.) which we are now beginning to think more essential for
the education of the young. The traditional term for ‘secondary school’
was in England ‘grammar school’ and in Denmark ‘latinskole,’ and the
reason for both expressions was obviously the same. Here, however, we
are concerned with this privileged position of Latin grammar only in so
far as it influenced the treatment of languages in general. It did so
in more ways than one.

Latin was a language with a wealth of flexional forms, and in
describing other languages the same categories as were found in Latin
were applied as a matter of course, even where there was nothing in
these other languages which really corresponded to what was found in
Latin. In English and Danish grammars paradigms of noun declension
were given with such cases as accusative, dative and ablative, in
spite of the fact that no separate forms for these cases had existed
for centuries. All languages were indiscriminately saddled with the
elaborate Latin system of tenses and moods in the verbs, and by means
of such Procrustean methods the actual facts of many languages were
distorted and misrepresented. Discriminations which had no foundation
in reality were nevertheless insisted on, while discriminations which
happened to be non-existent in Latin were apt to be overlooked. The
mischief consequent on this unfortunate method of measuring all
grammar after the pattern of Latin grammar has not even yet completely
disappeared, and it is even now difficult to find a single grammar of
any language that is not here and there influenced by the Latin bias.

Latin was chiefly taught as a written language (witness the totally
different manner in which Latin was pronounced in the different
countries, the consequence being that as early as the sixteenth century
French and English scholars were unable to understand each other’s
spoken Latin). This led to the almost exclusive occupation with letters
instead of sounds. The fact that all language is primarily spoken
and only secondarily written down, that the real life of language is
in the mouth and ear and not in the pen and eye, was overlooked, to
the detriment of a real understanding of the essence of language and
linguistic development; and very often where the spoken form of a
language was accessible scholars contented themselves with a reading
knowledge. In spite of many efforts, some of which go back to the
sixteenth century, but which did not become really powerful till the
rise of modern phonetics in the nineteenth century, the fundamental
significance of spoken as opposed to written language has not yet been
fully appreciated by all linguists. There are still too many writers
on philological questions who have evidently never tried to think in
sounds instead of thinking in letters and symbols, and who would
probably be sorely puzzled if they were to pronounce all the forms that
come so glibly to their pens. What Sweet wrote in 1877 in the preface
to his _Handbook of Phonetics_ is perhaps less true now than it was
then, but it still contains some elements of truth. “Many instances,”
he said, “might be quoted of the way in which important philological
facts and laws have been passed over or misrepresented through the
observer’s want of phonetic training. Schleicher’s failing to observe
the Lithuanian accents, or even to comprehend them when pointed out
by Kurschat, is a striking instance.” But there can be no doubt that
the way in which Latin has been for centuries made the basis of all
linguistic instruction is largely responsible for the preponderance of
eye-philology to ear-philology in the history of our science.

We next come to a point which to my mind is very important, because it
concerns something which has had, and has justly had, enduring effects
on the manner in which language, and especially grammar, is viewed and
taught to this day. What was the object of teaching Latin in the Middle
Ages and later? Certainly not the purely scientific one of imparting
knowledge for knowledge’s own sake, apart from any practical use or
advantage, simply in order to widen the spiritual horizon and to obtain
the joy of pure intellectual understanding. For such a purpose some
people with scientific leanings may here and there take up the study
of some out-of-the-way African or American idiom. But the reasons for
teaching and learning Latin were not so idealistic. Latin was not
even taught and learnt solely with the purpose of opening the doors
to the old classical or to the more recent religious literature in
that language, but chiefly, and in the first instance, because Latin
was a practical and highly important means of communication between
educated people. One had to learn not only to read Latin, but also
to write Latin, if one wanted to maintain no matter how humble a
position in the republic of learning or in the hierarchy of the Church.
Consequently, grammar was not (even primarily) the science of how words
were inflected and how forms were used by the old Romans, but chiefly
and essentially the art of inflecting words and of using the forms
yourself, if you wanted to write correct Latin. This you must say, and
these faults you must avoid--such were the lessons imparted in the
schools. Grammar was not a set of facts observed but of rules to be
observed, and of paradigms, i.e. of patterns, to be followed. Sometimes
this character of grammatical instruction is expressly indicated in the
form of the precepts given, as in such memorial verses as this: “Tolle
_-me_, _-mi_, _-mu_, _-mis_, Si declinare _domus_ vis!” In other words,
grammar was _prescriptive_ rather than _descriptive_.

The current definition of grammar, therefore, was “ars bene dicendi et
bene scribendi,” “l’art de bien dire et de bien écrire,” the art of
speaking and writing correctly. J. C. Scaliger said, “Grammatici unus
finis est recte loqui.” To attain to correct diction (‘good grammar’)
and to avoid faulty diction (‘bad grammar’), such were the two objects
of grammatical teaching. Now, the same point of view, in which the two
elements of ‘art’ and of ‘correctness’ entered so largely, was applied
not only to Latin, but to other languages as well, when the various
vernaculars came to be treated grammatically.

The vocabulary, too, was treated from the same point of view. This
is especially evident in the case of the dictionaries issued by the
French and Italian Academies. They differ from dictionaries as now
usually compiled in being not collections of all and any words their
authors could get hold of within the limits of the language concerned,
but in being selections of words deserving the recommendations of
the best arbiters of taste and therefore fit to be used in the
highest literature by even the most elegant or fastidious writers.
Dictionaries thus understood were less descriptions of actual usage
than prescriptions for the best usage of words.

The normative way of viewing language is fraught with some great
dangers which can only be avoided through a comprehensive knowledge of
the historic development of languages and of the general conditions of
linguistic psychology. Otherwise, the tendency everywhere is to draw
too narrow limits for what is allowable or correct. In many cases one
form, or one construction, only is recognized, even where two or more
are found in actual speech; the question which is to be selected as
the only good form comes to be decided too often by individual fancy
or predilection, where no scientific tests can yet be applied, and
thus a form may often be proscribed which from a less narrow point
of view might have appeared just as good as, or even better than,
the one preferred in the official grammar or dictionary. In other
instances, where two forms were recognized, the grammarian wanted to
give rules for their discrimination, and sometimes on the basis of
a totally inadequate induction he would establish nice distinctions
not really warranted by actual usage--distinctions which subsequent
generations had to learn at school with the sweat of their brows and
which were often considered most important in spite of their intrinsic
insignificance. Such unreal or half-real subtle distinctions are the
besetting sin of French grammarians from the ‘grand siècle’ onwards,
while they have played a much less considerable part in England, where
people have been on the whole more inclined to let things slide as best
they may on the ‘laissez faire’ principle, and where no Academy was
ever established to regulate language. But even in English rules are
not unfrequently given in schools and in newspaper offices which are
based on narrow views and hasty generalizations. Because a preposition
at the end of a sentence may in some instances be clumsy or unwieldy,
this is no reason why a final preposition should always and under all
circumstances be considered a grave error. But it is of course easier
for the schoolmaster to give an absolute and inviolable rule once
and for all than to study carefully all the various considerations
that might render a qualification desirable. If the ordinary books
on _Common Faults in Writing and Speaking English_ and similar works
in other languages have not even now assimilated the teachings of
Comparative and Historic Linguistics, it is no wonder that the
grammarians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with whom
we are here concerned, should be in many ways guided by narrow and
insufficient views on what ought to determine correctness of speech.

Here also the importance given to the study of Latin was sometimes
harmful; too much was settled by a reference to Latin rules, even where
the modern languages really followed rules of their own that were
opposed to those of Latin. The learning of Latin grammar was supposed
to be, and to some extent really was, a schooling in logic, as the
strict observance of the rules of any foreign language is bound to be;
but the consequence of this was that when questions of grammatical
correctness were to be settled, too much importance was often given
to purely logical considerations, and scholars were sometimes apt
to determine what was to be called ‘logical’ in language according
to whether it was or was not in conformity with Latin usage. This
disposition, joined with the unavoidable conservatism of mankind, and
more particularly of teachers, would in many ways prove a hindrance to
natural developments in a living speech. But we must again take up the
thread of the history of linguistic theory.

I.--§ 3. Eighteenth-century Speculation. Herder.

The problem of a natural origin of language exercised some of the
best-known thinkers of the eighteenth century. Rousseau imagined the
first men setting themselves more or less deliberately to frame a
language by an agreement similar to (or forming part of) the _contrat
social_ which according to him was the basis of all social order. There
is here the obvious difficulty of imagining how primitive men who had
been previously without any speech came to feel the want of language,
and how they could agree on what sound was to represent what idea
without having already some means of communication. Rousseau’s whole
manner of putting and of viewing the problem is evidently too crude to
be of any real importance in the history of linguistic science.

Condillac is much more sensible when he tries to imagine how a
speechless man and a speechless woman might be led quite naturally to
acquire something like language, starting with instinctive cries and
violent gestures called forth by strong emotions. Such cries would come
to be associated with elementary feelings, and new sounds might come
to indicate various objects if produced repeatedly in connexion with
gestures showing what objects the speaker wanted to call attention to.
If these two first speaking beings had as yet very little power to vary
their sounds, their child would have a more flexible tongue, and would
therefore be able to, and be impelled to, produce some new sounds, the
meaning of which his parents would guess at, and which they in their
turn would imitate; thus gradually a greater and greater number of
words would come into existence, generation after generation working
painfully to enrich and develop what had been already acquired, until
it finally became a real language.

The profoundest thinker on these problems in the eighteenth century
was Johann Gottfried Herder, who, though he did little or nothing in
the way of scientific research, yet prepared the rise of linguistic
science. In his prize essay on the _Origin of Language_ (1772) Herder
first vigorously and successfully attacks the orthodox view of his
age--a view which had been recently upheld very emphatically by one
Süssmilch--that language could not have been invented by man, but
was a direct gift from God. One of Herder’s strongest arguments is
that if language had been framed by God and by Him instilled into the
mind of man, we should expect it to be much more logical, much more
imbued with pure reason than it is as an actual matter of fact. Much
in all existing languages is so chaotic and ill-arranged that it could
not be God’s work, but must come from the hand of man. On the other
hand, Herder does not think that language was really ‘invented’ by
man--although this was the word used by the Berlin Academy when opening
the competition in which Herder’s essay gained the prize. Language
was not deliberately framed by man, but sprang of necessity from his
innermost nature; the genesis of language according to him is due to
an impulse similar to that of the mature embryo pressing to be born.
Man, in the same way as all animals, gives vent to his feelings in
tones, but this is not enough; it is impossible to trace the origin of
human language to these emotional cries alone. However much they may be
refined and fixed, without understanding they can never become human,
conscious language. Man differs from brute animals not in degree or in
the addition of new powers, but in a totally different direction and
development of all powers. Man’s inferiority to animals in strength and
sureness of instinct is compensated by his wider sphere of attention;
the whole disposition of his mind as an unanalysable entity constitutes
the impassable barrier between him and the lower animals. Man, then,
shows conscious reflexion when among the ocean of sensations that
rush into his soul through all the senses he singles out one wave and
arrests it, as when, seeing a lamb, he looks for a distinguishing mark
and finds it in the bleating, so that next time when he recognizes the
same animal he imitates the sound of bleating, and thereby creates a
name for that animal. Thus the lamb to him is ‘the bleater,’ and nouns
are created from verbs, whereas, according to Herder, if language had
been the creation of God it would inversely have begun with nouns,
as that would have been the logically ideal order of procedure.
Another characteristic trait of primitive languages is the crossing
of various shades of feeling and the necessity of expressing thoughts
through strong, bold metaphors, presenting the most motley picture.
“The genetic cause lies in the poverty of the human mind and in the
flowing together of the emotions of a primitive human being.” Another
consequence is the wealth of synonyms in primitive language; “alongside
of real poverty it has the most unnecessary superfluity.”

When Herder here speaks of primitive or ‘original’ languages, he is
thinking of Oriental languages, and especially of Hebrew. “We should
never forget,” says Edward Sapir,[1] “that Herder’s time-perspective
was necessarily very different from ours. While we unconcernedly take
tens or even hundreds of thousands of years in which to allow the
products of human civilization to develop, Herder was still compelled
to operate with the less than six thousand years that orthodoxy
stingily doled out. To us the two or three thousand years that
separate our language from the Old Testament Hebrew seems a negligible
quantity, when speculating on the origin of language in general;
to Herder, however, the Hebrew and the Greek of Homer seemed to be
appreciably nearer the oldest conditions than our vernaculars--hence
his exaggeration of their _ursprünglichkeit_.”

Herder’s chief influence on the science of speech, to my mind, is not
derived directly from the ideas contained in his essay on the actual
origin of speech, but rather indirectly through the whole of his life’s
work. He had a very strong sense of the value of everything that had
grown naturally (das naturwüchsige); he prepared the minds of his
countrymen for the manysided receptiveness of the Romanticists, who
translated and admired the popular poetry of a great many countries,
which had hitherto been _terræ incognitæ_; and he was one of the first
to draw attention to the great national value of his own country’s
medieval literature and its folklore, and thus was one of the spiritual
ancestors of Grimm. He sees the close connexion that exists between
language and primitive poetry, or that kind of spontaneous singing
that characterizes the childhood or youth of mankind, and which is
totally distinct from the artificial poetry of later ages. But to him
each language is not only the instrument of literature, but itself
literature and poetry. A nation speaks its soul in the words it
uses. Herder admires his own mother-tongue, which to him is perhaps
inferior to Greek, but superior to its neighbours. The combinations of
consonants give it a certain measured pace; it does not rush forward,
but walks with the firm carriage of a German. The nice gradation of
vowels mitigates the force of the consonants, and the numerous spirants
make the German speech pleasant and endearing. Its syllables are rich
and firm, its phrases are stately, and its idiomatic expressions are
emphatic and serious. Still in some ways the present German language
is degenerate if compared with that of Luther, and still more with
that of the Suabian Emperors, and much therefore remains to be done
in the way of disinterring and revivifying the powerful expressions
now lost. Through ideas like these Herder not only exercised a strong
influence on Goethe and the Romanticists, but also gave impulses to
the linguistic studies of the following generation, and caused many
younger men to turn from the well-worn classics to fields of research
previously neglected.

I.--§ 4. Jenisch.

Where questions of correct language or of the best usage are dealt
with, or where different languages are compared with regard to their
efficiency or beauty, as is done very often, though more often in
dilettante conversation or in casual remarks in literary works than
in scientific linguistic disquisitions, it is no far cry to the
question, What would an ideal language be like? But such is the
matter-of-factness of modern scientific thought, that probably no
scientific Academy in our own days would think of doing what the
Berlin Academy did in 1794 when it offered a prize for the best essay
on the ideal of a perfect language and a comparison of the best-known
languages of Europe as tested by the standard of such an ideal. A
Berlin pastor, D. Jenisch, won the prize, and in 1796 brought out
his book under the title _Philosophisch-kritische vergleichung und
würdigung von vierzehn ältern und neuern sprachen Europens_--a book
which is even now well worth reading, the more so because its subject
has been all but completely neglected in the hundred and twenty years
that have since intervened. In the Introduction the author has the
following passage, which might be taken as the motto of Wilhelm v.
Humboldt, Steinthal, Finck and Byrne, who do not, however, seem to
have been inspired by Jenisch: “In language the whole intellectual and
moral essence of a man is to some extent revealed. ‘Speak, and you are’
is rightly said by the Oriental. The language of the natural man is
savage and rude, that of the cultured man is elegant and polished. As
the Greek was subtle in thought and sensuously refined in feeling--as
the Roman was serious and practical rather than speculative--as the
Frenchman is popular and sociable--as the Briton is profound and the
German philosophic--so are also the languages of each of these nations.”

Jenisch then goes on to say that language as the organ for
communicating our ideas and feelings accomplishes its end if it
represents idea and feeling according to the actual want or need of
the mind at the given moment. We have to examine in each case the
following essential qualities of the languages compared, (1) richness,
(2) energy or emphasis, (3) clearness, and (4) euphony. Under the head
of richness we are concerned not only with the number of words, first
for material objects, then for spiritual and abstract notions, but
also with the ease with which new words can be formed (lexikalische
bildsamkeit). The energy of a language is shown in its lexicon and in
its grammar (simplicity of grammatical structure, absence of articles,
etc.), but also in “the characteristic energy of the nation and its
original writers.” Clearness and definiteness in the same way are shown
in vocabulary and grammar, especially in a regular and natural syntax.
Euphony, finally, depends not only on the selection of consonants and
vowels utilized in the language, but on their harmonious combination,
the general impression of the language being more important than any
details capable of being analysed.

These, then, are the criteria by which Greek and Latin and a number of
living languages are compared and judged. The author displays great
learning and a sound practical knowledge of many languages, and his
remarks on the advantages and shortcomings of these are on the whole
judicious, though often perhaps too much stress is laid on the literary
merits of great writers, which have really no intrinsic connexion
with the value of a language as such. It depends to a great extent on
accidental circumstances whether a language has been or has not been
used in elevated literature, and its merits should be estimated, so far
as this is possible, independently of the perfection of its literature.
Jenisch’s prejudice in that respect is shown, for instance, when
he says (p. 36) that the endeavours of Hickes are entirely futile,
when he tries to make out regular declensions and conjugations in the
barbarous language of Wulfila’s translation of the Bible. But otherwise
Jenisch is singularly free from prejudices, as shown by a great number
of passages in which other languages are praised at the expense of
his own. Thus, on p. 396, he declares German to be the most repellent
contrast to that most supple modern language, French, on account of
its unnatural word-order, its eternally trailing article, its want of
participial constructions, and its interminable auxiliaries (as in ‘ich
werde geliebt werden, ich würde geliebt worden sein,’ etc.), with the
frequent separation of these auxiliaries from the main verb through
extraneous intermediate words, all of which gives to German something
incredibly awkward, which to the reader appears as lengthy and diffuse
and to the writer as inconvenient and intractable. It is not often
that we find an author appraising his own language with such severe
impartiality, and I have given the passage also to show what kind of
problems confront the man who wishes to compare the relative value of
languages as wholes. Jenisch’s view here forms a striking contrast to
Herder’s appreciation of their common mother-tongue.

Jenisch’s book does not seem to have been widely read by
nineteenth-century scholars, who took up totally different problems.
Those few who read it were perhaps inclined to say with S. Lefmann (see
his book on Franz Bopp, Nachtrag, 1897, p. xi) that it is difficult to
decide which was the greater fool, the one who put this problem or the
one who tried to answer it. This attitude, however, towards problems
of valuation in the matter of languages is neither just nor wise,
though it is perhaps easy to see how students of comparative grammar
were by the very nature of their study led to look down upon those
who compared languages from the point of view of æsthetic or literary
merits. Anyhow, it seems to me no small merit to have been the first
to treat such problems as these, which are generally answered in an
off-hand way according to a loose general judgement, so as to put them
on a scientific footing by examining in detail what it is that makes
us more or less instinctively prefer one language, or one turn or
expression in a language, and thus lay the foundation of that inductive
æsthetic theory of language which has still to be developed in a truly
scientific spirit.


[1] See his essay on Herder’s “Ursprung der sprache” in _Modern
Philology_, 5. 117 (1907).



  § 1. Introduction. Sanskrit. § 2. Friedrich von Schlegel. § 3. Rasmus
  Rask. § 4. Jacob Grimm. § 5. The Sound Shift. § 6. Franz Bopp. § 7.
  Bopp continued. § 8. Wilhelm von Humboldt. § 9. Grimm once more.

II.--§ 1. Introduction. Sanskrit.

The nineteenth century witnessed an enormous growth and development
of the science of language, which in some respects came to present
features totally unknown to previous centuries. The horizon was
widened; more and more languages were described, studied and examined,
many of them for their own sake, as they had no important literature.
Everywhere a deeper insight was gained into the structures even of
such languages as had been for centuries objects of study; a more
comprehensive and more incisive classification of languages was
obtained with a deeper understanding of their mutual relationships,
and at the same time linguistic forms were not only described and
analysed, but also explained, their genesis being traced as far back
as historical evidence allowed, if not sometimes further. Instead of
contenting itself with stating when and where a form existed and how
it looked and was employed, linguistic science now also began to ask
why it had taken that definite shape, and thus passed from a purely
descriptive to an explanatory science.

The chief innovation of the beginning of the nineteenth century was
the historical point of view. On the whole, it must be said that
it was reserved for that century to apply the notion of history to
other things than wars and the vicissitudes of dynasties, and thus to
discover the idea of development or evolution as pervading the whole
universe. This brought about a vast change in the science of language,
as in other sciences. Instead of looking at such a language as Latin
as one fixed point, and instead of aiming at fixing another language,
such as French, in one classical form, the new science viewed both as
being in constant flux, as growing, as moving, as continually changing.
It cried aloud like Heraclitus “Pánta reî,” and like Galileo “Eppur si
muove.” And lo! the better this historical point of view was applied,
the more secrets languages seemed to unveil, and the more light seemed
also to be thrown on objects outside the proper sphere of language,
such as ethnology and the early history of mankind at large and of
particular countries.

It is often said that it was the discovery of Sanskrit that was the
real turning-point in the history of linguistics, and there is some
truth in this assertion, though we shall see on the one hand that
Sanskrit was not in itself enough to give to those who studied it the
true insight into the essence of language and linguistic science, and
on the other hand that real genius enabled at least one man to grasp
essential truths about the relationships and development of languages
even without a knowledge of Sanskrit. Still, it must be said that
the first acquaintance with this language gave a mighty impulse to
linguistic studies and exerted a lasting influence on the way in which
most European languages were viewed by scholars, and it will therefore
be necessary here briefly to sketch the history of these studies. India
was very little known in Europe till the mighty struggle between the
French and the English for the mastery of its wealth excited a wide
interest also in its ancient culture. It was but natural that on this
intellectual domain, too, the French and the English should at first be
rivals and that we should find both nations represented in the pioneers
of Sanskrit scholarship. The French Jesuit missionary Cœurdoux as
early as 1767 sent to the French Institut a memoir in which he called
attention to the similarity of many Sanskrit words with Latin, and
even compared the flexion of the present indicative and subjunctive
of Sanskrit _asmi_, ‘I am,’ with the corresponding forms of Latin
grammar. Unfortunately, however, his work was not printed till forty
years later, when the same discovery had been announced independently
by others. The next scholar to be mentioned in this connexion is Sir
William Jones, who in 1796 uttered the following memorable words,
which have often been quoted in books on the history of linguistics:
“The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful
structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin
and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both of them
a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms
of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so
strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three without
believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps,
no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so
forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic ... had the
same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to
the same family.” Sir W. Jones, however, did nothing to carry out in
detail the comparison thus inaugurated, and it was reserved for younger
men to follow up the clue he had given.

II.--§ 2. Friedrich von Schlegel.

One of the books that exercised a great influence on the development
of linguistic science in the beginning of the nineteenth century was
Friedrich von Schlegel’s _Ueber die sprache und weisheit der Indier_
(1808). Schlegel had studied Sanskrit for some years in Paris, and
in his romantic enthusiasm he hoped that the study of the old Indian
books would bring about a revolution in European thought similar to
that produced in the Renaissance through the revival of the study
of Greek. We are here concerned exclusively with his linguistic
theories, but to his mind they were inseparable from Indian religion
and philosophy, or rather religious and philosophic poetry. He is
struck by the similarity between Sanskrit and the best-known European
languages, and gives quite a number of words from Sanskrit found with
scarcely any change in German, Greek and Latin. He repudiates the idea
that these similarities might be accidental or due to borrowings on
the side of the Indians, saying expressly that the proof of original
relationship between these languages, as well as of the greater age
of Sanskrit, lies in the far-reaching correspondences in the whole
grammatical structure of these as opposed to many other languages.
In this connexion it is noticeable that he is the first to speak
of ‘comparative grammar’ (p. 28), but, like Moses, he only looks
into this promised land without entering it. Indeed, his method of
comparison precludes him from being the founder of the new science,
for he says himself (p. 6) that he will refrain from stating any rules
for change or substitution of letters (sounds), and require complete
identity of the words used as proofs of the descent of languages. He
adds that in other cases, “where intermediate stages are historically
demonstrable, we may derive _giorno_ from _dies_, and when Spanish so
often has _h_ for Latin _f_, or Latin _p_ very often becomes _f_ in
the German form of the same word, and _c_ not rarely becomes _h_ [by
the way, an interesting foreshadowing of one part of the discovery
of the Germanic sound-shifting], then this may be the foundation of
analogical conclusions with regard to other less evident instances.” If
he had followed up this idea by establishing similar ‘sound-laws,’ as
we now say, between Sanskrit and other languages, he would have been
many years ahead of his time; as it is, his comparisons are those of
a dilettante, and he sometimes falls into the pitfalls of accidental
similarities while overlooking the real correspondences. He is also
led astray by the idea of a particularly close relationship between
Persian and German, an idea which at that time was widely spread[2]--we
find it in Jenisch and even in Bopp’s first book.

Schlegel is not afraid of surveying the whole world of human languages;
he divides them into two classes, one comprising Sanskrit and its
congeners, and the second all other languages. In the former he finds
organic growth of the roots as shown by their capability of inner
change or, as he terms it, ‘flexion,’ while in the latter class
everything is effected by the addition of affixes (prefixes and
suffixes). In Greek he admits that it would be possible to believe in
the possibility of the grammatical endings (bildungssylben) having
arisen from particles and auxiliary words amalgamated into the word
itself, but in Sanskrit even the last semblance of this possibility
disappears, and it becomes necessary to confess that the structure of
the language is formed in a thoroughly organic way through flexion,
i.e. inner changes and modifications of the radical sound, and not
composed merely mechanically by the addition of words and particles.
He admits, however, that affixes in some other languages have brought
about something that resembles real flexion. On the whole he finds that
the movement of grammatical art and perfection (der gang der bloss
grammatischen kunst und ausbildung, p. 56) goes in opposite directions
in the two species of languages. In the organic languages, which
represent the highest state, the beauty and art of their structure is
apt to be lost through indolence; and German as well as Romanic and
modern Indian languages show this degeneracy when compared with the
earlier forms of the same languages. In the affix languages, on the
other hand, we see that the beginnings are completely artless, but the
‘art’ in them grows more and more perfect the more the affixes are
fused with the main word.

As to the question of the ultimate origin of language, Schlegel
thinks that the diversity of linguistic structure points to different
beginnings. While some languages, such as Manchu, are so interwoven
with onomatopœia that imitation of natural sounds must have played
the greatest rôle in their formation, this is by no means the case in
other languages, and the perfection of the oldest organic or flexional
languages, such as Sanskrit, shows that they cannot be derived from
merely animal sounds; indeed, they form an additional proof, if any
such were needed, that men did not everywhere start from a brutish
state, but that the clearest and intensest reason existed from the
very first beginning. On all these points Schlegel’s ideas foreshadow
views that are found in later works; and it is probable that his fame
as a writer outside the philological field gave to his linguistic
speculations a notoriety which his often loose and superficial
reasonings would not otherwise have acquired for them.

Schlegel’s bipartition of the languages of the world carries in it
the germ of a tripartition. On the lowest stage of his second class
he places Chinese, in which, as he acknowledges, the particles
denoting secondary sense modifications consist in monosyllables that
are completely independent of the actual word. It is clear that
from Schlegel’s own point of view we cannot here properly speak of
‘affixes,’ and thus Chinese really, though Schlegel himself does not
say so, falls outside his affix languages and forms a class by itself.
On the other hand, his arguments for reckoning Semitic languages among
affix languages are very weak, and he seems also somewhat inclined
to say that much in their structure resembles real flexion. If we
introduce these two changes into his system, we arrive at the threefold
division found in slightly different shapes in most subsequent works
on general linguistics, the first to give it being perhaps Schlegel’s
brother, A. W. Schlegel, who speaks of (1) les langues sans aucune
structure grammaticale--under which misleading term he understands
Chinese with its unchangeable monosyllabic words; (2) les langues qui
emploient des affixes; (3) les langues à inflexions.

Like his brother, A. W. Schlegel places the flexional languages highest
and thinks them alone ‘organic.’ On the other hand, he subdivides
flexional languages into two classes, synthetic and analytic, the
latter using personal pronouns and auxiliaries in the conjugation of
verbs, prepositions to supply the want of cases, and adverbs to express
the degrees of comparison. While the origin of the synthetic languages
loses itself in the darkness of ages, the analytic languages have
been created in modern times; all those that we know are due to the
decomposition of synthetic languages. These remarks on the division of
languages are found in the Introduction to the book _Observations sur
la langue et la littérature provençale_ (1818) and are thus primarily
meant to account for the contrast between synthetic Latin and analytic

II.--§ 3. Rasmus Rask.

We now come to the three greatest names among the initiators of
linguistic science in the beginning of the nineteenth century. If we
give them in their alphabetical order, Bopp, Grimm and Rask, we also
give them in the order of merit in which most subsequent historians
have placed them. The works that constitute their first claims to the
title of founder of the new science came in close succession, Bopp’s
_Conjugationssystem_ in 1816, Rask’s _Undersøgelse_ in 1818, and the
first volume of Grimm’s _Grammatik_ in 1819. While Bopp is entirely
independent of the two others, we shall see that Grimm was deeply
influenced by Rask, and as the latter’s contributions to our science
began some years before his chief work just mentioned (which had also
been finished in manuscript in 1814, thus two years before Bopp’s
_Conjugationssystem_), the best order in which to deal with the three
men will perhaps be to take Rask first, then to mention Grimm, who in
some ways was his pupil, and finally to treat of Bopp: in this way we
shall also be enabled to see Bopp in close relation with the subsequent
development of Comparative Grammar, on which he, and not Rask, exerted
the strongest influence.

Born in a peasant’s hut in the heart of Denmark in 1787, Rasmus Rask
was a grammarian from his boyhood. When a copy of the _Heimskringla_
was given him as a school prize, he at once, without any grammar or
dictionary, set about establishing paradigms, and so, before he left
school, acquired proficiency in Icelandic, as well as in many other
languages. At the University of Copenhagen he continued in the same
course, constantly widened his linguistic horizon and penetrated into
the grammatical structure of the most diverse languages. Icelandic
(Old Norse), however, remained his favourite study, and it filled him
with enthusiasm and national pride that “our ancestors had such an
excellent language,” the excellency being measured chiefly by the full
flexional system which Icelandic shared with the classical tongues,
partly also by the pure, unmixed state of the Icelandic vocabulary. His
first book (1811) was an Icelandic grammar, an admirable production
when we consider the meagre work done previously in this field. With
great lucidity he reduces the intricate forms of the language into
a consistent system, and his penetrating insight into the essence
of language is seen when he explains the vowel changes, which we
now comprise under the name of mutation or umlaut, as due to the
approximation of the vowel of the stem to that of the ending, at that
time a totally new point of view. This we gather from Grimm’s review,
in which Rask’s explanation is said to be “more astute than true”
(“mehr scharfsinnig als wahr,” _Kleinere schriften_, 7. 515). Rask
even sees the reason of the change in the plural _blöð_ as against the
singular _blað_ in the former having once ended in _-u_, which has
since disappeared. This is, so far as I know, the first inference ever
drawn to a prehistoric state of language.

In 1814, during a prolonged stay in Iceland, Rask sent down to
Copenhagen his most important work, the prize essay on the origin of
the Old Norse language (_Undersøgelse om det gamle nordiske eller
islandske sprogs oprindelse_) which for various reasons was not
printed till 1818. If it had been published when it was finished, and
especially if it had been printed in a language better known than
Danish, Rask might well have been styled the founder of the modern
science of language, for his work contains the best exposition of the
true method of linguistic research written in the first half of the
nineteenth century and applies this method to the solution of a long
series of important questions. Only one part of it was ever translated
into another language, and this was unfortunately buried in an appendix
to Vater’s _Vergleichungstafeln_, 1822. Yet Rask’s work even now repays
careful perusal, and I shall therefore give a brief résumé of its
principal contents.

Language according to Rask is our principal means of finding out
anything about the history of nations before the existence of written
documents, for though everything may change in religion, customs,
laws and institutions, language generally remains, if not unchanged,
yet recognizable even after thousands of years. But in order to find
out anything about the relationship of a language we must proceed
methodically and examine its whole structure instead of comparing mere
details; what is here of prime importance is the grammatical system,
because words are very often taken over from one language to another,
but very rarely grammatical forms. The capital error in most of what
has been written on this subject is that this important point has been
overlooked. That language which has the most complicated grammar is
nearest to the source; however mixed a language may be, it belongs to
the same family as another if it has the most essential, most material
and indispensable words in common with it; pronouns and numerals are in
this respect most decisive. If in such words there are so many points
of agreement between two languages that it is possible to frame rules
for the transitions of letters (in other passages Rask more correctly
says sounds) from the one language to the other, there is a fundamental
kinship between the two languages, more particularly if there are
corresponding similarities in their structure and constitution. This
is a most important thesis, and Rask supplements it by saying that
transitions of sounds are naturally dependent on their organ and manner
of production.

Next Rask proceeds to apply these principles to his task of finding out
the origin of the Old Icelandic language. He describes its position
in the ‘Gothic’ (Gothonic, Germanic) group and then looks round to
find congeners elsewhere. He rapidly discards Greenlandic and Basque
as being too remote in grammar and vocabulary; with regard to Keltic
languages he hesitates, but finally decides in favour of denying
relationship. (He was soon to see his error in this; see below.)
Next he deals at some length with Finnic and Lapp, and comes to the
conclusion that the similarities are due to loans rather than to
original kinship. But when he comes to the Slavonic languages his
utterances have a different ring, for he is here able to disclose
so many similarities in fundamentals that he ranges these languages
within the same great family as Icelandic. The same is true with
regard to Lithuanian and Lettic, which are here for the first time
correctly placed as an independent sub-family, though closely akin
to Slavonic. The comparisons with Latin, and especially with Greek,
are even more detailed; and Rask in these chapters really presents us
with a succinct, but on the whole marvellously correct, comparative
grammar of Gothonic, Slavonic, Lithuanian, Latin and Greek, besides
examining numerous lexical correspondences. He does not yet know any
of the related Asiatic languages, but throws out the hint that Persian
and Indian may be the remote source of Icelandic through Greek. Greek
he considers to be the ‘source’ or ‘root’ of the Gothonic languages,
though he expresses himself with a degree of uncertainty which
forestalls the correct notion that these languages have all of them
sprung from the same extinct and unknown language. This view is very
clearly expressed in a letter he wrote from St. Petersburg in the same
year in which his _Undersøgelse_ was published; he here says: “I divide
our family of languages in this way: the Indian (Dekanic, Hindostanic),
Iranic (Persian, Armenian, Ossetic), Thracian (Greek and Latin),
Sarmatian (Lettic and Slavonic), Gothic (Germanic and Skandinavian) and
Keltic (Britannic and Gaelic) tribes” (SA 2. 281, dated June 11, 1818).

This is the fullest and clearest account of the relationships of our
family of languages found for many years, and Rask showed true genius
in the way in which he saw what languages belonged together and how
they were related. About the same time he gave a classification of the
Finno-Ugrian family of languages which is pronounced by such living
authorities on these languages as Vilhelm Thomsen and Emil Setälä to be
superior to most later attempts. When travelling in India he recognized
the true position of Zend, about which previous scholars had held the
most erroneous views, and his survey of the languages of India and
Persia was thought valuable enough in 1863 to be printed from his
manuscript, forty years after it was written. He was also the first
to see that the Dravidian (by him called Malabaric) languages were
totally different from Sanskrit. In his short essay on Zend (1826) he
also incidentally gave the correct value of two letters in the first
cuneiform writing, and thus made an important contribution towards the
final deciphering of these inscriptions.

His long tour (1816-23) through Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Caucasus,
Persia and India was spent in the most intense study of a great
variety of languages, but unfortunately brought on the illness and
disappointments which, together with economic anxieties, marred the
rest of his short life.

When Rask died in 1832 he had written a great number of grammars of
single languages, all of them remarkable for their accuracy in details
and clear systematic treatment, more particularly of morphology,
and some of them breaking new ground; besides his Icelandic grammar
already mentioned, his Anglo-Saxon, Frisian and Lapp grammars should
be specially named. Historical grammar in the strict sense is perhaps
not his forte, though in a remarkable essay of the year 1815 he
explains historically a great many features of Danish grammar, and in
his Spanish and Italian grammars he in some respects forestalls Diez’s
historical explanations. But in some points he stuck to erroneous
views, a notable instance being his system of old Gothonic ‘long
vowels,’ which was reared on the assumption that modern Icelandic
pronunciation reflects the pronunciation of primitive times, while
it is really a recent development, as Grimm saw from a comparison of
all the old languages. With regard to consonants, however, Rask was
the clearer-sighted of the two, and throughout he had this immense
advantage over most of the comparative linguists of his age, that he
had studied a great many languages at first hand with native speakers,
while the others knew languages chiefly or exclusively through the
medium of books and manuscripts. In no work of that period, or even of
a much later time, are found so many first-hand observations of living
speech as in Rask’s _Retskrivningslære_. Handicapped though he was in
many ways, by poverty and illness and by the fact that he wrote in
a language so little known as Danish, Rasmus Rask, through his wide
outlook, his critical sagacity and aversion to all fanciful theorizing,
stands out as one of the foremost leaders of linguistic science.[3]

II.--§ 4. Jacob Grimm.

Jacob Grimm’s career was totally different from Rask’s. Born in 1785
as the son of a lawyer, he himself studied law and came under the
influence of Savigny, whose view of legal institutions as the outcome
of gradual development in intimate connexion with popular tradition and
the whole intellectual and moral life of the people appealed strongly
to the young man’s imagination. But he was drawn even more to that
study of old German popular poetry which then began to be the fashion,
thanks to Tieck and other Romanticists; and when he was in Paris to
assist Savigny with his historico-legal research, the old German
manuscripts in the Bibliothèque nationale nourished his enthusiasm for
the poetical treasures of the Middle Ages. He became a librarian and
brought out his first book, _Ueber den altdeutschen meistergesang_
(1811). At the same time, with his brother Wilhelm as constant
companion and fellow-worker, he began collecting popular traditions,
of which he published a first instalment in his famous _Kinder- und
hausmärchen_ (1812 ff.), a work whose learned notes and comparisons
may be said to have laid the foundation of the science of folklore.
Language at first had only a subordinate interest to him, and when
he tried his hand at etymology, he indulged in the wildest guesses,
according to the method (or want of method) of previous centuries.
A. W. Schlegel’s criticism of his early attempts in this field, and
still more Rask’s example, opened Grimm’s eyes to the necessity of a
stricter method, and he soon threw himself with great energy into a
painstaking and exact study of the oldest stages of the German language
and its congeners. In his review (1812) of Rask’s Icelandic grammar he
writes: “Each individuality, even in the world of languages, should be
respected as sacred; it is desirable that even the smallest and most
despised dialect should be left only to itself and to its own nature
and in nowise subjected to violence, because it is sure to have some
secret advantages over the greatest and most highly valued language.”
Here we meet with that valuation of the hitherto overlooked popular
dialects which sprang from the Romanticists’ interest in the ‘people’
and everything it had produced. Much valuable linguistic work was
directly inspired by this feeling and by conscious opposition to the
old philology, that occupied itself exclusively with the two classical
languages and the upper-class literature embodied in them. As Scherer
expresses it (_Jacob Grimm_, 2te ausg., Berlin, 1885, p. 152): “The
brothers Grimm applied to the old national literature and to popular
traditions the old philological virtue of exactitude, which had up to
then been bestowed solely on Greek and Roman classics and on the Bible.
They extended the field of strict philology, as they extended the field
of recognized poetry. They discarded the aristocratic narrowmindedness
with which philologists looked down on unwritten tradition, on popular
ballads, legends, fairy tales, superstition, nursery rimes.... In the
hands of the two Grimms philology became national and popular; and at
the same time a pattern was created for the scientific study of all the
peoples of the earth and for a comparative investigation of the entire
mental life of mankind, of which written literature is nothing but a
small epitome.”

But though Grimm thus broke loose from the traditions of classical
philology, he still carried with him one relic of it, namely the
standard by which the merits of different languages were measured.
“In reading carefully the old Gothonic (altdeutschen) sources, I was
every day discovering forms and perfections which we generally envy
the Greeks and Romans when we consider the present condition of our
language.”... “Six hundred years ago every rustic knew, that is to say
practised daily, perfections and niceties in the German language of
which the best grammarians nowadays do not even dream; in the poetry of
Wolfram von Eschenbach and of Hartmann von Aue, who had never heard of
declension and conjugation, nay who perhaps did not even know how to
read and write, many differences in the flexion and use of nouns and
verbs are still nicely and unerringly observed, which we have gradually
to rediscover in learned guise, but dare not reintroduce, for language
ever follows its inalterable course.”

Grimm then sets about writing his great historical and comparative
_Deutsche Grammatik_, taking the term ‘deutsch’ in its widest and
hardly justifiable sense of what is now ordinarily called Germanic
and which is in this work called Gothonic. The first volume appeared
in 1819, and in the preface we see that he was quite clear that he
was breaking new ground and introducing a new method of looking at
grammar. He speaks of previous German grammars and says expressly that
he does not want his to be ranged with them. He charges them with
unspeakable pedantry; they wanted to dogmatize magisterially, while to
Grimm language, like everything natural and moral, is an unconscious
and unnoticed secret which is implanted in us in youth. Every German
therefore who speaks his language naturally, i.e. untaught, may call
himself his own living grammar and leave all schoolmasters’ rules
alone. Grimm accordingly has no wish to prescribe anything, but to
observe what has grown naturally, and very appropriately he dedicates
his work to Savigny, who has taught him how institutions grow in the
life of a nation. In the new preface to the second edition there are
also some noteworthy indications of the changed attitude. “I am hostile
to general logical notions in grammar; they conduce apparently to
strictness and solidity of definition, but hamper observation, which I
take to be the soul of linguistic science.... As my starting-point was
to trace the never-resting (unstillstehende) element of our language
which changes with time and place, it became necessary for me to admit
one dialect after the other, and I could not even forbear to glance at
those foreign languages that are ultimately related with ours.”

Here we have the first clear programme of that historical school
which has since then been the dominating one in linguistics. But as
language according to this new point of view was constantly changing
and developing, so also, during these years, were Grimm’s own ideas.
And the man who then exercised the greatest influence on him was Rasmus
Rask. When Grimm wrote the first edition of his _Grammatik_ (1819),
he knew nothing of Rask but the Icelandic grammar, but just before
finishing his own volume Rask’s prize essay reached him, and in the
preface he at once speaks of it in the highest terms of praise, as he
does also in several letters of this period; he is equally enthusiastic
about Rask’s Anglo-Saxon grammar and the Swedish edition of his
Icelandic grammar, neither of which reached him till after his own
first volume had been printed off. The consequence was that instead of
going on to the second volume, Grimm entirely recast the first volume
and brought it out in a new shape in 1822. The chief innovation was the
phonology or, as he calls it, “Erstes buch. Von den buchstaben,” which
was entirely absent in 1819, but now ran to 595 pages.

II.--§ 5. The Sound Shift.

This first book in the 1822 volume contains much, perhaps most, of
what constitutes Grimm’s fame as a grammarian, notably his exposition
of the ‘sound shift’ (lautverschiebung), which it has been customary
in England since Max Müller to term ‘Grimm’s Law.’ If any one man is
to give his name to this law, a better name would be ‘Rask’s Law,’ for
all these transitions, Lat. Gr. _p_ = _f_, _t_ = _þ_ (_th_), _k_ = _h_,
etc., are enumerated in Rask’s _Undersøgelse_, p. 168, which Grimm knew
before he wrote a single word about the sound shift.

Now, it is interesting to compare the two scholars’ treatment of these
transitions. The sober-minded, matter-of-fact Rask contents himself
with a bare statement of the facts, with just enough well-chosen
examples to establish the correspondence; the way in which he arranges
the sounds shows that he saw their parallelism clearly enough, though
he did not attempt to bring everything under one single formula, any
more than he tried to explain why these sounds had changed.[4] Grimm
multiplies the examples and then systematizes the whole process in one
formula so as to comprise also the ‘second shift’ found in High German
alone--a shift well known to Rask, though treated by him in a different
place (p. 68 f.). Grimm’s formula looks thus:

  Greek     p     b     f | t    d    th | k    g    ch
  Gothic    f     p     b | th   t    d  | h    k    g
  High G.   b(v)  f     p | d    z    t  | g    ch   k,

which may be expressed generally thus, that tenuis (T) becomes aspirate
(A) and then media (M), etc., or, tabulated:

  Greek     T   M   A
  Gothic    A   T   M
  High G.   M   A   T.

For this Grimm would of course have deserved great credit, because a
comprehensive formula is more scientific than a rough statement of
facts--_if_ the formula had been correct; but unfortunately it is not
so. In the first place, it breaks down in the very first instance, for
there is no media in High German corresponding to Gr. _p_ and Gothic
_f_ (cf. _poûs_, _fotus_, _fuss_, etc.); secondly, High German has _h_
just as Gothic has, corresponding to Greek _k_ (cf. _kardía_, _hairto_,
_herz_, etc.), and where it has _g_, Gothic has also _g_ in accordance
with rules unknown to Grimm and not explained till long afterwards (by
Verner). But the worst thing is that the whole specious generalization
produces the impression of regularity and uniformity only through the
highly unscientific use of the word ‘aspirate,’ which is made to cover
such phonetically disparate things as (1) combination of stop with
following _h_, (2) combination of stop with following fricative, _pf_,
_ts_ written _z_, (3) voiceless fricative, _f_, _s_ in G. _das_, (4)
voiced fricative, _v_, _ð_ written _th_, and (5) _h_. Grimm rejoiced in
his formula, giving as it does three chronological stages in each of
the three subdivisions (tenuis, media, aspirate) of each of the three
classes of consonants (labial, dental, ‘guttural’). This evidently
took hold of his fancy through the mystic power of the number three,
which he elsewhere (Gesch 1. 191, cf. 241) finds pervading language
generally: three original vowels, _a_, _i_, _u_, three genders, three
numbers (singular, dual, plural), three persons, three ‘voices’
(genera: active, middle, passive), three tenses (present, preterit,
future), three declensions through _a_, _i_, _u_. As there is here
an element of mysticism, so is there also in Grimm’s highflown
explanation of the whole process from pretended popular psychology,
which is full of the cloudiest romanticism. “When once the language
had made the first step and had rid itself of the organic basis of its
sounds, it was hardly possible for it to escape the second step and
not to arrive at the third stage,[5] through which this development
was perfected.... It is impossible not to admire the instinct by which
the linguistic spirit (sprachgeist) carried this out to the end. A
great many sounds got out of joint, but they always knew how to arrange
themselves in a different place and to find the new application of the
old law. I am not saying that the shift happened without any detriment,
nay from one point of view the sound shift appears to me as a barbarous
aberration, from which other more quiet nations abstained, but which
is connected with the violent progress and craving for freedom which
was found in Germany in the beginning of the Middle Ages and which
initiated the transformation of Europe. The Germans pressed forward
even in the matter of the innermost sounds of their language,” etc.,
with remarks on intellectual progress and on victorious and ruling
races. Grimm further says that “die dritte stufe des verschobnen lauts
den kreislauf abschliesse und nach ihr ein neuer ansatz zur abweichung
wieder von vorn anheben müsse. Doch eben weil der sprachgeist seinen
lauf vollbracht hat, scheint er nicht wieder neu beginnen zu wollen”
(GDS 1. 292 f., 299). It would be difficult to attach any clear ideas
to these words.

Grimm’s idea of a ‘kreislauf’ is caused by the notion that the two
shifts, separated by several centuries, represent one continued
movement, while the High German shift of the eighth century has really
no more to do with the primitive Gothonic shift, which took place
probably some time before Christ, than has, for instance, the Danish
shift in words like _gribe_, _bide_, _bage_, from _gripæ_, _bitæ_,
_bakæ_ (about 1400), or the still more recent transition in Danish
through which stressed _t_ in _tid_, _tyve_, etc., sounds nearly like
[ts], as in HG. _zeit_. There cannot possibly be any causal nexus
between such transitions, separated chronologically by long periods,
with just as little change in the pronunciation of these consonants as
there has been in English.[6]

Grimm was anything but a phonetician, and sometimes says things which
nowadays cannot but produce a smile, as when he says (Gr 1. 3) “in our
word _schrift_, for instance, we express eight sounds through seven
signs, for _f_ stands for _ph_”; thus he earnestly believes that _sch_
contains three sounds, _s_ and the ‘aspirate’ _ch_ = _c_ + _h_! Yet
through the irony of fate it was on the history of sounds that Grimm
exercised the strongest influence. As in other parts of his grammar, so
also in the “theory of letters” he gave fuller word lists than people
had been accustomed to, and this opened the eyes of scholars to the
great regularity reigning in this department of linguistic development.
Though in his own etymological practice he was far from the strict idea
of ‘phonetic law’ that played such a prominent rôle in later times, he
thus paved the way for it. He speaks of law at any rate in connexion
with the consonant shift, and there recognizes that it serves to curb
wild etymologies and becomes a test for them (Gesch 291). The consonant
shift thus became _the_ law in linguistics, and because it affected a
great many words known to everybody, and in a new and surprising way
associated well-known Latin or Greek words with words of one’s own
mother-tongue, it became popularly the keystone of a new wonderful

Grimm coined several of the terms now generally used in linguistics;
thus _umlaut_ and _ablaut_, ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ declensions and
conjugations. As to the first, we have seen that it was Rask who first
understood and who taught Grimm the cause of this phenomenon, which
in English has often been designated by the German term, while Sweet
calls it ‘mutation’ and others better ‘infection.’ With regard to
‘ablaut’ (Sweet: gradation, best perhaps in English apophony), Rask
termed it ‘omlyd,’ a word which he never applied to Grimm’s ‘umlaut,’
thus keeping the two kinds of vowel change as strictly apart as Grimm
does. Apophony was first discovered in that class of verbs which
Grimm called ‘strong’; he was fascinated by the commutation of the
vowels in _springe_, _sprang_, _gesprungen_, and sees in it, as in
_bimbambum_, something mystic and admirable, characteristic of the old
German spirit. He was thus blind to the correspondences found in other
languages, and his theory led him astray in the second volume, in which
he constructed imaginary verbal roots to explain apophony wherever it
was found outside the verbs.

Though Grimm, as we have seen, was by his principles and whole tendency
averse to prescribing laws for a language, he is sometimes carried
away by his love for mediæval German, as when he gives as the correct
nominative form _der boge_, though everybody for centuries had said
_der bogen_. In the same way many of his followers would apply the
historical method to questions of correctness of speech, and would
discard the forms evolved in later times in favour of previously
existing forms which were looked upon as more ‘organic.’

It will not be necessary here to speak of the imposing work done by
Grimm in the rest of his long life, chiefly spent as a professor in
Berlin. But in contrast to the ordinary view I must say that what
appears to me as most likely to endure is his work on syntax, contained
in the fourth volume of his grammar and in monographs. Here his
enormous learning, his close power of observation, and his historical
method stand him in good stead, and there is much good sense and
freedom from that kind of metaphysical systematism which was triumphant
in contemporaneous work on classical syntax. His services in this field
are the more interesting because he did not himself seem to set much
store by these studies and even said that syntax was half outside the
scope of grammar. This utterance belongs to a later period than that of
the birth of historical and comparative linguistics, and we shall have
to revert to it after sketching the work of the third great founder of
this science, to whom we shall now turn.

II.--§ 6. Franz Bopp.

The third, by some accounted the greatest, among the founders of modern
linguistic science was Franz Bopp. His life was uneventful. At the age
of twenty-one (he was born in 1791) he went to Paris to study Oriental
languages, and soon concentrated his attention on Sanskrit. His first
book, from which it is customary in Germany to date the birth of
Comparative Philology, appeared in 1816, while he was still in Paris,
under the title _Ueber des conjugationssystem der sanskritsprache in
vergleichung mit jenem der griechischen, lateinischen, persischen und
germanischen sprache_, but the latter part of the small volume was
taken up with translations from Sanskrit, and for a long time he was
just as much a Sanskrit scholar, editing and translating Sanskrit
texts, as a comparative grammarian. He showed himself in the latter
character in several papers read before the Berlin Academy, after he
had been made a professor there in 1822, and especially in his famous
_Vergleichende grammatik des sanskrit, ṣend, armenischen, griechischen,
lateinischen, litauischen, altslawischen, gotischen und deutschen_, the
first edition of which was published between 1833 and 1849, the second
in 1857, and the third in 1868. Bopp died in 1867.

Of Bopp’s _Conjugationssystem_ a revised, rearranged and greatly
improved English translation came out in 1820 under the title
_Analytical Comparison of the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Teutonic
Languages_. This was reprinted with a good introduction by F. Techmer
in his _Internationale zeitschrift für allgem. sprachwissenschaft IV_
(1888), and in the following remarks I shall quote this (abbreviated
AC) instead of, or alongside of, the German original (abbreviated C).

Bopp’s chief aim (and in this he was characteristically different
from Rask) was to find out the ultimate origin of grammatical forms.
He follows his quest by the aid of Sanskrit forms, though he does not
consider these as the ultimate forms themselves: “I do not believe that
the Greek, Latin, and other European languages are to be considered as
derived from the Sanskrit in the state in which we find it in Indian
books; I feel rather inclined to consider them altogether as subsequent
variations of one original tongue, which, however, the Sanskrit has
preserved more perfect than its kindred dialects. But whilst therefore
the language of the Brahmans more frequently enables us to conjecture
the primitive form of the Greek and Latin languages than what we
discover in the oldest authors and monuments, the latter on their side
also may not unfrequently elucidate the Sanskrit grammar” (AC 3).
Herein subsequent research has certainly borne out Bopp’s view.

After finding out by a comparison of the grammatical forms of
Sanskrit, Greek, etc., which of these forms were identical and what
were their oldest shapes, he tries to investigate the ultimate origin
of these forms. This he takes to be a comparatively easy consequence
of the first task, but he was here too much under the influence of
the philosophical grammar then in vogue. Gottfried Hermann (_De
emendanda ratione Græcæ grammaticæ_, 1801), on purely logical grounds,
distinguishes three things as necessary elements of each sentence, the
subject, the predicate, and the copula joining the first two elements
together; as the power of the verb is to attribute the predicate to
the subject, there is really only one verb, namely the verb _to be_.
Bopp’s teacher in Paris, Silvestre de Sacy, says the same thing, and
Bopp repeats: “A verb, in the most restricted meaning of the term, is
that part of speech by which a subject is connected with its attribute.
According to this definition it would appear that there can exist only
one verb, namely, the substantive verb, in Latin _esse_; in English,
_to be_.... Languages of a structure similar to that of the Greek,
Latin, etc., can express by one verb of this kind a whole logical
proposition, in which, however, that part of speech which expresses
the connexion of the subject with its attribute, which is the
characteristic function of the verb, is generally entirely omitted or
understood. The Latin verb _dat_ expresses the proposition ‘he gives,’
or ‘he is giving’: the letter _t_, indicating the third person, is the
subject, _da_ expresses the attribute of giving, and the grammatical
_copula_ is understood. In the verb _potest_, the latter is expressed,
and _potest_ unites in itself the three essential parts of speech, _t_
being the subject, _es_ the copula, and _pot_ the attribute.”

Starting from this logical conception of grammar, Bopp is inclined to
find everywhere the ‘substantive verb’ _to be_ in its two Sanskrit
forms _as_ and _bhu_ as an integral part of verbal forms. He is not
the first to think that terminations, which are now inseparable parts
of a verb, were originally independent words; thus Horne Tooke (in
_Epea pteroenta_, 1786, ii. 429) expressly says that “All those common
terminations in any language ... are themselves separate words with
distinct meanings,” and explains, for instance, Latin _ibo_ from _i_,
‘_go_’ + _b_, ‘_will_,’ from Greek _boúl(omai)_ + _o_ ‘_I_,’ from
_ego_. Bopp’s explanations are similar to this, though they do not
imply such violent shortenings as that of _boúl(omai)_ to _b_.
He finds the root Sanskrit _as_, ‘to be,’ in Latin perfects like
_scrip-s-i_, in Greek aorists like _e-tup-s-a_ and in futures like
_tup-s-o_. That the same addition thus indicates different tenses does
not trouble Bopp greatly; he explains Lat. _fueram_ from _fu_ + _es_ +
_am_, etc., and says that the root _fu_ “contains, properly, nothing
to indicate past time, but the usage of language having supplied the
want of an adequate inflexion, _fui_ received the sense of a perfect,
and _fu-eram_, which would be nothing more than an imperfect, that of
a pluperfect, and after the same manner _fu-ero_ signifies ‘I shall
have been,’ instead of ‘I shall be’” (AC 57). All Latin verbal endings
containing _r_ are thus explained as being ultimately formed with the
substantive verb (_ama-rem_, etc.); thus among others the infinitives
_fac-ere_, _ed-ere_, as well as _esse_, _posse_: “_E_ is properly, in
Latin, the termination of a simple infinitive active; and the root _Es_
produced anciently _ese_, by adding _e_; the _s_ having afterwards been
doubled, we have _esse_. This termination _e_ answers to the Greek
infinitive in _ai_, _eînai_ ...” (AC 58).

If Bopp found a master-key to many of the verbal endings in the
Sanskrit root _es_, he found a key to many others in the other root of
the verb ‘to be,’ Sanskrit _bhu_. He finds it in the Latin imperfect
_da-bam_, as well as in the future _da-bo_, the relation between which
is the same as that between _er-am_ and _er-o_. “_Bo_, _bis_, _bit_
has a striking similarity with the Anglo-Saxon _beo_, _bys_, _byth_,
the future tense of the verb substantive, a similarity which cannot
be considered as merely accidental.” [Here neither the form nor the
function of the Anglo-Saxon is stated quite correctly.] But the ending
in Latin _ama-vi_ is also referred to the same root; for the change
of the _b_ into _v_ we are referred to Italian _amava_, from Lat.
_amabam_; thus also _fui_ is for _fuvi_ and _potui_ is for _pot-vi_:
“languages manifest a constant effort to combine heterogeneous
materials in such a manner as to offer to the ear or eye one perfect
whole, like a statue executed by a skilful artist, that wears the
appearance of a figure hewn out of one piece of marble” (AC 60).

The following may be taken as a fair specimen of the method followed
in these first attempts to account for the origin of flexional forms:
“The Latin passive forms _amat-ur_, _amant-ur_, would, in some measure,
conform to this mode of joining the verb substantive, if the _r_ was
also the result of a permutation of an original _s_; and this appears
not quite incredible, if we compare the second person _ama-ris_ with
the third _amat-ur_. Either in one or the other there must be a
transposition of letters, to which the Latin language is particularly
addicted. If _ama-ris_, which might have been produced from _ama-sis_,
has preserved the original order of letters, then _ama-tur_ must be
the transposition of _ama-rut_ or _ama-sut_, and _ama-ntur_ that of
_ama-runt_ or _ama-sunt_. If this be the case, the origin of the
Latin passive can be accounted for, and although differing from that
of the Sanskrit, Greek, and Gothic languages, it is not produced by
the invention of a new grammatical form. It becomes clear, also, why
many verbs, with a passive form, have an active signification; because
there is no reason why the addition of the verb substantive should
necessarily produce a passive sense. There is another way of explaining
_ama-ris_, if it really stands for _ama-sis_; the _s_ may be the
radical consonant of the reflex pronoun _se_. The introduction of this
pronoun would be particularly adapted to form the middle voice, which
expresses the reflexion of the action upon the actor; but the Greek
language exemplifies the facility with which the peculiar signification
of the middle voice passes into that of the passive.” The reasoning in
the beginning of this passage (the only one contained in C) carries
us back to a pre-scientific atmosphere, of which there are few or
no traces in Rask’s writings; the latter explanation (added in AC)
was preferred by Bopp himself in later works, and was for many years
accepted as the correct one, until scholars found a passive in _r_ in
Keltic, where the transition from _s_ to _r_ is not found as it is in
Latin; and as the closely corresponding forms in Keltic and Italic must
obviously be explained in the same way, the hypothesis of a composition
with _se_ was generally abandoned. Bopp’s partiality for the abstract
verb is seen clearly when he explains the Icelandic passive in _-st_
from _s_ = _es_ (C 132); here Rask and Grimm saw the correct and
obvious explanation.

Among the other explanations given first by Bopp must be mentioned the
Latin second person of the passive voice _-mini_, as in _ama-mini_,
which he takes to be the nominative masculine plural of a participle
corresponding to Greek _-menos_ and found in a different form in Lat.
_alumnus_ (AC 51). This explanation is still widely accepted, though
not by everybody.

With regard to the preterit of what Grimm was later to term the ‘weak’
verbs, Bopp vacillates between different explanations. In C 118 he
thinks the _t_ or _d_ is identical with the ending of the participle,
in which the case endings were omitted and supplanted by personal
endings; the syllable _ed_ after _d_ [in Gothic _sok-id-edum_; ‘Greek,’
p. 119, must be a misprint for Gothic] is nothing but an accidental
addition. But on p. 151 he sees in _sokidedun_, _sokidedi_, a connexion
of _sok_ with the preterit of the verb _Tun_, as if the Germans were
to say _suchetaten_, _suchetäte_; he compares the English use of _did_
(_did seek_), and thinks the verb used is G. _tun_, Goth. _tanjan_.
The theory of composition is here restricted to those forms that
contain two _d’s_, i.e. the plural indicative and the subjunctive. In
the English edition this twofold explanation is repeated with some
additions: _d_ or _t_ as in Gothic _sok-i-da_ and _oh-ta_ originates
from a participle found in Sanskr. _tyak-ta_, _likh-i-ta_, Lat.
_-tus_, Gr. _-tós_; this suffix generally has a passive sense, but in
neuter verbs an active sense, and therefore would naturally serve to
form a preterit tense with an active signification. He finds a proof
of the connexion between this preterit and the participle in the
fact that only such verbs as have this ending in the participle form
their preterit by means of a dental, while the others (the ‘strong’
verbs, as Grimm afterwards termed them) have a participle in _an_ and
reduplication or a change of vowel in the preterit; and Bopp compares
the Greek aorist passive _etúphth-ēn_, _edóth-ēn_, which he conceives
may proceed from the participle _tuphth-eís_, _doth-eís_ (AC 37 ff.).
This suggestion seems to have been commonly overlooked or abandoned,
while the other explanation, from _dedi_ as in English _did seek_,
which Bopp gives p. 49 for the subjunctive and the indicative plural,
was accepted by Grimm as the explanation of all the forms, even of
those containing only one dental; in later works Bopp agreed with
Grimm and thus gave up the first part of his original explanation. The
_did_ explanation had been given already by D. von Stade (d. 1718, see
Collitz, _Das schwache präteritum_, p. 1); Rask (P 270, not mentioned
by Collitz) says: “Whence this _d_ or _t_ has come is not easy to tell,
as it is not found in Latin and Greek, but as it is evident from the
Icelandic grammar that it is closely connected with the past participle
and is also found in the preterit subjunctive, it seems clear that it
must have been an old characteristic of the past tense in every mood,
but was lost in Greek when the above-mentioned participles in _tos_
disappeared from the verbs” (cf. Ch. XIX § 12).

With regard to the vowels, Bopp in AC has the interesting theory that
it is only through a defect in the alphabet that Sanskrit appears to
have _a_ in so many places; he believes that the spoken language had
often “the short Italian _e_ and _o_,” where _a_ was written. “If this
was the case, we can give a reason why, in words common to the Sanskrit
and Greek, the Indian _akāra_ [that is, short _a_] so often corresponds
to ε and ο, as, for instance, _asti_, he is, ἐστί; _patis_, husband,
πόσις; _ambaras_, sky, ὄμβρος, rain, etc.” Later, unfortunately, Bopp
came under the influence of Grimm, who, as we saw, on speculative
grounds admitted in the primitive language only the three vowels
_a_, _i_, _u_, and Bopp and his followers went on believing that
the Sanskrit _a_ represented the original state of language, until
the discovery of the ‘palatal law’ (about 1880) showed (what Bopp’s
occasional remark might otherwise easily have led up to, if he had not
himself discarded it) that the Greek tripartition into _a_, _e_, _o_
represented really a more original state of things.

II.--§ 7. Bopp continued.

In a chapter on the roots in AC (not found in C), Bopp contrasts
the structure of Semitic roots and of our own; in Semitic languages
roots must consist of three letters, neither more nor less, and thus
generally contain two syllables, while in Sanskrit, Greek, etc.,
the character of the root “is not to be determined by the number of
letters, but by that of the syllables, of which they contain only one”;
thus a root like _i_, ‘to go,’ would be unthinkable in Arabic. The
consequence of this structure of the roots is that the inner changes
which play such a large part in expressing grammatical modifications
in Semitic languages must be much more restricted in our family of
languages. These changes were what F. Schlegel termed flexions and
what Bopp himself, two years before (C 7), had named “the truly
organic way” of expressing relation and mentioned as a wonderful
flexibility found in an extraordinary degree in Sanskrit, by the side
of which composition with the verb ‘to be’ is found only occasionally.
Now, however, in 1820, Bopp repudiates Schlegel’s and his own
previous assumption that ‘flexion’ was characteristic of Sanskrit in
contradistinction to other languages in which grammatical modifications
were expressed by the addition of suffixes. On the contrary, while
holding that both methods are employed in all languages, Chinese
perhaps alone excepted, he now thinks that it is the suffix method
which is prevalent in Sanskrit, and that “the only real inflexions
... possible in a language, whose elements are monosyllables, are
the change of their vowels and the repetition of their radical
consonants, otherwise called reduplication.” It will be seen that Bopp
here avoids both the onesidedness found in Schlegel’s division of
languages and the other onesidedness which we shall encounter in later
theories, according to which _all_ grammatical elements are originally
independent subordinate roots added to the main root.

In his _Vocalismus_ (1827, reprinted 1836) Bopp opposes Grimm’s theory
that the changes for which Grimm had introduced the term _ablaut_ were
due to psychological causes; in other words, possessed an inner meaning
from the very outset. Bopp inclined to a mechanical explanation[7]
and thought them dependent on the weight of the endings, as shown by
the contrast between Sanskr. _vēda_, Goth. _vait_, Gr. _oîda_ and the
plural, respectively _vidima_, _vitum_, _ídmen_. In this instance
Bopp is in closer agreement than Grimm with the majority of younger
scholars, who see in apophony (ablaut) an originally non-significant
change brought about mechanically by phonetic conditions, though they
do not find these in the ‘weight’ of the ending, but in the primeval
accent: the accentuation of Sanskrit was not known to Bopp when he
wrote his essay.

The personal endings of the verbs had already been identified with
the corresponding pronouns by Scheidius (1790) and Rask (P 258);
Bopp adopts the same view, only reproaching Scheidius for thinking
exclusively of the nominative forms of the pronouns.

It thus appears that in his early work Bopp deals with a great
many general problems, but his treatment is suggestive rather than
exhaustive or decisive, for there are too many errors in details
and his whole method is open to serious criticism. A modern reader
is astonished to see the facility with which violent changes of
sounds, omissions and transpositions of consonants, etc., are
gratuitously accepted. Bopp never reflected as deeply as Rask did
on what constitutes linguistic kinship, hence in C he accepts the
common belief that Persian was related more closely to German than
to Sanskrit, and in later life he tried to establish a relationship
between the Malayo-Polynesian and the Indo-European languages. But in
spite of all this it must be recognized that in his long laborious
life he accomplished an enormous amount of highly meritorious work,
not only in Sanskrit philology, but also in comparative grammar, in
which he gradually freed himself of his worst methodical errors. He was
constantly widening his range of vision, taking into consideration more
and more cognate languages. The ingenious way in which he explained the
curious Keltic shiftings in initial consonants (which had so puzzled
Rask as to make him doubt of a connexion of these languages with our
family, but which Bopp showed to be dependent on a lost final sound of
the preceding word) definitely and irrefutably established the position
of those languages. Among other things that might be credited to his
genius, I shall select his explanation of the various declensional
classes as determined by the final sound of the stem. But it is not
part of my plan to go into many details; suffice it to say that Bopp’s
great _Vergleichende grammatik_ served for long years as the best, or
really the only, exposition of the new science, and vastly contributed
not only to elucidate obscure points, but also to make comparative
grammar as popular as it is possible for such a necessarily abstruse
science to be.

In Bopp’s _Vergleichende grammatik_ (1. § 108) he gives his
classification of languages in general. He rejects Fr. Schlegel’s
bipartition, but his growing tendency to explain everything in Aryan
grammar, even the inner changes of Sanskrit roots, by mechanical
causes makes him modify A. W. Schlegel’s tripartition and place our
family of languages with the second instead of the third class. His
three classes are therefore as follows: I. Languages without roots
proper and without the power of composition, and thus without organism
or grammar; to this class belongs Chinese, in which most grammatical
relations are only to be recognized by the position of the words. II.
Languages with monosyllabic roots, capable of composition and acquiring
their organism, their grammar, nearly exclusively in this way; the main
principle of word formation is the connexion of verbal and pronominal
roots. To this class belong the Indo-European languages, but also
all languages not comprised under the first or the third class. III.
Languages with disyllabic roots and three necessary consonants as sole
bearers of the signification of the word. This class includes only the
Semitic languages. Grammatical forms are here created not only by means
of composition, as in the second class, but also by inner modification
of the roots.

It will be seen that Bopp here expressly avoids both expressions
‘agglutination’ and ‘flexion,’ the former because it had been used
of languages contrasted with Aryan, while Bopp wanted to show the
essential identity of the two classes; the latter because it had been
invested with much obscurity on account of Fr. Schlegel’s use of it
to signify inner modification only. According to Schlegel, only such
instances as English _drink_ / _drank_ / _drunk_ are pure flexion,
while German _trink-e_ / _trank_ / _ge-trunk-en_, and still more Greek
_leip-ō_ / _e-lip-on_ / _le-loip-a_, besides an element of ‘flexion’
contain also affixed elements. It is clear that no language can use
‘flexion’ (in Schlegel’s sense) exclusively, and consequently this
cannot be made a principle on which to erect a classification of
languages generally. Schlegel’s use of the term ‘flexion’ seems to have
been dropped by all subsequent writers, who use it so as to include
what is actually found in the grammar of such languages as Sanskrit and
Greek, comprising under it inner and outer modifications, but of course
not requiring both in the same form.

In view of the later development of our science, it is worthy of notice
that neither in the brothers Schlegel nor in Bopp do we yet meet
with the idea that the classes set up are not only a distribution of
the languages found side by side in the world at this time, but also
represent so many stages in historical development; indeed, Bopp’s
definitions are framed so as positively to exclude any development from
his Class II to Class III, as the character of the underlying roots
is quite heterogeneous. On the other hand, Bopp’s tendency to explain
Aryan endings from originally independent roots paved the way for the
theory of isolation, agglutination and flexion as three successive
stages of the same language.

In his first work (C 56) Bopp had already hinted that in the earliest
period known to us languages had already outlived their most perfect
state and were in a process of decay; and in his review of Grimm (1827)
he repeats this: “We perceive them in a condition in which they may
indeed be progressive syntactically, but have, as far as grammar is
concerned, lost more or less of what belonged to the perfect structure,
in which the separate members stand in exact relation to each other
and in which everything derived has still a visible and unimpaired
connexion with its source” (Voc. 2). We shall see kindred ideas in
Humboldt and Schleicher.

To sum up: Bopp set about discovering the ultimate origin of flexional
elements, but instead of that he discovered Comparative Grammar--“à peu
près comme Christophe Colomb a découvert l’Amérique en cherchant la
route des Indes,” as A. Meillet puts it (LI 413). A countryman of Rask
may be forgiven for pushing the French scholar’s brilliant comparison
still further: in the same way as Norsemen from Iceland had discovered
America before Columbus, without imagining that they were finding the
way to India, just so Rasmus Rask through his Icelandic studies had
discovered Comparative Grammar before Bopp, without needing to take the
circuitous route through Sanskrit.

II.--§ 8. Wilhelm von Humboldt.

This will be the proper place to mention one of the profoundest
thinkers in the domain of linguistics, Wilhelm von Humboldt
(1767-1835), who, while playing an important part in the political
world, found time to study a great many languages and to think deeply
on many problems connected with philology and ethnography.[8]

In numerous works, the most important of which, _Ueber die Kawisprache
auf der Insel Jawa_, with the famous introduction “Ueber die
Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues und ihren Einfluss auf
die geistige Entwickelung des Menschengeschlechts,” was published
posthumously in 1836-40, Humboldt developed his linguistic philosophy,
of which it is not easy to give a succinct idea, as it is largely
couched in a most abstruse style; it is not surprising that his admirer
and follower, Heymann Steinthal, in a series of books, gave as many
different interpretations of Humboldt’s thoughts, each purporting to be
more correct than its predecessors. Still, I believe the following may
be found to be a tolerably fair rendering of some of Humboldt’s ideas.

He rightly insists on the importance of seeing in language a continued
activity. Language is not a substance or a finished work, but
action (Sie selbst ist kein werk, _ergon_, sondern eine tätigkeit,
_energeia_). Language therefore cannot be defined except genetically.
It is the ever-repeated labour of the mind to utilize articulated
sounds to express thoughts. Strictly speaking, this is a definition of
each separate act of speech; but truly and essentially a language must
be looked upon as the totality of such acts. For the words and rules,
which according to our ordinary notions make up a language, exist
really only in the act of connected speech. The breaking up of language
into words and rules is nothing but a dead product of our bungling
scientific analysis (Versch 41). Nothing in language is static,
everything is dynamic. Language has nowhere any abiding place, not even
in writing; its dead part must continually be re-created in the mind;
in order to exist it must be spoken or understood, and so pass in its
entirety into the subject (ib. 63).

Humboldt speaks continually of languages as more perfect or less
perfect. Yet “no language should be condemned or depreciated, not
even that of the most savage tribe, for each language is a picture of
the original aptitude for language” (Versch 304). In another place he
speaks about special excellencies even of languages that cannot in
themselves be recognized as superlatively good instruments of thought.
Undoubtedly Chinese of the old style carries with it an impressive
dignity through the immediate succession of nothing but momentous
notions; it acquires a simple greatness because it throws away all
unnecessary accessory elements and thus, as it were, takes flight to
pure thinking. Malay is rightly praised for its ease and the great
simplicity of its constructions. The Semitic languages retain an
admirable art in the nice discrimination of sense assigned to many
shades of vowels. Basque possesses a particular vigour, dependent on
the briefness and boldness of expression imparted by the structure
of its words and by their combination. Delaware and other American
languages express in one word a number of ideas for which we should
require many words. The human mind is always capable of producing
something admirable, however one-sided it may be; such special points
decide nothing with regard to the rank of languages (Versch 189 f.). We
have here, as indeed continually in Humboldt, a valuation of languages
with many brilliant remarks, but on the whole we miss the concrete
details abounding in Jenisch’s work. Humboldt, as it were, lifts us
to a higher plane, where the air may be purer, but where it is also
thinner and not seldom cloudier as well.

According to Humboldt, each separate language, even the most despised
dialect, should be looked upon as an organic whole, different from all
the rest and expressing the individuality of the people speaking it; it
is characteristic of one nation’s psyche, and indicates the peculiar
way in which that nation attempts to realize the ideal of speech. As
a language is thus symbolic of the national character of those who
speak it, very much in each language had its origin in a symbolic
representation of the notion it stands for; there is a natural nexus
between certain sounds and certain general ideas, and consequently we
often find similar sounds used for the same, or nearly the same, idea
in languages not otherwise related to one another.

Humboldt is opposed to the idea of ‘general’ or ‘universal’ grammar as
understood in his time; instead of this purely deductive grammar he
would found an inductive general grammar, based upon the comparison of
the different ways in which the same grammatical notion was actually
expressed in a variety of languages. He set the example in his paper
on the Dual. His own studies covered a variety of languages; but his
works do not give us many actual concrete facts from the languages he
had studied; he was more interested in abstract reasonings on language
in general than in details.

In an important paper, _Ueber das Entstehen der grammatischen Formen
und ihren Einfluss auf die Ideenentwickelung_ (1822), he says that
language at first denotes only objects, leaving it to the hearer to
understand or guess at (hinzudenken) their connexion. By and by the
word-order becomes fixed, and some words lose their independent use and
sound, so that in the second stage we see grammatical relations denoted
through word-order and through words vacillating between material
and formal significations. Gradually these become affixes, but the
connexion is not yet firm, the joints are still visible, the result
being an aggregate, not yet a unit. Thus in the third stage we have
something analogous to form, but not real form. This is achieved in the
fourth stage, where the word is _one_, only modified in its grammatical
relations through the flexional sound; each word belongs to one
definite part of speech, and form-words have no longer any disturbing
material signification, but are pure expressions of relation. Such
words as Lat. _amavit_ and Greek _epoíēsas_ are truly grammatical forms
in contradistinction to such combinations of words and syllables as
are found in cruder languages, because we have here a fusion into one
whole, which causes the signification of the parts to be forgotten and
joins them firmly under one accent. Though Humboldt thus thinks flexion
developed out of agglutination, he distinctly repudiates the idea of
a gradual development and rather inclines to something like a sudden
crystallization (see especially Steinthal’s ed., p. 585).

Humboldt’s position with regard to the classification of languages
is interesting. In his works we continually meet with the
terms agglutination[9] and flexion by the side of a new term,
‘incorporation.’ This he finds in full bloom in many American
languages, such as Mexican, where the object may be inserted into
the verbal form between the element indicating person and the root.
Now, Humboldt says that besides Chinese, which has no grammatical
form, there are three possible forms of languages, the flexional, the
agglutinative and the incorporating, but he adds that all languages
contain one or more of these forms (Versch 301). He tends to deny the
existence of any exclusively agglutinative or exclusively flexional
language, as the two principles are generally commingled (132). Flexion
is the only method that gives to the word the true inner firmness and
at the same time distributes the parts of the sentence according to
the necessary interlacing of thoughts, and thus undoubtedly represents
the pure principle of linguistic structure. Now, the question is,
what language carries out this method in the most consistent way?
True perfection may not be found in any one language: in the Semitic
languages we find flexion in its most genuine shape, united with the
most refined symbolism, only it is not pursued consistently in all
parts of the language, but restricted by more or less accidental laws.
On the other hand, in the Sanskritic languages the compact unity of
every word saves flexion from any suspicion of agglutination; it
pervades all parts of the language and rules it in the highest freedom
(Versch 188). Compared with incorporation and with the method of
loose juxtaposition without any real word-unity, flexion appears as
an intuitive principle born of true linguistic genius (ib.). Between
Sanskrit and Chinese, as the two opposed poles of linguistic structure,
each of them perfect in the consistent following one principle, we
may place all the remaining languages (ib. 326). But the languages
called agglutinative have nothing in common except just the negative
trait that they are neither isolating nor flexional. The structural
diversities of human languages are so great that they make one despair
of a fully comprehensive classification (ib. 330).

According to Humboldt, language is in continued development under
the influence of the changing mental power of its speakers. In this
development there are naturally two definite periods, one in which the
creative instinct of speech is still growing and active, and another
in which a seeming stagnation begins and then an appreciable decline
of that creative instinct. Still, the period of decline may initiate
new principles of life and new successful changes in a language (Versch
184). In the form-creating period nations are occupied more with the
language than with its purpose, i.e. with what it is meant to signify.
They struggle to express thought, and this craving in connexion with
the inspiring feeling of success produces and sustains the creative
power of language (ib. 191). In the second period we witness a
wearing-off of the flexional forms. This is found less in languages
reputed crude or rough than in refined ones. Language is exposed to
the most violent changes when the human mind is most active, for
then it considers too careful an observation of the modifications of
sound as superfluous. To this may be added a want of perception of the
poetic charm inherent in the sound. Thus it is the transition from
a more sensuous to a more intellectual mood that works changes in a
language. In other cases less noble causes are at work. Rougher organs
and less sensitive ears are productive of indifference to the principle
of harmony, and finally a prevalent practical trend may bring about
abbreviations and omissions of all kinds in its contempt for everything
that is not strictly necessary for the purpose of being understood.
While in the first period the elements still recall their origin to
man’s consciousness, there is an æsthetic pleasure in developing the
instrument of mental activity; but in the second period language
serves only the practical needs of life. In this way such a language
as English may reduce its forms so as to resemble the structure of
Chinese; but there will always remain traces of the old flexions; and
English is no more incapable of high excellences than German (Versch
282-6). What these are Humboldt, however, does not tell us.

II.--§ 9. Grimm Once More.

Humboldt here foreshadowed and probably influenced ideas to which Jacob
Grimm gave expression in two essays written in his old age and which it
will be necessary here to touch upon. In the essay on the pedantry of
the German language (_Ueber das pedantische in der deutschen sprache_,
1847), Grimm says that he has so often praised his mother-tongue that
he has acquired the right once in a while to blame it. If pedantry had
not existed already, Germans would have invented it; it is the shadowy
side of one of their virtues, painstaking accuracy and loyalty. Grimm’s
essay is an attempt at estimating a language, but on the whole it is
less comprehensive and less deep than that of Jenisch. Grimm finds
fault with such things as the ceremoniousness with which princes are
spoken to and spoken of (_Durchlauchtigster_, _allerhöchstderselbe_),
and the use of the pronoun _Sie_ in the third person plural in
addressing a single person; he speaks of the clumsiness of the
auxiliaries for the passive, the past and the future, and of the
word-order which makes the Frenchman cry impatiently “J’attends le
verbe.” He blames the use of capitals for substantives and other
peculiarities of German spelling, but gives no general statement of the
principles on which the comparative valuation of different languages
should be based, though in many passages we see that he places the old
stages of the language very much higher than the language of his own

The essay on the origin of language (1851) is much more important, and
may be said to contain the mature expression of all Grimm’s thoughts
on the philosophy of language. Unfortunately, much of it is couched
in that high-flown poetical style which may be partly a consequence
of Grimm’s having approached the exact study of language through the
less exact studies of popular poetry and folklore; this style is
not conducive to clear ideas, and therefore renders the task of the
reporter very difficult indeed. Grimm at some length argues against
the possibility of language having been either created by God when he
created man or having been revealed by God to man after his creation.
The very imperfections and changeability of language speak against its
divine origin. Language as gradually developed must be the work of man
himself, and therein is different from the immutable cries and songs of
the lower creation. Nature and natural instinct have no history, but
mankind has. Man and woman were created as grown-up and marriageable
beings, and there must have been created at once more than one couple,
for if there had been only one couple, there would have been the
possibility that the one mother had borne only sons or only daughters,
further procreation being thus rendered impossible (!), not to mention
the moral objections to marriages between brother and sister. How these
once created beings, human in every respect except in language, were
able to begin talking and to find themselves understood, Grimm does not
really tell us; he uses such expressions as ‘inventors’ of words, but
apart from the symbolical value of some sounds, such as _l_ and _r_,
he thinks that the connexion of word and sense was quite arbitrary. On
the other hand, he can tell us a great deal about the first stage of
human speech: it contained only the three vowels _a_, _i_, _u_, and
only few consonant groups; every word was a monosyllable, and abstract
notions were at first absent. The existence in all (?) old languages
of masculine and feminine flexions must be due to the influence of
women on the formation of language. Through the distinction of genders
Grimm says that regularity and clearness were suddenly brought about in
everything concerning the noun as by a most happy stroke of fortune.
Endings to indicate person, number, tense and mood originated in added
pronouns and auxiliary words, which at first were loosely joined to
the root, but later coalesced with it. Besides, reduplication was used
to indicate the past; and after the absorption of the reduplicational
syllable the same effect was obtained in German through apophony.
All nouns presuppose verbs, whose material sense was applied to the
designation of things, as when G. _hahn_ (‘cock’) was thus called from
an extinct verb _hanan_, corresponding to Lat. _canere_, ‘to sing.’

In what Grimm says about the development of language it is easy to
trace the influence of Humboldt’s ideas, though they are worked out
with great originality. He discerns three stages, the last two alone
being accessible to us through historical documents. In the first
period we have the creation and growing of roots and words, in the
second the flourishing of a perfect flexion, and in the third a
tendency to thoughts, which leads to the giving up of flexion as not
yet (?) satisfactory. They may be compared to leaf, blossom and fruit,
“the beauty of human speech did not bloom in its beginning, but in its
middle period; its ripest fruits will not be gathered till some time in
the future.” He thus sums up his theory of the three stages: “Language
in its earliest form was melodious, but diffuse and straggling; in its
middle form it was full of intense poetical vigour; in our own days it
seeks to remedy the diminution of beauty by the harmony of the whole,
and is more effective though it has inferior means.” In most places
Grimm still speaks of the downward course of linguistic development;
all the oldest languages of our family “show a rich, pleasant and
admirable perfection of form, in which all material and spiritual
elements have vividly interpenetrated each other,” while in the later
developments of the same languages the inner power and subtlety of
flexion has generally been given up and destroyed, though partly
replaced by external means and auxiliary words. On the whole, then, the
history of language discloses a descent from a period of perfection to
a less perfect condition. This is the point of view that we meet with
in nearly all linguists; but there is a new note when Grimm begins
vaguely and dimly to see that the loss of flexional forms is sometimes
compensated by other things that may be equally valuable or even more
valuable; and he even, without elaborate arguments, contradicts his
own main contention when he says that “human language is retrogressive
only apparently and in particular points, but looked upon as a whole
it is progressive, and its intrinsic force is continually increasing.”
He instances the English language, which by sheer making havoc of all
old phonetic laws and by the loss of all flexions has acquired a great
force and power, such as is found perhaps in no other human language.
Its wonderfully happy structure resulted from the marriage of the two
noblest languages of Europe; therefore it was a fit vehicle for the
greatest poet of modern times, and may justly claim the right to be
called a world’s language; like the English people, it seems destined
to reign in future even more than now in all parts of the earth. This
enthusiastic panegyric forms a striking contrast to what the next great
German scholar with whom we have to deal, Schleicher, says about the
same language, which to him shows only “how rapidly the language of a
nation important both in history and literature can decline” (II. 231).


[2] It dates back to Vulcanius, 1597; see Streitberg, IF 35. 182.

[3] I have given a life of Rask and an appraisement of his work in the
small volume _Rasmus Rask_ (Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 1918). See also
Vilh. Thomsen, _Samlede afhandlinger_, 1. 47 ff. and 125 ff. A good
and full account of Rask’s work is found in Raumer, _Gesch._; cf. also
Paul, _Gr._ Recent short appreciations of his genius may be read in
Trombetti, _Come si fa la critica_, 1907, p. 41, Meillet, LI, p. 415,
Hirt, Idg, pp. 74 and 578.

[4] Only in one subordinate point did Rask make a mistake (_b_ = _b_),
which is all the more venial as there are extremely few examples of
this sound. Bredsdorff (_Aarsagerne_, 1821, p. 21) evidently had
the law from Rask, and gives it in the comprehensive formula which
Paul (Gr. 1. 86) misses in Rask and gives as Grimm’s meritorious
improvement on Rask. “The Germanic family has most often aspirates
where Greek has tenues, tenues where it has mediæ, and again mediæ
where it has aspirates, e.g. _fod_, Gr. _pous_; _horn_, Gr. _keras_;
_þrír_, Gr. _treis_; _padde_, Gr. _batrakhos_; _kone_, Gr. _gunē_;
_ti_, Gr. _deka_; _bærer_, Gr. _pherō_; _galde_, Gr. _kholē_; _dør_,
Gr. _thura_.” To the word ‘horn’ was appended a foot-note to the effect
that _h_ without doubt here originally was the German _ch_-sound. This
was one year before Grimm stated his law!

[5] The muddling of the negatives is Grimm’s, not the translator’s.

[6] I am therefore surprised to find that in a recent article (_Am.
Journ. of Philol._ 39. 415, 1918) Collitz praises Grimm’s view in
preference to Rask’s because he saw “an inherent connexion between
the various processes of the shifting,” which were “subdivisions of
one great law in which the formula T:A:M may be used to illustrate
the shifting (in a single language) of three different groups of
consonants and the result of a double or threefold shifting (in three
different languages) of a single group of consonants. This great law
was unknown to Rask.” Collitz recognizes that “Grimm’s law will hold
good only if we accept the term ‘aspirate’ in the broad sense in
which it is employed by J. Grimm”--but ‘broad’ here means ‘wrong’ or
‘unscientific.’ There is no _kreislauf_ in the case of initial _k_ =
_h_; only in a few of the nine series do we find three distinct stages
(as in _tres_, _three_, _drei_); here we have in Danish three stages,
of which the third is a reversal to the first (_tre_); in E. _mother_
we have five stages: _t_, _þ_, _ð_, _d_, (OE. _modor_) and again _ð_.
Is there an “inherent connexion between the various processes of this
shifting” too?

[7] Probably under the influence of Humboldt, who wrote to him
(September 1826): “Absichtlich grammatisch ist gewiss kein

[8] Humboldt’s relation to Bopp’s general ideas is worth studying; see
his letters to Bopp, printed as Nachtrag to S. Lefman’s _Franz Bopp,
sein leben und seine wissenschaft_ (Berlin, 1897). He is (p. 5) on the
whole of Bopp’s opinion that flexions have arisen through agglutination
of syllables, the independent meaning of which was lost; still, he
is not certain that all flexion can be explained in that way, and
especially doubts it in the case of ‘umlaut,’ under which term he here
certainly includes ‘ablaut,’ as seen by his reference (p. 12) to Greek
future _stalô_ from _stéllō_; he adds that “some flexions are at the
same time so insignificant and so widely spread in languages that I
should be inclined to call them original; for example, our _i_ of the
dative and _m_ of the same case, both of which by their sharper sound
seem intended to call attention to the peculiar nature of this case,
which does not, like the other cases, denote a simple, but a double
relation” (repeated p. 10). Humboldt doubts Bopp’s identification of
the temporal augment with the _a_ privativum. He says (p. 14) that
cases often originate from prepositions, as in American languages and
in Basque, and that he has always explained our genitive, as in G.
_manne-s_, as a remnant of _aus_. This is evidently wrong, as the _s_
of _aus_ is a special High German development from _t_, while the _s_
of the genitive is also found in languages which do not share in this
development of _t_. But the remark is interesting because, apart from
the historical proof to the contrary which we happen to possess in this
case, the derivation is no whit worse than many of the explanations
resorted to by adherents of the agglutinative theory. But Humboldt goes
on to say that in Greek and Latin he is not prepared to maintain that
one single case is to be explained in this way. Humboldt probably had
some influence on Bopp’s view of the weak preterit, for he is skeptical
with regard to the _did_ explanation and inclines to connect the ending
with the participle in _t_.

[9] Humboldt seems to be the inventor of this term (1821; see
Streitberg, IF 35. 191).



  § 1. After Bopp and Grimm. § 2. K. M. Rapp. § 3. J. H. Bredsdorff.
  § 4. August Schleicher. § 5. Classification of Languages. § 6.
  Reconstruction. § 7. Curtius, Madvig and Specialists. § 8. Max Müller
  and Whitney.

III.--§ 1. After Bopp and Grimm.

Bopp and Grimm exercised an enormous influence on linguistic thought
and linguistic research in Germany and other countries. Long even
before their death we see a host of successors following in the main
the lines laid down in their work, and thus directly and indirectly
they determined the development of this science for a long time.
Through their efforts so much new light had been shed on a number of
linguistic phenomena that these took a quite different aspect from that
which they had presented to the previous generation; most of what had
been written about etymology and kindred subjects in the eighteenth
century seemed to the new school utterly antiquated, mere fanciful
vagaries of incompetent blunderers, whereas now scholars had found firm
ground on which to raise a magnificent structure of solid science. This
feeling was especially due to the undoubted recognition of one great
family of languages to which the vast majority of European languages,
as well as some of the most important Asiatic languages, belonged: here
we had one firmly established fact of the greatest magnitude, which
at once put an end to all the earlier whimsical attempts to connect
Latin and Greek words with Hebrew roots. As for the name of that family
of languages, Rask hesitated between different names, ‘European,’
‘Sarmatic’ and finally ‘Japhetic’ (as a counterpart of the Semitic
and the Hamitic languages); Bopp at first had no comprehensive name,
and on the title-page of his _Vergl. grammatik_ contents himself with
enumerating the chief languages described, but in the work itself he
says that he prefers the name ‘Indo-European,’ which has also found
wide acceptance, though more in France, England and Skandinavia than
in Germany. Humboldt for a long while said ‘Sanskritic,’ but later he
adopted ‘Indo-Germanic,’ and this has been the generally recognized
name used in Germany, in spite of Bopp’s protest who said that
‘Indo-klassisch’ would be more to the point; ‘Indo-Keltic’ has also
been proposed as designating the family through its two extreme members
to the East and West. But all these compound names are clumsy without
being completely pertinent, and it seems therefore much better to use
the short and convenient term ‘the Aryan languages’: Aryan being the
oldest name by which any members of the family designated themselves
(in India and Persia).[10]

Thanks to the labours of Bopp and Grimm and their co-workers and
followers, we see also a change in the status of the study of
languages. Formerly this was chiefly a handmaiden to philology--but
as this word is often in English used in a sense unknown to
other languages and really objectionable, namely as a synonym of
(comparative) study of languages, it will be necessary first to say a
few words about the terminology of our science. In this book I shall
use the word ‘philology’ in its continental sense, which is often
rendered in English by the vague word ‘scholarship,’ meaning thereby
the study of the specific culture of one nation; thus we speak of
Latin philology, Greek philology, Icelandic philology, etc. The word
‘linguist,’ on the other hand, is not infrequently used in the sense of
one who has merely a practical knowledge of some foreign language; but
I think I am in accordance with a growing number of scholars in England
and America if I call such a man a ‘practical linguist’ and apply the
word ‘linguist’ by itself to the scientific student of language (or of
languages); ‘linguistics’ then becomes a shorter and more convenient
name for what is also called the science of language (or of languages).

Now that the reader understands the sense in which I take these two
terms, I may go on to say that the beginning of the nineteenth century
witnessed a growing differentiation between philology and linguistics
in consequence of the new method introduced by comparative and by
historical grammar; it was nothing less than a completely new way of
looking at the facts of language and trying to trace their origin.
While to the philologist the Greek or Latin language, etc., was only
a means to an end, to the linguist it was an end in itself. The
former saw in it a valuable, and in fact an indispensable, means of
gaining a first-hand knowledge of the literature which was his chief
concern, but the linguist cared not for the literature as such, but
studied languages for their own sake, and might even turn to languages
destitute of literature because they were able to throw some light on
the life of language in general or on forms in related languages. The
philologist as such would not think of studying the Gothic of Wulfila,
as a knowledge of that language gives access only to a translation
of parts of the Bible, the ideas of which can be studied much better
elsewhere; but to the linguist Gothic was extremely valuable. The
differentiation, of course, is not an absolute one; besides being
linguists in the new sense, Rask was an Icelandic philologist, Bopp a
Sanskrit philologist, and Grimm a German philologist; but the tendency
towards the emancipation of linguistics was very strong in them, and
some of their pupils were pure linguists and did no work in philology.

In breaking away from philology and claiming for linguistics the rank
of a new and independent science, the partisans of the new doctrine
were apt to think that not only had they discovered a new method,
but that the object of their study was different from that of the
philologists, even when they were both concerned with language. While
the philologist looked upon language as part of the culture of some
nation, the linguist looked upon it as a natural object; and when in
the beginning of the nineteenth century philosophers began to divide
all sciences into the two sharply separated classes of mental and
natural sciences (geistes- und naturwissenschaften), linguists would
often reckon their science among the latter. There was in this a
certain amount of pride or boastfulness, for on account of the rapid
rise and splendid achievements of the natural sciences at that time,
it began to be a matter of common belief that they were superior
to, and were possessed of a more scientific method than, the other
class--the same view that finds an expression in the ordinary English
usage, according to which ‘science’ means natural science and the other
domains of human knowledge are termed the ‘arts’ or the ‘humanities.’

We see the new point of view in occasional utterances of the pioneers
of linguistic science. Rask expressly says that “Language is a natural
object and its study resembles natural history” (SA 2. 502); but when
he repeats the same sentence (in _Retskrivningslære_, 8) it appears
that he is thinking of language as opposed to the more artificial
writing, and the contrast is not between mental and natural science,
but between art and nature, between what can and what cannot be
consciously modified by man--it is really a different question.

Bopp, in his review of Grimm (1827, reprinted _Vocalismus_, 1836, p.
1), says: “Languages are to be considered organic natural bodies,
which are formed according to fixed laws, develop as possessing an
inner principle of life, and gradually die out because they do not
understand themselves any longer [!], and therefore cast off or
mutilate their members or forms, which were at first significant,
but gradually have become more of an extrinsic mass.... It is not
possible to determine how long languages may preserve their full vigour
of life and of procreation,” etc. This is highly figurative language
which should not be taken at its face value; but expressions like
these, and the constant use of such words as ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic’
in speaking of formations in languages, and ‘organism’ of the whole
language, would tend to widen the gulf between the philological and the
linguistic point of view. Bopp himself never consistently followed the
naturalistic way of looking at language, but in § 4 of this chapter
we shall see that Schleicher was not afraid of going to extremes and
building up a consistent natural science of language.

The cleavage between philology and linguistics did not take place
without arousing warm feeling. Classical scholars disliked the
intrusion of Sanskrit everywhere; they did not know that language and
did not see the use of it. They resented the way in which the new
science wanted to reconstruct Latin and Greek grammar and to substitute
new explanations for those which had always been accepted. Those
Sanskritists chatted of guna and vrddhi and other barbaric terms, and
even ventured to talk of a locative case in Latin, as if the number of
cases had not been settled once for all long ago![11]

Classicists were no doubt perfectly right when they reproached
comparativists for their neglect of syntax, which to them was the most
important part of grammar; they were also in some measure right when
they maintained that linguists to a great extent contented themselves
with a superficial knowledge of the languages compared, which they
studied more in grammars and glossaries than in living texts, and
sometimes they would even exult when they found proof of this in
solecisms in Bopp’s Latin translations from Sanskrit, and even on the
title-page of _Glossarium Sanscritum a Franzisco Bopp_. Classical
scholars also looked askance at the growing interest in the changes
of sounds, or, as it was then usual to say, of letters. But when they
were apt here to quote the scriptural phrase about the letter that
killeth, while the spirit giveth life, they overlooked the fact that
Nature has rendered it impossible for anyone to penetrate to the mind
of anyone else except through its outer manifestations, and that it
is consequently impossible to get at the spirit of a language except
through its sounds: phonology must therefore form the necessary basis
and prerequisite of the scientific study of any group of languages.
Still, it cannot be denied that sometimes comparative phonology was
treated in such a mechanical way as partly to dehumanize the study of

When we look back at this period in the history of linguistics,
there are certain tendencies and characteristics that cannot fail to
catch our attention. First we must mention the prominence given to
Sanskrit, which was thought to be the unavoidable requirement of every
comparative linguist. In explaining anything in any of the cognate
languages the etymologist always turned first to Sanskrit words and
Sanskrit forms. This standpoint is found even much later, for instance
in Max Müller’s _Inaugural Address_ (1868, Ch. 19): “Sanskrit certainly
forms the only sound foundation of Comparative Philology, and it
will always remain the only safe guide through all its intricacies.
A comparative philologist without a knowledge of Sanskrit is like an
astronomer without a knowledge of mathematics.” A linguist of a later
generation may be excused for agreeing rather with Ellis, who says
(_Transact. Philol. Soc._, 1873-4, 21): “Almost in our own days came
the discovery of Sanskrit, and philology proper began--but, alas! at
the wrong end. Now, here I run great danger of being misunderstood.
Although for a scientific sifting of the nature of language I presume
to think that beginning at Sanskrit was unfortunate, yet I freely admit
that, had that language not been brought into Europe ... our knowledge
of language would have been in a poor condition indeed.... We are under
the greatest obligations to those distinguished men who have undertaken
to unravel its secrets and to show its connexion with the languages of
Europe. Yet I must repeat that for the pure science of language, to
begin with Sanskrit was as much beginning at the wrong end as it would
have been to commence zoology with palæontology--the relations of life
with the bones of the dead.”

Next, Bopp and his nearest successors were chiefly occupied with
finding likenesses between the languages treated and discovering things
that united them. This was quite natural in the first stage of the
new science, but sometimes led to one-sidedness, the characteristic
individuality of each language being lost sight of, while forms from
many countries and many times were mixed up in a hotch-potch. Rask, on
account of his whole mental equipment, was less liable to this danger
than most of his contemporaries; but Pott was evidently right when he
warned his fellow-students that their comparative linguistics should be
supplemented by separative linguistics (_Zählmethode_, 229), as it has
been to a great extent in recent years.

Still another feature of the linguistic science of those days is the
almost exclusive occupation of the student with dead languages. It
was quite natural that the earliest comparativists should first give
their attention to the oldest stages of the languages compared, since
these alone enabled them to prove the essential kinship between the
different members of the great Aryan family. In Grimm’s grammar nearly
all the space is taken up with Gothic, Old High German, Old Norse,
etc., and comparatively little is said about recent developments of the
same languages. In Bopp’s comparative grammar classical Greek and Latin
are, of course, treated carefully, but Modern Greek and the Romanic
languages are not mentioned (thus also in Schleicher’s _Compendium_
and in Brugmann’s _Grammar_), such later developments being left to
specialists who were more or less considered to be outside the sphere
of Comparative Linguistics and even of the science of language in
general, though it would have been a much more correct view to include
them in both, and though much more could really be learnt of the life
of language from these studies than from comparisons made in the spirit
of Bopp.

The earlier stages of different languages, which were compared by
linguists, were, of course, accessible only through the medium of
writing; we have seen that the early linguists spoke constantly of
letters and not of sounds. But this vitiated their whole outlook on
languages. These were scarcely ever studied at first-hand, and neither
in Bopp nor in Grimm nor in Pott or Benfey do we find such first-hand
observations of living spoken languages as play a great rôle in the
writings of Rask and impart an atmosphere of soundness to his whole
manner of looking at languages. If languages were called natural
objects, they were not yet studied as such or by truly naturalistic

When living dialects were studied, the interest constantly centred
round the archaic traits in them; every survival of an old form,
every trace of old sounds that had been dropped in the standard
speech, was greeted with enthusiasm, and the significance of these old
characteristics greatly exaggerated, the general impression being that
popular dialects were always much more conservative than the speech of
educated people. It was reserved for a much later time to prove that
this view is completely erroneous, and that popular dialects, in spite
of many archaic details, are on the whole further developed than the
various standard languages with their stronger tradition and literary

III.--§ 2. K. M. Rapp.

It was from this archæological point of view only that Grimm
encouraged the study of dialects, but he expressly advised students
not to carry the research too far in the direction of discriminating
minutiæ of sounds, because these had little bearing on the history
of language as he understood it. In this connexion we may mention
an episode in the history of early linguistics that is symptomatic.
K. M. Rapp brought out his _Versuch einer Physiologie der Sprache
nebst historischer Entwickelung der abendländischen Idiome nach
physiologischen Grundsätzen_ in four volumes (1836, 1839, 1840,
1841). A physiological examination into the nature and classification
of speech sounds was to serve only as the basis of the historical
part, the grandiose plan of which was to find out how Greek, Latin
and Gothic sounded, and then to pursue the destinies of these sound
systems through the Middle Ages (Byzantine Greek, Old Provençal, Old
French, Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Old High German) to the present time
(Modern Greek, Italian, Spanish, etc., down to Low and High German,
with different dialects). To carry out this plan Rapp was equipped
with no small knowledge of the earlier stages of these languages
and a not contemptible first-hand observation of living languages.
He relates how from his childhood he had a “morbidly sharpened ear
for all acoustic impressions”; he had early observed the difference
between dialectal and educated speech and taken an interest in foreign
languages, such as French, Italian and English. He visited Denmark, and
there made the acquaintance of and became the pupil of Rask; he often
speaks of him and his works in terms of the greatest admiration. After
his return he took up the study of Jacob Grimm; but though he speaks
always very warmly about the other parts of Grimm’s work, Grimm’s
phonology disappointed him. “Grimm’s theory of letters I devoured with
a ravenous appetite for all the new things I had to learn from it,
but also with heartburning on account of the equally numerous things
that warred against the whole of my previous research with regard to
the nature of speech sounds; fascinated though I was by what I read,
it thus made me incredibly miserable.” He set to his great task with
enthusiasm, led by the conviction that “the historical material gives
here only one side of the truth, and that the living language in all
its branches that have never been committed to writing forms the other
and equally important side which is still far from being satisfactorily
investigated.” It is easy to understand that Rapp came into conflict
with Grimm’s _Buchstabenlehre_, that had been based exclusively on
written forms, and Rapp was not afraid of expressing his unorthodox
views in what he himself terms “a violent and arrogating tone.” No
wonder, therefore, that his book fell into disgrace with the leaders
of linguistics in Germany, who noticed its errors and mistakes, which
were indeed numerous and conspicuous, rather than the new and sane
ideas it contained. Rapp’s work is extraordinarily little known; in
Raumer’s _Geschichte der germanischen Philologie_ and similar works
it is not even mentioned, and when I disinterred it from undeserved
oblivion in my _Fonetik_ (1897, p. 35; cf. _Die neueren Sprachen_, vol.
xiii, 1904) it was utterly unknown to the German phoneticians of my
acquaintance. Yet not only are its phonetic observations[12] deserving
of praise, but still more its whole plan, based as it is on a thorough
comprehension of the mutual relations of sounds and writing, which
led Rapp to use phonetic transcription throughout, even in connected
specimens both of living and dead languages; that this is really the
only way in which it is possible to obtain a comprehensive and living
understanding of the sound-system of any language (as well as to get a
clear perception of the extent of one’s own ignorance of it!) has not
yet been generally recognized. The science of language would have made
swifter and steadier progress if Grimm and his successors had been able
to assimilate the main thoughts of Rapp.

III.--§ 3. J. H. Bredsdorff.

Another (and still earlier) work that was overlooked at the time
was the little pamphlet _Om Aarsagerne til Sprogenes Forandringer_
(1821) by the Dane J. H. Bredsdorff. Bopp and Grimm never really asked
themselves the fundamental question, How is it that language changes:
what are the driving forces that lead in course of time to such
far-reaching differences as those we find between Sanskrit and Latin,
or between Latin and French? Now, this is exactly the question that
Bredsdorff treats in his masterly pamphlet. Like Rapp, he was a very
good phonetician; but in the pamphlet that concerns us here he speaks
not only of phonetic but of other linguistic changes as well. These he
refers to the following causes, which he illustrates with well-chosen
examples: (1) Mishearing and misunderstanding; (2) misrecollection; (3)
imperfection of organs; (4) indolence: to this he inclines to refer
nine-tenths of all those changes in the pronunciation of a language
that are not due to foreign influences; (5) tendency towards analogy:
here he gives instances from the speech of children and explains by
analogy such phenomena as the extension of _s_ to all genitives, etc.;
(6) the desire to be distinct; (7) the need of expressing new ideas.
He recognizes that there are changes that cannot be brought under any
of these explanations, e.g. the Gothonic sound shift (cf. above, p.
43 note), and he emphasizes the many ways in which foreign nations or
foreign languages may influence a language. Bredsdorff’s explanations
may not always be correct; but what constitutes the deep originality
of his little book is the way in which linguistic changes are always
regarded in terms of human activity, chiefly of a psychological
character. Here he was head and shoulders above his contemporaries; in
fact, most of Bredsdorff’s ideas, such as the power of analogy, were
the same that sixty years later had to fight so hard to be recognized
by the leading linguists of that time.[13]

III.--§ 4. August Schleicher.

In Rapp, and even more in Bredsdorff, we get a whiff of the scientific
atmosphere of a much later time; but most of the linguists of the
twenties and following decades (among whom A. F. Pott deserves to be
specially named) moved in essentially the same grooves as Bopp and
Grimm, and it will not be necessary here to deal in detail with their

August Schleicher (1821-68) in many ways marks the culmination of the
first period of Comparative Linguistics, as well as the transition to
a new period with different aims and, partially at any rate, a new
method. His intimate knowledge of many languages, his great power
of combination, his clear-cut and always lucid exposition--all this
made him a natural leader, and made his books for many years the
standard handbooks of linguistic science. Unlike Bopp and Grimm, he was
exclusively a linguist, or, as he called it himself, ‘glottiker,’ and
never tired of claiming for the science of linguistics (‘glottik’),
as opposed to philology, the rank of a separate natural science.
Schleicher specialized in Slavonic and Lithuanian; he studied the
latter language in its own home and took down a great many songs
and tales from the mouths of the peasants; he was for some years
a professor in the University of Prague, and there acquired a
conversational knowledge of Czech; he spoke Russian, too, and thus
in contradistinction to Bopp and Grimm had a first-hand knowledge
of more than one foreign language; his interest in living speech is
also manifested in his specimens of the dialect of his native town,
_Volkstümliches aus Sonneberg_. When he was a child his father very
severely insisted on the constant and correct use of the educated
language at home; but the boy, perhaps all the more on account of the
paternal prohibition, was deeply attracted to the popular dialect he
heard from his playfellows and to the fascinating folklore of the old
townspeople, which he was later to take down and put into print. In the
preface he says that the acquisition of foreign tongues is rendered
considerably easier through the habit of speaking two dialects from

What makes Schleicher particularly important for the purposes of this
volume is the fact that in a long series of publications he put forth
not only details of his science, but original and comprehensive views
on the fundamental questions of linguistic theory, and that these had
great influence on the linguistic philosophy of the following decades.
He was, perhaps, the most consistent as well as one of the clearest of
linguistic thinkers, and his views therefore deserve to be examined in
detail and with the greatest care.

Apart from languages, Schleicher was deeply interested both in
philosophy and in natural science, especially botany. From these he
fetched many of the weapons of his armoury, and they coloured the whole
of his theory of language. In his student days at Tübingen he became
an enthusiastic adherent of the philosophy of Hegel, and not even the
Darwinian sympathies and views of which he became a champion towards
the end of his career made him abandon the doctrines of his youth.
As for science, he says that naturalists make us understand that in
science nothing is of value except facts established through strictly
objective observation and the conclusions based on such facts--this
is a lesson that he thinks many of his colleagues would do well to
take to heart. There can be no doubt that Schleicher in his practice
followed a much more rigorous and sober method than his predecessors,
and that his _Compendium_ in that respect stands far above Bopp’s
_Grammar_. In his general reasonings on the nature of language, on the
other hand, Schleicher did not always follow the strict principles of
sober criticism, being, as we shall now see, too dependent on Hegelian
philosophy, and also on certain dogmatic views that he had inherited
from previous German linguists, from Schlegel downwards.

The Introductions to Schleicher’s two first volumes are entirely
Hegelian, though with a characteristic difference, for in the first
he says that the changes to be seen in the realm of languages are
decidedly historical and in no way resemble the changes that we may
observe in nature, for “however manifold these may be, they never
show anything but a circular course that repeats itself continually”
(Hegel), while in language, as in everything mental, we may see new
things that have never existed before. One generation of animals or
plants is like another; the skill of animals has no history, as human
art has; language is specifically human and mental: its development
is therefore analogous to history, for in both we see a continual
progress to new phases. In Schleicher’s second volume, however, this
view is expressly rejected in its main part, because Schleicher now
wants to emphasize the natural character of language: it is true, he
now says, that language shows a ‘werden’ which may be termed history
in the wider sense of this word, but which is found in its purest form
in nature; for instance, in the growing of a plant. Language belongs
to the natural sphere, not to the sphere of free mental activity, and
this must be our starting-point if we would discover the method of
linguistic science (ii. 21).

It would, of course, be possible to say that the method of linguistic
science is that of natural science, and yet to maintain that the
object of linguistics is different from that of natural science, but
Schleicher more and more tends to identify the two, and when he was
attacked for saying, in his pamphlet on the Darwinian theory, that
languages were material things, real natural objects, he wrote in
defence _Ueber die bedeutung der sprache für die naturgeschichte des
menschen_, which is highly characteristic as the culminating point of
the materialistic way of looking at languages. The activity, he says,
of any organ, e.g. one of the organs of digestion, or the brain or
muscles, is dependent on the constitution of that organ. The different
ways in which different species, nay even different individuals, walk
are evidently conditioned by the structure of the limbs; the activity
or function of the organ is, as it were, nothing but an aspect of the
organ itself, even if it is not always possible by means of the knife
or microscope of the scientist to demonstrate the material cause of the
phenomenon. What is true of the manner of walking is true of language
as well; for language is nothing but the result, perceptible through
the ear, of the action of a complex of material substances in the
structure of the brain and of the organs of speech, with their nerves,
bones, muscles, etc. Anatomists, however, have not yet been able to
demonstrate differences in the structures of these organs corresponding
to differences of nationality--to discriminate, that is, the organs of
a Frenchman (_quâ_ Frenchman) from those of a German (_quâ_ German).
Accordingly, as the chemist can only arrive at the elements which
compose the sun by examining the light which it emits, while the source
of that light remains inaccessible to him, so must we be content to
study the nature of languages, not in their material antecedents
but in their audible manifestations. It makes no great difference,
however, for “the two things stand to each other as cause and effect,
as substance and phenomenon: a philosopher [i.e. a Hegelian] would say
that they are identical.”

Now I, for one, fail to understand how this can be what Schleicher
believes it to be, “a refutation of the objection that language is
nothing but a consequence of the activity of these organs.” The
sun exists independently of the human observer; but there could be
no such thing as language if there was not besides the speaker a
listener who might become a speaker in his turn. Schleicher speaks
continually in his pamphlet as if structural differences in the brain
and organs of speech were the real language, and as if it were only
for want of an adequate method of examining this hidden structure that
we had to content ourselves with studying language in its outward
manifestation as audible speech. But this is certainly on the face of
it preposterous, and scarcely needs any serious refutation. If the
proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of a language must be
in the hearing and understanding; but in order to be heard words must
first be spoken, and in these two activities (that of producing and
that of perceiving sounds) the real essence of language must consist,
and these two activities are the primary (or why not the exclusive?)
object of the science of language.

Schleicher goes on to meet another objection that may be made to his
view of the ‘substantiality of language,’ namely, that drawn from the
power of learning other languages. Schleicher doubts the possibility
of learning another language to perfection; he would admit this only
in the case of a man who exchanged his mother-tongue for another in
his earliest youth; “but then he becomes by that very fact a different
being from what he was: brain and organs of speech develop in another
direction.” If Mr. So-and-So is said to speak and write German, English
and French equally well, Schleicher first inclines to doubt the fact;
and then, granting that the same individual may “be at the same time
a German, a Frenchman and an Englishman,” he asks us to remember that
all these three languages belong to the same family and may, from a
broader point of view, be termed species of the same language; but he
denies the possibility of anyone’s being equally at home in Chinese and
German, or in Arabic and Hottentot, etc., because these languages are
totally different in their innermost essence. (But what of bilingual
children in Finland, speaking Swedish and Finnish, or in Greenland,
speaking Danish and Eskimo, or in Java, speaking Dutch and Malay?)
Schleicher has to admit that our organs are to some extent flexible and
capable of acquiring activities that they had not at first; but one
definite function is and remains nevertheless the only natural one,
and thus “the possibility of a man’s acquiring foreign languages more
or less perfectly is no objection to our seeing the material basis of
language in the structure of the brain and organs of speech.”

Even if we admit that Schleicher is so far right that in nearly all (or
all?) cases of bilingualism one language comes more naturally than
the other, he certainly exaggerates the difference, which is always
one of degree; and at any rate his final conclusion is wrong, for we
might with the same amount of justice say that a man who has first
learned to play the piano has acquired the structure of brain and
fingers peculiar to a pianist, and that it is then unnatural for him
also to learn to play the violin, because that would imply a different
structure of these organs. In all these cases we have to do with a
definite proficiency or skill, which can only be obtained by constant
practice, though of course one man may be better predisposed by nature
for it than another; but then it is also the fact that people who speak
no foreign language attain to very different degrees of proficiency
in the use of their mother-tongue. It cannot be said too emphatically
that we have here a fundamental question, and that Schleicher’s view
can never lead to a true conception of what language is, or to a real
insight into its changes and historical development.

Schleicher goes on to say that the classification of mankind into
races should not be based on the formation of the skull or on the
character of the hair, or any such external criteria, as they are by no
means constant, but rather on language, because this is a thoroughly
constant criterion. This alone would give a perfectly natural system,
one, for instance, in which all Turks would be classed together, while
otherwise the Osmanli Turk belongs to the ‘Caucasian’ race and the
so-called Tataric Turks to the ‘Mongolian’ race; on the other hand,
the Magyar and the Basque are not physically to be distinguished from
the Indo-European, though their languages are widely dissimilar.
According to Schleicher, therefore, the natural system of languages
is also the natural system of mankind, for language is closely
connected with the whole higher life of men, which is therefore taken
into consideration in and with their language. In this book I am not
concerned with the ethnographical division of mankind into races, and
I therefore must content myself with saying that the very examples
adduced by Schleicher seem to me to militate against his theory that
a division of mankind based on language is the natural one: are we to
reckon the Basque’s son, who speaks nothing but French (or Spanish) as
belonging to a different race from his father? And does not Schleicher
contradict himself when on p. 16 he writes that language is “ein völlig
constantes merkmal,” and p. 20 that it is “in fortwährender veränderung
begriffen”? So far as I see, Schleicher never expressly says that he
thinks that the physical structure conditioning the structure of a
man’s language is hereditary, though some of his expressions point
that way, and that may be what he means by the expression ‘constant.’
In other places (Darw. 25, Bed. 24) he allows external conditions of
life to exercise some influence on the character of a language, as when
languages of neighbouring peoples are similar (Aryans and Semites, for
example, are the only nations possessing flexional languages). On such
points, however, he gives only a few hints and suggestions.

III.--§ 5. Classification of Languages.

In the question of the classification of languages Schleicher
introduces a deductive element from his strong preoccupation with
Hegelian ideas. Hegel everywhere moves in trilogies; Schleicher
therefore must have three classes, and consequently has to tack
together two of Pott’s four classes (agglutinating and incorporating);
then he is able philosophically to deduce the tripartition. For
language consists in _meaning_ (bedeutung; matter, contents, root) and
_relation_ (beziehung; form), tertium non datur. As it would be a sheer
impossibility for a language to express form only, we obtain three

I. Here meaning is the only thing indicated by sound; relation is
merely suggested by word-position: isolating languages.

II. Both meaning and relation are expressed by sound, but the formal
elements are visibly tacked on to the root, which is itself invariable:
agglutinating languages.

III. The elements of meaning and of relation are fused together or
absorbed into a higher unity, the root being susceptible of inward
modification as well as of affixes to denote form: flexional languages.

Schleicher employs quasi-mathematical formulas to illustrate these
three classes: if we denote a root by _R_, a prefix by _p_ and a suffix
by _s_, and finally use a raised _x_ to denote an inner modification,
we see that in the isolated languages we have nothing but _R_ (a
sentence may be represented by _R R R R ..._), a word in the second
class has the formula _R s_ or _p R_ or _p R s_, but in the third class
we may have _p R^x s_ (or _R^x s_).

Now, according to Schleicher the three classes of languages are
not only found simultaneously in the tongues of our own day, but
they represent three stages of linguistic development; “to the
_nebeneinander_ of the system corresponds the _nacheinander_ of
history.” Beyond the flexional stage no language can attain;
the symbolic denotation of relation by flexion is the highest
accomplishment of language; speech has here effectually realized its
object, which is to give a faithful phonetic image of thought. But
before a language can become flexional it must have passed through an
isolating and an agglutinating period. Is this theory borne out by
historical facts? Can we trace back any of the existing flexional
languages to agglutination and isolation? Schleicher himself answers
this question in the negative: the earliest Latin was of as good
a flexional type as are the modern Romanic languages. This would
seem a sort of contradiction in terms; but the orthodox Hegelian is
ready with an answer to any objection; he has the word of his master
that History cannot begin till the human spirit becomes “conscious
of its own freedom,” and this consciousness is only possible after
the complete development of language. The formation of Language
and History are accordingly successive stages of human activity.
Moreover, as history and historiography, i.e. literature, come into
existence simultaneously, Schleicher is enabled to express the same
idea in a way that “is only seemingly paradoxical,” namely, that
the development of language is brought to a conclusion as soon as
literature makes its appearance; this is a crisis after which language
remains fixed; language has now become a means, instead of being the
aim, of intellectual activity. We never meet with any language that
is developing or that has become more perfect; in historical times
all languages move only downhill; linguistic history means decay of
languages as such, subjugated as they are through the gradual evolution
of the mind to greater freedom.

The reader of the above survey of previous classifications will easily
see that in the matter itself Schleicher adds very little of his own.
Even the expressions, which are here given throughout in Schleicher’s
own words, are in some cases recognizable as identical with, or closely
similar to, those of earlier scholars.

He made one coherent system out of ideas of classification and
development already found in others. What is new is the philosophical
substructure of Hegelian origin, and there can be no doubt that
Schleicher imagined that by this addition he contributed very much
towards giving stability and durability to the whole system. And yet
this proved to be the least stable and durable part of the structure,
and as a matter of fact the Hegelian reasoning is not repeated by a
single one of those who give their adherence to the classification. Nor
can it be said to carry conviction, and undoubtedly it has seemed to
most linguists at the same time too rigid and too unreal to have any

But apart from the philosophical argument the classification proved
very successful in the particular shape it had found in Schleicher.
Its adoption into two such widely read works as Max Müller’s and
Whitney’s Lectures on the Science of Language contributed very much
to the popularity of the system, though the former’s attempt at
ascribing to the tripartition a sociological importance by saying that
juxtaposition (isolation) is characteristic of the ‘family stage,’
agglutination of ‘the nomadic stage’ and amalgamation (flexion) of
the ‘political stage’ of human society was hardly taken seriously by

The chief reasons for the popularity of this classification are not far
to seek. It is easy of handling and appeals to the natural fondness
for clear-cut formulas through its specious appearance of regularity
and rationality. Besides, it flatters widespread prejudices in so
far as it places the two groups of languages highest that are spoken
by those nations which have culturally and religiously exercised the
deepest influence on the civilization of the world, Aryans and Semites.
Therefore also Pott’s view, according to which the incorporating or
‘polysynthetic’ American languages possess the same characteristics
that distinguish flexion as against agglutination, only in a still
higher degree, is generally tacitly discarded, for obviously it
would not do to place some languages of American Indians higher than
Sanskrit or Greek. But when these are looked upon as the very flower
of linguistic development it is quite natural to regard the modern
languages of Western Europe as degenerate corruptions of the ancient
more highly flexional languages; this is in perfect keeping with the
prevalent admiration for classical antiquity and with the belief in
a far past golden age. Arguments such as these may not have been
consciously in the minds of the framers of the ordinary classification,
but there can be no doubt that they have been unconsciously working in
favour of the system, though very little thought seems to be required
to show the fallacy of the assumption that high civilization has any
intrinsic and necessary connexion with the _grammatical_ construction
of the language spoken by the race or nation concerned. No language
of modern Europe presents the flexional type in a purer shape than
Lithuanian, where we find preserved nearly the same grammatical system
as in old Sanskrit, yet no one would assert that the culture of
Lithuanian peasants is higher than that of Shakespeare, whose language
has lost an enormous amount of the old flexions. Culture and language
must be appraised separately, each on its own merits and independently
of the other.

From a purely linguistic point of view there are many objections to the
usual classification, and it will be well here to bring them together,
though this will mean an interruption of the historical survey which is
the main object of these chapters.

First let us look upon the tripartition as purporting a comprehensive
classification of languages as existing side by side without any
regard to historic development (the _nebeneinander_ of Schleicher).
Here it does not seem to be an ideal manner of classifying a great
many objects to establish three classes of such different dimensions
that the first comprises only Chinese and some other related languages
of the Far East, and the third only two families of languages, while
the second includes hundreds of unrelated languages of the most
heterogeneous character. It seems certain that the languages of Class
I represent one definite type of linguistic structure, and it may be
that Aryan and Semitic should be classed together on account of the
similarity of their structure, though this is by no means quite certain
and has been denied (by Bopp, and in recent times by Porzezinski);
but what is indubitable is that the ‘agglutinating’ class is made to
comprehend languages of the most diverse type, even if we follow Pott
and exclude from this class all incorporating languages. Finnish is
always mentioned as a typically agglutinative language, yet there
we meet with such declensional forms as nominative _vesi_ ‘water,’
_toinen_ ‘second,’ partitive _vettä_, _toista_, genitive _veden_,
_toisen_, and such verbal forms as _sido-n_ ‘I bind,’ _sido-t_ ‘thou
bindest,’ _sito-o_ ‘he binds,’ and the three corresponding persons in
the plural, _sido-mme_, _sido-tte_, _sito-vat_. Here we are far from
having one unchangeable root to which endings have been glued, for the
root itself undergoes changes before the endings. In Kiyombe (Congo)
the perfect of verbs is in many cases formed by means of a vowel
change that is a complete parallel to the apophony in English _drink_,
_drank_, thus _vanga_ ‘do,’ perfect _venge_, _twala_ ‘bring,’ perfect
_twele_ or _twede_, etc. (_Anthropos_, ii. p. 761). Examples like these
show that flexion, in whatever way we may define this term, is not
the prerogative of the Aryans and Semites, but may be found in other
nations as well. ‘Agglutination’ is either too vague a term to be used
in classification, or else, if it is taken strictly according to the
usual definition, it is too definite to comprise many of the languages
which are ordinarily reckoned to belong to the second class.

It will be seen, also, that those writers who aim at giving
descriptions of a variety of human tongues, or of them all, do
not content themselves with the usual three classes, but have a
greater number. This began with Steinthal, who in various works
tried to classify languages partly from geographical, partly from
structural points of view, without, however, arriving at any definite
or consistent system. Friedrich Müller, in his great _Grundriss
der Sprachwissenschaft_, really gives up the psychological or
structural division of languages, distributing the more than hundred
different languages that he describes among twelve races of mankind,
characterized chiefly by external criteria that have nothing to do with
language. Misteli establishes six main types: I. Incorporating. II.
Root-isolating. III. Stem-isolating. IV. Affixing (Anreihende). V.
Agglutinating. VI. Flexional. These he also distributes so as to form
four classes: (1) languages with sentence-words: I; (2) languages with
no words: II, III and IV; (3) languages with apparent words: V; and
(4) languages with real words: VI. But the latter division had better
be left alone; it turns on the intricate question “What constitutes a
word?” and ultimately depends on the usual depreciation of ‘inferior
races’ and corresponding exaltation of our own race, which is alone
reputed capable of possessing ‘real words.’ I do not see why we should
not recognize that the vocables of Greenlandic, Malay, Kafir or Finnish
are just as ‘real’ words as any in Hebrew or Latin.

Our final result, then, is that the tripartition is insufficient and
inadequate to serve as a comprehensive classification of languages
actually existing. Nor shall we wonder at this if we see the way in
which the theory began historically in an _obiter dictum_ of Fr. v.
Schlegel at a time when the inner structure of only a few languages had
been properly studied, and if we consider the lack of clearness and
definiteness inherent in such notions as agglutination and flexion,
which are nevertheless made the corner-stones of the whole system. We
therefore must go back to the wise saying of Humboldt quoted on p. 59,
that the structural diversities of languages are too great for us to
classify them comprehensively.

In a subsequent part of this work I shall deal with the tripartition
as representing three successive stages in the development of such
languages as our own (the _nacheinander_ of Schleicher), and try to
show that Schleicher’s view is not borne out by the facts of linguistic
history, which give us a totally different picture of development.

From both points of view, then, I think that the classification here
considered deserves to be shelved among the hasty generalizations in
which the history of every branch of science is unfortunately so rich.

III.--§ 6. Reconstruction.

Probably Schleicher’s most original and important contribution to
linguistics was his reconstruction of the Proto-Aryan language,
_die indogermanische ursprache_. The possibility of inferentially
constructing this parent language, which to Sanskrit, Greek, Latin,
Gothic, etc., was what Latin was to Italian, Spanish, French, etc.,
was early in his thoughts (see quotations illustrating the gradual
growth of the idea in Oertel, p. 39 f.), but it was not till the
first edition of his _Compendium_ that he carried it out in detail,
giving there for each separate chapter (vowels, consonants, roots,
stem-formation, declension, conjugation) first the Proto-Aryan forms
and then those actually found in the different languages, from which
the former were inferred. This arrangement has the advantage that the
reader everywhere sees the historical evolution in the natural order,
beginning with the oldest and then proceeding to the later stages, just
as the Romanic scholar begins with Latin and then takes in successive
stages Old French, Modern French, etc. But in the case of Proto-Aryan
this procedure is apt to deceive the student and make him take these
primitive forms as something certain, whose existence reposes on
just as good evidence as the forms found in Sanskrit literature or
in German or English as spoken in our own days. When he finds some
forms given first and used to _explain_ some others, there is some
danger of his forgetting that the forms given first have a quite
different status to the others, and that their only _raison d’être_ is
the desire of a modern linguist to explain existing forms in related
languages which present certain similarities as originating from a
common original form, which he does not find in his texts and has,
therefore, to reconstruct. But apart from this there can be no doubt
that the reconstruction of older forms (and the ingenious device, due
to Schleicher, of denoting such forms by means of a preposed asterisk
to distinguish them from forms actually found) has been in many ways
beneficial to historical grammar. Only it may be questioned whether
Schleicher did not go too far when he wished to base the whole grammar
of all the Aryan languages on such reconstructions, instead of using
them now and then to explain single facts.

Schleicher even ventured (and in this he seems to have had no follower)
to construct an entire little fable in primitive Aryan: see “Eine fabel
in indogermanischer ursprache,” _Beiträge zur vergl. sprachforschung_,
5. 206 (1868). In the introductory remarks he complains of the
difficulty of such attempts, chiefly because of the almost complete
lack of particles capable of being inferred from the existing
languages, but he seems to have entertained no doubt about the phonetic
and grammatical forms of the words he employed. As the fable is not
now commonly known, I give it here, with Schleicher’s translation, as
a document of this period of comparative linguistics.


  Avis, jasmin varna na ā ast, dadarka akvams, tam, vāgham garum
  vaghantam, tam, bhāram magham, tam, manum āku bharantam. Avis
  akvabhjams ā vavakat: kard aghnutai mai vidanti manum akvams agantam.

  Akvāsas ā vavakant: krudhi avai, kard aghnutai vividvantsvas: manus
  patis varnām avisāms karnanti svabhjam gharmam vastram avibhjams ka
  varnā na asti.

  Tat kukruvants avis agram ā bhugat.


  [Ein] schaf, [auf] welchem wolle nicht war (ein geschorenes schaf)
  sah rosse, das [einen] schweren wagen fahrend, das [eine] grosse
  last, das [einen] menschen schnell tragend. [Das] schaf sprach [zu
  den] rossen: [Das] herz wird beengt [in] mir (es thut mir herzlich
  leid), sehend [den] menschen [die] rosse treibend.

  [Die] rosse sprachen: Höre schaf, [das] herz wird beengt [in den]
  gesehend-habenden (es thut uns herzlich leid, da wir wissen): [der]
  mensch, [der] herr macht [die] wolle [der] schafe [zu einem] warmen
  kleide [für] sich und [den] schafen ist nicht wolle (die schafe aber
  haben keine wolle mehr, sie werden geschoren; es geht ihnen noch
  schlechter als den rossen).

  Dies gehört habend bog (entwich) [das] schaf [auf das] feld (es
  machte sich aus dem staube).

The question here naturally arises: Is it possible in the way initiated
by Schleicher to reconstruct extinct linguistic stages, and what degree
of probability can be attached to the forms thus created by linguists?
The answer certainly must be that in some instances the reconstruction
may have a very strong degree of probability, namely, if the data on
which it is based are unambiguous and the form to be reconstructed is
not far removed from that or those actually found; but that otherwise
any reconstruction becomes doubtful, and naturally the more so
according to the extent of the reconstruction (as when a whole text
is constructed) and to the distance in time that intervenes between
the known and the unknown stage. If we look at the genitives of Lat.
_genus_ and Gr. _génos_, which are found as _generis_ and _génous_,
it is easy to see that both presuppose a form with _s_ between two
vowels, as we see a great many intervocalic _s_’s becoming _r_ in
Latin and disappearing in Greek; but when Schleicher gives as the
prototype of both (and of corresponding forms in the other languages)
Aryan _ganasas_, he oversteps the limits of the permissible in so far
as he ascribes to the vowels definite sounds not really warranted by
the known forms. If we knew the modern Scandinavian languages and
English only, we should not hesitate to give to the Proto-Gothonic
genitive of the word for ‘mother’ the ending _-s_, cf. Dan. _moders_,
E. _mother’s_; but G. _der mutter_ suffices to show that the conclusion
is not safe, and as a matter of fact, both in Old Norse and in Old
English the genitive of this word is without an _s_. An analogous case
is presented when Schleicher reconstructs the nom. of the word for
‘father’ as _patars_, because he presupposes _-s_ as the invariable
sign of every nom. sg. masc., although in this particular word not
a single one of the old languages has _-s_ in the nominative. All
Schleicher’s reconstructions are based on the assumption that Primitive
Aryan had a very simple structure, only few consonant and fewer vowel
sounds, and great regularity in morphology; but, as we shall see,
this assumption is completely gratuitous and was exploded only a few
years after his death. Gabelentz (Spr 182), therefore, was right when
he said, with a certain irony, that the Aryan _ursprache_ had changed
beyond recognition in the short time between Schleicher and Brugmann.
The moral to be drawn from all this seems to be that hypothetical and
starred forms should be used sparingly and with the extremest caution.

With regard to inferential forms denoted by a star, the following
note may not be out of place here. Their purely theoretical character
is not always realized. An example will illustrate what I mean. If
etymological dictionaries give as the origin of F. _ménage_ (OF.
_maisnage_) a Latin form *_mansionaticum_, the etymology may be correct
although such a Latin word may never at any time have been uttered. The
word was framed at some date, no one knows exactly when, from the word
which at various times had the forms (acc.) _mansionem_, *_masione_,
_maison_, by means of the ending which at first had the form _-aticum_
(as in _viaticum_), and finally (through several intermediate stages)
became _-age_; but at what stage of each the two elements met to make
the word which eventually became _ménage_, no one can tell, so that
the only thing really asserted is that _if_ the word had been formed
at a very early date (which is far from probable) it would have been
_mansionaticum_. It would, therefore, perhaps be more correct to say
that the word is from _mansione_ + _-aticum_.

III.--§ 7. Curtius, Madvig, and Specialists.

Second only to Schleicher among the linguists of those days was Georg
Curtius (1820-85), at one time his colleague in the University of
Prague. Curtius’s special study was Greek, and his books on the Greek
verb and on Greek etymology cleared up a great many doubtful points;
he also contributed very much to bridge the gulf between classical
philology and Aryan linguistics. His views on general questions
were embodied in the book _Zur Chronologie der indogermanischen
Sprachforschung_ (1873). While Schleicher died when his fame was at its
highest and his theories were seemingly victorious in all the leading
circles, Curtius had the misfortune to see a generation of younger
men, including some of his own best disciples, such as Brugmann,
advance theories that seemed to him to be in conflict with the most
essential principles of his cherished science; and though he himself,
like Schleicher, had always been in favour of a stricter observance of
sound-laws than his predecessors, his last book was a polemic against
those younger scholars who carried the same point to the excess of
admitting no exceptions at all, who believed in innumerable analogical
formations even in the old languages, and whose reconstructions of
primitive forms appeared to the old man as deprived of that classical
beauty of the _ursprache_ which was represented in his own and
Schleicher’s works (_Zur Kritik der neuesten Sprachforschung_, 1885).
But this is anticipating.

If Curtius was a comparativist with a sound knowledge of classical
philology, Johan Nikolai Madvig was pre-eminently a classical
philologist who took a great interest in general linguistics and
brought his critical acumen and sober common sense to bear on many of
the problems that exercised the minds of his contemporaries. He was
opposed to everything of a vague and mystical nature in the current
theories of language and disliked the tendency of some scholars to
find deep-lying mysterious powers at the root of linguistic phenomena.
But he probably went too far in his rationalism, for example, when he
entirely denied the existence of the sound-symbolism on which Humboldt
had expatiated. He laid much stress on the identity of the linguistic
faculty in all ages: the first speakers had no more intention than
people to-day of creating anything systematic or that would be good
for all times and all occasions--they could have no other object in
view than that of making themselves understood at the moment; hence
the want of system which we find everywhere in languages: a different
number of cases in singular and plural, different endings, etc. Madvig
did not escape some inconsistencies, as when he himself would explain
the use of the soft vowel _a_ to denote the feminine gender by a kind
of sound-symbolism, or when he thought it possible to determine in what
order the different grammatical ideas presented themselves to primitive
man (tense relation first in the verb, number before case in the noun).
He attached too little value to phonological and etymological research,
but on the whole his views were sounder than many which were set forth
on the same subjects at the time; his papers, however, were very little
known, partly because they were written in Danish, partly because his
style was extremely heavy and difficult, and when he finally brought
out his _Kleine philologische schriften_ in German (1875), he expressed
his regret in the preface at finding that many of the theories he
had put forward years before in Danish had in the meantime been
independently arrived at by Whitney, who had had the advantage of
expressing them in a world-language.

One of the most important features of the period with which we are
here dealing is the development of a number of special branches of
historical linguistics on a comparative basis. Curtius’s work on
Greek might be cited as one example; in the same way there were
specialists in Sanskrit (Westergaard and Benfey among others), in
Slavonic (Miklosich and Schleicher), in Keltic (Zeuss), etc. Grimm
had numerous followers in the Gothonic or Germanic field, while in
Romanic philology there was an active and flourishing school, headed
by Friedrich Diez, whose _Grammatik der romanischen Sprachen_ and
_Etymologisches Wörterbuch der romanischen Sprachen_ were perhaps the
best introduction to the methodical study of linguistics that anyone
could desire; the writer of these lines looks back with the greatest
gratitude to that period of his youth when he had the good fortune to
make the acquaintance of these truly classical works. Everything was so
well arranged, so carefully thought out and so lucidly explained, that
one had everywhere the pleasant feeling that one was treading on firm
ground, the more so as the basis of the whole was not an artificially
constructed nebulous _ursprache_, but the familiar forms and words of
an historical language. Here one witnessed the gradual differentiation
of Latin into seven or eight distinct languages, whose development it
was possible to follow century by century in well-authenticated texts.
The picture thus displayed before one’s eyes of actual linguistic
growth in all domains--sounds, forms, word-formation, syntax--and (a
very important corollary) of the interdependence of these domains,
could not but leave a very strong impression--not merely enthusiasm for
what had been achieved here, but also a salutary skepticism of theories
in other fields which had not a similarly solid basis.

III.--§ 8. Max Müller and Whitney.

Working, as we have seen, in many fields, linguists had now brought to
light a shoal of interesting facts affecting a great many languages
and had put forth valuable theories to explain these facts; but most
of their work remained difficult of access except to the specialist,
and very little was done by the experts to impart to educated people
in general those results of the new science which might be enjoyed
without deeper study. But in 1861 Max Müller gave the first series
of those _Lectures on the Science of Language_ which, in numerous
editions, did more than anything else to popularize linguistics and
served to initiate a great many students into our science. In many
ways these lectures were excellently adapted for this purpose, for
the author had a certain knack of selecting interesting illustrations
and of presenting his subject in a way that tended to create the same
enthusiasm for it that he felt himself. But his arguments do not bear
a close inspection. Too often, after stating a problem, he is found to
fly off at a tangent and to forget what he has set out to prove for
the sake of an interesting etymology or a clever paradox. He gives an
uncritical acceptance to many of Schleicher’s leading ideas; thus, the
science of linguistics is to him a physical science and has nothing to
do with philology, which is an historical science. If, however, we look
at the book itself, we shall find that everything that he counts on to
secure the interest of his reader, everything that made his lectures
so popular, is really non-naturalistic: all those brilliant exposés of
word-history are really like historical anecdotes in a book on social
evolution; they may have some bearing on the fundamental problems,
but these are rarely or never treated as real problems of natural
science. Nor does he, when taken to task, maintain his view very
seriously, but partly retracts it and half-heartedly ensconces himself
behind the dictum that everything depends on the definition you give
of “physical science” (see especially Ch 234, 442, 497)--thus calling
forth Whitney’s retort that “the implication here is that our author
has a right at his own good pleasure to lay down such a definition of
a physical science as should make the name properly applicable to the
study of this particular one among the products of human capacities....
So he may prove that a whale is a fish, if you only allow him to define
what a fish is” (M 23 f.).

Though Schleicher and Max Müller in their own day had few followers
in defining linguistics as a natural or physical science--the
opposite view was taken, for instance, by Curtius (K 154), Madvig and
Whitney--there can be no doubt that the naturalistic point of view
practically, though perhaps chiefly unconsciously, had wide-reaching
effects on the history of linguistic science. It was intimately
connected with the problems chiefly investigated and with the way
in which they were treated. From Grimm through Pott to Schleicher
and his contemporaries we see a growing interest in phonological
comparisons; more and more “sound-laws” were discovered, and those
found were more and more rigorously applied, with the result that
etymological investigation was attended with a degree of exactness
of which former generations had no idea. But as these phonological
studies were not, as a rule, based on a real, penetrating insight into
the nature of speech-sounds, the work of the etymologist tended more
and more to be purely mechanical, and the science of language was to
a great extent deprived of those elements which are more intimately
connected with the human ‘soul.’ Isolated vowels and consonants were
compared, isolated flexional forms and isolated words were treated more
and more in detail and explained by other isolated forms and words
in other languages, all of them being like dead leaves shaken off a
tree rather than parts of a living and moving whole. The speaking
individual and the speaking community were too much lost sight of.
Too often comparativists gained a considerable acquaintance with the
sound-laws and the grammatical forms of various languages without
knowing much about those languages themselves, or at any rate without
possessing any degree of familiarity with them. Schleicher was not
blind to the danger of this. A short time before his death he brought
out an _Indogermanische Chrestomathie_ (Weimar, 1869), and in the
preface he justifies his book by saying that “it is of great value,
besides learning the grammar, to be acquainted, however slightly,
with the languages themselves. For a comparative grammar of related
languages lays stress on what is common to a language and its sisters;
consequently, the languages may appear more alike than they are in
reality, and their idiosyncrasies may be thrown into the shade.
Linguistic specimens form, therefore, an indispensable supplement to
comparative grammar.” Other and even more weighty reasons might have
been adduced, for grammar is after all only one side of a language,
and it is certainly the best plan, if one wants to understand and
appreciate the position of any language, to start with some connected
texts of tolerable length, and only afterwards to see how its forms are
related to and may be explained by those of other languages.

Though the mechanical school of linguists, with whom historical and
comparative phonology was more and more an end in itself, prevailed
to a great extent, the trend of a few linguists was different.
Among these one must especially mention Heymann Steinthal, who drew
his inspiration from Humboldt and devoted numerous works to the
psychology of language. Unfortunately, Steinthal was greatly inferior
to Schleicher in clearness and consistency of thought: “When I read
a work of Steinthal’s, and even many parts of Humboldt, I feel as if
walking through shifting clouds,” Max Müller remarks, with good reason,
in a letter (_Life_, i. 256). This obscurity, in connexion with the
remoteness of Steinthal’s studies, which ranged from Chinese to the
language of the Mande negroes, but paid little regard to European
languages, prevented him from exerting any powerful influence on the
linguistic thought of his generation, except perhaps through his
emphatic assertion of the truth that language can only be understood
and explained by means of psychology: his explanation of syntactic
attraction paved the way for much in Paul’s _Prinzipien_.

The leading exponent of general linguistics after the death of
Schleicher was the American William Dwight Whitney, whose books,
_Language and the Study of Language_ (first ed. 1867) and its replica,
_The Life and Growth of Language_ (1875), were translated into several
languages and were hardly less popular than those of his antagonist,
Max Müller. Whitney’s style is less brilliant than Max Müller’s, and he
scorns the cheap triumphs which the latter gains by the multiplication
of interesting illustrations; he never wearies of running down Müller’s
paradoxes and inconsistencies,[14] from which he himself was spared by
his greater general solidity and sobriety of thought. The chief point
of divergence between them was, as already indicated, that Whitney
looked upon language as a human institution that has grown slowly
out of the necessity for mutual understanding; he was opposed to all
kinds of mysticism, and words to him were conventional signs--not, of
course, that he held that there ever was a gathering of people that
settled the meaning of each word, but in the sense of “resting on a
mutual understanding or a community of habit,” no matter how brought
about. But in spite of all differences between the two they are in
many respects alike, when viewed from the coign of vantage of the
twentieth century: both give expression to the best that had been
attained by fifty or sixty years of painstaking activity to elucidate
the mysteries of speech, and especially of Aryan words and forms, and
neither of them was deeply original enough to see through many of
the fallacies of the young science. Consequently, their views on the
structure of Proto-Aryan, on roots and their rôle, on the building-up
and decay of the form-system, are essentially the same as those of
their contemporaries, and many of their theories have now crumbled
away, including much of what they probably thought firmly rooted for
all time.


[10] It has been objected to the use of Aryan in this wide sense that
the name is also used in the restricted sense of Indian + Iranic; but
no separate name is needed for that small group other than Indo-Iranic.

[11] In Lefmann’s book on Bopp, pp. 292 and 299, there are some
interesting quotations on this point.

[12] For example, the correct appreciation of Scandinavian _o_ sounds
and especially the recognition of syllables without any vowel, for
instance, in G. _mittel_, _schmeicheln_, E. _heaven_, _little_; this
important truth was unnoticed by linguists till Sievers in 1876 called
attention to it and Brugmann in 1877 used it in a famous article.

[13] A young German linguist, to whom I sent the pamphlet early in
1886, wrote to me: “Wenn man sich den spass machte und das ding
übersetzte mit der bemerkung, es sei vor vier jahren erschienen, wer
würde einem nicht trauen? Merkwürdig, dass solche sachen so unbemerkt,
‘dem kleinen veilchen gleich,’ dahinschwinden können.” A short time
afterwards the pamphlet was reprinted with a short preface by Vilh.
Thomsen (Copenhagen, 1886).

[14] In numerous papers in _North Am. Review_ and elsewhere, and
finally in the pamphlet _Max Müller and the Science of Language, a
Criticism_ (New York, 1892). Müller’s reply to the earlier attacks is
found in _Chips from a German Workshop_, vol. iv.



  § 1. Achievements about 1870. § 2. New Discoveries. § 3. Phonetic
  Laws and Analogy. § 4. General Tendencies.

IV.--§ 1. Achievements about 1870.

In works of this period one frequently meets with expressions of pride
and joy in the wonderful results that had been achieved in comparative
linguistics in the course of a few decades. Thus Max Müller writes:
“All this becomes clear and intelligible by the light of Comparative
Grammar; anomalies vanish, exceptions prove the rule, and we perceive
more plainly every day how in language, as elsewhere, the conflict
between the freedom claimed by each individual and the resistance
offered by the community at large establishes in the end a reign of
law most wonderful, yet perfectly rational and intelligible”; and
again: “There is nothing accidental, nothing irregular, nothing without
a purpose and meaning in any part of Greek or Latin grammar. No one
who has once discovered this hidden life of language, no one who has
once found out that what seemed to be merely anomalous and whimsical
in language is but, as it were, a petrification of thought, of deep,
curious, poetical, philosophical thought, will ever rest again till
he has descended as far as he can descend into the ancient shafts of
human speech,” etc. (Ch 41 f.). Whitney says: “The difference between
the old haphazard style of etymologizing and the modern scientific
method lies in this: that the latter, while allowing everything to be
theoretically possible, accepts nothing as actual which is not proved
by sufficient evidence; it brings to bear upon each individual case a
wide circle of related facts; it imposes upon the student the necessity
of extended comparison and cautious deduction; it makes him careful
to inform himself as thoroughly as circumstances allow respecting
the history of every word he deals with” (L 386). And Benfey, in his
_Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft_ (1869, see pp. 562 f. and 596),
arrives at the conclusion that the investigation of Aryan languages
has already attained a very great degree of certainty, and that the
reconstruction of Primitive Aryan, both in grammar and vocabulary,
must be considered as in the main settled in such a way that only some
details are still doubtful; thus, it is certain that the first person
singular ended in _-mi_, and that this is a phonetic reduction of the
pronoun _ma_, and that the word for ‘horse’ was _akva_. This feeling
of pride is certainly in a great measure justified if we compare the
achievements of linguistic science at that date with the etymologies of
the eighteenth century; it must also be acknowledged that 90 per cent.
of the etymologies in the best-known Aryan languages which must be
recognized as established beyond any reasonable doubt had already been
discovered before 1870, while later investigations have only added a
small number that may be considered firmly established, together with a
great many more or less doubtful collocations. But, on the other hand,
in the light of later research, we can now see that much of what was
then considered firm as a rock did not deserve the implicit trust then
placed in it.

IV.--§ 2. New Discoveries.

This is true in the first place with regard to the phonetic structure
ascribed to Proto-Aryan. A series of brilliant discoveries made about
the year 1880 profoundly modified the views of scholars about the
consonantal and still more about the vocalic system of our family of
languages. This is particularly true of the so-called palatal law.[15]
So long as it was taken for granted that Sanskrit had in all essential
points preserved the ancient sound system, while Greek and the other
languages represented younger stages, no one could explain why Sanskrit
in some cases had the palatals _c_ and _j_ (sounds approximately like
the initial sounds of E. _chicken_ and _joy_) where the other languages
have the velar sounds _k_ and _g_. It was now recognized that so far
from the distribution of the two classes of sounds in Sanskrit being
arbitrary, it followed strict rules, though these were not to be
seen from Sanskrit itself. Where Sanskrit _a_ following the consonant
corresponded to Greek or Latin _o_, Sanskrit had velar _k_ or _g_;
where, on the other hand, it corresponded to Greek or Latin _e_,
Sanskrit had palatal _c_ or _j_. Thus we have, for instance, _c_ in
Sansk. _ca_, ‘and’ = Greek _te_, Lat. _que_, but _k_ in _kakša_ = Lat.
_coxa_; the difference between the two consonants in a perfect like
_cakara_, ‘have done,’ is dependent on the same vowel alternation as
that of Greek _léloipa_; _c_ in the verb _pacati_, ‘cooks,’ as against
_k_ in the substantive _pakas_, ‘cooking,’ corresponds to the vowels
in Greek _légei_ as against _lógos_, etc. All this shows that Sanskrit
itself must once have had the vowels _e_ and _o_ instead of _a_; before
the front vowel _e_ the consonant has then been fronted or palatalized,
as _ch_ in E. _chicken_ is due to the following front vowel, while _k_
has been preserved before _o_ in _cock_. Sanskrit is thus shown to be
in some important respects less conservative than Greek, a truth which
was destined profoundly to modify many theories concerning the whole
family of languages. As Curtius said, with some resentment of the
change in view then taking place, “Sanskrit, once the oracle of the
rising science and trusted blindly, is now put on one side; instead
of the traditional _ex oriente lux_ the saying is now _in oriente
tenebræ_” (K 97).

The new views held in regard to Aryan vowels also resulted in a
thorough revision of the theory of apophony (ablaut). The great mass
of Aryan vowel alternations were shown to form a vast and singularly
consistent system, the main features of which may be gathered from the
following tabulation of a few select Greek examples, arranged into
three columns, each representing one ‘grade’:

         I                II         III

  (1) pétomai           pótē        eptómai
      (s)ékhō           (s)ókhos    éskhon

  (2) leípō             léloipa     élipon

  (3) peúthomai           --        eputhómēn

  (4) dérkomai          dédorka     édrakon

  (5) teínō (*tenjo)    tónos       tatós

It is outside our scope to show how this scheme gives us a natural clue
to the vowels in such verbs as E. I _ride_, II _rode_, III _ridden_
(2), G. I _werde_, II _ward_, III _geworden_ (4), or I _binde_, II
_band_, III _gebunden_ (5). It will be seen from the Greek examples
that grade I is throughout characterized by the vowel _e_ and grade
II by the vowel _o_; as for grade III, the vowel of I and II has
entirely disappeared in (1), where there is no vowel between the
two consonants, and in (2) and (3), where the element found after
_e_ and _o_ and forming a diphthong with these has now become a full
(syllabic) vowel _i_ and _u_ by itself. In (4) Sanskrit has in grade
III a syllabic _r_ (_adrçam_ = Gr. _édrakon_), while Greek has _ra_,
or in some instances _ar_, and Gothonic has _ur_ or _or_ according to
the vowel of the following syllable. It was this fact that suggested
to Brugmann his theory that in (5) Greek _a_, Lat. _in_, Goth. _un_ in
the third grade originated in syllabic _ṇ_, and that _tatós_ thus stood
for *_tṇtós_; he similarly explained Gr. _déka_, Lat. _decem_, Gothic
_taihun_, E. _ten_ from *_dekṃ_ with syllabic _m_. I do not believe
that his theory is entirely correct; but so much is certain, that in
all instances grade III is characterized by a reduction of the vowel
that appears in the two other grades as _e_ and _o_, and there can be
no doubt that this reduction is due to want of stress. This being so,
it becomes impossible to consider _lip_ the original root-form, which
in _leip_ and _loip_ has been extended, and the new theory of apophony
thus disposes of the old theory, based on the Indian grammarians’
view that the shortest form was the root-form, which was then raised
through ‘guna’ and ‘vrddhi.’ This now is reversed, and the fuller
form is shown to be the oldest, which in some cases was shortened
according to a process paralleled in many living languages. Bopp was
right in his rejection of Grimm’s theory of an inner, significatory
reason for apophony, as apophony is now shown to have been due to a
mechanical cause, though a different one from that suggested by Bopp
(see above, p. 53); and Grimm was also wrong in another respect,
because apophony is found from the first in noun-formations as well as
in verbs, where Grimm believed it to have been instituted to indicate
tense differences, with which it had originally nothing to do. Apophony
even appears in other syllables than the root syllable; the new view
thus quite naturally paved the way for skepticism with regard to the
old doctrine that Aryan roots were necessarily monosyllabic; and
scholars soon began to admit dissyllabic ‘bases’ in place of the old
roots; instead of _lip_, the earliest accessible form thus came to be
something like _leipo_ or _leipe_. In this way the new vowel system had
far-reaching consequences and made linguists look upon many problems
in a new light. It should be noted, however, that the mechanical
explanation of apophony from difference in accent applies only to
grade III, in contradistinction to grades I and II; the reason of the
alternation between the _e_ of I and the _o_ of II is by no means clear.

The investigations leading to the discovery of the palatal law and
the new theory of apophony were only a part of the immense labour of
a number of able linguists in the ’seventies and ’eighties, which
cleared up many obscure points in Aryan phonology and morphology. One
of the most famous discoveries was that of the Dane Karl Verner, that
a whole series of consonant alternations in the old Gothonic languages
was dependent on accent, and (more remarkable still) on the primeval
accent, preserved in its oldest form in Sanskrit only, and differing
from that of modern Gothonic languages in resting in some instances
on the ending and in others on the root. When it was realized that
the fact that German has _t_ in _vater_, but _d_ in _bruder_, was due
to a different accentuation of the two words three or four thousand
years ago, or that the difference between _s_ and _r_ in E. _was_ and
_were_ was connected with the fact that perfect singulars in Sanskrit
are stressed on the root, but plurals on the ending, this served not
only to heighten respect for the linguistic science that was able to
demonstrate such truths, but also to increase the feeling that the
world of sounds was subject to strict laws comparable to those of
natural science.

IV.--§ 3. Phonetic Laws and Analogy.

The ‘blind’ operation of phonetic laws became the chief tenet of a
new school of ‘young-grammarians’ or ‘junggrammatiker’ (Brugmann,
Delbrück, Osthoff, Paul and others), who somewhat noisily flourished
their advance upon earlier linguists and justly roused the anger
not only of their own teachers, including Curtius, but also of
fellow-students like Johannes Schmidt and Collitz. For some years a
fierce discussion took place on the principles of linguistic science,
in which young-grammarians tried to prove deductively the truth of
their favourite thesis that “Sound-laws admit of no exceptions” (first,
it seems, enounced by Leskien). Osthoff wrongly maintained that sound
changes belonged to physiology and analogical change to psychology; but
though that distribution of the two kinds of change to two different
domains was untenable, the distinction in itself was important and
proved a valuable, though perhaps sometimes too easy instrument in the
hands of the historical grammarian. It was quite natural that those who
insisted on undeviating phonetic laws should turn their attention to
those cases in which forms appeared that did not conform to these laws,
and try to explain them; and thus they inevitably were led to recognize
the immense importance of analogical formations in the economy of all
languages. Such formations had long been known, but little attention
had been paid to them, and they were generally termed ‘false analogies’
and looked upon as corruptions or inorganic formations found only or
chiefly in a degenerate age, in which the true meaning and composition
of the old forms was no longer understood. Men like Curtius were
scandalized at the younger school explaining so many even of the
noble forms of ancient Greek as due to this upstart force of analogy.
His opponents contended that the name of ‘false analogy’ was wrong
and misleading: the analogy in itself was perfect and was handled
with unerring instinct in each case. They likewise pointed out that
analogical formations, so far from being perversions of a late age,
really represented one of the vital principles of language, without
which it could never have come into existence.

One of the first to take the new point of view and to explain it
clearly was Hermann Paul. I quote from an early article (as translated
by Sweet, CP 112) the following passages, which really struck a new
note in linguistic theory:

“There is one simple fact which should never be left out of sight,
namely, that even in the parent Indogermanic language, long before its
split-up, there were no longer any roots, stems, and suffixes, but only
ready-made _words_, which were employed without the slightest thought
of their composite nature. And it is only of such ready-made words
that the store is composed from which everyone draws when he speaks.
He has no stock of stems and terminations at his disposal from which
he could construct the form required for each separate occasion. Not
that he must necessarily have heard and learnt by heart every form he
uses. This would, in fact, be impossible. He is, on the contrary, able
of himself to form cases of nouns, tenses of verbs, etc., which he has
either never heard or else not noticed specially; but, as there is no
combining of stem and suffix, this can only be done on the pattern of
the other ready-made combinations which he has learnt from his fellows.
These latter are first learnt one by one, and then gradually associated
into groups which correspond to the grammatical categories, but are
never clearly conceived as such without special training. This grouping
not only greatly aids the memory, but also makes it possible to produce
other combinations. And this is what we call _analogy_.”

“It is, therefore, clear that, while speaking, everyone is incessantly
producing analogical forms. _Reproduction by memory_ and _new-formation
by means of association_ are its two indispensable factors. It is a
mistake to assume a language as given in grammar and dictionary, that
is, the whole body of possible words and forms, as something concrete,
and to forget that it is nothing but an abstraction devoid of reality,
and that _the actual language exists only in the individual_, from whom
it cannot be separated even in scientific investigation, if we will
understand its nature and development. To comprehend the existence
of each separate spoken form, we must not ask ‘Is it current in the
language?’ or ‘Is it conformable to the laws of the language as deduced
by the grammarians?’ but ‘Has he who has just employed it previously
had it in his memory, or has he formed it himself for the first time,
and, if so, according to what analogy?’ When, for instance, anyone
employs the plural _milben_ in German, it may be that he has learnt
it from others, or else that he has only heard the singular _milbe_,
but knows that such words as _lerche_, _schwalbe_, etc., form their
plural _lerchen_, etc., so that the association _milbe_-_milben_ is
unconsciously suggested to him. He may also have heard the plural
_milben_, but remembers it so imperfectly that he would forget it
entirely were it not associated in his mind with a series of similar
forms which help him to recall it. It is, therefore, often difficult to
determine the share memory and creative fancy have had in each separate

Linguists thus set about it seriously to think of language in terms
of speaking individuals, who have learnt their mother-tongue in the
ordinary way, and who now employ it in their daily intercourse with
other men and women, without in each separate case knowing what they
owe to others and what they have to create on the spur of the moment.
Just as Sokrates fetched philosophy down from the skies, so also now
linguists fetched words and forms down from vocabularies and grammars
and placed them where their natural home is, in the minds and on the
lips of ordinary men who are neither lexicographers nor grammarians,
but who nevertheless master their language with sufficient ease and
correctness for all ordinary purposes. Linguists now were confronted
with some general problems which had not greatly troubled their
predecessors (with the solitary exception of Bredsdorff, whose work
was entirely overlooked), namely, What are the causes of changes
in language? How are they brought about, and how should they be
classified? Many articles on these questions appeared in linguistic
periodicals about the year 1880, but the profoundest and fullest
treatment was found in a masterly book by H. Paul, _Prinzipien der
Sprachgeschichte_, the first edition of which (1880) exercised a very
considerable influence on linguistic thought, while the subsequent
editions were constantly enlarged and improved so as to contain a
wealth of carefully sifted material to illustrate the various processes
of linguistic change. It should also be noted that Paul paid more and
more attention to syntax, and that this part of grammar, which had been
neglected by Bopp and Schleicher and their contemporaries, was about
this time taken up by some of the leading linguists, who showed that
the comparative and historical method was capable of throwing a flood
of light on syntax no less than on morphology (Delbrück, Ziemer).

IV.--§ 4. General Tendencies.

While linguists in the ’eighties were taking up, as we have seen,
a great many questions of vast general importance that had not
been treated by the older generation, on the other hand they were
losing interest in some of the problems that had occupied their
predecessors. This was the case with the question of the ultimate
origin of grammatical endings. So late as 1869 Benfey included among
Bopp’s ‘brilliant discoveries’ his theory that the _s_ of the aorist
and of the future was derived from the verb _as_, ‘to be,’ and that
the endings of the Latin imperfect _-bam_ and future _-bo_ were from
the synonymous verb _fu_ = Sanskrit _bhu_ (Gesch 377), and the next
year Raumer reckons the same theories among Bopp’s ‘most important
discoveries.’ But soon after this we see that speculations of this kind
somehow go out of fashion. One of the last books to indulge in them
to any extent is Scherer’s once famous _Zur Geschichte der deutschen
Sprache_ (2nd ed., 1878), in the eighth chapter of which the writer
disports himself among primitive roots, endings, prepositions and
pronouns, which he identifies and differentiates with such extreme
boldness and confidence in his own wild fancies that a sober-minded
man of the twentieth century cannot but feel dazed and giddy. The
ablest linguists of the new school simply left these theories aside:
no new explanations of the same description were advanced, and the old
ones were not substantiated by the ascertained phenomena of living
languages. So much was found in these of the most absorbing interest
that scholars ceased to care for what might lie behind Proto-Aryan;
some even went so far as to deprecate in strong expressions any
attempts at what they termed ‘glottogonic’ theories. To these
matter-of-fact linguists all speculations as to the ultimate origin of
language were futile and nebulous, a verdict which might be in no small
degree justified by much of what had been written on the subject by
quasi-philosophers and quasi-linguists. The aversion to these questions
was shown as early as 1866, when La Société de Linguistique was
founded in Paris. Section 2 of the statutes of the Society expressly
states that “La Société n’admet aucune communication concernant, soit
l’origine du langage, soit la création d’une langue universelle”--both
of them questions which, as they _can_ be treated in a scientific
spirit, should not be left exclusively to dilettanti.

The last forty years have witnessed an extraordinary activity on the
part of scholars in investigating all domains of the Aryan languages
in the light of the new general views and by the aid of the methods
that have now become common property. Phonological investigations
have no doubt had the lion’s share and have to a great extent been
signalized by that real insight into physiological phonetics which
had been wanting in earlier linguists; but very much excellent work
has also been done in morphology, syntax and semantics; and in all
these domains much has been gained by considering words not as mere
isolated units, but as parts of sentences, or, better, of connected
speech. In phonetics more and more attention has been paid to sentence
phonetics and ‘sandhi phenomena’; the heightened interest in everything
concerning ‘accent’ (stress and pitch) has also led to investigations
of sentence-stress and sentence-melody; the intimate connexion between
forms and their use or function in the sentence, in other words their
syntax, has been more and more recognized; and finally, if semantics
(the study of the significations of words) has become a real science
instead of being a curiosity shop of isolated specimens, this has only
been rendered possible through seeing words as connected with other
words to form complete utterances. But this change of attitude could
not have been brought about unless linguists had studied texts in the
different languages to a far greater extent than had been done in
previous periods; thus, naturally, the antagonism formerly often felt
between the linguistic and the purely philological study of the same
language has tended to disappear, and many scholars have produced work
both in their particular branch of linguistics and in the corresponding
philology. There can be no doubt that this development has been
profitable to both domains of scientific activity.

Another beneficial change is the new attitude taken with regard to the
study of living speech. The science of linguistics had long stood in
the sign of Cancer and had been constantly looking backwards--to its
own great loss. Now, with the greater stress laid on phonetics and on
the psychology of language, the necessity of observing the phenomena
of actual everyday speech was more clearly perceived. Among pioneers
in this respect I must specially mention Henry Sweet; now there is a
steadily growing interest in living speech as the necessary foundation
of all general theorizing. And with interest comes knowledge.

It is outside the purpose of this volume to give the history of
linguistic study during the last forty years in the same way as I have
attempted to give it for the period before 1880, and I must therefore
content myself with a few brief remarks on general tendencies. I even
withstand the temptation to try and characterize the two greatest works
on general linguistics that have appeared during this period, those by
Georg v. d. Gabelentz and Wilhelm Wundt: important and in many ways
excellent as they are, they have not exercised the same influence
on contemporary linguistic research as some of their predecessors.
Personally I owe incomparably much more to the former than to the
latter, who is much less of a linguist than of a psychologist and whose
pages seem to me often richer in words than in fertilizing ideas. As
for the rest, I can give only a bare alphabetical list of some of
the writers who during this period have dealt with the more general
problems of linguistic change or linguistic theory, and must not
attempt any appreciation of their works: Bally, Baudouin de Courtenay,
Bloomfield, Bréal, Delbrück, van Ginneken, Hale, Henry, Hirt, Axel
Kock, Meillet, Meringer, Noreen, Oertel, Pedersen, Sandfeld (Jensen),
de Saussure, Schuchardt, Sechehaye, Streitberg, Sturtevant, Sütterlin,
Sweet, Uhlenbeck, Vossler, Wechssler. In the following parts of my work
there will be many opportunities of mentioning their views, especially
when I disagree with them, for I am afraid it will be impossible always
to indicate what I owe to their suggestions.

In the history of linguistic science we have seen in one period a
tendency to certain large syntheses (the classification of languages
into isolating, agglutinative and flexional, and the corresponding
theory of three periods with its corollary touching the origin of
flexional endings), and we have seen how these syntheses were later
discredited, though never actually disproved, linguists contenting
themselves with detailed comparisons and explanations of single words,
forms or sounds without troubling about their ultimate origin or
about the evolutionary tendencies of the whole system or structure
of language. The question may therefore be raised, were Bopp and
Schleicher wrong in attempting these large syntheses? It would appear
from the expressions of some modern linguists that they thought that
any such comprehensive generalization or any glottogonic theory were
in itself of evil. But this can never be admitted. Science, of its
very nature, aims at larger and larger generalizations, more and more
comprehensive formulas, so as finally to bring about that “unification
of knowledge” of which Herbert Spencer speaks. It was therefore quite
right of the early linguists to propound those great questions; and
their failure to solve them in a way that could satisfy the stricter
demands of a later generation should not be charged too heavily
against them. It was also quite right of the moderns to reject their
premature solutions (though this was often done without any adequate
examination), but it was decidedly wrong to put the questions out
of court altogether.[16] These great questions have to be put over
and over again, till a complete solution is found; and the refusal to
face these difficulties has produced a certain barrenness in modern
linguistics, which must strike any impartial observer, however much he
admits the fertility of the science in detailed investigations. Breadth
of vision is not conspicuous in modern linguistics, and to my mind
this lack is chiefly due to the fact that linguists have neglected all
problems connected with a valuation of language. What is the criterion
by which one word or one form should be preferred to another? (most
linguists refuse to deal with such questions of preference or of
correctness of speech). Are the changes that we see gradually taking
place in languages to be considered as on the whole beneficial or
the opposite? (most linguists pooh-pooh such questions). Would it be
possible to construct an international language by which persons in
different countries could easily communicate with one another? (most
linguists down to the present day have looked upon all who favour such
ideas as visionaries and Utopians). It is my firm conviction that such
questions as these admit of really scientific treatment and should be
submitted to serious discussion. But before tackling those of them
which fall within the plan of this work, it will be well to deal with
some fundamental facts of what is popularly called the ‘life’ of
language, and first of all with the manner in which a child acquires
its mother-tongue. For as language exists only in individuals and means
some specific activities of human beings which are not inborn, but have
to be learnt by each of them separately from his fellow-beings, it is
important to examine somewhat in detail how this interaction of the
individual and of the surrounding society is brought about. This, then,
will occupy us in Book II.


[15] Who was the discoverer of the palatal law? This has been
hotly discussed, and as the law was in so far anticipated by other
discoveries of the ’seventies as to be “in the air,” it is perhaps
futile to try to fix the paternity on any single man. However, it seems
now perfectly clear that Vilhelm Thomsen was the first to mention it in
his lectures (1875), but unfortunately the full and able paper in which
he intended to lay it before the world was delayed for a couple of
years and then kept in his drawers when he heard that Johannes Schmidt
was preparing a paper on the same subject: it was printed in 1920 in
the second volume of his _Samlede Afhandlinger_ (from the original
manuscript). Esaias Tegnér had found the law independently and had
printed five sheets of a book _De ariska språkens palataler_, which
he withdrew when he found that Collitz and de Saussure had expressed
similar views. Karl Verner, too, had independently arrived at the same
results; see his _Afhandlinger og Breve_, 109 ff., 305.

[16] “Es ist besser, bei solchen versuchen zu irren als gar nicht
darüber nachzudenken,” Curtius, K 145.





  § 1. From Screaming to Talking. § 2. First Sounds. § 3. Sound-laws
  of the Next Stage. § 4. Groups of Sounds. § 5. Mutilations and
  Reduplications. § 6. Correction. § 7. Tone.

V.--§ 1. From Screaming to Talking.

A Danish philosopher has said: “In his whole life man achieves nothing
so great and so wonderful as what he achieved when he learnt to talk.”
When Darwin was asked in which three years of his life a man learnt
most, he said: “The first three.”

A child’s linguistic development covers three periods--the screaming
time, the crowing or babbling time, and the talking time. But the
last is a long one, and must again be divided into two periods--that
of the “little language,” the child’s own language, and that of the
common language or language of the community. In the former the child
is linguistically an individualist, in the latter he is more and more

Of the screaming time little need be said. A child’s scream is not
uttered primarily as a means of conveying anything to others, and so
far is not properly to be called speech. But if from the child’s side
a scream is not a way of telling anything, its elders may still read
something in it and hurry to relieve the trouble. And if the child
comes to remark--as it soon will--that whenever it cries someone comes
and brings it something pleasant, if only company, it will not be long
till it makes use of this instrument whenever it is uneasy or wants
something. The scream, which was at first a reflex action, is now a
voluntary action. And many parents have discovered that the child has
learnt to use its power of screaming to exercise a tyrannical power
over them--so that they have had to walk up and down all night with a
screaming child that prefers this way of spending the night to lying
quietly in its cradle. The only course is brutally to let the baby
scream till it is tired, and persist in never letting it get its desire
_because_ it screams for it, but only because what it desires is good
for it. The child learns its lesson, and a scream is once more what
it was at first, an involuntary, irresistible result of the fact that
something is wrong.

Screaming has, however, another side. It is of physiological value as
an exercise of all the muscles and appliances which are afterwards to
be called into play for speech and song. Nurses say--and there may be
something in it--that the child who screams loudest as a baby becomes
the best singer later.

Babbling time produces pleasanter sounds which are more adapted for
the purposes of speech. Cooing, crowing, babbling--i.e. uttering
meaningless sounds and series of sounds--is a delightful exercise like
sprawling with outstretched arms and legs or trying to move the tiny
fingers. It has been well said that for a long time a child’s dearest
toy is its tongue--that is, of course, not the tongue only, but the
other organs of speech as well, especially the lips and vocal chords.
At first the movements of these organs are as uncontrolled as those
of the arms, but gradually they become more systematic, and the boy
knows what sound he wishes to utter and is in a position to produce it

First, then, come single vowels or vowels with a single consonant
preceding them, as _la_, _ra_, _lö_, etc., though a baby’s sounds
cannot be identified with any of ours or written down with our
letters. For, though the head and consequently the mouth capacity is
disproportionally great in an infant and grows more rapidly than its
limbs, there is still a great difference between its mouth capacity and
that required to utter normal speech-sounds. I have elsewhere (PhG,
p. 81 ff.) given the results of a series of measurings of the jaw in
children and adults and discussed the importance of these figures for
phonetic theory: while there is no growth of any importance during the
talking period (for a child of five may have the same jaw-length as a
man of thirty-seven), the growth is enormous during the first months
of a child’s life: in the case of my own child, from 45 mm. a few days
after birth to 60 mm. at three months old and 75 mm. at eleven months,
while the average of grown-up men is 99 mm. and of women 93 mm. The
consequence is that the sounds of the baby are different from ours, and
that even when they resemble ours the mechanism of production may be
different from the normal one; when my son during the first weeks said
something like _la_, I was able to see distinctly that the tip of the
tongue was not at all in the position required for our _l_. This want
of congruence between the acoustic manners of operation in the infant
and the adult no doubt gives us the key to many of the difficulties
that have puzzled previous observers of small children.

Babbling or crowing begins not earlier than the third week; it may be,
not till the seventh or eighth week. The first sound exercises are to
be regarded as muscular exercises pure and simple, as is clear from
the fact that deaf-mutes amuse themselves with them, although they
cannot themselves hear them. But the moment comes when the hearing
child finds a pleasure in hearing its own sounds, and a most important
step is taken when the little one begins to hear a resemblance between
the sounds uttered by its mother or nurse and its own. The mother will
naturally answer the baby’s syllables by repeating the same, and when
the baby recognizes the likeness, it secures an inexhaustible source
of pleasure, and after some time reaches the next stage, when it tries
itself to imitate what is said to it (generally towards the close of
the first year). The value of this exercise cannot be over-estimated:
the more that parents understand how to play this game with the
baby--of saying something and letting the baby say it after, however
meaningless the syllable-sequences that they make--the better will
be the foundation for the child’s later acquisition and command of

V.--§ 2. First Sounds.

It is generally said that the order in which the child learns to utter
the different sounds depends on their difficulty: the easiest sounds
are produced first. That is no doubt true in the main; but when we go
into details we find that different writers bring forward lists of
sounds in different order. All are agreed, however, that among the
consonants the labials, _p_, _b_ and _m_, are early sounds, if not the
earliest. The explanation has been given that the child can see the
working of his mother’s lips in these sounds and therefore imitates
her movements. This implies far too much conscious thought on the part
of the baby, who utters his ‘ma’ or ‘mo’ before he begins to imitate
anything said to him by his surroundings. Moreover, it has been pointed
out that the child’s attention is hardly ever given to its mother’s
mouth, but is steadily fixed on her eyes. The real reason is probably
that the labial muscles used to produce _b_ or _m_ are the same that
the baby has exercised in sucking the breast or the bottle. It would be
interesting to learn if blind children also produce the labial sounds

Along with the labial sounds the baby produces many other sounds--vowel
and consonant--and in these cases one is certain that it has not been
able to see how these sounds are produced by its mother. Even in the
case of the labials we know that what distinguishes _m_ from _b_, the
lowering of the soft palate, and _b_ from _p_, the vibrations of the
vocal chords, is invisible. Some of the sounds produced by means of the
tongue may be too hard to pronounce till the muscles of the tongue have
been exercised in consequence of the child having begun to eat more
solid things than milk.

By the end of the first year the number of sounds which the little
babbler has mastered is already considerable, and he loves to combine
long series of the same syllables, dadadada ..., nenenene ...,
bygnbygnbygn ..., etc. That is a game which need not even cease when
the child is able to talk actual language. It is strange that among an
infant’s sounds one can often detect sounds--for instance _k_, _g_,
_h_, and uvular _r_--which the child will find difficulty in producing
afterwards when they occur in real words, or which may be unknown
to the language which it will some day speak. The explanation lies
probably in the difference between doing a thing in play or without a
plan--when it is immaterial which movement (sound) is made--and doing
the same thing of fixed intention when this sound, and this sound only,
is required, at a definite point in the syllable, and with this or that
particular sound before and after. Accordingly, great difficulties
come to be encountered when the child begins more consciously and
systematically to imitate his elders. Some sounds come without effort
and may be used incessantly, to the detriment of others which the child
may have been able previously to produce in play; and a time even
comes when the stock of sounds actually diminishes, while particular
sounds acquire greater precision. Dancing masters, singing masters and
gymnastic teachers have similar experiences. After some lessons the
child may seem more awkward than it was before the lessons began.

The ‘little language’ which the child makes for itself by imperfect
imitation of the sounds of its elders seems so arbitrary that it
may well be compared to the child’s first rude drawings of men and
animals. A Danish boy named _Gustav_ (1.6)[17] called himself [dodado]
and turned the name _Karoline_ into [nnn]. Other Danish children
made _skammel_ into [gramn] or [gap], _elefant_ into [vat], _Karen_
into [gaja], etc. A few examples from English children: Hilary M.
(1.6) called _Ireland_ (her sister) [a·ni], Gordon M. (1.10) called
_Millicent_ (his sister) [dadu·]. Tony E. (1.11) called his playmate
_Sheila_ [dubabud].

V.--§ 3. Sound-laws of the Next Stage.

As the child gets away from the peculiarities of his individual ‘little
language,’ his speech becomes more regular, and a linguist can in
many cases see reasons for his distortions of normal words. When he
replaces one sound by another there is always some common element in
the formation of the two sounds, which causes a kindred impression on
the ear, though _we_ may have difficulty in detecting it because we are
so accustomed to noticing the difference. There is generally a certain
system in the sound substitutions of children, and in many instances we
are justified in speaking of ‘strictly observed sound-laws.’ Let us now
look at some of these.

Children in all countries tend to substitute [t] for [k]: both sounds
are produced by a complete stoppage of the breath for the moment by the
tongue, the only difference being that it is the back of the tongue
which acts in one case, and the tip of the tongue in the other. A child
who substitutes _t_ for _k_ will also substitute _d_ for _g_; if he
says ‘tat’ for ‘cat’ he will say ‘do’ for ‘go.’

_R_ is a difficult sound. Hilary M. (2.0) has no _r_’s in her speech.
Initially they become _w_, as in [wʌn] for ‘run,’ medially between
vowels they become _l_, as in [veli, beli] for ‘very, berry,’ in
consonantal combinations they are lost, as in [kai, bʌʃ] for ‘cry,
brush.’ Tony E. (1.10 to 3.0) for medial _r_ between vowels first
substituted _d_, as in [vedi] for ‘very,’ and later _g_ [vegi];
similarly in [mu·gi] for ‘Muriel,’ [tægi] for ‘carry’; he often dropped
initial _r_, e.g. _oom_ for ‘room.’ It is not unusual for children who
use _w_ for _r_ in most combinations to say [tʃ] for _tr_ and [dʒ] for
_dr_, as in ‘chee,’ ‘jawer’ for ‘tree,’ ‘drawer.’ This illustrates
the fact that what to us is _one_ sound, and therefore represented
in writing by _one_ letter, appears to the child’s ear as different
sounds--and generally the phonetician will agree with the child that
there are really differences in the articulation of the sound according
to position in the syllable and to surroundings, only the child
exaggerates the dissimilarities, just as we in writing one and the same
letter exaggerate the similarity.

The two _th_ sounds offer some difficulties and are often imitated as
_f_ and _v_ respectively, as in ‘frow’ and ‘muvver’ for ‘throw’ and
‘mother’; others say ‘ze’ or ‘de’ for ‘the.’ Hilary M. (2.0) has great
difficulty with _th_ and _s_; _th_ usually becomes [ʃ], [beʃ, ti·ʃ,
ʃri·] for ‘Beth,’ ‘teeth,’ ‘three’; _s_ becomes [ʃ], e.g. [franʃiʃ,
ʃti·m] for ‘Francis,’ ‘steam’; in the same way _z_ becomes [ʒ] as in
[lʌbʒ, bouʒ] for ‘loves,’ ‘Bowes’; _sw_ becomes [fw] as in [fwiŋ,
fwi·t] for ‘swing,’ ‘sweet.’ She drops _l_ in consonantal combinations,
e.g. [ki·n, kaim, kɔk, ʃi·p] for ‘clean,’ ‘climb,’ ‘clock,’ ‘sleep.’

Sometimes it requires a phonetician’s knowledge to understand the
individual sound-laws of a child. Thus I pick out from some specimens
given by O’Shea, p. 135 f. (girl, 2.9), the following words: _pell_
(smell), _teeze_ (sneeze), _poke_ (smoke), _tow_ (snow), and formulate
the rule: _s_ + a nasal became the voiceless stop corresponding to the
nasal, a kind of assimilation, in which the place of articulation and
the mouth-closure of the nasals were preserved, and the sound was made
unvoiced and non-nasal as the _s_. In other combinations _m_ and _n_
were intact.

Some further faults are illustrated in Tony E.’s [tʃouz, pʌg, pus,
tæm, pʌm, bæk, pi·z, nouʒ, ɔk, es, u·] for _clothes_, _plug_, _push_,
_tram_, _plum_, _black_, _please_, _nose_, _clock_, _yes_, _you_.

V.--§ 4. Groups of Sounds.

Even when a sound by itself can be pronounced, the child often finds it
hard to pronounce it when it forms part of a group of sounds. _S_ is
often dropped before another consonant, as in ‘tummy’ for ‘stomach.’
Other examples have already been given above. Hilary M. (2.0) had
difficulty with _lp_ and said [hæpl] for ‘help.’ She also said [ointən]
for ‘ointment’; C. M. L. (2.3) said ‘sikkums’ for ‘sixpence.’ Tony E.
(2.0) turns _grannie_ into [nægi]. When initial consonant groups are
simplified, it is generally, though not always, the stop that remains:
_b_ instead of _bl-_, _br-_, _k_ instead of _kr-_, _sk-_, _skr-_, _p_
instead of _pl-_, _pr-_, _spr-_, etc. For the groups occurring medially
and finally no general rule seems possible.

V.--§ 5. Mutilations and Reduplications.

To begin with, the child is unable to master long sequences of
syllables; he prefers monosyllables and often emits them singly and
separated by pauses. Even in words that to us are inseparable wholes
some children will make breaks between syllables, e.g. Shef-field,
Ing-land. But more often they will give only part of the word,
generally the last syllable or syllables; hence we get pet-names like
_Bet_ or _Beth_ for Elizabeth and forms like ‘tatoes’ for potatoes,
‘chine’ for machine, ‘tina’ for concertina, ‘tash’ for moustache, etc.
Hilary M. (1.10) called an express-cart a _press-cart_, bananas and
pyjamas _nanas_ and _jamas_.

It is not, however, the production of long sequences of syllables
in itself that is difficult to the child, for in its meaningless
babbling it may begin very early to pronounce long strings of sounds
without any break; but the difficulty is to remember what sounds
have to be put together to bring about exactly this or that word. We
grown-up people may experience just the same sort of difficulty if
after hearing once the long name of a Bulgarian minister or a Sanskrit
book we are required to repeat it at once. Hence we should not wonder
at such pronunciations as [pekəlout] for _petticoat_ or [efelənt]
for _elephant_ (Beth M., 2.6); Hilary M. called a _caterpillar_ a
_pillarcat_. Other transpositions are _serreval_ for _several_ and
_ocken_ for _uncle_; cf. also _wops_ for _wasp_.

To explain the frequent reduplications found in children’s language it
is not necessary, as some learned authors have done, to refer to the
great number of reduplicated words in the languages of primitive tribes
and to see in the same phenomenon in our own children an atavistic
return to primitive conditions, on the Häckelian assumption that the
development of each individual has to pass rapidly through the same
(‘phylogenetic’) stages as the whole lineage of his ancestors. It is
simpler and more natural to refer these reduplications to the pleasure
always felt in repeating the same muscular action until one is tired.
The child will repeat over and over again the same movements of legs
and arms, and we do the same when we wave our hand or a handkerchief
or when we nod our head several times to signify assent, etc. When we
laugh we repeat the same syllable consisting of _h_ and a more or less
indistinct vowel, and when we sing a melody without words we are apt to
‘reduplicate’ indefinitely. Thus also with the little ones. Apart from
such words as _papa_ and _mamma_, to which we shall have to revert in
another chapter (VIII, § 8), children will often form words from those
of their elders by repeating one syllable; cf. _puff-puff_, _gee-gee_.
Tracy (p. 132) records _pepe_ for ‘pencil,’ _kaka_ for ‘Carrie.’ For a
few weeks (1.11) Hilary M. reduplicated whole words, e.g. _king-king_,
_ring-ring_ (i.e. bell), _water-water_. Tony F. (1.10) uses [touto] for
his own name. Hence pet-names like _Dodo_; they are extremely frequent
in French--for instance, _Fifine_, _Lolotte_, _Lolo_, _Mimi_; the name
_Daudet_ has arisen in a similar way from _Claudet_, a diminutive of

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a similar phenomenon (a kind of partial reduplication) when
sounds at a distance affect one another, as when Hilary M. (2.0) said
[gɔgi] for _doggie_, [bɔbin] for _Dobbin_, [dezmən di·n] for _Jesmond
Dene_, [baikikl] for _bicycle_, [kekl] for _kettle_. Tracy (p. 133)
mentions _bopoo_ for ‘bottle,’ in which _oo_ stands for the hollow
sound of syllabic _l_. One correspondent mentions _whoofing-cough_ for
‘whooping-cough’ (where the final sound has crept into the first word)
and _chicken-pops_ for ‘chicken-pox.’ Some children say ‘aneneme’ for
_anemone_; and in S. L. (4.9) this caused a curious confusion during
the recent war: “Mother, there must be two sorts of anenemies, flowers
and Germans.”

Dr. Henry Bradley once told me that his youngest child had a difficulty
with the name _Connie_, which was made alternatingly [tɔni] and
[kɔŋi], in both cases with two consonants articulated at the same
point. Similar instances are mentioned in German books on children’s
language, thus _gigarr_ for ‘zigarre,’ _baibift_ for ‘bleistift,’
_autobobil_ (Meringer),[18] _fotofafieren_ (Stern), _ambam_ for
‘armband,’ _dan_ for ‘dame,’ _pap_ for ‘patte’ (Ronjat). I have given
many Danish examples in my Danish book. Grammont’s child (see _Mélanges
linguistiques offerts à A. Meillet_, 1902) carried through these
changes in a most systematic way.

V.--§ 6. Correction.

The time comes when the child corrects his mistakes--where it said
‘tat’ it now says ‘cat.’ Here there are two possibilities which both
seem to occur in actual life. One is that the child hears the correct
sound some time before he is able to imitate it correctly; he will thus
still say _t_ for _k_, though he may in some way object to other people
saying ‘tum’ for ‘come.’ Passy relates how a little French girl would
say _tosson_ both for _garçon_ and _cochon_; but she protested when
anybody else said “C’est un petit cochon” in speaking about a boy, or
vice versa. Such a child, as soon as it can produce the new sound, puts
it correctly into all the places where it is required. This, I take it,
is the ordinary procedure. Frans (my own boy) could not pronounce _h_
and said _an_, _on_ for the Danish pronouns _han_, _hun_; but when he
began to pronounce this sound, he never misplaced it (2.4).

The other possibility is that the child learns how to pronounce the
new sound at a time when its own acoustic impression is not yet quite
settled; in that case there will be a period during which his use of
the new sound is uncertain and fluctuating. When parents are in too
great a hurry to get a child out of some false pronunciation, they may
succeed in giving it a new sound, but the child will tend to introduce
it in places where it does not belong. On the whole, it seems therefore
the safest plan to leave it to the child itself to discover that its
sound is not the correct one.

Sometimes a child will acquire a sound or a sound combination correctly
and then lose it till it reappears a few months later. In an English
family where there was no question of the influence of _h_-less
servants, each child in succession passed through an _h_-less period,
and one of the children, after pronouncing _h_ correctly, lost the
use of it altogether for two or three months. I have had similar
experiences with Danish children. S. L. (ab. 2) said ‘bontin’ for
_bonnet_; but five months earlier she had said _bonnet_ correctly.

The path to perfection is not always a straight one. Tony E. in order
to arrive at the correct pronunciation of _please_ passed through the
following stages: (1) [bi·], (2) [bli·], (3) [pi·z], (4) [pwi·ʒ], (5)
[beisk, meis, mais] and several other impossible forms. Tracy (p. 139)
gives the following forms through which the boy A. (1.5) had to pass
before being able to say _pussy_: _pooheh_, _poofie_, _poopoohie_,
_poofee_. A French child had four forms [mèni, pèti, mèti, mèsi] before
being able to say _merci_ correctly (Grammont). A Danish child passed
through _bejab_ and _vamb_ before pronouncing _svamp_ (‘sponge’), etc.

It is certain that all this while the little brain is working, and even
consciously working, though at first it has not sufficient command of
speech to say anything about it. Meringer says that children do not
practise, but that their new acquisitions of sounds happen at once
without any visible preparation. He may be right in the main with
regard to the learning of single sounds, though even there I incline
to doubt the possibility of a universal rule; but Ronjat (p. 55) is
certainly right as against Meringer with regard to the way in which
children learn new and difficult combinations. Here they certainly
do practise, and are proudly conscious of the happy results of their
efforts. When Frans (2.11) mastered the combination _fl_, he was
very proud, and asked his mother: “Mother, can you say _flyve_?”;
then he came to me and told me that he could say _bluse_ and _flue_,
and when asked whether he could say _blad_, he answered: “No, not
yet; Frans cannot say _b-lad_” (with a little interval between the
_b_ and the _l_). Five weeks later he said: “Mother, won’t you play
upon the _klaver_ (piano)?” and after a little while, “Frans can say
_kla_ so well.” About the same time he first mispronounced the word
_manchetter_, and then (when I asked what he was saying, without
telling him that anything was wrong) he gave it the correct sound, and
I heard him afterwards in the adjoining room repeat the word to himself
in a whisper.

How well children observe sounds is again seen by the way in which they
will correct their elders if they give a pronunciation to which they
are not accustomed--for instance, in a verse they have learnt by heart.
Beth M (2.6) was never satisfied with her parents’ pronunciation of
“What will you buy me when you get there?” She always insisted on their
gabbling the first words as quickly as they could and then coming out
with an emphatic _there_.

V.--§ 7. Tone.

As to the differences in the tone of a voice, even a baby shows by his
expression that he can distinguish clearly between what is said to him
lovingly and what sharply, a long time before he understands a single
word of what is said. Many children are able at a very early age to
hit off the exact note in which something is said or sung. Here is a
story of a boy of more advanced age. In Copenhagen he had had his hair
cut by a Swedish lady and did not like it. When he travelled with his
mother to Norway, as soon as he entered the house, he broke out with
a scream: “Mother, I hope I’m not going to have my hair cut?” He had
noticed the Norwegian intonation, which is very like the Swedish, and
it brought an unpleasant association of ideas.


[17] In this book the age of a child is indicated by stating the number
of years and months completed: 1.6 thus means “in the seventh month of
the second year,” etc.

[18] An American child said _autonobile_ [ɔtənobi·l] with partial
assimilation of _m_ to the point-stop _t_.



  § 1. Introductory. § 2. First Period. § 3. Father and Mother. §
  4. The Delimitation of Meaning. § 5. Numerals. Time. § 6. Various
  Difficulties. § 7. Shifters. § 8. Extent of Vocabulary. § 9. Summary.

VI.--§ 1. Introductory.

In the preceding chapter, in order to simplify matters, we have
dealt with sounds only, as if they were learnt by themselves and
independently of the meanings attached to them. But that, of course,
is only an abstraction: to the child, as well as to the grown-up, the
two elements, the outer, phonetic element, and the inner element, the
meaning, of a word are indissolubly connected, and the child has no
interest, or very little interest, in trying to imitate the sounds of
its parents except just in so far as these mean something. That words
have a meaning, the child will begin to perceive at a very early age.
Parents may of course deceive themselves and attribute to the child
a more complete and exact understanding of speech than the child is
capable of. That the child looks at its father when it hears the word
‘father,’ may mean at first nothing more than that it follows its
mother’s glance; but naturally in this way it is prepared for actually
associating the idea of ‘father’ with the sound. If the child learns
the feat of lifting its arms when it is asked “How big is the boy?”
it is not to be supposed that the single words of the sentence are
understood, or that the child has any conception of size; he only knows
that when this series of sounds is said he is admired if he lifts his
arms up: and so the sentence as a whole has the effect of a word of
command. A dog has the same degree of understanding. Hilary M. (1.0),
when you said to her at any time the refrain “He greeted me so,” from
“Here come three knights from Spain,” would bow and salute with her
hand, as she had seen some children doing it when practising the song.

The understanding of what is said always precedes the power of saying
the same thing oneself--often precedes it for an extraordinarily long
time. One father notes that his little daughter of a year and seven
months brings what is wanted and understands questions while she cannot
say a word. It often happens that parents some fine day come to regret
what they have said in the presence of a child without suspecting how
much it understands. “Little pitchers have long ears.”

One can, however, easily err in regard to the range and certainty of a
child’s understanding. The Swiss philologist Tappolet noticed that his
child of six months, when he said “Where is the window?” made vague
movements towards the window. He made the experiment of repeating his
question in French--with the same intonation as in German, and the
child acted just as it had done before. It is, properly speaking, only
when the child begins to talk that we can be at all sure what it has
really understood, and even then it may at times be difficult to sound
the depths of the child’s conception.

The child’s acquisition of the meaning of words is truly a highly
complicated affair. How many things are comprehended under one word?
The answer is not easy in all cases. The single Danish word _tæppe_
covers all that is expressed in English by carpet, rug, blanket,
counterpane, curtain (theatrical). And there is still more complication
when we come to abstract ideas. The child has somehow to find out for
himself with regard to his own language what ideas are considered
to hang together and so come under the same word. He hears the word
‘chair’ applied to a particular chair, then to another chair that
perhaps looks to him totally different, and again to a third: and it
becomes his business to group these together.

What Stern tells about his own boy is certainly exceptional, perhaps
unique. The boy ran to a door and said _das?_ (‘That?’--his way of
asking the name of a thing). They told him ‘tür.’ He then went to two
other doors in the room, and each time the performance was repeated. He
then did the same with the seven chairs in the room. Stern says, “As
he thus makes sure that the objects that are alike to his eye and to
his sense of touch have also the same name, he is on his way to general
conceptions.” We should, however, be wary of attributing general ideas
to little children.

VI.--§ 2. First Period.

In the first period we meet the same phenomena in the child’s
acquisition of word-meanings that we found in his acquisition
of sounds. A child develops conceptions of his own which are as
unintelligible and strange to the uninitiated as his sounds.

Among the child’s first passions are animals and pictures of animals,
but for a certain time it is quite arbitrary what animals are classed
together under a particular name. A child of nine months noticed
that his grandfather’s dog said ‘bow-wow’ and fancied that anything
not human could say (and therefore should be called) _bow-wow_--pigs
and horses included. A little girl of two called a horse _he_ (Danish
_hest_) and divided the animal kingdom into two groups, (1) horses,
including all four-footed things, even a tortoise, and (2) fishes
(pronounced _iz_), including all that moved without use of feet, for
example, birds and flies. A boy of 1.8 saw a picture of a Danish priest
in a ruff and was told that it was a _præst_, which he rendered as
_bæp_. Afterwards seeing a picture of an aunt with a white collar which
recalled the priest’s ruff, he said again _bæp_, and this remained the
name of the aunt, and even of another aunt, who was called ‘other bæp.’
These transferences are sometimes extraordinary. A boy who had had a
pig drawn for him, the pig being called _öf_, at the age of 1.6 used
_öf_ (1) for a pig, (2) for drawing a pig, (3) for writing in general.

Such transferences may seem very absurd, but are not more so than
some transferences occurring in the language of grown-up persons. The
word _Tripos_ passed from the sense of a three-legged stool to the
man who sat on a three-legged stool to dispute with candidates for
degrees at Cambridge. Then, as it was the duty of Mr. Tripos also to
provide comic verses, these were called tripos verses, such verses
being printed under that name till very near the end of the nineteenth
century, though Mr. Tripos himself had disappeared long ago. And as
the examination list was printed on the back of these verses, it was
called the Tripos list, and it was no far cry to saying of a successful
candidate, “he stands high on the Tripos,” which now came to mean the
examination itself.

But to return to the classifications in the minds of the children.
Hilary M. (1.6 to 2.0) used the word _daisy_ (1) of the flower itself,
(2) of any flower, (3) of any conventional flower in a pattern, (4) of
any pattern. One of the first words she said was _colour_ (1.4), and
she got into a way of saying it when anything striking attracted her
attention. Originally she heard the word of a bright patch of colour
in a picture. The word was still in use at the age of two. For some
months anything that moved was a _fly_, every man was a _soldier_,
everybody that was not a man was a _baby_. S. L. (1.8) used _bing_
(1) for a door, (2) for bricks or building with bricks. The connexion
is through the bang of a door or a tumbling castle of bricks, but
the name was transferred to the objects. It is curious that at 1.3
she had the word _bang_ for anything dropped, but not _bing_; at 1.8
she had both, _bing_ being specialized as above. From books about
children’s language I quote two illustrations. Ronjat’s son used the
word _papement_, which stands for ‘kaffemensch,’ in speaking about the
grocer’s boy who brought coffee; but as he had a kind of uniform with
a flat cap, _papement_ was also used of German and Russian officers in
the illustrated papers. Hilde Stern (1.9) used _bichu_ for drawer or
chest of drawers; it originated in the word _bücher_ (books), which was
said when her picture-books were taken out of the drawer.

A warning is, however, necessary. When a grown-up person says that a
child uses the same word to denote various things, he is apt to assume
that the child gives a word two or three definite meanings, as _he_
does. The process is rather in this way. A child has got a new toy, a
horse, and at the same time has heard its elders use the word ‘horse,’
which it has imitated as well as it can. It now associates the word
with the delight of playing with its toy. If the next day it says the
same sound, and its friends give it the horse, the child gains the
experience that the sound brings the fulfilment of its wish: but if
it sets its eye on a china cow and utters the same sound, the father
takes note that the sound also denotes a cow, while for the child it is
perhaps a mere experiment--“Could not I get my wish for that nice thing
fulfilled in the same way?” If it succeeds, the experiment may very
well be repeated, and the more or less faulty imitation of the word
‘horse’ thus by the co-operation of those around it may become also
firmly attached to ‘cow.’

When Elsa B. (1.10), on seeing the stopper of a bottle in the garden,
came out with the word ‘beer,’ it would be rash to conclude (as her
father did) that the word ‘beer’ to her meant a ‘stopper’: all we know
is that her thoughts had taken that direction, and that some time
before, on seeing a stopper, she had heard the word ‘beer.’

Parents sometimes unconsciously lead a child into error about the use
of words. A little nephew of mine asked to taste his father’s beer, and
when refused made so much to-do that the father said, “Come, let us
have peace in the house.” Next day, under the same circumstances, the
boy asked for ‘peace in the house,’ and this became the family name for
beer. Not infrequently what is said on certain occasions is taken by
the child to be the _name_ of some object concerned; thus a sniff or
some sound imitating it may come to mean a flower, and ‘hurrah’ a flag.
S. L. from an early age was fond of flowers, and at 1.8 used ‘pretty’
or ‘pretty-pretty’ as a substantive instead of the word ‘flower,’ which
she learnt at 1.10.

I may mention here that analogous mistakes may occur when missionaries
or others write down words from foreign languages with which they are
not familiar. In the oldest list of Greenlandic words (of 1587) there
is thus a word _panygmah_ given with the signification ‘needle’; as a
matter of fact it means ‘my daughter’s’: the Englishman pointed at the
needle, but the Eskimo thought he wanted to know whom it belonged to.
In an old list of words in the now extinct Polabian language we find
“_scumbe_, yesterday, _subuda_, to-day, _janidiglia_, to-morrow”: the
questions were put on a Saturday, and the Slav answered accordingly,
for _subuta_ (the same word as Sabbath) means Saturday, _skumpe_
‘fasting-day,’ and _ja nedila_ ‘it is Sunday.’

According to O’Shea (p. 131) “a child was greatly impressed with the
horns of a buck the first time he saw him. The father used the term
‘sheep’ several times while the creature was being inspected, and it
was discovered afterwards that the child had made the association
between the word and the animal’s horns, so now _sheep_ signifies
primarily horns, whether seen in pictures or in real life.” It is clear
that mistakes of that kind will happen more readily if the word is
said singly than when it is embodied in whole connected sentences: the
latter method is on the whole preferable for many reasons.

VI.--§ 3. Father and Mother.

A child is often faced by some linguistic usage which obliges him again
and again to change his notions, widen them, narrow them, till he
succeeds in giving words the same range of meaning that his elders give

Frequently, perhaps most frequently, a word is at first for the child
a proper name. ‘Wood’ means not a wood in general, but the particular
picture which has been pointed out to the child in the dining-room.
The little girl who calls her mother’s black muff ‘muff,’ but refuses
to transfer the word to her own white one, is at the same stage.
Naturally, then, the word _father_ when first heard is a proper name,
the name of the child’s own father. But soon it must be extended to
other individuals who have something or other in common with the
child’s father. One child will use it of all _men_, another perhaps of
all men with beards, while ‘lady’ is applied to all pictures of faces
without beards; a third will apply the word to father, mother and
grandfather. When the child itself applies the word to another man it
is soon corrected, but at the same time it cannot avoid hearing another
child call a strange man ‘father’ or getting to know that the gardener
is Jack’s ‘father,’ etc. The word then comes to mean to the child ‘a
grown-up person who goes with or belongs to a little one,’ and he will
say, “See, there goes a dog with his father.” Or, he comes to know
that the cat is the kittens’ father, and the dog the puppies’ father,
and next day asks, “Wasps, are they the flies’ father, or are they
perhaps their mother?” (as Frans did, 4.10). Finally, by such guessing
and drawing conclusions he gains full understanding of the word, and is
ready to make acquaintance later with its more remote applications, as
‘The King is the father of his people; Father O’Flynn; Boyle was the
father of chemistry,’ etc.

Difficulties are caused to the child when its father puts himself on
the child’s plane and calls his wife ‘mother’ just as he calls his own
mother ‘mother,’ though at other moments the child hears him call her
‘grandmother’ or ‘grannie.’ Professor Sturtevant writes to me that a
neighbour child, a girl of about five years, called out to him, “I saw
your girl and your mother,” meaning ‘your daughter and your wife.’
In many families the words ‘sister’ (‘Sissie’) or ‘brother’ are used
constantly instead of his or her real name. Here we see the reason why
so often such names of relations change their meaning in the history of
languages; G. _vetter_ probably at first meant ‘father’s brother,’ as
it corresponds to Latin _patruus_; G. _base_, from ‘father’s sister,’
came to mean also ‘mother’s sister,’ ‘niece’ and ‘cousin.’ The word
that corresponds etymologically to our _mother_ has come to mean ‘wife’
or ‘woman’ in Lithuanian and ‘sister’ in Albanian.

The same extension that we saw in the case of ‘father’ now may take
place with real proper names. Tony E. (3.5), when a fresh charwoman
came, told his mother not to have _this Mary_: the last charwoman’s
name was Mary.[19] In exactly the same way a Danish child applied
the name of their servant, Ingeborg, as a general word for servant:
“Auntie’s Ingeborg is called Ann,” etc., and a German girl said _viele
Augusten_ for ‘many girls.’ This, of course, is the way in which _doll_
has come to mean a ‘toy baby,’ and we use the same extension when we
say of a statesman that he is no _Bismarck_, etc.

VI.--§ 4. The Delimitation of Meaning.

The association of a word with its meaning is accomplished for the
child by a series of single incidents, and as many words are understood
only by the help of the situation, it is natural that the exact force
of many of them is not seized at once. A boy of 4.10, hearing that his
father had seen the King, inquired, “Has he a head at both ends?”--his
conception of a king being derived from playing-cards. Another child
was born on what the Danes call Constitution Day, the consequence being
that he confused birthday and Constitution Day, and would speak of “my
Constitution Day,” and then his brother and sister also began to talk
of their Constitution Day.

Hilary M. (2.0) and Murdoch D. (2.6) used _dinner_, _breakfast_ and
_tea_ interchangeably--the words might be translated ‘meal.’ Other more
or less similar confusions may be mentioned here. Tony F. (2.8) used
the term _sing_ for (1) reading, (2) singing, (3) any game in which
his elders amused him. Hilary said indifferently, ‘Daddy, _sing_ a
story three bears,’ and ‘Daddy, _tell_ a story three bears.’ She cannot
remember which is _knife_ and which is _fork_. Beth M. (2.6) always
used _can’t_ when she meant _won’t_. It meant simply refusal to do what
she did not want to.

VI.--§ 5. Numerals. Time.

It is interesting to watch the way in which arithmetical notions grow
in extent and clearness. Many children learn very early to say _one_,
_two_, which is often said to them when they learn how to walk; but
no ideas are associated with these syllables. In the same way many
children are drilled to say _three_ when the parents begin with _one_,
_two_, etc. The idea of plurality is gradually developed, but a child
may very well answer _two_ when asked how many fingers papa has; Frans
used the combinations _some-two_ and _some-three_ to express ‘more
than one’ (2.4). At the age of 2.11 he was very fond of counting, but
while he always got the first four numbers right, he would skip over
5 and 7; and when asked to count the apples in a bowl, he would say
rapidly 1-2-3-4, even if there were only three, or stop at 3, even
if there were five or more. At 3.4 he counted objects as far as 10
correctly, but might easily pass from 11 to 13, and if the things to
be counted were not placed in a row he was apt to bungle by moving his
fingers irregularly from one to another. When he was 3.8 he answered
the question “What do 2 and 2 make?” quite correctly, but next day to
the same question he answered “Three,” though in a doubtful tone of
voice. This was in the spring, and next month I noted: “His sense of
number is evidently weaker than it was: the open-air life makes him
forget this as well as all the verses he knew by heart in the winter.”
When the next winter came his counting exercises again amused him, but
at first he was in a fix as before about any numbers after 6, although
he could repeat the numbers till 10 without a mistake. He was fond of
doing sums, and had initiated this game himself by asking: “Mother, if
I have two apples and get one more, haven’t I then three?” His sense of
numbers was so abstract that he was caught by a tricky question: “If
you have two eyes and one nose, how many ears have you?” He answered at
once, “Three!” A child thus seems to think in abstract numbers, and as
he learns his numbers as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., not as one pear, two pears,
three pears, one may well be skeptical about the justification for the
recommendation made by many pedagogues that at an early stage of the
school-life a child should learn to reckon with concrete things rather
than with abstract numbers.

A child will usually be familiar with the sound of higher numerals long
before it has any clear notion of what they mean. Frans (3.6) said,
“They are coming by a train that is called four thirty-four,” and (4.4)
he asked, “How much is twice hundred? Is that a thousand?”

A child’s ideas of time are necessarily extremely vague to begin
with; it cannot connect very clear or very definite notions with the
expressions it constantly hears others employ, such as ‘last Sunday,’
‘a week ago,’ or ‘next year.’ The other day I heard a little girl say:
“This is where we sat _next time_,” evidently meaning ‘last time.’ All
observers of children mention the frequent confusion of words like
_to-morrow_ and _yesterday_, and the linguist remembers that Gothic
_gistradagis_ means ‘to-morrow,’ though it corresponds formally with E.
_yesterday_ and G. _gestern_.

VI.--§ 6. Various Difficulties.

Very small children will often say _up_ both when they want to be taken
up and when they want to be put down on the floor. This generally
means nothing else than that they have not yet learnt the word _down_,
and _up_ to them simply is a means to obtain a change of position. In
the same way a German child used _hut auf_ for having the hat taken
off as well as put on, but Meumann rightly interprets this as an
undifferentiated desire to have something happen with the hat. But even
with somewhat more advanced children there are curious confusions.

Hilary M. (2.0) is completely baffled by words of opposite meaning. She
will say, “Daddy, my pinny is too _hot_; I must warm it at the fire.”
She goes to the fire and comes back, saying, “That’s better; it’s quite
_cool_ now.” (The same confusion of _hot_ and _cold_ was also reported
in the case of one Danish and one German child; cf. also Tracy, p.
134.) One morning while dressing she said, “What a _nice_ windy day,”
and an hour or two later, before she had been out, “What a _nasty_
windy day.” She confuses _good_ and _naughty_ completely. Tony F. (2.5)
says, “Turn the _dark_ out.”

Sometimes a mere accidental likeness may prove too much for the child.
When Hilary M. had a new doll (2.0) her mother said to her: “And is
that your _son_?” Hilary was puzzled, and looking out of the window at
the sun, said: “No, that’s my sun.” It was very difficult to set her
out of this confusion.[20] Her sister Beth (3.8), looking at a sunset,
said: “That’s what you call a _sunset_; where Ireland (her sister) is
(at school) it’s a _summerset_.” About the same time, when staying at
_Longwood Farm_, she said: “I suppose if the trees were cut down it
would be _Shortwood Farm_?”

An English friend writes to me: “I misunderstood the text, ‘And there
fell from his eyes as it were scales,’ as I knew the word _scales_ only
in the sense ‘balances.’ The phenomenon seemed to me a strange one, but
I did not question that it occurred, any more than I questioned other
strange phenomena recounted in the Bible. In the lines of the hymn--

  Teach me to live that I may dread
  The grave as little as my bed--

I supposed that the words ‘as little as my bed’ were descriptive of my
future grave, and that it was my duty according to the hymn to fear the

Words with several meanings may cause children much difficulty. A
Somerset child said, “Moses was not a good boy, and his mother smacked
’un and smacked ’un and smacked ’un till she couldn’t do it no more,
and then she put ’un in the ark of bulrushes.” This puzzled the teacher
till he looked at the passage in Exodus: “And when she could _hide_
him no longer, she laid him in an ark of bulrushes.” Here, of course,
we have technically two different words _hide_; but to the child the
difficulty is practically as great where we have what is called one
and the same word with two distinct meanings, or when a word is used

The word ‘child’ means two different things, which in some languages
are expressed by two distinct words. I remember my own astonishment at
the age of nine when I heard my godmother talk of her children. “But
you have no children.” “Yes, Clara and Eliza.” I knew them, of course,
but they were grown up.

Take again the word _old_. A boy knew that he was three years, but
could not be induced to say ‘three years old’; no, he is three years
new, and his father too is new, as distinct from his grandmother, who
he knows is old. A child asked, “Why have _grand_ dukes and _grand_
pianos got the same name?” (Glenconner, p. 21).

When Frans was told (4.4) “Your eyes are running,” he was much
astonished, and asked, “Are they running away?”

Sometimes a child knows a word first in some secondary sense. When a
country child first came to Copenhagen and saw a soldier, he said,
“There is a tin-soldier” (2.0). Stern has a story about his daughter
who was taken to the country and wished to pat the backs of the pigs,
but was checked with the words, “Pigs always lie in dirt,” when she was
suddenly struck with a new idea; “Ah, that is why they are called pigs,
because they are so dirty: but what would people call them if they
didn’t lie in the dirt?” History repeats itself: only the other day a
teacher wrote to me that one of his pupils had begun his essay with the
words: “Pigs are rightly called thus, for they are such swine.”

Words of similar sound are apt to be confused. Some children have had
trouble till mature years with _soldier_ and _shoulder_, _hassock_
and _cassock_, _diary_ and _dairy_. Lady Glenconner writes: “They
almost invariably say ‘lemon’ [for melon], and if they make an effort
to be more correct they still mispronounce it. ‘Don’t say melling.’
‘Very well, then, mellum.’” Among other confusions mentioned in her
book I may quote _Portugal_ for ‘purgatory,’ King Solomon’s three
hundred _Columbines_, David and his great friend _Johnson_, Cain and
_Mabel_--all of them showing how words from spheres beyond the ordinary
ken of children are assimilated to more familiar ones.

Schuchardt has a story of a little coloured boy in the West Indies who
said, “It’s _three_ hot in this room”: he had heard _too_ = _two_ and
literally wanted to ‘go one better.’ According to Mr. James Payne,
a boy for years substituted for the words ‘_Hallowed_ be Thy name’
‘_Harold_ be Thy name.’ Many children imagine that there is a _pole_ to
mark where the North Pole is, and even (like Helen Keller) that polar
bears climb the Pole.

This leads us naturally to what linguists call ‘popular
etymology’--which is very frequent with children in all countries. I
give a few examples from books. A four-year-old boy had heard several
times about his nurse’s _neuralgia_, and finally said: “I don’t think
it’s _new_ ralgia, I call it old ralgia.” In this way _anchovies_ are
made into _hamchovies_, _whirlwind_ into _worldwind_, and _holiday_
into _hollorday_, a day to holloa. Professor Sturtevant writes:
A boy of six or seven had frequently had his ear irrigated; when
similar treatment was applied to his nose, he said that he had been
‘nosigated’--he had evidently given his own interpretation to the first
syllable of _irrigate_.

There is an element of ‘popular etymology’ in the following joke which
was made by one of the Glenconner children when four years old: “I
suppose you wag along in the _wagonette_, the _landau_ lands you at the
door, and you sweep off in the _brougham_” (pronounced broom).

VI.--§ 7. Shifters.

A class of words which presents grave difficulty to children are
those whose meaning differs according to the situation, so that the
child hears them now applied to one thing and now to another. That
was the case with words like ‘father,’ and ‘mother.’ Another such
word is ‘enemy.’ When Frans (4.5) played a war-game with Eggert, he
could not get it into his head that he was Eggert’s enemy: no, it was
only Eggert who was the enemy. A stronger case still is ‘home.’ When
a child was asked if his grandmother had been at home, and answered:
“No, grandmother was at grandfather’s,” it is clear that for him ‘at
home’ meant merely ‘at my home.’ Such words may be called shifters.
When Frans (3.6) heard it said that ‘the one’ (glove) was as good as
‘the other,’ he asked, “Which is the one, and which is the other?”--a
question not easy to answer.

The most important class of shifters are the personal pronouns. The
child hears the word ‘I’ meaning ‘Father,’ then again meaning ‘Mother,’
then again ‘Uncle Peter,’ and so on unendingly in the most confusing
manner. Many people realize the difficulty thus presented to the child,
and to obviate it will speak of themselves in the third person as
‘Father’ or ‘Grannie’ or ‘Mary,’ and instead of saying ‘you’ to the
child, speak of it by its name. The child’s understanding of what is
said is thus facilitated for the moment: but on the other hand the
child in this way hears these little words less frequently and is
slower in mastering them.

If some children soon learn to say ‘I’ while others speak of themselves
by their name, the difference is not entirely due to the different
mental powers of the children, but must be largely attributed to their
elders’ habit of addressing them by their name or by the pronouns.
But Germans would not be Germans, and philosophers would not be
philosophers, if they did not make the most of the child’s use of ‘I,’
in which they see the first sign of self-consciousness. The elder
Fichte, we are told, used to celebrate not his son’s birthday, but the
day on which he first spoke of himself as ‘I.’ The sober truth is, I
take it, that a boy who speaks of himself as ‘Jack’ can have just as
full and strong a perception of himself as opposed to the rest of the
world as one who has learnt the little linguistic trick of saying ‘I.’
But this does not suit some of the great psychologists, as seen from
the following quotation: “The child uses no pronouns; it speaks of
itself in the third person, because it has no idea of its ‘I’ (Ego) nor
of its ‘Not-I,’ because it knows nothing of itself nor of others.”

It is not an uncommon case of confusion for a child to use ‘you’ and
‘your’ instead of ‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘mine.’ The child has noticed that
‘will you have?’ means ‘will Jack have?’ so that he looks on ‘you’
as synonymous with his own name. In some children this confusion may
last for some months. It is in some cases connected with an inverted
word-order, ‘do you’ meaning ‘I do’--an instance of ‘echoism’ (see
below). Sometimes he will introduce a further complication by using
the personal pronoun of the third person, as though he had started
the sentence with ‘Jack’--then ‘you have his coat’ means ‘I have my
coat.’ He may even speak of the person addressed as ‘I.’ ‘Will I tell
a story?’ = ‘Will you tell a story?’ Frans was liable to use these
confused forms between the ages of two and two and a-half, and I had to
quicken his acquaintance with the right usage by refusing to understand
him when he used the wrong. Beth M. (2.6) was very jealous about her
elder sister touching any of her property, and if the latter sat on her
chair, she would shriek out: “That’s _your_ chair; that’s _your_ chair.”

The forms _I_ and _me_ are a common source of difficulty to English
children. Both Tony E. (2.7 to 3.0) and Hilary M. (2.0) use _my_ for
_me_; it is apparently a kind of blending of _me_ and _I_; e.g. “Give
Hilary medicine, make _my_ better,” “Maggy is looking at _my_,” “Give
it _my_.” See also O’Shea, p. 81: ‘_my_ want to do this or that; _my_
feel bad; that is _my_ pencil; take _my_ to bed.’

_His_ and _her_ are difficult to distinguish: “An ill lady, _his_ legs
were bad” (Tony E., 3.3).

C. M. L. (about the end of her second year) constantly used _wour_ and
_wours_ for _our_ and _ours_, the connexion being with _we_, as ‘your’
with _you_. In exactly the same way many Danish children say _vos_
for _os_ on account of _vi_. But all this really falls under our next

VI.--§ 8. Extent of Vocabulary.

The number of words which the child has at command is constantly
increasing, but not uniformly, as the increase is affected by the
child’s health and the new experiences which life presents to him. In
the beginning it is tolerably easy to count the words the child uses;
later it becomes more difficult, as there are times when his command
of speech grows with astonishing rapidity. There is great difference
between individual children. Statistics have often been given of the
extent of a child’s vocabulary at different ages, or of the results of
comparing the vocabularies of a number of children.

An American child who was closely observed by his mother, Mrs.
Winfield S. Hall, had in the tenth month 3 words, in the eleventh
12, in the twelfth 24, in the thirteenth 38, in the fourteenth 48,
in the fifteenth 106, in the sixteenth 199, and in the seventeenth
232 words (_Child Study Monthly_, March 1897). During the first month
after the same boy was six years old, slips of paper and pencils were
distributed over the house and practically everything which the child
said was written down. After two or three days these were collected and
the words were put under their respective letters in a book kept for
that purpose. New sets of papers were put in their places and other
lists made. In addition to this, the record of his life during the
past year was examined and all of his words not already listed were
added. In this way his summer vocabulary was obtained; conversations
on certain topics were also introduced to give him an opportunity to
use words relating to such topics. The list is printed in the _Journal
of Childhood and Adolescence_, January 1902, and is well worth looking
through. It contains 2,688 words, apart from proper names and numerals.
No doubt the child was really in command of words beyond that total.

This list perhaps is exceptional on account of the care with which it
was compiled, but as a rule I am afraid that it is not wise to attach
much importance to these tables of statistics. One is generally left
in the dark whether the words counted are those that the child has
understood, or those that it has actually used--two entirely different
things. The passive or receptive knowledge of a language always goes
far beyond the active or productive.

One also gets the impression that the observers have often counted
up words without realizing the difficulties involved. What is to be
counted as a word? Are _I_, _me_, _we_, _us_ one word or four? Is
_teacup_ a new word for a child who already knows _tea_ and _cup_? And
so for all compounds. Is _box_ (= a place at a theatre) the same word
as _box_ (= workbox)? Are the two _thats_ in ‘that man that you see’
two words or one? It is clear that the process of counting involves so
much that is arbitrary and uncertain that very little can be built on
the statistics arrived at.

It is more interesting perhaps to determine what words at a given age a
child does _not_ know, or rather does not understand when he hears them
or when they occur in his reading. I have myself collected such lists,
and others have been given me by teachers, who have been astonished at
words which their classes did not understand. A teacher can never be
too cautious about assuming linguistic knowledge in his pupils--and
this applies not only to foreign words, about which all teachers are
on the alert, but also to what seem to be quite everyday words of the
language of the country.

In connexion with the growth of vocabulary one may ask how many
words are possessed by the average grown-up man? Max Müller in his
_Lectures_ stated on the authority of an English clergyman that an
English farm labourer has only about three hundred words at command.
This is the most utter balderdash, but nevertheless it has often been
repeated, even by such an authority on psychology as Wundt. A Danish
boy can easily learn seven hundred English words in the first year
of his study of the language--and are we to believe that a grown
Englishman, even of the lowest class, has no greater stock than such a
beginner? If you go through the list of 2,000 to 3,000 words used by
the American boy of six referred to above, you will easily convince
yourself that they would far from suffice for the rudest labourer. A
Swedish dialectologist, after a minute investigation, found that the
vocabulary of Swedish peasants amounted to at least 26,000 words, and
his view has been confirmed by other investigators. This conclusion is
not invalidated by the fact that Shakespeare in his works uses only
about 20,000 words and Milton in his poems only about 8,000. It is easy
to see what a vast number of words of daily life are seldom or never
required by a poet, especially a poet like Milton, whose works are on
elevated subjects. The words used by Zola or Kipling or Jack London
would no doubt far exceed those used by Shakespeare and Milton.[21]

VI.--§ 9. Summary.

To sum up, then. There are only very few words that are explained to
the child, and so long as it is quite small it will not even understand
the explanations that might be given. Some it learns because, when the
word is used, the object is at the same time pointed at, but most words
it can only learn by drawing conclusions about their meaning from the
situation in which they arise or from the context in which they are
used. These conclusions, however, are very uncertain, or they may be
correct for the particular occasion and not hold good on some other, to
the child’s mind quite similar, occasion. Grown-up people are in the
same position with regard to words they do not know, but which they
come across in a book or newspaper, e.g. _demise_. The meanings of many
words are at the same time extraordinarily vague and yet so strictly
limited (at least in some respects) that the least deviation is felt as
a mistake. Moreover, the child often learns a secondary or figurative
meaning of a word before its simple meaning. But gradually a high
degree of accuracy is obtained, the fittest meanings surviving--that is
(in this connexion) those that agree best with those of the surrounding
society. And thus the individual is merged in society, and the social
character of language asserts itself through the elimination of
everything that is the exclusive property of one person only.


[19] Cf. Beach-la-Mar, below, Ch. XII § 1.

[20] Cf. below on the disappearance of the word _son_ because it sounds
like _sun_ (Ch. XV. § 7).

[21] Cf. the fuller treatment of this question in GS ch. ix.



  § 1. Introductory. § 2. Substantives and Adjectives. § 3. Verbs. § 4.
  Degrees of Consciousness. § 5. Word-formation. § 6. Word-division.
  § 7. Sentences. § 8. Negation and Question. § 9. Prepositions and

VII.--§ 1. Introductory.

To learn a language it is not enough to know so many words. They
must be connected according to the particular laws of the particular
language. No one tells the child that the plural of ‘hand’ is _hands_,
of ‘foot’ _feet_, of ‘man’ _men_, or that the past of ‘am’ is _was_,
of ‘love’ _loved_; it is not informed when to say _he_ and when _him_,
or in what order words must stand. How can the little fellow learn all
this, which when set forth in a grammar fills many pages and can only
be explained by help of many learned words?

Many people will say it comes by ‘instinct,’ as if ‘instinct’ were not
one of those fine words which are chiefly used to cover over what is
not understood, because it says so precious little and seems to say so
precious much. But when other people, using a more everyday expression,
say that it all ‘comes quite of itself,’ I must strongly demur: so far
is it from ‘coming of itself’ that it demands extraordinary labour on
the child’s part. The countless grammatical mistakes made by a child
in its early years are a tell-tale proof of the difficulty which this
side of language presents to him--especially, of course, on account of
the unsystematic character of our flexions and the irregularity of its
so-called ‘rules’ of syntax.

At first each word has only one form for the child, but he soon
discovers that grown-up people use many forms which resemble one
another in different connexions, and he gets a sense of the purport of
these forms, so as to be able to imitate them himself or even develop
similar forms of his own. These latter forms are what linguists call
analogy-formations: by analogy with ‘Jack’s hat’ and ‘father’s hat’ the
child invents such as ‘uncle’s hat’ and ‘Charlie’s hat’--and inasmuch
as these forms are ‘correct,’ no one can say on hearing them whether
the child has really invented them or has first heard them used by
others. It is just on account of the fact that the forms developed on
the spur of the moment by each individual are in the vast majority of
instances perfectly identical with those used already by other people,
that the principle of analogy comes to have such paramount importance
in the life of language, for we are all thereby driven to apply it
unhesitatingly to all those instances in which we have no ready-made
form handy: without being conscious of it, each of us thus now and then
really creates something never heard before by us or anybody else.

VII.--§ 2. Substantives and Adjectives.

The _-s_ of the possessive is so regular in English that it is not
difficult for the child to attach it to all words as soon as the
character of the termination has dawned upon him. But at first there
is a time with many children in which words are put together without
change, so that ‘Mother hat’ stands for ‘Mother’s hat’; cf. also
sentences like “Baby want baby milk.”

After the _s_-form has been learnt, it is occasionally attached to
pronouns, as _you’s_ for ‘your,’ or more rarely _I’s_ or _me’s_ for

The _-s_ is now in English added freely to whole groups of words, as
in _the King of England’s power_, where the old construction was _the
King’s power of England_, and in _Beaumont and Fletcher’s plays_ (see
on the historical development of this group genitive my ChE iii.).
In Danish we have exactly the same construction, and Danish children
will very frequently extend it, placing the _-s_ at the end of a whole
interrogative sentence, e.g., ‘Hvem er det da’s?’ (as if in English,
‘Who is it then’s,’ instead of ‘Whose is it then?’). Dr. H. Bradley
once wrote to me: “One of your samples of children’s Danish is an exact
parallel to a bit of child’s English that I noted long ago. My son,
when a little boy, used to say ‘Who is that-’s’ (with a pause before
the _s_) for ‘Whom does that belong to?’”

Irregular plurals are often regularized, _gooses_ for ‘geese,’
_tooths_, _knifes_, etc. O’Shea mentions one child who inversely formed
the plural _chieves_ for _chiefs_ on the analogy of _thieves_.

Sometimes the child becomes acquainted with the plural form first,
and from it forms a singular. I have noticed this several times with
Danish children, who had heard the irregular plural _køer_, ‘cows,’
and then would say _en kø_ instead of _en ko_ (while others from the
singular _ko_ form a regular plural _koer_). French children will say
_un chevau_ instead of _un cheval_.

In the comparison of adjectives analogy-formations are frequent with
all children, e.g. _the littlest_, _littler_, _goodest_, _baddest_,
_splendider_, etc. One child is reported as saying _quicklier_, another
as saying _quickerly_, instead of the received _more quickly_. A
curious formation is “P’raps it was John, but _p’rapser_ it was Mary.”

O’Shea (p. 108) notices a period of transition when the child may use
the analogical form at one moment and the traditional one the next.
Thus S. (4.0) will say _better_ perhaps five times where he says
_gooder_ once, but in times of excitement he will revert to the latter

VII.--§ 3. Verbs.

The child at first tends to treat all verbs on the analogy of _love_,
_loved_, _loved_, or _kiss_, _kissed_, _kissed_, thus _catched_,
_buyed_, _frowed_ for ‘caught, bought, threw or thrown,’ etc., but
gradually it learns the irregular forms, though in the beginning with
a good deal of hesitation and confusion, as _done_ for ‘did,’ _hunged_
for ‘hung,’ etc. O’Shea gives among other sentences (p. 94): “I
_drunked_ my milk.” “Budd _swunged_ on the rings.” “Grandpa _boughted_
me a ring.” “I _caughted_ him.” “Aunt Net _camed_ to-day.” “He _gaved_
it to me”--in all of which the irregular form has been supplemented
with the regular ending.

A little Danish incident may be thus rendered in English. The child
(4.6): “I have seed a chestnut.” “Where have you seen it?” He: “I seen
it in the garden.” This shows the influence of the form last heard.

I once heard a French child say “Il a pleuvy” for ‘plu’ from
‘pleuvoir.’ Other analogical forms are _prendu_ for ‘pris’; _assire_
for ‘asseoir’ (from the participle _assis_), _se taiser_ for ‘se taire’
(from the frequent injunction _taisez-vous_). Similar formations are
frequent in all countries.

VII.--§ 4. Degrees of Consciousness.

Do the little brains _think_ about these different forms and their
uses? Or is the learning of language performed as unconsciously as
the circulation of the blood or the process of digestion? Clearly
they do not think about grammatical forms in the way pursued in
grammar-lessons, with all the forms of the same word arranged side by
side of one another, with rules and exceptions. Still there is much
to lead us to believe that the thing does not go of itself without
some thinking over. The fact that in later years we speak our language
without knowing how we do it, the right words and phrases coming to
us no one knows how or whence, is no proof that it was always so. We
ride a bicycle without giving a thought to the machine, look around
us, talk with a friend, etc., and yet there was a time when every
movement had to be mastered by slow and painful efforts. There would be
nothing strange in supposing that it is the same with the acquisition
of language.

Of course, it would be idle to ask children straight out if they
think about these things, and what they think. But now and then one
notices something which shows that at an early age they think about
points of grammar a good deal. When Frans was 2.9, he lay in bed not
knowing that anyone was in the next room, and he was heard to say quite
plainly: “Små hænder hedder det--lille hånd--små hænder--lille hænder,
næ små hænder.” (“They are called small hands--little hand--small
hands--little hands, no, small hands”: in Danish _lille_ is not used
with a plural noun.) Similar things have been related to me by other
parents, one child, for instance, practising plural forms while turning
over the leaves of a picture-book, and another one, who was corrected
for saying _nak_ instead of _nikkede_ (‘nodded’), immediately retorted
“_Stikker stak, nikker nak_,” thus showing on what analogy he had
formed the new preterit. Frequently children, after giving a form which
their own ears tell them is wrong, at once correct it: ‘I sticked it
in--I stuck it in.’

A German child, not yet two, said: “Papa, hast du mir was
mitgebringt--gebrungen--gebracht?” almost at a breath (Gabelentz), and
another (2.5) said _hausin_, but then hesitated and added: “Man kann
auch häuser sagen” (Meringer).

VII.--§ 5. Word-formation.

In the forming of words the child’s brain is just as active. In many
cases, again, it will be impossible to distinguish between what the
child has heard and merely copied and what it has itself fashioned to
a given pattern. If a child, for example, uses the word ‘kindness,’ it
is probable that he has heard it before, but it is not certain, because
he might equally well have formed the word himself. If, however, we
hear him say ‘kindhood,’ or ‘kindship,’ or ‘wideness,’ ‘broadness,’
‘stupidness,’ we know for certain that he has made the word up himself,
because the resultant differs from the form used in the language he
hears around him. A child who does not know the word ‘spade’ may call
the tool a _digger_; he may speak of a lamp as a _shine_. He may say
_it suns_ when the sun is shining (cf. it rains), or ask his mother to
_sauce_ his pudding. It is quite natural that the enormous number of
nouns and verbs of exactly the same form in English (_blossom_, _care_,
_drink_, _end_, _fight_, _fish_, _ape_, _hand_, _dress_, etc.) should
induce children to make new verbs according to the same pattern; I
quote a few of the examples given by O’Shea: “I am going to _basket_
these apples.” “I _pailed_ him out” (took a turtle out of a washtub
with a pail). “I _needled_ him” (put a needle through a fly).

Other words are formed by means of derivative endings, as _sorrified_,
_lessoner_ (O’Shea 32), _flyable_ (able to fly, Glenconner 3); “This
tooth ought to come out, because it is _crookening_ the others” (a
ten-year-old, told me by Professor Ayres). Compound nouns, too, may
be freely formed, such as _wind-ship_, _eye-curtain_ (O’Shea), a
_fun-copy_ of Romeo and Juliet (travesty, Glenconner 19). Bryan L. (ab.
5) said _springklers_ for chrysalises (‘because they wake up in the

Sometimes a child will make up a new word through ‘blending’ two, as
when Hilary M. (1.8 to 2) spoke of _rubbish_ = the _rub_ber to pol_ish_
the boots, or of the _backet_, from _ba_t and r_acquet_. Beth M. (2.0)
used _breakolate_, from _break_fast and cho_colate_, and _Chally_ as a
child’s name, a compound of two sisters, _Cha_rity and S_ally_.

VII.--§ 6. Word-division.

We are so accustomed to see sentences in writing or print with a
little space left after each word, that we have got altogether wrong
conceptions of language as it is spoken. Here words follow one another
without the least pause till the speaker hesitates for a word or has
come to the end of what he has to say. ‘Not at all’ sounds like ‘not a
tall.’ It therefore requires in many cases a great deal of comparison
and analysis on the part of the child to find out what is one and what
two or three words. We have seen before that the question ‘How big is
the boy?’ is to the child a single expression, beyond his powers of
analysis, and to a much later age it is the same with other phrases.
The child, then, may make false divisions, and either treat a group of
words as one word or one word as a group of words. A girl (2.6) used
the term ‘Tanobijeu’ whenever she wished her younger brother to get out
of her way. Her parents finally discovered that she had caught up and
shortened a phrase that some older children had used--‘’Tend to your
own business’ (O’Shea).

A child, addressing her cousin as ‘Aunt Katie,’ was told “I am not
Aunt Katie, I am merely Katie.” Next day she said: “Good-morning, Aunt
merely-Katie” (translated). A child who had been praised with the
words, ‘You are a good boy,’ said to his mother, “You’re a good boy,
mother” (2.8).

Cecil H. (4.0) came back from a party and said that she had been given
something very nice to eat. “What was it?” “Rats.” “No, no.” “Well, it
was mice then.” She had been asked if she would have ‘some-ice,’ and
had taken it to be ‘some mice.’ S. L. (2.6) constantly used ‘_ababana_’
for ‘banana’; the form seems to have come from the question “Will
you have a banana?” but was used in such a sentence as “May I have
an ababana?” Children will often say _napple_ for _apple_ through a
misdivision of _an-apple_, and _normous_ for _enormous_; cf. Ch. X § 2.

A few examples may be added from children’s speech in other countries.
Ronjat’s child said _nésey_ for ‘échelle,’ starting from u'ne‿échelle;
Grammont’s child said _un tarbre_, starting from _cet arbre_, and
_ce nos_ for ‘cet os,’ from _un os_; a German child said _motel_ for
‘hotel,’ starting from the combination ‘im‿(h)‿otel’ (Stern). Many
German children say _arrhöe_, because they take the first syllable of
‘diarrhöe’ as the feminine article. A Dutch child heard the phrase
‘’k weet ’t niet’ (‘I don’t know’), and said “Papa, hij kweet ’t
niet” (Van Ginneken). A Danish child heard his father say, “Jeg skal
op i _ministeriet_” (“I’m going to the Government office”), and took
the first syllable as _min_ (my); consequently he asked, “Skal du i
dinisteriet?” A French child was told that they expected Munkácsy (the
celebrated painter, in French pronounced as Mon-), and asked his aunt:
“Est-ce que _ton Kácsy_ ne viendra pas?” Antoinette K. (7.), in reply
to “C’est bien, je te félicite,” said, “Eh bien, moi je ne te _fais_
pas _licite_.”

The German ‘Ich habe _antgewortet_’ is obviously on the analogy of
_angenommen_, etc. (Meringer). Danish children not unfrequently
take the verb _telefonere_ as two words, and in the interrogative
form will place the personal pronoun in the middle of it, ‘Tele hun
fonerer?’ (‘Does she telephone?’) A girl asked to see _ele mer fant_
(as if in English she had said ‘ele more phant’). Cf. ‘Give me _more
handier-cap_’ for ‘Give me a greater handicap’--in a foot-race (O’Shea

VII.--§ 7. Sentences.

In the first period the child knows nothing of grammar: it does not
connect words together, far less form sentences, but each word stands
by itself. ‘Up’ means what we should express by a whole sentence, ‘I
want to get up,’ or ‘Lift me up’; ‘Hat’ means ‘Put on my hat,’ or ‘I
want to put my hat on,’ or ‘I have my hat on,’ or ‘Mamma has a new hat
on’; ‘Father’ can be either ‘Here comes Father,’ or ‘This is Father,’
or ‘He is called Father,’ or ‘I want Father to come to me,’ or ‘I want
this or that from Father.’ This particular group of sounds is vaguely
associated with the mental picture of the person in question, and is
uttered at the sight of him or at the mere wish to see him or something
else in connexion with him.

When we say that such a word means what we should express by a whole
sentence, this does not amount to saying that the child’s ‘Up’ _is_
a sentence, or a sentence-word, as many of those who have written
about these questions have said. We might just as well assert that
clapping our hands is a sentence, because it expresses the same idea
(or the same frame of mind) that is otherwise expressed by the whole
sentence ‘This is splendid.’ The word ‘sentence’ presupposes a certain
grammatical structure, which is wanting in the child’s utterance.

Many investigators have asserted that the child’s first utterances
are not means of imparting information, but always an expression of
the child’s wishes and requirements. This is certainly somewhat of an
exaggeration, since the child quite clearly can make known its joy at
seeing a hat or a plaything, or at merely being able to recognize it
and remember the word for it; but the statement still contains a great
deal of truth, for without strong feelings a child would not say much,
and it is a great stimulus to talk that he very soon discovers that he
gets his wishes fulfilled more easily when he makes them known by means
of certain sounds.

Frans (1.7) was accustomed to express his longings in general by help
of a long _m_ with rising tone, while at the same time stretching out
his hand towards the particular thing that he longed for. This he did,
for example, at dinner, when he wanted water. One day his mother said,
“Now see if you can say _vand_ (water),” and at once he said what was
an approach to the word, and was delighted at getting something to
drink by that means. A moment later he repeated what he had said, and
was inexpressibly delighted to have found the password which at once
brought him something to drink. This was repeated several times. Next
day, when his father was pouring out water for himself, the boy again
said ‘van,’ ‘van,’ and was duly rewarded. He had not heard the word
during the intervening twenty-four hours, and nothing had been done to
remind him of it. After some repetitions (for he only got a few drops
at a time) he pronounced the word for the first time quite correctly.
The day after, the same thing occurred; the word was never heard but at
dinner. When he became rather a nuisance with his constant cries for
water, his mother said: “Say please”--and immediately came his “Bebe
vand” (“Water, please”)--his first attempt to put two words together.

Later--in this formless period--the child puts more and more words
together, often in quite haphazard order: ‘My go snow’ (‘I want to go
out into the snow’), etc. A Danish child of 2.1 said the Danish words
(imperfectly pronounced, of course) corresponding to “Oh papa lamp
mother boom,” when his mother had struck his father’s lamp with a bang.
Another child said “Papa hen corn cap” when he saw his father give corn
to the hens out of his cap.

When Frans was 1.10, passing a post-office (which Danes call
‘posthouse’), he said of his own accord the Danish words for ‘post,
house, bring, letter’(a pause between the successive words)--I suppose
that the day before he had heard a sentence in which these words
occurred. In the same month, when he had thrown a ball a long way, he
said what would be in English ‘dat was good.’ This was not a sentence
which he had put together for himself, but a mere repetition of what
had been said to him, clearly conceived as a whole, and equivalent
to ‘bravo.’ Sentences of this kind, however, though taken as units,
prepare the way for the understanding of the words ‘that’ and ‘was’
when they turn up in other connexions.

One thing which plays a great rôle in children’s acquisition of
language, and especially in their early attempts to form sentences, is
Echoism: the fact that children echo what is said to them. When one
is learning a foreign language, it is an excellent method to try to
imitate to oneself in silence every sentence which one hears spoken
by a native. By that means the turns of phrases, the order of words,
the intonation of the sentence are firmly fixed in the memory--so
that they can be recalled when required, or rather recur to one quite
spontaneously without an effort. What the grown man does of conscious
purpose our children to a large extent do without a thought--that is,
they repeat aloud what they have just heard, either the whole, if it is
a very short sentence, or more commonly the conclusion, as much of it
as they can retain in their short memories. The result is a matter of
chance--it need not always have a meaning or consist of entire words.
Much, clearly, is repeated without being understood, much, again,
without being more than half understood. Take, for example (translated):

Shall I carry you?--Frans (1.9): Carry you.

Shall Mother carry Frans?--Carry Frans.

The sky is so blue.--So boo.

I shall take an umbrella.--Take rella.

Though this feature in a child’s mental history has been often noticed,
no one seems to have seen its full significance. One of the acutest
observers (Meumann, p. 28) even says that it has no importance in
the development of the child’s speech. On the contrary, I think that
Echoism explains very much indeed. First let us bear in mind the
mutilated forms of words which a child uses: _’chine_ for machine,
_’gar_ for cigar, _Trix_ for Beatrix, etc. Then a child’s frequent use
of an indirect form of question rather than direct, ‘Why you smoke,
Father?’ which can hardly be explained except as an echo of sentences
like ‘Tell me why you smoke.’ This plays a greater rôle in Danish
than in English, and the corresponding form of the sentence has been
frequently remarked by Danish parents. Another feature which is nearly
constant with Danish children at the age when echoing is habitual is
the inverted word order: this is used after an initial adverb (_nu
kommer hun_, etc.), but the child will use it in all cases (_kommer
hun_, etc.). Further, the extremely frequent use of the infinitive,
because the child hears it towards the end of a sentence, where it is
dependent on a preceding _can_, or _may_, or _must_. ‘Not eat that’ is
a child’s echo of ‘You mustn’t eat that.’ In German this has become the
ordinary form of official order: “Nicht hinauslehnen” (“Do not lean out
of the window”).

VII.--§ 8. Negation and Question.

Most children learn to say ‘no’ before they can say ‘yes’--simply
because negation is a stronger expression of feeling than affirmation.
Many little children use _nenenene_ (short _ĕ_) as a natural expression
of fretfulness and discomfort. It is perhaps so natural that it need
not be learnt: there is good reason for the fact that in so many
languages words of negation begin with _n_ (or _m_). Sometimes the _n_
is heard without a vowel: it is only the gesture of ‘turning up one’s
nose’ made audible.

At first the child does not express what it is that it does not
want--it merely puts it away with its hand, pushes away, for example,
what is too hot for it. But when it begins to express in words what
it is that it will not have, it does so often in the form ‘Bread no,’
often with a pause between the words, as two separate utterances, as
when we might say, in our fuller forms of expression: ‘Do you offer
me bread? I won’t hear of it.’ So with verbs: ‘I sleep no.’ Thus with
many Danish children, and I find the same phenomenon mentioned with
regard to children of different nations. Tracy says (p. 136): “Negation
was expressed by an affirmative sentence, with an emphatic _no_ tacked
on at the end, exactly as the deaf-mutes do.” The blind-deaf Helen
Keller, when she felt her little sister’s mouth and her mother spelt
‘teeth’ to her, answered: “Baby teeth--no, baby eat--no,” i.e., baby
cannot eat because she has no teeth. In the same way, in German, ‘Stul
nei nei--schossel,’ i.e., I won’t sit on the chair, but in your lap,
and in French, ‘Papa abeié ato non, iaian abeié non,’ i.e., Papa n’est
pas encore habillé, Suzanne n’est pas habillée (Stern, 189, 203). It
seems thus that this mode of expression will crop up everywhere as an
emphatic negation.

Interrogative sentences come generally rather early--it would be
better to say questions, because at first they do not take the form of
interrogative sentences, the interrogation being expressed by bearing,
look or gesture: when it begins to be expressed by intonation we are on
the way to question expressed in speech. Some of the earliest questions
have to do with place: ‘Where is...?’ The child very often hears such
sentences as ‘Where is its little nose?’ which are not really meant
as questions; we may also remark that questions of this type are of
great practical importance for the little thing, who soon uses them to
beg for something which has been taken away from him or is out of his
reach. Other early questions are ‘What’s that?’ and ‘Who?’

Later--generally, it would seem, at the close of the third
year--questions with ‘why’ crop up: these are of the utmost importance
for the child’s understanding of the whole world and its manifold
occurrences, and, however tiresome they may be when they come in long
strings, no one who wishes well to his child will venture to discourage
them. Questions about time, such as ‘When? How long?’ appear much
later, owing to the child’s difficulty in acquiring exact ideas about

Children often find a difficulty in double questions, and when asked
‘Will you have brown bread or white?’ merely answer the last word with
‘Yes.’ So in reply to ‘Is that red or yellow?’ ‘Yes’ means ‘yellow’
(taken from a child of 4.11). I think this is an instance of the short
memories of children, who have already at the end of the question
forgotten the beginning, but Professor Mawer thinks that the real
difficulty here is in making a choice: they cannot decide between
alternatives: usually they are silent, and if they say ‘Yes’ it only
means that they do not want to go without both or feel that they must
say something.

VII.--§ 9. Prepositions and Idioms.

Prepositions are of very late growth in a child’s language. Much
attention has been given to the point, and Stern has collected
statistics of the ages at which various children have first used
prepositions: the earliest age is 1.10, the average age is 2.3. It
does not, however, seem to me to be a matter of much interest how
early an individual word of some particular grammatical class is first
used; it is much more interesting to follow up the gradual growth of
the child’s command of this class and to see how the first inevitable
mistakes and confusions arise in the little brain. Stern makes the
interesting remark that when the tendency to use prepositions first
appears, it grows far more rapidly than the power to discriminate one
preposition from another; with his own children there came a time when
they employed the same word as a sort of universal preposition in all
relations. Hilda used _von_, Eva _auf_. I have never observed anything
corresponding to this among Danish children.

All children start by putting the words for the most important concepts
together without connective words, so ‘Leave go bedroom’ (‘May I
have leave to go into the bedroom?’), ‘Out road’ (‘I am going out on
the road’). The first use of prepositions is always in set phrases
learnt as wholes, like ‘go to school,’ ‘go to pieces,’ ‘lie in bed,’
‘at dinner.’ Not till later comes the power of using prepositions in
free combinations, and it is then that mistakes appear. Nor is this
surprising, since in all languages prepositional usage contains much
that is peculiar and arbitrary, chiefly because when we once pass
beyond a few quite clear applications of time and place, the relations
to be expressed become so vague and indefinite, that logically one
preposition might often seem just as right as another, although usage
has laid down a fast law that this preposition must be used in this
case and that in another. I noted down a great number of mistakes my
own boy made in these words, but in all cases I was able to find some
synonymous or antonymous expression in which the preposition used would
have been the correct one, and which may have been vaguely before his

The multiple meanings of prepositions sometimes have strange results. A
little girl was in her bath, and hearing her mother say: “I will wash
you in a moment,” answered: “No, you must wash me in the bath”! She
was led astray by the two uses of _in_. We know of the child at school
who was asked “What is an average?” and said: “What the hen lays eggs
on.” Even men of science are similarly led astray by prepositions.
It is perfectly natural to say that something has passed over the
threshold of consciousness: the metaphor is from the way in which you
enter a house by stepping over the threshold. If the metaphor were
kept, the opposite situation would be expressed by the statement that
such and such a thing is outside the threshold of consciousness. But
psychologists, in the thoughtless way of little children, take _under_
to be always the opposite of _over_, and so speak of things ‘lying
under (or below) the threshold of our consciousness,’ and have even
invented a Latin word for the unconscious, viz. _subliminal_.[22]

Children may use verbs with an object which require a preposition
(‘Will you _wait_ me?’), or which are only used intransitively (‘Will
you _jump_ me?’), or they may mix up an infinitival with a direct
construction (‘Could you hear me sneezed?’). But it is surely needless
to multiply examples.

When many years ago, in my _Progress in Language_, I spoke of the
advantages, even to natives, of simplicity in linguistic structure,
Professor Herman Möller, in a learned review, objected to me that to
the adult learning a foreign tongue the chief difficulty consists in
“the countless chicaneries due to the tyrannical and capricious usage,
whose tricks there is no calculating; but these offer to the native
child no such difficulty as morphology may,” and again, in speaking
of the choice of various prepositions, which is far from easy to the
foreigner, he says: “But any considerable mental exertion on the part
of the native child learning its mother-tongue is here, of course,
out of the question.” Such assertions as these cannot be founded on
actual observation; at any rate, it is my experience in listening to
children’s talk that long after they have reached the point where they
make hardly any mistake in pronunciation and verbal forms, etc., they
are still capable of using many turns of speech which are utterly
opposed to the spirit of the language, and which are in the main of
the same kind as those which foreigners are apt to fall into. Many of
the child’s mistakes are due to mixtures or blendings of two turns
of expression, and not a few of them may be logically justified. But
learning a language implies among other things learning what you may
_not_ say in the language, even though no reasonable ground can be
given for the prohibition.


[22] H. G. Wells writes (_Soul of a Bishop_, 94): “He was lugging
things now into speech that so far had been _scarcely above the
threshold_ of his conscious thought.” Here we see the wrong
interpretation of the preposition _over_ dragging with it the synonym



  § 1. Why is the Native Language learnt so well? § 2. Natural
  Ability and Sex. § 3. Mother-tongue and Other Tongue. § 4. Playing
  at Language. § 5. Secret Languages. § 6. Onomatopœia. § 7.
  Word-inventions. § 8. ‘Mamma’ and ‘Papa.’

VIII.--§ 1. Why is the Native Language learnt so well?

How does it happen that children in general learn their mother-tongue
so well? That this is a problem becomes clear when we contrast
a child’s first acquisition of its mother-tongue with the later
acquisition of any foreign tongue. The contrast is indeed striking
and manifold: _here_ we have a quite little child, without experience
or prepossessions; _there_ a bigger child, or it may be a grown-up
person with all sorts of knowledge and powers: _here_ a haphazard
method of procedure; _there_ the whole task laid out in a system (for
even in the schoolbooks that do not follow the old grammatical system
there is a certain definite order of progress from more elementary to
more difficult matters): _here_ no professional teachers, but chance
parents, brothers and sisters, nursery-maids and playmates; _there_
teachers trained for many years specially to teach languages: _here_
only oral instruction; _there_ not only that, but reading-books,
dictionaries and other assistance. And yet this is the result: _here_
complete and exact command of the language as a native speaks it,
however stupid the children; _there_, in most cases, even with people
otherwise highly gifted, a defective and inexact command of the
language. On what does this difference depend?

The problem has never been elucidated or canvassed from all sides,
but here and there one finds a partial answer, often given out to be
a complete answer. Often one side of the question only is considered,
that which relates to sounds, as if the whole problem had been
solved when one had found a reason for children acquiring a better
pronunciation of their mother-tongue than one generally gets in later
life of a foreign speech.

Many people accordingly tell us that children’s organs of speech are
especially flexible, but that this suppleness of the tongue and lips is
lost in later life. This explanation, however, does not hold water,
as is shown sufficiently by the countless mistakes in sound made by
children. If their organs were as flexible as is pretended, they could
learn sounds correctly at once, while as a matter of fact it takes a
long time before all the sounds and groups of sounds are imitated with
tolerable accuracy. Suppleness is not something which is original, but
something acquired later, and acquired with no small difficulty, and
then only with regard to the sounds of one’s own language, and not

The same applies to the second answer (given by Bremer, _Deutsche
Phonetik_, 2), namely, that the child’s ear is especially sensitive to
impressions. The ear also requires development, since at first it can
scarcely detect a number of _nuances_ which we grown-up people hear
most distinctly.

Some people say that the reason why a child learns its native language
so well is that it has no established habits to contend against. But
that is not right either: as any good observer can see, the process
by which the child acquires sounds is pursued through a continuous
struggle against bad habits which it has acquired at an earlier stage
and which may often have rooted themselves remarkably firmly.

Sweet (H 19) says among other things that the conditions of learning
vernacular sounds are so favourable because the child has nothing else
to do at the time. On the contrary, one may say that the child has an
enormous deal to do while it is learning the language; it is at that
time active beyond all belief: in a short time it subdues wider tracts
than it ever does later in a much longer time. The more wonderful
is it that along with those tasks it finds strength to learn its
mother-tongue and its many refinements and crooked turns.

Some point to heredity and say that a child learns that language most
easily which it is disposed beforehand to learn by its ancestry, or in
other words that there are inherited convolutions of the brain which
take in this language better than any other. Perhaps there is something
in this, but we have no definite, carefully ascertained facts. Against
the theory stands the fact that the children of immigrants acquire the
language of their foster-country to all appearance just as surely and
quickly as children of the same age whose forefathers have been in the
country for ages. This may be observed in England, in Denmark, and
still more in North America. Environment clearly has greater influence
than descent.

The real answer in my opinion (which is not claimed to be absolutely
new in every respect) lies partly in the child itself, partly in the
behaviour towards it of the people around it. In the first place, the
time of learning the mother-tongue is the most favourable of all,
namely, the first years of life. If one assumes that mental endowment
means the capacity for development, without doubt all children are best
endowed in their first years: from birth onwards there is a steady
decline in the power of grasping what is new and of accommodating
oneself to it. With some this decline is a very rapid one--they quickly
become fossilized and unable to make a change in their habits; with
others one can notice a happy power of development even in old age; but
no one keeps very long in its full range the adaptability of his first

Further, we must remember that the child has far more abundant
opportunities of hearing his mother-tongue than one gets, as a rule,
with any language one learns later. He hears it from morning to night,
and, be it noted, in its genuine shape, with the right pronunciation,
right intonation, right use of words and right syntax: the language
comes to him as a fresh, ever-bubbling spring. Even before he begins to
say anything himself, his first understanding of the language is made
easier by the habit that mothers and nurses have of repeating the same
phrases with slight alterations, and at the same time doing the thing
which they are talking about. “Now we must wash the little face, now we
must wash the little forehead, now we must wash the little nose, now
we must wash the little chin, now we must wash the little ear,” etc.
If _men_ had to attend to their children, they would never use so many
words--but in that case the child would scarcely learn to understand
and talk as soon as it does when it is cared for by women.[23]

Then the child has, as it were, private lessons in its mother-tongue
all the year round. There is nothing of the kind in the learning of a
language later, when at most one has six hours a week and generally
shares them with others. The child has another priceless advantage: he
hears the language in all possible situations and under such conditions
that language and situation ever correspond exactly to one another
and mutually illustrate one another. Gesture and facial expression
harmonize with the words uttered and keep the child to a right
understanding. Here there is nothing unnatural, such as is often the
case in a language-lesson in later years, when one talks about ice and
snow in June or excessive heat in January. And what the child hears is
just what immediately concerns him and interests him, and again and
again his own attempts at speech lead to the fulfilment of his dearest
wishes, so that his command of language has great practical advantages
for him.

Along with what he himself sees the use of, he hears a great deal which
does not directly concern him, but goes into the little brain and is
stored up there to turn up again later. Nothing is heard but leaves
its traces, and at times one is astonished to discover what has been
preserved, and with what exactness. One day, when Frans was 4.11 old,
he suddenly said: “Yesterday--isn’t there some who say yesterday?”
(giving _yesterday_ with the correct English pronunciation), and when I
said that it was an English word, he went on: “Yes, it is Mrs. B.: she
often says like that, yesterday.” Now, it was three weeks since that
lady had called at the house and talked English. It is a well-known
fact that hypnotized persons can sometimes say whole sentences in a
language which they do not know, but have merely heard in childhood.
In books about children’s language there are many remarkable accounts
of such linguistic memories which had lain buried for long stretches
of time. A child who had spent the first eighteen months of its life
in Silesia and then came to Berlin, where it had no opportunity of
hearing the Silesian pronunciation, at the age of five suddenly came
out with a number of Silesian expressions, which could not after the
most careful investigation be traced to any other source than to the
time before it could talk (Stern, 257 ff.). Grammont has a story of a
little French girl, whose nurse had talked French with a strong Italian
accent; the child did not begin to speak till a month after this nurse
had left, but pronounced many words with Italian sounds, and some of
these peculiarities stuck to the child till the age of three.

We may also remark that the baby’s teachers, though, regarded as
teachers of language, they may not be absolutely ideal, still have
some advantages over those one encounters as a rule later in life.
The relation between them and the child is far more cordial and
personal, just because they are not teachers first and foremost. They
are immensely interested in every little advance the child makes. The
most awkward attempt meets with sympathy, often with admiration, while
its defects and imperfections never expose it to a breath of unkind
criticism. There is a Slavonic proverb, “If you wish to talk well, you
must murder the language first.” But this is very often overlooked
by teachers of language, who demand faultless accuracy from the
beginning, and often keep their pupils grinding so long at some little
part of the subject that their desire to learn the language is weakened
or gone for good. There is nothing of this sort in the child’s first
learning of his language.

It is here that our distinction between the two periods comes in, that
of the child’s own separate ‘little language’ and that of the common or
social language. In the first period the little one is the centre of
a narrow circle of his own, which waits for each little syllable that
falls from his lips as though it were a grain of gold. What teachers
of languages in later years would rejoice at hearing such forms as we
saw before used in the time of the child’s ‘little language,’ _fant_
or _vat_ or _ham_ for ‘elephant’? But the mother really does rejoice:
she laughs and exults when he can use these syllables about his
toy-elephant, she throws the cloak of her love over the defects and
mistakes in the little one’s imitations of words, she remembers again
and again what his strange sounds stand for, and her eager sympathy
transforms the first and most difficult steps on the path of language
to the merriest game.

It would not do, however, for the child’s ‘little language’ and its
dreadful mistakes to become fixed. This might easily happen, if the
child were never out of the narrow circle of its own family, which
knows and recognizes its ‘little language.’ But this is stopped because
it comes more and more into contact with others--uncles and aunts, and
especially little cousins and playmates: more and more often it happens
that the mutilated words are not understood, and are corrected and made
fun of, and the child is incited in this way to steady improvement: the
‘little language’ gradually gives place to the ‘common language,’ as
the child becomes a member of a social group larger than that of his
own little home.

We have now probably found the chief reasons why a child learns his
mother-tongue better than even a grown-up person who has been for a
long time in a foreign country learns the language of his environment.
But it is also a contributory reason that the child’s linguistic needs,
to begin with, are far more limited than those of the man who wishes
to be able to talk about anything, or at any rate about something.
Much more is also linguistically required of the latter, and he must
have recourse to language to get all his needs satisfied, while the
baby is well looked after even if it says nothing but _wawawawa_. So
the baby has longer time to store up his impressions and continue his
experiments, until by trying again and again he at length gets his
lesson learnt in all its tiny details, while the man in the foreign
country, who _must_ make himself understood, as a rule goes on trying
only till he has acquired a form of speech which he finds natives
understand: at this point he will generally stop, at any rate as far as
pronunciation and the construction of sentences are concerned (while
his vocabulary may be largely increased). But this ‘just recognizable’
language is incorrect in thousands of small details, and, inasmuch
as bad little habits quickly become fixed, the kind of language is
produced which we know so well in the case of resident foreigners--who
need hardly open their lips before everyone knows they are not natives,
and before a practised ear can detect the country they hail from.[24]

VIII.--§ 2. Natural Ability and Sex.

An important factor in the acquisition of language which we have not
considered is naturally the individuality of the child. Parents are
apt to draw conclusions as to the abilities of their young hopeful
from the rapidity with which he learns to talk; but those who are
in despair because their Tommy cannot say a single word when their
neighbours’ Harry can say a great deal may take comfort. Slowness in
talking _may_ of course mean deficiency of ability, or even idiocy, but
not necessarily. A child who chatters early may remain a chatterer all
his life, and children whose motto is ‘Slow and sure’ may turn out the
deepest, most independent and most trustworthy characters in the end.
There are some children who cannot be made to say a single word for
a long time, and then suddenly come out with a whole sentence, which
shows how much has been quietly fructifying in their brain. Carlyle
was one of these: after eleven months of taciturnity he heard a child
cry, and astonished all by saying, “What ails wee Jock?” Edmund Gosse
has a similar story of his own childhood, and other examples have been
recorded elsewhere (Meringer, 194; Stern, 257).

The linguistic development of an individual child is not always in a
steady rising line, but in a series of waves. A child who seems to have
a boundless power of acquiring language suddenly stands still or even
goes back for a short time. The cause may be sickness, cutting teeth,
learning to walk, or often a removal to new surroundings or an open-air
life in summer. Under such circumstances even the word ‘I’ may be lost
for a time.

Some children develop very rapidly for some years until they have
reached a certain point, where they stop altogether, while others
retain the power to develop steadily to a much later age. It is the
same with some races: negro children in American schools may, while
they are little, be up to the standard of their white schoolfellows,
whom they cannot cope with in later life.

The two sexes differ very greatly in regard to speech--as in regard
to most other things. Little girls, on the average, learn to talk
earlier and more quickly than boys; they outstrip them in talking
correctly; their pronunciation is not spoilt by the many bad habits and
awkwardnesses so often found in boys. It has been proved by statistics
in many countries that there are far more stammerers and bad speakers
among boys and men than among girls and women. The general receptivity
of women, their great power of, and pleasure in, imitation, their
histrionic talent, if one may so say--all this is a help to them at an
early age, so that they can get into other people’s way of talking with
greater agility than boys of the same age.

Everything that is conventional in language, everything in which the
only thing of importance is to be in agreement with those around you,
is the girls’ strong point. Boys may often show a certain reluctance to
do exactly as others do: the peculiarities of their ‘little language’
are retained by them longer than by girls, and they will sometimes
steadily refuse to correct their own abnormalities, which is very
seldom the case with girls. Gaucherie and originality thus are two
points between which the speech of boys is constantly oscillating. Cf.
below, Ch. XIII.

VIII.--§ 3. Mother-tongue and Other Tongue.

The expression “mother-tongue” should not be understood too literally:
the language which the child acquires naturally is not, or not always,
his mother’s language. When a mother speaks with a foreign accent or in
a pronounced dialect, her children as a rule speak their language as
correctly as other children, or keep only the slightest tinge of their
mother’s peculiarities. I have seen this very distinctly in many Danish
families, in which the mother has kept up her Norwegian language all
her life, and in which the children have spoken pure Danish. Thus also
in two families I know, in which a strong Swedish accent in one mother,
and an unmistakable American pronunciation in the other, have not
prevented the children from speaking Danish exactly as if their mothers
had been born and bred in Denmark. I cannot, therefore, agree with
Passy, who says that the child learns his mother’s sound system (Ch §
32), or with Dauzat’s dictum to the same effect (V 20). The father, as
a rule, has still less influence; but what is decisive is the speech
of those with whom the child comes in closest contact from the age
of three or so, thus frequently servants, but even more effectually
playfellows of his own age or rather slightly older than himself, with
whom he is constantly thrown together for hours at a time and whose
prattle is constantly in his ears at the most impressionable age, while
he may not see and hear his father and mother except for a short time
every day, at meals and on such occasions. It is also a well-known fact
that the children of Danish parents in Greenland often learn the Eskimo
language before Danish; and Meinhof says that German children in the
African colonies will often learn the language of the natives earlier
than German (MSA 139).

This is by no means depreciating the mother’s influence, which is
strong indeed, but chiefly in the first period, that of the child’s
‘little language.’ But that is the time when the child’s imitative
power is weakest. His exact attention to the minutiæ of language
dates from the time when he is thrown into a wider circle and has to
make himself understood by many, so that his language becomes really
identical with that of the community, where formerly he and his mother
would rest contented with what _they_, but hardly anyone else, could

The influence of children on children cannot be overestimated.[25]
Boys at school make fun of any peculiarities of speech noticed in
schoolfellows who come from some other part of the country. Kipling
tells us in _Stalky and Co._ how Stalky and Beetle carefully _kicked_
McTurk out of his Irish dialect. When I read this, I was vividly
reminded of the identical method my new friends applied to me when at
the age of ten I was transplanted from Jutland to a school in Seeland
and excited their merriment through some Jutlandish expressions and
intonations. And so we may say that the most important factor in
spreading the common or standard language is children themselves.

It often happens that children who are compelled at home to talk
without any admixture of dialect talk pure dialect when playing with
their schoolfellows out of doors. They can keep the two forms of
speech distinct. In the same way they can learn two languages less
closely connected. At times this results in very strange blendings, at
least for a time; but many children will easily pass from one language
to the other without mixing them up, especially if they come in contact
with the two languages in different surroundings or on the lips of
different people.

It is, of course, an advantage for a child to be familiar with two
languages: but without doubt the advantage may be, and generally is,
purchased too dear. First of all the child in question hardly learns
either of the two languages as perfectly as he would have done if he
had limited himself to one. It may seem, on the surface, as if he
talked just like a native, but he does not really command the fine
points of the language. Has any bilingual child ever developed into a
great artist in speech, a poet or orator?

Secondly, the brain effort required to master two languages instead of
one certainly diminishes the child’s power of learning other things
which might and ought to be learnt. Schuchardt rightly remarks that if
a bilingual man has two strings to his bow, both are rather slack, and
that the three souls which the ancient Roman said he possessed, owing
to his being able to talk three different languages, were probably very
indifferent souls after all. A native of Luxemburg, where it is usual
for children to talk both French and German, says that few Luxemburgers
talk both languages perfectly. “Germans often say to us: ‘You speak
German remarkably well for a Frenchman,’ and French people will say,
‘They are Germans who speak our language excellently.’ Nevertheless, we
never speak either language as fluently as the natives. The worst of
the system is, that instead of learning things necessary to us we must
spend our time and energy in learning to express the same thought in
two or three languages at the same time.”[26]

VIII.--§ 4. Playing at Language.

The child takes delight in making meaningless sounds long after it has
learnt to talk the language of its elders. At 2.2 Frans amused himself
with long series of such sounds, uttered with the most confiding
look and proper intonation, and it was a joy to him when I replied
with similar sounds. He kept up this game for years. Once (4.11)
after such a performance he asked me: “Is that English?”--“No.”--“Why
not?”--“Because I understand English, but I do not understand what
you say.” An hour later he came back and asked: “Father, do you know
all languages?”--“No, there are many I don’t know.”--“Do you know
German?”--“Yes.” (Frans looked rather crestfallen: the servants had
often said of his invented language that he was talking German. So he
went on) “Do you know Japanese?”--“No.”--(Delighted) “So remember when
I say something you don’t understand, it’s Japanese.”

It is the same everywhere. Hawthorne writes: “Pearl mumbled something
into his ear, that sounded, indeed, like human language, but was only
such gibberish as children may be heard amusing themselves with, by
the hour together” (_The Scarlet Letter_, 173). And R. L. Stevenson:
“Children prefer the shadow to the substance. When they might be
speaking intelligibly together, they chatter senseless gibberish by
the hour, and are quite happy because they are making believe to speak
French” (_Virginibus P._, 236; cf. Glenconner, p. 40; Stern, pp. 76,
91, 103). Meringer’s boy (2.1) took the music-book and sang a tune of
his own making with incomprehensible words.

Children also take delight in varying the sounds of real words,
introducing, for instance, alliterations, as “Sing a song of sixpence,
A socket full of sye,” etc. Frans at 2.3 amused himself by rounding
all his vowels (_o_ for _a_, _y_ for _i_), and at 3.1 by making
all words of a verse line he had learnt begin with _d_, then the
same words begin with _t_. O’Shea (p. 32) says that “most children
find pleasure in the production of variations upon some of their
familiar words. Their purpose seems to be to test their ability to
be original. The performance of an unusual act affords pleasure in
linguistics as in other matters. H., learning the word _dessert_, to
illustrate, plays with it for a time and exhibits it in a dozen or more
variations--_dĭssert_, _dishert_, _dĕsot_, _des'sert_, and so on.”

Rhythm and rime appeal strongly to the children’s minds. One English
observer says that “a child in its third year will copy the rhythm of
songs and verses it has heard in nonsense words.” The same thing is
noted by Meringer (p. 116) and Stern (p. 103). Tony E. (2.10) suddenly
made up the rime “My mover, I lov-er,” and Gordon M. (2.6) never tired
of repeating a phrase of his own composition, “Custard over mustard.” A
Danish girl of 3.1 is reported as having a “curious knack of twisting
all words into rimes: bestemor hestemor prestemor, Gudrun sludrun
pludrun, etc.”

VIII.--§ 5. Secret Languages.

Children, as we have seen, at first employ play-language for its own
sake, with no _arrière-pensée_, but as they get older they may see
that such language has the advantage of not being understood by their
elders, and so they may develop a ‘secret language’ consciously. Some
such languages are confined to one school, others may be in common
use among children of a certain age all over a country. ‘M-gibberish’
and ‘S-gibberish’ consist in inserting _m_ and _s_, as in _goming
mout tomdaym_ or _gosings outs tosdays_ for ‘going out to-day’;
‘Marrowskying’ or ‘Hospital Greek’ transfers the initial letters of
words, as _renty of plain_ for ‘plenty of rain,’ _flutterby_ for
‘butterfly’; ‘Ziph’ or ‘Hypernese’ (at Winchester) substitutes _wa_
for the first of two initial consonants and inserts _p_ or _g_, making
‘breeches’ into _wareechepes_ and ‘penny’ into _pegennepy_. From my own
boyhood in Denmark I remember two languages of this sort, in which a
sentence like ‘du er et lille asen’ became _dupu erper etpet lilpillepe
apasenpen_ and _durbe erbe erbe lirbelerbe arbeserbe_ respectively.
Closely corresponding languages, with insertion of _p_ and addition of
_-erbse_, are found in Germany; in Holland we find ‘de schoone Mei’
made into _depé schoopóonepé Meipéi_, besides an _-erwi-taal_ with a
variation in which the ending is _-erf_. In France such a language is
called _javanais_; ‘je vais bien’ is made into _je-de-que vais-dai-qai
bien-den-qen_. In Savoy the cowherds put _deg_ after each syllable
and thus make ‘a-te kogneu se vaçhi’ (‘as-tu connu ce vacher?’ in the
local dialect) into _a-degá te-dege ko-dego gnu-degu sé-degé va-dega
chi-degi?_ Nay, even among the Maoris of New Zealand there is a similar
secret language, in which instead of ‘kei te, haere au ki reira’ is
said _te-kei te-i-te te-haere-te-re te-a te-u te-ki te-re-te-i-te-ra_.
Human nature is pretty much the same everywhere.[27]

VIII.--§ 6. Onomatopœia.

Do children really create new words? This question has been much
discussed, but even those who are most skeptical in that respect
incline to allow them this power in the case of words which imitate
sounds. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the majority of
onomatopœic words heard from children are not their own invention, but
are acquired by them in the same way as other words. Hence it is that
such words have different forms in different languages. Thus to English
_cockadoodledoo_ corresponds French _coquerico_, German _kikeriki_ and
Danish _kykeliky_, to E. _quack-quack_, F. _cancan_, Dan. _raprap_,
etc. These words are an imperfect representation of the birds’ natural
cry, but from their likeness to it they are easier for the child to
seize than an entirely arbitrary name such as _duck_.

But, side by side with these, children do invent forms of their own,
though the latter generally disappear quickly in favour of the
traditional forms. Thus Frans (2.3) had coined the word _vakvak_, which
his mother had heard sometimes without understanding what he meant,
when one day he pointed at some crows while repeating the same word;
but when his mother told him that these birds were called _krager_, he
took hold of this word with eagerness and repeated it several times,
evidently recognizing it as a better name than his own. A little boy of
2.1 called soda-water _ft_, another boy said _ging_ or _gingging_ for a
clock, also for the railway train, while his brother said _dann_ for a
bell or clock; a little girl (1.9) said _pooh_ (whispered) for ‘match,
cigar, pipe,’ and _gagag_ for ‘hen,’ etc.

When once formed, such words may be transferred to other things, where
the sound plays no longer any rôle. This may be illustrated through two
extensions of the same word _bŏom_ or _bom_, used by two children first
to express the sound of something falling on the floor; then Ellen K.
(1.9) used it for a ‘blow,’ and finally for anything disagreeable, e.g.
soap in the eyes, while Kaare G. (1.8), after seeing a plate smashed,
used the word for a broken plate and afterwards for anything broken, a
hole in a dress, etc., also when a button had come off or when anything
else was defective in any way.

VIII.--§ 7. Word-inventions.

Do children themselves create words--apart from onomatopœic words? To
me there is no doubt that they do. Frans invented many words at his
games that had no connexion, or very little connexion, with existing
words. He was playing with a little twig when I suddenly heard him
exclaim: “This is called _lampetine_,” but a little while afterwards he
said _lanketine_, and then again _lampetine_, and then he said, varying
the play, “Now it is _kluatine_ and _traniklualalilua_” (3.6). A month
later I write: “He is never at a loss for a self-invented word; for
instance, when he has made a figure with his bricks which resembles
nothing whatever, he will say, ‘That shall be _lindam_.’” When he
played at trains in the garden, there were many stations with fanciful
names, and at one time he and two cousins had a word _kukukounen_ which
they repeated constantly and thought great fun, but whose inner meaning
I never succeeded in discovering. An English friend writes about his
daughter: “When she was about two and a quarter she would often use
some nonsense word in the middle of a perfectly intelligible sentence.
When you asked her its meaning she would explain it by another equally
unintelligible, and so on through a series as long as you cared to
make it.” At 2.10 she pretended she had lost her bricks, and when you
showed her that they were just by her, she insisted that they were not
‘bricks’ at all, but _mums_.

In all accounts of children’s talk you find words which cannot be
referred back to the normal language, but which have cropped up from
some unsounded depth of the child’s soul. I give a few from notes sent
to me by Danish friends: _goi_ ‘comb,’ _putput_ ‘stocking, or any other
piece of garment,’ _i-a-a_ ‘chocolate,’ _gön_ ‘water to drink, milk’
(kept apart from the usual word _vand_ for water, which she used only
for water to wash in), _hesh_ ‘newspaper, book.’ Some such words have
become famous in psychological literature because they were observed by
Darwin and Taine. Among less famous instances from other books I may
mention _tibu_ ‘bird’ (Strümpel), _adi_ ‘cake’ (Ament), _be’lum-be’lum_
‘toy with two men turning about,’ _wakaka_ ‘soldier,’ _nda_ ‘jar,’
_pamma_ ‘pencil,’ _bium_ ‘stocking’ (Meringer).

An American correspondent writes that his boy was fond of pushing a
stick over the carpet after the manner of a carpet-sweeper and called
the operation _jazing_. He coined the word _borkens_ as a name for a
particular sort of blocks with which he was accustomed to play. He was
a nervous child and his imagination created objects of terror that
haunted him in the dark, and to these he gave the name of _Boons_. This
name may, however, be derived from _baboons_. Mr. Harold Palmer tells
me that his daughter (whose native language was French) at an early
age used ['fu'wɛ] for ‘soap’ and [dɛ'dɛtʃ] for ‘horse, wooden horse,

Dr. F. Poulsen, in his book _Rejser og rids_ (Copenhagen, 1920),
says about his two-year-old daughter that when she gets hold of her
mother’s fur-collar she will pet it and lavish on it all kinds of
tender self-invented names, such as _apu_ or _a-fo-me-me_. The latter
word, “which has all the melodious euphony and vague signification of
primitive language,” is applied to anything that is rare and funny
and worth rejoicing at. On a summer day’s excursion there was one new
_a-fo-me-me_ after the other.

In spite of all this, a point on which all the most distinguished
investigators of children’s language of late years are agreed is that
children never invent words. Wundt goes so far as to say that “the
child’s language is the result of the child’s environment, the child
being essentially a passive instrument in the matter” (S 1. 196)--one
of the most wrong-headed sentences I have ever read in the works of
a great scientist. Meumann says: “Preyer and after him almost every
careful observer among child-psychologists have strongly held the view
that it is impossible to speak of a child inventing a word.” Similarly
Meringer, L 220, Stern, 126, 273, 337 ff., Bloomfield, SL 12.

These investigators seem to have been led astray by expressions such as
‘shape out of nothing,’ ‘invent,’ ‘original creation’ (Urschöpfung),
and to have taken this doctrinaire attitude in partial defiance of the
facts they have themselves advanced. Expressions like those adduced
occur over and over again in their discussions, and Meumann says
openly: “Invention demands a methodical proceeding with intention, a
conception of an end to be realized.” Of course, if that is necessary
it is clear that we can speak of invention of words in the case of a
chemist seeking a word for a new substance, and not in the case of a
tiny child. But are there not many inventions in the technical world,
which we do not hesitate to call inventions, which have come about more
or less by chance? Wasn’t it so probably with gunpowder? According to
the story it certainly was so with blotting-paper: the foreman who had
forgotten to add size to a portion of writing-paper was dismissed, but
the manufacturer who saw that the paper thus spoilt could be turned to
account instead of the sand hitherto used made a fortune. So according
to Meumann blotting-paper has never been ‘invented.’ If in order to
acknowledge a child’s creation of a word we are to postulate that it
has been produced out of nothing, what about bicycles, fountain-pens,
typewriters--each of which was something existing before, carried
just a little further? Are they on that account not inventions?
One would think not, when one reads these writers on children’s
language, for as soon as the least approximation to a word in the
normal language is discovered, the child is denied both ‘invention’
and ‘the speech-forming faculty’! Thus Stern (p. 338) says that his
daughter in her second year used some words which might be taken as
proof of the power to create words, but for the fact that it was here
possible to show how these ‘new’ words had grown out of normal words.
_Eischei_, for instance, was used as a verb meaning ‘go, walk,’ but it
originated in the words _eins, zwei_ (one, two) which were said when
the child was taught to walk. Other examples are given comparable to
those mentioned above (106, 115) as mutilations of the first period.
Now, even if all those words given by myself and others as original
inventions of children could be proved to be similar perversions of
‘real’ words (which is not likely), I should not hesitate to speak of
a word-creating faculty, for _eischei_, ‘to walk,’ is both in form and
still more in meaning far enough from _eins, zwei_ to be reckoned a
totally new word.

We can divide words ‘invented’ by children into three classes:

  A. The child gives both sound and meaning.

  B. The grown-up people give the sound, and the child the meaning.

  C. The child gives the sound, grown-up people the meaning.

But the three classes cannot always be kept apart, especially when
the child imitates the grown-up person’s sound so badly or seizes
the meaning so imperfectly that very little is left of what the
grown-up person gives. As a rule, the self-created words will be very
short-lived; still, there are exceptions.

O’Shea’s account of one of these words is very instructive. “She had
also a few words of her own coining which were attached spontaneously
to objects, and these her elders took up, and they became fixed in her
vocabulary for a considerable period. A word resembling _Ndobbin_ was
employed for every sort of thing which she used for food. The word
came originally from an accidental combination of sounds made while
she was eating. By the aid of the people about her in responding to
this term and repeating it, she ‘selected’ it and for a time used it
purposefully. She employed it at the outset for a specific article of
food; then her elders extended it to other articles, and this aided
her in making the extension herself. Once started in this process,
she extended the term to many objects associated with her food,
even objects as remote from her original experience as dining-room,
high-chair, kitchen, and even apple and plum trees” (O’Shea, 27).

To Class A I assign most of the words already given as the child’s
creations, whether the child be great or small.

Class B is that which is most sparsely represented. A child in Finland
often heard the well-known line about King Karl (Charles XII), “Han
stod i rök och damm” (“He stood in smoke and dust”), and taking _rö_
to be the adjective meaning ‘red,’ imagined the remaining syllables,
which he heard as _kordamm_, to be the name of some piece of garment.
This amused his parents so much that _kordamm_ became the name of a
dressing-gown in that family.

To Class C, where the child contributes only the sound and the older
people give a meaning to what on the child’s side was meaningless--a
process that reminds one of the invention of blotting-paper--belong
some of the best-known words, which require a separate section.

VIII.--§ 8. ‘Mamma’ and ‘Papa.’

In the nurseries of all countries a little comedy has in all ages
been played--the baby lies and babbles his ‘mamama’ or ‘amama’ or
‘papapa’ or ‘apapa’ or ‘bababa’ or ‘ababab’ without associating the
slightest meaning with his mouth-games, and his grown-up friends,
in their joy over the precocious child, assign to these syllables a
rational sense, accustomed as they are themselves to the fact of an
uttered sound having a content, a thought, an idea, corresponding to
it. So we get a whole class of words, distinguished by a simplicity
of sound-formation--never two consonants together, generally the same
consonant repeated with an _a_ between, frequently also with an _a_ at
the end--words found in many languages, often in different forms, but
with essentially the same meaning.

First we have words for ‘mother.’ It is very natural that the mother
who is greeted by her happy child with the sound ‘mama’ should take it
as though the child were _calling_ her ‘mama,’ and since she frequently
comes to the cradle when she hears the sound, the child himself does
learn to use these syllables when he wants to call her. In this way
they become a recognized word for the idea ‘mother’--now with the
stress on the first syllable, now on the second. In French we get a
nasal vowel either in the last syllable only or in both syllables. At
times we have only one syllable, _ma_. When once these syllables have
become a regular word they follow the speech laws which govern other
words; thus among other forms we get the German _muhme_, the meaning
of which (‘aunt’) is explained as in the words mentioned, p. 118. In
very early times _ma_ in our group of languages was supplied with a
termination, so that we get the form underlying Greek _mētēr_, Lat.
_mater_ (whence Fr. _mère_, etc.), our own _mother_, G. _mutter_, etc.
These words became the recognized grown-up words, while _mama_ itself
was only used in the intimacy of the family. It depends on fashion,
however, how ‘high up’ _mama_ can be used: in some countries and in
some periods children are allowed to use it longer than in others.

The forms _mama_ and _ma_ are not the only ones for ‘mother.’ The
child’s _am_ has also been seized and maintained by the grown-ups.
The Albanian word for ‘mother’ is _ama_, the Old Norse word for
‘grandmother’ is _amma_. The Latin _am-ita_, formed from _am_ with
a termination added, came to mean ‘aunt’ and became in OFr. _ante_,
whence E. _aunt_ and Modern Fr. _tante_. In Semitic languages the words
for ‘mother’ also have a vowel before _m_: Assyrian _ummu_, Hebrew
_’êm_, etc.

_Baba_, too, is found in the sense ‘mother,’ especially in Slavonic
languages, though it has here developed various derivative meanings,
‘old woman,’ ‘grandmother,’ or ‘midwife.’ In Tonga we have _bama_

Forms with _n_ are also found for ‘mother’; so Sanskrit _naná_,
Albanian _nane_. Here we have also Gr. _nannē_ ‘aunt’ and Lat. _nonna_;
the latter ceased in the early Middle Ages to mean ‘grandmother’ and
became a respectful way of addressing women of a certain age, whence
we know it as _nun_, the feminine counterpart of ‘monk.’ From less
known languages I may mention Greenlandic _a'na·na_ ‘mother,’ _'a·na_

Now we come to words meaning ‘father,’ and quite naturally, where the
sound-groups containing _m_ have already been interpreted in the sense
‘mother,’ a word for ‘father’ will be sought in the syllables with
_p_. It is no doubt frequently noticed in the nursery that the baby
says _mama_ where one expected _papa_, and vice versa; but at last he
learns to deal out the syllables ‘rightly,’ as we say. The history
of the forms _papa_, _pappa_ and _pa_ is analogous to the history of
the _m_ syllables already traced. We have the same extension of the
sound by _tr_ in the word _pater_, which according to recognized laws
of sound-change is found in the French _père_, the English _father_,
the Danish _fader_, the German _vater_, etc. Philologists no longer,
fortunately, derive these words from a root _pa_ ‘to protect,’ and
see therein a proof of the ‘highly moral spirit’ of our aboriginal
ancestors, as Fick and others did. _Papa_, as we know, also became an
honourable title for a reverend ecclesiastic, and hence comes the name
which we have in the form _Pope_.

Side by side with the p forms we have forms in _b_--Italian _babbo_,
Bulgarian _babá_, Serbian _bába_, Turkish _baba_. Beginning with the
vowel we have the Semitic forms _ab_, _abu_ and finally _abba_, which
is well known, since through Greek _abbas_ it has become the name for
a spiritual father in all European languages, our form being _Abbot_.

Again, we have some names for ‘father’ with dental sounds: Sanskrit
_tatá_, Russian _tata_, _tyatya_, Welsh _tat_, etc. The English _dad_,
now so universal, is sometimes considered to have been borrowed from
this Welsh word, which in certain connexions has an initial _d_, but
no doubt it had an independent origin. In Slavonic languages _déd_ is
extensively used for ‘grandfather’ or ‘old man.’ Thus also _deite_,
_teite_ in German dialects. _Tata_ ‘father’ is found in Congo and other
African languages, also (_tatta_) in Negro-English (Surinam). And just
as words for ‘mother’ change their meaning from ‘mother’ to ‘aunt,’
so these forms in some languages come to mean ‘uncle’: Gr. _theios_
(whence Italian _zio_), Lithuanian _dede_, Russian _dyadya_.

With an initial vowel we get the form _atta_, in Greek used in
addressing old people, in Gothic the ordinary word for ‘father,’ which
with a termination added gives the proper name _Attila_, originally
‘little father’; with another ending we have Russian _otec_. Outside
our own family of languages we find, for instance, Magyar _atya_,
Turkish _ata_, Basque _aita_, Greenlandic _a'ta·ta_ ‘father,’ while in
the last-mentioned language _a·ta_ means ‘grandfather.’[28]

The nurse, too, comes in for her share in these names, as she too
is greeted by the child’s babbling and is tempted to take it as the
child’s name for her; thus we get the German and Scandinavian _amme_,
Polish _niania_, Russian _nyanya_, cf. our _Nanny_. These words cannot
be kept distinct from names for ‘aunt,’ cf. _amita_ above, and in
Sanskrit we find _mama_ for ‘uncle.’

It is perhaps more doubtful if we can find a name for the child
itself which has arisen in the same way; the nearest example is the
Engl. _babe_, _baby_, German _bube_ (with _u_ as in _muhme_ above);
but _babe_ has also been explained as a word derived normally from
OFr. _baube_, from Lat. _balbus_ ‘stammering.’ When the name _Bab_
or _Babs_ (_Babbe_ in a Danish family) becomes the pet-name for a
little girl, this has no doubt come from an interpretation put on her
own meaningless sounds. Ital. _bambo_ (_bambino_) certainly belongs
here. We may here mention also some terms for ‘doll,’ Lat. _pupa_ or
_puppa_, G. _puppe_; with a derivative ending we have Fr. _poupée_,
E. _puppet_ (Chaucer, A 3254, _popelote_). These words have a rich
semantic development, cf. _pupa_ (Dan. _puppe_, etc.) ‘chrysalis,’
and the diminutive Lat. _pupillus_, _pupilla_, which was used for ‘a
little child, minor,’ whence E. _pupil_ ‘disciple,’ but also for the
little child seen in the eye, whence E. (and other languages) _pupil_,
‘central opening of the eye.’

A child has another main interest--that is, in its food, the breast,
the bottle, etc. In many countries it has been observed that very
early a child uses a long _m_ (without a vowel) as a sign that it
wants something, but we can hardly be right in supposing that the
sound is originally meant by children in this sense. They do not use
it consciously till they see that grown-up people on hearing the
sound come up and find out what the child wants. And it is the same
with the developed forms which are uttered by the child in its joy at
getting something to eat, and which are therefore interpreted as the
child’s expression for food: _am_, _mam_, _mammam_, or the same words
with a final _a_--that is, really the same groups of sounds which
came to stand for ‘mother.’ The determination of a particular form to
a particular meaning is always due to the adults, who, however, can
subsequently _teach_ it to the child. Under this heading comes the
sound _ham_, which Taine observed to be one child’s expression for
hunger or thirst (_h_ mute?), and similarly the word _mum_, meaning
‘something to eat,’ invented, as we are told, by Darwin’s son and
often uttered with a rising intonation, as in a question, ‘Will you
give me something to eat?’ Lindner’s child (1.5) is said to have
used _papp_ for everything eatable and _mem_ or _möm_ for anything
drinkable. In normal language we have forms like Sanskrit _māmsa_
(Gothic _mimz_) and _mās_ ‘flesh,’ our own _meat_ (which formerly,
like Dan. _mad_, meant any kind of food), German _mus_ ‘jam’ (whence
also _gemüse_), and finally Lat. _mandere_ and _manducare_, ‘to chew’
(whence Fr. _manger_)--all developments of this childish _ma(m)_.

As the child’s first nourishment is its mother’s breast, its joyous
_mamama_ can also be taken to mean the breast. So we have the Latin
_mamma_ (with a diminutive ending _mammilla_, whence Fr. _mamelle_),
and with the other labial sound Engl. _pap_, Norwegian and Swed. dial.
_pappe_, Lat. _papilla_; with a different vowel, It. _poppa_, Fr.
_poupe_, ‘teat of an animal, formerly also of a woman’; with _b_, G.
_bübbi_, obsolete E. _bubby_; with a dental, E. _teat_ (G. _zitze_),
Ital. _tetta_, Dan. _titte_, Swed. dial. _tatte_. Further we have words
like E. _pap_ ‘soft food,’ Latin _papare_ ‘to eat,’ orig. ‘to suck,’
and some G. forms for the same, _pappen_, _pampen_, _pampfen_. Perhaps
the beginning of the word _milk_ goes back to the baby’s _ma_ applied
to the mother’s breast or milk; the latter half may then be connected
with Lat. _lac_. In Greenlandic we have _ama·ma_ ‘suckle.’

Inseparable from these words is the sound, a long _m_ or _am_, which
expresses the child’s delight over something that tastes good; it has
by-forms in the Scotch _nyam_ or _nyamnyam_, the English seaman’s term
_yam_ ‘to eat,’ and with two dentals the French _nanan_ ‘sweetmeats.’
Some linguists will have it that the Latin _amo_ ‘I love’ is derived
from this _am_, which expresses pleasurable satisfaction. When a father
tells me that his son (1.10) uses the wonderful words _nananæi_ for
‘chocolate’ and _jajajaja_ for picture-book, we have no doubt here also
a case of a grown person’s interpretation of the originally meaningless
sounds of a child.

Another meaning that grown-up people may attach to syllables uttered by
the child is that of ‘good-bye,’ as in English _tata_, which has now
been incorporated in the ordinary language.[29] Stern probably is right
when he thinks that the French _adieu_ would not have been accepted
so commonly in Germany and other countries if it had not accommodated
itself so easily, especially in the form commonly used in German,
_ade_, to the child’s natural word.

There are some words for ‘bed, sleep’ which clearly belong to this
class: Tuscan _nanna_ ‘cradle,’ Sp. _hacer la nana_ ‘go to sleep,’
E. _bye-bye_ (possibly associated with _good-bye_, instead of which
is also said _byebye_); Stern mentions _baba_ (Berlin), _beibei_
(Russian), _bobo_ (Malay), but _bischbisch_, which he also gives here,
is evidently (like the Danish _visse_) imitative of the sound used for

Words of this class stand in a way outside the common words of
a language, owing to their origin and their being continually
new-created. One cannot therefore deduce laws of sound-change from
them in their original shape; and it is equally wrong to use them as
evidence for an original kinship between different families of language
and to count them as loan-words, as is frequently done (for example,
when the Slavonic _baba_ is said to be borrowed from Turkish). The
English _papa_ and _mam(m)a_, and the same words in German and Danish,
Italian, etc., are almost always regarded as borrowed from French; but
Cauer rightly points out that Nausikaa (_Odyssey_ 6. 57) addresses her
father as _pappa fil_, and Homer cannot be suspected of borrowing from
French. Still, it is true that fashion may play a part in deciding how
long children may be permitted to say _papa_ and _mamma_, and a French
fashion may in this respect have spread to other European countries,
especially in the seventeenth century. We may not find these words in
early use in the _literatures_ of the different countries, but this
is no proof that the words were not used in the nursery. As soon as a
word of this class has somewhere got a special application, this can
very well pass as a loan-word from land to land--as we saw in the case
of the words _abbot_ and _pope_. And it may be granted with respect
to the primary use of the words that there are certain national or
quasi-national customs which determine what grown people expect to hear
from babies, so that one nation expects and recognizes _papa_, another
_dad_, a third _atta_, for the meaning ‘father.’

When the child hands something to somebody or reaches out for something
he will generally say something, and if, as often happens, this is
_ta_ or _da_, it will be taken by its parents and others as a real
word, different according to the language they speak; in England as
_there_ or _thanks_, in Denmark as _tak_ ‘thanks’[30] or _tag_ ‘take,’
in Germany as _da_ ‘there,’ in France as _tiens_ ‘hold,’ in Russia as
_day_ ‘give,’ in Italy as _to_, (= _togli_) ‘take.’ The form _tê_ in
Homer is interpreted by some as an imperative of _teinō_ ‘stretch.’
These instances, however, are slightly different in character from
those discussed in the main part of this chapter.[31]



                        Women know
  The way to rear up children, (to be just)
  They know a simple, merry, tender knack
  Of stringing pretty words that make no sense,
  And kissing full sense into empty words,
  Which things are corals to cut life upon,
  Although such trifles: children learn by such
  Love’s holy earnest in a pretty play
  And get not over-early solemnized ...
  Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well
  --Mine did, I know--but still with heavier brains,
  And wills more consciously responsible,
  And not as wisely, since less foolishly.

  ELIZABETH BROWNING: _Aurora Leigh_, 10.

[24] This is not the place to speak of the way in which prevalent
methods of teaching foreign languages can be improved. A slavish
copying of the manner in which English children learn English is
impracticable, and if it were practicable it would demand more time
than anyone can devote to the purpose. One has to make the most of
the advantages which the pupils possess over babies, thus, their
being able to read, their power of more sustained attention, etc.
Phonetic explanation of the new sounds and phonetic transcription have
done wonders to overcome difficulties of pronunciation. But in other
respects it is possible to some extent to assimilate the teaching of
a foreign language to the method pursued by the child in its first
years: one should not merely sprinkle the pupil, but plunge him right
down into the sea of language and enable him to swim by himself as
soon as possible, relying on the fact that a great deal will arrange
itself in the brain without the inculcation of too many special rules
and explanations. For details I may refer to my book, _How to Teach a
Foreign Language_ (London, George Allen and Unwin).

[25] Hence, also, the second or third child in a family will, as a
rule, learn to speak more rapidly than the eldest.

[26] I translate this from Ido, see _The International Language_, May

[27] I have collected a bibliographical list of such ‘secret languages’
in _Nord. Tidsskrift f. Filologi_, 4r. vol. 5.

[28] I subjoin a few additional examples. Basque _aita_ ‘father,’ _ama_
‘mother,’ _anaya_ ‘brother’ (_Zeitsch. f. rom. Phil._ 17, 146). Manchu
_ama_ ‘father,’ _eme_ ‘mother’ (the vowel relation as in _haha_ ‘man,’
_hehe_ ‘woman,’ Gabelentz, S 389). Kutenai _pa·_ ‘brother’s daughter,’
_papa_ ‘grandmother (said by male), grandfather, grandson,’ _pat!_
‘nephew,’ _ma_ ‘mother,’ _nana_ ‘younger sister’ (of girl), _alnana_
‘sisters,’ _tite_ ‘mother-in-law,’ _titu_ ‘father’ (of male)--(Boas,
_Kutenai Tales_, Bureau of Am. Ethnol. 59, 1918). Cf. also Sapir,
“Kinship Terms of the Kootenay Indians” (_Amer. Anthropologist_, vol.
20). In the same writer’s _Yana Terms of Relationship_ (Univ. of
California, 1918) there seems to be very little from this source.

[29] _Tata_ is also used for ‘a walk’ (to go out for a ta-ta, or to go
out ta-tas) and for ‘a hat’--meanings that may very well have developed
from the child’s saying these syllables when going out or preparing to
go out.

[30] The Swede Bolin says that his child said _tatt-tatt_, which he
interprets as _tack_, even when handing something to others.

[31] The views advanced in § 8 have some points in contact with the
remarks found in Stern’s ch. xix, p. 300, only that I lay more stress
on the arbitrary interpretation of the child’s meaningless syllables on
the part of the grown-ups, and that I cannot approve his theory of the
_m_ syllables as ‘centripetal’ and the _p_ syllables as ‘centrifugal
affective-volitional natural sounds.’ Paul (P § 127) says that the
nursery-language with its _bowwow_, _papa_, _mama_, etc., “is not
the invention of the children; it is handed over to them just as any
other language”; he overlooks the share children have themselves in
these words, or in some of them; nor are they, as he says, formed by
the grown-ups with a purely pedagogical purpose. Nor can I find that
Wundt’s chapter “Angebliche worterfindung des kindes” (S 1. 273-287)
contains decisive arguments. Curtius (K 88) thinks that Gr. _patēr_
was first shortened into _pâ_ and this then extended into _páppa_--but
certainly it is rather the other way round.



  § 1. Conflicting Views. § 2. Meringer. Analogy. § 3. Herzog’s
  Theory of Sound Changes. § 4. Gradual Shiftings. § 5. Leaps. § 6.
  Assimilations, etc. § 7. Stump-words.

IX.--§ 1. Conflicting Views.

We all know that in historical times languages have been constantly
changing, and we have much indirect evidence that in prehistoric
times they did the same thing. But when it is asked if these changes,
unavoidable as they seem to be, are to be ascribed primarily to
children and their defective imitation of the speech of their elders,
or if children’s language in general plays no part at all in the
history of language, we find linguists expressing quite contrary views,
without the question having ever been really thoroughly investigated.

Some hold that the child acquires its language with such perfection
that it cannot be held responsible for the changes recorded in the
history of languages: others, on the contrary, hold that the most
important source of these changes is to be found in the transmission
of the language to new generations. How undecided the attitude even
of the foremost linguists may be towards the question is perhaps best
seen in the views expressed at different times by Sweet. In 1882 he
reproaches Paul with paying attention only to the shiftings going on
in the pronunciation of the same individual, and not acknowledging
“the much more potent cause of change which exists in the fact that
one generation can learn the sounds of the preceding one by imitation
only. It is an open question whether the modifications made by the
individual in a sound he has once learnt, independently of imitation
of those around him, are not too infinitesimal to have any appreciable
effect” (CP 153). In the same spirit he asserted in 1899 that the
process of learning our own language in childhood is a very slow one,
“and the results are always imperfect.... If languages were learnt
perfectly by the children of each generation, then languages would not
change: English children would still speak a language as old at least
as ‘Anglo-Saxon,’ and there would be no such languages as French and
Italian. The changes in languages are simply slight mistakes, which
in the course of generations completely alter the character of the
language” (PS 75). But only one year later, in 1900, he maintains that
the child’s imitation “is in most cases practically perfect”--“the
main cause of sound-change must therefore be sought elsewhere. The
real cause of sound-change seems to be organic shifting--failure
to hit the mark, the result either of carelessness or sloth ... a
slight deviation from the pronunciation learnt in infancy may easily
pass unheeded, especially by those who make the same change in
their own pronunciation” (H 19 f.). By the term “organic shifting”
Sweet evidently, as seen from his preface, meant shifting in the
pronunciation of the adult, thus a modification of the sound learnt
‘perfectly’ in childhood. Paul, who in the first edition (1880) of his
_Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte_ did not mention the influence of
children, in all the following editions (2nd, 1886, p. 58; 3rd, 1898,
p. 58; 4th, 1909, p. 63) expressly says that “die hauptveranlassung zum
lautwandel in der übertragung der laute auf neue individuen liegt,”
while the shiftings within the same generation are very slight. Paul
thus modified his view in the opposite direction of Sweet[32]--and did
so under the influence of Sweet’s criticism of his own first view!

When one finds scholars expressing themselves in this manner and giving
hardly any reasons for their views, one is tempted to believe that the
question is perhaps insoluble, that it is a mere toss-up, or that in
the sentence “children’s imitation is nearly perfect” the stress may be
laid, according to taste, now on the word _nearly_, and now on the word
_perfect_. I am, however, convinced that we can get a little farther,
though only by breaking up the question, instead of treating it as one
vague and indeterminate whole.

IX.--§ 2. Meringer. Analogy.

Among recent writers Meringer has gone furthest into the question,
adhering in the main to the general view that, just as in other
fields, social, economic, etc., it is grown-up men who take the
lead in new developments, so it is grown-up men, and not women or
children, who carry things forward in the field of language. In one
place he justifies his standpoint by a reference to a special case,
and I will take this as the starting-point of my own consideration
of the question. He says: “It can be shown by various examples that
they [changes in language] are decidedly not due to children. In
Ionic, Attic and Lesbian Greek the words for ‘hundreds’ are formed in
_-kosioi_ (_diakósioi_, etc.), while elsewhere (in Doric and Bœotian)
they appear as _-kátioi_. How does the _o_ arise in _-kósioi_? It is
generally said that it comes from _o_ in the ‘tens’ in the termination
_-konta_. Can it be children who have formed the words for hundreds
on the model of the words for tens, children under six years old, who
are just learning to talk? Such children generally have other things
to attend to than to practise themselves in numerals above a hundred.”
Similar formations are adduced from Latin, and it is stated that the
personal pronouns are especially subject to change, but children do not
use the personal pronouns till an age when they are already in firm
possession of the language. Meringer then draws the conclusion that the
share which children take in bringing about linguistic change is a very
small one.

Now, I should like first to remark that even if it is possible to
point to certain changes in language which cannot be ascribed to
little children, this proves nothing with regard to the very numerous
changes which lie outside these limits. And next, that all the cases
here mentioned are examples of formation by analogy. But from the very
nature of the case, the conditions requisite for the occurrence of such
formations are exactly the same in the case of adults and in that of
the children. For what are the conditions? Some one feels an impulse to
express something, and at the moment has not got the traditional form
at command, and so is driven to evolve a form of his own from the rest
of the linguistic material. It makes no difference whether he has never
heard a form used by other people which expresses what he wants, or
whether he has heard the traditional form, but has not got it ready at
hand at the moment. The method of procedure is exactly the same whether
it takes place in a three-year-old or in an eighty-three-year-old
brain: it is therefore senseless to put the question whether formations
by analogy are or are not due to children. A formation by analogy is
by definition a non-traditional form. It is therefore idle to ask if
it is due to the fact that the language is transmitted from generation
to generation and to the child’s imperfect repetition of what has been
transmitted to it, and Meringer’s argument thus breaks down in every

It must not, of course, be overlooked that children naturally come to
invent more formations by analogy than grown-up people, because the
latter in many cases have heard the older forms so often that they find
a place in their speech without any effort being required to recall
them. But that does not touch the problem under discussion; besides,
formations by analogy are unavoidable and indispensable, in the talk of
all, even of the most ‘grown-up’: one cannot, indeed, move in language
without having recourse to forms and constructions that are not
directly and fully transmitted to us: speech is not alone reproduction,
but just as much new-production, because no situation and no impulse to
communication is in every detail exactly the same as what has occurred
on earlier occasions.

IX.--§ 3. Herzog’s Theory of Sound Changes.

If, leaving the field of analogical changes, we begin to inquire
whether the purely phonetic changes can or must be ascribed to the fact
that a new generation has to learn the mother-tongue by imitation, we
shall first have to examine an interesting theory in which the question
is answered in the affirmative, at least with regard to those phonetic
changes which are gradual and not brought about all at once; thus,
when in one particular language one vowel, say [e·], is pronounced
more and more closely till finally it becomes [i·], as has happened
in E. _see_, formerly pronounced [se·] with the same vowel as in G.
_see_, now [si·]. E. Herzog maintains that such changes happen through
transference to new generations, even granted that the children imitate
the sound of the grown-up people perfectly. For, it is said, children
with their little mouths cannot produce acoustically the same sound
as adults, except by a different position of the speech-organs; this
position they keep for the rest of their lives, so that when they
are grown-up and their mouth is of full size they produce a rather
different sound from that previously heard--which altered sound is
again imitated by the next generation with yet another position of the
organs, and so on. This continuous play of generation _v._ generation
may be illustrated in this way:

                     ARTICULATION _corresponding to_ SOUND.

  1st generation  { young  A1                         S1
                  { old    A1                         S2

  2nd generation  { young  A2                         S2
                  { old    A2                         S3

  3rd generation  { young  A3                         S3
                  { old    A3                         S4, etc.[33]

It is, however, easy to prove that this theory cannot be correct. (1)
It is quite certain that the increase in size of the mouth is far
less important than is generally supposed (see my _Fonetik_, p. 379
ff., PhG, p. 80 ff.; cf. above, V § 1). (2) It cannot be proved that
people, after once learning one definite way of producing a sound, go
on producing it in exactly the same way, even if the acoustic result
is a different one. It is much more probable that each individual is
constantly adapting himself to the sounds heard from those around him,
even if this adaptation is neither as quick nor perhaps as perfect
as that of children, who can very rapidly accommodate their speech
to the dialect of new surroundings: if very far-reaching changes are
rare in the case of grown-up people, this proves nothing against such
small adaptations as are here presupposed. In favour of the continual
regulation of the sound through the ear may be adduced the fact that
adults who become perfectly deaf and thus lose the control of sounds
through hearing may come to speak in such a way that their words
can hardly be understood by others. (3) The theory in question also
views the relations between successive generations in a way that is
far removed from the realities of life: from the wording one might
easily imagine that there were living together at any given time only
individuals of ages separated by, say, thirty years’ distance, while
the truth of the matter is that a child is normally surrounded by
people of all ages and learns its language more or less from all of
them, from Grannie down to little Dick from over the way, and that (as
has already been remarked) its chief teachers are its own brothers and
sisters and other playmates of about the same age as itself. If the
theory were correct, there would at any rate be a marked difference
in vowel-sounds between anyone and his grandfather, or, still more,
great-grandfather: but nothing of the kind has ever been described.
(4) The chief argument, however, against the theory is this, that
were it true, then all shiftings of sounds at all times and in all
languages would proceed in exactly the same direction. But this is
emphatically contradicted by the history of language. The long _a_
in English in one period was rounded and raised into _o_, as in OE.
_stan_, _na_, _ham_, which have become _stone_, _no_, _home_; but when
a few centuries later new long _a_’s had entered the language, they
followed the opposite direction towards _e_, now [ei], as in _name_,
_male_, _take_. Similarly in Danish, where an old stratum of long _a_’s
have become _å_, as in _ål_, _gås_, while a later stratum tends rather
towards [æ], as in the present pronunciation of _gade_, _hale_, etc.
At the same time the long _a_ in Swedish tends towards the rounded
pronunciation (cf. Fr. _âme_, _pas_): in one sister language we thus
witness a repetition of the old shifting, in the other a tendency in
the opposite direction. And it is the same with all those languages
which we can pursue far enough back: they all present the same picture
of varying vowel shiftings in different directions, which is totally
incompatible with Herzog’s view.

IX.--§ 4. Gradual Shiftings.

We shall do well to put aside such artificial theories and look soberly
at the facts. When some sounds in one century go one way, and in
another, another, while at times they remain long unchanged, it all
rests on this, that for human habits of this sort there is no standard
measure. Set a man to saw a hundred logs, measuring No. 2 by No. 1,
No. 3 by No. 2, and so on, and you will see considerable deviations
from the original measure--perhaps all going in the same direction, so
that No. 100 is very much longer than No. 1 as the result of the sum
of a great many small deviations--perhaps all going in the opposite
direction; but it is also possible that in a certain series he was
inclined to make the logs too long, and in the next series too short,
the two sets of deviations about balancing one another.

It is much the same with the formation of speech sounds: at one moment,
for some reason or other, in a particular mood, in order to lend
authority or distinction to our words, we may happen to lower the jaw a
little more, or to thrust the tongue a little more forward than usual,
or inversely, under the influence of fatigue or laziness, or to sneer
at someone else, or because we have a cigar or potato in our mouth,
the movements of the jaw or of the tongue may fall short of what they
usually are. We have all the while a sort of conception of an average
pronunciation, of a normal degree of opening or of protrusion, which
we aim at, but it is nothing very fixed, and the only measure at our
disposal is that we are or are not understood. What is understood is
all right: what does not meet this requirement must be repeated with
greater correctness as an answer to ‘I beg your pardon?’

Everyone thinks that he talks to-day just as he did yesterday, and,
of course, he does so in nearly every point. But no one knows if he
pronounces his mother-tongue in every respect in the same manner as he
did twenty years ago. May we not suppose that what happens with faces
happens here also? One lives with a friend day in and day out, and
he appears to be just what he was years ago, but someone who returns
home after a long absence is at once struck by the changes which have
gradually accumulated in the interval.

Changes in the sounds of a language are not, indeed, so rapid as
those in the appearance of an individual, for the simple reason
that it is not enough for one man to alter his pronunciation, many
must co-operate: the social nature and social aim of language has
the natural consequence that all must combine in the same movement,
or else one neutralizes the changes introduced by the other; each
individual also is continually under the influence of his fellows, and
involuntarily fashions his pronunciation according to the impression
he is constantly receiving of other people’s sounds. But as regards
those little gradual shiftings of sounds which take place in spite of
all this control and its conservative influence, changes in which the
sound and the articulation alter simultaneously, I cannot see that
the transmission of the language to a new generation need exert any
essential influence: we may imagine them being brought about equally
well in a society which for hundreds of years consisted of the same
adults who never died and had no issue.

IX.--§ 5. Leaps.

While in the shiftings mentioned in the last paragraphs articulation
and acoustic impression went side by side, it is different with
some shiftings in which the old sound and the new resemble one
another to the ear, but differ in the position of the organs and the
articulations. For instance, when [þ] as in E. _thick_ becomes [f]
and [ð] as in E. _mother_ becomes [v], one can hardly conceive the
change taking place in the pronunciation of people who have learnt the
right sound as children. It is very natural, on the other hand, that
children should imitate the harder sound by giving the easier, which
is very like it, and which they have to use in many other words: forms
like _fru_ for _through_, _wiv_, _muvver_ for _with_, _mother_, are
frequent in the mouths of children long before they begin to make their
appearance in the speech of adults, where they are now beginning to
be very frequent in the Cockney dialect. (Cf. MEG i. 13. 9.) The same
transition is met with in Old Fr., where we have _muef_ from _modu_,
_nif_ from _nidu_, _fief_ from _feodu_, _seif_, now _soif_, from
_site_, _estrif_ (E. _strife_) from _stridh_, _glaive_ from _gladiu_,
_parvis_ from _paradis_, and possibly _avoutre_ from _adulteru_,
_poveir_, now _pouvoir_, from _potere_. In Old Gothonic we have the
transition from _þ_ to _f_ before _l_, as in Goth. _þlaqus_ = MHG.
_vlach_, Goth. _þlaihan_ = OHG. _flêhan_, _þliuhan_ = OHG. _fliohan_;
cf. also E. _file_, G. _feile_ = ON. _þēl_, OE. _þengel_ and _fengel_
‘prince,’ and probably G. _finster_, cf. OHG. _dinstar_ (with _d_ from
_þ_), OE. _þeostre_. In Latin we have the same transition, e.g. in
_fumus_, corresponding to Sansk. _dhumás_, Gr. _thumós_.[34]

The change from the back-open consonant [x]--the sound in G. _buch_
and Scotch _loch_--to _f_, which has taken place in _enough_, _cough_,
etc., is of the same kind. Here clearly we have no gradual passage,
but a jump, which could hardly take place in the case of those who
had already learnt how to pronounce the back sound, but is easily
conceivable as a case of defective imitation on the part of a new
generation. I suppose that the same remark holds good with regard to
the change from _kw_ to _p_, which is found in some languages, for
instance, Gr. _hippos_, corresponding to Lat. _equus_, Gr. _hepomai_
= Lat. _sequor_, _hêpar_ = Lat. _jecur_; Rumanian _apa_ from Lat.
_aqua_, Welsh _map_, ‘son’ = Gaelic _mac_, _pedwar_ = Ir. _cathir_,
‘four,’ etc. In France I have heard children say [pizin] and [pidin]
for _cuisine_.

IX.--§ 6. Assimilations, etc.

There is an important class of sound changes which have this in common
with the class just treated, that the changes take place suddenly,
without an intermediate stage being possible, as in the changes
considered in IX § 4. I refer to those cases of assimilation, loss of
consonants in heavy groups and transposition (metathesis), with which
students of language are familiar in all languages. Instances abound in
the speech of all children; see above, V § 4.

If now we dared to assert that such pronunciations are never heard
from people who have passed their babyhood, we should here have found
a field in which children have exercised a great influence on the
development of language: but of course we cannot say anything of the
sort. Any attentive observer can testify to the frequency of such
mispronunciations in the speech of grown-up people. In many cases they
are noticed neither by the speaker nor by the hearer, in many they
may be noticed, but are considered too unimportant to be corrected,
and finally, in some cases the speaker stops to repeat what he wanted
to say in a corrected form. Now it would not obviously do, from their
frequency in adult speech, to draw the inference: “These changes are
not to be ascribed to children,” because from their frequent appearance
on the lips of the children one could equally well infer: “They are not
to be ascribed to grown-up people.” When we find in Latin _impotens_
and _immeritus_ with _m_ side by side with _indignus_ and _insolitus_
with _n_, or when English _handkerchief_ is pronounced with [ŋk]
instead of the original [ndk], the change is not to be charged against
children or grown-up people exclusively, but against both parties
together: and so when _t_ is lost in _waistcoat_ [weskət], or _postman_
or _castle_, or _k_ in _asked_. There is certainly this difference,
that when the change is made by older people, we get in the speech of
the same individual first the heavier and then the easier form, while
the child may take up the easier pronunciation first, because it hears
the [n] before a lip consonant as [m], and before a back consonant as
[ŋ], or because it fails altogether to hear the middle consonant in
_waistcoat_, _postman_, _castle_ and _asked_. But all this is clearly
of purely theoretical interest, and the result remains that the
influence of the two classes, adults and children, cannot possibly be
separated in this domain.[35]

IX.--§ 7. Stump-words.

Next we come to those changes which result in what one may call
‘stump-words.’ There is no doubt that words may undergo violent
shortenings both by children and adults, but here I believe we can more
or less definitely distinguish between their respective contributions
to the development of language. If it is the end of the word that
is kept, while the beginning is dropped, it is probable that the
mutilation is due to children, who, as we have seen (VII § 7), echo the
conclusion of what is said to them and forget the beginning or fail
altogether to apprehend it. So we get a number of mutilated Christian
names, which can then be used by grown-up people as pet-names. Examples
are _Bert_ for Herbert or Albert, _Bella_ for Arabella, _Sander_
for Alexander, _Lottie_ for Charlotte, _Trix_ for Beatrix, and with
childlike sound-substitution _Bess_ (and _Bet_, _Betty_) for Elizabeth.
Similarly in other languages, from Danish I may mention _Bine_ for
Jakobine, _Line_ for Karoline, _Stine_ for Kristine, _Dres_ for Andres:
there are many others.

If this way of shortening a word is natural to a child who hears the
word for the first time and is not able to remember the beginning when
he comes to the end of it, it is quite different when others clip words
which they know perfectly well: they will naturally keep the beginning
and stop before they are half through the word, as soon as they are
sure that their hearers understand what is alluded to. Dr. Johnson
was not the only one who “had a way of contracting the names of his
friends, as Beauclerc, _Beau_; Boswell, _Bozzy_; Langton, _Lanky_;
Murphy, _Mur_; Sheridan, _Sherry_; and Goldsmith, _Goldy_, which
Goldsmith resented” (Boswell, _Life_, ed. P. Fitzgerald, 1900, i.
486). Thackeray constantly says _Pen_ for Arthur Pendennis, _Cos_ for
Costigan, _Fo_ for Foker, _Pop_ for Popjoy, _old Col_ for Colchicum.
In the beginning of the last century Napoleon Bonaparte was generally
called _Nap_ or _Boney_; later we have such shortened names of public
characters as _Dizzy_ for Disraeli, _Pam_ for Palmerston, _Labby_
for Labouchere, etc. These evidently are due to adults, and so are a
great many other clippings, some of which have completely ousted the
original long words, such as _mob_ for mobile, _brig_ for brigantine,
_fad_ for fadaise, _cab_ for cabriolet, _navvy_ for navigator,
while others are still felt as abbreviations, such as _photo_ for
photograph, _pub_ for public-house, _caps_ for capital letters, _spec_
for speculation, _sov_ for sovereign, _zep_ for Zeppelin, _divvy_ for
dividend, _hip_ for hypochondria, _the Cri_ and _the Pavvy_ for the
Criterion and the Pavilion, and many other clippings of words which
are evidently far above the level of very small children. The same is
true of the abbreviations in which school and college slang abounds,
words like _Gym_(nastics), _undergrad_(uate), _trig_(onometry),
_lab_(oratory), _matric_(ulation), _prep_(aration), _the Guv_ for the
governor, etc. The same remark is true of similar clippings in other
languages, such as _kilo_ for kilogram, G. _ober_ for oberkellner,
French _aristo_(crate), _réac_(tionnaire), college terms like _desse_
for descriptive (géométrie d.), _philo_ for philosophie, _preu_ for
premier, _seu_ for second; Danish numerals like _tres_ for tresindstyve
(60), _halvfjerds_(indstyve), _firs_(indstyve). We are certainly
justified in extending the principle that abbreviation through throwing
away the end of the word is due to those who have previously mastered
the full form, to the numerous instances of shortened Christian names
like _Fred_ for Frederick, _Em_ for Emily, _Alec_ for Alexander, _Di_
for Diana, _Vic_ for Victoria, etc. In other languages we find similar
clippings of names more or less carried through systematically, e.g.
Greek _Zeuxis_ for Zeuxippos, Old High German _Wolfo_ for Wolfbrand,
Wolfgang, etc., Icelandic _Sigga_ for Sigríðr, _Siggi_ for Sigurðr, etc.

I see a corroboration of my theory in the fact that there are hardly
any _family_ names shortened by throwing away the beginning: children
as a rule have no use for family names.[36] The rule, however, is
not laid down as absolute, but only as holding in the main. Some of
the exceptions are easily accounted for. _’Cello_ for violoncello
undoubtedly is an adults’ word, originating in France or Italy: but
here evidently it would not do to take the beginning, for then there
would be confusion with violin (violon). _Phone_ for telephone: the
beginning might just as well stand for telegraph. _Van_ for caravan:
here the beginning would be identical with _car_. _Bus_, which made
its appearance immediately after the first omnibus was started in
the streets of London (1829), probably was thought expressive of the
sound of these vehicles and suggested _bustle_. But _bacco_ (_baccer_,
_baccy_) for tobacco and _taters_ for potatoes belong to a different
sphere altogether: they are not clippings of the usual sort, but purely
phonetic developments, in which the first vowel has been dropped in
rapid pronunciation (as in _I s’pose_), and the initial voiceless stop
has then become inaudible; Dickens similarly writes _’tickerlerly_ as
a vulgar pronunciation of particularly.[37]


[32] The same inconsistency is found in Dauzat, who in 1910 thought
that nothing, and in 1912 that nearly everything, was due to imperfect
imitation by the child (V 22 ff., Ph 53, cf. 3). Wechssler (L p. 86)
quotes passages from Bremer, Passy, Rousselot and Wallensköld, in which
the chief cause of sound changes is attributed to the child; to these
might be added Storm (_Phonetische Studien_, 5. 200) and A. Thomson (IF
24, 1909, p. 9), probably also Grammont (_Mél. linguist._ 61). Many
writers seem to imagine that the question is settled when they are able
to adduce a certain number of _parallel_ changes in the pronunciation
of some child and in the historical evolution of languages.

[33] See E. Herzog, _Streitfragen der roman. philologie_, i. (1904), p.
57--I modify his symbols a little.

[34] In Russian _Marfa_, _Fyodor_, etc., we also have _f_ corresponding
to original _þ_, but in this case it is not a transition within one
and the same language, but an imperfect imitation on the part of the
(adult!) Russians of a sound in a foreign language (Greek _th_) which
was not found in their own language.

[35] Reduplications and assimilations at a distance, as in Fr. _tante_
from the older _ante_ (whence E. _aunt_, from Lat. _amita_) and
_porpentine_ (frequent in this and analogous forms in Elizabethan
writers) for _porcupine_ (_porkepine_, _porkespine_) are different from
the ordinary assimilations of neighbouring sounds in occurring much
less frequently in the speech of adults than in children; cf., however,
below, Ch. XV 4.

[36] Karl Sundén, in his diligent and painstaking book on _Elliptical
Words in Modern English_ (Upsala, 1904) [i.e. clipped proper names, for
common names are not treated in the long lists given], mentions only
two examples of surnames in which the final part is kept (_Bart_ for
Islebart, _Piggy_ for Guineapig, from obscure novels), though he has
scores of examples in which the beginning is preserved.

[37] It is often said that stress is decisive of what part is left out
in word-clippings, and from an a priori point of view this is what
we should expect. But as a matter of fact we find in many instances
that syllables with weak stress are preserved, e.g. in _Mac_(donald),
_Pen_(dennis), the _Cri_, _Vic_, _Nap_, _Nat_ for Nathaniel (orig.
pronounced with [t], not [þ]), _Val_ for Percival, _Trix_, etc. The
middle is never kept as such with omission of the beginning and the
ending; _Liz_ (whence _Lizzy_) has not arisen at one stroke from
Elizabeth, but mediately through _Eliz_. Some of the adults’ clippings
originate through abbreviations in _writing_, thus probably most of the
college terms (_exam_, _trig_, etc.), thus also journalists’ clippings
like _ad_ for advertisement, _par_ for paragraph; cf. also _caps_ for
capitals. On stump-words see also below, Ch. XIV, §§ 8 and 9.



  § 1. Confusion of Words. § 2. Metanalysis. § 3. Shiftings of
  Meanings. § 4. Differentiations. § 5. Summary. § 6. Indirect
  Influence. § 7. New Languages.

X.--§ 1. Confusion of Words.

Some of the most typical childish sound-substitutions can hardly be
supposed to leave any traces in language as permanently spoken, because
they are always thoroughly corrected by the children themselves at an
early age; among these I reckon the almost universal pronunciation of
_t_ instead of _k_. When, therefore, we do find that in some words
a _t_ has taken the place of an earlier _k_, we must look for some
more specific cause of the change: but this may, in some cases at any
rate, be found in a tendency of children’s speech which is totally
independent of the inability to pronounce the sound of _k_ at an
early age, and is, indeed, in no way to be reckoned among phonetic
tendencies, namely, the confusion resulting from an association of
two words of similar sound (cf. above, p. 122). This, I take it, is
the explanation of the word _mate_ in the sense ‘husband or wife,’
which has replaced the earlier _make_: a confusion was here natural,
because the word _mate_, ‘companion,’ was similar not only in sound,
but also in signification. The older name for the ‘soft roe’ of fishes
was _milk_ (as Dan. _mælk_, G. _milch_), but from the fifteenth
century _milt_ has been substituted for it, as if it were the same
organ as the _milt_, ‘the spleen.’ Children will associate words of
similar sound even in cases where there is no connecting link in their
significations; thus we have _bat_ for earlier _bak_, _bakke_ (the
animal, _vespertilio_), though the other word _bat_, ‘a stick,’ is far
removed in sense.

I think we must explain the following cases of isolated
sound-substitution as due to the same confusion with unconnected
words in the minds of children hearing the new words for the first
time: _trunk_ in the sense of ‘proboscis of an elephant,’ formerly
_trump_, from Fr. _trompe_, confused with _trunk_, ‘stem of a tree’;
_stark-naked_, formerly _start-naked_, from _start_, ‘tail,’ confused
with _stark_, ‘stiff’; _vent_, ‘air-hole,’ from Fr. _fente_, confused
with _vent_, ‘breath’ (for this _v_ cannot be due to the Southern
dialectal transition from _f_, as in _vat_ from _fat_, for that
transition does not, as a rule, take place in French loans); _cocoa_
for _cacao_, confused with _coconut_; _match_, from Fr. _mèche_, by
confusion with the other _match_; _chine_, ‘rim of cask,’ from _chime_,
cf. G. _kimme_, ‘border,’ confused with _chine_, ‘backbone.’ I give
some of these examples with a little diffidence, though I have no doubt
of the general principle of childish confusion of unrelated words as
one of the sources of irregularities in the development of sounds.

These substitutions cannot of course be separated from instances
of ‘popular etymology,’ as when the phrase _to curry favour_ was
substituted for the former _to curry favel_, where _favel_ means ‘a
fallow horse,’ as the type of fraud or duplicity (cf. G. _den fahlen
hengst reiten_, ‘to act deceitfully,’ _einen auf einem fahlen pferde
ertappen_, ‘to catch someone lying’).

X.--§ 2. Metanalysis.

We now come to the phenomenon for which I have ventured to coin the
term ‘metanalysis,’ by which I mean that words or word-groups are by
a new generation analyzed differently from the analysis of a former
age. Each child has to find out for himself, in hearing the connected
speech of other people, where one word ends and the next one begins,
or what belongs to the kernel and what to the ending of a word, etc.
(VII § 6). In most cases he will arrive at the same analysis as the
former generation, but now and then he will put the boundaries in
another place than formerly, and the new analysis may become general.
_A naddre_ (the ME. form for OE. _an nædre_) thus became _an adder_,
_a napron_ became _an apron_, _an nauger_: _an auger_, _a numpire_:
_an umpire_; and in psychologically the same way _an ewte_ (older
form _evete_, OE. _efete_) became _a newt_: metanalysis accordingly
sometimes shortens and sometimes lengthens a word. _Riding_ as a name
of one of the three districts of Yorkshire is due to a metanalysis
of _North Thriding_ (ON. _þriðjungr_, ‘third part’), as well as of
_East Thriding_, _West Thriding_, after the sound of _th_ had been
assimilated to the preceding _t_.

One of the most frequent forms of metanalysis consists in the
subtraction of an _s_, which originally belonged to the kernel of a
word, but is mistaken for the plural ending; in this way we have _pea_
instead of the earlier _peas_, _pease_, _cherry_ for ME. _cherris_, Fr.
_cerise_, _asset_ from _assets_, Fr. _assez_, etc. Cf. also the vulgar
_Chinee_, _Portuguee_, etc.[38]

The influence of a new generation is also seen in those cases in which
formerly separate words coalesce into one, as when _he breakfasts_, _he
breakfasted_, is said instead of _he breaks fast_, _he broke fast_; cf.
_vouchsafe_, _don_ (third person, _vouchsafes_, _dons_), instead of
_vouch safe_, _do on_ (third person, _vouches safe_, _does on_). Here,
too, it is not probable that a person who has once learnt the real form
of a word, and thus knows where it begins and where it ends, should
have subsequently changed it: it is much more likely that all such
changes originate with children who have once made a wrong analysis of
what they have heard and then go on repeating the new forms all their

X.--§ 3. Shiftings of Meanings.

Changes in the meaning of words are often so gradual that one cannot
detect the different steps of the process, and changes of this sort,
like the corresponding changes in the sounds of words, are to be
ascribed quite as much to people already acquainted with the language
as to the new generation. As examples we may mention the laxity that
has changed the meaning of _soon_, which in OE. meant ‘at once,’ and in
the same way of _presently_, originally ‘at present, now,’ and of the
old _anon_. _Dinner_ comes from OF. _disner_, which is the infinitive
of the verb which in other forms was _desjeun_, whence modern French
_déjeune_ (Lat. *_desjejunare_); it thus meant ‘breakfast,’ but the
hour of the meal thus termed was gradually shifted in the course of
centuries, so that now we may have dinner twelve hours after breakfast.
When _picture_, which originally meant ‘painting,’ came to be applied
to drawings, photographs and other images; when _hard_ came to be used
as an epithet not only of nuts and stones, etc., but of words and
labour; when _fair_, besides the old sense of ‘beautiful,’ acquired
those of ‘blond’ and ‘morally just’; when _meat_, from meaning all
kinds of food (as in _sweetmeats_, _meat and drink_), came to be
restricted practically to one kind of food (butcher’s meat); when the
verb _grow_, which at first was used only of plants, came to be used of
animals, hairs, nails, feelings, etc., and, instead of implying always
increase, might even be combined with such a predicative as _smaller
and smaller_; when _pretty_, from the meaning ‘skilful, ingenious,’
came to be a general epithet of approval (cf. the modern American, _a
cunning child_ = ‘sweet’), and, besides meaning good-looking, became
an adverb of degree, as in _pretty bad_: neither these nor countless
similar shiftings need be ascribed to any influence on the part of the
learners of English; they can easily be accounted for as the product of
innumerable small extensions and restrictions on the part of the users
of the language after they have once acquired it.

But along with changes of this sort we have others that have come
about with a leap, and in which it is impossible to find intermediate
stages between two seemingly heterogeneous meanings, as when _bead_,
from meaning a ‘prayer,’ comes to mean ‘a perforated ball of glass or
amber.’ In these cases the change is occasioned by certain connexions,
where the whole sense can only be taken in one way, but the syntactical
construction admits of various interpretations, so that an ambiguity
at one point gives occasion for a new conception of the meaning of
the word. The phrase _to count your beads_ originally meant ‘to count
your prayers,’ but because the prayers were reckoned by little balls,
the word _beads_ came to be transferred to these objects, and lost its
original sense.[39] It seems clear that this misapprehension could not
take place in the brains of those who had already associated the word
with the original signification, while it was quite natural on the
part of children who heard and understood the phrase as a whole, but
unconsciously analyzed it differently from the previous generation.

There is another word which also meant ‘prayer’ originally, but has
lost that meaning, viz. _boon_; through such phrases as ‘ask a boon’
and ‘grant a boon’ it came to be taken as meaning ‘a favour’ or ‘a good
thing received.’

_Orient_ was frequently used in such connexions as ‘orient pearl’ and
‘orient gem,’ and as these were lustrous, _orient_ became an adjective
meaning ‘shining,’ without any connexion with the geographical orient,
as in Shakespeare, _Venus_ 981, “an orient drop” (a tear), and Milton,
PL i. 546, “Ten thousand banners rise into the air, With orient colours

There are no connecting links between the meanings of ‘glad’ and
‘obliged,’ ‘forced,’ but when _fain_ came to be chiefly used in
combinations like ‘he was fain to leave the country,’ it was natural
for the younger generation to interpret the whole phrase as implying
necessity instead of gladness.

We have similar phenomena in certain syntactical changes. When _me
thinks_ and _me likes_ gave place to _I think_ and _I like_, the
chief cause of the change was that the child heard combinations like
_Mother thinks_ or _Father likes_, where _mother_ and _father_ can be
either nominative or accusative-dative, and the construction is thus
syntactically ambiguous. This leads to a ‘shunting’ of the meaning
as well as of the construction of the verbs, which must have come
about in a new brain which was not originally acquainted with the old

As one of the factors bringing about changes in meaning many scholars
mention forgetfulness; but it is important to keep in view that what
happens is not real forgetting, that is, snapping of threads of thought
that had already existed within the same consciousness, but the fact
that the new individual never develops the threads of thought which
in the elder generation bound one word to another. Sometimes there is
no connexion of ideas in the child’s brain: a word is viewed quite
singly as a whole and isolated, till later perhaps it is seen in its
etymological relation. A little girl of six asked when she was born.
“You were born on the 2nd of October.” “Why, then, I was born on my
birthday!” she cried, her eyes beaming with joy at this wonderfully
happy coincidence. Originally _Fare well_ was only said to some one
going away. If now the departing guest says _Farewell_ to his friend
who is staying at home, it can only be because the word _Farewell_ has
been conceived as a fixed formula, without any consciousness of the
meaning of its parts.

Sometimes, on the other hand, new connexions of thought arise, as when
we associate the word _bound_ with _bind_ in the phrase ‘he is bound
for America.’ Our ancestors meant ‘he is ready to go’ (ON. _búinn_,
‘ready’), not ‘he is under an obligation to go.’ The establishment
of new associations of this kind seems naturally to take place at
the moment when the young mind makes acquaintance with the word: the
phenomenon is, of course, closely related to “popular etymology” (see
Ch. VI § 6).

X.--§ 4. Differentiations.

Linguistic ‘splittings’ or differentiations, whereby one word becomes
two, may also be largely due to the transmission of the language to a
new generation. The child may hear two pronunciations of the same word
from different people, and then associate these with different ideas.
Thus Paul Passy learnt the word _meule_ in the sense of ‘grindstone’
from his father, and in the sense of ‘haycock’ from his mother; now the
former in both senses pronounced [mœl], and the latter in both [mø·l],
and the child thus came to distinguish [mœl] ‘grindstone’ and [mø·l]
‘haycock’ (Ch 23).

Or the child may have learnt the word at two different periods of its
life, associated with different spheres. This, I take it, may be the
reason why some speakers make a distinction between two pronunciations
of the word _medicine_, in two and in three syllables: they take
[medsin], but study [medisin].

Finally, the child can itself split words. A friend writes: “I remember
that when a schoolboy said that it was a good thing that the new
Headmaster was Dr. Wood, because he would then know when boys were
‘shamming,’ a schoolfellow remarked, ‘Wasn’t it funny? He did not know
the difference between Doct_or_ and Doct_er_.’” In Danish the Japanese
are indiscriminately called either _Japanerne_ or _Japaneserne_; now, I
once overheard my boy (6.10) lecturing his playfellows: “_Japaneserne_,
that is the soldiers of Japan, but _Japanerne_, that is students
and children and such-like.” It is, of course, possible that he may
have heard one form originally when shown some pictures of Japanese
soldiers, and the other on another occasion, and that this may have
been the reason for his distinction. However this may be, I do not
doubt that a number of differentiations of words are to be ascribed
to the transmission of the language to a new generation. Others may
have arisen in the speech of adults, such as the distinction between
_off_ and _of_ (at first the stressed and unstressed form of the same
preposition), or between _thorough_ and _through_ (the former is still
used as a preposition in Shakespeare: “thorough bush, thorough brier”).
But complete differentiation is not established till some individuals
from the very first conceive the forms as two independent words.

X.--§ 5. Summary.

Instead of saying, as previous writers on these questions have done,
either that children have no influence or that they have the chief
influence on the development of language, it will be seen that I
have divided the question into many, going through various fields of
linguistic change and asking in each what may have been the influence
of the child. The result of this investigation has been that there
are certain fields in which it is both impossible and really also
irrelevant to separate the share of the child and of the adult,
because both will be apt to introduce changes of that kind; such are
assimilations of neighbouring sounds and droppings of consonants in
groups. Also, with regard to those very gradual shiftings either of
sound or of meaning in which it is natural to assume many intermediate
stages through which the sound or signification must have passed before
arriving at the final result, children and adults must share the
responsibility for the change. Clippings of words occur in the speech
of both classes, but as a rule adults will keep the beginning of a
word, while very small children will perceive or remember only the end
of a word and use that for the whole. But finally there are some kinds
of changes which must wholly or chiefly be charged to the account
of children: such are those leaps in sound or signification in which
intermediate stages are out of the question, as well as confusions
of similar words and misdivisions of words, and the most violent
differentiations of words.

I wish, however, here to insist on one point which has, I think, become
more and more clear in the course of our disquisition, namely, that we
ought not really to put the question like this: Are linguistic changes
due to children or to grown-up people? The important distinction is
not really one of age, which is evidently one of degree only, but
that between the first learners of the sound or word in question and
those who use it after having once learnt it. In the latter case we
have mainly to do with infinitesimal glidings, the results of which,
when summed up in the course of long periods of time, may be very
considerable indeed, but in which it will always be possible to detect
intermediate links connecting the extreme points. In contrast to these
changes occurring _after_ the correct (or original) form has been
acquired by the individual, we have changes occurring _simultaneously_
with the first acquisition of the word or form in question, and thus
due to the fact of its transmission to a new generation, or, to speak
more generally, and, indeed, more correctly, to new individuals. The
exact age of the learner here is of little avail, as will be seen
if we take some examples of metanalysis. It is highly probable that
the first users of forms like _a pea_ or _a cherry_, instead of _a
pease_ and _a cherries_, were little children; but _a Chinee_ and _a
Portuguee_ are not necessarily, or not pre-eminently, children’s words:
on the other hand, it is to me indubitable that these forms do not
spring into existence in the mind of someone who has previously used
the forms _Chinese_ and _Portuguese_ in the singular number, but must
be due to the fact that the forms _the Chinese_ and _the Portuguese_
(used as plurals) have been at once apprehended as made up of _Chinee_,
_Portuguee_ + the plural ending _-s_ by a person hearing them for the
first time; similarly in all the other cases. We shall see in a later
chapter that the adoption (on the part of children and adults alike)
of sounds and words from a foreign tongue presents certain interesting
points of resemblance with these instances of change: in both cases the
innovation begins when some individual is first made acquainted with
linguistic elements that are new to him.

X.--§ 6. Indirect Influence.

We have hitherto considered what elements of the language may be
referred to a child’s first acquisition of language. But we have not
yet done with the part which children play in linguistic development.
There are two things which must be sharply distinguished from the
phenomena discussed in the preceding chapter--the first, that grown-up
people in many cases catch up the words and forms used by children
and thereby give them a power of survival which they would not have
otherwise; the second, that grown-up people alter their own language so
as to meet children half-way.

As for the first point, we have already seen examples in which mothers
and nurses have found the baby’s forms so pretty that they have adopted
them themselves. Generally these forms are confined to the family
circle, but they may under favourable circumstances be propagated
further. A special case of the highest interest has been fully
discussed in the section about words of the _mamma_-class.

As for the second point, grown-up people often adapt their speech to
the more or less imaginary needs of their children by pronouncing words
as they do, saying _dood_ and _tum_ for ‘good’ and ‘come,’ etc. This
notion clearly depends on a misunderstanding, and can only retard the
acquisition of the right pronunciation; the child understands _good_
and _come_ at least as well, if not better, and the consequence may be
that when he is able himself to pronounce [g] and [k] he may consider
it immaterial, because one can just as well say [d] and [t] as [g] and
[k], or may be bewildered as to which words have the one sound and
which the other. It can only be a benefit to the child if all who come
in contact with it speak from the first as correctly, elegantly and
clearly as possible--not, of course, in long, stilted sentences and
with many learned book-words, but naturally and easily. When the child
makes a mistake, the most effectual way of correcting it is certainly
the indirect one of seeing that the child, soon after it has made
the mistake, hears the correct form. If he says ‘A waps stinged me’:
answer, ‘It stung you: did it hurt much when the wasp stung you?’ etc.
No special emphasis even is needed; next time he will probably use the
correct form.

But many parents are not so wise; they will say _stinged_ themselves
when once they have heard the child say so. And nurses and others
have even developed a kind of artificial nursery language which they
imagine makes matters easier for the little ones, but which is in many
respects due to erroneous ideas of how children ought to talk rather
than to real observation of the way children do talk. Many forms are
handed over traditionally from one nurse to another, such as _totties_,
_tootems_ or _tootsies_ for ‘feet’ (from _trotters_?), _toothy-peg_ for
‘tooth,’ _tummy_ or _tumtum_ for ‘stomach,’ _tootleums_ for ‘babies,’
_shooshoo_ for ‘a fly.’ I give a connected specimen of this nursery
language (from Egerton, _Keynotes_, 85): “Didsum was denn? Oo did! Was
ums de prettiest itta sweetums denn? Oo was. An’ did um put ’em in a
nasty shawl an’ joggle ’em in an ole puff-puff, um did, was a shame!
Hitchy cum, hitchy cum, hitchy cum hi, Chinaman no likey me.” This
reminds one of pidgin-English, and in a later chapter we shall see that
that and similar bastard languages are partly due to the same mistaken
notion that it is necessary to corrupt one’s language to be easily
understood by children and inferior races.

Very frequently mothers and nurses talk to children in diminutives.
When many of these have become established in ordinary speech, losing
their force as diminutives and displacing the proper words, this is
another result of nursery language. The phenomenon is widely seen in
Romance languages, where _auricula_, Fr. _oreille_, It. _orecchio_,
displaces _auris_, and _avicellus_, Fr. _oiseau_, It. _uccello_,
displaces _avis_; we may remember that classical Latin had already
_oculus_, for ‘eye.’[40] It is the same in Modern Greek. An example of
the same tendency, though not of the same formal means of a diminutive
ending, is seen in the English _bird_ (originally = ‘young bird’) and
_rabbit_ (originally = ‘young rabbit’), which have displaced _fowl_ and

A very remarkable case of the influence of nursery language on normal
speech is seen in many countries, viz. in the displacing of the old
word for ‘right’ (as opposed to left). The distinction of right and
left is not easy for small children: some children in the upper
classes at school only know which is which by looking at some wart, or
something of the sort, on one of their hands, and have to think every
time. Meanwhile mothers and nurses will frequently insist on the use of
the right (dextera) hand, and when they are not understood, will think
they make it easier for the child by saying ‘No, the _right_ hand,’ and
so it comes about that in many languages the word that originally means
‘correct’ is used with the meaning ‘dexter.’ So we have in English
_right_, in German _recht_, which displaces _zeso_, Fr. _droit_, which
displaces _destre_; in Spanish also _la derecha_ has begun to be used
instead of _la diestra_; similarly, in Swedish _den vackra handen_
instead of _högra_, and in Jutlandish dialects _den kjön hånd_ instead
of _höjre_.

X.--§ 7. New Languages.

In a subsequent chapter (XIV § 5) we shall consider the theory that
epochs in which the changes of some language proceed at a more rapid
pace than at others are due to the fact that in times of fierce, widely
extended wars many men leave home and remain abroad, either as settlers
or as corpses, while the women left behind have to do the field-work,
etc., and neglect their homes, the consequence being that the children
are left more to themselves, and therefore do not get their mistakes in
speech corrected as much as usual.

A somewhat related idea is at the bottom of a theory advanced as early
as 1886 by the American ethnologist Horatio Hale (see “The Origin
of Languages,” in the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, XXXV, 1886, and “The Development of Language,” the Canadian
Institute, Toronto, 1888). As these papers seem to have been entirely
unnoticed by leading philologists, I shall give a short abstract of
them, leaving out what appears to me to be erroneous in the light of
recent linguistic thought and research, namely, his application of the
theory to explain the supposed three stages of linguistic development,
the monosyllabic, the agglutinative and the flexional.

Hale was struck with the fact that in Oregon, in a region not much
larger than France, we find at least thirty different families of
languages living together. It is impossible to believe that thirty
separate communities of speechless precursors of man should have begun
to talk independently of one another in thirty distinct languages in
this district. Hale therefore concludes that the origin of linguistic
stocks is to be found in the language-making instinct of very young
children. When two children who are just beginning to speak are thrown
much together, they sometimes invent a complete language, sufficient
for all purposes of mutual intercourse, and yet totally unintelligible
to their parents. In an ordinary household, the conditions under which
such a language would be formed are most likely to occur in the case
of twins, and Hale now proceeds to mention those instances--five in
all--that he has come across of languages framed in this manner by
young children. He concludes: “It becomes evident that, to ensure the
creation of a speech which shall be a parent of a new language stock,
all that is needed is that two or more young children should be placed
by themselves in a condition where they will be entirely, or in a large
degree, free from the presence and influence of their elders. They
must, of course, continue in this condition long enough to grow up, to
form a household, and to have descendants to whom they can communicate
their new speech.”

These conditions he finds among the hunting tribes of America, in which
it is common for single families to wander off from the main band. “In
modern times, when the whole country is occupied, their flight would
merely carry them into the territory of another tribe, among whom, if
well received, they would quickly be absorbed. But in the primitive
period, when a vast uninhabited region stretched before them, it would
be easy for them to find some sheltered nook or fruitful valley....
If under such circumstances disease or the casualties of a hunter’s
life should carry off the parents, the survival of the children would,
it is evident, depend mainly upon the nature of the climate and the
ease with which food could be procured at all seasons of the year. In
ancient Europe, after the present climatal conditions were established,
it is doubtful if a family of children under ten years of age could
have lived through a single winter. We are not, therefore, surprised
to find that no more than four or five language stocks are represented
in Europe.... Of Northern America, east of the Rocky Mountains and
north of the tropics, the same may be said.... But there is one region
where Nature seems to offer herself as the willing nurse and bountiful
stepmother of the feeble and unprotected ... California. Its wonderful
climate (follows a long description).... Need we wonder that, in such
a mild and fruitful region, a great number of separate tribes were
found, speaking languages which a careful investigation has classed in
nineteen distinct linguistic stocks?” In Oregon, and in the interior of
Brazil, Hale finds similar climatic conditions with the same result, a
great number of totally dissimilar languages, while in Australia, whose
climate is as mild as that of any of these regions, we find hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of petty tribes, as completely isolated as those of
South America, but all speaking languages of the same stock--because
“the other conditions are such as would make it impossible for an
isolated group of young children to survive. The whole of Australia is
subject to severe droughts, and is so scantily provided with edible
products that the aborigines are often reduced to the greatest straits.”

This, then, is Hale’s theory. Let us now look a little closer into the
proofs adduced. They are, as it will be seen, of a twofold order. He
invokes the language-creating tendencies of young children on the one
hand, and on the other the geographical distribution of linguistic
stocks or genera.

As to the first, it is true that so competent a psychologist as Wundt
denies the possibility in very strong terms.[41] But facts certainly do
not justify this foregone conclusion. I must first refer the reader to
Hale’s own report of the five instances known to him. Unfortunately,
the linguistic material collected by him is so scanty that we can form
only a very imperfect idea of the languages which he says children
have developed and of the relation between them and the language of
the parents. But otherwise his report is very instructive, and I shall
call special attention to the fact that in most cases the children seem
to have been ‘spoilt’ by their parents; this is also the case with
regard to one of the families, though it does not appear from Hale’s
own extracts from the book in which he found his facts (G. Watson,
_Universe of Language_, N.Y., 1878).

The only word recorded in this case is _nī-si-boo-a_ for ‘carriage’;
how that came into existence, I dare not conjecture; but when it is
said that the syllables of it were sometimes so repeated that they
made a much longer word, this agrees very well with what I have myself
observed with regard to ordinary children’s playful word-coinages. In
the next case, described by E. R. Hun, M.D., of Albany, more words are
given. Some of these bear a strong resemblance to French, although
neither the parents nor servants spoke that language; and Hale thinks
that some person may have “amused herself, innocently enough, by
teaching the child a few words of that tongue.” This, however, does not
seem necessary to explain the words recorded. _Feu_, pronounced, we
are told, like the French word, signified ‘fire, light, cigar, sun’:
it may be either E. _fire_ or else an imitation of the sound _fff_
without a vowel, or [fə·] used in blowing out a candle or a match or
in smoking, so as to amuse the child, exactly as in the case of one
of my little Danish friends, who used _fff_ as the name for ‘smoke,
steam,’ and later for ‘funnel, chimney,’ and finally anything standing
upright against the sky, for instance, a flagstaff. _Petee-petee_,
the name which the Albany girl gave to her brother, and which Dr.
Hun derived from F. _petit_, may be just as well from E. _pet_ or
_petty_; and to explain her word for ‘I,’ _ma_, we need not go to
F. _moi_, as E. _me_ or _my_ may obviously be thus distorted by any
child. Her word for ‘not’ is said to have been _ne-pas_, though the
exact pronunciation is not given. This cannot have been taken from the
French, at any rate not from real French, as _ne_ and _pas_ are here
separated, and _ne_ is more often than not pronounced without the vowel
or omitted altogether; the girl’s word, if pronounced something like
['nepa·] may be nothing else than an imperfect childish pronunciation
of _never_, cf. the negroes’ form _nebber_. _Too_, ‘all, everything,’
of course resembles Fr. _tout_, but how should anyone have been able
to teach this girl, who did not speak any intelligible language, a
French word of this abstract character? Some of the other words admit
of a natural explanation from English: _go-go_, ‘delicacy, as sugar,
candy or dessert,’ is probably _goody-goody_, or a reduplicated form
of _good_; _deer_, ‘money,’ may be from _dear_, ‘expensive’; _odo_,
‘to send for, to go out, to take away,’ is evidently _out_, as in _ma
odo_, ‘I want to go out’; _gaän_, ‘God,’ must be the English word, in
spite of the difference in pronunciation, for the child would never
think of inventing this idea on its own accord; _pa-ma_, ‘to go to
sleep, pillow, bed,’ is from _by-bye_ or an independent word of the
_mamma_-class; _mea_, ‘cat, fur,’ of course is imitative of the sound
of the cat. For the rest of the words I have no conjectures to offer.
Some of the derived meanings are curious, though perhaps not more
startling than many found in the speech of ordinary children; _papa_
and _mamma_ separately had their usual signification, but _papa-mamma_
meant ‘church, prayer-book, cross, priest’: the parents were punctual
in church observances; _gar odo_, ‘horse out, to send for the horse,’
came to mean ‘pencil and paper,’ as the father used, when the carriage
was wanted, to write an order and send it to the stable. In the
remaining three cases of ‘invented’ languages no specimens are given,
except _shindikik_, ‘cat.’ In all cases the children seem to have
talked together fluently when by themselves in their own gibberish.

But there exists on record a case better elucidated than Hale’s five
cases, namely that of the Icelandic girl Sæunn. (See Jonasson and
Eschricht in _Dansk Maanedsskrift_, Copenhagen, 1858.) She was born
in the beginning of the last century on a farm in Húnavatns-syssel in
the northern part of Iceland, and began early to converse with her
twin brother in a language that was entirely unintelligible to their
surroundings. Her parents were disquieted, and therefore resolved to
send away the brother, who died soon afterwards. They now tried to
teach the girl Icelandic, but soon (too soon, evidently!) came to the
conclusion that she could not learn it, and then they were foolish
enough to learn _her_ language, as did also her brothers and sisters
and even some of their friends. In order that she might be confirmed,
her elder brother translated the catechism and acted as interpreter
between the parson and the girl. She is described as intelligent--she
even composed poetry in her own language--but shy and distrustful.
Jonasson gives a few specimens of her language, some of which Eschricht
succeeds in interpreting as based on Icelandic words, though strangely
disfigured. The language to Jonasson, who had heard it, seemed totally
dissimilar to Icelandic in sounds and construction; it had no flexions,
and lacked pronouns. The vocabulary was so limited that she very
often had to supplement a phrase by means of nods or gestures; and it
was difficult to carry on a conversation with her in the dark. The
ingenuity of some of the compounds and metaphors is greatly admired by
Jonasson, though to the more sober mind of Eschricht they appear rather
childish or primitive, as when a ‘wether’ is called _mepok-ill_ from
_me_ (imitation of the sound) + _pok_, ‘a little bag’ (Icel. _poki_)
+ _ill_, ‘to cut.’ The only complete sentence recorded is ‘Dirfa offo
nonona uhuh,’ which means: ‘Sigurdur gets up extremely late.’ In his
analysis of the whole case Eschricht succeeds in stripping it of the
mystical glamour in which it evidently appeared to Jonasson as well as
to the girl’s relatives; he is undoubtedly right in maintaining that if
the parents had persisted in only talking Icelandic to her, she would
soon have forgotten her own language; he compares her words with some
strange disfigurements of Danish which he had observed among children
in his own family and acquaintanceship.

I read this report a good many years ago, and afterwards I tried on
two occasions to obtain precise information about similar cases I had
seen mentioned, one in Halland (Sweden) and the other in Finland, but
without success. But in 1903, when I was lecturing on the language
of children in the University of Copenhagen, I had the good fortune
to hear of a case not far from Copenhagen of two children speaking a
language of their own. I investigated the case as well as I could, by
seeing and hearing them several times and thus checking the words and
sentences which their teacher, who was constantly with them, kindly
took down in accordance with my directions. I am thus enabled to give
a fairly full account of their language, though unfortunately my
investigation was interrupted by a long voyage in 1904.

The boys were twins, about five and a half years old when I saw them,
and so alike that even the people who were about them every day had
difficulty in distinguishing them from each other. Their mother (a
single woman) neglected them shamefully when they were quite small,
and they were left very much to shift for themselves. For a long
time, while their mother was ill in a hospital, they lived in an
out-of-the-way place with an old woman, who is said to have been very
deaf, and who at any rate troubled herself very little about them.
When they were four years old, the parish authorities discovered how
sadly neglected they were and that they spoke quite unintelligibly,
and therefore sent them to a ‘children’s home’ in Seeland, where they
were properly taken care of. At first they were extremely shy and
reticent, and it was a long time before they felt at home with the
other children. When I first saw them, they had in so far learnt the
ordinary language that they were able to understand many everyday
sentences spoken to them, and could do what they were told (e.g. ‘Take
the footstool and put it in my room near the stove’), but they could
not speak Danish and said very little in the presence of anybody
else. When they were by themselves they conversed pretty freely and
in a completely unintelligible gibberish, as I had the opportunity to
convince myself when standing behind a door one day when they thought
they were not observed. Afterwards I got to be in a way good friends
with them--they called me _py-ma_, _py_ being their word for ‘smoke,
smoking, pipe, cigar,’ so that I got my name from the chocolate cigars
which I used to ingratiate myself with them--and then I got them to
repeat words and phrases which their teacher had written out for me,
and thus was enabled to write down everything phonetically.

An analysis of the sounds occurring in their words showed me that their
vocal organs were perfectly normal. Most of the words were evidently
Danish words, however much distorted and shortened; a voiceless _l_,
which does not occur in Danish, and which I write here _lh_, was a
very frequent sound. This, combined with an inclination to make many
words end in _-p_, was enough to disguise words very effectually,
as when _sort_ (black) was made _lhop_. I shall give the children’s
pronunciations of the names of some of their new playfellows, adding in
brackets the Danish substratum: _lhep_ (Svend), _lhip_ (Vilhelm), _lip_
(Elisabeth), _lop_ (Charlotte), _bap_ (Mandse); similarly the doctor
was called _dop_. In many cases there was phonetic assimilation at a
distance, as when milk (mælk) was called _bep_, flower (blomst) _bop_,
light (lys) _lhylh_, sugar (sukker) _lholh_, cold (kulde) _lhulh_,
sometimes also _ulh_, bed (seng) _sæjs_, fish (fisk) _se-is_.

I subjoin a few complete sentences: _nina enaj una enaj hæna mad enaj_,
‘we shall not fetch food for the young rabbits’: _nina_ rabbit (kanin),
_enaj_ negation (nej, no), repeated several times in each negative
sentence, as in Old English and in Bantu languages, _una_ young (unge).
_Bap ep dop_, ‘Mandse has broken the hobby-horse,’ literally ‘Mandse
horse piece.’ _Hos ia bov lhalh_, ‘brother’s trousers are wet, Maria,’
literally ‘trousers Maria brother water.’ The words are put together
without any flexions, and the word order is totally different from that
of Danish.

Only in one case was I unable to identify words that I understood
either as ‘little language’ forms of Danish words or else as
sound-imitations; but then it must be remembered that they spoke a
good deal that neither I nor any of the people about them could make
anything of. And then, unfortunately, when I began to study it, their
language was already to a great extent ‘humanized’ in comparison to
what it was when they first came to the children’s home. In fact,
I noticed a constant progress during the short time I observed the
boys, and in some of the last sentences I have noted, I even find the
genitive case employed.

The idiom of these twins cannot, of course, be called an independent,
still less a complete or fully developed language; but if they were
able to produce something so different from the language spoken around
them at the beginning of the twentieth century and in a civilized
country, there can to my mind be no doubt that Hale is right in his
contention that children left to themselves even more than these were,
in an uninhabited region where they were still not liable to die from
hunger or cold, would be able to develop a language for their mutual
understanding that might become so different from that of their parents
as really to constitute a new stock of language. So that we can now
pass to the other--geographical--side of what Hale advances in favour
of his theory.

So far as I can see, the facts here tally very well with the theory.
Take, on the one hand, the Eskimo languages, spoken with astonishingly
little variation from the east coast of Greenland to Alaska, an immense
stretch of territory in which small children if left to themselves
would be sure to die very soon indeed. Or take the Finnish-Ugrian
languages in the other hemisphere, exhibiting a similar close
relationship, though spread over wide areas. And then, on the other
hand, the American languages already adduced by Hale. I do not pretend
to any deeper knowledge of these languages; but from the most recent
works of very able specialists I gather an impression of the utmost
variety in phonetics, in grammatical structure and in vocabulary;
see especially Roland B. Dixon and Alfred L. Kroeber, “The Native
Languages of California,” in the _American Anthropologist_, 1903. Even
where recent research seems to establish some kind of kinship between
families hitherto considered as distinguished stocks (as in Dixon’s
interesting paper, “Linguistic Relationships within the Shasta-Achomawi
Stock,” XV Congrès des Américanistes, 1906) the similarities are still
so incomplete, so capricious and generally so remote that they seem to
support Hale’s explanation rather than a gradual splitting of the usual

As for Brazil, I shall quote some interesting remarks from C. F. P.
v. Martius, _Beiträge zur Ethnographie u. Sprachenkunde Amerika’s_,
1867, i. p. 46: “In Brazil we see a scant and unevenly distributed
native population, uniform in bodily structure, temperament, customs
and manner of living generally, but presenting a really astonishing
diversity in language. A language is often confined to a few mutually
related individuals; it is in truth a family heirloom and isolates
its speakers from all other people so as to render any attempt at
understanding impossible. On the vessel in which we travelled up the
rivers in the interior of Brazil, we often, among twenty Indian rowers,
could count only three or four that were at all able to speak together
... they sat there side by side dumb and stupid.”

Hale’s theory is worthy, then, of consideration, and now, at the close
of our voyage round the world of children’s language, we have gained a
post of vantage from which we can overlook the whole globe and see that
the peculiar word-forms which children use in their ‘little language’
period can actually throw light on the distribution of languages and
groups of languages over the great continents. Yes,

  Scorn not the little ones! You oft will find
  They reach the goal, when great ones lag behind.


[38] See my MEG ii. 5. 6, and my paper on “Subtraktionsdannelser,” in
_Festskrift til Vilh. Thomsen_, 1894, p. 1 ff.

[39] Semantic changes through ambiguous syntactic combinations
have recently been studied especially by Carl Collin; see his
_Semasiologiska studier_, 1906, and _Le Développement de Sens du
Suffixe -ATA_, Lund, 1918, ch. iii and iv. Collin there treats
especially of the transition from abstract to concrete nouns; he does
not, as I have done above, speak of the rôle of the younger generation
in such changes.

[40] I know perfectly well that in these and in other similar words
there were reasons for the original word disappearing as unfit
(shortness, possibility of mistakes through similarity with other
words, etc.). What interests me here is the fact that the substitute is
a word of the nursery.

[41] “Einige namentlich in der ältern litteratur vorkommende angaben
über kinder, die sich zusammen aufwachsend eine eigene sprache gebildet
haben sollen, sind wohl ein für allemal in das gebiet der fabel zu
verweisen” (S 1. 286).





  § 1. The Substratum Theory. § 2. French _u_ and Spanish _h_. § 3.
  Gothonic and Keltic. § 4. Etruscan and Indian Consonants. § 5.
  Gothonic Sound-shift. § 6. Natural and Specific Changes. § 7. Power
  of Substratum. § 8. Types of Race-mixture. § 9. Summary. § 10.
  General Theory of Loan-words. § 11. Classes of Loan-words. § 12.
  Influence on Grammar. § 13. Translation-loans.

XI.--§ 1. The Substratum Theory.

It seems evident that if we wish to find out the causes of linguistic
change, a fundamental division must be into--

(1) Changes that are due to the transference of the language to new
individuals, and

(2) Changes that are independent of such transference.

It may not be easy in practice to distinguish the two classes, as the
very essence of the linguistic life of each individual is a continual
give-and-take between him and those around him; still, the division is
in the main clear, and will consequently be followed in the present

The first class falls again naturally into two heads, according as the
new individual does not, or does already, possess a language. With the
former, i.e. with the native child learning his ‘mother-tongue,’ we
have dealt at length in Book II, and we now proceed to an examination
of the influence exercised on a language through its transference to
individuals who are already in possession of another language--let us,
for the sake of shortness, call them foreigners.

While some earlier scholars denied categorically the existence of mixed
languages, recent investigators have attached a very great importance
to mixtures of languages, and have studied actually occurring mixtures
of various degrees and characters with the greatest accuracy: I mention
here only one name, that of Hugo Schuchardt, who combines profundity
and width of knowledge with a truly philosophical spirit, though the
form of his numerous scattered writings makes it difficult to gather a
just idea of his views on many questions.

Many scholars have recently attached great importance to the subtler
and more hidden influence exerted by one language on another in those
cases in which a population abandons its original language and adopts
that of another race, generally in consequence of military conquest. In
these cases the theory is that people keep many of their speech-habits,
especially with regard to articulation and accent, even while using the
vocabulary, etc., of the new language, which thus to a large extent is
tinged by the old language. There is thus created what is now generally
termed a _substratum_ underlying the new language. As the original
substratum modifying a language which gradually spreads over a large
area varies according to the character of the tribes subjugated in
different districts, this would account for many of those splittings-up
of languages which we witness everywhere.

Hirt goes so far as to think it possible by the help of existing
dialect boundaries to determine the extensions of aboriginal languages
(Idg 19).

There is certainly something very plausible in this manner of viewing
linguistic changes, for we all know from practical everyday experience
that the average foreigner is apt to betray his nationality as soon
as he opens his mouth: the Italian’s or the German’s English is just
as different from the ‘real thing’ as, inversely, the Englishman’s
Italian or German is different from the Italian or German of a
native: the place of articulation, especially that of the tongue-tip
consonants, the aspiration or want of aspiration of _p_, _t_, _k_,
the voicing or non-voicing of _b_, _d_, _g_, the diphthongization
or monophthongization of long vowels, the syllabification, various
peculiarities in quantity and in tone-movements--all such things are
apt to colour the whole acoustic impression of a foreigner’s speech
in an acquired language, and it is, of course, a natural supposition
that the aboriginal inhabitants of Europe and Asia were just as liable
to transfer their speech habits to new languages as their descendants
are nowadays. There is thus a priori a strong probability that
linguistic substrata have exercised some influence on the development
of conquering languages. But when we proceed to apply this natural
inference to concrete examples of linguistic history, we shall see
that the theory does not perhaps suffice to explain everything that
its advocates would have it explain, and that there are certain
difficulties which have not always been faced or appraised according
to their real value. A consideration of these concrete examples will
naturally lead up to a discussion of the general principles involved in
the substratum theory.

XI.--§ 2. French _u_ and Spanish _h_.

First I shall mention Ascoli’s famous theory that French [y·] for
Latin _u_, as in _dur_, etc., is due to Gallic influence, cf. Welsh
_i_ in _din_ from _dun_, which presupposes a transition from _u_
to [y]. Ascoli found a proof in the fact that Dutch also has the
pronunciation [y·], e.g. in _duur_, on the old Keltic soil of the
Belgæ, to which Schuchardt (SlD 126) added his observation of [y] in
dialectal South German (Breisgau), in a district in which there had
formerly been a strong Keltic element. This looks very convincing at
first blush. On closer inspection, doubts arise on many points. The
French transition cannot with certainty be dated very early, for then
_c_ in _cure_ would have been palatalized and changed as _c_ before
_i_ (Lenz, KZ 39. 46); also the treatment of the vowel in French words
taken over into English, where it is not identified with the native
[y], but becomes [iu], is best explained on the assumption that about
1200 A.D. the sound had not advanced farther on its march towards the
front position than, say, the Swedish ‘mixed-round’ sound in _hus_.
The district in which [y] is found for _u_ is not coextensive with the
Keltic possessions; there were very few Kelts in what is now Holland,
and inversely South German [y] for _u_ does not cover the whole Keltic
domain; [y] is found outside the French territory proper, namely, in
Franco-Provençal (where the substratum was Ligurian) and in Provençal
(where there were very few Galli; cf. Wechssler, L 113). Thus the
province of [y] is here too small and there too large to make the
argument conclusive. Even more fatal is the objection that the Gallic
transition from _u_ to _y_ is very uncertain (Pedersen, GKS 1. § 353).
So much is certain, that the fronting of _u_ was not a _common_ Keltic
transition, for it is not found in the Gaelic (Goidelic) branch.[42]
On the other hand, the transition from [u] to [y] occurs elsewhere,
independent of Keltic influence, as in Old Greek (cf. also the Swedish
sound in _hus_): why cannot it, then, be independent in French?

Another case adduced by Ascoli is initial _h_ instead of Latin _f_ in
the country anciently occupied by the Iberians. Now, Basque has no
_f_ sound at all in any connexion; if the same aversion to _f_ had
been the cause of the Spanish substitution of _h_ for _f_, we should
expect the substitution to have been made from the moment when Latin
was first spoken in Hispania, and we should expect it to be found in
all positions and connexions. But what do we find instead? First, that
Old Spanish had _f_ in many cases where modern Spanish has _h_ (i.e.
really no sound at all), and this cannot be altogether ascribed to
‘Latinizing scribes.’ On the contrary, the transition _f_ > _h_ seems
to have taken place many centuries after the Roman invasion, since
the Spanish-speaking Jews of Salonika, who emigrated from Spain about
1500, have to this day preserved the _f_ sound among other archaic
traits (see F. Hanssen, _Span. Gramm._ 45; Wiener, _Modern Philology_,
June 1903, p. 205). And secondly, that _f_ has been kept in certain
connexions; thus, before [w], as in _fuí_, _fuiste_, _fué_, etc.,
before _r_ and _l_, as in _fruto_, _flor_, etc. This certainly is
inexplicable if the cause of _f_ > _h_ had been the want of power on
the part of the aborigines to produce the _f_ sound at all, while it is
simple enough if we assume a later transition, taking place possibly
at first between two vowels, with a subsequent generalization of the
_f_-less forms. Diez is here, as not infrequently, more sensible than
some of his successors (see _Gramm. d. roman. spr._, 4th ed., 1. 283
f., 373 f.).

XI.--§ 3. Gothonic and Keltic.

Feist (KI 480 ff.: cf. PBB 36. 307 ff., 37. 112 ff.) applies the
substratum theory to the Gothonic (Germanic) languages. The Gothons
are autochthonous in northern Europe, and very little mixed with other
races; they must have immigrated just after the close of the glacial
period. But the arrival of Aryan (Indogermanic) tribes cannot be placed
earlier than about 2000 B.C.; they made the original inhabitants give
up their own language. The nation that thus Aryanized the Gothons
cannot have been other than the Kelts; their supremacy over the Gothons
is proved by several loan-words for cultural ideas or state offices,
such as Gothic _reiks_ ‘king,’ _andbahts_ ‘servant.’ The Aryan language
which the Kelts taught the Gothons was subjected in the process to
considerable changes, the old North Europeans pronouncing the new
language in accordance with their previous speech habits; instead of
taking over the free Aryan accent, they invariably stressed the initial
syllable, and they made sad havoc of the Aryan flexion.

The theory does not bear close inspection. The number of Keltic
loan-words is not great enough for us to infer such an overpowering
ascendancy on the part of the Kelts as would force the subjected
population to make a complete surrender of their own tongue. Neither
in number nor in intrinsic significance can these loans be compared
with the French loans in English: and yet the Normans did not succeed
in substituting their own language for English. Besides, if the
theory were true, we should not merely see a certain number of Keltic
loan-words, but the whole speech, the complete vocabulary as well as
the entire grammar, would be Keltic; yet as a matter of fact there is
a wide gulf between Keltic and Gothonic, and many details, lexical
and grammatical, in the latter group resemble other Aryan languages
rather than Keltic. The stressing of the first syllable is said to be
due to the aboriginal language. If that were so, it would mean that
this population, in adopting the new speech, had at once transferred
its own habit of stressing the first syllable to all the new words,
very much as Icelanders are apt to do nowadays. But this is not in
accordance with well established facts in the Gothonic languages: we
know that when the consonant shift took place, it found the stress on
the same syllables as in Sanskrit, and that it was this stress on many
middle or final syllables that afterwards changed many of the shifted
consonants from voiceless to voiced (Verner’s law).[43] This fact in
itself suffices to prove that the consonant shift and the stress shift
cannot have taken place simultaneously, and thus cannot be due to one
and the same cause, as supposed by Feist. Nor can the havoc wrought in
the old flexions be due to the inability of a new people to grasp the
minute _nuances_ and intricate system of another language than its own;
for in that case too we should have something like the formless ‘Pidgin
English’ from the very beginning, whereas the oldest Gothonic languages
still preserve a great many old flexions and subtle syntactical rules
which have since disappeared. As a matter of fact, many of the flexions
of primitive Aryan were much better preserved in Gothonic languages
than in Keltic.

XI.--§ 4. Etruscan and Indian Consonants.

In another place in the same work (KI 373) Feist speaks of the Etruscan
language, and says that this had only one kind of stop consonants,
represented by the letters _k_ (_c_), _t_, _p_, besides the aspirated
stops _kh_, _th_, _ph_, which in some instances correspond to Latin
and Greek tenues. This, he says, reminds one very strongly of the
sound system of High German (oberdeutschen) dialects, and more
particularly of those spoken in the Alps. Feist here (and in PBB 36.
340 ff.) maintains that these sounds go back to a Pre-Gothonic Alpine
population, which he identifies with the ancient Rhætians; and he sees
in this a strong support of a linguistic connexion between the Rhætians
and Etruscans. He finds further striking analogies between the Gothonic
and the Armenian sound systems; the predilection for voiceless stops
and aspirated sounds in Etruscan, in the domain of the ancient Rhætians
and in Asia Minor is accordingly ascribed to the speech habits of one
and the same aboriginal race.

Here, too, there are many points to which I must take exception. It is
not quite certain that the usual interpretation of Etruscan letters is
correct; in fact, much may be said in favour of the hypothesis that
the letters rendered _p_, _t_, _k_ stand really for the sounds of
_b_, _d_, _g_, and that those transcribed _ph_, _th_, _kh_ (or Greek
φ, θ, χ) represent ordinary _p_, _t_, _k_. However this may be, Feist
seems to be speaking here almost in the same breath of the first (or
common Gothonic) shift and of the second (or specially High German)
shift, although they are separated from each other by several centuries
and neither cover the same geographical ground nor lead to the same
phonetic result. Neither Armenian nor primitive Gothonic can be said to
be averse to voiced stops, for in both we find voiced _b_, _d_, _g_ for
the old ‘mediæ aspiratæ.’ And in both languages the old voiceless stops
became at first probably not aspirates, but simply voiceless spirants,
as in English _f_ather, _th_ing, and Scotch lo_ch_. Further, it should
be noted that we do not find the tendency to unvoice stops and to
pronounce affricates either in Rhæto-Romanic (Ladin) or in Tuscan
Italian; both languages have unaspirated _p_, _t_, _k_ and voiced _b_,
_d_, _g_, and the Tuscan pronunciation of _c_ between two vowels as
[x], thus in _la casa_ [la xa·sa], but not in _a casa_ = [akka·sa],
could not be termed ‘aspiration’ except by a non-phonetician; this
pronunciation can hardly have anything to do with the old Etruscan

According to a theory which is very widely accepted, the Dravidian
languages exerted a different influence on the Aryan languages when
the Aryans first set foot on Indian soil, in making them adopt the
‘cacuminal’ (or ‘inverted’) sounds _ḍ_, _ṭ_, _ṇ_ with _ḍh_ and _ṭh_,
which were not found in primitive Aryan. But even this theory does not
seem to be quite proof against objections. It is easy to admit that
natives accustomed to one place of articulation of their _d_, _t_, _n_
will unconsciously produce the _d_, _t_, _n_ of a new language they
are learning in the same place; but then they will do it everywhere.
Here, however, both Dravidian and Sanskrit possess pure dental _d_,
_t_, _n_, pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching the upper
teeth, besides cacuminal _ḍ_, _ṭ_, _ṇ_, in which it touches the gum or
front part of the hard palate. In Sanskrit we find that the cacuminal
articulation occurs only under very definite conditions, chiefly
under the influence of _r_. Now, a trilled tongue-point _r_ in most
languages, for purely physiological reasons which are easily accounted
for, tends to be pronounced further back than ordinary dentals; and it
is therefore quite natural that it should spontaneously exercise an
influence on neighbouring dentals by drawing them back to its own point
of articulation. This may have happened in India quite independently
of the occurrence of the same sounds in other vernaculars, just as
we find the same influence very pronouncedly in Swedish and in East
Norwegian, where _d_, _t_, _n_, _s_ are cacuminal (supradental) in
such words as _bord_, _kort_, _barn_, _först_, etc. According to
Grandgent (_Neuere Sprachen_, 2. 447), _d_ in his own American English
is pronounced further back than elsewhere before and after _r_, as in
_dry_, _hard_; but in none of these cases need we conjure up an extinct
native population to account for a perfectly natural development.

XI.--§ 5. Gothonic Sound-shift.

Since the time of Grimm the Gothonic consonant changes have harassed
the minds of linguists; they became _the_ sound-shift and were
considered as something _sui generis_, something out of the common,
which required a different explanation from all other sound-shifts.
Several explanations have been offered, to some of which we shall have
to revert later; none, however, has been so popular as that which
attributes the shift to an ethnic substratum. This explanation is
accepted by Hirt, Feist, Meillet and others, though their agreement
ceases when the question is asked: What nationality and what language
can have been the cause of the change? While some cautiously content
themselves with saying that there must have been an original
population, others guess at Kelts, Finns, Rhætians or Etrurians--all
fascinating names to minds of a speculative turn.

The latest treatment of the question that I have seen is by K. Wessely
(in _Anthropos_, XII-XIII 540 ff., 1917). He assumes the following
different substrata, beginning with the most recent: a Rhæto-Romanic
for the Upper-German shift, a Keltic for the common High-German shift,
and a Finnic for the first Germanic shift with the Vernerian law.
This certainly has the merit of neatly separating sound-shifts that
are chronologically apart, except with regard to the last-mentioned
shift, for here the Finns are made responsible for two changes that
were probably separated by centuries and had really no traits in
common. It is curious to see the transition from _p_ to _f_ and from
_t_ to _þ_--both important elements of the first shift--here ascribed
to Finnic, for as a matter of fact the two sounds _f_ and _þ_ are
not found in present-day Finnish, and were not found in primitive

When Wessely thinks that the change discovered by Verner is also due
to Finnic influence, his reasons are two: an alleged parallelism with
the Finnic consonant change which he terms ‘Setälä’s law,’ and then the
assumption that such a shift, conditioned by the place of the accent,
is foreign to the Aryan race (p. 543). When, however, we find a closely
analogous case only four hundred years ago in English, where a number
of consonants were voiced according to the place of the stress,[45]
are we also to say that it is foreign to the Anglo-Saxon race and
therefore presupposes some non-Aryan substratum? As a matter of fact,
the parallelism between the English and the old Gothonic shift is much
closer than that between the latter and the Finnic consonant-gradation:
in English and in old Gothonic the stress place is decisive, while in
the Finnic shift it is very doubtful whether stress goes for anything;
in both English and old Gothonic the same consonants are affected
(spirants, in English also the combinations [tʃ, ks], but otherwise no
stops), while in Finnic it is the stops that are primarily affected.
In old Gothonic, as in English, the change is simply voicing, and we
have nothing corresponding to the reduction of double consonants and
of consonant groups in Finnic _pappi_ / _papin_, _otta_ / _otat_,
_kukka_ / _kukan_, _parempi_ / _paremman_, _jalka_ / _jalan_, etc.
On the whole, Wessely’s paper shows how much easier it is to advance
hypotheses than to find truths.

XI.--§ 6. Natural and Specific Changes.

Meillet (MSL 19. 164 and 172; cf. _Bulletin_ 19. 50 and _Germ._ 18)
thinks that we must distinguish between such phonetic changes as are
natural, i.e. due to universal tendencies, and such as are peculiar
to certain languages. In the former class he includes the opening and
the voicing of intervocalic consonants; there is also a natural and
universal tendency to shorten long words and to slur the pronunciation
towards the end of a word. In the latter class (changes which are
peculiar to and characteristic of a particular language) he reckons the
consonant shifts in Gothonic and Armenian, the weakening of consonants
in Greek and in Iranian, the tendency to unround back vowels in English
and Slav. Such changes can only be accounted for on the supposition of
a change of language: they must be due to people whose own language had
habits foreign to Aryan. Unfortunately, Meillet cannot tell us how to
measure the difference between natural and peculiar shifts; he admits
that they cannot always be clearly separated; and when he says that
there are some extreme cases ‘relativement nets,’ such as those named
above, I must confess that I do not see why the change from the sharp
tenuis, as in Fr. _p_, _t_, _k_, to a slightly aspirated sound, as in
English (_Bulletin_ 19. 50),[46] or the relaxing of the closure which
finally led to the sounds of [f, þ, x], should be less ‘natural’ than
a hundred other changes and should require the calling in of a _deus
ex machina_ in the shape of an aboriginal population. The unrounding
of E. _u_ in _hut_, etc., to which he alludes, began about 1600--what
ethnic substratum does that postulate, and is any such required, more
than for, say, the diphthongizing of long _a_ and _o_?

Meillet (MSL 19. 172) also says that there are certain speech sounds
which are, as it were, natural and are found in nearly all languages,
thus _p_, _t_, _k_, _n_, _m_, and among the vowels _a_, _i_, _u_,
while other sounds are found only in some languages, such as the two
English _th_ sounds or, among the vowels, Fr. _u_ and Russian _y_.
But when he infers that sounds of the former class are stable and
remain unchanged for many centuries, whereas those of the latter
are apt to change and disappear, the conclusion is not borne out by
actual facts. The consonants _p_, _t_, _k_, _n_, _m_ are said to have
remained unchanged in many Aryan languages from the oldest times till
the present day--that is, only initially before vowels, which is a
very important reservation and really amounts to an admission that in
the vast majority of cases these sounds are just as unstable as most
other things on this planet, especially if we remember that nothing
could well be more unstable than _k_ before front vowels, as seen in
It. [tʃ] and Sp. [þ] in _cielo_, Fr. [s] in _ciel_, and [ʃ] in _chien_,
Eng. and Swedish [tʃ] in _chin_, _kind_, Norwegian [c] in _kind_,
Russian [tʃ] in _četyre_ ‘four’ and [s] in _sto_ ‘hundred,’ etc. As
an example of a typically unstable sound Meillet gives bilabial _f_,
and it is true that this sound is so rare that it is difficult to find
it represented in any language; the reason is simply that the upper
teeth normally protrude above the lower jaw, and that consequently the
lower lip articulates easily against the upper teeth, with the natural
result that where we should theoretically expect the bilabial _f_
the labiodental _f_ takes its place. And _s_, which is found almost
universally, and should therefore on Meillet’s theory be very stable,
is often seen to change into _h_ or [x] or to disappear. On the whole,
then, we see that it is not the ‘naturalness’ or universality of a
consonant so much as its position in the syllable and word that decides
the question ‘change or no change.’ The relation between stability
and naturalness is seen, perhaps, most clearly in such an instance
as long [a·]: this sound is so natural that English, from the oldest
Aryan to present-day speech, has never been without it; yet at no time
has it been stable, but as soon as one class of words with long [a·]
is changed, a new class steps into its shoes: (1) Aryan _māter_, now
_mother_; (2) lengthening of a short _a_ before _n_: _gās_, _brāhta_,
now _goose_, _brought_; (3) levelling of _ai_: _stān_, now _stone_; (4)
lengthening of short _a_: _cāld_, now _cold_; (5) later lengthening of
_a_ in open syllable: _nāme_, now [neim]; (6) mod. _carve_, _calm_,
_path_ and others from various sources; and (7) vulgar speech is now
developing new levellings of diphthongs in [ma·l, pa·(ə)] for _mile_,

XI.--§ 7. Power of Substratum.

V. Bröndal has made the attempt to infuse new blood into the substratum
theory through his book, _Substrater og Laan i Romansk og Germansk_
(Copenhagen, 1917). The effect of a substratum, according to him, is
the establishment of a ‘constant idiom,’ working “without regard to
place and time” (p. 76) and changing, for instance, Latin into Old
French, Old French into Classical French, and Classical French into
Modern French. His task, then, is to find out certain tendencies
operating at these various periods; these are ascribed to the Keltic
substratum, and Bröndal then passes in review a great many languages
spoken in districts where Kelts are known to have lived in former
times, in order to find the same tendencies there. If he succeeds in
this to his own satisfaction, it is only because the ‘tendencies’
established are partly so vague that they will fit into any language,
partly so ill-defined phonetically that it becomes possible to press
different, nay, in some cases even directly contrary movements into
the same class. But considerations of space forbid me to enter on a
detailed criticism here. I must content myself with taking exception to
the principle that the effect of the ethnic substratum may show itself
several generations after the speech substitution took place. If Keltic
ever had ‘a finger in the pie,’ it must have been immediately on the
taking over of the new language. An influence exerted in such a time
of transition may have far-reaching after-effects, like anything else
in history, but this is not the same thing as asserting that a similar
modification of the language may take place after the lapse of some
centuries as an effect of the same cause. Suppose we have a series of
manuscripts, A, B, C, D, etc., of which B is copied from A, C from B,
etc., and that B has an error which is repeated in all the following
copies; now, if M suddenly agrees with A (which the copyist has never
seen), we infer that this reading is independent of A. In the same way
with a language: each individual learns it from his contemporaries,
but has no opportunity of hearing those who have died before his own
time. It is possible that the transition from _a_ to _æ_, in Old
English (as in _fæder_) is due to Keltic influence, but when we find,
many centuries later, that _a_ is changed into [æ] (the present sound)
in words which had not _æ_ in OE., e.g. _crab_, _hallow_, _act_, it
is impossible to ascribe this, as Bröndal does, to a ‘constant Keltic
idiom’ working through many generations who had never spoken or heard
any Keltic. ‘Atavism,’ which skips over one or more generations, is
unthinkable here, for words and sounds are nothing but habits acquired
by imitation.

So far, then, our discussion of the substratum theory has brought us
no very positive results. One of the reasons why the theories put
forward of late years have been on the whole so unsatisfactory is that
they deal with speech substitutions that have taken place so far back
that absolutely nothing, or practically nothing, is known of those
displaced languages which are supposed to have coloured languages
now existing. What do we know beyond the mere name of Ligurians or
Veneti or Iberians? Of the Pre-Germanic and Pre-Keltic peoples we
know not even the names. As to the old Kelts who play such an eminent
rôle in all these speculations, we know extremely little about their
language at this distant date, and it is possible that in some cases,
at any rate, the Kelts may have been only comparatively small armies
conquering this or that country for a time, but leaving as few
linguistic traces behind them as, say, the armies of Napoleon in Russia
or the Cimbri and Teutoni in Italy. Linguists have turned from the
‘glottogonic’ speculations of Bopp and his disciples, only to indulge
in dialectogonic speculations of exactly the same visionary type.

XI.--§ 8. Types of Race-mixture.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that the conditions, and
consequently the linguistic results, are always the same, whenever two
different races meet and assimilate. The chief classes of race-mixture
have been thus described in a valuable paper by George Hempl
(_Transactions of the American Philological Association_, XXIX, p. 31
ff., 1898).

(1) The conquerors are a comparatively small body, who become the
ruling class, but are not numerous enough to impose their language
on the country. They are forced to learn the language of their
subjects, and their grandchildren may come to know that language
better than they know the language of their ancestors. The language
of the conquerors dies out, but bequeaths to the native language its
terms pertaining to government, the army, and those other spheres of
life that the conquerors had specially under their control. Historic
examples are the cases of the Goths in Italy and Spain, the Franks
in Gaul, the Normans in France and the Norman-French in England. Of
course, the greater the number of the conquerors and the longer they
had been close neighbours of the people they conquered, or maintained
the bonds that united them to their mother-country, the greater was
their influence. Thus the influence of the Franks on the language of
France was greater than that of the Goths on the language of Spain, and
the influence of the Norman-French in England was greater still. Yet in
each case the minority ultimately succumbed.

(2_a_) The conquest is made by many bodies of invaders, who bring with
them their whole households and are followed for a long period of time
by similar hordes of their kinsmen. The conquerors constitute the
upper and middle classes and a part of the lower classes of the new
community. The natives recede before the conquerors or become their
slaves: their speech is regarded as servile and is soon laid aside,
except for a few terms pertaining to the humbler callings, the names of
things peculiar to the country and place-names. Examples: Angles and
Saxons in Britain and Europeans in America and Australia, though in the
last case we can hardly speak of race-mixture between the natives and
the immigrants.

(2_b_) A more powerful nation conquers the people and annexes its
territory, which is made a province, to which not only governors
and soldiers, but also merchants and even colonists are sent. These
become the upper class and the influential part of the middle class.
If centuries pass and the province is still subjected to the direct
influence of the ruling country, it will more and more imitate the
speech and the habits and customs of that country. Such was the history
of Italy, Spain and Gaul under the Romans; similar, also, is the story
of the Slavs of Eastern Germany and of the Dutch in New York State;
such is the process going on to-day among the French in Louisiana and
among the Germans in their original settlements in Pennsylvania.

(3) Immigrants come in scattered bands and at different times; they
become servants or follow other humble callings. It is usually not to
their advantage to associate with their fellow-countrymen, but rather
to mingle with the native population. The better they learn to speak
the native tongue, the faster they get on in the world. If their
children in their dress or speech betray their foreign origin, they are
ridiculed as ‘Dutch’ or Irish, or whatever it may be. They therefore
take pains to rid themselves of all traces of their alien origin and
avoid using the speech of their parents. In this way vast numbers
of newcomers may be assimilated year by year till they constitute a
large part of the new race, while their language makes practically no
impression on the language of the country. This is the story of what is
going on in all parts of the United States to-day.

It will be seen that in classes 1 and 3 the speech of the natives
prevails, while in the two classes comprised under 2 it is that of the
conqueror which eventually triumphs. Further, that, in all cases except
type 2_b_, that language prevails which is spoken by what is at the
time the majority.

Sound substitution is found in class 3 in the case of foreigners
who come to America after they have learnt to speak, and of the
children of foreigners who keep up their original language at home.
If, however, while they are still young, they are chiefly thrown with
English-speaking people, they usually gain a thorough mastery of the
English language; thus most of the children, and practically all of
the grandchildren, of immigrants, by the time they are grown-up, speak
English without foreign taint. Their origin has thus no permanent
influence on their adopted language. The same thing is true when a
small ruling minority drops its foreign speech and learns that of the
majority (class 1), and practically also (class 2_a_) when a native
minority succumbs to a foreign majority, though here the ultimate
language may be slightly influenced by the native dialect.

It is different with class 2_b_: when a whole population comes in the
course of centuries to surrender its natural speech for that of a
ruling minority, sound substitution plays an important part, and to a
great extent determines the character and future of the language. Hempl
here agrees with Hirt in seeing in this fact the explanation of much
(N.B. not all!) of the difference between the Romanic languages and of
the difference between natural High German and High German spoken in
Low German territory, and he is therefore not surprised when he is told
by Nissen that the dialects of modern Italy correspond geographically
pretty closely to the non-Latin languages once spoken in the Peninsula.
But he severely criticizes Hirt for going so far as to explain the
differentiation of Aryan speech by the theory of sound substitution.
Hirt assumes conditions like those in class 1, and yet thinks that the
results would be like those of class 2_a_. “It is essential to Hirt’s
theory that the conquering bodies of Indo-Europeans should be small
compared with the number of the people they conquered.... If we wish
to prove that the differentiation of Indo-European speech was like
the differentiation of Romance speech, we must be able to show that
the conditions under which the differentiations took place were alike
or equivalent. But even a cursory examination of the manner in which
the Romance countries were Romanized ... will make it clear that no
parallel could possibly be drawn between the conditions under which the
Romance languages arose and those that we can suppose to have existed
while the Indo-European languages took shape.” Hempl also criticizes
the way in which the Germanic consonant-shift is supposed by Hirt to be
due to sound-substitution: when instead of the original

                   t    th   d    dh

Germanic has

                   þ    þ    t    ð,

these latter sounds, on Hirt’s theory, must be either the native sounds
that the conquered people substituted for the original sounds, or else
they have developed out of such sounds as the natives substituted. If
the first be true, we ask ourselves why the conquered people did not
use their _t_ for the Indo-European _t_, instead of substituting it
for _d_, and then substituting _þ_ for the Indo-European _t_. If the
second supposition be true, the native population introduced into the
language sounds very similar to the original _t_, _th_, _d_, _dh_, and
all the change from that slightly variant form to the one that we find
in Germanic was of subsequent development--and must be explained by the
usual methods after all.

I have dwelt so long on Hempl’s paper because, in spite of its (to
my mind) fundamental importance, it has been generally overlooked by
supporters of the substratum theory. To construct a true theory, it
will be necessary to examine the largest possible number of facts
with regard to race-mixture capable of being tested by scientific
methods. In this connexion the observations of Lenz in South America
and of Pușcariu in Rumania are especially valuable. The former found
that the Spanish spoken in Chile was greatly influenced in its sounds
by the speech of the native Araucanians (see _Zeitschr. f. roman.
Philologie_, 17. 188 ff., 1893). Now, what were the facts in regard
to the population speaking this language? The immigrants were chiefly
men, who in many cases necessarily married native women and left
the care of their children to a great extent in the hands of Indian
servants. As the natives were more warlike than in many other parts
of South America, there was for a very long time a continuous influx
of Spanish soldiers, many of whom, after a short time, settled down
peacefully in the country. More Spanish soldiers, indeed, arrived in
Chile in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than in
the whole of the rest of South America. Accordingly, by the beginning
of the eighteenth century the Indians had been either driven back or
else assimilated, and at the beginning of the War of Liberation early
in the nineteenth century Chile was the only State in which there was
a uniform Spanish-speaking population. In the greater part of Chile
the population is denser than anywhere else in South America, and
this population speaks nothing but Spanish, while in Peru and Bolivia
nearly the whole rural population still speaks more or less exclusively
Keshua or Aimará, and these languages are also used occasionally, or
at any rate understood, by the whites. Chile is thus the only country
in which a real Spanish people’s dialect could develop. (In Hempl’s
classification this would be a typical case of class 2_a_.) In the
other Spanish-American countries the Spanish-speakers are confined to
the upper ruling class, there being practically no lower class with
Spanish as its mother-tongue, except in a couple of big cities. Thus
we understand that the Peruvian who has learnt his Spanish at school
has a purer Castilian pronunciation than the Chilean; yet, apart from
pronunciation, the educated Chilean’s Spanish is much more correct
and fluent than that of the other South Americans, whose language is
stiff and vocabulary scanty, because they have first learnt some Indian
language in childhood. Lenz’s Chileans, who have often been invoked
by the adherents of the unlimited substratum theory, thus really
serve to show that sound substitution takes place only under certain
well-defined conditions.

Pușcariu (in _Prinzipienfragen der romanischen Sprachwissenschaft_,
_Beihefte zur Zschr. f. rom. Phil._, 1910) says that in a Saxon village
which had been almost completely Rumanianized he had once talked
for hours with a peasant without noticing that he was not a native
Rumanian: he was, however, a Saxon, who spoke Saxon with his wife, but
Rumanian with his son, because the latter language was easier to him,
as he had acquired the Rumanian basis of articulation. Here, then,
there was no sound substitution, and in general we may say that the
less related two languages are, the fewer will be the traces of the
original language left on the new language (p. 49). The reason must be
that people who naturally speak a closely related language are easily
understood even when their acquired speech has a tinge of dialect:
there is thus no inducement for them to give up their pronunciation.
Pușcariu also found that it was much more difficult for him to rid
himself of his dialectal traits in Rumanian than to acquire a correct
pronunciation of German or French. He therefore disbelieves in a direct
influence exerted by the indigenous languages on the formation of the
Romanic languages (and thus goes much further than Hempl). All these
languages, and particularly Rumanian, during the first centuries
of the Middle Ages underwent radical transformations not paralleled
in the thousand years ensuing. This may have been partly due to an
influence exerted by ethnic mixture on the whole character of the young
nations and through that also on their language. But other factors have
certainly also played an important rôle, especially the grouping round
new centres with other political aims than those of ancient Rome, and
consequent isolation from the rest of the Romanic peoples. Add to this
the very important emancipation of the ordinary conversational language
from the yoke of Latin. In the first Christian centuries the influence
of Latin was so overpowering in official life and in the schools that
it obstructed a natural development. But soon after the third century
the educational level rapidly sank, and political events broke the
power not only of Rome, but also of its language. The speech of the
masses, which had been held in fetters for so long, now asserted itself
in full freedom and with elemental violence, the result being those
far-reaching changes by which the Romanic languages are marked off from
Latin. Language and nation or race must not be confounded: witness
Rumania, whose language shows very few dialectal variations, though the
populations of its different provinces are ethnically quite distinct
(ib. p. 51).

XI.--§ 9. Summary.

The general impression gathered from the preceding investigation must
be that it is impossible to ascribe to an ethnic substratum all the
changes and dialectal differentiations which some linguists explain as
due to this sole cause. Many other influences must have been at work,
among which an interruption of intercourse created by natural obstacles
or social conditions of various kinds would be of prime importance.
If we take ethnic substrata as the main or sole source of dialectal
differentiation, it will be hard to account for the differences between
Icelandic and Norwegian, for Iceland was very sparsely inhabited when
the ‘land-taking’ took place, and still harder to account for the
very great divergences that we witness between the dialects spoken
in the Faroe Islands. A mere turning over the leaves of Bennike and
Kristensen’s maps of Danish dialects (or the corresponding maps of
France) will show the impossibility of explaining the crisscross of
boundaries of various phonetic phenomena as entirely due to ethnical
differences in the aborigines. On the other hand, the speech of Russian
peasants is said to be remarkably free from dialectal divergences, in
spite of the fact that it has spread in comparatively recent times over
districts inhabited by populations with languages of totally different
types (Finnic, Turkish, Tataric). I thus incline to think that sound
substitution cannot have produced radical changes, but has only played
a minor part in the development of languages. There are, perhaps,
also interesting things to be learnt from conditions in Finland.
Here Swedish has for many centuries been the language of the ruling
minority, and it was only in the course of the nineteenth century that
Finnish attained to the dignity of a literary language. The sound
systems of Swedish and Finnish are extremely unlike: Finnish lacks many
of the Swedish sounds, such as _b_, _d_ (what is written _d_ is either
mute or else a kind of weak _r_), _g_ and _f_. No word can begin with
more than one consonant, consequently Swedish _strand_ and _skräddare_,
‘tailor,’ are represented in the form of the loan-words _ranta_ and
_räätäli_. Now, in spite of the fact that most Swedish-speaking people
have probably spoken Finnish as children and have had Finnish servants
and playfellows to teach them the language, none of these peculiarities
have influenced their Swedish: what makes them recognizable as hailing
from Finland (‘finska brytningen’) is not simplification of consonant
groups or substitution of _p_ for _b_, etc., but such small things
as the omission of the ‘compound tone,’ the tendency to lengthen the
second consonant in groups like _ns_, and European (‘back’) _u_ instead
of the Swedish mixed vowel.

But if sound substitution as a result of race-mixture and of conquest
cannot have played any very considerable part in the differentiation
of languages as wholes, there is another domain in which sound
substitution is very important, that is, in the shape which loan-words
take in the languages into which they are introduced. However good the
pronunciation of the first introducer of a word may have been, it is
clear that when a word is extensively used by people with no intimate
and first-hand knowledge of the language from which it was taken, most
of them will tend to pronounce it with the only sounds with which they
are familiar, those of their own language. Thus we see that the English
and Russians, who have no [y] in their own speech, substitute for it
the combination [ju, iu] in recent loans from French. Scandinavians
have no voiced [z] and [ʒ] and therefore, in such loans from French or
English as _kusine_, _budget_, _jockey_, etc., substitute the voiceless
[s] and [ʃj], or [sj]. The English will make a diphthong of the final
vowels of such words as _bouquet_, _beau_ [bu·kei, bou], and will slur
the _r_ of such French words as _boulevard_, etc. The same transference
of speech habits from one’s native language also affects such important
things as quantity, stress and tone: the English have no final short
stressed vowels, such as are found in _bouquet_, _beau_; hence their
tendency to lengthen as well as diphthongize these sounds, while the
French will stress the final syllable of recent loans, such as _jury_,
_reporter_. These phenomena are so universal and so well known that
they need no further illustration.

The more familiar such loan-words are, the more unnatural it would be
to pronounce them with foreign sounds or according to foreign rules
of quantity and stress; for this means in each case a shunting of the
whole speech-apparatus on to a different track for one or two words and
then shifting back to the original ‘basis of articulation’--an effort
that many speakers are quite incapable of and one that in any case
interferes with the natural and easy flow of speech.

XI.--§ 10. General Theory of Loan-words.

In the last paragraphs we have already broached a very important
subject, that of loan-words.[47] No language is entirely free from
borrowed words, because no nation has ever been completely isolated.
Contact with other nations inevitably leads to borrowings, though their
number may vary very considerably. Here we meet with a fundamental
principle, first formulated by E. Windisch (in his paper “Zur Theorie
der Mischsprachen und Lehnwörter,” _Verh. d. sächsischen Gesellsch. d.
Wissensch._, XLIX, 1897, p. 107 ff.): “It is not the foreign language
a nation learns that turns into a mixed language, but its own native
language becomes mixed under the influence of a foreign language.”
When we try to learn and talk a foreign tongue we do not introduce
into it words taken from our own language; our endeavour will always
be to speak the other language as purely as possible, and generally
we are painfully conscious of every native word that we intrude into
phrases framed in the other tongue. But what we thus avoid in speaking
a foreign language we very often do in our own. Frederick the Great
prided himself on his good French, and in his French writings we do not
find a single German word, but whenever he wrote German his sentences
were full of French words and phrases. This being the general practice,
we now understand why so few Keltic words were taken over into French
and English. There was nothing to induce the ruling classes to learn
the language of the inferior natives: it could never be fashionable for
them to show an acquaintance with a despised tongue by using now and
then a Keltic word. On the other hand, the Kelt would have to learn the
language of his masters, and learn it well; and he would even among his
comrades like to show off his knowledge by interlarding his speech with
words and turns from the language of his betters. Loan-words always
show a superiority of the nation from whose language they are borrowed,
though this superiority may be of many different kinds.

In the first place, it need not be extensive: indeed, in some of the
most typical cases it is of a very partial character and touches
only on one very special point. I refer to those instances in which
a district or a people is in possession of some special thing or
product wanted by some other nation and not produced in that country.
Here quite naturally the name used by the natives is taken over along
with the thing. Obvious examples are the names of various drinks:
_wine_ is a loan from Latin, _tea_ from Chinese, _coffee_ from Arabic,
_chocolate_ from Mexican, and _punch_ from Hindustani. A certain type
of carriage was introduced about 1500 from Hungary and is known in most
European languages by its Magyar name: E. _coach_, G. _kutsche_, etc.
_Moccasin_ is from Algonquin, _bamboo_ from Malay, _tulip_ and _turban_
(ultimately the same word) from Persian. A slightly different case is
when some previously unknown plant or animal is made known through
some foreign nation, as when we have taken the name of _jasmine_
from Persian, _chimpanzee_ from some African, and _tapir_ from some
Brazilian language. It is characteristic of all words of this kind that
only a few of them are taken from each foreign language, and that they
have nearly all of them gone the round of all civilized languages, so
that they are now known practically all over the world.

Other loan-words form larger groups and bear witness to the cultural
superiority of some nation in some one specified sphere of activity or
branch of knowledge: such are the Arabic words relating to mathematics
and astronomy (_algebra_, _zero_, _cipher_, _azimuth_, _zenith_, in
related fields _tariff_, _alkali_, _alcohol_), the Italian words
relating to music (_piano_, _allegro_, _andante_, _solo_, _soprano_,
etc.) and commerce (_bank_, _bankrupt_, _balance_, _traffic_, _ducat_,
_florin_)--one need not accumulate examples, as everybody interested
in the subject of this book will be able to supply a great many from
his own reading. The most comprehensive groups of this kind are those
French, Latin and Greek words that have flooded the whole world of
Western civilization from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and have
given a family-character to all those parts of the vocabularies of
otherwise different languages which are concerned with the highest
intellectual and technical activities. See the detailed discussion of
these strata of loan-words in English in GS ch. v and vi.

When one nation has imbibed for centuries the cultural influence of
another, its language may have become so infiltrated with words from
the other language that these are found in most sentences, at any
rate in nearly every sentence dealing with things above the simplest
material necessities. The best-known examples are English since the
influx of French and classical words, and Turkish with its wholesale
importations from Arabic. Another example is Basque, in which nearly
all expressions for religious and spiritual ideas are Romanic. Basque
is naturally very poor in words for general ideas; it has names
for special kinds of trees, but ‘tree’ is _arbolia_, from Spanish
_árbol_, ‘animal’ is _animale_, ‘colour’ _colore_, ‘plant’ _planta_
or _landare_, ‘flower’ _lore_ or _lili_, ‘thing’ _gauza_, ‘time’
_dembora_. Thus also many of its names for utensils and garments,
weights and measures, arms, etc., are borrowed; ‘king’ is _errege_,
‘law’ _lege_, _lage_, ‘master’ _maisu_, etc. (See _Zs. f. roman.
Phil._, 17. 140 ff.)

In a great many cases linguistic borrowing must be considered a
necessity, but this is not always so. When a nation has once got into
the habit of borrowing words, people will very often use foreign words
where it would have been perfectly possible to express their ideas by
means of native speech-material, the reason for going out of one’s own
language being in some cases the desire to be thought fashionable or
refined through interlarding one’s speech with foreign words, in others
simply laziness, as is very often the case when people are rendering
thoughts they have heard or read in a foreign tongue. Translators
are responsible for the great majority of these intrusive words,
which might have been avoided by a resort to native composition or
derivation, or very often by turning the sentence a little differently
from the foreign text. The most thoroughgoing speech mixtures are due
much less to real race-mixture than to continued cultural contact,
especially of a literary character, as is seen very clearly in English,
where the Romanic element is only to a very small extent referable to
the Norman conquerors, and far more to the peaceful relations of the
following centuries. That Greek and Latin words have come in through
the medium of literature hardly needs saying. Many of these words
are superfluous: “The native words _cold_, _cool_, _chilly_, _icy_,
_frosty_, might have seemed sufficient for all purposes, without any
necessity for importing _frigid_, _gelid_ and _algid_, which, as a
matter of fact, are found neither in Shakespeare nor in the Authorized
Version of the Bible nor in the poetical works of Milton, Pope, Cowper
and Shelley” (GS § 136). But on the other hand it cannot be denied
that the imported words have in many instances enriched the language
through enabling its users to obtain greater variety and to find
expressions for many subtle shades of thought. The question of the
value of loan-words cannot be dismissed offhand, as the ‘purists’ in
many countries are inclined to imagine, with the dictum that foreign
words should be shunned like the plague, but requires for its solution
a careful consideration of the merits and demerits of each separate
foreign term viewed in connexion with the native resources for
expressing that particular idea.

XI.--§ 11. Classes of Loan-words.

It is quite natural that there should be a much greater inclination
everywhere to borrow ‘full’ words (substantives, adjectives, notional
verbs) than ‘empty’ words (pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions,
auxiliary verbs), to which class most of the ‘grammatical’ words
belong. But there is no hard-and-fast limit between the two classes.
It is rare for a language to take such words as numerals from another
language; yet examples are found here and there--thus, in connexion
with special games, etc. Until comparatively recently, dicers and
backgammon-players counted in England by means of the French words
_ace_, _deuce_, _tray_, _cater_, _cinque_, _size_, and with the English
game of lawn tennis the English way of counting (fifteen love, etc.)
has been lately adopted in Russia and to some extent also in Denmark.
In some parts of England Welsh numerals were until comparatively recent
times used in the counting of sheep. Cattle-drivers in Jutland used
to count from 20 to 90 in Low German learnt in Hamburg and Holstein,
where they sold their cattle. In this case the clumsiness and want of
perspicuity of the Danish expressions (_halvtredsindstyve_ for Low
German _föfdix_, etc.) may have been one of the reasons for preferring
the German words; in the same way the clumsiness of the Eskimo way of
counting (“third toe on the second foot of the fourth man,” etc.) has
favoured the introduction into Greenlandic of the Danish words for 100
and 1,000: with an Eskimo ending, _untritigdlit_ and _tusintigdlit_.
Most Japanese numerals are Chinese. And of course _million_ and
_milliard_ are used in most civilized countries.

Prepositions, too, are rarely borrowed by one language from another.
Yet the Latin (Ital.) _per_ is used in English, German and Danish, and
the French _à_ in the two latter languages, and both are extending
their domain beyond the commercial language in which they were first
used. The Greek _kata_, at first also commercial, has in Spanish found
admission into the ordinary language and has become the pronoun _cada_

Personal and demonstrative pronouns, articles and the like are scarcely
ever taken over from one language to another. They are so definitely
woven into the innermost texture of a language that no one would think
of giving them up, however much he might like to adorn his speech with
words from a foreign source. If, therefore, in one instance we find
a case of a language borrowing words of this kind, we are justified
in thinking that exceptional causes must have been at work, and
such really proves to be the case in English, which has adopted the
Scandinavian forms _they_, _them_, _their_. It is usual to speak of
English as being a mixture of native Old English (‘Anglo-Saxon’) and
French, but as a matter of fact the French influence, powerful as it
is in the vocabulary and patent as it is to the eyes of everybody,
is superficial in comparison with the influence exercised in a much
subtler way by the Scandinavian settlers in the North of England. The
French influence is different in extent, but not in kind, from the
French influence on German or the old Gothonic influence on Finnic;
it is perhaps best compared with the German influence on Danish in
the Middle Ages. But the Scandinavian influence on English is of a
different kind. The number of Danish and Norwegian settlers in England
must have been very large, as is shown by the number of Scandinavian
place-names; yet that does not account for everything. A most important
factor was the great similarity of the two languages, in spite of
numerous points of difference. Accordingly, when their fighting was
over, the invaders and the original population would to some extent be
able to make themselves understood by one another, like people talking
two dialects of the same language, or like students from Copenhagen
and from Lund nowadays. Many of the most common words were absolutely
identical, and others differed only slightly. Hence it comes that in
the Middle English texts we find a great many double forms of the same
word, one English and the other Scandinavian, used side by side, some
of these doublets even surviving till the present day, though now
differentiated in sense (e.g. _whole_, _hale_; _no_, _nay_; _from_,
_fro_; _shirt_, _skirt_), while in other cases one only of the two
forms, either the native or the Scandinavian, has survived; thus the
Scandinavian _sister_ and _egg_ have ousted the English _sweostor_ and
_ey_. We find, therefore, a great many words adopted of a kind not
usually borrowed; thus, everyday verbs and adjectives like _take_,
_call_, _hit_, _die_, _ill_, _ugly_, _wrong_, and among substantives
such non-technical ones as _fellow_, _sky_, _skin_, _wing_, etc. (For
details see my GS ch. iv.) All this indicates an intimate fusion of the
two races and of the two languages, such as is not provided for in any
of the classes described by Hempl (above, § 8). In most speech-mixtures
the various elements remain distinct and can be separated, just as
after shuffling a pack of cards you can pick out the hearts, spades,
etc.; but in the case of English and Scandinavian we have a subtler and
more intimate fusion, very much as when you put a lump of sugar into a
cup of tea and a few minutes afterwards are quite unable to say which
is tea and which is sugar.

XI.--§ 12. Influence on Grammar.

The question has often been raised whether speech-mixture affects
the grammar of a language which has borrowed largely from some other
language. The older view is expressed pointedly by Whitney (L 199):
“Such a thing as a language with a mixed grammatical apparatus has
never come under the cognizance of linguistic students: it would
be to them a monstrosity; it seems an impossibility.” This is an
exaggeration, and cannot be justified, for the simple reason that
the vocabulary of a language and its ‘grammatical apparatus’ cannot
be nicely separated in the way presupposed: indeed, much of the
borrowed material mentioned in our last paragraphs does belong to the
grammatical apparatus. But there is, of course, some truth in Whitney’s
dictum. When a word is borrowed it is not as a rule taken over with
all the elaborate flexion which may belong to it in its original home;
as a rule, one form only is adopted, it may be the nominative or some
other case of a noun, the infinitive or the present or the naked
stem of a verb. This form is then either used unchanged or with the
endings of the adopting language, generally those of the most ‘regular’
declension or conjugation. It is an exceptional case when more than
one flexional form is taken over, and this case does not occur in
really popular loans. In learned usage we find in older Danish such
case-flexion as gen. _Christi_, dat. _Christo_, by the side of nom.
_Christus_, also, e.g., _i theatro_, and still sometimes in German we
have the same usage: e.g. _mit den pronominibus_. In a somewhat greater
number of instances the plural form is adopted as well as the singular
form, as in English _fungi_, _formulæ_, _phenomena_, _seraphim_, etc.,
but the natural tendency is always towards using the native endings,
_funguses_, _formulas_, etc., and this has prevailed in all popular
words, e.g. _ideas_, _circuses_, _museums_. As the formation of cases,
tenses, etc., in different languages is often very irregular, and the
distinctive marks are often so intimately connected with the kernel of
the word and so unsubstantial as not to be easily distinguished, it
is quite natural that no one should think of borrowing such endings,
etc., and applying them to native words. Schuchardt once thought that
the English genitive ending _s_ had been adopted into Indo-Portuguese
(in the East Indies), where _gobernadors casa_ stands for ‘governor’s
house,’ but he now explains the form more correctly as originating in
the possessive pronoun _su_: _gobernador su casa_ (dem g. sein haus,
_Sitzungsber. der preuss. Akademie_, 1917, 524).

It was at one time commonly held that the English plural ending _s_,
which in Old English was restricted in its application, owes its
extension to the influence of French. This theory, I believe, was
finally disposed of by the six decisive arguments I brought forward
against it in 1891 (reprinted in ChE § 39). But after what has been
said above on the Scandinavian influence, I incline to think that E.
Classen is right in thinking that the Danes count for something in
bringing about the final victory of _-s_ over its competitor _-n_,
for the Danes had no plural in _-n_, and _-s_ reminded them of their
own _-r_ (_Mod. Language Rev._ 14. 94; cf. also _-s_ in the third
person of verbs, Scand. _-r_). Apart from this particular point, it is
quite natural that the Scandinavians should have exercised a general
levelling influence on the English language, as many niceties of
grammar would easily be sacrificed where mutual intelligibility was so
largely brought about by the common vocabulary. Accordingly, we find
that in the regions in which the Danish settlements were thickest the
wearing away of grammatical forms was a couple of centuries in advance
of the same process in the southern parts of the country.

Derivative endings certainly belong to the ‘grammatical apparatus’ of
a language; yet many such endings have been taken over into another
language as parts of borrowed words and have then been freely combined
with native speech-material. The phenomenon is extremely frequent
in English, where we have, for instance, the Romanic endings _-ess_
(_shepherdess_, _seeress_), _-ment_ (_endearment_, _bewilderment_),
_-age_ (_mileage_, _cleavage_, _shortage_), _-ance_ (_hindrance_,
_forbearance_) and many more. In Danish and German the number of
similar instances is much more restricted, yet we have, for instance,
recent words in _-isme_, _-ismus_ and _-ianer_; cf. also older
words like _bageri_, _bäckerei_, etc. It is the same with prefixes:
English has formed many words with _de-_, _co-_, _inter-_, _pre-_,
_anti-_ and other classical prefixes: _de-anglicize_, _co-godfather_,
_inter-marriage_, _at pre-war prices_, _anti-slavery_, etc. (quotations
in my GS § 124; cf. MEG ii. 14. 66). _Ex-_ has established itself in
many languages: _ex-king_, _ex-roi_, _ex-konge_, _ex-könig_, etc. In
Danish the prefix _be-_, borrowed from German, is used very extensively
with native words: _bebrejde_, _bebo_, _bebygge_, and this is not the
only German prefix that is productive in the Scandinavian languages.

With regard to syntax, very little can be said except in a general
way: languages certainly do influence each other syntactically, and
those who know a foreign language only imperfectly are apt to transfer
to it methods of construction from their own tongue. Many instances
of this have been collected by Schuchardt, SlD. But it is doubtful
whether these syntactical influences have the same _permanent_ effects
on any language as those exerted on one’s own language by the habit
of translating foreign works into it: in this purely literary way
a great many idioms and turns of phrases have been introduced into
English, German and the Scandinavian languages from French and Latin,
and into Danish and Swedish from German. The accusative and infinitive
construction, which had only a very restricted use in Old English, has
very considerably extended its domain through Latin influence, and the
so-called ‘absolute construction’ (in my own grammatical terminology
called ‘duplex subjunct’) seems to be entirely due to imitation
of Latin syntax. In the Balkan tongues there are some interesting
instances of syntactical agreement between various languages, which
must be due to oral influence through the necessity imposed on border
peoples of passing continually from one language to another: the
infinitive has disappeared from Greek, Rumanian and Albanian, and the
definite article is placed after the substantive in Rumanian, Albanian
and Bulgarian.

XI.--§ 13. Translation-loans.

Besides direct borrowings we have also indirect borrowings or
‘translation loan-words,’ words modelled more or less closely on
foreign ones, though consisting of native speech-material. I take some
examples from the very full and able paper “Notes sur les Calques
Linguistiques” contributed by Kr. Sandfeld to the _Festschrift
Vilh. Thomsen_, 1912: _ædificatio_: G. erbauung, Dan. opbyggelse;
_æquilibrium_: G. gleichgewicht, Dan. ligevægt; _beneficium_: G.
wohltat, Dan. velgerning; _conscientia_: Goth. miþwissi, G. gewissen,
Dan. samvittighed, Swed. samvete, Russ. soznanie; _omnipotens_:
E. almighty, G. allmächtig, Dan. almægtig; _arrière-pensée_:
hintergedanke, bagtanke; _bien-être_: wohlsein, velvære; _exposition_:
austellung, udstilling; etc. Sandfeld gives many more examples, and as
he has in most instances been able to give also corresponding words
from various Slavonic languages as well as from Magyar, Finnic, etc.,
he rightly concludes that his collections serve to throw light on
that community in thought and expression which Bally has well termed
“la mentalité européenne.” (But it will be seen that English differs
from most European languages in having a much greater propensity to
swallowing foreign words raw, as it were, than to translating them.)


[42] Cf. against the assumption of Keltic influence in this instance
Meyer-Lübke, _Die Romanischen Sprachen, Kultur der Gegenwart_, p. 457,
and Ettmayer in Streitberg’s _Gesch._ 2. 265. H. Mutschmann, _Phonology
of the North-Eastern Scotch Dialect_, 1909, p. 53, thinks that the
fronting of _u_ in Scotch is similar to that of Latin _ū_ on Gallic
territory, and like it is ascribable to the Keltic inhabitants: he
forgets, however, that the corresponding fronting is not found in the
Keltic spoken in Scotland. Moreover, the complicated Scotch phenomena
cannot be compared with the French transition, for the sound of [u]
remains in many cases, and [i] generally corresponds to earlier [o],
whatever the explanation may be.

[43] Curiously enough, Feist uses this argument himself against Hirt in
his earlier paper, PBB 37. 121.

[44] Feist, on the other hand (PBB 36. 329), makes the Kelts
responsible for the shift from _p_ to _f_, because initial _p_
disappears in Keltic: but disappearance is not the same thing as being
changed into a spirant, and there is no necessity for assuming that the
sound before disappearing had been changed into _f_. Besides, it is
characteristic of the Gothonic shift that it affects all stops equally,
without regard to the place of articulation, while the Keltic change
affects only the one sound _p_.

[45] ME. _knowleche_, _stonës_ [stɔ·nes], _off_, _with_ [wiþ] become
MnE. _knowledge_, _stones_ [stounz], _of_ [ɔv, əv], _with_ [wið],
etc.; cf. also _possess_, _discern_ with [z], _exert_ with [gz], but
_exercise_ with [ks]. See my _Studier over eng. kasus_, 1891, 178 ff.,
now MEG i. 6. 5 ff., and (for the phonetic explanation) LPh p. 121.

[46] Sharp tenues and aspirated tenues may alternate even in the life
of one individual, as I have observed in the case of my own son, who
at the age of 1.9 used the sharp French sounds, but five months later
substituted strongly aspirated _p_, _t_, _k_, with even stronger
aspiration than the usual Danish sounds, which it took him ten or
eleven months to learn with perfect certainty.

[47] I use the terms _loan-words_ and _borrowed words_ because they
are convenient and firmly established, not because they are exact.
There are two essential respects in which linguistic borrowing differs
from the borrowing of, say, a knife or money: the lender does not
deprive himself of the use of the word any more than if it had not been
borrowed by the other party, and the borrower is under no obligation to
return the word at any future time. Linguistic ‘borrowing’ is really
nothing but imitation, and the only way in which it differs from a
child’s imitation of its parents’ speech is that here something is
imitated which forms a part of a speech that is not imitated as a whole.



  § 1. Beach-la-Mar. § 2. Grammar. § 3. Sounds. § 4. Pidgin. § 5.
  Grammar, etc. § 6. General Theory. § 7. Mauritius Creole. § 8.
  Chinook Jargon. § 9. Chinook continued. § 10. Makeshift Languages. §
  11. Romanic Languages.

XII.--§ 1. Beach-la-Mar.

As a first typical example of a whole class of languages now found in
many parts of the world where people of European civilization have
come into contact with men of other races, we may take the so-called
_Beach-la-mar_ (or Beche-le-mar, or Beche de mer English);[48] it is
also sometimes called Sandalwood English. It is spoken and understood
all over the Western Pacific, its spread being largely due to the
fact that the practice of ‘blackbirding’ often brought together on
the same plantation many natives from different islands with mutually
incomprehensible languages, whose only means of communication was
the broken English they had picked up from the whites. And now the
natives learn this language from each other, while in many places the
few Europeans have to learn it from the islanders. “Thus the native
use of Pidgin-English lays down the rules by which the Europeans let
themselves be guided when learning it. Even Englishmen do not find it
quite easy at the beginning to understand Pidgin-English, and have to
learn it before they are able to speak it properly” (Landtman).

I shall now try to give some idea of the structure of this lingo.

The vocabulary is nearly all English. Even most of the words which
ultimately go back to other languages have been admitted only because
the English with whom the islanders were thrown into contact had
previously adopted them into their own speech, so that the islanders
were justified in believing that they were really English. This is true
of the Spanish or Portuguese _savvy_, ‘to know,’ and _pickaninny_,
‘child’ or ‘little one’ (a favourite in many languages on account
of its symbolic sound; see Ch. XX § 8), as well as the Amerindian
_tomahawk_, which in the whole of Australia is the usual word for a
small axe. And if we find in Beach-la-mar the two Maori words _tapu_
or _taboo_ and _kai_, or more often _kaikai_, ‘to eat’ or ‘food,’
they have probably got into the language through English--we know
that both are very extensively used in Australia, while the former is
known all over the civilized world. _Likkilik_ or _liklik_, ‘small,
almost,’ is said to be from a Polynesian word _liki_, but may be
really a perversion of Engl. _little_. Landtman gives a few words from
unknown languages used by the Kiwais, though not derived from their own
language. The rest of the words found in my sources are English, though
not always pure English, in so far as their signification is often
curiously distorted.

_Nusipepa_ means ‘a letter, any written or printed document,’ _mary_ is
the general term for ‘woman’ (cf. above, p. 118), _pisupo_ (peasoup)
for all foreign foods which are preserved in tins; _squareface_, the
sailor’s name for a square gin-bottle, is extended to all forms of
glassware, no matter what the shape. One of the earliest seafarers is
said to have left a bull and a cow on one of the islands and to have
mentioned these two words together; the natives took them as one word,
and now _bullamacow_ or _pulumakau_ means ‘cattle, beef, also tinned
beef’; _pulomokau_ is now given as a native word in a dictionary of
the Fijian language.[49] _Bulopenn_, which means ‘ornament,’ is said
to be nothing but the English _blue paint_. All this shows the purely
accidental character of many of the linguistic acquisitions of the

As the vocabulary is extremely limited, composite expressions are
sometimes resorted to in order to express ideas for which we have
simple words, and not unfrequently the devices used appear to us very
clumsy or even comical. A piano is called ‘big fellow bokus (box) you
fight him he cry,’ and a concertina ‘little fellow bokus you shove
him he cry, you pull him he cry.’ _Woman he got faminil_ (‘family’)
_inside_ means ‘she is with child.’ _Inside_ is also used extensively
about mental states: _jump inside_ ‘be startled,’ _inside tell himself_
‘to consider,’ _inside bad_ ‘grieved or sorry,’ _feel inside_ ‘to
know,’ _feel another kind inside_ ‘to change one’s mind.’ _My throat he
fast_ ‘I was dumb.’ _He took daylight a long time_ ‘lay awake.’ _Bring
fellow belong make open bottle_ ‘bring me a corkscrew.’ _Water belong
stink_ ‘perfumery.’ The idea of being bald is thus expressed: _grass
belong head belong him all he die finish_, or with another variant,
_coconut belong him grass no stop_, for _coconut_ is taken from English
slang in the sense ‘head’ (Schuchardt has the sentence: _You no savvy
that fellow white man coconut belong him no grass?_). For ‘feather’ the
combination _grass belong pigeon_ is used, _pigeon_ being a general
term for any bird.

A man who wanted to borrow a saw, the word for which he had forgotten,
said: ‘You give me brother belong tomahawk, he come he go.’ A servant
who had been to Queensland, where he saw a train, on his return called
it ‘steamer he walk about along bush.’ Natives who watched Landtman
when he enclosed letters in envelopes named the latter ‘house belong
letter.’ Many of these expressions are thus picturesque descriptions
made on the spur of the moment if the proper word is not known.

XII.--§ 2. Grammar.

These phrases have already illustrated some points of the very simple
grammar of this lingo. Words have only one form, and what is in our
language expressed by flexional forms is either left unexpressed or
else indicated by auxiliary words. The plural of nouns is like the
singular (though the form _men_ is found in my texts alongside of
_man_); when necessary, the plural is indicated by means of a prefixed
_all_: _all he talk_ ‘they say’ (also _him fellow all_ ‘they’); _all
man_ ‘everybody’; a more indefinite plural is _plenty man_ or _full up
man_. For ‘we’ is said _me two fella_ or _me three fellow_, as the case
may be; _me two fellow Lagia_ means ‘I and Lagia.’ If there are more,
_me altogether man_ or _me plenty man_ may be said, though _we_ is also
in use. _Fellow_ (_fella_) is a much-vexed word; it is required, or
at any rate often used, after most pronouns, thus, _that fellow hat_,
_this fellow knife_, _me fellow_, _you fellow_, _him fellow_ (not _he
fellow_); it is found very often after an adjective and seems to be
required to prop up the adjective before the substantive: _big fellow
name_, _big fellow tobacco_, _another fellow man_. In other cases no
_fellow_ is used, and it seems difficult to give definite rules; after
a numeral it is frequent: _two fellow men_ (_man_?), _three fellow
bottle_. There is a curious employment in _ten fellow ten one fellow_,
which means 101. It is used adverbially in _that man he cry big fellow_
‘he cries loudly.’

The genitive is expressed by means of _belong_ (or _belong-a_, _long_,
_along_), which also serves for other prepositional relations.
Examples: _tail belong him_, _pappa belong me_, _wife belong you_,
_belly belong me walk about too much_ (I was seasick), _me savvee talk
along white man_; _rope along bush_ means liana. _Missis! man belong
bullamacow him stop_ (the butcher has come). _What for you wipe hands
belong-a you on clothes belong esseppoon?_ (spoon, i.e. napkin). Cf.
above the expressions for ‘bald.’ _Piccaninny belong banana_ ‘a young
b. plant.’ _Belong_ also naturally means ‘to live in, be a native
of’; _boy belong island_, _he belong Burri-burrigan_. The preposition
_along_ is used about many local relations (in, at, on, into, on
board). From such combinations as _laugh along_ (l. at) and _he speak
along this fella_ the transition is easy to cases in which _along_
serves to indicate the indirect object: _he give’m this fella Eve along
Adam_, and also a kind of direct object, as in _fight alonga him_, _you
gammon along me_ (deceive, lie to me), and with the form _belong_: _he
puss-puss belong this fellow_ (_puss-puss_ orig. a cat, then as a verb
to caress, make love to).

There is no distinction of gender: _that woman he brother belong me_
= ‘she is my sister’; _he_ (before the verb) and _him_ (in all other
positions) serve both for he, she and it. There is a curious use of
_’m_, _um_ or _em_, in our texts often written _him_, after a verb as
a ‘vocal sign of warning that an object of the verb is to follow,’ no
matter what that object is.

Churchill says that “in the adjective comparison is unknown; the
islanders do not know how to think comparatively--at least, they lack
the form of words by which comparison may be indicated; _this big_,
_that small_ is the nearest they can come to the expression of the
idea that one thing is greater than another.” But Landtman recognizes
_more big_ and also _more better_: ‘no good make him that fashion,
more better make him all same.’ The same double comparative I find in
another place, used as a kind of verb meaning ‘ought to, had better’:
_more better you come out_. _Too_ simply means ‘much’: _he savvy too
much_ ‘he knows much’ (praise, no blame), _he too much talk_. A synonym
is _plenty too much_. Schuchardt gives the explanation of this trait:
“The white man was the teacher of the black man, who imitated his
manner of speaking. But the former would constantly use the strongest
expressions and exaggerate in a manner that he would only occasionally
resort to in speaking to his own countrymen. He did not say, ‘You are
very lazy,’ but ‘You are too lazy,’ and this will account for the fact
that ‘very’ is called _too much_ in Beach-la-mar as well as _tumussi_
in the Negro-English of Surinam” (_Spr. der Saramakkaneger_, p. iv).

Verbs have no tense-forms; when required, a future may be indicated
by means of _by and by_: _brother belong-a-me by and by he dead_ (my
br. is dying), _bymby all men laugh along that boy_; _he small now,
bymbye he big_. It may be qualified by additions like _bymby one
time_, _bymby little bit_, _bymby big bit_, and may be used also of
the ‘postpreterit’ (of futurity relative to a past time): _by and by
boy belong island he speak_. Another way of expressing the future is
seen in _that woman he close up born (!) him piccaninny_ ‘that woman
will shortly give birth to a child.’ The usual sign of the perfect is
_been_, the only idiomatic form of the verb to be: _you been take me
along three year_; _I been look round before_. But _finish_ may also be
used: _me look him finish_ (I have seen him), _he kaikai all finish_
(he has eaten it all up).

Where we should expect forms of the verb ‘to be,’ there is either no
verb or else _stop_ is used: _no water stop_ (there is no water), _rain
he stop_ (it rains), _two white men stop Matupi_ (live in), _other day
plenty money he stop_ (... I had ...). For ‘have’ they say _got_. _My
belly no got kaikai_ (I am hungry), _he got good hand_ (is skilful).

XII.--§ 3. Sounds.

About the phonetic structure of Beach-la-mar I have very little
information; as a rule the words in my sources are spelt in the usual
English way. Churchill speaks in rather vague terms about difficulties
which the islanders experience in imitating the English sounds, and
especially groups of consonants: “Any English word which on experiment
proved impracticable to the islanders has undergone alteration to
bring it within the scope of their familiar range of sounds or has
been rejected for some facile synonym.” Thus, according to him, the
conjunction _if_ could not be used on account of the _f_, and that is
the reason for the constant use of _suppose_ (_s’pose_, _pose_, _posum_
= s’pose him)--but it may be allowable to doubt this, for as a matter
of fact _f_ occurs very frequently in the language--for instance,
in the well-worn words _fellow_ and _finish_. _Suppose_ probably is
preferred to _if_ because it is fuller in form and less abstract, and
therefore easier to handle, while the islanders have many occasions to
hear it in other combinations than those in which it is an equivalent
of the conjunction.

Landtman says that with the exception of a few sounds (_j_, _ch_, and
_th_ as in _nothing_) the Kiwai Papuans have little difficulty in
pronouncing English words.

Schuchardt gives a little more information about pronunciation, and
instances _esterrong_ = _strong_, _esseppoon_ = _spoon_, _essaucepen_
= _saucepan_, _pellate_ = _plate_, _coverra_ = _cover_, _millit_
= _milk_, _bock-kiss_ = _box_ (in Churchill _bokus_, _bokkis_) as
mutilations due to the native speech habits. He also gives the
following letter from a native of the New Hebrides, communicated to him
by R. H. Codrington; it shows many sound substitutions:

  _Misi Kamesi Arelu Jou no kamu ruki mi Mi no ruki iou Jou ruku Mai
  Poti i ko Mae tete Vakaromala mi raiki i tiripi Ausi parogi iou i
  rukauti Mai Poti mi nomoa kaikai mi angikele nau Poti mani Mae i kivi
  iou Jamu Vari koti iou kivi tamu te pako paraogi mi i penesi nomoa te

  _Oloraiti Ta_, MATASO.

This means as much as:

  Mr. Comins, (How) are you? You no come look me; me no look you; you
  look my boat he go Mae to-day. Vakaromala me like he sleep house
  belong you, he look out my boat, me no more kaikai, me hungry now,
  boat man Mae he give you yam very good, you give some tobacco belong
  (here = to) me, he finish, no more tobacco.

  All right Ta, MATASO.

There are evidently many degrees of approximation to the true English

This letter also shows the characteristic tendency to add a vowel,
generally a short _i_, to words ending in consonants. This is old,
for I find in Defoe’s _Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe_ (1719,
p. 211): “All those natives, as also those of Africa, when they learn
English, they always add two E’s at the end of the words where we use
one, and make the accent upon them, as _makee_, _takee_ and the like.”
(Note the un-phonetic expressions!) Landtman, besides this addition,
as in _belongey_, also mentions a more enigmatic one of _lo_ to words
ending in vowels, as _clylo_ for ‘cry’ (cf. below on Pidgin).

XII.--§ 4. Pidgin.

I now turn to Pidgin-English. As is well known, this is the name
of the jargon which is very extensively used in China, and to some
extent also in Japan and California, as a means of communication
between English-speaking people and the yellow population. The name
is derived from the Chinese distortion of the Engl. word _business_.
Unfortunately, the sources available for Pidgin-English as actually
spoken in the East nowadays are neither so full nor so exact as those
for Beach-la-mar, and the following sketch, therefore, is not quite

Pidgin-English must have developed pretty soon after the first
beginning of commercial relations between the English and Chinese. In
_Engl. Studien_, 44. 298, Prick van Wely has printed some passages of
C. F. Noble’s _Voyage to the East Indies in 1747 and 1748_, in which
the Chinese are represented as talking to the writer in a “broken
and mixed dialect of English and Portuguese,” the specimens given
corresponding pretty closely to the Pidgin of our own days. Thus, _he
no cari Chinaman’s Joss, hap oter Joss_, which is rendered, ‘that man
does not worship our god, but has another god’; the Chinese are said
to be unable to pronounce _r_ and to use the word _chin-chin_ for
compliments and _pickenini_ for ‘small.’

The latter word seems now extinct in Pidgin proper, though we have
met it in Beach-la-mar, but _Joss_ is still very frequent in Pidgin:
it is from Portuguese _Deus_, _Deos_ (or Span. _Dios_): _Joss-house_
is a temple or church, _Joss-pidgin_ religion, _Joss-pidgin man_ a
clergyman, _topside Joss-pidgin man_ a bishop. _Chin-chin_, according
to the same source, is from Chinese _ts’ing-ts’ing_, Pekingese
_ch’ing-ch’ing_, a term of salutation answering to ‘thank you,
adieu,’ but the English have extended its sphere of application very
considerably, using it as a noun meaning ‘salutation, compliment,’ and
as a verb meaning “to worship (by bowing and striking the chin), to
reverence, adore, implore, to deprecate anger, to wish one something,
invite, ask” (Leland). The explanation given here within parentheses
shows how the Chinese word has been interpreted by popular etymology,
and no doubt it owes its extensive use partly to its sound, which has
taken the popular fancy. _Chin-chin joss_ means religious worship of
any kind.

Simpson says: “Many of the words in use are of unknown origin. In a
number of cases the English suppose them to be Chinese, while the
Chinese, on the other hand, take them to be English.” Some of these,
however, admit now of explanation, and not a few of them point to
India, where the English have learnt them and brought them further
East. Thus _chit_, _chitty_, ‘a letter, an account,’ is Hindustani
_chiṭṭhī_; _godown_ ‘warehouse’ is an English popular interpretation
of Malay _gadong_, from Tamil _giḍangi_. _Chowchow_ seems to be real
Chinese and to mean ‘mixed preserves,’ but in Pidgin it has acquired
the wider signification of ‘food, meal, to eat,’ besides having
various other applications: a chowchow cargo is an assorted cargo, a
‘general shop’ is a chowchow shop. _Cumshaw_ ‘a present’ is Chinese.
But _tiffin_, which is used all over the East for ‘lunch,’ is really
an English word, properly _tiffing_, from the slang verb _to tiff_, to
drink, esp. to drink out of meal-times. In India it was applied to the
meal, and then reintroduced into England and believed to be a native
Indian word.

XII.--§ 5. Grammar, etc.

Among points not found in Beach-la-mar I shall mention the extensive
use of _piecee_, which in accordance with Chinese grammar is required
between a numeral and the noun indicating what is counted; thus in
a Chinaman’s description of a three-masted screw steamer with two
funnels: “Thlee piecee bamboo, two piecee puff-puff, walk-along inside,
no can see” (walk-along = the engine). _Side_ means any locality: _he
belongey China-side now_ (he is in China), _topside_ above, or high,
_bottom-side_ below, _farside_ beyond, _this-side_ here, _allo-side_
around. In a similar way _time_ (pronounced _tim_ or _teem_) is used in
_that-tim_ then, when, _what-tim_ when? _one-tim_ once, only, _two-tim_
twice, again, _nother-tim_ again.

In one respect the Chinese sound system is accountable for a deviation
from Beach-la-mar, namely in the substitution of _l_ for _r_: _loom_,
_all light_ for ‘room, all right,’ etc., while the islanders often
made the inverse change. But the tendency to add a vowel after a final
consonant is the same: _makee_, _too muchee_, etc. The enigmatic
termination _lo_, which Landtman found in some words in New Guinea, is
also added to some words ending in vowel sounds in Pidgin, according to
Leland, who instances _die-lo_, die; in his texts I find the additional
examples _buy-lo_, _say-lo_, _pay-lo_, _hear-lo_, besides _wailo_, or
_wylo_, which is probably from _away_; it means ‘go away, away with
you! go, depart, gone.’ Can it be the Chinese sign of the past tense
_la_, _lao_, generalized?

Among usual expressions must be mentioned _number one_ (_numpa one_)
‘first-class, excellent,’ _catchee_ ‘get, possess, hold, bring,’ etc.,
_ploper_ (_plopa_) ‘proper, good, nice, correct’: _you belong ploper?_
‘are you well?’

Another word which was not in use among the South Sea islanders, namely
_have_, in the form _hab_ or _hap_ is often used in Pidgin, even to
form the perfect. _Belong_ (_belongy_) is nearly as frequent as in
Beach-la-mar, but is used in a different way: ‘My belongy Consoo boy,’
‘I am the Consul’s servant.’ ‘You belong clever inside,’ ‘you are
intelligent.’ The usual way of asking the price of something is ‘how
much belong?’

XII.--§ 6. General Theory.

Lingos of the same type as Beach-la-mar and Pidgin-English are found
in other parts of the world where whites and natives meet and have
to find some medium of communication. Thus a Danish doctor living in
Belgian Congo sends me a few specimens of the ‘Pidgin’ spoken there: to
indicate that his master has received many letters from home, the ‘boy’
will say, “Massa catch plenty mammy-book” (_mammy_ meaning ‘woman,
wife’). _Breeze_ stands for air in general; if the boy wants to say
that he has pumped up the bicycle tyres, he will say, “Plenty breeze
live for inside,” _live_, being here the general term for ‘to be’
(Beach-l. _stop_); ‘is your master in?’ becomes ‘Massa live?’ and the
answer is ‘he no live’ or ‘he live for hup’ (i.e. he is upstairs). If
a man has a stomach-ache he will say ‘he hurt me for belly plenty too
much’--_too much_ is thus used exactly as in Beach-la-mar and Chinese
Pidgin. The similarity of all these jargons, in spite of unavoidable
smaller differences, is in fact very striking indeed.

It may be time now to draw the moral of all this. And first I want
to point out that these languages are not ‘mixed languages’ in the
proper sense of that term. Churchill is not right when he says that
Beach-la-mar “gathered material from every source, it fused them
all.” As a matter of fact, it is English, and nothing but English,
with very few admixtures, and all of these are such words as had
previously been adopted into the English speech of those classes of the
population, sailors, etc., with whom the natives came into contact:
they were therefore justified in their belief that these words formed
part of the English tongue and that what they learned themselves was
real English. The natives really adhere to Windisch’s rule about the
adoption of loan-words (above, XI § 10). If there are more Chinese
words in Pidgin than there are Polynesian ones in Beach-la-mar, this is
a natural consequence of the fact that the Chinese civilization ranked
incomparably much higher than the Polynesian, and that therefore the
English living in China would adopt these words into their own speech.
Still, their number is not very large. And we have seen that there are
some words which the Easterners must naturally suppose to be English,
while the English think that they belong to the vernacular, and in
using them each party is thus under the delusion that he is rendering
a service to the other.

This leads me to my second point: those deviations from correct
English, those corruptions of pronunciation and those simplifications
of grammar, which have formed the object of this short sketch, are due
just as much to the English as to the Easterners, and in many points
they began with the former rather than with the latter (cf. Schuchardt,
_Auf anlass des Volapüks_, 1888, 8; KS 4. 35, SlD 36; ESt 15. 292).
From Schuchardt I take the following quotation: “The usual question on
reaching the portico of an Indian bungalow is, _Can missus see?_--it
being a popular superstition amongst the Europeans that to enable
a native to understand English he must be addressed as if he were
deaf, and in the most infantile language.” This tendency to meet the
‘inferior races’ half-way in order to facilitate matters for them is
by Churchill called “the one supreme axiom of international philology:
the proper way to make a foreigner understand what you would say is to
use broken English. He speaks it himself, therefore give him what he
uses.” We recognize here the same mistaken notion that we have seen
above in the language of the nursery, where mothers and others will
talk a curious sort of mangled English which is believed to represent
real babytalk, though it has many traits which are purely conventional.
In both cases these more or less artificial perversions are thought
to be an aid to those who have not yet mastered the intricacies of
the language in question, though the ultimate result is at best a
retardation of the perfect acquisition of correct speech.

My view, then, is that Beach-la-mar as well as Pidgin is English, only
English learnt imperfectly, in consequence partly of the difficulties
always inherent in learning a totally different language, partly of the
obstacles put in the way of learning by the linguistic behaviour of the
English-speaking people themselves. The analogy of its imperfections
with those of a baby’s speech in the first period is striking, and
includes errors of pronunciation, extreme simplification of grammar,
scantiness of vocabulary, even to such peculiarities as that the word
_too_ is apprehended in the sense of ‘very much,’ and such phrases as
_you better go_, etc.

XII.--§ 7. Mauritius Creole.

The view here advanced on the character of these ‘Pidgin’ languages
is corroborated when we see that other languages under similar
circumstances have been treated in exactly the same way as English.
With regard to French in the island of Mauritius, formerly Ile de
France, we are fortunate in possessing an excellent treatment of the
subject by M. C. Baissac (_Étude sur le Patois Créole Mauricien_,
Nancy, 1880; cf. the same writer’s _Le Folk-lore de l’Ile-Maurice_,
Paris, 1888, Les littératures populaires, tome xxvii). The island was
uninhabited when the French occupied it in 1715; a great many slaves
were imported from Madagascar, and as a means of intercourse between
them and their French masters a French Creole language sprang up, which
has survived the English conquest (1810) and the subsequent wholesale
introduction of coolies from India and elsewhere. The paramount element
in the vocabulary is French; one may read many pages in Baissac’s texts
without coming across any foreign words, apart from the names of some
indigenous animals and plants. In the phonetic structure there are a
few all-pervading traits: the front-round vowels are replaced by the
corresponding unrounded vowels or in a few cases by [u], and instead
of [ʃ, ʒ] we find [s, z]; thus _éré_ heureux, _éne plime_ une plume,
_sakéne_ chacun(e), _zize_ juge, _zunu_ genou, _suval_ cheval: I
replace Baissac’s notation, which is modelled on the French spelling,
by a more phonetic one according to his own indications; but I keep his
final _e muet_.

The grammar of this language is as simple as possible. Substantives
have the same form for the two numbers: _dé suval_ deux chevaux. There
is no definite article. The adjective is invariable, thus also _sa_
for ce, cet, cette, ces, ceci, cela, celui, celle, ceux, celles. _Mo_
before a verb is ‘I,’ before a substantive it is possessive: _mo koné_
I know, _mo lakaze_ my house; in the same way _to_ is you and your, but
in the third person a distinction is made, for _li_ is he or she, but
his or her is _so_, and here we have even a plural, _zaute_ from ‘les
autres,’ which form is also used as a plural of the second person: _mo
va alle av zaut_, I shall go with you.

The genitive is expressed by word-order without any preposition:
_lakase so papa_ his father’s house; also with _so_ before the
nominative: _so piti ppa Azor_ old Azor’s child.

The form in which the French words have been taken over presents some
curious features, and in some cases illustrates the difficulty the
blacks felt in separating the words which they heard in the French
utterance as one continuous stream of sounds. There is evidently a
disinclination to begin a word with a vowel, and sometimes an initial
vowel is left out, as _bitation_ habitation, _tranzé_ étranger, but in
other cases _z_ is taken from the French plural article: _zozo_ oiseau,
_zistoire_, _zenfan_, _zimaze_ image, _zalfan_ éléphant, _zanimo_
animal, or _n_ from the French indefinite article: _name_ ghost, _nabi_
(or _zabi_) habit. In many cases the whole French article is taken as
an integral part of the word, as _lérat_ rat, _léroi_, _licien_ chien,
_latabe_ table, _lére_ heure (often as a conjunction ‘when’); thus
also with the plural article _lizié_ from _les yeux_, but without the
plural signification: _éne lizié_ an eye. Similarly _éne lazoie_ a
goose. Words that are often used in French with the so-called partitive
article keep this; thus _disel_ salt, _divin_ wine, _duri_ rice, _éne
dipin_ a loaf; here also we meet with one word from the French plural:
_éne dizéf_ an egg, from _des œufs_. The French mass-word with the
partitive article _du monde_ has become _dimunde_ or _dumune_, and
as it means ‘people’ and no distinction is made between plural and
singular, it is used also for ‘person’: _éne vié dimunde_ an old man.

Verbs have only one form, generally from the French infinitive or past
participle, which in most cases would fall together (_manzé_ = manger,
mangé; _kuri_ = courir, couru); this serves for all persons in both
numbers and all moods. But tenses are indicated by means of auxiliary
words: _va_ for the future, _té_ (from _été_) for the ordinary past,
and _fine_ for the perfect: _mo manzé_ I eat, _mo va manzé_ I shall
eat, _mo té manzé_ I ate, _mo fine manzé_ I have eaten, _mo fine
fini_ I have finished. Further, there is a curious use of _aprè_ to
express what in English are called the progressive or expanded tenses:
_mo aprè manzé_ I am eating, _mo té aprè manzé_ I was eating, and of
_pour_ to express the immediate future: _mo pour manzé_ I am going
to eat, and finally an immediate past may be expressed by _fék_: _mo
fék manzé_ I have just been eating (je ne fais que de manger). As
these may be combined in various ways (_mo va fine manzé_ I shall have
eaten, even _mo té va fék manzé_ I should have eaten a moment ago,
etc.), the language has really succeeded in building up a very fine and
rich verbal system with the simplest possible means and with perfect

The French separate negatives have been combined into one word each:
_napa_ not (there is not), _narien_ nothing, and similarly _nék_ only.

In many cases the same form is used for a substantive or adjective and
for a verb: _mo soif_, _mo faim_ I am thirsty and hungry; _li content
so madame_ he is fond of his wife.

_Côte_ (or _à côte_) is a preposition ‘by the side of, near,’ but also
means ‘where’: _la case àcote li resté_ ‘the house in which he lives’;
cf. Pidgin _side_.

In all this, as will easily be seen, there is very little French
grammar; this will be especially evident when we compare the French
verbal system with its many intricacies: difference according to
person, number, tense and mood with their endings, changes of
root-vowels and stress-place, etc., with the unchanged verbal root
and the invariable auxiliary syllables of the Creole. But there is
really as little in the Creole dialect of Malagasy grammar, as I have
ascertained by looking through G. W. Parker’s _Grammar_ (London, 1883):
both nations in forming this means of communication have, as it were,
stripped themselves of all their previous grammatical habits and have
spoken as if their minds were just as innocent of grammar as those of
very small babies, whether French or Malagasy. Thus, and thus only, can
it be explained that the grammar of this variety of French is for all
practical purposes identical with the grammar of those two varieties of
English which we have previously examined in this chapter.

No one can read Baissac’s collection of folk-tales from Mauritius
without being often struck with the felicity and even force of this
language, in spite of its inevitable _naïveté_ and of the childlike
simplicity of its constructions. If it were left to itself it might
develop into a really fine idiom without abandoning any of its
characteristic traits. But as it is, it seems to be constantly changing
through the influence of real French, which is more and more taught
to and imitated by the islanders, and the day may come when most of
the features described in this rapid sketch will have given place to
something which is less original, but will be more readily understood
by Parisian globe-trotters who may happen to visit the distant island.

XII.--§ 8. Chinook Jargon.

The view here advanced may be further put to the test if we examine
a totally different language developed in another part of the world,
viz. in Oregon. I give its history in an abridged form from Hale.[51]
When the first British and American trading ships appeared on the
north-west coast of America, towards the end of the eighteenth century,
they found a great number of distinct languages, the Nootka, Nisqually,
Chinook, Chihailish and others, all of them harsh in pronunciation,
complex in structure, and each spoken over a very limited space. The
traders learnt a few Nootka words and the Indians a few English words.
Afterwards the traders began to frequent the Columbia River, and
naturally attempted to communicate with the natives there by means of
the words which they had found intelligible at Nootka. The Chinooks
soon acquired these words, both Nootka and English. When later the
white traders made permanent establishments in Oregon, a real language
was required; and it was formed by drawing upon the Chinook for such
words as were requisite, numerals, pronouns, and some adverbs and other
words. Thus enriched, ‘the Jargon,’ as it now began to be styled,
became of great service as a means of general intercourse. Now, French
Canadians in the service of the fur companies were brought more closely
into contact with the Indians, hunted with them, and lived with them
on terms of familiarity. The consequence was that several French words
were added to the slender stock of the Jargon, including the names of
various articles of food and clothing, implements, several names of
the parts of the body, and the verbs to run, sing and dance, also one
conjunction, _puis_, reduced to _pi_.

“The origin of some of the words is rather whimsical. The Americans,
British and French are distinguished by the terms _Boston_, _Kinchotsh_
(King George), and _pasaiuks_, which is presumed to be the word
_Français_ (as neither _f_, _r_ nor the nasal _n_ can be pronounced
by the Indians) with the Chinook plural termination _uks_ added....
‘Foolish’ is expressed by _pelton_ or _pilton_, derived from the name
of a deranged person, one Archibald Pelton, whom the Indians saw at
Astoria; his strange appearance and actions made such an impression
upon them, that thenceforward anyone behaving in an absurd or
irrational manner” was termed _pelton_.

The phonetic structure is very simple, and contains no sound or
combination that is not easy to Englishmen and Frenchmen as well as to
Indians of at least a dozen tribes. The numerous harsh Indian velars
either disappear entirely or are softened to _h_ and _k_. On the other
hand, the _d_, _f_, _r_, _v_, _z_ of the English and French become in
the mouth of a Chinook _t_, _p_, _l_, _w_, _s_. Examples:

  Chinook: _thliakso_       _yakso_                    hair
           _etsghot_        _itshut_                   black bear
           _tkalaitanam_    _kalaitan_                 arrow, shot, bullet
           _ntshaika_       _nesaika_                  we
           _mshaika_        _mesaika_                  we
           _thlaitshka_     _klaska_ (_tlaska_)        they
           _tkhlon_         _klon_ (_tlun_)            three

  English: _handkerchief_   _hakatshum_ (_kenkeshim_)  handkerchief
           _cry_            _klai_, _kalai_ (_kai_)    cry, mourn
           _fire_           _paia_                     fire, cook, ripe
           _dry_            _tlai_, _delai_            dry

  French:  _courir_         _kuli_                     run
           _la bouche_      _labus_ (_labush_)         mouth
           _le mouton_      _lemuto_                   sheep

The forms in parentheses are those of the French glossary (1853).

It will be noticed that many of the French words have the definite
article affixed (a trait noticed in many words in the French Creole
dialect of Mauritius). More than half of the words in Hale’s
glossary beginning with _l_ have this origin, thus _labutai_ bottle,
_lakloa_ cross, _lamie_ an old woman (la vieille), _lapushet_ fork
(la fourchette), _latlá_ noise (faire du train), _lidú_ finger,
_lejaub_ (or _diaub_, _yaub_) devil (le diable), _léma_ hand, _liplét_
missionary (le prêtre), _litá_ tooth. The plural article is found in
_lisáp_ egg (les œufs)--the same word in which Mauritius French has
also adopted the plural form.

Some of the meanings of English words are rather curious; thus, _kol_
besides ‘cold’ means ‘winter,’ and as the years, as with the old
Scandinavians, are reckoned by winters, also ‘year.’ _Sun_ (_son_)
besides ‘sun’ also means ‘day.’ _Spos_ (often pronounced _pos_), as in
Beach-la-mar, is a common conjunction, ‘if, when.’

The grammar is extremely simple. Nouns are invariable; the plural
generally is not distinguished from the singular; sometimes _haiu_
(_ayo_) ‘much, many’ is added by way of emphasis. The genitive is shown
by position only: _kahta nem maika papa?_ (lit., what name thou father)
what is the name of your father? The adjective precedes the noun, and
comparison is indicated by periphrasis. ‘I am stronger than thou’ would
be _weke maika skukum kahkwa naika_, lit. ‘not thou strong as I.’ The
superlative is indicated by the adverb _haiás_ ‘great, very’: _haiás
oliman okuk kanim_, that canoe is the oldest, lit., very old that
canoe, or (according to Gibbs) by _elip_ ‘first, before’: _elip klosh_

The numerals and pronouns are from the Chinook, but the latter, at any
rate, are very much simplified. Thus the pronoun for ‘we’ is _nesaika_,
from Chinook _ntshaika_, which is the exclusive form, meaning ‘we
here,’ not including the person or persons addressed.

Like the nouns, the verbs have only one form, the tense being left
to be inferred from the context, or, if strictly necessary, being
indicated by an adverb. The future, in the sense of ‘about to, ready
to,’ may be expressed by _tike_, which means properly ‘wish,’ as _naika
papa tike mimalus_ (_mimelust_) my father is about to die. The verb ‘to
be’ is not expressed: _maika pelton_, thou art foolish.

There is a much-used verb _mámuk_, which means ‘make, do, work’ and
forms causatives, as _mamuk chako_ ‘make to come, bring,’ _mamuk
mimalus_ ‘kill.’ With a noun: _mamuk lalam_ (Fr. la rame) ‘make oar,’
i.e. ‘to row,’ _mamuk pepe_ (make paper) ‘write,’ _mamuk po_ (make
blow) ‘fire a gun.’

There is only one true preposition, _kopa_, which is used in various
senses--to, for, at, in, among, about, etc.; but even this may
generally be omitted and the sentence remain intelligible. The two
conjunctions _spos_ and _pi_ have already been mentioned.

XII.--§ 9. Chinook continued.

In this way something is formed that may be used as a language in
spite of the scantiness of its vocabulary. But a good deal has to
be expressed by the tone of the voice, the look and the gesture of
the speaker. “The Indians in general,” says Hale (p. 18), “are very
sparing of their gesticulations. No languages, probably, require less
assistance from this source than theirs.... We frequently had occasion
to observe the sudden change produced when a party of the natives, who
had been conversing in their own tongue, were joined by a foreigner,
with whom it was necessary to speak in the Jargon. The countenances,
which had before been grave, stolid and inexpressive, were instantly
lighted up with animation; the low, monotonous tone became lively and
modulated; every feature was active; the head, the arms and the whole
body were in motion, and every look and gesture became instinct with

In British Columbia and in parts of Alaska this language is the
prevailing medium of intercourse between the whites and the natives,
and there Hale thinks that it is likely to live “for hundreds, and
perhaps thousands, of years to come.” The language has already the
beginning of a literature: songs, mostly composed by women, who sing
them to plaintive native tunes. Hale gives some lyrics and a sermon
preached by Mr. Eells, who has been accustomed for many years to preach
to the Indians in the Jargon and who says that he sometimes even thinks
in this idiom.

Hale counted the words in this sermon, and found that to express
the whole of its “historic and descriptive details, its arguments
and its appeals,” only 97 different words were required, and not a
single grammatical inflexion. Of these words, 65 were from Amerindian
languages (46 Chinook, 17 Nootka, 2 Salish), 23 English and 7 French.

It is very instructive to go through the texts given by Hale and to
compare them with the real Chinook text analysed in Boas’s _Handbook of
American Indian Languages_ (Washington, 1911, p. 666 ff.): the contrast
could not be stronger between simplicity carried to the extreme point,
on the one hand, and an infinite complexity and intricacy on the other.
But though it must be admitted that astonishingly much can be expressed
in the Jargon by its very simple and few means, a European mind, while
bewildered in the entangled jumble of the Chinook language, cannot
help missing a great many _nuances_ in the Jargon, where thoughts are
reduced to their simplest formula and where everything is left out that
is not strictly necessary to the least exacting minds.

XII.--§ 10. Makeshift Languages.

To sum up, this Oregon trade language is to be classed together with
Beach-la-mar and Pidgin-English, not perhaps as ‘bastard’ or ‘mongrel’
languages--such expressions taken from biology always convey the wrong
impression that a language is an ‘organism’ and had therefore better
be avoided--but rather as makeshift languages or minimum languages,
means of expression which do not serve all the purposes of ordinary
languages, but may be used as substitutes where fuller and better ones
are not available.

The analogy between this Jargon and the makeshift languages of the
East is closer than might perhaps appear at first blush, only we must
make it clear to ourselves that English is in the two cases placed in
exactly the inverse position. Pidgin and Beach-la-mar are essentially
English learnt imperfectly by the Easterners, the Oregon Jargon is
essentially Chinook learnt imperfectly by the English. Just as in
the East the English not only suffered but also abetted the yellows
in their corruption of the English language, so also the Amerindians
met the English half-way through simplifying their own speech. If
in Polynesia and China the makeshift language came to contain some
Polynesian and Chinese words, they were those which the English
themselves had borrowed into their own language and which the yellows
therefore must think formed a legitimate part of the language they
wanted to speak; and in the same way the American Jargon contains such
words from the European languages as had been previously adopted by
the reds. If the Jargon embraces so many French terms for the various
parts of the body, one concomitant reason probably is that these names
in the original Chinook language presented special difficulties through
being specialized and determined by possessive affixes (my foot, for
instance, is _lekxeps_, thy foot _tāmēps_, its foot _lelaps_, our (dual
inclusive) feet _tetxaps_, your (dual) feet _temtaps_; I simplify the
notation in Boas’s _Handbook_, p. 586), so that it was incomparably
easier to take the French _lepi_ and use it unchanged in all cases,
no matter what the number, and no matter who the possessor was. The
natives, who had learnt such words from the French, evidently used
them to other whites under the impression that thereby they could
make themselves more readily understood, and the British and American
traders probably imagined them to be real Chinook; anyhow, their use
meant a substantial economy of mental exertion.

The chief point I want to make, however, is with regard to grammar. In
all these languages, both in the makeshift English and French of the
East and in the makeshift Amerindian of the North-West, the grammatical
structure has been simplified very much beyond what we find in any
of the languages involved in their making, and simplified to such an
extent that it may be expressed in very few words, and those nearly the
same in all these languages, the chief rule being common to them all,
that substantives, adjectives and verbs remain always unchanged. The
vocabularies are as the poles asunder--in the East English and French,
in America Chinook, etc.--but the morphology of all these languages
is practically identical, because in all of them it has reached the
vanishing-point. This shows conclusively that the reason of this
simplicity is not the Chinese substratum or the influence of Chinese
grammar, as is so often believed. Pidgin-English cannot be described,
as is often done, as English with Chinese pronunciation and Chinese
grammar, because in that case we should expect Beach-la-mar to be
quite different from it, as the substratum there would be Melanesian,
which in many ways differs from Chinese, and further we should expect
the Mauritius Creole to be French with Malagasy pronunciation and
Malagasy grammar, and on the other hand the Oregon trade language to
be Chinook with English pronunciation and English grammar--but in none
of these cases would this description tally with the obvious facts.
We might just as well say that the speech of a two-year-old child in
England is English with Chinese grammar, and that of the two-year-old
French child is French modelled on Chinese grammar: the truth on the
contrary, is that in all these seemingly so different cases the same
mental factor is at work, namely, imperfect mastery of a language,
which in its initial stage, in the child with its first language and
in the grown-up with a second language learnt by imperfect methods,
leads to a superficial knowledge of the most indispensable words, with
total disregard of grammar. Often, here and there, this is combined
with a wish to express more than is possible with the means at hand,
and thus generates the attempts to express the inexpressible by means
of those more or less ingenious and more or less comical devices, with
paraphrases and figurative or circuitous designations, which we have
seen first in the chapters on children’s language and now again in
Beach-la-mar and its congeners.

Exactly the same characteristics are found again in the _lingua
geral Brazilica_, which in large parts of Brazil serves as the
means of communication between the whites and Indians or negroes
and also between Indians of different tribes. It “possesses neither
declension nor conjugation” and “places words after one another without
grammatical flexion, with disregard of _nuances_ in sentence structure,
but in energetic brevity,” it is “easy of pronunciation,” with many
vowels and no hard consonant groups--in all these respects it differs
considerably from the original Tupí, from which it has been evolved by
the Europeans.[52]

Finally, I would point the contrast between these makeshift languages
and slang: the former are an outcome of linguistic poverty; they
are born of the necessity and the desire to make oneself understood
where the ordinary idiom of the individual is of no use, while slang
expressions are due to a linguistic exuberance: the individual creating
them knows perfectly well the ordinary words for the idea he wants to
express, but in youthful playfulness he is not content with what is
everybody’s property, and thus consciously steps outside the routine
of everyday language to produce something that is calculated to excite
merriment or even admiration on the part of his hearers. The results
in both cases may sometimes show related features, for some of the
figurative expressions of Beach-la-mar recall certain slang words by
their bold metaphors, but the motive force in the two kinds is totally
different, and where a comic effect is produced, in one case it is
intentional and in the other unintentional.

XII.--§ 11. Romanic Languages.

When Schuchardt began his studies of the various Creole languages
formed in many parts of the world where Europeans speaking various
Romanic and other languages had come into contact with negroes,
Polynesians and other races, it was with the avowed intention
of throwing light on the origin of the Romanic languages from a
contact between Latin and the languages previously spoken in the
countries colonized by the Romans. We may now raise the question
whether Beach-la-mar--to take that as a typical example of the kind
of languages dealt with in this chapter--is likely to develop into
a language which to the English of Great Britain will stand in the
same relation as French or Portuguese to Latin. The answer cannot
be doubtful if we adhere tenaciously to the points of view already
advanced. Development into a separate language would be imaginable
only on condition of a complete, or a nearly complete, isolation from
the language of England (and America)--and how should that be effected
nowadays, with our present means of transport and communication? If
such isolation were indeed possible, it would also result in the
breaking off of communication between the various islands in which
Beach-la-mar is now spoken, and that would probably entail the speedy
extinction of the language itself in favour of the Polynesian language
of each separate island. On the contrary, what will probably happen is
a development in the opposite direction, by which the English of the
islanders will go on constantly improving so as to approach correct
usage more and more in every respect: better pronunciation and syntax,
more flexional forms and a less scanty vocabulary--in short, the same
development that has already to a large extent taken place in the
English of the coloured population in the United States. But this
means a gradual extinction of Beach-la-mar as a separate idiom through
its complete absorption in ordinary English (cf. above, p. 228, on
conditions at Mauritius).

Do these ‘makeshift languages,’ then, throw any light on the
development of the Romanic languages? They may be compared to the very
first initial stage of the Latin language as spoken by the barbarians,
many of whom may be supposed to have mutilated Latin in very much the
same way as the Pacific islanders do English. But by and by they learnt
Latin much better, and if now the Romanic languages have simplified the
grammatical structure of Latin, this simplification is not to be placed
on the same footing as the formlessness of Beach-la-mar, for that is
complete and has been achieved at one blow: the islanders have never
(i.e. have not yet) learnt the English form-system. But the inhabitants
of France, Spain, etc., did learn the Latin form system as well as the
syntactic use of the forms. This is seen by the fact that when French
and the other languages began to be written down, there remained in
them a large quantity of forms and syntactic applications that agree
with Latin but have since then become extinct: in its oldest written
form, therefore, French is very far from the amorphous condition of
Beach-la-mar: in its nouns it had many survivals of the Latin case
system (gen. pl. corresponding to _-orum_; an oblique case different
from the nominative and formed in various ways according to the rules
of Latin declensions), in the verbs we find an intricate system of
tenses, moods and persons, based on the Latin flexions. It is true that
these had been already to some degree simplified, but this must have
happened in the same gradual way as the further simplification that
goes on before our very eyes in the written documents of the following
centuries: the distance from the first to the tenth century must have
been bridged over in very much the same way as the distance between
the tenth and the twentieth century. No cataclysm such as that through
which English has become Beach-la-mar need on any account be invoked to
explain the perfectly natural change from Latin to Old French and from
Old French to Modern French.


[48] The etymology of this name is rather curious: Portuguese _bicho de
mar_, from _bicho_ ‘worm,’ the name of the sea slug or trepang, which
is eaten as a luxury by the Chinese, was in French modified into _bêche
de mer_, ‘sea-spade’; this by a second popular etymology was made into
English _beach-la-mar_ as if a compound of _beach_.

My sources are H. Schuchardt, KS v. (Wiener Academie, 1883); id. in
ESt xiii. 158 ff., 1889; W. Churchill, _Beach-la-Mar, the Jargon
or Trade Speech of the Western Pacific_ (Carnegie Institution of
Washington, 1911); Jack London, _The Cruise of the Snark_ (Mills &
Boon, London, 1911?), G. Landtman in _Neuphilologische Mitteilungen_
(Helsingfors, 1918, p. 62 ff. Landtman calls it “the Pidgin-English
of British New Guinea,” where he learnt it, though it really differs
from Pidgin-English proper; see below); “The Jargon English of Torres
Straits” in _Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to
Torres Straits_, vol. iii. p. 251 ff., Cambridge, 1907.

[49] Similarly the missionary G. Brown thought that _tobi_ was a
native word of the Duke of York Islands for ‘wash,’ till one day he
accidentally discovered that it was their pronunciation of English

[50] There are many specimens in Charles G. Leland, _Pidgin-English
Sing-Song, or Songs and Stories in the China-English Dialect, with
a Vocabulary_ (5th ed., London, 1900), but they make the impression
of being artificially made-up to amuse the readers, and contain a
much larger proportion of Chinese words than the rest of my sources
would warrant. Besides various articles in newspapers I have used W.
Simpson, “China’s Future Place in Philology” (_Macmillan’s Magazine_,
November 1873) and Dr. Legge’s article “Pigeon English” in _Chambers’s
Encyclopædia_, 1901 (s.v. China). The chapters devoted to Pidgin in
Karl Lentzner’s _Dictionary of the Slang-English of Australia and of
some Mixed Languages_ (Halle, 1892) give little else but wholesale
reprints of passages from some of the sources mentioned above.

[51] See _An International Idiom. A Manual of the Oregon Trade
Language, or Chinook Jargon_, by Horatio Hale (London, 1890). Besides
this I have used a _Vocabulary of the Jargon or Trade Language of
Oregon_ [by Lionnet] published by the Smithsonian Institution (1853),
and George Gibbs, _A Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon_ (Smithsonian
Inst., 1863). Lionnet spells the words according to the French fashion,
while Gibbs and Hale spell them in the English way. I have given them
with the continental values of the vowels in accordance with the
indications in Hale’s glossary.

[52] See Martius, _Beitr. zur Ethnogr. und Sprachenkunde Amerikas_
(Leipzig, 1867), i. 364 ff. and ii. 23 ff.



  § 1. Women’s Languages. § 2. Tabu. § 3. Competing Languages. § 4.
  Sanskrit Drama. § 5. Conservatism. § 6. Phonetics and Grammar. § 7.
  Choice of Words. § 8. Vocabulary. § 9. Adverbs. § 10. Periods. § 11.
  General Characteristics.

XIII.--§ 1. Women’s Languages.

There are tribes in which men and women are said to speak totally
different languages, or at any rate distinct dialects. It will be
worth our while to look at the classical example of this, which is
mentioned in a great many ethnographical and linguistic works, viz.
the Caribs or Caribbeans of the Small Antilles. The first to mention
their distinct sex dialects was the Dominican Breton, who, in his
_Dictionnaire Caraïbe-français_ (1664), says that the Caribbean chief
had exterminated all the natives except the women, who had retained
part of their ancient language. This is repeated in many subsequent
accounts, the fullest and, as it seems, most reliable of which is that
by Rochefort, who spent a long time among the Caribbeans in the middle
of the seventeenth century: see his _Histoire naturelle et morale des
Iles Antilles_ (2e éd., Rotterdam, 1665, p. 449 ff.). Here he says that
“the men have a great many expressions peculiar to them, which the
women understand but never pronounce themselves. On the other hand, the
women have words and phrases which the men never use, or they would
be laughed to scorn. Thus it happens that in their conversations it
often seems as if the women had another language than the men.... The
savage natives of Dominica say that the reason for this is that when
the Caribs came to occupy the islands these were inhabited by an Arawak
tribe which they exterminated completely, with the exception of the
women, whom they married in order to populate the country. Now, these
women kept their own language and taught it to their daughters.... But
though the boys understand the speech of their mothers and sisters,
they nevertheless follow their fathers and brothers and conform to
their speech from the age of five or six.... It is asserted that there
is some similarity between the speech of the continental Arawaks and
that of the Carib women. But the Carib men and women on the continent
speak the same language, as they have never corrupted their natural
speech by marriage with strange women.”

This evidently is the account which forms the basis of everything that
has since been written on the subject. But it will be noticed that
Rochefort does not really speak of the speech of the two sexes as
totally distinct languages or dialects, as has often been maintained,
but only of certain differences within the same language. If we go
through the comparatively full and evidently careful glossary attached
to his book, in which he denotes the words peculiar to the men by the
letter H and those of the women by F, we shall see that it is only
for about one-tenth of the vocabulary that such special words have
been indicated to him, though the matter evidently interested him very
much, so that he would make all possible efforts to elicit them from
the natives. In his lists, words special to one or the other sex are
found most frequently in the names of the various degrees of kinship;
thus, ‘my father’ in the speech of the men in _youmáan_, in that of
the women _noukóuchili_, though both in addressing him say _bába_;
‘my grandfather’ is _itámoulou_ and _nárgouti_ respectively, and thus
also for maternal uncle, son (elder son, younger son), brother-in-law,
wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, cousin--all of these are different
according as a man or a woman is speaking. It is the same with the
names of some, though far from all, of the different parts of the body,
and with some more or less isolated words, as friend, enemy, joy, work,
war, house, garden, bed, poison, tree, sun, moon, sea, earth. This list
comprises nearly every notion for which Rochefort indicates separate
words, and it will be seen that there are innumerable ideas for which
men and women use the same word. Further, we see that where there are
differences these do not consist in small deviations, such as different
prefixes or suffixes added to the same root, but in totally distinct
roots. Another point is very important to my mind: judging by the
instances in which plural forms are given in the lists, the words of
the two sexes are inflected in exactly the same way; thus the grammar
is common to both, from which we may infer that we have not really to
do with two distinct languages in the proper sense of the word.

Now, some light may probably be thrown on the problem of this women’s
language from a custom mentioned in some of the old books written by
travellers who have visited these islands. Rochefort himself (p. 497)
very briefly says that “the women do not eat till their husbands have
finished their meal,” and Lafitau (1724) says that women never eat in
the company of their husbands and never mention them by name, but must
wait upon them as their slaves; with this Labat agrees.

XIII.--§ 2. Tabu.

The fact that a wife is not allowed to mention the name of her husband
makes one think that we have here simply an instance of a custom found
in various forms and in varying degrees throughout the world--what
is called verbal tabu: under certain circumstances, at certain
times, in certain places, the use of one or more definite words is
interdicted, because it is superstitiously believed to entail certain
evil consequences, such as exasperate demons and the like. In place
of the forbidden words it is therefore necessary to use some kind of
figurative paraphrase, to dig up an otherwise obsolete term, or to
disguise the real word so as to render it more innocent.

Now as a matter of fact we find that verbal tabu was a common practice
with the old Caribs: when they were on the war-path they had a great
number of mysterious words which women were never allowed to learn and
which even the young men might not pronounce before passing certain
tests of bravery and patriotism; these war-words are described as
extraordinarily difficult (“un baragoin fort difficile,” Rochefort,
p. 450). It is easy to see that when once a tribe has acquired the
habit of using a whole set of terms under certain frequently recurring
circumstances, while others are at the same time strictly interdicted,
this may naturally lead to so many words being reserved exclusively for
one of the sexes that an observer may be tempted to speak of separate
‘languages’ for the two sexes. There is thus no occasion to believe
in the story of a wholesale extermination of all male inhabitants by
another tribe, though on the other hand it is easy to understand how
such a myth may arise as an explanation of the linguistic difference
between men and women, when it has become strong enough to attract
attention and therefore has to be accounted for.

In some parts of the world the connexion between a separate women’s
language and tabu is indubitable. Thus among the Bantu people of
Africa. With the Zulus a wife is not allowed to mention the name of
her father-in-law and of his brothers, and if a similar word or even a
similar syllable occurs in the ordinary language, she must substitute
something else of a similar meaning. In the royal family the difficulty
of understanding the women’s language is further increased by the
woman’s being forbidden to mention the names of her husband, his father
and grandfather as well as his brothers. If one of these names means
something like “the son of the bull,” each of these words has to be
avoided, and all kinds of paraphrases have to be used. According to
Kranz the interdiction holds good not only for meaning elements of
the name, but even for certain sounds entering into them; thus, if
the name contains the sound _z_, _amanzi_ ‘water’ has to be altered
into _amandabi_. If a woman were to contravene this rule she would be
indicted for sorcery and put to death. The substitutes thus introduced
tend to be adopted by others and to constitute a real women’s language.

With the Chiquitos in Bolivia the difference between the grammars of
the two sexes is rather curious (see V. Henry, “Sur le parler des
hommes et le parler des femmes dans la langue chiquita,” _Revue de
linguistique_, xii. 305, 1879). Some of Henry’s examples may be thus
summarized: men indicate by the addition of _-tii_ that a male person
is spoken about, while the women do not use this suffix and thus make
no distinction between ‘he’ and ‘she,’ ‘his’ and ‘her.’ Thus in the
men’s speech the following distinctions would be made:

  He went to his house: _yebotii ti n-ipoostii_.
  He went to her house: _yebotii ti n-ipoos_.
  She went to his house: _yebo ti n-ipoostii_.

But to express all these different meanings the women would have only
one form, viz.

  _yebo ti n-ipoos_,

which in the men’s speech would mean only ‘She went to her house.’

To many substantives the men prefix a vowel which the women do not
employ, thus _o-petas_ ‘turtle,’ _u-tamokos_ ‘dog,’ _i-pis_ ‘wood.’ For
some very important notions the sexes use distinct words; thus, for
the names of kinship, ‘my father’ is _iyai_ and _išupu_, ‘my mother’
_ipaki_ and _ipapa_, ‘my brother’ _tsaruki_ and _ičibausi_ respectively.

Among the languages of California, Yana, according to Dixon and Kroeber
(_The American Anthropologist_, n.s. 5. 15), is the only language that
shows a difference in the words used by men and women--apart from
terms of relationship, where a distinction according to the sex of
the speaker is made among many Californian tribes as well as in other
parts of the world, evidently “because the relationship itself is to
them different, as the sex is different.” But in Yana the distinction
is a linguistic one, and curiously enough, the few specimens given all
present a trait found already in the Chiquito forms, namely, that the
forms spoken by women are shorter than those of the men, which appear
as extensions, generally by suffixed _-(n)a_, of the former.

It is surely needless to multiply instances of these customs, which
are found among many wild tribes; the curious reader may be referred
to Lasch, S. pp. 7-13, and H. Ploss and M. Bartels, _Das Weib in der
Natur und Völkerkunde_ (9th ed., Leipzig, 1908). The latter says
that the Suaheli system is not carried through so as to replace the
ordinary language, but the Suaheli have for every object which they
do not care to mention by its real name a symbolic word understood by
everybody concerned. In especial such symbols are used by women in
their mysteries to denote obscene things. The words chosen are either
ordinary names for innocent things or else taken from the old language
or other Bantu languages, mostly Kiziguha, for among the Waziguha
secret rites play an enormous rôle. Bartels finally says that with us,
too, women have separate names for everything connected with sexual
life, and he thinks that it is the same feeling of shame that underlies
this custom and the interdiction of pronouncing the names of male
relatives. This, however, does not explain everything, and, as already
indicated, superstition certainly has a large share in this as in other
forms of verbal tabu. See on this the very full account in the third
volume of Frazer’s _The Golden Bough_.

XIII.--§ 3. Competing Languages.

A difference between the language spoken by men and that spoken by
women is seen in many countries where two languages are straggling
for supremacy in a peaceful way--thus without any question of one
nation exterminating the other or the male part of it. Among German
and Scandinavian immigrants in America the men mix much more with the
English-speaking population, and therefore have better opportunities,
and also more occasion, to learn English than their wives, who remain
more within doors. It is exactly the same among the Basques, where the
school, the military service and daily business relations contribute to
the extinction of Basque in favour of French, and where these factors
operate much more strongly on the male than on the female population:
there are families in which the wife talks Basque, while the husband
does not even understand Basque and does not allow his children to
learn it (Bornecque et Mühlen, _Les Provinces françaises_, 53). Vilhelm
Thomsen informs me that the old Livonian language, which is now nearly
extinct, is kept up with the greatest fidelity by the women, while the
men are abandoning it for Lettish. Albanian women, too, generally know
only Albanian, while the men are more often bilingual.

XIII.--§ 4. Sanskrit Drama.

There are very few traces of real sex dialects in our Aryan languages,
though we have the very curious rule in the old Indian drama that women
talk Prakrit (_prākrta_, the natural or vulgar language) while men have
the privilege of talking Sanskrit (_samskrta_, the adorned language).
The distinction, however, is not one of sex really, but of rank, for
Sanskrit is the language of gods, kings, princes, brahmans, ministers,
chamberlains, dancing-masters and other men in superior positions and
of a very few women of special religious importance, while Prakrit is
spoken by men of an inferior class, like shopkeepers, law officers,
aldermen, bathmen, fishermen and policemen, and by nearly all women.
The difference between the two ‘languages’ is one of degree only: they
are two strata of the same language, one higher, more solemn, stiff and
archaic, and another lower, more natural and familiar, and this easy,
or perhaps we should say slipshod, style is the only one recognized for
ordinary women. The difference may not be greater than that between the
language of a judge and that of a costermonger in a modern novel, or
between Juliet’s and her nurse’s expressions in Shakespeare, and if all
women, even those we should call the ‘heroines’ of the plays, use only
the lower stratum of speech, the reason certainly is that the social
position of women was so inferior that they ranked only with men of the
lower orders and had no share in the higher culture which, with the
refined language, was the privilege of a small class of selected men.

XIII.--§ 5. Conservatism.

As Prakrit is a ‘younger’ and ‘worn-out’ form of Sanskrit, the question
here naturally arises: What is the general attitude of the two sexes
to those changes that are constantly going on in languages? Can they
be ascribed exclusively or predominantly to one of the sexes? Or do
both equally participate in them? An answer that is very often given
is that as a rule women are more conservative than men, and that
they do nothing more than keep to the traditional language which
they have learnt from their parents and hand on to their children,
while innovations are due to the initiative of men. Thus Cicero in an
often-quoted passage says that when he hears his mother-in-law Lælia,
it is to him as if he heard Plautus or Nævius, for it is more natural
for women to keep the old language uncorrupted, as they do not hear
many people’s way of speaking and thus retain what they have first
learnt (_De oratore_, III. 45). This, however, does not hold good in
every respect and in every people. The French engineer, Victor Renault,
who lived for a long time among the Botocudos (in South America) and
compiled vocabularies for two of their tribes, speaks of the ease
with which he could make the savages who accompanied him invent new
words for anything. “One of them called out the word in a loud voice,
as if seized by a sudden idea, and the others would repeat it amid
laughter and excited shouts, and then it was universally adopted. But
the curious thing is that it was nearly always the women who busied
themselves in inventing new words as well as in composing songs,
dirges and rhetorical essays. The word-formations here alluded to are
probably names of objects that the Botocudos had not known previously
... as for horse, _krainejoune_, ‘head-teeth’; for ox, _po-kekri_,
‘foot-cloven’; for donkey, _mgo-jonne-orône_, ‘beast with long ears.’
But well-known objects which have already got a name have often similar
new denominations invented for them, which are then soon accepted by
the family and community and spread more and more” (_v._ Martius,
_Beitr. zur Ethnogr. u. Sprachenkunde Amerikas_, 1867, i. 330).

I may also quote what E. R. Edwards says in his _Étude phonétique de
la langue japonaise_ (Leipzig, 1903, p. 79): “In France and in England
it might be said that women avoid neologisms and are careful not to
go too far away from the written forms: in Southern England the sound
written _wh_ [ʍ] is scarcely ever pronounced except in girls’ schools.
In Japan, on the contrary, women are less conservative than men,
whether in pronunciation or in the selection of words and expressions.
One of the chief reasons is that women have not to the same degree as
men undergone the influence of the written language. As an example of
the liberties which the women take may be mentioned that there is in
the actual pronunciation of Tokyo a strong tendency to get rid of the
sound (_w_), but the women go further in the word _atashi_, which men
pronounce _watashi_ or _watakshi_, ‘I.’ Another tendency noticed in
the language of Japanese women is pretty widely spread among French
and English women, namely, the excessive use of intensive words and
the exaggeration of stress and tone-accent to mark emphasis. Japanese
women also make a much more frequent use than men of the prefixes of
politeness _o-_, _go-_ and _mi-_.”

XIII.--§ 6. Phonetics and Grammar.

In connexion with some of the phonetic changes which have profoundly
modified the English sound system we have express statements by old
grammarians that women had a more advanced pronunciation than men, and
characteristically enough these statements refer to the raising of the
vowels in the direction of [i]; thus in Sir Thomas Smith (1567), who
uses expressions like “mulierculæ quædam delicatiores, et nonnulli qui
volunt isto modo videri loqui urbanius,” and in another place “fœminæ
quædam delicatiores,” further in Mulcaster (1582)[53] and in Milton’s
teacher, Alexander Gill (1621), who speaks about “nostræ Mopsæ, quæ
quidem ita omnia attenuant.”

In France, about 1700, women were inclined to pronounce _e_ instead
of _a_; thus Alemand (1688) mentions _Barnabé_ as “façon de prononcer
mâle” and _Bernabé_ as the pronunciation of “les gens polis et délicats
... les dames surtout”; and Grimarest (1712) speaks of “ces marchandes
du Palais, qui au lieu de _madame_, _boulevart_, etc., prononcent
_medeme_, _boulevert_” (Thurot i. 12 and 9).

There is one change characteristic of many languages in which it seems
as if women have played an important part even if they are not solely
responsible for it: I refer to the weakening of the old fully trilled
tongue-point _r_. I have elsewhere (_Fonetik_, p. 417 ff.) tried to
show that this weakening, which results in various sounds and sometimes
in a complete omission of the sound in some positions, is in the main
a consequence of, or at any rate favoured by, a change in social life:
the old loud trilled point sound is natural and justified when life is
chiefly carried on out-of-doors, but indoor life prefers, on the whole,
less noisy speech habits, and the more refined this domestic life is,
the more all kinds of noises and even speech sounds will be toned down.
One of the results is that this original _r_ sound, the rubadub in the
orchestra of language, is no longer allowed to bombard the ears, but is
softened down in various ways, as we see chiefly in the great cities
and among the educated classes, while the rustic population in many
countries keeps up the old sound with much greater conservatism. Now
we find that women are not unfrequently mentioned in connexion with
this reduction of the trilled _r_; thus in the sixteenth century in
France there was a tendency to leave off the trilling and even to go
further than to the present English untrilled point _r_ by pronouncing
[z] instead, but some of the old grammarians mention this pronunciation
as characteristic of women and a few men who imitate women (Erasmus:
mulierculæ Parisinæ; Sylvius: mulierculæ ... Parrhisinæ, et earum modo
quidam parum viri; Pillot: Parisinæ mulierculæ ... adeo delicatulæ
sunt, ut pro _pere_ dicant _pese_). In the ordinary language there are
a few remnants of this tendency; thus, when by the side of the original
_chaire_ we now have also the form _chaise_, and it is worthy of note
that the latter form is reserved for the everyday signification (Engl.
chair, seat) as belonging more naturally to the speech of women, while
_chaire_ has the more special signification of ‘pulpit, professorial
chair.’ Now the same tendency to substitute [z]--or after a voiceless
sound [s]--for _r_ is found in our own days among the ladies of
Christiania, who will say _gzuelig_ for _gruelig_ and _fsygtelig_ for
_frygtelig_ (Brekke, _Bidrag til dansknorskens lydlære_, 1881, p. 17;
I have often heard the sound myself). And even in far-off Siberia we
find that the Chuckchi women will say _nídzak_ or _nízak_ for the
male _nírak_ ‘two,’ _zërka_ for _rërka_ ‘walrus,’ etc. (Nordqvist; see
fuller quotations in my _Fonetik_, p. 431).

In present-day English there are said to be a few differences in
pronunciation between the two sexes; thus, according to Daniel
Jones, _soft_ is pronounced with a long vowel [sɔ·ft] by men and
with a short vowel [sɔft] by women; similarly [gɛel] is said to be a
special ladies’ pronunciation of _girl_, which men usually pronounce
[gə·l]; cf. also on _wh_ above, p. 243. So far as I have been able to
ascertain, the pronunciation [tʃuldrən] for [tʃildrən] _children_ is
much more frequent in women than in men. It may also be that women
are more inclined to give to the word _waistcoat_ the full long sound
in both syllables, while men, who have occasion to use the word
more frequently, tend to give it the historical form [weskət] (for
the shortening compare _breakfast_). But even if such observations
were multiplied--as probably they might easily be by an attentive
observer--they would be only more or less isolated instances, without
any deeper significance, and on the whole we must say that from the
phonetic point of view there is scarcely any difference between the
speech of men and that of women: the two sexes speak for all intents
and purposes the same language.

XIII.--§ 7. Choice of Words.

But when from the field of phonetics we come to that of vocabulary and
style, we shall find a much greater number of differences, though they
have received very little attention in linguistic works. A few have
been mentioned by Greenough and Kittredge: “The use of _common_ in
the sense of ‘vulgar’ is distinctly a feminine peculiarity. It would
sound effeminate in the speech of a man. So, in a less degree, with
_person_ for ‘woman,’ in contrast to ‘lady.’ _Nice_ for ‘fine’ must
have originated in the same way” (W, p. 54).

Others have told me that men will generally say ‘It’s very _good_
of you,’ where women will say ‘It’s very _kind_ of you.’ But such
small details can hardly be said to be really characteristic of the
two sexes. There is no doubt, however, that women in all countries
are shy of mentioning certain parts of the human body and certain
natural functions by the direct and often rude denominations which
men, and especially young men, prefer when among themselves. Women
will therefore invent innocent and euphemistic words and paraphrases,
which sometimes may in the long run come to be looked upon as the plain
or blunt names, and therefore in their turn have to be avoided and
replaced by more decent words.

In Pinero’s _The Gay Lord Quex_ (p. 116) a lady discovers some
French novels on the table of another lady, and says: “This is a
little--h’m--isn’t it?”--she does not even dare to say the word
‘indecent,’ and has to express the idea in inarticulate language. The
word ‘naked’ is paraphrased in the following description by a woman of
the work of girls in ammunition works: “They have to take off every
stitch from their bodies in one room, and run _in their innocence and
nothing else_ to another room where the special clothing is” (Bennett,
_The Pretty Lady_, 176).

On the other hand, the old-fashioned prudery which prevented ladies
from using such words as _legs_ and _trousers_ (“those manly garments
which are rarely mentioned by name,” says Dickens, _Dombey_, 335) is
now rightly looked upon as exaggerated and more or less comical (cf. my
GS § 247).

There can be no doubt that women exercise a great and universal
influence on linguistic development through their instinctive shrinking
from coarse and gross expressions and their preference for refined and
(in certain spheres) veiled and indirect expressions. In most cases
that influence will be exercised privately and in the bosom of the
family; but there is one historical instance in which a group of women
worked in that direction publicly and collectively; I refer to those
French ladies who in the seventeenth century gathered in the Hôtel de
Rambouillet and are generally known under the name of _Précieuses_.
They discussed questions of spelling and of purity of pronunciation
and diction, and favoured all kinds of elegant paraphrases by which
coarse and vulgar words might be avoided. In many ways this movement
was the counterpart of the literary wave which about that time was
inundating Europe under various names--Gongorism in Spain, Marinism
in Italy, Euphuism in England; but the Précieuses went further than
their male confrères in desiring to influence everyday language. When,
however, they used such expressions as, for ‘nose,’ ‘the door of the
brain,’ for ‘broom’ ‘the instrument of cleanness,’ and for ‘shirt’ ‘the
constant companion of the dead and the living’ (la compagne perpétuelle
des morts et des vivants), and many others, their affectation called
down on their heads a ripple of laughter, and their endeavours would
now have been forgotten but for the immortal satire of Molière in _Les
Précieuses ridicules_ and _Les Femmes savantes_. But apart from such
exaggerations the feminine point of view is unassailable, and there is
reason to congratulate those nations, the English among them, in which
the social position of women has been high enough to secure greater
purity and freedom from coarseness in language than would have been the
case if men had been the sole arbiters of speech.

Among the things women object to in language must be specially
mentioned anything that smacks of swearing[54]; where a man will say
“He told an infernal lie,” a woman will rather say, “He told a most
dreadful fib.” Such euphemistic substitutes for the simple word ‘hell’
as ‘the other place,’ ‘a very hot’ or ‘a very uncomfortable place’
probably originated with women. They will also use _ever_ to add
emphasis to an interrogative pronoun, as in “Whoever told you that?” or
“Whatever do you mean?” and avoid the stronger ‘who the devil’ or ‘what
the dickens.’ For surprise we have the feminine exclamations ‘Good
gracious,’ ‘Gracious me,’ ‘Goodness gracious,’ ‘Dear me’ by the side of
the more masculine ‘Good heavens,’ ‘Great Scott.’ ‘To be sure’ is said
to be more frequent with women than with men. Such instances might be
multiplied, but these may suffice here. It will easily be seen that we
have here civilized counterparts of what was above mentioned as sexual
tabu; but it is worth noting that the interdiction in these cases is
ordained by the women themselves, or perhaps rather by the older among
them, while the young do not always willingly comply.

Men will certainly with great justice object that there is a danger of
the language becoming languid and insipid if we are always to content
ourselves with women’s expressions, and that vigour and vividness
count for something. Most boys and many men have a dislike to some
words merely because they feel that they are used by everybody and on
every occasion: they want to avoid what is commonplace and banal and
to replace it by new and fresh expressions, whose very newness imparts
to them a flavour of their own. Men thus become the chief renovators
of language, and to them are due those changes by which we sometimes
see one term replace an older one, to give way in turn to a still newer
one, and so on. Thus we see in English that the old verb _weorpan_,
corresponding to G. _werfen_, was felt as too weak and therefore
supplanted by _cast_, which was taken from Scandinavian; after some
centuries _cast_ was replaced by the stronger _throw_, and this now, in
the parlance of boys especially, is giving way to stronger expressions
like _chuck_ and _fling_. The old verbs, or at any rate _cast_, may
be retained in certain applications, more particularly in some fixed
combinations and in figurative significations, but it is now hardly
possible to say, as Shakespeare does, “They cast their caps up.” Many
such innovations on their first appearance are counted as slang, and
some never make their way into received speech; but I am not in this
connexion concerned with the distinction between slang and recognized
language, except in so far as the inclination or disinclination to
invent and to use slang is undoubtedly one of the “human secondary
sexual characters.” This is not invalidated by the fact that quite
recently, with the rise of the feminist movement, many young ladies
have begun to imitate their brothers in that as well as in other

XIII.--§ 8. Vocabulary.

This trait is indissolubly connected with another: the vocabulary of a
woman as a rule is much less extensive than that of a man. Women move
preferably in the central field of language, avoiding everything that
is out of the way or bizarre, while men will often either coin new
words or expressions or take up old-fashioned ones, if by that means
they are enabled, or think they are enabled, to find a more adequate
or precise expression for their thoughts. Woman as a rule follows the
main road of language, where man is often inclined to turn aside into a
narrow footpath or even to strike out a new path for himself. Most of
those who are in the habit of reading books in foreign languages will
have experienced a much greater average difficulty in books written
by male than by female authors, because they contain many more rare
words, dialect words, technical terms, etc. Those who want to learn a
foreign language will therefore always do well at the first stage to
read many ladies’ novels, because they will there continually meet with
just those everyday words and combinations which the foreigner is above
all in need of, what may be termed the indispensable small-change of a

This may be partly explicable from the education of women, which has
up to quite recent times been less comprehensive and technical than
that of men. But this does not account for everything, and certain
experiments made by the American professor Jastrow would tend to show
that we have here a trait that is independent of education. He asked
twenty-five university students of each sex, belonging to the same
class and thus in possession of the same preliminary training, to write
down as rapidly as possible a hundred words, and to record the time.
Words in sentences were not allowed. There were thus obtained 5,000
words, and of these many were of course the same. But the community of
thought was greater in the women; while the men used 1,375 different
words, their female class-mates used only 1,123. Of 1,266 unique words
used, 29·8 per cent. were male, only 20·8 per cent. female. The group
into which the largest number of the men’s words fell was the animal
kingdom; the group into which the largest number of the women’s words
fell was wearing apparel and fabrics; while the men used only 53
words belonging to the class of foods, the women used 179. “In general
the feminine traits revealed by this study are an attention to the
immediate surroundings, to the finished product, to the ornamental,
the individual, and the concrete; while the masculine preference is
for the more remote, the constructive, the useful, the general and the
abstract.” (See Havelock Ellis, _Man and Woman_, 4th ed., London, 1904,
p. 189.)

Another point mentioned by Jastrow is the tendency to select words
that rime and alliterative words; both these tendencies were decidedly
more marked in men than in women. This shows what we may also notice
in other ways, that men take greater interest in words as such and in
their acoustic properties, while women pay less attention to that side
of words and merely take them as they are, as something given once
for all. Thus it comes that some men are confirmed punsters, while
women are generally slow to see any point in a pun and scarcely ever
perpetrate one themselves. Or, to get to something of greater value:
the science of language has very few votaries among women, in spite
of the fact that foreign languages, long before the reform of female
education, belonged to those things which women learnt best in and out
of schools, because, like music and embroidery, they were reckoned
among the specially feminine ‘accomplishments.’

Woman is linguistically quicker than man: quicker to learn, quicker
to hear, and quicker to answer. A man is slower: he hesitates, he
chews the cud to make sure of the taste of words, and thereby comes to
discover similarities with and differences from other words, both in
sound and in sense, thus preparing himself for the appropriate use of
the fittest noun or adjective.

XIII.--§ 9. Adverbs.

While there are a few adjectives, such as _pretty_ and _nice_, that
might be mentioned as used more extensively by women than by men, there
are greater differences with regard to adverbs. Lord Chesterfield
wrote (_The World_, December 5, 1754): “Not contented with enriching
our language by words absolutely new, my fair countrywomen have gone
still farther, and improved it by the application and extension of old
ones to various and very different significations. They take a word
and change it, like a guinea into shillings for pocket-money, to be
employed in the several occasional purposes of the day. For instance,
the adjective _vast_ and its adverb _vastly_ mean anything, and are
the fashionable words of the most fashionable people. A fine woman ...
is _vastly_ obliged, or _vastly_ offended, _vastly_ glad, or _vastly_
sorry. Large objects are _vastly_ great, small ones are _vastly_
little; and I had lately the pleasure to hear a fine woman pronounce,
by a happy metonymy, a very small gold snuff-box, that was produced in
company, to be _vastly_ pretty, because it was so _vastly_ little.”
Even if that particular adverb to which Lord Chesterfield objected
has now to a great extent gone out of fashion, there is no doubt that
he has here touched on a distinctive trait: the fondness of women for
hyperbole will very often lead the fashion with regard to adverbs
of intensity, and these are very often used with disregard of their
proper meaning, as in German _riesig klein_, English _awfully pretty_,
_terribly nice_, French _rudement joli_, _affreusement délicieux_,
Danish _rædsom morsom_ (horribly amusing), Russian _strast’ kakoy
lovkiy_ (terribly able), etc. _Quite_, also, in the sense of ‘very,’
as in ‘she was quite charming; it makes me quite angry,’ is, according
to Fitzedward Hall, due to the ladies. And I suspect that _just sweet_
(as in Barrie: “Grizel thought it was just sweet of him”) is equally
characteristic of the usage of the fair sex.

There is another intensive which has also something of the eternally
feminine about it, namely _so_. I am indebted to Stoffel (Int. 101)
for the following quotation from _Punch_ (January 4, 1896): “This
little adverb is a great favourite with ladies, in conjunction with an
adjective. For instance, they are very fond of using such expressions
as ‘He is _so_ charming!’ ‘It is _so_ lovely!’ etc.” Stoffel adds the
following instances of strongly intensive _so_ as highly characteristic
of ladies’ usage: ‘Thank you _so_ much!’ ‘It was _so_ kind of you to
think of it!’ ‘That’s _so_ like you!’ ‘I’m _so_ glad you’ve come!’ ‘The
bonnet is _so_ lovely!’

The explanation of this characteristic feminine usage is, I think,
that women much more often than men break off without finishing their
sentences, because they start talking without having thought out what
they are going to say; the sentence ‘I’m so glad you’ve come’ really
requires some complement in the shape of a clause with _that_, ‘so glad
that I really must kiss you,’ or, ‘so glad that I must treat you to
something extra,’ or whatever the consequence may be. But very often it
is difficult in a hurry to hit upon something adequate to say, and ‘so
glad that I cannot express it’ frequently results in the inexpressible
remaining unexpressed, and when that experiment has been repeated time
after time, the linguistic consequence is that a strongly stressed _so_
acquires the force of ‘very much indeed.’ It is the same with _such_,
as in the following two extracts from a modern novel (in both it is a
lady who is speaking): “Poor Kitty! she has been in _such_ a state of
mind,” and “Do you know that you look _such_ a duck this afternoon....
This hat suits you _so_--you are _such_ a _grande dame_ in it.” Exactly
the same thing has happened with Danish _så_ and _sådan_, G. _so_ and
_solch_; also with French _tellement_, though there perhaps not to the
same extent as in English.

We have the same phenomenon with _to a degree_, which properly requires
to be supplemented with something that tells us what the degree is, but
is frequently left by itself, as in ‘His second marriage was irregular
to a degree.’

XIII.--§ 10. Periods.

The frequency with which women thus leave their exclamatory sentences
half-finished might be exemplified from many passages in our novelists
and dramatists. I select a few quotations. The first is from the
beginning of _Vanity Fair_: “This almost caused Jemima to faint with
terror. ‘Well, I never,’ said she. ‘What an audacious’--emotion
prevented her from completing either sentence.” Next from one of
Hankin’s plays. “Mrs. Eversleigh: I must say! (but words fail her).”
And finally from Compton Mackenzie’s _Poor Relations_: “‘The trouble
you must have taken,’ Hilda exclaimed.” These quotations illustrate
types of sentences which are becoming so frequent that they would seem
soon to deserve a separate chapter in modern grammars, ‘Did you ever?’
‘Well, I never!’ being perhaps the most important of these ‘stop-short’
or ‘pull-up’ sentences, as I think they might be termed.

These sentences are the linguistic symptoms of a peculiarity of
feminine psychology which has not escaped observation. Meredith says
of one of his heroines: “She thought in blanks, as girls do, and some
women,” and Hardy singularizes one of his by calling her “that novelty
among women--one who finished a thought before beginning the sentence
which was to convey it.”

The same point is seen in the typical way in which the two sexes build
up their sentences and periods; but here, as so often in this chapter,
we cannot establish absolute differences, but only preferences that may
be broken in a great many instances and yet are characteristic of the
sexes as such. If we compare long periods as constructed by men and by
women, we shall in the former find many more instances of intricate or
involute structures with clause within clause, a relative clause in the
middle of a conditional clause or vice versa, with subordination and
sub-subordination, while the typical form of long feminine periods is
that of co-ordination, one sentence or clause being added to another
on the same plane and the gradation between the respective ideas being
marked not grammatically, but emotionally, by stress and intonation,
and in writing by underlining. In learned terminology we may say that
men are fond of hypotaxis and women of parataxis. Or we may use the
simile that a male period is often like a set of Chinese boxes, one
within another, while a feminine period is like a set of pearls joined
together on a string of _ands_ and similar words. In a Danish comedy a
young girl is relating what has happened to her at a ball, when she is
suddenly interrupted by her brother, who has slyly taken out his watch
and now exclaims: “I declare! you have said _and then_ fifteen times in
less than two and a half minutes.”

XIII.--§ 11. General Characteristics.

The greater rapidity of female thought is shown linguistically, among
other things, by the frequency with which a woman will use a pronoun
like _he_ or _she_, not of the person last mentioned, but of somebody
else to whom her thoughts have already wandered, while a man with his
slower intellect will think that she is still moving on the same path.
The difference in rapidity of perception has been tested experimentally
by Romanes: the same paragraph was presented to various well-educated
persons, who were asked to read it as rapidly as they could, ten
seconds being allowed for twenty lines. As soon as the time was up the
paragraph was removed, and the reader immediately wrote down all that
he or she could remember of it. It was found that women were usually
more successful than men in this test. Not only were they able to
read more quickly than the men, but they were able to give a better
account of the paragraph as a whole. One lady, for instance, could
read exactly four times as fast as her husband, and even then give
a better account than he of that small portion of the paragraph he
had alone been able to read. But it was found that this rapidity was
no proof of intellectual power, and some of the slowest readers were
highly distinguished men. Ellis (_Man and W._ 195) explains this in
this way: with the quick reader it is as though every statement were
admitted immediately and without inspection to fill the vacant chambers
of the mind, while with the slow reader every statement undergoes an
instinctive process of cross-examination; every new fact seems to stir
up the accumulated stores of facts among which it intrudes, and so
impedes rapidity of mental action.

This reminds me of one of Swift’s “Thoughts on Various Subjects”: “The
common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is owing to the
scarcity of matter, and scarcity of words; for whoever is a master of
language, and hath a mind full of ideas, will be apt in speaking to
hesitate upon the choice of both: whereas common speakers have only one
set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in; and these are
always ready at the mouth. So people come faster out of a church when
it is almost empty, than when a crowd is at the door” (_Works_, Dublin,
1735, i. 305).

The volubility of women has been the subject of innumerable jests: it
has given rise to popular proverbs in many countries,[55] as well as
to Aurora Leigh’s resigned “A woman’s function plainly is--to talk”
and Oscar Wilde’s sneer, “Women are a decorative sex. They never have
anything to say, but they say it charmingly.” A woman’s thought is no
sooner formed than uttered. Says Rosalind, “Do you not know I am a
woman? when I think, I must speak” (_As You Like It_, III. 2. 264). And
in a modern novel a young girl says: “I talk so as to find out what I
think. Don’t you? Some things one can’t judge of till one hears them
spoken” (Housman, _John of Jingalo_, 346).

The superior readiness of speech of women is a concomitant of the fact
that their vocabulary is smaller and more central than that of men. But
this again is connected with another indubitable fact, that women do
not reach the same extreme points as men, but are nearer the average
in most respects. Havelock Ellis, who establishes this in various
fields, rightly remarks that the statement that genius is undeniably
of more frequent occurrence among men than among women has sometimes
been regarded by women as a slur upon their sex, but that it does not
appear that women have been equally anxious to find fallacies in the
statement that idiocy is more common among men. Yet the two statements
must be taken together. Genius is more common among men by virtue of
the same general tendency by which idiocy is more common among men. The
two facts are but two aspects of a larger zoological fact--the greater
variability of the male (_Man and W._ 420).

In language we see this very clearly: the highest linguistic genius
and the lowest degree of linguistic imbecility are very rarely found
among women. The greatest orators, the most famous literary artists,
have been men; but it may serve as a sort of consolation to the other
sex that there are a much greater number of men than of women who
cannot put two words together intelligibly, who stutter and stammer and
hesitate, and are unable to find suitable expressions for the simplest
thought. Between these two extremes the woman moves with a sure and
supple tongue which is ever ready to find words and to pronounce them
in a clear and intelligible manner.

Nor are the reasons far to seek why such differences should have
developed. They are mainly dependent on the division of labour enjoined
in primitive tribes and to a great extent also among more civilized
peoples. For thousands of years the work that especially fell to men
was such as demanded an intense display of energy for a comparatively
short period, mainly in war and in hunting. Here, however, there was
not much occasion to talk, nay, in many circumstances talk might even
be fraught with danger. And when that rough work was over, the man
would either sleep or idle his time away, inert and torpid, more or
less in silence. Woman, on the other hand, had a number of domestic
occupations which did not claim such an enormous output of spasmodic
energy. To her was at first left not only agriculture, and a great
deal of other work which in more peaceful times was taken over by men;
but also much that has been till quite recently her almost exclusive
concern--the care of the children, cooking, brewing, baking, sewing,
washing, etc.,--things which for the most part demanded no deep
thought, which were performed in company and could well be accompanied
with a lively chatter. Lingering effects of this state of things are
seen still, though great social changes are going on in our times which
may eventually modify even the linguistic relations of the two sexes.


[53] “_Ai_ is the man’s diphthong, and soundeth full: _ei_, the
woman’s, and soundeth finish [i.e. fineish] in the same both sense,
and vse, _a woman is deintie, and feinteth soon, the man fainteth
not bycause he is nothing daintie_.” Thus what is now distinctive of
refined as opposed to vulgar pronunciation was then characteristic of
the fair sex.

[54] There are great differences with regard to swearing between
different nations; but I think that in those countries and in those
circles in which swearing is common it is found much more extensively
among men than among women: this at any rate is true of Denmark. There
is, however, a general social movement against swearing, and now there
are many men who never swear. A friend writes to me: “The best English
men hardly swear at all.... I imagine some of our fashionable women now
swear as much as the men they consort with.”

[55] “Où femme y a, silence n’y a.” “Deux femmes font un plaid, trois
un grand caquet, quatre un plein marché.” “Due donne e un’ oca fanno
una fiera” (Venice). “The tongue is the sword of a woman, and she never
lets it become rusty” (China). “The North Sea will sooner be found
wanting in water than a woman at a loss for a word” (Jutland).



  § 1. Anatomy. § 2. Geography. § 3. National Psychology. § 4. Speed
  of Utterance. § 5. Periods of Rapid Change. § 6. The Ease Theory.
  § 7. Sounds in Connected Speech. § 8. Extreme Weakenings. § 9. The
  Principle of Value. § 10. Application to Case System, etc. § 11.
  Stress Phenomena. § 12. Non-phonetic Changes.

XIV.--§ 1. Anatomy.

In accordance with the programme laid down in the opening paragraph of
Book III, we shall now deal in detail with those linguistic changes
which are not due to transference to new individuals. The chapter on
woman’s language has served as a kind of bridge between the two main
divisions, in so far as the first sections treated of those women’s
dialects which were, or were supposed to be, due to the influence of

Many theories have been advanced to explain the indubitable fact that
languages change in course of time. Some scholars have thought that
there ought to be one fundamental cause working in all instances,
while others, more sensibly, have maintained that a variety of causes
have been and are at work, and that it is not easy to determine
which of them has been decisive in each observed case of change. The
greatest attention has been given to phonetic change, and in reading
some theorists one might almost fancy that sounds were the only thing
changeable, or at any rate that phonetic changes were the only ones in
language which had to be accounted for. Let us now examine some of the
theories advanced.

Sometimes it is asserted that sound changes must have their cause in
changes in the anatomical structure of the articulating organs. This
theory, however, need not detain us long (see the able discussion in
Oertel, p. 194 ff.), for no facts have been alleged to support it, and
one does not see why small anatomical variations should cause changes
so long as any teacher of languages on the phonetic method is able to
teach his pupils practically every speech sound, even those that their
own native language has been without for centuries. Besides, many
phonetic changes do not at all lead to new sounds being developed or
old ones lost, but simply to the old sounds being used in new places
or disused in some of the places where they were formerly found. Some
tribes have a custom of mutilating their lips or teeth, and that of
course must have caused changes in their pronunciation, which are said
to have persisted even after the custom was given up. Thus, according
to Meinhof (MSA 60) the Yao women insert a big wooden disk within the
upper lip, which makes it impossible for them to pronounce [f], and
as it is the women that teach their children to speak, the sound of
[f] has disappeared from the language, though now it is beginning to
reappear in loan-words. It is clear, however, that such customs can
have exercised only the very slightest influence on language in general.

XIV.--§ 2. Geography.

Some scholars have believed in an influence exercised by climatic
or geographical conditions on the character of the sound system,
instancing as evidence the harsh consonants found in the languages of
the Caucasus as contrasted with the pleasanter sounds heard in regions
more favoured by nature. But this influence cannot be established as
a general rule. “The aboriginal inhabitants of the north-west coast
of America found subsistence relatively easy in a country abounding
in many forms of edible marine life; nor can they be said to have
been subjected to rigorous climatic conditions; yet in phonetic
harshness their languages rival those of the Caucasus. On the other
hand, perhaps no people has ever been subjected to a more forbidding
physical environment than the Eskimos, yet the Eskimo language not
only impresses one as possessed of a relatively agreeable phonetic
system when compared with the languages of the north-west coast,
but may even be thought to compare favourably with American Indian
languages generally” (Sapir, _American Anthropologist_, XIV (1912),
234). It would also on this theory be difficult to account for the very
considerable linguistic changes which have taken place in historical
times in many countries whose climate, etc., cannot during the same
period have changed correspondingly.

A geographical theory of sound-shifting was advanced by Heinrich
Meyer-Benfey in _Zeitschr. f. deutsches Altert._ 45 (1901), and has
recently been taken up by H. Collitz in _Amer. Journal of Philol._
39 (1918), p. 413. Consonant shifting is chiefly found in mountain
regions; this is most obvious in the High German shift, which started
from the Alpine district of Southern Germany. After leaving the region
of the high mountains it gradually decreases in strength; yet it
keeps on extending, with steadily diminishing energy, over part of
the area of the Franconian dialects. But having reached the plains
of Northern Germany, the movement stops. The same theory applies to
languages in which a similar shifting is found, e.g. Old and Modern
Armenian, the Soho language in South Africa, etc. “However strange it
may appear at the first glance,” says Collitz, “that certain consonant
changes should depend on geographical surroundings, the connexion is
easily understood. The change of media to tenuis and that of tenuis to
affricate or aspirate are linked together by a common feature, viz.
an increase in the intensity of expiration. As the common cause of
both these shiftings we may therefore regard a change in the manner in
which breath is used for pronunciation. The habitual use of a larger
volume of breath means an increased activity of the lungs. Here we have
reached the point where the connexion with geographical or climatic
conditions is clear, because nobody will deny that residence in the
mountains, especially in the high mountains, stimulates the lungs.”

When this theory was first brought to my notice, I wrote a short
footnote on it (PhG 176), in which I treated it with perhaps too little
respect, merely mentioning the fact that my countrymen, the Danes, in
their flat country were developing exactly the same shift as the High
Germans (making _p_, _t_, _k_ into strongly aspirated or affricated
sounds and unvoicing _b_, _d_, _g_); I then asked ironically whether
that might be a consequence of the indubitable fact that an increasing
number of Danes every summer go to Switzerland and Norway for their
holidays. And even now, after the theory has been endorsed by so able
an advocate as Collitz, I fail to see how it can hold water. The
induction seems faulty on both sides, for the shift is found among
peoples living in plains, and on the other hand it is not shared by all
mountain peoples--for example, not by the Italian and Ladin speaking
neighbours of the High Germans in the Alps. Besides, the physiological
explanation is not impeccable, for walking in the mountains affects
the way in which we breathe, that is, it primarily affects the lungs,
but the change in the consonants is primarily one not in the lungs,
but in the glottis; as the connexion between these two things is not
necessary, the whole reasoning is far from being cogent. At any rate,
the theory can only with great difficulty be applied to the first
Gothonic shift, for how do we know that that started in mountainous
regions? and who knows whether the sounds actually found as _f_, _þ_
and _h_ for original _p_, _t_, _k_, had first been aspirated and
affricated stops? It seems much more probable that the transition was a
direct one, through slackening and opening of the stoppage, but in that
case it has nothing to do with the lungs or way of breathing.

XIV.--§ 3. National Psychology.

We are much more likely to ‘burn,’ as the children say, when, instead
of looking for the cause in such outward circumstances, we try to find
it in the psychology of those who initiate the change. But this does
not amount to endorsing all the explanations of this kind which have
found favour with linguists. Thus, since the times of Grimm it has
been usual to ascribe the well-known consonant shift to psychological
traits believed to be characteristic of the Germans. Grimm says that
the sound shift is a consequence of the progressive tendency and desire
of liberty found in the Germans (GDS 292); it is due to their courage
and pride in the period of the great migration of tribes (ib. 306):
“When quiet and morality returned, the sounds remained, and it may be
reckoned as evidence of the superior gentleness and moderation of the
Gothic, Saxon and Scandinavian tribes that they contented themselves
with the first shift, while the wilder force of the High Germans was
impelled to the second shift.” (Thus also Westphal.) Curtius finds
energy and juvenile vigour in the Germanic sound shift (KZ 2. 331,
1852). Müllenhof saw in the transition from _p_, _t_, _k_ to _f_,
_þ_, _h_ a sign of weakening, the Germans having apparently lost
the power of pronouncing the hard stops; while further, the giving
up of the aspirated _ph_, _th_, _kh_, _bh_, _dh_, _gh_ was due to
enervation or indolence. But the succeeding transition from the old
_b_, _d_, _g_ to _p_, _t_, _k_ showed that they had afterwards pulled
themselves together to new exertions, and the regularity with which all
these changes were carried through evidenced a great steadiness and
persevering force (_Deutsche Altertumsk._ 2. 197). His disciple Wilhelm
Scherer saw in the whole history of the German language alternating
periods of rise and decline in popular taste; he looked upon sound
changes from the æsthetic point of view and ascribed the (second)
consonant shift to a feminine period in which consonants were neglected
because the nation took pleasure in vocalic sounds.

XIV.--§ 4. Speed of Utterance.

Wundt gives a different though somewhat related explanation of the
Germanic shift as due to a “revolution in culture, as the subjugation
of a native population through warlike immigrants, with resulting new
organization of the State” (S 1. 424): this increased the speed of
utterance, and he tries in detail to show that increased speed leads
naturally to just those changes in consonants which are found in the
Gothonic shift (1. 420 ff.). But even if we admit that the average
speed of talking (tempo der rede) is now probably greater than
formerly, the whole theory is built up on so many doubtful or even
manifestly incorrect details both in linguistic history and in general
phonetic theory that it cannot be accepted. It does not account for the
actual facts of the consonant shifts; moreover, it is difficult to see
why such phenomena as this shift, if they were dependent on the speed
of utterance, should occur only at these particular historical times
and within comparatively narrow geographical limits, for there is much
to be said for the view that in all periods the speech of the Western
nations has been constantly gaining in rapidity as life in general has
become accelerated, and in no period probably more than during the last
century, which has witnessed no radical consonant shift in any of the
leading civilized nations.

XIV.--§ 5. Periods of Rapid Change.

All these theories, different though they are in detail, have this
in common, that they endeavour to explain one particular change, or
set of changes, from one particular psychological trait supposed to
be prevalent at the time when the change took place, but they fail
because we are not able scientifically to demonstrate any intimate
connexion between the pronunciation of particular sounds and a certain
state of mind, and also because our knowledge of the fluctuations
of collective psychology is still so very imperfect. But it is
interesting to contrast these theories with the explanation of the
very same sound shifts mentioned in a previous chapter (XI), and
there shown to be equally unsatisfactory, the explanation, namely,
that the fundamental cause of the consonant shift is to be found in
the peculiar pronunciation of an aboriginal population. In both cases
the Gothonic shifts are singled out, because since the time of Grimm
the attention of scholars has been focused on these changes more than
on any others--they are looked upon as changes _sui generis_, and
therefore requiring a special explanation, such as is not thought
necessary in the case of the innumerable minor changes that fill most
of the pages of the phonological section of any historical grammar.
But the sober truth seems to be that these shifts are not different
in kind from those that have made, say, Fr. _sève_, _frère_, _chien_,
_ciel_, _faire_, _changer_ out of Lat. _sapa_, _fratrem_, _canem_,
_kælum_, _fakere_, _cambiare_, etc., or those that have changed the
English vowels in _fate_, _feet_, _fight_, _foot_, _out_ from what they
were when the letters which denote them still had their ‘continental’
values. Our main endeavour, therefore, must be to find out general
reasons why sounds should not always remain unchanged. This seems more
important, at any rate as a preliminary investigation, than attempting
offhand to assign particular reasons why in such and such a century
this or that sound was changed in some particular way.

If, however, we find a particular period especially fertile in
linguistic changes (phonetic, morphological, semantic, or all at once),
it is quite natural that we should turn our attention to the social
state of the community at that time in order, if possible, to discover
some specially favouring circumstances. I am thinking especially of
two kinds of condition which may operate. In the first place, the
influence of parents, and grown-up people generally, may be less than
usual, because an unusual number of parents may be away from home, as
in great wars of long duration, or may have been killed off, as in the
great plagues; cf. also what was said above of children left to shift
for themselves in certain favoured regions of North America (Ch. X §
7). Secondly, there may be periods in which the ordinary restraints on
linguistic change make themselves less felt than usual, because the
whole community is animated by a strong feeling of independence and
wants to break loose from social ties of many kinds, including those
of a powerful school organization or literary tradition. This probably
was the case with North America in the latter half of the eighteenth
century, when the new nation wished to manifest its independence of
old England and therefore, among other things, was inclined to throw
overboard that respect for linguistic authority which under normal
conditions makes for conservatism. If the divergence between American
and British English is not greater than it actually is, this is
probably due partly to the continual influx of immigrants from the old
country, and partly to that increased facility of communication between
the two countries in recent times which has made mutual linguistic
influence possible to an extent formerly undreamt-of. But in the
case of the Romanic languages both of the conditions mentioned were
operating: during the centuries in which they were framed and underwent
the strongest differentiation, wars with the intruding ‘barbarians’
and a series of destructive plagues kept away or killed a great many
grown-up people, and at the same time each country released itself from
the centralizing influence of Rome, which in the first centuries of the
Christian era had been very powerful in keeping up a fairly uniform
and conservative pronunciation and phraseology throughout the whole
Empire.[56] There were thus at that time various forces at work which,
taken together, are quite sufficient to explain the wide divergence in
linguistic structure that separated French, Provençal, Spanish, etc.,
from classical Latin (cf. above, XI § 8, p. 206).

In the history of English, one of the periods most fertile in change
is the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries: the wars with France, the
Black Death (which is said to have killed off about one-third of the
population) and similar pestilences, insurrections like those of Wat
Tyler and Jack Cade, civil wars like those of the Roses, decimated the
men and made home-life difficult and unsettled. In the Scandinavian
languages the Viking age is probably the period that witnessed the
greatest linguistic changes--if I am right, not, as has sometimes been
said, on account of the heroic character of the period and the violent
rise in self-respect or self-assertion, but for the more prosaic reason
that the men were absent and the women had other things to attend to
than their children’s linguistic education. I am also inclined to think
that the unparalleled rapidity with which, during the last hundred
years, the vulgar speech of English cities has been differentiated
from the language of the educated classes (nearly all long vowels
being shifted, etc.) finds its natural explanation in the unexampled
misery of child-life among industrial workers in the first half of the
last century--one of the most disgraceful blots on our overpraised

XIV.--§ 6. The Ease Theory.

If we now turn to the actuating principles that determine the general
changeability of human speech habits, we shall find that the moving
power everywhere is an impetus starting from the individual, and that
there is a curbing power in the mere fact that language exists not for
the individual alone, but for the whole community. The whole history
of language is, as it were, a tug-of-war between these two principles,
each of which gains victories in turn.

First of all we must make up our minds with regard to the disputed
question whether the changes of language go in the direction of
greater ease, in other words, whether they manifest a tendency
towards economy of effort. The prevalent opinion among the older
school was that the chief tendency was, in Whitney’s words, “to make
things easy to our organs of speech, to economize time and effort
in the work of expression” (L 28). Curtius very emphatically states
that “Bequemlichkeit ist und bleibt der hauptanlass des lautwandels
unter allen umständen” (_Griech. etym._ 23; cf. C 7). But Leskien,
Sievers, and since them other recent writers, hold the opposite view
(see quotations and summaries in Oertel 204 f., Wechssler L 88 f.),
and their view has prevailed to the extent that Sütterlin (WW 33)
characterizes the old view as “empty talk,” “a wrong scent,” and
“worthless subterfuges now rejected by our science.”

Such strong words may, however, be out of place, for is it so very
foolish to think that men in this, as in all other respects, tend to
follow ‘the line of least resistance’ and to get off with as little
exertion as possible? The question is only whether this universal
tendency can be shown to prevail in those phonetic changes which are
dealt with in linguistic history.

Sütterlin thinks it enough to mention some sound changes in which
the new sound is more difficult than the old; these being admitted,
he concludes (and others have said the same thing) that those other
instances in which the new sound is evidently easier than the old one
cannot be explained by the principle of ease. But it seems clear that
this conclusion is not valid: the correct inference can only be that
the tendency towards ease may be at work in some cases, though not in
all, because there are other forces which may at times neutralize it or
prove stronger than it. We shall meet a similar all-or-nothing fallacy
in the chapter on Sound Symbolism.

Now, it is sometimes said that natives do not feel any difficulty in
the sounds of their own language, however difficult these may be to
foreigners. This is quite true if we speak of a _conscious_ perception
of this or that sound being difficult to produce; but it is no less
true that the act of speaking always requires some exertion, muscular
as well as psychical, on the part of the speaker, and that he is
therefore apt on many occasions to speak with as little effort as
possible, often with the result that his voice is not loud enough, or
that his words become indistinct if he does not move his tongue, lips,
etc., with the required precision or force. You may as well say that
when once one has learnt the art of writing, it is no longer any effort
to form one’s letters properly; and yet how many written communications
do we not receive in which many of the letters are formed so badly that
we can do little but guess from the context what each form is meant
for! There can be no doubt that the main direction of change in the
development of our written alphabet has been towards forms requiring
less and less exertion--and similar causes have led to analogous
results in the development of spoken sounds.

It is not always easy to decide which of two articulations is the
easier one, and opinions may in some instances differ--we may also
find in two neighbouring nations opposite phonetic developments, each
of which may perhaps be asserted by speakers of the language to be in
the direction of greater ease. “To judge of the difficulty of muscular
activity, the muscular quantity at play cannot serve as an absolute
measure. Is [d] absolutely more awkward to produce than [ð]? When a man
is running full tilt, it is under certain circumstances easier for him
to rush against the wall than to stop suddenly at some distance from
it: when the tongue is in motion, it may be easier for it to thrust
itself against the roof of the mouth or the teeth, i.e. to form a stop
(a plosive), than to halt at a millimetre’s distance, i.e. to form a
fricative” (Verner 78). In the same sense I wrote in 1904: “Many an
articulation which obviously requires greater muscular movements is yet
easier of execution than another in which the movement is less, but has
to be carried out with greater precision: it requires less effort to
chip wood than to operate for cataract” (PhG 181).

In other cases, however, no such doubt is possible: [s], [f] or [x]
require more muscular exertion than [h], and a replacement of one of
them by [h] therefore necessarily means a lessening of effort. Now, I
am firmly convinced that whenever a phonologist finds one of these oral
fricatives standing regularly in one language against [h] in another,
he will at once take the former sound to be the original and [h] to
be the derived sound: an indisputable indication that the instinctive
feeling of all linguists is still in favour of the view that a movement
towards the easier sound is the rule, and not the exception.

In thus taking up the cudgels for the ease theory I am not afraid of
hearing the objection that I ascribe too great power to human laziness,
indolence, inertia, shirking, easygoingness, sloth, sluggishness, lack
of energy, or whatever other beautiful synonyms have been invented for
‘economy of effort’ or ‘following the line of least resistance.’ The
fact remains that there _is_ such a ‘tendency’ in all human beings, and
by taking it into account in explaining changes of sound we are doing
nothing else than applying here the same principle that attributes many
simplifications of form to ‘analogy’: we see the same psychological
force at work in the two different domains of phonetics and morphology.

It is, of course, no serious objection to this view that if this had
been always the direction of change, speaking must have been uncommonly
troublesome to our earliest ancestors[57]--who says it wasn’t?--or
that “if certain combinations were really irksome in themselves, why
should they have been attempted at all; why should they often have been
maintained so long?” (Oertel 204)--as if people at a remote age had
been able to compare consciously two articulations and to choose the
easier one! Neither in language nor in any other activity has mankind
at once hit upon the best or easiest expedients.

XIV.--§ 7. Sounds in Connected Speech.

In the great majority of linguistic changes we have to consider the
ease or difficulty, not of the isolated sound, but of the sound in
that particular conjunction with other sounds in which it occurs in
words.[58] Thus in the numerous phenomena comprised under the name of
assimilation. There is an interesting account in the _Proceedings of
the Philological Society_ (December 17, 1886) of a discussion of these
problems, in which Sweet, while maintaining that “cases of saving of
effort were very rare or non-existent” and that “all the ordinary
sounds of language were about on a par as to difficulty of production,”
said that assimilation “sprang from the desire to save space in
articulation and secure ease of transition. Thus _pn_ became _pm_, or
else _mn_.” But in both these changes there is saving of effort, for
in the former the movement of the tip of the tongue required for [n],
and in the latter the movement of the soft palate required for [p],
is done away with[59]: the term “saving of space” can have no other
meaning than economy of muscular energy. And the same is true of what
Sweet terms “saving of time,” which he finds effected by dropping
superfluous sounds, especially at the end of words, e.g. [g] after [ŋ]
in E. _sing_. Here, of course, one articulation (of the velum) is saved
and this need not even be accompanied by the saving of any time, for in
such cases the remaining sound is often lengthened so as to make up for
the loss.[60]

If, then, all assimilations are to be counted as instances of saving
of effort, it is worth noting that a great many phonetic changes
which are not always given under the heading of assimilation should
really be looked upon as such. If Lat. _saponem_ yields Fr. _savon_,
this is the result of a whole series of assimilations: first [p]
becomes [b], because the vocal vibrations continue from the vowel
before to the vowel after the consonant, the opening of the glottis
being thus saved; then the transition of [b] to [v] between vowels may
be considered a partial assimilation to the open lip position of the
vowels; the vowel [o] is nasalized in consequence of an assimilation
to the nasal [n] (anticipation of the low position of the velum), and
the subsequent dropping of the consonant [n] is a clear case of a
different kind of assimilation (saving of a tip movement); at an early
stage the two final sounds of _saponem_ had disappeared, first [m] and
later the indistinct vowel resulting from _e_: whether we reckon these
disappearances as assimilations or not, at any rate they constitute
a saving of effort. All droppings of sounds, whether consonants (as
_t_ in E. _castle_, _postman_, etc.) or vowels (as in E. _p’rhaps_,
_bus’ness_, etc.), are to be viewed in the same light, and thus by
their enormous number in the history of all languages form a strong
argument in favour of the ease theory.

There is one more thing to be considered which is generally overlooked.
In such assimilations as It. _otto_, _sette_, from _octo_, _septem_,
a greater ease is effected not only by the assimilation as such, by
which one of the consonants is dropped--for that would have been
obtained just as well if the result had been _occo_, _seppe_--but also
by the fact that it is the tip action which has been retained in both
cases, for the tip of the tongue is much more flexible and more easily
moved than either the lips or the back of the tongue. On the whole,
many sound changes show how the tip is favoured at the cost of other
organs, thus in the frequent transition of final _-m_ to _-n_, found,
for instance, in old Gothonic, in Middle English, in ancient Greek, in
Balto-Slavic, in Finnish and in Chinese.

In the discussion referred to above Sweet was seconded by Lecky, who
said that “assimilations vastly multiplied the number of elementary
sounds in a language, and therefore could not be described as
facilitating pronunciation.” This is a great exaggeration, for in
the vast majority of instances assimilation introduces no new sounds
at all (see, for instance, the lists in my LPh ch. xi.). Lecky was
probably thinking of such instances as when [k, g] before front vowels
become [tʃ, dʒ] or similar combinations, or when mutation caused by
[i] changes [u, o] into [y, ø], which sounds were not previously found
in the language. Here we might perhaps say that those individuals
who for the sake of their own ease introduced new sounds made things
more difficult for coming generations (though even that is not quite
certain), and the case would then be analogous to that of a man who
has learnt a foreign expression for a new idea and then introduces it
into his own language, thus burdening his countrymen with a new word
instead of thinking how the same idea might have been rendered by means
of native speech-material--in both cases a momentary alleviation is
obtained at the cost of a permanent disadvantage, but neither case can
be alleged against the view that the prevalent tendency among human
beings is to prefer the easiest and shortest cut.

XIV.--§ 8. Extreme Weakenings.

When this lazy tendency is indulged to the full, the result is an
indistinct protracted vocal murmur, with here and there possibly one
or other sound (most often an _s_) rising to the surface: think, for
instance, of the way in which we often hear grace said, prayers mumbled
and other similar formulas muttered inarticulately, with half-closed
lips and the least possible movement of the rest of the vocal organs.
This is tolerated more or less in cases in which the utterance is
hardly meant as a communication to any human being; otherwise it will
generally be met with a request to repeat what has been said, the
social curb being thus applied to the easygoing tendencies of the
individual. Now, as a matter of fact, there are in every language a
certain number of word-forms that can only be explained by this very
laziness in pronouncing, which in extreme cases leads to complete

Russian _sudar’_ (_gosudar’_), ‘sir,’ is colloquially shortened into
a mere _s_, which may in subservient speech be added to almost any
word as a meaningless enclitic. And curiously enough the same sound is
used in exactly the same way in conversational Spanish, as _buenos_
for _bueno_ ‘good,’ only here it is a weakening of _señor_ (Hanssen,
_Span. gramm._ 60): thus two entirely different words, from identical
psychological motives, yield the same result in two distant countries.
Fr. _monsieur_, instead of [mɔ̃sjœ·r], as might be expected, sounds
[mɔsjø] and extremely frequently [msjø] and even [psjø], with a
transition not otherwise found in French. _Madame_ before a name is
very often shortened into [mam]; in English the same word becomes
a single sound in _yes’m_. The weakening of _mistress_ into _miss_
and the old-fashioned _mas_ for _master_ also belong here, as do It.
forms for _signore_, _signora_: _gnor si_, _gnor no_, _gnora si_,
_sor Luigi_, _la sora sposa_, and Sp. _usted_ ‘you’ for _vuestra
merced_. Formulas of greeting and of politeness are liable to similar
truncations, e.g. E. _how d(e) do_, Dan. [gda’] or even [da’] for
_goddag_, G. [gmɔ̃in, gmɔ̃] for _guten morgen_, [na·mt] for _guten
abend_; Fr. _s’il vous plaît_ often becomes [siuplɛ, splɛ], and the
synonymous Dan. _vær så god_ is shortened into _værsgo_, of which
often only [sgo’] remains. In Russian popular speech some small words
are frequently inserted as a vague indication that the utterance or
idea belongs to some one else: _griu_, _grit_, _grim_, _gril_, various
mutilated forms of the verb _govorit’_ ‘say,’ _mol_ from _molvit’_
‘speak,’ _de_ from _dejati_ (Boyer et Speranski, _Manuel_ 293 ff.); cp.
the obsolete E. _co_, _quo_, for _quoth_. In all the Balkan languages
a particle _vre_ is extensively used, which Hatzidakis has explained
from the vocative of OGr. _mōrós_. Modern Gr. _thà_ is now a particle
of futurity, but originates in _thená_, from _thélei_, ‘he will’ + _nà_
from _hína_, ‘that.’ These examples must suffice to show that we have
here to do with a universal tendency in all languages.

XIV.--§ 9. The Principle of Value.

To explain such deviations from normal phonetic development some
scholars have assumed that a word or form in frequent use is liable to
suffer exceptional treatment. Thus Vilhelm Thomsen, in his brilliant
paper (1879) on the Romanic verb _andare_, _andar_, _anar_, _aller_,
which he explains convincingly from Lat. _ambulare_, says that this
verb “belongs to a group of words which in all languages stand as
it were without the pale of the laws, that is, words which from
their frequent employment are exposed to far more violent changes
than other words, and therefore to some extent follow paths of their
own.”[61] Schuchardt (_Ueber die lautgesetze_, 1885) turned upon
the ‘young grammarians,’ Paul among the rest, who did not recognize
this principle, and said that one word (or one sound) may need
10,000 repetitions in order to be changed into another one, and that
consequently another word, which in the same time is used only 8,000
times, must be behindhand in its phonetic development. Quite apart from
the fact that this number is evidently too small (for a moderately
loquacious woman will easily pronounce such a word as _he_ half a dozen
times as often as these figures every year), it is obvious that the
reasoning must be wrong, for were frequency the only decisive factor,
G. _morgen_ would have been treated in every other connexion exactly
as it is in _guten morgen_, and that is just what has not happened.
Frequency of repetition would in itself tend to render the habitude
firmly rooted, thus really capable of resisting change, rather than
the opposite; and instead of the purely mechanical explanation from
the number of times a word is repeated, we must look for a more
psychological explanation. This naturally must be found in the ease
with which a word is understood in the given connexion or situation,
and especially in its worthlessness for the purpose of communication.
Worthlessness, however, is not the moving power, but merely the
reason why less restraint than usual is imposed on the ever-present
inclination of speakers to minimize effort. A parallel from another,
though cognate, sphere of human activity may perhaps bring out my
point of view more clearly. The taking off of one’s hat, combined
with a low bow, served from the first to mark a more or less servile
submissiveness to a prince or conqueror; then the gesture was gradually
weakened, and a slight raising of the hat came to be a polite greeting
even between equals; this is reduced to a mere touching of the hat
or cap, and among friends the slightest movement of the hand in the
direction of the hat is thought a sufficient greeting. When, however,
it is important to indicate deference, the full ceremonial gesture is
still used (though not to the same extent by all nations); otherwise
no value is attached to it, and the inclination to spare oneself all
unnecessary exertion has caused it to dwindle down to the slightest
muscular action possible.

The above instances of the truncation of everyday formulas, etc.,
illustrate the length to which the ease principle can be carried when
a word has little significatory value and the intention of the speaker
can therefore be vaguely, but sufficiently, understood if the proper
sound is merely suggested or hinted at. But in most words, and even in
the words mentioned above, when they are to bear their full meaning,
the pronunciation cannot be slurred to the same extent, if the speaker
is to make himself understood. It is consequently his interest to
pronounce more carefully, and this means greater conservatism and
slower phonetic development on the whole.

There are naturally many degrees of relative value or worthlessness,
and words may vary accordingly. An illustration may be taken from my
own mother-tongue: the two words _rigtig nok_, literally ‘correct
enough,’ are pronounced ['recti 'nɔk] or ['regdi 'nɔk] when keeping
their full signification, but when they are reduced to an adverb with
the same import as the weakened English _certainly_ or _(it is) true
(that)_, there are various shortened pronunciations in frequent use:
['rectnɔg, 'regdnɔg, 'regnɔg, 'renɔg, 'renəg]. The worthlessness may
affect a whole phrase, a word, or merely one syllable or sound.

XIV.--§ 10. Application to Case System, etc.

Our principle is important in many domains of linguistic history.
If it is asked why the elaborate Old English system of cases and
genders has gradually disappeared, an answer that will meet with the
approval of most linguists of the ordinary school is (in the words of
J. A. H. Murray): “The total loss of grammatical gender in English,
and the almost complete disappearance of cases, are purely phonetic
phenomena”--supplemented, of course, by the recognition of the action
of analogy, to which is due, for instance, the levelling of the nom.
and dative plural OE. _stanas_ and _stanum_ under the single form
_stones_. The main explanation thus is the following: a phonetic
law, operating without regard to the signification, caused the OE.
unstressed vowels _-a_, _-e_, _-u_ to become merged in an obscure _-e_
in Middle English; as these endings were very often distinctive of
cases, the Old English cases were consequently lost. Another phonetic
law was operating similarly by causing the loss of final _-n_, which
also played an important rôle in the old case system. And in this way
phonetic laws and analogy have between them made a clean sweep of it,
and we need look nowhere else for an explanation of the decay of the
old declensions.

Here I beg to differ: a ‘phonetic law’ is not an explanation, but
something to be explained; it is nothing else but a mere statement of
facts, a formula of correspondence, which says nothing about the cause
of change, and we are therefore justified if we try to dig deeper and
penetrate to the real psychology of speech. Now, let us for a moment
suppose that each of the terminations _-a_, _-e_, _-u_ bore in Old
English its own distinctive and sharply defined meaning, which was
necessary to the right understanding of the sentences in which the
terminations occurred (something like the endings found in artificial
languages like Ido). Would there in that case be any probability that
a phonetic law tending to their levelling could ever have succeeded
in establishing itself? Most certainly not; the all-important regard
for intelligibility would have been sure to counteract any inclination
towards a slurred pronunciation of the endings. Nor would there have
been any occasion for new formations by analogy, as the formations were
already sufficiently analogous. But such a regularity was very far
from prevailing in Old English, as will be particularly clear from the
tabulation of the declensions as printed in my _Chapters on English_,
p. 10 ff.: it makes the whole question of causality appear in a much
clearer light than would be possible by any other arrangement of the
grammatical facts: the cause of the decay of the Old English apparatus
of declensions lay in its manifold incongruities. The same termination
did not always denote the same thing: _-u_ might be the nom. sg. masc.
(_sunu_) or fem. (_duru_), or the acc. or the dat., or the nom. or acc.
pl. neuter (_hofu_); _-a_ might be the nom. sg. masc. (_guma_), or the
dat. sg. masc. (_suna_), or the gen. sg. fem. (_dura_), or the nom.
pl. masc. or fem., or finally the gen. pl.; _-an_ might be the acc. or
dat. or gen. sg. or the nom. or acc. pl., etc. If we look at it from
the point of view of function, we get the same picture; the nom. pl.,
for instance, might be denoted by the endings _-as_, _-an_, _-a_, _-e_,
_-u_, or by mutation without ending, or by the unchanged kernel; the
dat. sg. by _-e_, _-an_, _-re_, _-um_, by mutation, or the unchanged
kernel. The whole is one jumble of inconsistency, for many relations
plainly distinguished from each other in one class of words were but
imperfectly, if at all, distinguishable in another class. Add to this
that the names used above, dative, accusative, etc., have no clear
and definite meaning in the case of Old English, any more than in the
case of kindred tongues; sometimes it did not matter which of two or
more cases the speaker chose to employ: some verbs took indifferently
now one, now another case, and the same is to some extent true with
regard to prepositions. No wonder, therefore, that speakers would often
hesitate which of two vowels to use in the ending, and would tend
to indulge in the universal inclination to pronounce weak syllables
indistinctly and thus confuse the formerly distinct vowels _a_, _i_,
_e_, _u_ into the one neutral vowel [ə], which might even be left out
without detriment to the clear understanding of each sentence.[62]
The only endings that were capable of withstanding this general rout
were the two in _s_, _-as_ for the plural and _-es_ for the gen. sg.;
here the consonant was in itself more solid, as it were, than the
other consonants used in case endings (_n_, _m_), and, which is more
decisive, each of these terminations was confined to a more sharply
limited sphere of use than the other endings, and the functions for
which they served, that of the plural and that of the genitive, are
among the most indispensable ones for clearness of thought. Hence we
see that these endings from the earliest period of the English language
tend to be applied to other classes of nouns than those to which they
were at first confined (_-as_ to masc. _o_ stems ...), so as to be at
last used with practically all nouns.

If explanations like Murray’s of the simplification of the English case
system are widely accepted, while views like those attempted here will
strike most readers of linguistic works as unfamiliar, the reason may,
partly at any rate, be the usual arrangement of historical and other
grammars. Here we first have chapters on phonology, in which the facts
are tabulated, each vowel being dealt with separately, no matter what
its function is in the flexional system; then, after all the sounds
have been treated in this way, we come to morphology (accidence,
formenlehre), in which it is natural to take the phonological facts as
granted or already known: these therefore come to be looked upon as
primary and morphology as secondary, and no attention is paid to the
_value_ of the sounds for the purposes of mutual understanding.

But everyday observations show that sounds have not always the same
value. In ordinary conversation one may frequently notice how a
proper name or technical term, when first introduced, is pronounced
with particular care, while no such pains is taken when it recurs
afterwards: the stress becomes weaker, the unstressed vowels more
indistinct, and this or that consonant may be dropped. The same
principle is shown in all the abbreviations of proper names and of long
words in general which have been treated above (Ch IX § 7): here the
speaker has felt assured that his hearer has understood what or who he
is talking about, as soon as he has pronounced the initial syllable or
syllables, and therefore does not take the trouble to pronounce the
rest of the word. It has often been pointed out (see, e.g., Curtius K
72) that stem or root syllables are generally better preserved than
the rest of the word: the reason can only be that they have greater
importance for the understanding of the idea as a whole than other
syllables.[63] But it is especially when we come to examine stress
phenomena that we discover the full extent of this principle of value.

XIV.--§ 11. Stress Phenomena.

Stress is generally believed to be dependent exclusively on the force
with which the air-current is expelled from the lungs, hence the name
of ‘expiratory accent’; but various observations and considerations
have led me to give another definition (LPh 7. 32, 1913): stress is
energy, intensive muscular activity not of one organ, but of _all
the speech organs at once_. To pronounce a ‘stressed’ syllable all
organs are exerted to the utmost. The muscles of the lungs are strongly
innervated; the movements of the vocal chords are stronger, leading on
the one hand in voiced sounds to a greater approximation of the vocal
chords, with less air escaping, but greater amplitude of vibrations and
also greater risings or fallings of the tone. In voiceless sounds, on
the other hand, the vocal chords are kept at greater distance (than in
unstressed syllables) and accordingly allow more air to escape. In the
upper organs stress is characterized by marked articulations of the
velum palati, of the tongue and of the lips. As a result of all this,
stressed syllables are loud, i.e. can be heard at great distance, and
distinct, i.e. easy to perceive in all their components. Unstressed
syllables, on the contrary, are produced with less exertion in every
way: in voiced sounds the distance between the vocal chords is greater,
which leads to the peculiar ‘voice of murmur’; but in voiceless
sounds the glottis is not opened very wide. In the upper organs we
see corresponding slack movements; thus the velum does not shut off
the nasal cavity very closely, and the tongue tends towards a neutral
position, in which it moves very little either up and down or backwards
and forwards. The lips also are moved with less energy, and the final
result is dull and indistinct sounds. Now, all this is of the greatest
importance in the history of languages.

The psychological importance of various elements is the chief, though
not the only, factor that determines sentence stress (see, for
instance, the chapters on stress in my LPh xiv. and MEG v.). Now, it
is well known that sentence stress plays a most important rôle in the
historical development of any language; it has determined not only the
difference in vowel between [wɔz] and [wəz], both written _was_, or
between the demonstrative [ðæt] and the relative [ðət], both written
_that_, but also that between _one_ and _an_ or _a_, originally the
same word, and between Fr. _moi_ and _me_, _toi_ and _te_--one might
give innumerable other instances. Value also plays a not unimportant
rôle in determining which syllable among several in long words is
stressed most, and in some languages it has revolutionized the whole
stress system. This happened with old Gothonic, whence in modern
German, Scandinavian, and in the native elements of English we have the
prevalent stressing of the root syllable, i.e. of that syllable which
has the greatest psychological value, as in _'wishes_, _be'speak_, etc.

Now, it is generally said that if double forms arise like _one_ and
_an_, _moi_ and _me_, the reason is that the sounds were found under
‘different phonetic conditions’ and therefore developed differently,
exactly as the difference between _an_ and _a_ or between Fr. _fol_
and _fou_ is due to the same word being placed in one instance before
a word beginning with a vowel and in the other before a consonant,
that is to say, in different external conditions. But it won’t do to
identify the two things: in the latter case we really have something
external or mechanical, and here we may rightly use the expression
‘phonetic condition,’ but the difference between a strongly and a
weakly stressed form of the same word depends on something internal, on
the very soul of the word. Stress is not what the usual way of marking
it in writing and printing might lead us to think--something that hangs
outside or above the word--but is at least as important an element
of the word as the ‘speech sounds’ which go to make it up. Stress
alternation in a sentence cannot consequently be reckoned a ‘phonetic
condition’ of the same order as the initial sound of the next word.
If we say that the different treatment of the vowel seen in _one_ and
_an_ or _moi_ and _me_ is occasioned by varying degrees of stress, we
have ‘explained’ the secondary sound change only, but not the primary
change, which is that of stress itself, and that change is due to the
different significance of the word under varying circumstances, i.e. to
its varying value for the purposes of the exchange of ideas. Over and
above mechanical principles we have here and elsewhere psychological
principles, which no one can disregard with impunity.

XIV.--§ 12. Non-phonetic Changes.

Considerations of ease play an important part in all departments
of language development. It is impossible to draw a sharp line
between phonetic and syntactic phenomena. We have what might be
termed prosiopesis when the speaker begins, or thinks he begins, to
articulate, but produces no audible sound till one or two syllables
after the beginning of what he intended to say. This phonetically is
‘aphesis,’ but in many cases leads to the omission of whole words;
this may become a regular speech habit, more particularly in the
case of certain set phrases, e.g. (Good) _morning_ / (Do you) _see_?
/ (Will) _that do?_ / (I shall) _see you again this afternoon_; Fr.
(na)_turellement_ / (Je ne me) _rappelle plus_, etc.

On the other hand, we have aposiopesis if the speaker does not finish
his sentence, either because he hesitates which word to employ or
because he notices that the hearer has already caught his meaning.
Hence such syntactic shortenings as _at Brown’s_ (house, or shop, or
whatever it may be), which may then be extended to other places in
the sentence; the _grocer’s_ was closed / _St. Paul’s_ is very grand,
etc. Similar abbreviations due to the natural disinclination to use
more circumstantial expressions than are necessary to convey one’s
meaning are seen when, instead of _my straw hat_, one says simply _my
straw_, if it is clear to one’s hearers that one is talking of a hat;
thus _clay_ comes to be used for _clay pipe_, _return_ for _return
ticket_ (‘We’d better take returns’) _the Haymarket_ for _the Haymarket
Theatre_, etc. Sometimes these shortenings become so common as to be
scarcely any longer felt as such, e.g. _rifle_, _landau_, _bugle_, for
_rifle gun_, _landau carriage_, _bugle horn_ (further examples MEG
ii. 8. 9). In Maupassant (_Bel Ami_ 81) I find the following scrap of
conversation which illustrates the same principle in another domain:
“Voilà six mois que je suis _employé aux bureaux du chemin de fer du
Nord_.” “Mais comment diable n’as-tu pas trouvé mieux qu’une place
_d’employé au Nord_?”[64]

The tendency to economize effort also manifests itself when the
general ending _-er_ is used instead of a more specific expression:
_sleeper_ for _sleeping-car_; _bedder_ at college for _bedmaker_;
_speecher_, _footer_, _brekker_ (Harrow) for _speech-day_, _football_,
_breakfast_, etc. Thus also when some noun or verb of a vague or
general meaning is used because one will not take the trouble to
think of the exact expression required, very often _thing_ (sometimes
extended _thingumbob_, cf. Dan. _tingest_, G. _dingsda_), Fr. _chose_,
_machin_ (even in place of a personal name); further, the verb _do_ or
_fix_ (this especially in America). In some cases this tendency may
permanently affect the meaning of a common noun which has to serve so
often instead of a specific name that at last it acquires a special
signification; thus, _corn_ in England = ‘wheat,’ in Ireland = ‘oats,’
in America = ‘maize,’ _deer_, orig. ‘animal,’ Fr. _herbe_, now ‘grass,’
etc. As many people, either from ignorance or from carelessness, are
far from being precise in thought and expression--they “Mean not, but
blunder round about a meaning”--words come to be applied in senses
unknown to former generations, and some of these senses may gradually
become fixed and established. In some cases the final result of such
want of precision may even be beneficial; thus English at first had no
means of expressing futurity in verbs. Then it became more and more
customary to say ‘he will come,’ which at first meant ‘he has the will
to come,’ to express his future coming apart from his volition--thus,
also, ‘it will rain,’ etc. Similarly ‘I shall go,’ which originally
meant ‘I am obliged to go,’ was used in a less accurate way, where no
obligation was thought of, and thus the language acquired something
which is at any rate a makeshift for a future tense of the verb.
But considerations of space prevent me from diving too deeply into
questions of semantic change.


[56] The uniformity in the speech of the whole Roman Empire during the
first centuries of our Christian era was kept up, among other things,
through the habit of removing soldiers and officials from one country
to the other. This ceased later, each district being left to shift more
or less for itself.

[57] “Dass unsere ältesten vorfahren sich das sprechen erstaunlich
unbequem gemacht haben,” Delbrück, E 155.

[58] Sometimes appearances may be deceptive: when [nr, mr] become [ndr,
mbr], it looks on the paper as if something had been added and as if
the transition therefore militated against the principle of ease: in
reality, the old and the new combinations require exactly the same
amount of muscular activity, and the change simply consists in want of
precision in the movement of the velum palati, which comes a fraction
of a second too soon. If anything, the new group is a trifle easier
than the old. See LPh 5. 6 for explanation and examples (E. _thunder_
from _þunor_ sb., _þunrian_ vb.; _timber_, cf. Goth. _timrian_, G.
_zimmer_, etc.).

[59] This is rendered most clear by my ‘analphabetic’ notation (α means
lips, β tip of tongue, δ soft palate, velum palati, and ε glottis; 0
stands for closed position, 1 for approximation, 3 for open position);
the three sound combinations are thus analysed (cf. my _Lehrbuch der

       p | n     p | m     m | n
  α    0 | 3     0 | 0     0 | 3
  β    3 | 0     3 | 3     3 | 0
  δ    0 | 3     0 | 3     3 | 3
  ε    3 | 1     3 | 1     1 | 1

[60] The only clear cases of saving of time are those in which long
sounds are shortened, and even they must be looked upon as a saving of

[61] In the reprint in _Samlede Afhandlinger_, ii. 417 (1920), a few
lines are added in which Thomsen fully accepts the explanation which I
gave as far back as 1886.

[62] The above remarks are condensed from the argument in ChE 38 ff.
Note also what is said below (Ch. XIX § 13) on the loss of Lat. final
_-s_ in the Romanic languages after it had ceased to be necessary for
the grammatical understanding of sentences.

[63] Against this it has been urged that Fr. _oncle_ has not preserved
the stem syllable of Lat. _avunculus_ particularly well. But this
objection is a little misleading. It is quite true that at the
time when the word was first framed the syllable _av-_ contained
the main idea and _-unculus_ was only added to impart an endearing
modification to that idea (‘dear little uncle’); but after some time
the semantic relation was altered; _avus_ itself passed out of use,
while _avunculus_ was handed down from generation to generation as a
ready-made whole, in which the ordinary speaker was totally unable to
suspect that _av-_ was the really significative stem. He consequently
treated it exactly as any other polysyllable of the same structure,
and _avun-_ (phonetically [awuŋ, auuŋ]) was naturally made into one
syllable. Nothing, of course, can be protected by a sense of its
significance unless it is still felt as significant. That hardly needs

[64] Compare also the results of the same principle seen in writing.
In a letter a proper name or technical term when first introduced
is probably written in full and very distinctly, while afterwards
it is either written carelessly or indicated by a mere initial. Any
shorthand-writer knows how to utilize this principle systematically.


CAUSES OF CHANGE--_continued_

  § 1. Emotional Exaggerations. § 2. Euphony. § 3. Organic Influences.
  § 4. Lapses and Blendings. § 5. Latitude of Correctness. §
  6. Equidistant and Convergent Changes. § 7. Homophones. § 8.
  Significative Sounds preserved. § 9. Divergent Changes and Analogy. §
  10. Extension of Sound Laws. § 11. Spreading of Sound Change. § 12.
  Reaction. § 13. Sound Laws and Etymological Science. § 14. Conclusion.

XV.--§ 1. Emotional Exaggerations.

In the preceding chapter we have dwelt at great length on those
changes which tend to render articulations easier and more convenient.
But, important as they are, these are not the only changes that
speech sounds undergo: there are other moods than that of ordinary
listless everyday conversation, and they may lead to modifications
of pronunciation which are different from and may even be in direct
opposition to those mentioned or hinted at above. Thus, anger or other
violent emotions may cause emphatic utterance, in which, e.g., stops
may be much more strongly aspirated than they are in usual quiet
parlance; even French, which has normally unaspirated (‘sharp’) [t]
and [k], under such circumstances may aspirate them strongly--‘_Mais
taisez-vous donc!_’ Military commands are characterized by peculiar
emphasizings, even in some cases distortions of sounds and words.
Pomposity and consequential airs are manifested in the treatment of
speech sounds as well as in other gestures. Irony, scoffing, banter,
amiable chaffing--each different mood or temper leaves its traces on
enunciation. Actors and orators will often use stronger articulations
than are strictly necessary to avoid those misunderstandings or
that unintelligibility which may ensue from slipshod or indistinct
pronunciation.[65] In short, anyone who will take careful note of the
way in which people do really talk will find in the most everyday
conversation as well as on more solemn occasions the greatest
variety of such modifications and deviations from what might be
termed ‘normal’ pronunciation; these, however, pass unnoticed under
ordinary circumstances, when the attention is directed exclusively
to the contents and general purport of the spoken words. A vowel or
a consonant will be made a trifle shorter or longer than usual, the
lips will open a little too much, an [e] will approach [æ] or [i],
the off-glide after a final [t] will sound nearly as [s], the closure
of a [d] will be made so loosely that a little air will escape and
the sound therefore will be approximately a [ð] or a weak fricative
point [r], etc. Most of these modifications are so small that they
cannot be represented by letters, even by those of a very exact
phonetic alphabet, but they exist all the same, and are by no means
insignificant to those who want to understand the real essence of
speech and of linguistic change, for life is built up of such minutiæ.
The great majority of such alterations are of course made quite
unconsciously, but by the side of these we must recognize that there
are some individuals who more or less consciously affect a certain mode
of enunciation, either from artistic motives, because they think it
beautiful, or simply to ‘show off’--and sometimes such pronunciations
may set the fashion and be widely imitated (cf. below, p. 292).

Tender emotions may lead to certain lengthenings of sounds. The
intensifying effect of lengthening was noticed by A. Gill, Milton’s
teacher, in 1621, see Jiriczek’s reprint, p. 48: “Atque vt Hebræi,
ad ampliorem vocis alicuius significationem, syllabas adaugent [cf.
here below, Ch. XX § 9]; sic nos syllabarum tempora: vt, _grët_ [the
diæresis denotes vowel-length] magnus, _grëet_ ingens; _monstrus_
prodigiosum, _mönstrus_ valde prodigiosum, _möönstrus_ prodigiosum
adeo vt hominem stupidet.” Cf. also the lengthening in the exclamation
_God!_, by novelists sometimes written _Gawd_ or _Gord_. But it is
curious that the same emotional lengthening will sometimes affect
a consonant (or first part of a diphthong) in a position in which
otherwise we always have a short quantity; thus, Danish clergymen, when
speaking with unction, will lengthen the [l] of _glæde_ ‘joy,’ which is
ridiculed by comic writers through the unphonetic spelling _ge-læde_;
and in the same way I find in Kipling (_Stalky_ 119): “We’ll make
it a _be-autiful_ house,” and in O. Henry (_Roads of Destiny_ 133):
“A regular Paradise Lost for elegance of scenery and _be-yooty_ of
geography.” I suppose that the spellings _ber-luddy_ and _bee-luddy_,
which I find in recent novels, are meant to indicate the pronunciation
[bl·-ʌdi], thus the exact counterpart of the Danish example. An
unstressed vowel before the stressed syllable is similarly lengthened
in “Dee-lightful couple!” (Shaw, _Doctor’s Dilemma_ 41); American girl
students will often say ['di·liʃ] for _delicious_.

XV.--§ 2. Euphony.

It was not uncommon in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to
ascribe phonetic changes to a desire for euphony, a view which is
represented in Bopp’s earliest works. But as early as 1821 Bredsdorff
says that “people will always find that euphonious which they are
accustomed to hear: considerations of euphony consequently will not
cause changes in a language, but rather make for keeping it unchanged.
Those changes which are generally supposed to be based on euphony are
due chiefly to convenience, in some instances to care of distinctness.”
This is quite true, but scarcely the whole truth. Euphony depends
not only on custom, but even more on ease of articulation and on
ease of perception: what requires intricate or difficult movements
of the organs of speech will always be felt as cacophonous, and so
will anything that is indistinct or blurred. But nations, as well as
individuals, have an artistic feeling for these things in different
degrees, and that may influence the phonetic character of a language,
though perhaps chiefly in its broad features, while it may be difficult
to point out any particular details in phonological history which have
been thus worked upon. There can be no doubt that the artistic feeling
is much more developed in the French than in the English nation, and
we find in French fewer obscure vowels and more clearly articulated
consonants than in English (cf. also my remarks on French accent, GS §

XV.--§ 3. Organic Influences.

Some modifications of speech sounds are due to the fact that the
organs of speech are used for other purposes than that of speaking.
We all know the effect of someone trying to speak with his mouth full
of food, or with a cigar or a pipe hanging between his lips and to
some extent impeding their action. Various emotions are expressed by
facial movements which may interfere with the production of ordinary
speech sounds. A child that is crying speaks differently from one that
is smiling or laughing. A smile requires a retraction of the corners
of the mouth and a partial opening of the lips, and thus impedes
the formation of that lip-closure which is an essential part of the
ordinary [m]; hence most people when smiling will substitute the
labiodental _m_, which to the ear greatly resembles the bilabial [m].
A smile will also often modify the front-round vowel [y] so as to make
it approach [i]. Sweet may be right in supposing that “the habit of
speaking with a constant smile or grin” is the reason for the Cockney
unrounding of the vowel in [nau] for _no_. Schuchardt (_Zs. f. rom.
Phil._ 5. 314) says that in Andalusian _quia!_ instead of _ca!_ the
lips, under the influence of a certain emotion, are drawn scoffingly
aside. Inversely, the rounding in _Josu!_ instead of _Jesu!_ is due
to wonder (ib.); and exactly in the same way we have the surprised or
pitying exclamation _jøses!_ from _Jesus_ in Danish. Compare also the
rounding in Dan. and G. [nø·] for [ne·, nɛ·] (_nej_, _nein_). Lundell
mentions that in Swedish a caressing _lilla vän_ often becomes _lylla
vön_, and I have often observed the same rounding in Dan. _min lille
ven_. Schuchardt also mentions an Italian [ʃ] instead of [s] under the
influence of pain or anger (_mi duole la teʃta_; _ti do uno ʃchiaffo_);
a Danish parallel is the frequent [ʃluð’ər] for _sludder_ ‘nonsense.’
We are here verging on the subject of the symbolic value of speech
sounds, which will occupy us in a later chapter (XX).

Observe, too, how people will pronounce under the influence of alcohol:
the tongue is not under control and is incapable of accurately forming
the closure necessary for [t], which therefore becomes [r], and
the thin rill necessary for [s], which therefore comes to resemble
[ʃ]; there is also a general tendency to run sounds and syllables

XV.--§ 4. Lapses and Blendings.

All these deviations are due to influences from what is outside the
sphere of language as such. But we now come to something of the
greatest importance in the life of language, the fact, namely, that
deviations from the usual or normal pronunciation are very often due to
causes inside the language itself, either by lingering reminiscences
of what has just been spoken or by anticipation of something that the
speaker is just on the point of pronouncing. The process of speech is
a very complicated one, and while one thing is being said, the mind is
continually active in preparing what has to be said next, arranging the
ideas and fashioning the linguistic expression in all its details. Each
word is a succession of sounds, and for each of these a complicated
set of orders has to be issued from the brain to the various speech
organs. Sometimes these get mixed up, and a command is sent down to
one organ a moment too early or too late. The inclination to make
mistakes naturally increases with the number of identical or similar
sounds in close proximity. This is well known from those ‘jaw-breaking’
tongue-tests with which people amuse themselves in all countries and of
which I need give only one typical specimen:

  She sells seashells on the seashore,
  The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure,
  For if she sells seashells on the seashore,
  Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

If the mind is occupied with one sound while another is being
pronounced, and thus either runs in advance of or lags behind what
should be its immediate business, the linguistic result may be of
various kinds. The simplest case of influencing is assimilation of two
contiguous sounds, which we have already considered from a different
point of view. Next we have assimilative influence on a sound at a
distance, as when we lapse into _she shells_ instead of _sea shells_
or _she sells_; such is Fr. _chercher_ for older _sercher_ (whence
E. _search_) from Lat. _circare_, Dan. and G. vulgar _ʃerʃant_ for
_sergeant_; a curious mixed case is the pronunciation of _transition_
as [træn'siʒən]: the normal development is [træn'ziʃən], but the
voice-articulation of the two hissing sounds is reversed (possibly
under accessory influence from the numerous words in which we have
[træns] with [s], and from words ending in [iʒən], such as _vision_,
_division_). Further examples of such assimilation at a distance or
consonant-harmonization (_malmsey_ from _malvesie_, etc.) may be found
in my LPh 11. 7, where there are also examples of the corresponding
harmonizings of vowels: Fr. _camarade_, It. _uguale_, _Braganza_, from
_camerade_, _eguale_, _Brigantia_, etc. In Ugro-Finnic and Turkish this
harmony of vowels has been raised to a principle pervading the whole
structure of the language, as seen, e.g., most clearly in the varying
plural endings in Yakut _agalar_, _äsälär_, _ogolor_, _dörölör_,
‘fathers, bears, children, muzzles.’

What escapes at the wrong place and causes confusion may be a part of
the same word or of a following word; as examples of the latter case
may be given a few of the lapses recorded in Meringer and Mayer’s
_Versprechen und Verlesen_ (Stuttgart, 1895): instead of saying
_Lateinisches lehnwort_ Meringer said _Latenisches ..._ and then
corrected himself; _paster noster_ instead of _pater noster_; _wenn
das wesser ... wetter wieder besser ist_. This phenomenon is termed
in Danish _at bakke snagvendt_ (for _snakke bagvendt_) and in English
_Spoonerism_, from an Oxford don, W. A. Spooner, about whom many comic
lapses are related (“Don’t you ever feel a half-warmed fish” instead of
“half-formed wish”).

The simplest and most frequently occurring cases in which the order
for a sound is issued too early or too late are those transpositions
of two sounds which the linguists term ‘metatheses.’ They occur most
frequently with _s_ in connexion with a stop (_wasp_, _waps_; _ask_,
_ax_) and with _r_ (chiefly, perhaps exclusively, the trilled form of
the sound) and a vowel (_third_, OE. _þridda_). A more complicated
instance is seen in Fr. _trésor_ for _tésor_, _thesaurum_. If the
mind does not realize how far the vocal organs have got, the result
may be the skipping of some sound or sounds; this is particularly
likely to happen when the same sound has to be repeated at some little
distance, and we then have the phenomenon termed ‘haplology,’ as
in _eighteen_, OE. _eahtatiene_, and in the frequent pronunciation
_probly_ for _probably_, Fr. _contrôle_, _idolatrie_ for _contrerôle_,
_idololatrie_, Lat. _stipendium_ for _stipipendium_, and numerous
similar instances in every language (LPh 11. 9). Sometimes a sound may
be skipped because the mind is confused through the fact that the same
sound has to be pronounced a little later; thus the old Gothonic word
for ‘bird’ (G. _vogel_, OE. _fugol_; E. _fowl_ with a modified meaning)
is derived from the verb _fly_, OE. _fleogan_, and originally had
some form like *_fluglo_ (OE. had an adj. _flugol_); in recent times
_flugelman_ (G. flügelmann) has become _fugleman_. It. has _Federigo_
for _Frederigo_--thus the exactly opposite result of what has been
brought about in _trésor_ from the same kind of mental confusion.

When words are often repeated in succession, sounds from one of them
will often creep into another, as is seen very often in numerals: the
nasal which was found in the old forms for 7, 9 and 10 and is still
seen in E. _seven_, _nine_, _ten_, has no place in the word for 8, and
accordingly we have in the ordinal ON. _sjaundi_, _átti_, _níundi_,
_tíundi_, but already in ON. we find _áttandi_ by the side of _átti_,
and in Dan. the present-day forms are _syvende_, _ottende_, _niende_,
_tiende_; in the same way OFr. had _sedme_, _uidme_, _noefme_, _disme_
(which have all now disappeared with the exception of _dîme_ as a
substantive). In the names of the months we had the same formation of
a series in OFr.: _septembre_, _octembre_, _novembre_, _decembre_,
but learned influence has reinstated _octobre_. G. _elf_ for older
_eilf_ owes its vowel to the following _zwelf_; and as now the latter
has given way to _zwölf_ (the vowel being rounded in consequence of
the _w_) many dialects count _zehn_, _ölf_, _zwölf_. Similarly, it
seems to be due to their frequent occurrence in close contact with the
verbal forms in _-no_ that the Italian plural pronouns _egli_, _elle_
are extended with that ending: _eglino amano_, _elleno dicono_. Diez
compares the curious Bavarian _wo-st bist_, _dem-st gehörst_, etc.,
in which the personal ending of the verb is transferred to some other
word with which it has nothing to do (on this phenomenon see Herzog,
_Streitfragen d. roman. phil._ 48, Buergel Goodwin, _Umgangsspr. in
Südbayern_ 99).

In speaking, the mind is occupied not only with the words one is
already pronouncing or knows that one is going to pronounce, but also
with the ideas which one has to express but for which one has not yet
chosen the linguistic form. In many cases two synonyms will rise to
the consciousness at the same time, and the hesitation between them
will often result in a compromise which contains the head of one and
the tail of another word. It is evident that this process of blending
is intimately related to those we have just been considering; see the
detailed treatment in Ch. XVI § 6.

Syntactical blends are very frequent. Hesitation between _different
from_ and _other than_ will result in _different than_ or _another
from_, and similarly we occasionally find _another to_, _different
to_, _contrary than_, _contrary from_, _opposite from_, _anywhere
than_. After a clause introduced by _hardly_ or _scarcely_ the normal
conjunction is _when_, but sometimes we find _than_, because that is
regular after the synonymous _no sooner_.

XV.--§ 5. Latitude of Correctness.

It is a natural consequence of the essence of human speech and the
way in which it is transmitted from generation to generation that we
have everywhere to recognize a certain latitude of correctness, alike
in the significations in which the words may be used, in syntax and
in pronunciation. The nearer a speaker keeps to the centre of what is
established or usual, the easier will it be to understand him. If he
is ‘eccentric’ on one point or another, the result may not always be
that he conveys no idea at all, or that he is misunderstood, but often
merely that he is understood with some little difficulty, or that his
hearers have a momentary feeling of something odd in his choice of
words, or expressions or pronunciation. In many cases, when someone has
overstepped the boundaries of what is established, his hearers do not
at once catch his meaning and have to gather it from the whole context
of what follows: not unfrequently the meaning of something you have
heard as an incomprehensible string of syllables will suddenly flash
upon you without your knowing how it has happened. Misunderstandings
are, of course, most liable to occur if words of different meaning,
which in themselves would give sense in the same collocation, are
similar in sound: in that case a trifling alteration of one sound,
which in other words would create no difficulty at all, may prove
pernicious. Now, what is the bearing of these considerations on the
question of sound changes?

The latitude of correctness is very far from being the same in
different languages. Some sounds in each language move within narrow
boundaries, while others have a much larger field assigned to them;
each language is punctilious in some, but not in all points. Deviations
which in one language would be considered trifling, in another would
be intolerable perversions. In German, for instance, a wide margin is
allowed for the (local and individual) pronunciation of the diphthong
written _eu_ or _äu_ (in _eule_, _träume_): it may begin with [ɔ] or
[œ] or even [æ, a], and it may end in [i], or the corresponding rounded
vowel [y], or one of the mid front vowels, rounded or not, it does
not matter much; the diphthong is recognized or acknowledged in many
shapes, while the similar diphthong in English, as in _toy_, _voice_,
allows a far less range of variation (for other examples see LPh 16.

Now, it is very important to keep in mind that there is an intimate
connexion between phonetic latitude and the significations of words. If
there are in a language a great many pairs of words which are identical
in sound except for, say, the difference between [e·] and [i·] (or
between long and short [i], or between voiced [b] and voiceless [p],
or between a high and a low tone, etc.), then the speakers of that
language necessarily will make that distinction with great precision,
as otherwise too many misunderstandings would result. If, on the other
hand, no mistakes worth speaking of would ensue, there is not the
same inducement to be careful. In English, and to a somewhat lesser
degree in French, it is easy to make up long lists of pairs of words
where the sole difference is between voice and voicelessness in the
final consonant (_cab_ _cap_, _bad_ _bat_, _frog_ _frock_, etc.);
hence final [b] and [p], [d] and [t], [g] and [k] are kept apart
conscientiously, while German possesses very few such pairs of words;
in German, consequently, the natural tendency to make final consonants
voiceless has not been checked, and all final stopped consonants have
now become voiceless. In initial and medial position, too, there are
very few examples in German of the same distinction (see the lists,
LPh 6. 78), and this circumstance makes us understand why Germans are
so apt to efface the difference between [b, d, g] and [p, t, k]. On
the other hand, the distinction between a long and a short vowel is
kept much more effectively in German than in French, because in German
ten or twenty times as many words would be liable to confusion through
pronouncing a long instead of a short vowel or vice versa. In French no
two words are kept apart by means of stress, as in English or German;
so the rule laid down in grammars that the stress falls on the final
syllable of the word is very frequently broken through for rhythmic and
other reasons. Other similar instances might easily be advanced.

XV.--§ 6. Equidistant and Convergent Changes.

Phonetic shifts are of two kinds: the shifted sound may be identical
with one already found in the language, or it may be a new sound.
In the former, but not in the latter kind, fresh possibilities of
confusions and misunderstandings may arise. Now, in some cases one
sound (or series of sounds) marches into a position which has just
been abandoned by another sound (or series of sounds), which has
in its turn shifted into some other place. A notable instance is
the old Gothonic consonant shift: Aryan _b_, _d_, _g_ cannot have
become Gothonic _p_, _t_, _k_ till after primitive _p_, _t_, _k_ had
already become fricatives [f, þ, x (h)], for had the shift taken
place before, intolerable confusion would have reigned in all parts
of the vocabulary. Another instructive example is seen in the history
of English long vowels. Not till OE. long _a_ had been rounded into
something like [ɔ·] (OE. _stan_, ME. _stoon_, _stone_) could a new
long _a_ develop, chiefly through lengthening of an old short _a_ in
certain positions. Somewhat later we witness the great vowel-raising
through which the phonetic value of the long vowels (written all the
time in essentially the same way) has been constantly on the move and
yet the distance between them has been kept, so that no confusions
worth speaking of have ever occurred. If we here leave out of account
the rounded back vowels and speak only of front vowels, the shift may
be thus represented through typical examples (the first and the last
columns show the spelling, the others the sounds):

      Middle English.         Elizabethan.      Present English.
  (1) _bite_   bi·tə          beit              bait    _bite_
  (2) _bete_   be·tə          bi·t              bi·t    _beet_
  (3) _bete_   bɛ·tə          be·t              bi·t    _beat_
  (4) _abate_  a'ba·tə        ə'bæ·t            ə'beit  _abate_

When the sound of (2) was raised into [i·], the sound of (1) had
already left that position and had been diphthongized, and when the
sound of (3) was raised from an open into a close _e_, (2) had already
become [i·]; (4) could not become [æ·] or [ɛ·] till (3) had become a
comparatively close _e_ sound. The four vowels, as it were, climbed
the ladder without ever reaching each other--a climbing which took
centuries and in each case implied intermediate steps not indicated in
our survey. No clashings could occur so long as each category kept its
distance from the sounds above and below, and thus we find that the
Elizabethans as scrupulously as Chaucer kept the four classes of words
apart in their rimes. But in the seventeenth century class (3) was
raised, and as no corresponding change had taken place with (2), the
two classes have now fallen together with the single sound [i·]. This
entails a certain number of homophones such as had not been created
through the preceding equidistant changes.

XV.--§ 7. Homophones.

The reader here will naturally object that the fact of new homophones
arising through this vowel change goes against the theory that the
necessity of certain distinctions can keep in check the tendency
to phonetic changes. But homophones do not always imply frequent
misunderstandings: some homophones are more harmless than others. Now,
if we look at the list of the homophones created by this raising of
the close _e_ (MEG i. 11. 74), we shall soon discover that very few
mistakes of any consequence could arise through the obliteration of the
distinction between this vowel and the previously existing [i·]. For
substantives and verbal forms (like _bean_ and _been_, _beet_ _beat_,
_flea_ _flee_, _heel_ _heal_, _leek_ _leak_, _meat_ _meet_, _reed_
_read_, _sea_ _see_, _seam_ _seem_, _steel_ _steal_), or substantives
and adjectives (like _deer_ _dear_, _leaf_ _lief_, _shear_ _sheer_,
_week_ _weak_) will generally be easily distinguished by their position
in the sentence; nor will a plural such as _feet_ be often mistaken for
the singular _feat_. Actual misunderstandings of any importance are
only imaginable when the two words belong to the same ‘part of speech,’
but of such pairs we meet only few: _beach_ _beech_, _breach_ _breech_,
_mead_ _meed_, _peace_ _piece_, _peal_ _peel_, _quean_ _queen_, _seal_
_ceil_, _wean_ _ween_, _wheal_ _wheel_. I think the judicious reader
will agree with me that confusions due to these words being pronounced
in the same way will be few and far between, and one understands that
they cannot have been powerful enough to prevent hundreds of other
words from having their sound changed. An effective prevention can only
be expected when the falling together in sound would seriously impair
the understanding of many sentences.

It is, moreover, interesting to note how many of the words which were
made identical with others through this change were already rare at
the time or have at any rate become obsolete since: this is true of
_breech_, _lief_, _meed_, _mete_ (adj.), _quean_, _weal_, _wheal_,
_ween_ and perhaps a few others. Now, obsolescence of some words is
always found in connexion with such convergent sound changes. In some
cases the word had already become rare before the change in sound took
place, and then it is obvious that it cannot have offered serious
resistance to the change that was setting in. In other cases the dying
out of a word must be looked upon as a consequence of the sound change
which had actually taken place. Many scholars are now inclined to see
in phonetic coalescence one of the chief reasons why words fall into
disuse, see, e.g., Liebisch (PBB XXIII, 228, many German examples in O.
Weise, _Unsere Mutterspr._, 3d ed., 206) and Gilliéron, _La faillite de
l’étymologie phonétique_ (Neuveville, 1919--a book whose sensational
title is hardly justified by its contents).

The drawbacks of homophones[67] are counteracted in various ways. Very
often a synonym steps forward, as when _lad_ or _boy_ is used in nearly
all English dialects to supplant _son_, which has become identical in
sound with _sun_ (cf. above p. 120, a childish instance). Very often
it becomes usual to avoid misunderstandings through some addition, as
when we say _the sole of her foot_, because _her sole_ might be taken
to mean _her soul_, or when the French say _un dé à coudre_ or _un dé
à jouer_ (cf. E. _minister of religion_ and _cabinet minister_, the
_right-hand_ corner, the _subject-matter_, where the same expedient
is used to obviate ambiguities arisen from other causes). Chinese, of
course, is the classical example of a language abounding in homophones
caused by convergent sound changes, and it is highly interesting
to study the various ways in which that language has remedied the
resulting drawbacks, see, e.g., B. Karlgren, _Ordet och pennan i
Mittens rike_ (Stockholm, 1918), p. 49 ff. But on the whole we must say
that the ways in which these phonetic inconveniences are counteracted
are the same as those in which speakers react against misunderstandings
arising from semantic or syntactic causes: as soon as they perceive
that their meaning is not apprehended they turn their phrases in a
different way, choosing some other expression for their thought, and by
this means language is gradually freed from ambiguity.

XV.--§ 8. Significative Sounds preserved.

My contention that the significative side of language has in so far
exercised an influence on phonetic development that the possibility
of many misunderstandings may effectually check the coalescence of
two hitherto distinct sounds should not be identified with one of the
tenets of the older school (Curtius included) against which the ‘young
grammarians’ raised an emphatic protest, namely, that a tendency to
preserve significative sounds and syllables might produce exceptions
to the normal course of phonetic change. Delbrück and his friends may
be right in much of what they said against Curtius--for instance,
when he explained the retention of _i_ in some Greek optative forms
through a consciousness of the _original_ meaning of this suffix; but
their denial was in its way just as exaggerated as his affirmation. It
cannot justly be urged against the influence of signification that a
preservation of a sound on that account would only be imaginable on the
supposition that the speaker was conscious of a threatened sound change
and wanted to avoid it. One need not suppose a speaker to be on his
guard against a ‘sound law’: the only thing required is that he should
feel, or be made to feel, that he is not understood when he speaks
indistinctly; if on that account he has to repeat his words he will
naturally be careful to pronounce the sound he has skipped or slurred,
and may even be tempted to exaggerate it a little.

There do not seem to be many quite unimpeachable examples of words
which have received exceptional phonetic treatment to obviate
misunderstandings arising from homophony; other explanations (analogy
from other forms of the same word, etc.) can generally be alleged more
or less plausibly. But this does seem to be the easiest explanation
of the fact that the E. preposition _on_ has always the full vowel
[ɔ], though in nine cases out of ten it is weakly stressed and though
all the other analogous prepositions (_to_, _for_, _of_, _at_) in the
corresponding weak positions in sentences are generally pronounced
with the ‘neutral’ vowel [ə]. But if _on_ were similarly pronounced,
ambiguity would very often result from its phonetic identity with the
weak forms of the extremely frequent little words _an_ (the indefinite
article) and _and_ (possibly also _in_), not to mention the great
number of [ən]s in words like _drunken_, _shaken_, _deepen_, etc.,
where the forms without _-en_ also exist. With the preposition _upon_
the same considerations do not hold good, hence the frequency of the
pronunciation [əpən] in weak position. Considerations of clearness
have also led to the disuse of the formerly frequent form _o_ (_o’_)
which was the ‘natural’ development of each of the two prepositions
_on_ and _of_. The form written _a_ survives only in some fossilized
combinations like _ashore_; in several others it has now disappeared
(_set the clock going_, formerly _a-going_, etc.).

Sometimes, when all ordinary words are affected by a certain sound
change, some words prove refractory because in their case the old sound
is found to be more expressive than the new one. When the long E. [i·]
was diphthongized into [ai], the words _pipe_ and _whine_ ceased to be
good echoisms, but some dialects have _peep_ ‘complain,’ which keeps
the old sound of the former, and the Irish say _wheen_ (Joyce, _English
as we speak it in Ireland_, 103). In _squeeze_ the [i·] sound has been
retained as more expressive--the earlier form was _squize_; and the
same is the case with some words meaning ‘to look narrowly’: _peer_,
_peek_, _keek_, earlier _pire_, _pike_, _kike_ (cf. Dan. _pippe_,
_kikke_, _kige_, G. _kieken_).[68] In the same way, when the old [a·]
was changed into [ɛ·, ei], the word _gape_ ceased to be expressive (as
it is still in Dan. _gabe_), but in popular speech the tendency to
raise the vowel was resisted, and the old sound [ga·p] persisted, spelt
_garp_ as a London form in 1817 (Ellis, EEP v. 228) and still common in
many dialects (see _gaup_, _garp_ in EDD); Professor Hempl told me that
[ga·p] was also a common pronunciation in America. In the chapter on
Sound Symbolism (XX) we shall see some other instances of exceptional
phonetic treatment of symbolic words (especially _tiny_, _teeny_,
_little_, _cuckoo_).

XV.--§ 9. Divergent Changes and Analogy.

Besides equidistant and convergent sound changes we have divergent
changes, through which sounds at one time identical have separated
themselves later. This is a mere consequence of the fact that it is
rare for a sound to be changed equally in all positions in which it
occurs. On the contrary, one must admit that the vast majority of
sound changes are conditioned by some such circumstance as influence
of neighbouring sounds, position as initial, medial or final (often
with subdivisions, as position between vowels, etc.), place in a
strongly or weakly stressed syllable, and so forth. One may take as
examples some familiar instances from French: Latin _c_ (pronounced
[k]), is variously treated before _o_ (_corpus_ > _corps_), _a_
(_canem_ > _chien_), and _e_ (_centum_ > _cent_); in _amicum_ > _ami_
it has totally disappeared. Lat. _a_ becomes _e_ in a stressed open
syllable (_natum_ > _né_), except before a nasal (_amat_ > _aime_); but
after _c_ we have a different treatment (_canem_ > _chien_), and in
a close syllable it is kept (_arborem_ > _arbre_); in weak syllables
it is kept initially (_amorem_ > _amour_), but becomes [ə] (spelt
_e_) finally (_bona_ > _bonne_). This enumeration of the chief rules
will serve to show the far-reaching differentiation which in this
way may take place among words closely related as parts of the same
paradigm or family of words; thus, for Lat. _amo_, _amas_, _amat_,
_amamus_, _amatis_, _amant_ we get OFr. _aim_, _aimes_, _aime_,
_amons_, _amez_, _aiment_, until the discrepancy is removed through
analogy, and we get the regular modern forms _aime_, _aimes_, _aime_,
_aimons_, _aimez_, _aiment_. The levelling tendency, however, is not
strong enough to affect the initial _a_ in _amour_ and _amant_, which
are felt as less closely connected with the verbal forms. What were
at first only small differences may in course of time become greater
through subsequent changes, as when the difference between _feel_ and
_felt_, _keep_ and _kept_, etc., which was originally one of length
only, became one of vowel quality as well, through the raising of
long [e·] to [i·], while short [e] was not raised. And thus in many
other cases. Different nations differ greatly in the degree in which
they permit differentiation of cognate words; most nations resent any
differentiation in initial sounds, while the Kelts have no objection
to ‘the same word’ having as many as four different beginnings (for
instance _t-_, _d-_, _n-_, _nh-_) according to circumstances. In
Icelandic the word for ‘other, second’ has for centuries in different
cases assumed such different forms as _annarr_, _önnur_, _öðrum_,
_aðrir_, forms which in the other Scandinavian languages have been
levelled down.

It is a natural consequence of the manner in which phonology is usually
investigated and represented in manuals of historical grammar--which
start with some old stage and follow the various changes of each sound
in later stages--that these divergent changes have attracted nearly
the sole attention of scholars; this has led to the prevalent idea
that sound laws and analogy are the two opposed principles in the life
of languages, the former tending always to destroy regularity and
harmony, and the latter reconstructing what would without it be chaos
and confusion.[69]

This view, however, is too rigorous and does not take into account
the manysidedness of linguistic life. It is not every irregularity
that is due to the operation of phonetic laws, as we have in all
languages many survivals of the confused manner in which ideas were
arranged and expressed in the mind of primitive man. On the other hand,
there are many phonetic changes which do not increase the number of
existing irregularities, but make for regularity and a simpler system
through abolishing phonetic distinctions which had no semantic or
functional value; such are, for instance, those convergent changes
of unstressed vowels which have simplified the English flexional
system (Ch. XIV § 10 above). And if we were in the habit of looking at
linguistic change from the other end, tracing present sounds back to
former sounds instead of beginning with antiquity, we should see that
convergent changes are just as frequent as divergent ones. Indeed, many
changes may be counted under both heads; an _a_, which is dissociated
from other _a_’s through becoming _e_, is identified with and from
henceforth shares the destiny of other _e_’s, etc.

XV.--§ 10. Extension of Sound Laws.

If a phonetic change has given to some words two forms without any
difference in signification, the same alternation may be extended to
other cases in which the sound in question has a different origin
(‘phonetic analogy’). An undoubted instance is the unhistoric _r_
in recent English. When the consonantal [r] was dropped finally and
before a consonant while it was retained before a vowel, and words
like _better_, _here_ thus came to have two forms [betə, hiə] and
[betər (ɔf), hiər (ən ðɛ·ə)] _better off_, _here and there_, the same
alternation was transferred to words like _idea_, _drama_ [ai'diə,
dra·mə], so that the sound [r] is now very frequently inserted before a
word beginning with a vowel: _I’d no idea_-r-_of this_, _a drama_-r-_of
Ibsen_ (many references MEG i. 13. 42). In French final _t_ and _s_
have become mute, but are retained before a vowel: _il est_ [ɛ] _venu_,
_il est_ [ɛt] _arrivé_; _les_ [le] _femmes_, _les_ [lez] _hommes_;
and now vulgar speakers will insert [t] or [z] in the wrong place
between vowels: _pa-t assez_, _j’allai-t écrire_, _avant-z-hier_,
_moi-z-aussi_; this is called ‘cuir’ or ‘velours.’

In course of time a ‘phonetic law’ may undergo a kind of metamorphosis,
being extended to a greater and greater number of combinations. As
regards recent times we are sometimes able to trace such a gradual
development. A case in point is the dropping of [j] in [ju·] after
certain consonants in English (see MEG i. 13, 7). It began with _r_
as in _true_, _rude_; next came _l_ when preceded by a consonant, as
in _blue_, _clue_; in these cases [j] is never heard. But after _l_
not preceded by another consonant there is a good deal of vacillation,
thus in _Lucy_, _absolute_; after [s, z] as in _Susan_, _resume_
there is a strong tendency to suppress [j], though this pronunciation
has not yet prevailed,[70] and after [t, d, n], as in _tune_, _due_,
_new_, the suppression is in Britain only found in vulgar speakers,
while in some parts of the United States it is heard from educated
speakers as well. In the speech of these the sound law may be said
to attack any [ju·] after any point consonant, while it will have
to be formulated in various less comprehensive terms for British
speakers belonging to older or younger generations. It is extremely
difficult, not to say impossible, to reconcile such occurrences with
the orthodox ‘young grammarian’ theory of sound changes being due to a
shifting of the organic feeling or motor sensation (verschiebung des
bewegungsgefühls) which is supposed to have necessarily taken place
wherever the same sound was under the same phonetic conditions. For
what are here the same phonetic conditions? The position after _r_,
after _l_ combinations, after _l_ even when standing alone, after all
point consonants? Each generation of English speakers will give a
different answer to this question. Now, it is highly probable that many
of the comprehensive prehistoric sound changes, of which we see only
the final result, while possible intermediate stages evade our inquiry,
have begun in the same modest way as the transition from [ju·] to [u·]
in English: with regard to them we are in exactly the same position
as a man who had heard only such speakers as say consistently [tru·,
ru·d, blu·, lu·si, su·zn, ri'zu·m, tu·n, du·, nu·] and who would then
naturally suppose that [j] in the combination [ju·] had been dropped
all at once after any point consonant.

XV.--§ 11. Spreading of Sound Change.

Sound laws (to retain provisionally that firmly established term)
have by some linguists, who rightly reject the comparison with
natural laws (e.g. Meringer), been compared rather with the ‘laws’ of
fashion in dress. But I think it is important to make a distinction
here: the comparison with fashions throws no light whatever on the
question how sound changes _originate_--it can tell us nothing about
the first impulse to drop [j] in certain positions before [u·]; but
the comparison is valid when we come to consider the question how
such a change when first begun in one individual _spreads to other
individuals_. While the former question has been dealt with at some
length in the preceding investigation, it now remains for us to say
something about the latter. The spreading of phonetic change, as
of any other linguistic change, is due to imitation, conscious and
unconscious, of the speech habits of other people. We have already
met with imitation in the chapters dealing with the child and with
the influence exerted by foreign languages. But man is apt to imitate
throughout the whole of his life, and this statement applies to his
language as much as to his other habits. What he imitates, in this as
in other fields, is not always the best; a real valuation of what would
be linguistically good or preferable does not of course enter the head
of the ‘man in the street.’ But he may imitate what he thinks pretty,
or funny, and especially what he thinks characteristic of those people
whom for some reason or other he looks up to. Imitation is essentially
a social phenomenon, and if people do not always imitate the best (the
best thing, the best pronunciation), they will generally imitate ‘their
betters,’ i.e. those that are superior to them--in rank, in social
position, in wealth, in everything that is thought enviable. What
constitutes this superiority cannot be stated once for all; it varies
according to surroundings, age, etc. A schoolboy may feel tempted to
imitate a rough, swaggering boy a year or two older than himself rather
than his teachers or parents, and in later life he may find other
people worthy of imitation, according to his occupation or profession
or individual taste. But when he does imitate he is apt to imitate
everything, even sometimes things that are not worth imitating. In this
way Percy, in _Henry IV, Second Part_, II. 3. 24--

                      was indeed the glasse
  Wherein the noble youth did dresse themselues.
  He had no legges, that practic’d not his gate,
  And _speaking thicke[71] (which Nature made his blemish)
  Became the accents of the valiant.
  For those that could speake low and tardily,
  Would turne their owne perfection to abusee,
  To seeme like him. So that in speech_, in gate ...
  He was the marke, and glasse, coppy, and booke,
  That fashion’d others.

The spreading of a new pronunciation through imitation must necessarily
take some time, though the process may in some instances be fairly
rapid. In some historical instances we are able to see how a new
sound, taking its rise in some particular part of a country, spreads
gradually like a wave, until finally it has pervaded the whole of a
linguistic area. It cannot become universal all at once; but it is
evident that the more natural a new mode of pronunciation seems to
members of a particular speech community, the more readily will it
be accepted and the more rapid will be its diffusion. Very often,
both when the new pronunciation is easier and when there are special
psychological inducements operating in one definite direction, the new
form may originate independently in different individuals, and that
of course will facilitate its acceptation by others. But as a rule a
new pronunciation does not become general except after many attempts:
it may have arisen many times and have died out again, until finally
it finds a fertile soil in which to take firm root. It may not be
superfluous to utter a warning against a fallacy which is found now and
then in linguistic works: when some Danish or English document, say, of
the fifteenth century contains a spelling indicative of a pronunciation
which we should call ‘modern,’ it is hastily concluded that people in
those days spoke in that respect exactly as they do now, whatever the
usual spelling and the testimony of much later grammarians may indicate
to the contrary. But this is far from certain. The more isolated such a
spelling is, the greater is the probability that it shows nothing but
an individual or even momentary deviation from what was then the common
pronunciation--the first swallow ‘who found with horror that he’d not
brought spring.’

XV.--§ 12. Reaction.

Even those who have no linguistic training will have some apperception
of sounds as such, and will notice regular correspondences, and even
occasionally exaggerate them, thereby producing those ‘hypercorrect’
forms which are of specially frequent occurrence when dialect speakers
try to use the ‘received standard’ of their country. The psychology
of this process is well brought out by B. I. Wheeler, who relates
(_Transact. Am. Philol. Ass._ 32. 14, 1901; I change his symbols into
my own phonetic notation): “In my own native dialect I pronounced _new_
as [nu·]. I have found myself in later years inclined to say [nju·],
especially when speaking carefully and particularly in public; so also
[tju·zdi] _Tuesday_. There has developed itself in connexion with these
and other words a dual sound-image [u·:ju·] of such validity that
whenever [u·] is to be formed after a dental [alveolar] explosive or
nasal, the alternative [ju·] is likely to present itself and create
the effect of momentary uncertainty. Less frequently than in _new_,
_Tuesday_, the [j] intrudes itself in _tune_, _duty_, _due_, _dew_,
_tumour_, _tube_, _tutor_, etc.; but under special provocation I am
liable to use it in any of these, and have even caught myself, when
in a mood of uttermost precision, passing beyond the bounds of the
imitative adoption of the new sound into self-annexed territory, and
creating [dju·] _do_ and [tju·] _two_.” One more instance from America
may be given: “In the dialect of Missouri and the neighbouring States,
final _a_ in such words as _America_, _Arizona_, _Nevada_ becomes
_y_--_Americy_, _Arizony_, _Nevady_. All educated people in that region
carefully correct this vulgarism out of their speech; and many of
them carry the correction too far and say _Missoura_, _praira_, etc.”
(Sturtevant, LCH 79). Similarly, many Irish people, noticing that
refined English has [i·] in many cases where they have [e·] (_tea_,
_sea_, _please_, etc.) adopt [i·] in these words, and transfer it
erroneously to words like _great_, _pear_, _bear_, etc. (MEG i. 11.
73); they may also, when correcting their own _ar_ into _er_, in such
words as _learn_, go too far and speak of _derning_ a stocking (Joyce,
_English as we speak it in Ireland_, 93). Cf. from England such forms
as _ruing_, _certing_, for _ruin_, _certain_.

From Germany I may mention that Low German speakers desiring to talk
High German are apt to say _zeller_ instead of _teller_, because High
German in many words has _z_ for their _t_ (_zahl_, _zahm_, etc.), and
that those who in their native speech have _j_ for _g_ (Berlin, etc.,
_eine jute jebratene jans ist eine jute jabe jottes_) will sometimes,
when trying to talk correctly, say _getzt_, _gahr_ for _jetzt_,

It will be easily seen that such hypercorrect forms are closely related
to those ‘spelling pronunciations’ which become frequent when there is
much reading of a language whose spelling is not accurately phonetic;
the nineteenth century saw a great number of them, and their number is
likely to increase in this century--especially among social upstarts,
who are always fond of showing off their new-gained superiority in this
and similar ways. But they need not detain us here, as being really
foreign to our subject, the natural development of speech sounds. I
only wish to point out that many forms which are apparently due to
influence from spelling may not have their origin _exclusively_ from
that source, but may be genuine archaic forms that have been preserved
through purely oral tradition by the side of more worn-down forms of
the same word. For it must be admitted that two or three forms of the
same word may coexist and be used according to the more or less solemn
style of utterance employed. Even among savages, who are unacquainted
with the art of writing, we are told that archaic forms of speech
are often kept up and remembered as parts of old songs only, or as
belonging to solemn rites, cults, etc.

XV.--§ 13. Sound Laws and Etymological Science.

In this and the preceding chapter I have tried to pass in review the
various circumstances which make for changes in the phonetic structure
of languages. My treatment is far from exhaustive and may have other
defects; but I want to point out the fact that nowhere have I found
any reason to accept the theory that sound changes always take place
according to rigorous or ‘blind’ laws admitting no exceptions. On the
contrary, I have found many indications that complete consistency is
no more to be expected from human beings in pronunciation than in any
other sphere.

It is very often said that if sound laws admitted of exceptions there
would be no possibility of a science of etymology. Thus Curtius wrote
as early as 1858 (as quoted by Oertel 259): “If the history of language
really showed such sporadic aberrations, such pathological, wholly
irrational phonetic malformations, we should have to give up all
etymologizing. For only that which is governed by law and reducible
to a coherent system can form the object of scientific investigation;
whatever is due to chance may at best be guessed at, but will never
yield to scientific inference.” In his practice, however, Curtius
was not so strict as his followers. Leskien, one of the recognized
leaders of the ‘young grammarians,’ says (_Deklination_, xxvii):
“If exceptions are admitted at will (abweichungen), it amounts to
declaring that the object of examination, language, is inaccessible to
scientific comprehension.” Since then, it has been repeated over and
over again that without strict adherence to phonetic laws etymological
science is a sheer impossibility, and sometimes those who have doubted
the existence of strict laws in phonology have been looked upon
as obscurantists adverse to a scientific treatment of language in
general, although, of course, they did not believe that everything is
left to chance or that they were free to put forward purely arbitrary

There are, however, many instances in which it is hardly possible
to deny etymological connexion, though ‘the phonetic laws are not
observed.’ Is not Gothic _azgo_ with its voiced consonants evidently
‘the same word’ as E. _ash_, G. _asche_, Dan. _aske_, with their
voiceless consonants? G. _neffe_ with short vowel must nevertheless be
identical with MHG. _neve_, OHG. _nevo_; E. _pebble_ with OE. _papol_;
_rescue_ with ME. _rescowe_; _flagon_ with Fr. _flacon_, though each
of these words contains deviations from what we find in other cases.
It is hard to keep apart two similar forms for ‘heart,’ one with
initial _gh_ in Skt. _hrd_ and Av. _zered-_, and another with initial
_k_ in Gr. _kardía_, _kēr_, Lat. _cor_, Goth. _haírto_, etc. The Greek
ordinals _hébdomos_, _ógdoos_ have voiced consonants over against the
voiceless combinations in _heptá_, _oktṓ_, and yet cannot be separated
from them. All this goes to show (and many more cases might be
instanced) that there are in every language words so similar in sound
and signification that they cannot be separated, though they break the
‘sound laws’: in such cases, where etymologies are too palpable, even
the strictest scholars momentarily forget their strictness, maybe with
great reluctance and in the secret hope that some day the reason for
the deviation may be discovered and the principle thus be maintained.

Instead of exacting strict adherence to sound laws everywhere as
the basis of any etymologizing, it seems therefore to be in better
agreement with common sense to say: whenever an etymology is not
palpably evident, whenever there is some difficulty because the
compared words are either too remote in sound or in sense or belong to
distant periods of the same language or to remotely related languages,
your etymology cannot be reckoned as _proved_ unless you have shown
by other strictly parallel cases that the sound in question has been
treated in exactly the same way in the same language. This, of course,
applies more to old than to modern periods, and we thus see that while
in living languages accessible to direct observation we do not find
sound laws observed without exceptions, and though we must suppose
that, on account of the essential similarity of human psychology,
conditions have been the same at all periods, it is not unreasonable,
in giving etymologies for words from old periods, to act as if sound
changes followed strict laws admitting no exceptions; this is simply
a matter of proof, and really amounts to this: where the matter is
doubtful, we must require a great degree of probability in that field
which allows of the simplest and most easily controllable formulas,
namely the phonetic field. For here we have comparatively definite
phenomena and are consequently able with relative ease to compute the
possibilities of change, while this is infinitely more difficult in the
field of significations. The possibilities of semantic change are so
manifold that the only thing generally required when the change is not
obvious is to show some kind of parallel change, which need not even
have taken place in the same language or group of languages, while with
regard to sounds the corresponding changes must have occurred in the
same language and at the same period in order for the evidence to be
sufficient to establish the etymology in question.

It would perhaps be best if linguists entirely gave up the habit of
speaking about phonetic ‘laws,’ and instead used some such expression
as phonetic formulas or rules. But if we are to keep the word ‘law,’
we may with some justice think of the use of that word in juridical
parlance. When we read such phrases as: this assumption is against
phonetic laws, or, phonetic laws do not allow us this or that
etymology, or, the writer of some book under review is guilty of many
transgressions of established phonetic laws, etc., such expressions
cannot help suggesting the idea that phonetic laws resemble paragraphs
of some criminal law. We may formulate the principle in something like
the following way: If in the etymologies you propose you do not observe
these rules, if, for instance, you venture to make Gr. _kaléo_ = E.
_call_ in spite of the fact that Gr. _k_ in other words corresponds
to E. _h_, then you incur the severest punishment of science, your
etymology is rejected, and you yourself are put outside the pale of
serious students.

In another respect phonetic laws may be compared with what we might
call a Darwinian law in zoology, such as this: the fore-limbs of the
common ancestor of mammals have developed into flippers in whales and
into hands in apes and men. The similarity between both kinds of laws
is not inconsiderable. A microscopic examination of whales, even an
exact investigation by means of the eye alone, will reveal innumerable
little deviations: no two flippers are exactly alike. And in the same
way no two persons speak in exactly the same way. But the fact that
we cannot in detail account for each of these _nuances_ should not
make us doubt that they are developed in a perfectly natural way, in
accordance with the great law of causality, nor should we despair of
the possibility of scientific treatment, even if some of the flippers
and some of the sounds are not exactly what we should expect. A law of
fore-limb development can only be deduced through such observation of
many flippers as will single out what is typical of whales’ flippers,
and then a comparison with the typical fore-limbs of their ancestors or
of their congeners among existing mammals. And in the same way we do
not find laws of phonetic development until, after leaving what can be
examined as it were microscopically, we go on telescopically to examine
languages which are far removed from each other in space or time: then
small differences disappear, and we discover nothing but the great
lines of a regular evolution which is the outcome of an infinite number
of small movements in many different directions.

XV.--§ 14. Conclusion.

It has been one of the leading thoughts in the two chapters devoted
to the causes of linguistic change that phonetic changes, to be fully
understood, should not be isolated from other changes, for in actual
linguistic life we witness a constant interplay of sound and sense.
Not only should each sound change be always as far as possible seen
in connexion with other sound changes going on in the same period in
the same language (as in the great vowel-raising in English), but
the effects on the speech material as a whole should in each case be
investigated, so as to show what homophones (if any) were produced, and
what danger they entailed to the understanding of natural sentences.
Sounds should never be isolated from the words in which they occur, nor
words from sentences. No hard-and-fast boundary can be drawn between
phonetic and non-phonetic changes. The psychological motives for both
kinds of changes are the same in many cases, and the way in which both
kinds spread through imitation is absolutely identical: what was said
on this subject above (§ 11) applies without the least qualification
to any linguistic change, whether in sounds, in grammatical forms, in
syntax, in the signification of words, or in the adoption of new words
and dropping of old ones.

We shall here finally very briefly consider something which plays a
certain part in the development of language, but which has not been
adequately dealt with in what precedes, namely, the desire to play
with language. We have already met with the effects of playfulness in
one of the chapters devoted to children (p. 148): here we shall see
that the same tendency is also powerful in the language of grown-up
people, though most among young people. There is a certain exuberance
which will not rest contented with traditional expressions, but
finds amusement in the creation and propagation of new words and in
attaching new meanings to old words: this is the exact opposite of that
linguistic poverty which we found was at the bottom of such minimum
languages as Pidgin-English. We find it in the wealth of pet-names
which lovers have for each other and mothers for their children, in the
nicknames of schoolboys and of ‘pals’ of later life, as well as in the
perversions of ordinary words which at times become the fashion among
small sets of people who are constantly thrown together and have plenty
of spare time; cf. also the ‘little language’ of Swift and Stella.
Most of these forms of speech have a narrow range and have only an
ephemeral existence, but in the world of _slang_ the same tendencies
are constantly at work.

Slang words are often confused with vulgarisms, though the two things
are really different. The vulgar tongue is a class dialect, and a
vulgarism is an element of the normal speech of low-class people,
just as ordinary dialect words are elements of the natural speech of
peasants in one particular district; slang words, on the other hand,
are words used in conscious contrast to the natural or normal speech:
they can be found in all classes of society in certain moods, and
on certain occasions when a speaker wants to avoid the natural or
normal word because he thinks it too flat or uninteresting and wants
to achieve a different effect by breaking loose from the ordinary
expression. A vulgarism is what will present itself at once to the
mind of a person belonging to one particular class; a slang word is
something that is wilfully substituted for the first word that will
present itself. The distinction will perhaps appear most clearly in the
case of grammar: if a man says _them boys_ instead of _those boys_,
or _knowed_ instead of _knew_, these are the normal forms of his
language, and he knows no better, but the educated man looks down upon
these forms as vulgar. Inversely, an educated man may amuse himself
now and then by using forms which he perfectly well knows are not the
received forms, thus _wunk_ from _wink_, _collode_ from _collide_,
_praught_ from _preach_ (on the analogy of _taught_); “We handshook and
_candlestuck_, as somebody said, and went to bed” (H. James). But, of
course, slang is more productive in the lexical than in the grammatical
portion of language. And there is something that makes it difficult in
practice always to keep slang and vulgar speech apart, namely, that
when a person wants to leave the beaten path of normal language he is
not always particular as to the source whence he takes his unusual
words, and he may therefore sometimes take a vulgar word and raise it
to the dignity of a slang word.

A slang word is at first individual, but may through imitation become
fashionable in certain sets; after some time it may either be accepted
by everybody as part of the normal language, or else, more frequently,
be so hackneyed that no one finds pleasure in using it any longer.

Slang words may first be words from the ordinary language used in a
different sense, generally metaphorically. Sometimes we meet with the
same figurative expression in the slang of various countries, as when
the ‘head’ is termed _the upper story_ (_upper loft_, _upper works_)
in English, _øverste etage_ in Danish, and _oberstübchen_ in German;
more often different images are chosen in different languages, as
when for the same idea we have _nut_ or _chump_ in English and _pære_
(‘pear’) in Danish, _coco_ or _ciboule_ (or _boule_) in French. Slang
words of this character may in some instances give rise to expressions
the origin of which is totally forgotten. In old slang there is an
expression for the tongue, _the red rag_; this is shortened into
_the rag_, and I suspect that the verb _to rag_, ‘to scold, rate,
talk severely to’ (“of obscure origin,” NED), is simply from this
substantive (cf. _to jaw_).

Secondly, slang words may be words of the normal language used in
their ordinary signification, but more or less modified in regard to
form. Thus we have many shortened forms, _exam_, _quad_, _pub_, for
_examination_, _quadrangle_, _public-house_, etc. Not unfrequently
the shortening process is combined with an extension, some ending
being more or less arbitrarily substituted for the latter part of
the word, as when _football_ becomes _footer_, and _Rugby football_
and _Association football_ become _Rugger_ and _Socker_, or when at
Cambridge a freshman is called a _fresher_ and a bedmaker a _bedder_.

In schoolboys’ slang (Harrow) there is an ending _-agger_ which may be
added instead of the latter part of any word; about 1885 Prince Albert
Victor when at Cambridge was nicknamed _the Pragger_; an Agnostic was
called a _Nogger_, etc. I strongly suspect that the word _swagger_ is
formed in the same way from _swashbuckler_. Another schoolboys’ ending
is _-g_: _fog_, _seg_, _lag_, for ‘first, second, last,’ _gag_ at
Winchester for ‘gathering’ (a special kind of Latin exercise). Charles
Lamb mentions from Christ’s Hospital _crug_ for ‘a quarter of a loaf,’
evidently from _crust_; _sog_ = sovereign, _snag_ = snail (old), _swig_
= swill; words like _fag_, _peg away_, and others are perhaps to be
explained from the same tendency. Arnold Bennett in one of his books
says of a schoolboy that his vocabulary comprised an extraordinary
number of words ending in _gs_: _foggs_, _seggs_, for first, second,
etc. It is interesting to note that in French argot there are similar
endings added to more or less mutilated words: _-aque_, _-èque_,
_-oque_ (Sainéan, _L’Argot ancien_, 1907, 50 and especially 57).

There is also a peculiar class of roundabout expressions in which
the speaker avoids the regular word, but hints at it in a covert way
by using some other word, generally a proper name, which bears a
resemblance to it or is derived from it, really or seemingly. Instead
of saying ‘I want to go to bed,’ he will say, ‘I am for Bedfordshire,’
or in German ‘Ich gehe nach Bethlehem’ or ‘nach Bettingen,’ in Danish
‘gå til Slumstrup, Sovstrup, Hvilsted.’ Thus also ‘send a person to
Birching-lane,’ i.e. to whip him, ‘he has been at Hammersmith,’ i.e.
has been beaten, thrashed; ‘you are on the highway to Needham,’ i.e. on
the high-road to poverty, etc. (Cf. my paper on “Punning or Allusive
Phrases” in _Nord. Tidsskr. f. Fil._ 3 r. 9. 66.)

The language of poetry is closely related to slang, in so far as both
strive to avoid commonplace and everyday expressions. The difference is
that where slang looks only for the striking or unexpected expression,
and therefore often is merely eccentric or funny (sometimes only
would-be comic), poetry looks higher and craves abiding beauty--beauty
in thought as well as beauty in form, the latter obtained, among other
things, by rhythm, alliteration, rime, and harmonious variety of vowel

In some countries these forms tend to become stereotyped, and then may
to some extent kill the poetic spirit, poetry becoming artificiality
instead of art; the later Skaldic poetry may serve as an illustration.
Where there is a strong literary tradition--and that may be found
even where there is no written literature--veneration for the old
literature handed down from one’s ancestors will often lead to a
certain fossilization of the literary language, which becomes a shrine
of archaic expressions that no one uses naturally or can master without
great labour. If this state of things persists for centuries, it
results in a cleavage between the spoken and the written language which
cannot but have the most disastrous effects on all higher education:
the conditions prevailing nowadays in Greece and in Southern India
may serve as a warning. Space forbids me more than a bare mention of
this topic, which would deserve a much fuller treatment; for details
I may refer to K. Krumbacher, _Das Problem der neugriechischen
Schriftsprache_, Munich, 1902 (for the other side of the case see G. N.
Hatzidakis, _Die Sprachfrage in Griechenland_, Athens, 1905) and G. V.
Ramamurti, _A Memorandum on Modern Telugu_, Madras, 1913.


[65] “His pronunciation of some words is so distinct that an idea
crossed me once that he might be an actor” (Shaw, _Cashel Byron’s
Profession_, 66).

[66] Dickens, _D. Cop._ 2. 149 neverbe_rr_er, 150 I’mafraid
you’reno_r_well (ib. also _r_ for _n_: Amigoa_r_awaysoo, Goo_r_i = Good
night). | _Our Mut. Fr._ 602 le_rr_ers. | Thackeray, _Newc._ 163 _Whas_
that? | Anstey, _Vice V._ 328 _sh_upper, I _sh_pose, wha_rr_iplease,
say tha_rr_again. | Meredith, _R. Feverel_ 272 No_r_ a bi_r_ of it. |
Walpole, _Duch. of Wrex._ 323-4 non_sh_en_sh_, Wa_sh_ the matter? |
Galsworthy, _In Chanc._ 17 cur_sh_, un_sh_tood’m. Cf. also Fijn van
Draat, ESt 34. 363 ff.

[67] The inconveniences arising from having many homophones in a
language are eloquently set forth by Robert Bridges, _On English
Homophones_ (S.P.E., Oxford, 1919)--but I would not subscribe to
all the Laureate’s views, least of all to his practical suggestions
and to his unjustifiable attacks on some very meritorious English
phoneticians. He seems also to exaggerate the dangers, e.g. of the two
words _know_ and _no_ having the same sound, when he says (p. 22) that
unless a vowel like that in _law_ be restored to the negative _no_,
“I should judge that the verb _to know_ is doomed. The third person
singular of its present tense is _nose_, and its past tense is _new_,
and the whole inconvenience is too radical and perpetual to be received
all over the world.” But surely the rôle of these words in connected
speech is so different, and is nearly always made so clear by the
context, that it is very difficult to imagine real sentences in which
there would be any serious change of mistaking _know_ for _no_, or
_knows_ for _nose_, or _knew_ for _new_. I repeat: it is not homophony
as such--the phenomenon shown in the long lists lexicographers can
draw up of words of the same sound--that is decisive, but the chances
of mistakes in connected speech. It has been disputed whether the loss
of Gr. _humeîs_, ‘ye,’ was due to its identity in sound with _hemeîs_,
‘we’; Hatzidakis says that the new formation _eseîs_ is earlier than
the falling together of _e_ and _u_ [y] in the sound [i]. But according
to Dieterich and C. D. Buck (_Classical Philology_, 9. 90, 1914) the
confusion of _u_ and _i_ or _e_ dates back to the second century.
Anyhow, all confusion is now obviated, for both the first and the
second persons pl. have new forms which are unambiguous: _emeîs_ and
_eseîs_ or _seîs_.

[68] The NED has not arrived at this explanation; it says: “_Peer_
is not a phonetic development of _pire_, and cannot, so far as is at
present known, be formally identified with that word”; “the verbs
_keek_, _peek_, and _peep_ are app. closely allied to each other.
_Kike_ and _pike_, as earlier forms of _keek_ and _peek_, occur in
Chaucer; _pepe_, _peep_ is of later appearance.... The phonetic
relations between the forms _pike_, _peek_, _peak_, are as yet

[69] See, for instance, the following strong expressions: “Une
langue est sans cesse rongée et menacée de ruine par l’action des
lois phonétiques, qui, livrées à elles-mêmes, opéreraient avec une
régularité fatale et désagrégeraient le système grammatical....
Heureusement l’analogie (c’est ainsi qu’on désigne la tendance
inconsciente à conserver ou recréer ce que les lois phonétiques
menacent ou détruisent) a peu à peu effacé ces différences ... il
s’agit d’une perpétuelle dégradation due aux changements phonétiques
aveugles, et qui est toujours ou prévenue ou réparée par une
réorganisation parallèle du système” (Bally, LV 44 f.).

[70] Some speakers will say [su·] in _Susan_, _supreme_,
_superstition_, but will take care to pronounce [sju·] in _suit_,
_sue_. Others are more consistent one way or the other.

[71] I.e. “With confused and indistinct articulation; also, with a
husky or hoarse voice”--NED.

[72] Even in speaking a foreign language one may unconsciously apply
phonetic correspondences; a countryman of mine thus told me that he
once, in his anger at being charged an exorbitant price for something,
exclaimed: “Das sind doch _unblaue_ preise!”--coining in the hurry the
word _unblaue_ for the Danish _ublu_ (shameless), because the negative
prefix _un-_ corresponds to Dan. _u-_, and _au_ very often stands in
German where Dan. has _u_ (_haus_ = _hus_, etc.). On hearing his own
words, however, he immediately saw his mistake and burst out laughing.





  § 1. Achievements. § 2. Doubtful Cases. § 3. Facts, not Fancies. § 4.
  Hope. § 5. Requirements. § 6. Blendings. § 7. Echo Words. § 8. Some
  Conjunctions. § 9. Object of Etymology. § 10. Reconstruction.

XVI.--§ 1. Achievements.

Few things have been more often quoted in works on linguistics than
Voltaire’s _mot_ that in etymology vowels count for nothing and
consonants for very little. But it is now said just as often that the
satire might be justly levelled at the pseudo-scientific etymology of
the eighteenth century, but has no application to our own times, in
which etymology knows how to deal with both vowels and consonants,
and--it should be added, though it is often forgotten--with the
meanings of words. One often comes across outbursts of joy and pride in
the achievements of modern etymological science, like the following,
which is quoted here _instar omnium_: “Nowadays etymology has got past
the period of more or less ‘happy thoughts’ (glücklichen einfälle) and
has developed into a science in which, exactly as in any other science,
serious persevering work must lead to reliable results” (H. Schröder,
_Ablautstudien_, 1910, X; cf. above, Max Müller and Whitney, p. 89).

There is no denying that much has been achieved, but it is equally true
that a skeptical mind cannot fail to be struck with the uncertainty of
many proposed explanations: very often scholars have not got beyond
‘happy thoughts,’ many of which have not even been happy enough to have
been accepted by anybody except their first perpetrators. From English
alone, which for twelve hundred years has had an abundant written
literature, and which has been studied by many eminent linguists, who
have had many sister-languages with which to compare it, it would be
an easy matter to compile a long list of words, well-known words of
everyday occurrence, which etymologists have had to give up as beyond
their powers of solution (_fit_, _put_, _pull_, _cut_, _rouse_, _pun_,
_fun_, _job_). And equally perplexing are many words now current all
over Europe, some of them comparatively recent and yet completely
enigmatic: _race_, _baron_, _baroque_, _rococo_, _zinc_.

XVI.--§ 2. Doubtful Cases.

Or let us take a word of that class which forms the staple subject
of etymological disquisitions, one in which the semantic side is
literally as clear as sunshine, namely the word for ‘sun.’ Here we
have, among others, the following forms: (1) _sun_, OE. _sunne_, Goth.
_sunno_; (2) Dan., Lat. _sol_, Goth. _sauil_, Gr. _hḗlios_; (3) OE.
_sigel_, _sægl_, Goth. _sugil_; (4) OSlav. _slǔnǐce_, Russ. _solnce_
(now with mute _l_). That these forms are related cannot be doubted,
but their mutual relation, and their relation to Gr. _selḗnē_, which
means ‘moon,’ and to OE. _swegel_ ‘sky,’ have never been cleared up.
Holthausen derives _sunno_ from the verb _sinnan_ ‘go’ and OE. _sigel_
from the verb _sigan_ ‘descend, go down’--but is it really probable
that our ancestors should have thought of the sun primarily as the one
that goes, or that sets? The word _south_ (orig. *_sunþ_; the _n_ as
in OHG. _sund_ is still kept in Dan. _sønden_) is generally explained
as connected with _sun_, and the meaning ‘sunny side’ is perfectly
natural; but now H. Schröder thinks that it is derived from a word
meaning ‘right’ (OE. _swiðre_, orig. ‘stronger,’ a comparative of the
adj. found in G. _geschwind_), and he says that the south is to the
right when you look at the sun at sunrise--which is perfectly true, but
why should people have thought of the south as being to the right when
they wanted to speak of it in the afternoon or evening?

Let me take one more example to show that our present methods, or
perhaps our present data, sometimes leave us completely in the lurch
with regard to the most ordinary words. We have a series of words which
may all, without any formal difficulties, be referred to a root-form
_seqw-_. Their significations are, respectively--

  (1) ‘say,’ E. _say_, OE. _secgan_, ON. _segja_, G. _sagen_, Lith.
  _sakýti_. To this is referred Gr. _énnepe_, _eníspein_, Lat.
  _inseque_ and possibly _inquam_.

  (2) ‘show, point out,’ OSlav. _sočiti_, Lat. _signum_.

  (3) ‘see,’ E. _see_, OE. _seon_, Goth. _saihwan_, G. _sehen_, etc.

  (4) ‘follow,’ Lat. _sequor_, Gr. _hépomai_, Skr. _sácate_. Here
  belongs Lat. _socius_, OE. _secg_ ‘man,’ orig. ‘follower.’

Now, are these four groups ‘etymologically identical’? Opinions differ
widely, as may be seen from C. D. Buck, “Words of Speaking and Saying”
(_Am. Journ. of Philol._ 36. 128, 1915). They may be thus tabulated, a
comma meaning supposed identity and a dash the opposite:

  1, 2-3, 4 Kluge, Falk, Torp.
  1, 2, 3-4 Brugmann.
  1, 2, 3, 4 Wood, Buck.[73]

For the transition in meaning from ‘see’ to ‘say’ we are referred
to such words as _observe_, _notice_, G. _bemerkung_, while in
G. _anweisen_, and still more in Lat. _dico_, there is a similar
transition from ‘show’ to ‘say.’ Wood derives the signification
‘follow’ from ‘point out,’ through ‘show, guide, attend.’ With regard
to the relation between 3 and 4, it has often been said that to see is
to follow with the eyes. In short, it is possible, if you take some
little pains, to discover notional ties between all four groups which
may not be so very much looser than those between other words which
everybody thinks related. And yet? I cannot see that the knowledge we
have at present enables us, or can enable us, to do more than leave
the mutual relation of these groups an open question. One man’s guess
is just as good as another’s, or one man’s yes as another man’s no--if
the connexion of these words is ‘science,’ it is, if I may borrow
an expression from the old archæologist Samuel Pegge, _scientia ad
libitum_. Personal predilection and individual taste have not been
ousted from etymological research to the extent many scholars would
have us believe.

Or we may perhaps say that among the etymologies found in dictionaries
and linguistic journals some are solid and firm as rocks, but others
are liquid and fluctuate like the sea; and finally not a few are in
a gaseous state and blow here and there as the wind listeth. Some of
them are no better than poisonous gases, from which may Heaven preserve

XVI.--§ 3. Facts, not Fancies.

As early as 1867 Michel Bréal, in an excellent article (reprinted
in M 267 ff.), called attention to the dangers resulting from the
general tendency of comparative linguists to “jump intermediate steps
in order at once to mount to the earliest stages of the language,”
but his warning has not taken effect, so that etymologists in dealing
with a word found only in comparatively recent times will often try to
reconstruct what might have been its Proto-Aryan form and compare that
with some word found in some other language. Thus, Falk and Torp refer
G. _krieg_ to an Aryan primitive form *_grêigho-_, *_grîgho-_, which is
compared with Irish _bríg_ ‘force.’ But the German word is not found
in use till the middle period; it is peculiar to German and unknown in
related languages (for the Scandinavian and probably also the Dutch
words are later loans from Germany). These writers do not take into
account how improbable it is that such a word, if it were really an
old traditional word for this fundamental idea, should never once have
been recorded in any of the old documents of the whole of our family of
languages. What should we think of the man who would refer _boche_, the
French nickname for ‘German’ which became current in 1914, and before
that time had only been used for a few years and known to a few people
only, to a Proto-Aryan root-form? Yet the method in both cases is
identical; it presupposes what no one can guarantee, that the words in
question are of those which trot along the royal road of language for
century after century without a single side-jump, semantic or phonetic.
Such words are the favourites of linguists because they have always
behaved themselves since the days of Noah; but others are full of the
most unexpected pranks, which no scientific ingenuity can discover if
we do not happen to know the historical facts. Think of _grog_, for
example. Admiral Vernon, known to sailors by the nickname of “Old Grog”
because he wore a cloak of grogram (this, by the way, from Fr. _gros
grain_), in 1740 ordered a mixture of rum and water to be served out
instead of pure rum, and the name was transferred from the person to
the drink. If it be objected that such leaps are found only in slang,
the answer is that slang words very often become recognized after some
time, and who knows but that may have been the case with _krieg_ just
as well as with many a recent word?

At any rate, facts weigh more than fancies, and whoever wants to
establish the etymology of a word must first ascertain all the
historical facts available with regard to the place and time of its
rise, its earliest signification and syntactic construction, its
diffusion, the synonyms it has ousted, etc. Thus, and thus only, can
he hope to rise above loose conjectures. Here the great historical
dictionaries, above all the Oxford _New English Dictionary_, render
invaluable service. And let me mention one model article outside
these dictionaries, in which Hermann Möller has in my opinion given a
satisfactory solution of the riddle of G. _ganz_: he explains it as a
loan from Slav _konǐcǐ_ ‘end,’ used especially adverbially (perhaps
with a preposition in the form _v-konec_ or _v-konc_) ‘to the end,
completely’; Slav _c_ = G. _z_, Slav _k_ pronounced essentially as
South G. _g_; the gradual spreading and various significations and
derived forms are accounted for with very great learning (_Zs. f. D.
Alt._ 36. 326 ff.). It is curious that this article should have been
generally overlooked or neglected, though the writer seems to have met
all the legitimate requirements of a scientific etymology.

XVI.--§ 4. Hope.

I have endeavoured to fulfil these requirements in the new explanation
I have given of the word _hope_ (Dan. _håbe_, Swed. _hoppas_, G.
_hoffen_), now used in all Gothonic tongues in exactly the same
signification. Etymologists are at variance about this word. Kluge
connects it with the OE. noun _hyht_, and from that form infers that
Gothonic *_hopôn_ stands for *_huqôn_, from an Aryan root _kug_; he
says that a connexion with Lat. _cupio_ is scarcely possible. Walde
likewise rejects connexion between _cupio_ and either _hope_ or
Goth. _hugjan_. To Falk and Torp _hope_ has probably nothing to do
with _hyht_, but probably with _cupio_, which is derived from a root
*_kup_ = _kvap_, found in Lat. _vapor_ ‘steam,’ and with a secondary
form *_kub_, in _hope_, and *_kvab_ in Goth. _af-hwapjan_ ‘choke’--a
wonderful medley of significations. H. Möller (_Indoeur.-Semit.
sammenlignende Glossar._ 63), in accordance with his usual method,
establishes an Aryo-Semitic root *_k̑-u̯-_, meaning ‘ardere’ and
transferred to ‘ardere amore, cupiditate, desiderio,’ the root being
extended with _b-_: _p-_ in _hope_ and _cupio_, with _gh-_ in Goth.
_hugs_, and with _g̑-_ in OE. _hyht_. Surely a typical example of the
perplexity of our etymologists, who disagree in everything except
just in the one thing which seems to me extremely doubtful, that
_hope_ with the present spiritual signification goes back to common
Aryan. Now, what are the real facts of the matter? Simply these, that
the word _hope_ turns up at a comparatively late date in historical
times at one particular spot, and from there it gradually spreads to
the neighbouring countries. In Denmark (_håb_, _håbe_) and in Sweden
(_hopp_, _hoppas_) it is first found late in the Middle Ages as a
religious loan from Low German _hope_, _hopen_. High German _hoffen_
is found very rarely about 1150, but does not become common till a
hundred years later; it is undoubtedly taken (with sound substitution)
from Low German and moves in Germany from north to south. Old Saxon
has the subst. _tō-hopa_, which has probably come from OE., where we
have the same form for the subst., _tō-hopa_. This is pretty common
in religious prose, but in poetry it is found only once (Boet.)--a
certain indication that the word is recent. The subst. without _tō_
is comparatively late (Ælfric, ab. 1000). The verb is found in rare
instances about a hundred years earlier, but does not become common
till later. Now, it is important to notice that the verb in the old
period never takes a direct object, but is always connected with the
preposition _tō_ (compare the subst.), even in modern usage we have
_to hope to_, _for_, _in_. Similarly in G., where the phrase was _auf
etwas hoffen_; later the verb took a genitive, then a pronoun in the
accusative, and finally an ordinary object; in biblical language we
find also _zu gott hoffen_. Now, I would connect our word with the
form _hopu_, found twice as part of a compound in _Beowulf_ (450 and
764), where ‘refuge’ gives good sense: _hopan to_, then, is to ‘take
one’s refuge to,’ and _to-hopa_ ‘refuge.’ This verb I take to be at
first identical with _hop_ (the only OE. instance I know of this is
Ælfric, _Hom._ 1. 202: _hoppode ongean his drihten_). We have also one
instance of a verb _onhupian_ (_Cura Past._ 441) ‘draw back, recoil,’
which agrees with ON. _hopa_ ‘move backwards’ (to the quotations in
Fritzner may be added Laxd. 49, 15, þeir Osvígssynir hopudu undan).[75]
The original meaning seems to have been ‘bend, curb, bow, stoop,’
either in order to leap, or to flee, from something bad, or towards
something good; cf. the subst. _hip_, OE. _hype_, Goth. _hups_, Dan.
_hofte_, G. _hüfte_, Lat. _cubitus_, etc. (Holthausen, _Anglia Beibl._,
1904, 350, deals with these words, but does not connect them with
_hop_, _-hopu_, or _hope_.) The transition from bodily movement to the
spiritual ‘hope’ may have been favoured by the existence of the verb
OE. _hogian_ ‘think,’ but is not in itself more difficult than with,
e.g., Lat. _ex(s)ultare_ ‘leap up, rejoice,’ or Dan. _lide på_ ‘lean
to, confide in, trust,’ _tillid_ ‘confidence, reliance’; and a new
word for ‘hope’ was required because the old _wen_ (Goth. _wens_), vb.
_wenan_, had at an early age acquired a more general meaning ‘opinion,
probability,’ vb. ‘suppose, imagine.’ The difficulty that the word for
‘hope’ has single or short _p_ (in Swed., however, _pp_), while _hop_,
OE. _hoppian_, has double or long _p_, is no serious hindrance to our
etymology, because the gemination may easily be accounted for on the
principle mentioned below (Ch. XX § 9), that is, as giving a more vivid
expression of the rapid action.

XVI.--§ 5. Requirements.

It is, of course, impossible to determine once for all by hard-and-fast
rules how great the correspondence must be for us to recognize two
words as ‘etymologically identical,’ nor to say to which of the two
sides, the phonetic and the semantic, we should attach the greater
importance. With the rise of historical phonology the tendency has been
to require exact correspondence in the former respect, and in semantics
to be content with more or less easily found parallels. One example
will show how particular many scholars are in matters of sound. The
word _nut_ (OE. _hnutu_, G. _nuss_, ON. _hnot_, Dan. _nød_) is by Paul
declared “not related to Lat. _nux_” and by Kluge “neither originally
akin with nor borrowed from Lat. _nux_,” while the NED does not even
mention _nux_ and thus must think it quite impossible to connect it
with the English word. We have here in two related languages two
words resembling each other not only in sound, but in stem-formation
and gender, and possessing exactly the same signification, which is
as concrete and definite as possible. And yet we are bidden to keep
them asunder! Fortunately I am not the first to protest against such
barbarity: H. Pedersen (KZ n.f. 12. 251) explains both words from
*_dnuk-_, which by metathesis has become *_knud-_, while Falk and Torp
as well as Walde think the latter form the original one, which in Latin
has been shifted into *_dnuk-_. Which of these views is correct (both
may be wrong) is of less importance than the victory of common sense
over phonological pedantry.

There are two explanations which have had very often to do duty where
the phonological correspondence is not exact, namely root-variation
(root-expansion with determinatives) and apophony (ablaut). Of
the former Uhlenbeck (PBB 30. 252) says: “The theory of root
determinatives no doubt contains a kernel of truth, but it has only
been fatal to etymological science, as it has drawn the attention from
real correspondences between well-substantiated words to delusive
similarities between hypothetical abstractions.” Apophony inspires
more confidence, and in many cases offers fully reliable explanations;
but this principle, too, has been often abused, and it is difficult
to find its true limitations. Many special applications of it appear
questionable; thus, when G. _stumm_, Dan. _stum_, is explained as an
apophonic form of the adj. _stam_, Goth. _stamms_, from which we have
the verb _stammer_, G. _stammeln_, Dan. _stamme_: is it really probable
that the designation of muteness should be taken from the word for
stammering? This appears especially improbable when we consider that
at the time when the new word _stumm_ made its appearance there was
already another word for ‘mute,’ namely _dumm_, _dumb_, the word which
has been preserved in English. I therefore propose a new etymology:
_stumm_ is a blending of the two synonyms _still(e)_ and _dum(b)_,
made up of the beginning of the one and the ending of the other word;
through adopting the initial _st-_ the word was also associated with
_stump_, and we get an exact correspondence between _dumm_, _dum_,
_stumm_, _stum_, applied to persons, and _dumpf_, _stumpf_, Dan.
_dump_, _stump_, applied to things. Note that in those languages (G.,
Dan.) in which the new word _stum(m)_ was used, the unchanged _dum(m)_
was free to develop the new sense ‘stupid’ (or was the creation
of _stum_ occasioned by the old word tending already to acquire
this secondary meaning?), while _dumb_ in English stuck to the old

XVI.--§ 6. Blendings.

Blendings of synonyms play a much greater rôle in the development of
language than is generally recognized. Many instances may be heard in
everyday life, most of them being immediately corrected by the speaker
(see above, XV § 4), but these momentary lapses cannot be separated
from other instances which are of more permanent value because they
are so natural that they will occur over and over again until speakers
will hardly feel the blend as anything else than an ordinary word.
M. Bloomfield (IF 4. 71) says that he has been many years conscious
of an irrepressible desire to assimilate the two verbs _quench_ and
_squelch_ in both directions by forming _squench_ and _quelch_, and
he has found the former word in a negro story by Page. The expression
‘irrepressible desire’ struck me on reading this, for I have myself in
my Danish speech the same feeling whenever I am to speak of tending
a patient, for I nearly always say _plasse_ as a result of wavering
between _pleje_ [_plaiə_] and _passe_. Many examples may be found in
G. A. Bergström, _On Blendings of Synonymous or Cognate Expressions
in English_, Lund, 1906, and Louise Pound, _Blends, Their Relation
to English Word Formation_, Heidelberg, 1914. But neither of these
two writers has seen the full extent of this principle of formation,
which explains many words of greater importance than those nonce words
which are found so plentifully in Miss Pound’s paper. Let me give some
examples, some of them new, some already found by others:

  _blot_ = _bl_emish, _bl_ack + sp_ot_, p_lot_, d_ot_; there is also an
  obsolete sp_lot_.

  _blunt_ = _bl_ind + st_unt_.

  _crouch_ = _cr_inge, _cr_ook, _cr_awl, †_crou_k + _couch_.

  _flush_ = _fl_a_sh_ + b_lush_.

  _frush_ = _fr_og + th_rush_ (all three names of the same disease in
  a horse’s foot).

  _glaze_ (Shakespeare) = _gla_re + _gaze_.

  _good-bye_ = _good_-night, _good_-morning + _godbye_ (God be with ye).

  _knoll_ = _kn_e_ll_ + t_oll_.

  _scroll_ = _scrow_ + _roll_.

  _slash_ = _sl_ay, _sl_ing, _sl_at + g_ash_, d_ash_.

  _slender_ = _sl_ight (_sl_im) + t_ender_.

Such blends are especially frequent in words expressive of sounds or in
some other way symbolical, as, for instance:

  _flurry_ = _fl_ing, _fl_ow and many other _fl_-words + h_urry_ (note
  also sc_urry_).

  _gruff_ = _gru_m, _gr_im + _rough_.

  _slide_ = _sl_ip + g_lide_.

  _troll_ = _tr_i_ll_ + _roll_ (in some senses perhaps rather from
  _tr_ead, _tr_undle + _roll_).

  _twirl_ = _tw_ist + _whirl_.

In slang blends abound, e.g.:

  _tosh_ (Harrow) = _t_ub + w_ash_. (Sometimes explained as _toe-wash_.)

  _blarmed_ = _bl_a_med_, _bl_essed and other _bl_-words + d_arned_

  _be danged_ = _da_mned + h_anged_.

  _I swow_ = _swe_ar + v_ow_.

  _brunch_ = _br_eakfast + l_unch_ (so also, though more rarely
  _brupper_ (... + s_upper_), _tunch_ (_t_ea + l_unch_), _tupper_ =
  _t_ea + s_upper_).[76]

XVI.--§ 7. Echo-words.

Most etymologists are very reluctant to admit echoism; thus Diez
rejects onomatopœic origin of It. _pisciare_, Fr. _pisser_--an
echo-word if ever there was one--and says, “One can easily go too far
in supposing onomatopœia: as a rule it is more advisable to build on
existing words”; this he does by deriving this verb from a non-existing
*_pipisare_, _pipsare_, from _pipa_ ‘pipe, tube.’ Falk and Torp refer
_dump_ (Dan. _dumpe_) to Swed. _dimpa_, a Gothonic root _demp_,
supposed to be an extension of an Aryan root _dhen_: thus they are too
deaf to hear the sound of the heavy fall expressed by _um(p)_, cf. Dan.
_bumpe_, _bums_, _plumpe_, _skumpe_, _jumpe_, and similar words in
other languages.

It may be fancy, but I think I hear the same sound in Lat. _plumbum_,
which I take to mean at first not the metal, but the plummet that
was dumped or plumped into the water and was denominated from the
sound; as this was generally made of lead, the word came to be used
for the metal. Most etymologists take it for granted that _plumbum_
is a loan-word, some being honest enough to confess that they do not
know from what language, while others without the least scruple or
hesitation say that it was taken from Iberian: our ignorance of that
language is so deep that no one can enter an expert’s protest against
such a supposition.[77] But if my hypothesis is right, the words
_plummet_ (from OFr. _plommet_, a diminutive of _plomb_) as well as the
verb Fr. _plonger_, whence E. _plunge_, from Lat. *_plumbicare_, are
not only derivatives from _plumbum_ (the only thing mentioned by other
scholars), but also echo-words, and they, or at any rate the verb, must
to a great extent owe their diffusion to their felicitously symbolic
sound. In a novel I find: “Plump went the lead”--showing how this sound
is still found adequate to express the falling of the lead in sounding.
The NED says under the verb _plump_: “Some have compared L. _plumbare_
... to throw the lead-line ... but the approach of form between
_plombar_ and the LG. _plump-plomp_ group seems merely fortuitous”
(!). I see sound symbolism in _all_ the words _plump_, while the NED
will only allow it in the most obvious cases. From the sound of a body
plumping into the water we have interesting developments in the adverb,
as in the following quotations: I said, _plump_ out, that I couldn’t
stand any more of it (Bernard Shaw) | The famous diatribe against
Jesuitism points _plumb_ in the same direction (Morley) | fall _plum_
into the jaws of certain critics (Swift) | Nollie was a _plumb_ little
idiot (Galsworthy). In the last sense ‘entirely’ it is especially
frequent in America, e.g. They lost their senses, _plumb_ lost their
senses (Churchill) | she’s _plum_ crazy, it’s _plum_ bad, etc. Related
words for fall, etc., are _plop_, _plout_, _plunk_, _plounce_. Much
might also be said in this connexion of various _pop_ and _bob_ words,
but I shall refrain.

XVI.--§ 8. Some Conjunctions.

Sometimes obviously correct etymologies yet leave some psychological
points unexplained. One of my pet theories concerns some adversative
conjunctions. Lat. _sed_ has been supplanted by _magis_: It. _ma_,
Sp. _mas_, Fr. _mais_. The transition is easily accounted for; from
‘more’ it is no far cry to ‘rather’ (cf. G. _vielmehr_), which can
readily be employed to correct or gainsay what has just been said.
The Scandinavian word for ‘but’ is _men_, which came into use in the
fifteenth century and is explained as a blending of _meden_ in its
shortened form _men_ (now _mens_) ‘while’ and Low German _men_ ‘but,’
which stands for older _niwan_, from the negative _ni_ and _wan_
‘wanting’; the meaning has developed through that of ‘except’ and the
sound is easily understood as an instance of assimilation. The same
phonetic development is found in Dutch _maar_, OFris. _mar_, from _en
ware_ ‘were not,’ the same combination which has yielded G. _nur_.
Thus we have four different ways of getting to expressions for ‘but,’
none of which presents the least difficulty to those familiar with the
semantic ways of words. But why did these various nations seize on new
words? Weren’t the old ones good enough?

Here I must call attention to two features that are common to these
new conjunctions, first their syntactic position, which is invariably
in the beginning of the sentence, while such synonymous words as Lat.
_autem_ and G. _aber_ may be placed after one or more words; then their
phonetic agreement in one point: _magis_, _men_, _maar_ all begin
with _m_. Now, both these features are found in two words for ‘but,’
about whose etymological origin I can find no information, Finnic
_mutta_ and Santal _menkhan_, as well as in _me_, which is used in the
_Ancrene Riwle_ and a few other early Middle English texts and has been
dubiously connected with the Scandinavian (and French?) word. How are
we to explain these curious coincidences? I think by the nature of the
sound [m], which is produced when the lips are closed while the tongue
rests passively and the soft palate is lowered so as to allow air to
escape through the nostrils--in short, the position which is typical
of anybody who is quietly thinking over matters without as yet saying
anything, with the sole difference that in his case the vocal chords
are passive, while they are made to vibrate to bring forth an _m_.

Now, it very often happens that a man wants to say something, but has
not yet made up his mind as to _what_ to say; and in this moment of
hesitation, while thoughts are in the process of conception, the lungs
and vocal chords will often be prematurely set going, and the result
is [m] (sometimes preceded by the corresponding voiceless sound),
often written _hm_ or _h’m_, which thus becomes the interjection of
an unshaped contradiction. Not infrequently this [m] precedes a real
word; thus _M’yes_ (written in this way by Shaw, _Misalliance_ 154, and
Merrick, _Conrad_ 179) and Dan. _mja_, to mark a hesitating consent.

This will make it clear why words beginning with _m_ are so often
chosen as adversative conjunctions: people begin with this sound and go
on with some word that gives good sense and which happens to begin with
_m_: _mais_, _maar_. The Dan. _men_ in the mouth of some early speakers
is probably this [m], sliding into the old conjunction _en_, just as
_myes_ is _m_ + _yes_; while other original users of _men_ may have
been thinking of _men_ = _meden_, and others again of Low German _men_:
these three etymologies are not mutually destructive, for all three
origins may have concurrently contributed to the popularity of _men_.
Modern Greek and Serbian _ma_ are generally explained as direct loans
from Italian, but may be indigenous, as may also dialectal Rumanian
_ma_ in the same sense, for in the hesitating [m] as the initial sound
of objections we have one of those touches of nature which make the
whole world kin.[78]

XVI.--§ 9. Object of Etymology.

What is the object of etymological science? “To determine the true
signification of a word,” answers one of the masters of etymological
research (Walde, _Lat. et. Wörterb._ xi). But surely in most cases that
can be achieved without the help of etymology. We know the true sense
of hundreds of words about the etymology of which we are in complete
ignorance, and we should know exactly what the word _grog_ means, even
if the tradition of its origin had been accidentally lost. Many people
still believe that an account of the origin of a name throws some light
on the essence of the thing it stands for; when they want to define
say ‘religion’ or ‘civilization,’ they start by stating the (real or
supposed) origin of the name--but surely that is superstition, though
the first framers of the name ‘etymology’ (from Gr. _etumon_ ‘true’)
must have had the same idea in their heads. Etymology tells us nothing
about the things, nor even about the present meaning of a word, but
only about the way in which a word has come into existence. At best, it
tells us not what _is_ true, but what _has been_ true.

The overestimation of etymology is largely attributable to the
“conviction that there can be nothing in language that had not an
intelligible purpose, that there is nothing that is now irregular that
was not at first regular, nothing irrational that was not originally
rational” (Max Müller)--a conviction which is still found to underlie
many utterances about linguistic matters, but which readers of the
present volume will have seen is erroneous in many ways. On the whole,
Max Müller naïvely gives expression to what is unconsciously at the
back of much that is said and believed about language; thus, when he
says (L 1. 44): “I must ask you at present to take it for granted
that everything in language had originally a meaning. As language
can have no other object but to express our meaning, it might seem
to follow almost by necessity that language should contain neither
more nor less than what is required for that purpose.” Yes, so it
would if language had been constructed by an omniscient and omnipotent
being, but as it was developed by imperfect human beings, there is
every possibility of their having failed to achieve their purpose and
having done either more or less than was required to express their
meaning. It would be wrong to say that language (i.e. speaking man)
created first what was strictly necessary, and afterwards what might
be considered superfluous; but it would be equally wrong to say that
linguistic luxuries were always created before necessaries; yet that
view would probably be nearer the truth than the former. Much of
what in former ages was felt to be necessary to express thoughts was
afterwards felt as pedantic crisscross and gradually eliminated; but at
all times many things have been found in language that can never have
been anything else but superfluous, exactly as many people use a great
many superfluous gestures which are not in the least significant and
in no way assist the comprehension of their intentions, but which they
somehow feel an impulse to perform. In language, as in life generally,
we have too little in some respects, and too much in others.

XVI.--§ 10. Reconstruction.

Kluge somewhere (PBB 37. 479, 1911) says that the establishment of
the common Aryan language is the chief task of our modern science
of linguistics (to my mind it can never be more than a fragment of
that task, which must be to understand the nature of language), and
he thinks optimistically that “reconstructions with their reliable
methods have taken so firm root that we are convinced that we know the
common Aryan _grundsprache_ just as thoroughly as any language that
is more or less authenticated through literature.” This is a palpable
exaggeration, for no one nowadays has the courage of Schleicher to
print even the smallest fable in Proto-Aryan, and if by some miraculous
accident we were to find a text written in that language we may be sure
it would puzzle us just as much as Tokharian does.

Reconstruction has two sides, an outer and an inner. With regard to
sounds, it seems to me that very often the masters of linguistics treat
us to reconstructed forms that are little short of impossible. This
is not the place to give a detailed criticism of the famous theory of
‘nasalis sonans,’ but I hope elsewhere to be able to state why I think
this theory a disfiguring excrescence on linguistic science: no one has
ever been able to find in any existing language such forms as _mnto_
with stressed syllabic [n], given as the old form of our word _mouth_
(Falk and Torp even give _stmnto_ in order to connect the word with Gr.
_stóma_), or as _dkmtóm_ (whence Lat. _centum_, etc.) or _bhrghnti̯es_
or _gu̯mskete_ (Brugmann). Not only are these forms phonetically
impossible, but the theory fails to explain the transitions to the
forms actually existing in real languages, and everything is much
easier if we assume forms like [ʌm, ʌn] with some vowel like that of E.
_un-_. The use in Proto-Aryan reconstructions of non-syllabic _i_ and
_u_ also in some respects invites criticism, but it will be better to
treat these questions in a special paper.

Semantic reconstruction calls for little comment here. It is evident
from the nature of the subject that no such strict rules can be given
in this domain as in the domain of sound; but nowadays scholars are
more realistic than formerly. Most of them will feel satisfied when
_moon_ and _month_ are associated with words having the same two
significations in related languages, without indulging in explanations
of both from a root _me_ ‘to measure’; and when our _daughter_ has
been connected with Gr. _thugáter_, Skt. _duhitár_ and corresponding
words in other languages, no attempt is made to go beyond the meaning
common to these words ‘daughter’ and to speculate what had induced our
ancestors to bestow that word on that particular relation, as when
Lassen derived it from the root _duh_ ‘to milk’ and pictured an idyllic
family life, in which it was the business of the young girls to milk
the cows, or when Fick derived the same word from the root _dheugh_
‘to be useful’ (G. _taugen_: ‘wie die _magd_, _maid_ von _mögen_’),
as if the daughters were the only, or the most, efficient members of
the family. Unfortunately, such speculations are still found lingering
in many recent handbooks of high standing: Kluge hesitates whether to
assign the word _mutter_, _mother_, to the root _ma_ in the sense ‘mete
out’ or in the sense found in Sanskrit ‘to form,’ used of the fœtus in
the womb. A resigned acquiescence in inevitable ignorance and a sense
of reality should certainly be characteristics of future etymologists.


[73] With regard to Lat. _signum_ it should be noted that it is by
others explained as coming from Lat. _secare_ and as meaning a notch.

[74] It is, of course, impossible to say how great a proportion of the
etymologies given in dictionaries should strictly be classed under
each of the following heads: (1) certain, (2) probable, (3) possible,
(4) improbable, (5) impossible--but I am afraid the first two classes
would be the least numerous. Meillet (Gr 59) has some excellent remarks
to the same effect; according to him, “pour une étymologie sûre, les
dictionnaires en offrent plus de dix qui sont douteuses et dont, en
appliquant une méthode rigoureuse, on ne saurait faire la preuve.”

[75] Westphalian also has _hoppen_ ‘zurückweichen,’ ESt. 54. 88.

[76] Lewis Carrol’s ‘portmanteau words’ are, of course, famous.

[77] Speculation has been rife, but without any generally accepted
results, as to the relation between _plumbum_ and words for the same
metal in cognate languages: Gr. _molibos_, _molubdos_ and similar
forms, Ir. _luaide_, E. _lead_ (G. _lot_, ‘plummet, half an ounce’),
Scand. _bly_, OSlav. _olovo_, OPruss. _alwis_; see Curtius, Prellwitz,
Boisacq, Hirt Idg. 686, Schrader _Sprachvergl. u. Urgesch._, 3d. ed.,
ii. 1. 95; Herm. Möller, _Sml. Glossar_ 87, says that _molibos_ and
_plumbum_ are extensions of the root _m-l_ ‘mollis esse’ and explains
the difference between the initial sounds by referring to _multum_:
comp. _plus_--certainly most ingenious, but not convincing. Some of
these words may originally have been echo-words for the plumping

[78] I have discussed this more in detail and added other _m_-words of
a somewhat related character in _Studier tillegnade E. Tegnér_, 1918,
p. 49 ff.



  § 1. Linguistic Estimation. § 2. Degeneration? § 3. Appreciation of
  Modern Tongues. § 4. The Scientific Attitude. § 5. Final Answer. § 6.
  Sounds. § 7. Shortenings. § 8. Objections. Result. § 9. Verbal Forms.
  § 10. Synthesis and Analysis. § 11. Verbal Concord.

XVII.--§ 1. Linguistic Estimation.

The common belief of linguists that one form or one expression is
just as good as another, provided they are both found in actual use,
and that each language is to be considered a perfect vehicle for
the thoughts of the nation speaking it, is in some ways the exact
counterpart of the conviction of the Manchester school of economics
that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds if
only no artificial hindrances are put in the way of free exchange, for
demand and supply will regulate everything better than any Government
would be able to. Just as economists were blind to the numerous cases
in which actual wants, even crying wants, were not satisfied, so also
linguists were deaf to those instances which are, however, obvious
to whoever has once turned his attention to them, in which the very
structure of a language calls forth misunderstandings in everyday
conversation, and in which, consequently, a word has to be repeated
or modified or expanded or defined in order to call forth the idea
intended by the speaker: he took his stick--no, not John’s, but _his
own_; or: I mean _you_ in the plural (or, you all, or you girls);
no, a _box on the ear_; _un dé à jouer, non pas un dé à coudre_;
nein, ich meine _Sie persönlich_ (with very strong stress on _Sie_),
etc. Every careful writer in any language has had the experience
that on re-reading his manuscript he has discovered that a sentence
which he thought perfectly clear when he wrote it lends itself to
misunderstanding and has to be put in a different way; sometimes he
has to add a clarifying parenthesis, because his language is defective
in some respect, as when Edward Carpenter (_Art of Creation_ 171), in
speaking of the deification of the Babe, writes: “It is not likely
that Man--the human male--left to himself would have done this; but to
woman it was natural,” thus avoiding the misunderstanding that he was
speaking of the whole species, comprising both sexes. Herbert Spencer
writes: “Charles had recently obtained--a post in the Post Office I
was about to say, but the cacophony stopped me; and then I was about
to say, an office in the Post Office, which is nearly as bad; let me
say--a place in the Post Office” (_Autobiogr._ 2. 73--but of course
the defect is not really one of sound, as implied by the expression
‘cacophony,’ but one of signification, as both words _post_ and
_office_ are ambiguous, and the attempted collocation would therefore
puzzle the reader or hearer, because the same word would have to be
apprehended in two different senses in close succession). Similar
instances might be alleged from any language.

No language is perfect, but if we admit this truth (or truism), we must
also admit by implication that it is not unreasonable to investigate
the relative value of different languages or of different details
in languages. When comparative linguists set themselves against the
narrowmindedness of classical scholars who thought Latin and Greek the
only worthy objects of study, and emphasized the value of all, even the
least literary languages and dialects, they were primarily thinking
of their value to the scientist, who finds something of interest in
each of them, but they had no idea of comparing the relative value of
languages from the point of view of their users--and yet the latter
comparison is of much greater importance than the former.

XVII.--§ 2. Degeneration?

People will often use the expressions ‘evolution’ and ‘development’ in
connexion with language, but most linguists, when taken to task, will
maintain that these expressions as applied to languages should be used
without the implication which is commonly attached to them when used
of other objects, namely, that there is a progressive tendency towards
something better or nearer perfection. They will say that ‘evolution’
means here simply changes going on in languages, without any judgment
as to the value of these changes.

But those who do pronounce such a judgment nearly always take the
changes as a retrogressive rather than a progressive development:
“Tongues, like governments, have a natural tendency to degeneration,”
said Dr. Samuel Johnson in the Preface to his Dictionary, and the same
lament has been often repeated since his time. This is quite natural:
people have always had a tendency to believe in a golden age, that
is, in a remote past gloriously different to the miserable present.
Why not, then, have the same belief with regard to language, the more
so because one cannot fail to notice things in contemporary speech
which (superficially at any rate) look like corruptions of the ‘good
old’ forms? Everything ‘old’ thus comes to be considered ‘good.’
Lowell and others think they have justified many of the commonly
reviled Americanisms if they are able to show them to have existed in
England in the sixteenth century, and similar considerations are met
with everywhere. The same frame of mind finds support in the usual
grammar-school admiration for the two classical languages and their
literatures. People were taught to look down upon modern languages as
mere dialects or _patois_ and to worship Greek and Latin; the richness
and fullness of forms found in those languages came naturally to be
considered the very _beau idéal_ of linguistic structure. Bacon gives
a classical expression to this view when he declares “ingenia priorum
seculorum nostris fuisse multo acutiora et subtiliora” (_De augm.
scient._[79]). To men fresh from the ordinary grammar-school training,
no language would seem really respectable that had not four or five
distinct cases and three genders, or that had less than five tenses
and as many moods in its verbs. Accordingly, such poor languages
as had either lost much of their original richness in grammatical
forms (_e.g._ French, English, or Danish), or had never had any, so
far as one knew (_e.g._ Chinese), were naturally looked upon with
something of the pity bestowed on relatives in reduced circumstances,
or the contempt felt for foreign paupers. It is well known how in
West-European languages, in English, German, Danish, Swedish, Dutch,
French, etc., obsolete forms were artificially kept alive and preferred
to younger forms by most grammarians; but we see exactly the same
point of view in such a language as Magyar, where, under the influence
of the historical studies of the grammarian Révai, the belief in
the excellence of the ‘veneranda antiquitas’ as compared with the
corruption of the modern language has been prevalent in schools and in
literature. (See Simonyi US 259; cf. on Modern Greek and Telugu above,
p. 301.)

Comparative linguists had one more reason for adopting this manner of
estimating languages. To what had the great victories won by their
science been due? Whence had they got the material for that magnificent
edifice which had proved spacious enough to hold Hindus and Persians,
Lithuanians and Slavs, Greeks, Romans, Germans and Kelts? Surely it
was neither from Modern English nor Modern Danish, but from the oldest
stages of each linguistic group. The older a linguistic document was,
the more valuable it was to the first generation of comparative
linguists. An English form like _had_ was of no great use, but Gothic
_habaidedeima_ was easily picked to pieces, and each of its several
elements lent itself capitally to comparison with Sanskrit, Lithuanian
and Greek. The linguist was chiefly dependent for his material on
the old and archaic languages; his interest centred round their
fuller forms: what wonder, then, if in his opinion those languages
were superior to all others? What wonder if by comparing _had_ and
_habaidedeima_ he came to regard the English form as a mutilated and
worn-out relic of a splendid original? or if, noting the change from
the old to the modern form, he used strong language and spoke of
degeneration, corruption, depravation, decline, phonetic decay, etc.?

The view that the modern languages of Europe, Persia and India are far
inferior to the old languages, or the one old language, from which
they descend, we have already encountered in the historical part of
this work, in Bopp, Humboldt, Grimm and their followers. It looms very
large in Schleicher, according to whom the history of language is all a
Decline and Fall, and in Max Müller, who says that “on the whole, the
history of all the Aryan languages is nothing but a gradual process of
decay.” Nor is it yet quite extinct.

XVII.--§ 3. Appreciation of Modern Tongues.

Some scholars, however, had an indistinct feeling that this
unconditional and wholesale depreciation of modern languages could
not contain the whole truth, and I have collected various passages,
nearly always of a perfunctory or incidental character, in which these
languages are partly rehabilitated. Humboldt (Versch 284) speaks of
the modern use of auxiliary verbs and prepositions as a convenience
of the intellect which may even in some isolated instances lead to
greater definiteness. On Grimm see above, p. 62. Rask (SA 1. 191) says
that it is possible that the advantages of simplicity may be greater
than those of an elaborate linguistic structure. Madvig turns against
the uncritical admiration of the classical languages, but does not
go further than saying that the modern analytical languages are just
as good as the old synthetic ones, for thoughts can be expressed in
both with equal clearness. Kräuter (_Archiv f. neu. spr._ 57. 204)
says: “That decay is consistent with clearness and precision is shown
by French; that it is not fatal to poetry is seen in the language
of Shakespeare.” Osthoff (_Schriftspr. u. Volksmundart_, 1883, 13)
protests against a one-sided depreciation of the language of Lessing
and Goethe in favour of the language of Wulfila or Otfried, or vice
versa: a language possesses an inestimable charm if its phonetic system
remains unimpaired and its etymologies are transparent; but pliancy of
the material of language and flexibility to express ideas is really no
less an advantage; everything depends on the point of view: the student
of architecture has one point of view, the people who are to live in
the house another.

Among those who thus half-heartedly refused to accept the downhill
theory to its full extent must be mentioned Whitney, many passages in
whose writings show a certain hesitation to make up his mind on this
question. When speaking of the loss of old forms he says that “some
of these could well be spared, but others were valuable, and their
relinquishment has impaired the power of expression of the language.”
To phonetic corruption we owe true grammatical forms, which make the
wealth of every inflective language; but it is also destructive of the
very edifice which it has helped to build. He speaks of “the legitimate
tendency to neglect and eliminate distinctions which are practically
unnecessary,” and will not admit “that we can speak our minds any
less distinctly than our ancestors could, with all their apparatus of
inflexions”; gender is a luxury which any language can well afford to
dispense with, but language is impoverished by the obliteration of
the subjunctive mood. The giving up of grammatical endings is akin to
wastefulness, and the excessive loss in English makes truly for decay
(L 31, 73, 74, 76, 77, 84, 85; G 51, 105, 104).

XVII.--§ 4. The Scientific Attitude.

Why are all such expressions either of depreciation or of partial
appreciation of the modern languages so utterly unsatisfactory? One
reason is that they are so vague and dependent on a general feeling
of inferiority or the reverse, instead of being based on a detailed
comparative estimation of real facts in linguistic structure. If,
therefore, we want to arrive at a scientific answer to the question
“Decay or progress?” we must examine actual instances of changes,
but must take particular care that these instances are not chosen at
random, but are typical and characteristic of the total structure of
the languages concerned. What is wanted is not a comparison of isolated
facts, but the establishment of general laws and tendencies, for only
through such can we hope to decide whether or no we are justified in
using terms like ‘development’ and ‘evolution’ in linguistic history.

The second reason why the earlier pronouncements quoted above do not
satisfy us is that their authors nowhere raise the question of the
method by which linguistic value is to be measured, by what standard
and what tests the comparative merits of languages or of forms are to
be ascertained. Those linguists who looked upon language as a product
of nature were by that very fact precluded from establishing a rational
basis for determining linguistic values; nor is it possible to find one
if we look at things from the one-sided point of view of the linguistic
historian. An almost comical instance of this is found when Curtius
(_Sprachwiss. u. class. phil._ 39) says that the Greek accusative
_póda_ is better than Sanskrit _padam_, because it is possible at once
to see that it belongs to the third declension. What is to be taken
into account is of course the interests of the speaking community,
and if we consistently consider language as a set of human actions
with a definite end in view, namely, the communication of thoughts
and feelings, then it becomes easy to find tests by which to measure
linguistic values, for from that point of view it is evident that THAT

The estimation has to be thoroughly and frankly _anthropocentric_.
This may be a defect in other sciences, in which it is a merit on the
part of the investigator to be able to abstract himself from human
considerations; in linguistics, on the contrary, on account of the very
nature of the object of study, one must constantly look to the human
interest, and judge everything from that, and from no other, point of
view. Otherwise we run the risk of going astray in all directions.

It will be noticed that my formula contains two requirements: it
demands a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of effort. Efficiency
means expressiveness, and effort means bodily and mental labour, and
thus the formula is simply one of modern energetics. But unfortunately
we are in possession of no method by which to measure either
expressiveness or effort exactly, and in cases of conflict it may be
difficult to decide to which of the two sides we are to attach the
greater importance, how great a surplus of efficiency is required to
counterbalance a surplus of exertion, or inversely. Still, in many
cases no doubt can arise, and we are often able to state progress,
because there is either a clear gain in efficiency or a diminution of
exertion, or both.

There is one objection which is likely to present itself to many of my
readers, namely, that natives handle their language without the least
exertion or effort (cf. XIV § 6, p. 262). Madvig (1857, 73 ff. = Kl 260
ff.) admits that a simplification in linguistic structure will make
the language easier to learn for foreigners, but denies that it means
increased ease for the native. Similarly Wechssler (L 149) says that
“der begriff der schwierigkeit und unbequemheit für die einheimischen
nicht existiert.” I might quote against him his countryman Gabelentz,
who expressly says that the difficulties of the German languages are
felt by natives, a view that is endorsed by Schuchardt in various
places.[80] To my mind there is not the slightest doubt that different
languages differ very much in easiness even to native speakers. In the
chapters devoted to children we have already seen that the numerous
mistakes made by them in every possible way testify to the labour
involved in learning one’s own language. This labour must naturally be
greater in the case of a highly complicated linguistic structure with
many rules and still more exceptions to the rules, than in languages
constructed simply and regularly.

Nor is the difficulty of correct speech confined to the first mastering
of the language. Even to the native who has spoken the same language
from a child, its daily use involves no small amount of exertion.
Under ordinary circumstances he is not conscious of any exertion
in speaking; but such a want of conscious feeling is no proof that
the exertion is absent. And it is a strong argument to the contrary
that it is next to impossible for you to speak correctly if you are
suffering from excessive mental work; you will constantly make slips in
grammar and idiom as well as in pronunciation; you have not the same
command of language as under normal conditions. If you have to speak
on a difficult and unfamiliar subject, on which you would not like to
say anything but what is to the point or strictly justifiable, you
will sometimes find that the thoughts themselves claim so much mental
energy that there is none left for speaking with elegance, or even
with complete regard to grammar: to your own vexation you will have a
feeling that your phrases are confused and your language incorrect. A
pianist may practise a difficult piece of music so as to have it “at
his fingers’ ends”; under ordinary circumstances he will be able to
play it quite mechanically, without ever being conscious of effort;
but, nevertheless, the effort is there. How great the effort is appears
when some day or other the musician is ‘out of humour,’ that is, when
his brain is at work on other subjects or is not in its usual working
order. At once his execution will be stumbling and faulty.

XVII.--§ 5. Final Answer.

I may here anticipate the results of the following investigation and
say that in all those instances in which we are able to examine the
history of any language for a sufficient length of time, we find that
languages have a progressive tendency. But if languages progress
towards greater perfection, it is not in a bee-line, nor are all the
changes we witness to be considered steps in the right direction. The
only thing I maintain is that _the sum total of these changes, when
we compare a remote period with the present time, shows a surplus of
progressive over retrogressive or indifferent changes_, so that the
structure of modern languages is nearer perfection than that of ancient
languages, if we take them as wholes instead of picking out at random
some one or other more or less significant detail. And of course it
must not be imagined that progress has been achieved through deliberate
acts of men conscious that they were improving their mother-tongue.
On the contrary, many a step in advance has at first been a slip
or even a blunder, and, as in other fields of human activity, good
results have only been won after a good deal of bungling and ‘muddling
along.’[81] My attitude towards this question is the same as that of
Leslie Stephen, who writes in a letter (_Life_ 454): “I have a perhaps
unreasonable amount of belief, not in a millennium, but in the world on
the whole blundering rather forwards than backwards.”

Schleicher on one occasion used the fine simile: “Our words, as
contrasted with Gothic words, are like a statue that has been rolling
for a long time in the bed of a river till its beautiful limbs have
been worn off, so that now scarcely anything remains but a polished
stone cylinder with faint indications of what it once was” (D 34). Let
us turn the tables by asking: Suppose, however, that it would be quite
out of the question to place the statue on a pedestal to be admired;
what if, on the one hand, it was not ornamental enough as a work of
art, and if, on the other hand, human well-being was at stake if it was
not serviceable in a rolling-mill: which would then be the better--a
rugged and unwieldy statue, making difficulties at every rotation, or
an even, smooth, easygoing and well-oiled roller?

After these preliminary considerations we may now proceed to a
comparative examination of the chief differences between ancient and
modern stages of our Western European languages.

XVII.--§ 6. Sounds.

The student who goes through the chapters devoted to sound changes
in historical and comparative grammars will have great difficulty
in getting at any great lines of development or general tendencies:
everything seems just haphazard and fortuitous; a long _i_ is here
shortened and there diphthongized or lowered into _e_, etc. The history
of sounds is dependent on surroundings in many, though not in all
circumstances, but surroundings do not always act in the same way;
in short, there seem to be so many conflicting tendencies that no
universal or even general rules can be evolved from all these ‘sound
laws.’ Still less would it seem possible to state anything about the
comparative value of the forms before and after the change, for it does
not seem to matter a bit for the speaking community whether it says
_stān_ as in Old English or _stone_ as now, and thus in innumerable
cases. Nay, from one point of view it may seem that any change
militates against the object of language (cf. Wechssler L 28), but this
is true only of the very moment when the change sets in while people
are accustomed to the old sound (or the old signification), and even
then the change is only injurious provided it impedes understanding or
renders understanding less easy, which is far from always being the

There is one scholar who has asserted the existence of a universal
progressive tendency in languages, or, as he calls it, a humanization
of language, namely Baudouin de Courtenay (_Vermenschlichung der
Sprache_, 1893). He is chiefly thinking of the sound system,[82] and he
maintains that there is a tendency towards eliminating the innermost
articulations and using instead sounds that are formed nearer to the
teeth and lips. Thus some back (postpalatal, velar) consonants become
_p_, _b_, while others develop into _s_ sounds; cf. Slav _slovo_
‘word’ with Lat. _cluo_, etc. Baudouin also mentions the frequent
palatalization of back consonants, as in French and Italian _ce_, _ci_,
_ge_, _gi_, but as this is due to the influence of the following front
vowel, it should not perhaps be mentioned as a universal tendency of
human language. It is further said that throat sounds, which play
such a great rôle in Semitic languages, have been discarded in most
modern languages. But it may be objected that sometimes throat sounds
do develop in modern periods, as in the Danish ‘stød’ and in English
dialectal _bu’er_ for _butter_, etc. A universal tendency of sounds
to move away from the throat cannot be said to be firmly established;
but for our purpose it is more important to say that even were it
true, the value of such a tendency for the speaking community would
not be great enough to justify us in speaking of progress towards a
truly ‘human’ language as opposed to the more beastlike language of
our primeval ancestors. It is true that Baudouin (p. 25) says that it
is possible to articulate in the front and upper part with less effort
and with greater precision than in the interior and lower parts of
the speaking apparatus, but if this is true with regard to the mouth
proper, it cannot be maintained with regard to the vocal chords, where
very important effects may be produced in the most precise way by
infinitely little exertion. Thus in no single point can I see that
Baudouin de Courtenay has made out a strong case for _his_ conception
of ‘humanization of language.’

XVII.--§ 7. Shortenings.

But there is another phonetic tendency which is much more universal
and infinitely more valuable than the one asserted by Baudouin de
Courtenay, namely, the tendency to shorten words. Words get shorter
and shorter in consequence of a great many of those changes that we
see constantly going on in all languages: vowels in weak syllables are
pronounced more and more indistinctly and finally disappear altogether,
as when OE. _lufu_, _stānas_, _sende_, through ME. _luve_, _stanes_,
_sende_ with pronounced _e_’s, have become our modern monosyllables
_love_, _stones_, _send_, or when Latin _bonum_, _homo_, _viginti_
have become Fr. _bon_, _on_, _vingt_, and Lat. _bona_, _hominem_,
Fr. _bonne_, _homme_, where the vowel was kept, because it was _a_
or protected by the consonant group, but has now also disappeared in
normal pronunciation. Final vowels have been dropped extensively in
Danish and German dialects, and so have the _u_’s and _i_’s in Russian,
which are now kept in the spelling merely as signs of the quality of
the preceding consonant. It would be easy to multiply instances. Nor
are the consonants more stable; the dropping of final ones is seen most
easily in Modern French, because they are retained in spelling, as in
_tout_, _vers_, _champ_, _chant_, etc. In the two last examples two
consonants have disappeared, the _m_ and _n_, however, leaving a trace
in the nasalized pronunciation of the vowel, as also in _bon_, _nom_,
etc. Final _r_ and _l_ often disappear in Fr. words like _quatre_,
_simple_, and medial consonants have been dropped in such cases as
_côte_ from _coste_, _bête_ from _beste_, _sauf_ [so·f] from _salvo_,
etc. We have corresponding omissions in English, where in very old
times _n_ was dropped in such cases as _us_, _five_, _other_, while
the German forms _uns_, _fünf_, _ander_ have kept the old consonants;
in more recent times _l_ was dropped in _half_, _calm_, etc., _gh_ [x]
in _light_, _bought_, etc., and _r_ in the prevalent pronunciation of
_warm_, _part_, etc. Initial consonants are more firmly fixed in many
languages, yet we see them lost in the E. combinations _kn_, _gn_,
_wr_, where _k_, _g_, _w_ used to be sounded, e.g. in _know_, _gnaw_,
_wrong_. Consonant assimilation means in most cases the same thing as
dropping of one consonant, for no trace of the consonant is left, at
any rate after the compensating lengthening has been given up, as is
often the case, e.g. in E. _cupboard_, _blackguard_ [kʌbəd, blæga·d].

So far we have given instances of what might be called the most regular
or constant types of phonetic change leading to shorter forms; but
the same result is the natural outcome of a process which occurs more
sporadically. This is haplology, by which one sound or one group of
sounds is pronounced once only instead of twice, the hearer taking it
through a kind of acoustic delusion as belonging both to what precedes
and to what follows. Examples are _a goo(d) deal_, _wha(t) to do_,
_nex(t) time_, _simp(le)ly_, _England_ from _Englaland_, _eighteen_
from OE. _eahtatiene_, _honesty_ from _honestete_, _Glou(ce)ster_,
_Worcester_ [wustə], familiarly _pro(ba)bly_, vulgarly _lib(ra)ry_,
_Febr(uar)y_. From other languages may be quoted Fr. _cont(re)rôle_,
_ido(lo)lâtre_, _Neu(ve)ville_, Lat. _nu(tri)trix_, _sti(pi)pendium_,
It. _qual(che)cosa_, _cosa_ for _che cosa_, etc. (Cf. my LPh 11. 9.)

The accumulation through centuries of such influences results in those
instances of seemingly violent contractions with which every student of
historical linguistics is familiar. One classical example has already
been mentioned above, E. _had_, corresponding to Gothic _habaidedeima_;
other examples are _lord_, with its three or four sounds, which was
formerly _laverd_, and in Old English _hlāford_; the old Gothonic form
of the same word contained indubitably as many as twelve sounds; Latin
_augustum_ has in French through _aoust_ become _août_, pronounced [au]
or even [u]; Latin _oculum_ has shrunk into four sounds in Italian
_occhio_, three in Spanish _ojo_, and two in Fr. _œil_; It. _medesimo_,
Sp. _mismo_ and Fr. _même_ represent various stages of the shrinking of
Lat. _metipsimum_; cf. also Fr. _ménage_ from _mansion-_ + _-aticum_.
Primitive Norse _ne veit ek hvat_ ‘not know I what’ has become Dan.
_noget_ ‘something,’ often pronounced [no·ð] or [nɔ·ð].

In all these cases the shortening process has taken centuries, but
we have other instances in which it has come about quite suddenly,
without any intermediate stages, namely, in those stump-words which
we have already considered (Ch. IX § 7; cf. XIV § 12 on corresponding
syntactical shortenings).

XVII.--§ 8. Objections. Result.

There cannot therefore be the slightest doubt that the general
tendency of all languages is towards shorter and shorter forms: the
ancient languages of our family, Sanskrit, Zend, etc., abound in
very long words; the further back we go, the greater the number of
_sesquipedalia_. It cannot justly be objected that we see sometimes
examples of phonetic lengthenings, as in E. _sound_ from ME. _soun_,
Fr. _son_, E. _whilst_, _amongst_ from ME. _whiles_, _amonges_;
a similar excrescence of _t_ after _s_ is seen in G. _obst_,
_pabst_, Swed. _eljest_ and others; after _n_, _t_ is added in G.
_jemand_, _niemand_ (two syllables, while there is nothing added to
the trisyllabic _jedermann_)--for even if such instances might be
multiplied, their number and importance is infinitely smaller than
those in the opposite direction. (On the seeming insertion of _d_ in
_ndr_, see p. 264, note). In some cases we witness a certain reaction
against word forms that are felt to be too short and therefore too
indistinct (see Ch. XV § 1, XX § 9), but on the whole such instances
are few and far between: the prevailing tendency is towards shorter

Another objection must be dealt with here. It is said that it is only
the purely phonetic development that tends to make words shorter,
but that in languages as wholes words do not become shorter, because
non-phonetic forces counteract the tendency. In modern languages we
thus have some analogical formations which are longer than the forms
they have supplanted, as when _books_ has one sound more than OE.
_bēc_, or when G. _bewegte_ takes the place of _bewog_. Further, we
have in modern languages many auxiliary words (prepositions, modal
verbs) in places where they were formerly not required. That this
objection is not valid if we take the whole of the language into
consideration may perhaps be proved statistically if we compute the
length of the same long text in various languages: the Gospel of St.
Matthew contains in Greek about 39,000 syllables, in Swedish about
35,000, in German 33,000, in Danish 32,500, in English 29,000, and in
Chinese only 17,000 (the figures for the Authorized English Version
and for Danish are my own calculation; the other figures I take from
Tegnér SM 51, Hoops in _Anglia_, _Beiblatt_ 1896, 293, and Sturtevant
LCh 175). In comparing these figures it should even be taken into
consideration that translations naturally tend to be more long-winded
and verbose than the original, so that the real gain in shortness may
be greater than indicated.[83]

Next, we come to consider the question whether the tendency towards
shorter forms is a valuable asset in the development of languages or
the reverse. The answer cannot be doubtful. Take the old example,
English _had_ and Gothic _habaidedeima_: the English form is
preferable, on the principle that anyone who has to choose between
walking one mile and four miles will, other things being equal, prefer
the shorter cut. It is true that if we take words to be self-existing
natural objects, _habaidedeima_ has the air of a giant and _had_ of
a mere pigmy: this valuation lies at the bottom of many utterances
even by recent linguistic thinkers, as when Sweet (H 10) speaks of
the vanishing of sounds as “a purely destructive change.” But if we
adopt the anthropocentric standard which has been explained above, and
realize that what we call a word is really and primarily the combined
action of human muscles to produce an audible effect, we see that the
shortening of a form means a diminution of effort and a saving of time
in the communication of our thoughts. If, as it is said, _had_ has
suffered from wear and tear in the long course of time, this means that
the wear and tear of people now using this form in their speech is less
than if they were still encumbered with the old giant _habaidedeima_.
Voltaire was certainly very wide of the mark when he wrote: “C’est le
propre des barbares d’abréger les mots”--long and clumsy words are
rather to be considered as signs of barbarism, and short and nimble
ones as signs of advanced culture.

Though I thus hold that the development towards shorter forms of
expression is _on the whole_ progressive, i.e. beneficial, I should not
like to be too dogmatic on this point and assert that it is _always_
beneficial: shortness may be carried to excess and thus cause obscurity
or difficulty of understanding. This may be seen in the telegraphic
style as well as in the literary style of some writers too anxious to
avoid prolixity (some of Pope’s lines might be quoted in illustration
of the classical: brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio). But in the case of
the language of a whole community the danger certainly is very small
indeed, for there will always be a natural and wholesome reaction
against such excessive shortness. There is another misunderstanding
I want to guard against when saying that the shortening makes on the
whole for progress. It must not be thought that I lay undue stress on
this point, which is after all chiefly concerned with a greater or
smaller amount of physical or muscular exertion: this should neither be
underrated nor overrated; but it will be seen that neither in my former
work nor in this does the consideration of this point of mere shortness
or length take up more than a fraction of the space allotted to the
more psychical sides of the question, to which we shall now turn our
attention and to which I attach much more importance.

XVII.--§ 9. Verbal Forms.

We may here recur to Schleicher’s example, E. _had_ and Gothic
_habaidedeima_. It is not only in regard to economy of muscular
exertion that the former carries the day over the latter. _Had_
corresponds not only to _habaidedeima_, but it unites in one short form
everything expressed by the Gothic _habaida_, _habaides_, _habaidedu_,
_habaideduts_, _habaidedum_, _habaideduþ_, _habaidedun_, _habaidedjau_,
_habaidedeis_, _habaidedi_, _habaidedeiwa_, _habaidedeits_,
_habaidedeima_, _habaidedeiþ_, _habaidedeina_--separate forms for
two or three persons in three numbers in two distinct moods! It is
clear, therefore, that the English form saves a considerable amount
of brainwork to all English-speaking people--not only to children,
who have fewer forms to learn, but also to adults, who have fewer
forms to choose between and to keep distinct whenever they open their
mouths to speak. Someone might, perhaps, say that on the other hand
English people are obliged always to join personal pronouns to their
verbal forms to indicate the person, and that this is a drawback
counterbalancing the advantage, so that the net result is six of
one and half a dozen of the other. This, however, would be a very
superficial objection. For, in the first place, the personal pronouns
are the same for all tenses and moods, but the endings are not.
Secondly, the possession of endings does not exempt the Goths from
having separate personal pronouns; and whenever these are used, as is
very often the case in the first and second persons, those parts of
the verbal endings which indicate persons are superfluous. They are
no less superfluous in those extremely numerous cases in which the
subject is either separately expressed by a noun or is understood from
the preceding proposition, thus in the vast majority of the cases of
the third person. If we compare a few pages of Old English prose with
a modern rendering we shall see that in spite of the reduction in the
latter of the person-indicating endings, personal pronouns are not
required in any great number of sentences in which they were dispensed
with in Old English. So that, altogether, the numerous endings of the
older languages must be considered uneconomical.

If Gothic, Latin and Greek, etc., burden the memory by the number
of their flexional endings, they do so even more by the many
irregularities in the formation of these endings. In all the languages
of this type, anomaly and flexion invariably go together. The
intricacies of verbal flexion in Latin and Greek are well known, and
it requires no small amount of mental energy to master the various
modes of forming the present stems in Sanskrit--to take only one
instance. Many of these irregularities disappear in course of time,
chiefly, but not exclusively, through analogical formations, and though
it is true that a certain number of new irregularities may come into
existence, their number is relatively small when compared with those
that have been removed. Now, it is not only the forms themselves that
are irregular in the early languages, but also their uses: logical
simplicity prevails much more in Modern English syntax than in either
Old English or Latin or Greek. But it is hardly necessary to point out
that growing regularity in a language means a considerable gain to all
those who learn it or speak it.

It has been said, however, by one of the foremost authorities on the
history of English, that “in spite of the many changes which this
system [i.e. the complicated system of strong verbs] has undergone
in detail, it remains just as intricate as it was in Old English”
(Bradley, _The Making of English_ 51). It is true that the way in
which vowel change is utilized to form tenses is rather complicated
in Modern English (_drink_ _drank_, _give_ _gave_, _hold_ _held_,
etc.), but otherwise an enormous simplification has taken place. The
personal endings have been discarded with the exception of _-s_ in
the third person singular of the present (and the obsolete ending
_-est_ in the second person, and then this has been regularized,
_thou sangest_ having taken the place of _þu sunge_); the change of
vowel in _ic sang_, _þu sunge_, _we sungon_ in the indicative and _ic
sunge_, _we sungen_ in the subjunctive has been given up, and so has
the accompanying change of consonant in many cases. Thus, instead of
the following forms, _cēosan_, _cēose_, _cēoseþ_, _cēosaþ_, _cēosen_,
_cēas_, _curon_, _cure_, _curen_, _coren_, we have the following modern
ones, which are both fewer in number and less irregular: _choose_,
_chooses_, _chose_, _chosen_--certainly an advance from a more to a
less intricate system (cf. GS § 178).

An extreme, but by no means unique example of the simplification found
in modern languages is the English _cut_, which can serve both as
present and past tense, both as singular and plural, both in the first,
second and third persons, both in the infinitive, in the imperative,
in the indicative, in the subjunctive, and as a past (or passive)
participle; compare with this the old languages with their separate
forms for different tenses, moods, numbers and persons; and remember,
moreover, that the identical form, without any inconvenience being
occasioned, is also used as a noun (_a cut_), and you will admire the
economy of the living tongue. A characteristic feature of the structure
of languages in their early stages is that each form contains in
itself several minor modifications which are often in the later stages
expressed separately by means of auxiliary words. Such a word as Latin
_cantavisset_ unites into one inseparable whole the equivalents of six
ideas: (1) ‘sing,’ (2) pluperfect, (3) that indefinite modification
of the verbal idea which we term subjunctive, (4) active, (5) third
person, and (6) singular.

XVII.--§ 10. Synthesis and Analysis.

Such a form, therefore, is much more concrete than the forms found in
modern languages, of which sometimes two or more have to be combined
to express the composite notion which was rendered formerly by one.
Now, it is one of the consequences of this change that it has become
easier to express certain minute, but by no means unimportant, shades
of thought by laying extra stress on some particular element in the
speech-group. Latin _cantaveram_ amalgamates into one indissoluble
whole what in E. _I had sung_ is analysed into three components, so
that you can at will accentuate the personal element, the time element
or the action. Now, it is possible (who can affirm and who can deny
it?) that the Romans could, if necessary, make some difference in
speech between _cántaveram_ (non saltaveram) ‘I had _sung_,’ and
_cantaverám_ (non cantabam), ‘I _had_ sung’; but even then, if it was
the personal element which was to be emphasized, an _ego_ had to be
added. Even the possibility of laying stress on the temporal element
broke down in forms like _scripsi_, _minui_, _sum_, _audiam_, and
innumerable others. It seems obvious that the freedom of Latin in
this respect must have been inferior to that of English. Moreover,
in English, the three elements, ‘I,’ ‘had,’ and ‘sung,’ can in
certain cases be arranged in a different order, and other words can
be inserted between them in order to modify and qualify the meaning
of the sentence. Note also the conciseness of such answers as “Who
had sung?” “I had.” “What had you done?” “Sung.” “I believe he has
enjoyed himself.” “I know he has.” And contrast the Latin “Cantaveram
et saltaveram et luseram et riseram” with the English “I had sung and
danced and played and laughed.” What would be the Latin equivalent of
“Tom never _did_ and never _will_ beat me”?

In such cases, analysis means suppleness, and synthesis means rigidity;
in analytic languages you have the power of kaleidoscopically arranging
and rearranging the elements that in synthetic forms like _cantaveram_
are in rigid connexion and lead a Siamese-twin sort of existence. The
synthetic forms of Latin verbs remind one of those languages all over
the world (North America, South America, Hottentot, etc.) in which such
ideas as ‘father’ or ‘mother’ or ‘head’ or ‘eye’ cannot be expressed
separately, but only in connexion with an indication of _whose_
father, etc., one is speaking about: in one language the verbal idea
(in the finite moods), in the other the nominal idea, is necessarily
fused with the personal idea.

XVII.--§ 11. Verbal Concord.

This formal inseparability of subordinate elements is at the root
of those rules of concord which play such a large rôle in the older
languages of our Aryan family, but which tend to disappear in the
more recent stages. By concord we mean the fact that a secondary word
(adjective or verb) is made to agree with the primary word (substantive
or subject) to which it belongs. Verbal concord, by which a verb is
governed in number and person by the subject, has disappeared from
spoken Danish, where, for instance, the present tense of the verb
meaning ‘to travel’ is uniformly _rejser_ in all persons of both
numbers; while the written language till towards the end of the
nineteenth century kept up artificially the plural _rejse_, although
it had been dead in the spoken language for some three hundred years.
The old flexion is an article of luxury, as a modification of the idea
belonging properly to the subject is here transferred to the predicate,
where it has no business; for when we say ‘mændene rejse’ (die männer
reisen), we do not mean to imply that they undertake several journeys
(cf. Madvig Kl 28, _Nord. tsk. f. filol._, n.r. 8. 134).

By getting rid of this superfluity, Danish has got the start of the
more archaic of its Aryan sister-tongues. Even English, which has
in most respects gone farthest in simplifying its flexional system,
lags here behind Danish, in that in the present tense of most verbs
the third person singular deviates from the other persons by ending
in _-s_, and the verb _be_ preserves some other traces of the old
concord system, not to speak of the form in _-st_ used with _thou_ in
the language of religion and poetry. Small and unimportant as these
survivals may seem, still they are in some instances impediments to
the free and easy expression of thought. In Danish, for instance,
there is not the slightest difficulty in saying ‘enten du eller jeg
har uret,’ as _har_ is used both in the first and second persons
singular and plural. But when an Englishman tries to render the same
simple sentiment he is baffled; ‘either you or I _are_ wrong’ is felt
to be incorrect, and so is ‘either you or I _am_ wrong’; he might say
‘either you are wrong, or I,’ but then this manner of putting it, if
grammatically admissible (with or without the addition of _am_), is
somewhat stiff and awkward; and there is no perfectly natural way out
of the difficulty, for Dean Alford’s proposal to say ‘either you or I
_is_ wrong’ (_The Queen’s Engl._ 155) is not to be recommended. The
advantage of having verbal forms that are no respecters of persons is
seen directly in such perfectly natural expressions as ‘either you or
I must be wrong,’ or ‘either you or I may be wrong,’ or ‘either you or
I began it’--and indirectly from the more or less artificial rules of
Latin and Greek grammars on this point; in the following passages the
Gordian knot is cut in different ways:

Shakespeare _LLL_ V. 2. 346 Nor God, nor I, _delights_ in perjur’d men
| id. _As_ I. 3. 99 Thou and I _am_ one | Tennyson _Poet. W._ 369 For
whatsoever knight against us came Or I or he _have_ easily overthrown
| Galsworthy _D_ 30 _Am_ I and all women really what they think us? |
Shakespeare _H4B_ IV. 2. 121 Heauen, and not wee, _haue_ safely fought
to day (Folio, where the Quarto has: God, and not wee, _hath_....)

The same difficulty often appears in relative clauses; Alford (l.c.
152) calls attention to the fact of the Prayer Book reading “Thou art
the God that _doeth_ wonders,” whereas the Bible version runs “Thou art
the God that _doest_ wonders.” Compare also:

Shakespeare _As_ III. 5. 55 ’Tis not her glasse, but you that
_flatters_ her | id. _Meas._ II. 2. 80 It is the law, not I, _condemne_
your brother | Carlyle _Fr. Rev._ 38, There is none but you and I that
_has_ the people’s interest at heart (translated from: Il n’y a que
vous et moi qui _aimions_ le peuple).

In all such cases the construction in Danish is as easy and natural
as it generally is in the English preterit: “It was not her glass,
but you that flattered her.” The disadvantage of having verbal forms
which enforce the indication of person and number is perhaps seen most
strikingly in a French sentence like this from Romain Rolland’s _Jean
Christophe_ (7. 221): “Ce mot, naturellement, ce n’est ni toi, ni moi,
qui _pouvons_ le dire”--the verb agrees with that which _cannot_ be the
subject (we)! For what is meant is really: ‘celui qui peut le dire, ce
n’est ni moi ni toi.’


[79] Quoted here from John Wilkins, _An Essay towards a Real Character
and a Philosophical Language_, 1668, p. 448: Wilkins there subjects
Bacon’s saying to a crushing criticism, laying bare a great many
radical deficiencies in Latin to bring out the logical advantages of
his own artificial ‘philosophical’ language.

[80] Cf. also what Paul says (P 144) about one point in German grammar
(strong and weak forms of adjectives): “But the difficulty of the
correct maintenance of the distinction is shown in numerous offences
made by writers against the rules of grammar”--of course, not only by
writers, but by ordinary speakers as well.

[81] It has often been pointed out how Great Britain has ‘blundered’
into creating her world-wide Empire, and Gretton, in _The King’s
Government_ (1914), applies the same view to the development of
governmental institutions.

[82] In the realm of significations he sees the ‘humanization’ of
language exclusively in the development of abstract terms. An important
point of disagreement between Baudouin and myself is in regard to
morphology, where he sees only ‘oscillations’ in historical times, in
which he is unable to discover a continuous movement in any definite
direction, while I maintain that languages here manifest a definite
progressive tendency.

[83] On the other hand, it is not, perhaps, fair to count the number of
_syllables_, as these may vary very considerably, and some languages
favour syllables with heavy consonant groups unknown in other tongues.
The most rational measure of length would be to count the numbers of
distinct (not sounds, but) articulations of separate speech organs--but
that task is at any rate beyond _my_ powers.



  § 1. Nominal Forms. § 2. Irregularities Original. § 3. Syntax. § 4.
  Objections. § 5. Word Order. § 6. Gender. § 7. Nominal Concord. § 8.
  The English Genitive. § 9. Bantu Concord. § 10. Word Order Again.
  § 11. Compromises. § 12. Order Beneficial? § 13. Word Order and
  Simplification. § 14. Summary.

XVIII.--§ 1. Nominal Forms.

In the flexion of substantives and adjectives we see phenomena
corresponding to those we have just been considering in the verbs.
The ancient languages of our family have several forms where modern
languages content themselves with fewer; forms originally kept distinct
are in course of time confused, either through a phonetic obliteration
of differences in the endings or through analogical extension of the
functions of one form. The single form _good_ is now used where OE.
used the forms _god_, _godne_, _gode_, _godum_, _godes_, _godre_,
_godra_, _goda_, _godan_, _godena_; Ital. _uomo_ or French _homme_ is
used for Lat. _homo_, _hominem_, _homini_, _homine_--nay, if we take
the spoken form into consideration, Fr. [ɔm] corresponds not only
to these Latin forms, but also to _homines_, _hominibus_. Where the
modern language has one or two cases, in an earlier stage it had three
or four, and still earlier seven or eight. The difficulties inherent
in the older system cannot, however, be measured adequately by the
number of forms each word is susceptible of, but are multiplied by the
numerous differences in the formation of the same case in different
classes of declension; sometimes we even find anomalies which affect
one word only.

Those who would be inclined to maintain that new irregularities may
and do arise in modern languages which make up for whatever earlier
irregularities have been discarded in the course of the historical
development will do well to compile a systematic list of _all_ the
flexional forms of two different stages of the same languages, arranged
exactly according to the same principles: this is the only way in which
it is possible really to balance losses and profits in a language.
This is what I have done in my _Progress in Language_ § 111 ff.
(reprinted in ChE § 9 ff.), where I have contrasted the case systems
of Old and Modern English: the result is that the former system takes
7 (+ 3) pages, and the latter only 2 pages. Those pages, with their
abbreviations and tabulations, do not, perhaps, offer very entertaining
reading, but I think they are more illustrative of the real tendencies
of language than either isolated examples or abstract reasonings, and
they cannot fail to convince any impartial reader of the enormous gain
achieved through the changes of the intervening nine hundred years in
the general structure of the English language.

For our general purposes it will be worth our while here to quote what
Friedrich Müller (Gr i. 2. 7) says about a totally different language:
“Even if the Hottentot distinguishes ‘he,’ ‘she’ and ‘it,’ and strictly
separates the singular from the plural number, yet by his expressing
‘he’ and ‘she’ by one sound in the third person, and by another in
the second, he manifests that he has no perception at all of our two
grammatical categories of gender and number, and consequently those
elements of his language that run parallel to our signs of gender and
number must be of an entirely different nature.” Fr. Müller should
not perhaps throw too many stones at the poor Hottentots, for his own
native tongue is no better than a glass house, and we might with equal
justice say, for instance: “As the Germans express the plural number
in different manners in words like _gott--götter_, _hand--hände_,
_vater--väter_, _frau--frauen_, etc., they must be entirely lacking in
the sense of the category of number.” Or let us take such a language as
Latin; there is nothing to show that _dominus_ bears the same relation
to _domini_ as _verbum_ to _verba_, _urbs_ to _urbes_, _mensis_ to
_menses_, _cornu_ to _cornua_, _fructus_ to _fructūs_, etc.; even in
the same word the idea of plurality is not expressed by the same method
for all the cases, as is shown by a comparison of _dominus--domini_,
_dominum--dominos_, _domino--dominis_, _domini--dominorum_. Fr. Müller
is no doubt wrong in saying that such anomalies preclude the speakers
of the language from conceiving the notion of plurality; but, on the
other hand, it seems evident that a language in which a difference so
simple even to the understanding of very young children as that between
one and more than one can only be expressed by a complicated apparatus
must rank lower than another language in which this difference has a
single expression for all cases in which it occurs. In this respect,
too, Modern English stands higher than the oldest English, Latin or

XVIII.--§ 2. Irregularities Original.

It was the belief of the older school of comparativists that each
case had originally one single ending, which was added to all
nouns indifferently (e.g. _-as_ for the genitive sg.), and that the
irregularities found in the existing oldest languages were of later
growth; the actually existing forms were then derived from the supposed
unity form by all kinds of phonetic tricks and dodges. Now people have
begun to see that the primeval language cannot have been quite uniform
and regular (see, for instance, Walde in Streitberg’s _Gesch._, 2.
194 ff.). If we look at facts, and not at imagined or reconstructed
forms, we are forced to acknowledge that in the oldest stages of our
family of languages not only did the endings present the spectacle of
a motley variety, but the kernel of the word was also often subject
to violent changes in different cases, as when it had in different
forms different accentuation and (or) different apophony, or as when
in some of the most frequently occurring words some cases were formed
from one ‘stem’ and others from another, for instance, the nominative
from an _r_ stem and the oblique cases from an _n_ stem. In the common
word for ‘water’ Greek has preserved both stems, nom. _hudōr_, gen.
_hudatos_, where _a_ stands for original [ən]. Whatever the origin
of this change of stems, it is a phenomenon belonging to the earlier
stages of our languages, in which we also sometimes find an alteration
between the _r_ stem in the nominative and a combination of the _n_
and the _r_ stems in the other cases, as in Lat. _jecur_ ‘liver,’
_jecinoris_; _iter_ ‘voyage,’ _itineris_, which is supposed to have
supplanted _itinis_, formed like _feminis_ from _femur_. In the later
stages we always find a simplification, one single form running through
all cases; this is either the nominative stem, as in E. _water_, G.
_wasser_ (corresponding to Gr. _hudōr_), or the oblique case-stem,
as in the Scandinavian forms, Old Norse _vatn_, Swed. _vatten_, Dan.
_vand_ (corresponding to Gr. _hudat-_), or finally a contaminated form,
as in the name of the Swedish lake _Vättern_ (Noreen’s explanation),
or in Old Norse and Dan. _skarn_ ‘dirt,’ which has its _r_ from a form
like the Gr. _skōr_, and its _n_ from a form like the Gr. genitive
_skatos_ (older [skəntos]). The simplification is carried furthest in
English, where the identical form _water_ is not only used unchanged
where in the older languages different case forms would have been used
(‘the water is cold,’ ‘the surface of the water,’ ‘he fell into the
water,’ ‘he swims in the water’), but also serves as a verb (‘did you
water the flowers?’), and as an adjunct as a quasi-adjective (‘a water
melon,’ ‘water plants’).

In most cases irregularities have been done away with in the way here
indicated, one of the forms (or stems) being generalized; but in other
cases it may have happened, as Kretschmer supposes (in Gercke and
Norden, _Einleit. in die Altertumswiss._, I, 501) that irregular flexion
caused a word to go out of use entirely; thus in Modern Greek _hêpar_
was supplanted by _sukōti_,[84] _phréar_ by _pēgadi_, _húdōr_ by
_neró_, _oûs_ by _aphtí_ (= _ōtíon_), _kúōn_ by _skullí_; this possibly
also accounts for _commando_ taking the place of Lat. _jubeo_.

Some scholars maintain that the medieval languages were more regular
than their modern representatives; but if we look more closely into
what they mean, we shall see that they are not speaking of any
regularity in the sense in which the word has here been used--the only
regularity which is of importance to the speakers of the language--but
of the regular correspondence of a language with some earlier language
from which it is derived. This is particularly the case with E.
Littré, who, in his essays on _L’Histoire de la Langue Française_,
was full of enthusiasm for Old French, but chiefly for the fidelity
with which it had preserved some features of Latin. There was thus the
old distinction of two cases: nom. sg. _murs_, acc. sg. _mur_, and
in the plural inversely nom. _mur_ and acc. _murs_, with its exact
correspondence with Latin _murus_, _murum_, pl. _muri_, _muros_. When
this ‘règle de _l_’s’ was discovered, and the use or omission of _s_,
which had hitherto been looked upon as completely arbitrary in Old
French, was thus accounted for, scholars were apt to consider this as
an admirable trait in the old language which had been lost in modern
French, and the same view obtained with regard to the case distinction
found in other words, such as OFr. nom. _maire_, acc. _majeur_, or nom.
_emperere_, acc. _emperëur_, corresponding to the Latin forms with
changing stress, _májor_, _majórem_, _imperátor_, _imperatórem_, etc.
But, however interesting such things may be to the historical linguist,
there is no denying that to the users of French the modern simpler
flexion is a gain as compared with this more complex system. “Des
sprachhistorikers freud ist des sprachbrauchers leid,” as Schuchardt
somewhere shrewdly remarks.

XVIII.--§ 3. Syntax.

There were also in the old languages many irregularities in the
syntactic use of the cases, as when some verbs governed the genitive
and others the dative, etc. Even if it may be possible in many
instances to account historically for these uses, to the speakers of
the languages they must have appeared to be mere caprices which had
to be learned separately for each verb, and it is therefore a great
advantage when they have been gradually done away with, as has been
the case, to a great extent, even in a language like German, which has
retained many old case forms. Thus verbs like _entbehren_, _vergessen_,
_bedürfen_, _wahrnehmen_, which formerly took the genitive, are now
used more and more with the simple accusative--a simplification which,
among other things, makes the construction of sentences in the passive
voice easier and more regular.

The advantage of discarding the old case distinctions is seen in the
ease with which English and French speakers can say, e.g., ‘with or
without my hat,’ or ‘in and round the church,’ while the correct
German is ‘mit meinem hut oder ohne denselben’ and ‘in der kirche und
um dieselbe’; Wackernagel writes: “Was in ihm und um ihn und über
ihm ist.” When the prepositions are followed by a single substantive
without case distinction, German, of course, has the same simple
construction as English, e.g. ‘mit oder ohne geld,’ and sometimes
even good writers will let themselves go and write ‘um und neben dem
hochaltare’ (Goethe), or ‘Ihre tochter wird meine frau mit oder gegen
ihren willen’ (these examples from Curme, _German Grammar_ 191). Cf.
also: ‘Ich kann deinem bruder nicht helfen und ihn unterstützen.’

Many extremely convenient idioms unknown in the older synthetic
languages have been rendered possible in English through the doing away
with the old case distinctions, such as: Genius, demanding bread, is
given a stone after its possessor’s death (Shaw) (cf. my ChE § 79) | he
was offered, and declined, the office of poet-laureate (Gosse) | the
lad was spoken highly of | I love, and am loved by, my wife | these
laws my readers, whom I consider as my subjects, are bound to believe
in and to obey (Fielding) | he was heathenishly inclined to believe in,
or to worship, the goddess Nemesis (id.) | he rather rejoiced in, than
regretted, his bruise (id.) | many a dun had she talked to, and turned
away from her father’s door (Thackeray) | their earthly abode, which
has seen, and seemed almost to sympathize in, all their honour (Ruskin).

XVIII.--§ 4. Objections.

Against my view of the superiority of languages with few case
distinctions, Arwid Johannson, in a very able article (in IF I, see
especially p. 247 f.), has adduced a certain number of ambiguous
sentences from German:

  Soweit die deutsche zunge klingt und _gott_ im himmel lieder singt
  (is _gott_ nominative or dative?) | Seinem landsmann, dem er in
  seiner ganzen bildung ebensoviel verdankte, wie _Goethe_ (nominative
  or dative?) | Doch würde die gesellschaft _der Indierin_ (genitive
  or dative?) lästig gewesen sein | Darin hat Caballero wohl nur einen
  konkurrenten, die Eliot, _welche_ freilich _die spanische dichterin_
  nicht ganz erreicht | Nur Diopeithes feindet insgeheim dich an und
  _die schwester_ des Kimon und _dein weib_ Telesippa. (In the last two
  sentences what is the subject, and what the object?)

According to Johannson, these passages show the disadvantages of doing
away with formal distinctions, for the sentences would have been clear
if each separate case had had its distinctive sign; “the greater the
wealth of forms, the more intelligible the speech.” And they show, he
says, that such ambiguities will occur, even where the strictest rules
of word order are observed. I shall not urge that this is not exactly
the case in the last sentence if _die schwester_ and _dein weib_ are to
be taken as accusatives, for then _an_ should have been placed at the
very end of the sentence; nor that, in the last sentence but one, the
mention of George Eliot as the ‘konkurrent’ of Fernan Caballero seems
to show a partiality to the Spanish authoress on the part of the writer
of the sentence, so that the reader is prepared to take _welche_ as the
nominative case; _freilich_ would seem to point in the same direction.
But these, of course, are only trifling objections; the essential point
is that we must grant the truth of Johannson’s contention that we have
here a flaw in the German language; the defects of its grammatical
system may and do cause a certain number of ambiguities. Neither is
it difficult to find the reasons of these defects by considering the
structure of the language in its entirety, and by translating the
sentences in question into a few other languages and comparing the

First, with regard to the formal distinctions between cases, the really
weak point cannot be the fewness of these endings, for in that case
we should expect the same sort of ambiguities to be very common in
English and Danish, where the formal case distinctions are considerably
fewer than in German; but as a matter of fact such ambiguities are
more frequent in German than in the other two languages. And, however
paradoxical it may seem at first sight, one of the causes of this is
the greater wealth of grammatical forms in German. Let us substitute
other words for the ambiguous ones, and we shall see that the
amphibology will nearly always disappear, because most other words will
have different forms in the two cases, e.g.:

  Soweit die deutsche zunge klingt und _dem allmächtigen_ (or, _der
  allmächtige_) lieder singt | Seinem landsmann, dem er ebensoviel
  verdankte, wie _dem grossen dichter_ (or, _der grosse dichter_) |
  Doch würde die gesellschaft _des Indiers_ (or, _dem Indier_) lästig
  gewesen sein | Darin hat Calderon wohl nur einen konkurrenten,
  Shakespeare, _welcher_ freilich _den spanischen dichter_ nicht
  erreicht (or, _den_ ... _der spanische dichter_ ...) | Nur Diopeithes
  feindet dich insgeheim an, und _der bruder_ des Kimon und _sein
  freund_ T. (or, _den bruder_ ... _seinen freund_).

It is this very fact that countless sentences of this sort are
perfectly clear which leads to the employment of similar constructions
even where the resulting sentence is by no means clear; but if all,
or most, words were identical in the nominative and the dative,
like _gott_, or in the dative and genitive, like _der Indierin_,
constructions like those used would be impossible to imagine in a
language meant to be an intelligible vehicle of thought. And so the
ultimate cause of the ambiguities is the inconsistency in the formation
of the several cases. But this inconsistency is found in all the old
languages of the Aryan family: cases which in one gender or with one
class of stems are kept perfectly distinct, are in others identical.
I take some examples from Latin, because this is perhaps the best
known language of this type, but Gothic or Old Slavonic would show
inconsistencies of the same kind. _Domini_ is genitive singular and
nominative plural (corresponding to, e.g., _verbi_ and _verba_);
_verba_ is nominative and accusative pl. (corresponding to _domini_
and _dominos_); _domino_ is dative and ablative; _dominæ_ gen. and
dative singular and nominative plural; _te_ is accusative and ablative;
_qui_ is singular and plural; _quæ_ singular fem. and plural fem.
and neuter, etc. Hence, while _patres filios amant_ or _patres filii
amant_ are perfectly clear, _patres consules amant_ allows of two
interpretations; and in how many ways cannot such a proposition as
_Horatius et Virgilius poetæ Varii amici erant_ be construed? _Menenii
patris munus_ may mean ‘the gift of father Menenius,’ or ‘the gift of
Menenius’s father’; _expers illius periculi_ either ‘free from that
danger’ or ‘free from (sharing) that person’s danger’; in an infinitive
construction with two accusatives, the only way to know which is the
subject and which the object is to consider the context, and that is
not always decisive, as in the oracular response given to the Æacide
Pyrrhus, as quoted by Cicero from Ennius: “Aio _te_, Æacida, _Romanos_
vincere posse.” Such drawbacks seem to be inseparable from the
structure of the highly flexional Aryan languages; although they are
not logical consequences of a wealth of forms, yet historically they
cling to those languages which have the greatest number of grammatical
endings. And as we are here concerned not with the question how to
construct an artificial language (and even there I should not advise
the adoption of many case distinctions), but with the valuation of
natural languages as actually existing in their earlier and modern
stages, we cannot accept Johannson’s verdict: “The greater the wealth
of forms, the more intelligible the speech.”

XVIII.--§ 5. Word Order.

If the German sentences quoted above are ambiguous, it is not only on
account of the want of clearness in the forms employed, but also on
account of the German rules of word order. One rule places the verb
last in subordinate sentences, and in two of the sentences there would
be no ambiguity in principal sentences: Die deutsche zunge klingt
und _singt gott_ im himmel lieder; or, Die deutsche zunge klingt,
und _gott im himmel singt_ lieder | _Sie erreicht_ freilich nicht
die spanische dichterin; or, Die spanische dichterin _erreicht sie_
freilich nicht. In one of the remaining sentences the ambiguity is
caused by the rule that the verb must be placed immediately after an
introductory subjunct: if we omit _doch_ the sentence becomes clear:
Die _gesellschaft der Indierin würde_ lästig gewesen sein, or, _Die
gesellschaft würde der Indierin_ lästig gewesen sein. Here, again we
see the ill consequences of inconsistency of linguistic structure; some
of the rules for word position serve to show grammatical relations,
but in certain cases they have to give way to other rules, which
counteract this useful purpose. If you change the order of words in a
German sentence, you will often find that the meaning is not changed,
but the result will be an unidiomatic construction (bad grammar);
while in English a transposition will often result in perfectly good
grammar, only the meaning will be an entirely different one from the
original sentence. This does not amount to saying that the German rules
of position are useless and the English ones all useful, but only to
saying that in English word order is utilized to express difference of
meaning to a far greater extent than in German.

One critic cites against me “one example, which figures in almost every
Rhetoric as a violation of clearness: _And thus the son the fervid sire
address’d_,” and he adds: “The use of a separate form for nominative
and accusative would clear up the ambiguity immediately.” The retort
is obvious: no doubt it would, but so would the use of a natural
word order. Word order is just as much a part of English grammar as
case-endings are in other languages; a violation of the rules of
word order may cause the same want of intelligibility as the use of
_dominum_ instead of _dominus_ would in Latin. And if the example is
found in almost every English Rhetoric, I am glad to say that equally
ambiguous sentences are very rare indeed in other English books. Even
in poetry, where there is such a thing as poetic licence, and where the
exigencies of rhythm and rime, as well as the fondness for archaic and
out-of-the-way expressions, will often induce deviations from the word
order of prose, real ambiguity will very seldom arise on that account.
It is true that it has been disputed which is the subject in Gray’s

  And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

but then it does not matter much, for the ultimate understanding of
the line must be exactly the same whether the air holds stillness or
stillness holds the air. In ordinary language we may find similar
collocations, but it is worth saying with some emphasis that there can
never be any doubt as to which is the subject and which the object.
The ordinary word order is, Subject-Verb-Object, and where there is a
deviation there must always be some special reason for it. This may
be the wish, especially for the sake of some contrast, to throw into
relief some member of the sentence. If this is the subject, the purpose
is achieved by stressing it, but the word order is not affected.
But if it is the object, this may be placed in the very beginning
of the sentence, but in that case English does not, like German and
Danish, require inversion of the verb, and the order consequently is,
Object-Subject-Verb, which is perfectly clear and unambiguous. See, for
instance, Dickens’s sentence: “_Talent, Mr. Micawber_ has; _capital,
Mr. Micawber_ has not,” and the following passage from a recent novel:
“Even Royalty had not quite their glow and glitter; _Royalty you_ might
see any day, driving, bowing, smiling. The Queen had a smile for every
one; but _the Duchess no one, not even Lizzie_, ever saw.” Thus, also,
in Shakespeare’s:

  _Things base and vilde_, holding no quantity,
  _Loue_ can transpose to forme and dignity (_Mids._ I. 1. 233),

and in Longfellow’s translation from Logau:

  A blind man is a poor man, and blind a poor man is;
  For the former seeth no man, and _the latter no man_ sees.

The reason for deviating from the order, Subject-Verb-Object, may again
be purely grammatical: a relative or an interrogative pronoun must be
placed first; but here, too, English grammar precludes ambiguity, as
witness the following sentences: This picture, which surpasses Mona
Lisa | This picture, which Mona Lisa surpasses | What picture surpasses
Mona Lisa? | What picture does not Mona Lisa surpass? In German (dieses
bild, welches die M. L. übertrifft, etc.) all four sentences would
be ambiguous, in Danish the two last would be indistinguishable; but
English shows that a small number of case forms is not incompatible
with perfect clearness and perspicuity. If the famous oracular answer
(_Henry VI, 2nd Part_, I. 4. 33), “The Duke yet liues, that Henry shall
depose,” is ambiguous, it is only because it is in verse, where you
expect inversions: in ordinary prose it could be understood only in one
way, as the word order would be reversed if _Henry_ was meant as the

XVIII.--§ 6. Gender.

Besides case distinctions the older Aryan languages have a rather
complicated system of gender distinctions, which in many instances
agrees with, but in many others is totally independent of, and even may
be completely at war with, the natural distinction between male beings,
female beings and things without sex. This grammatical gender is
sometimes looked upon as something valuable for a language to possess;
thus Schroeder (_Die formale Unterscheidung_ 87) says: “The formal
distinction of genders is decidedly an enormous advantage which the
Aryan, Semitic and Egyptian languages have before all other languages.”
Aasen (_Norsk Grammatik_ 123) finds that the preservation of the old
genders gives vividness and variety to a language; he therefore, in
constructing his artificial Norwegian ‘landsmaal,’ based it on those
dialects which made a formal distinction between the masculine and
feminine article. But other scholars have recognized the disadvantages
accruing from such distinctions; thus Tegnér (SM 50) regrets the fact
that in Swedish it is impossible to give such a form to the sentence
‘sin make må man ej svika’ as to make it clear that the admonition
is applicable to both husband and wife, because _make_, ‘mate,’ is
masculine, and _maka_ feminine. In Danish, where _mage_ is common to
both sexes, no such difficulty arises. Gabelentz (Spr 234) says: “Das
grammatische geschlecht bringt es weiter mit sich dass wir deutschen
nie eine frauensperson als einen menschen und nicht leicht einen mann
als eine person bezeichnen.”

As a matter of fact, German gender is responsible for many
difficulties, not only when it is in conflict with natural sex, as when
one may hesitate whether to use the pronoun _es_ or _sie_ in reference
to a person just mentioned as _das mädchen_ or _das weib_, or _er_ or
_sie_ in reference to _die schildwache_, but also when sexless things
are concerned, and _er_ might be taken as either referring to the man
or to _der stuhl_ or to _der wald_ just mentioned, etc. In France,
grammarians have disputed without end as to the propriety or not of
referring to the (feminine) word _personnes_ by means of the pronoun
_ils_ (see Nyrop, _Kongruens_ 24, and Gr. iii. § 712): “Les personnes
que vous attendiez sont _tous logés_ ici.” As a negative pronoun
_personne_ is now frankly masculine: ‘personne n’est _malheureux_.’
With _gens_ the old feminine gender is still kept up when an adjective
precedes, as in _les bonnes gens_, thus also _toutes les bonnes gens_,
but when the adjective has no separate feminine form, schoolmasters
prefer to say _tous les honnêtes gens_, and the masculine generally
prevails when the adjective is at some distance from _gens_, as in the
old school-example, _Instruits par l’expérience, toutes les vieilles
gens sont soupçonneux_. There is a good deal of artificiality in
the strict rules of grammarians on this point, and it is therefore
good that the Arrêté ministériel of 1901 tolerates greater liberty;
but conflicts are unavoidable, and will rise quite naturally, in
any language that has not arrived at the perfect stage of complete
genderlessness (which, of course, is not identical with inability to
express sex-differences).

Most English pronouns make no distinction of sex: _I_, _you_, _we_,
_they_, _who_, _each_, _somebody_, etc. Yet, when we hear that Finnic
and Magyar, and indeed the vast majority of languages outside the
Aryan and Semitic world, have no separate forms for _he_ and _she_,
our first thought is one of astonishment; we fail to see how it is
possible to do without this distinction. But if we look more closely
we shall see that it is at times an inconvenience to have to specify
the sex of the person spoken about. Coleridge (_Anima Poetæ_ 190)
regretted the lack of a pronoun to refer to the word _person_, as it
necessitated some stiff and strange construction like ‘not letting the
person be aware wherein offence had been given,’ instead of ‘wherein
he or she has offended.’ It has been said that if a genderless pronoun
could be substituted for _he_ in such a proposition as this: ‘It
would be interesting if each of the leading poets would tell us what
he considers his best work,’ ladies would be spared the disparaging
implication that the leading poets were all men. Similarly there is
something incongruous in the following sentence found in a German
review of a book: “Was Maria und Fritz so zueinander zog, war, dass
_jeder_ von ihnen _am anderen_ sah, wie _er_ unglücklich war.” Anyone
who has written much in Ido will have often felt how convenient it is
to have the common-sex pronouns _lu_ (he or she), _singlu_, _altru_,
etc. It is interesting to see the different ways out of the difficulty
resorted to in actual language. First the cumbrous use of _he or she_,
as in Fielding _TJ_ 1. 174, the reader’s heart (if he or she have
any) | Miss Muloch _H._ 2. 128, each one made his or her comment.[85]
Secondly, the use of _he_ alone: If anybody behaves in such and such
a manner, he will be punished (cf. the wholly unobjectionable, but
not always applicable, formula: Whoever behaves in such and such a
manner will be punished). This use of _he_ has been legalized by the
Act 13 and 14 Vict., cap. 21. 4: “That in all acts words importing the
masculine gender shall be deemed and taken to include females.” Third,
the sexless but plural form _they_ may be used. If you try to put the
phrase, ‘Does anybody prevent you?’ in another way, beginning with
‘Nobody prevents you,’ and then adding the interrogatory formula, you
will perceive that ‘does he’ is too definite, and ‘does he or she’ too
clumsy; and you will therefore naturally say (as Thackeray does, _P_ 2.
260), “Nobody prevents you, do they?” In the same manner Shakespeare
writes (_Lucr._ 125): “Everybody to rest themselves betake.” The
substitution of the plural for the singular is not wholly illogical;
for _everybody_ is much the same thing as ‘all men,’ and _nobody_ is
the negation of ‘all men’; but the phenomenon is extended to cases
where this explanation will not hold good, as in G. Eliot, _M._ 2. 304,
I shouldn’t like to punish any one, even if _they’d_ done me wrong.
(For many examples from good writers see my MEG. ii. 5, 56.)

The English interrogative _who_ is not, like the _quis_ or _quæ_ of the
Romans, limited to one sex and one number, so that our question ‘Who
did it?’ to be rendered exactly in Latin, would require a combination
of the four: _Quis hoc fecit?_ _Quæ hoc fecit?_ _Qui hoc fecerunt?_
_Quæ hoc fecerunt?_ or rather, the abstract nature of _who_ (and
of _did_) makes it possible to express such a question much more
indefinitely in English than in any highly flexional language; and
indefiniteness in many cases means greater precision, or a closer
correspondence between thought and expression.

XVIII.--§ 7. Nominal Concord.

We have seen in the case of the verbs how widely diffused in all the
old Aryan languages is the phenomenon of Concord. It is the same with
the nouns. Here, as there, it consists in secondary words (here chiefly
adjectives) being made to agree with principal words, but while with
the verbs the agreement was in number and person, here it is in number,
case and gender. This is well known in Greek and Latin; as examples
from Gothic may here be given Luk. 1. 72, _gamunan triggwos weihaizos
seinaizos_, ‘to remember His holy covenant,’ and 1. 75, _allans dagans
unsarans_, ‘all our days.’ The English translation shows how English
has discarded this trait, for there is nothing in the forms of (_his_),
_holy_, _all_ and _our_, as in the Gothic forms, to indicate what
substantive they belong to.

Wherever the same adjectival idea is to be joined to two substantives,
the concordless junction is an obvious advantage, as seen from a
comparison of the English ‘my wife and children’ with the French ‘ma
femme et mes enfants,’ or of ‘the _local_ press and committees’ with
‘_la_ presse _locale_ et _les_ comités _locaux_.’ Try to translate
exactly into French or Latin such a sentence as this: “What are
the present state and wants of mankind?” (Ruskin). Cf. also the
expression ‘a verdict of wilful murder against _some_ person or
persons _unknown_,’ where _some_ and _unknown_ belong to the singular
as well as to the plural forms; Fielding writes (_TJ_ 3. 65): “_Some
particular_ chapter, or perhaps chapters, _may be obnoxious_.” Where an
English editor of a text will write: “Some (indifferently singular and
plural) word or words wanting here,” a Dane will write: “Et (sg.) eller
flere (pl.) ord (indifferent) mangler her.” These last examples may be
taken as proof that it might even in some cases be advantageous to have
forms in the substantives that did not show number; still, it must be
recognized that the distinction between one and more than one rightly
belongs to substantival notions, but logically it has as little to do
with adjectival as with verbal notions (cf. above, Ch. XVII § 11). In
‘black spots’ it is the spots, but not the qualities of black, that
we count. And in ‘two black spots’ it is of course quite superfluous
to add a dual or plural ending (as in Latin _duo_, _duæ_) in order to
indicate once more what the word _two_ denotes sufficiently, namely,
that we have not to do with a singular. Compare, finally, E. _to the
father and mother_, Fr. _au père et à la mère_, G. _zu dem vater und
der mutter_ (_zum vater und zur mutter_).

If it is admitted that it is an inconvenience whenever you want to
use an adjective to have to put it in the form corresponding in case,
number and gender to its substantive, it may be thought a redeeming
feature of the language which makes this demand that, on the other
hand, it allows you to place the adjective at some distance from the
substantive, and yet the hearer or reader will at once connect the
two together. But here, as elsewhere in ‘energetics,’ the question
is whether the advantage counter-balances the disadvantage; in other
words, whether the fact that you are free to place your adjective where
you will is worth the price you pay for it in being always saddled
with the heavy apparatus of adjectival flexions. Why should you want
to remove the adjective from the substantive, which naturally must
be in your thought when you are thinking of the adjective? There is
one natural employment of the adjective in which it has very often
to stand at some distance from the substantive, namely, when it is
predicative; but then the example of German shows the needlessness of
concord in that case, for while the adjunct adjective is inflected (ein
_guter_ mensch, eine _gute_ frau, ein _gutes_ buch, _gute_ bücher)
the predicative is invariable like the adverb (der mensch ist _gut_,
die frau ist _gut_, das buch ist _gut_, die bücher sind _gut_). It
is chiefly in poetry that a Latin adjective is placed far from its
substantive, as in Vergil: “Et bene apud memores veteris stat gratia
facti” (_Æn._ IV. 539), where the form shows that _veteris_ is to
be taken with _facti_ (but then, where does _bene_ belong? it might
be taken with _memores_, _stat_ or _facti_). In Horace’s well-known
aphorism: “Æquam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem,” the flexional
form of _æquam_ allows him to place it first, far from _mentem_, and
thus facilitates for him the task of building up a perfect metrical
line; but for the reader it would certainly be preferable to have
had _æquam mentem_ together at once, instead of having to hold his
attention in suspense for five words, till finally he comes upon
a word with which to connect the adjective. There is therefore no
economizing of the energy of reader or hearer. Extreme examples may be
found in Icelandic skaldic poetry, in which the poets, to fulfil the
requirements of a highly complicated metrical system, entailing initial
and medial rimes, very often place the words in what logically must be
considered the worst disorder, thereby making their poem as difficult
to understand as an intricate chess-problem is to solve--and certainly
coming short of the highest poetical form.

XVIII.--§ 8. The English Genitive.

If we compare a group of Latin words, such as _opera virorum omnium
bonorum veterum_, with a corresponding group in a few other languages
of a less flexional type: OE. _ealra godra ealdra manna weorc_;
Danish _alle gode gamle mænds værker_; Modern English _all good old
men’s works_, we perceive by analyzing the ideas expressed by the
several words that the Romans said really: ‘work,’ plural, nominative
or accusative + ‘man,’ plural, masculine, genitive + ‘all,’ plural,
genitive + ‘good,’ plural, masculine, genitive + ‘old,’ plural,
masculine, genitive. Leaving _opera_ out of consideration, we find that
plural number is expressed four times, genitive case also four times,
and masculine gender twice;[86] in Old English the signs of number and
case are found four times each, while there is no indication of gender;
in Danish the plural number is marked four times and the case once. And
finally, in Modern English, we find each idea expressed once only; and
as nothing is lost in clearness, this method, as being the easiest and
shortest, must be considered the best. Mathematically the different
ways of rendering the same thing might be represented by the formulas:
anx + bnx + cnx = (an + bn + cn)x = (a + b + c)nx.

This unusual faculty of ‘parenthesizing’ causes Danish, and to a
still greater degree English, to stand outside the definition of the
Aryan family of languages given by the earlier school of linguists,
according to which the Aryan substantive and adjective can never
be without a sign indicating case. Schleicher (NV 526) says: “The
radical difference between Magyar and Indo-Germanic (Aryan) words is
brought out distinctly by the fact that the postpositions belonging to
co-ordinated nouns can be dispensed with in all the nouns except the
last of the series, e.g. _a jó embernek_, ‘dem guten menschen’ (_a_ for
_az_, demonstrative pronoun, article; _jó_, good; _ember_, man, _-nek_,
_-nak_, postposition with pretty much the same meaning as the dative
case), for _az-nak_ (annak) _jó-nak ember-nek_, as if in Greek you
should say το ἀγαθο ἀνθρώπῳ. An attributive adjective preceding its
noun always has the form of the pure stem, the sign of plurality and
the postposition indicating case not being added to it. Magyars say,
for instance, _Hunyady Mátyás magyar király-nak_ (to the Hungarian king
Mathew Hunyady), _-nak_ belonging here to all the preceding words.
Nearly the same thing takes place where several words are joined
together by means of ‘and.’”

Now, this is an exact parallel to the English group genitive in cases
like ‘all good old men’s works,’ ‘the King of England’s power,’
‘Beaumont and Fletcher’s plays,’ ‘somebody else’s turn,’ etc. The way
in which this group genitive has developed in comparatively recent
times may be summed up as follows (see the detailed exposition in my
ChE ch. iii.): In the oldest English _-s_ is a case-ending, like all
others found in flexional languages; it forms together with the body of
the noun one indivisible whole, in which it is sometimes impossible to
tell where the kernel of the word ends and the ending begins (compare
_endes_ from _ende_ and _heriges_ from _here_); only some words have
this ending, and in others the genitive is indicated in other ways.
As to syntax, the meaning or function of the genitive is complicated
and rather vague, and there are no fixed rules for the position of the
genitive in the sentence.

In course of time we witness a gradual development towards greater
regularity and precision. The partitive, objective, descriptive and
some other functions of the genitive become obsolete; the genitive is
invariably put immediately before the word it belongs to; irregular
forms disappear, the _s_ ending alone surviving as the fittest, so that
at last we have one definite ending with one definite function and one
definite position.

In Old English, when several words belonging together were to be put in
the genitive, each of them had to take the genitive mark, though this
was often different in different words, and thus we had combinations
like _anes reades mannes_, ‘a red man’s’ | _þære godlican lufe_, ‘the
godlike love’s’ | _ealra godra ealdra manna weorc_, etc. Now the _s_
used everywhere is much more independent, and may be separated from the
principal word by an adverb like _else_ or by a prepositional group
like _of England_, and one _s_ is sufficient at the end even of a long
group of words. Here, then, we see in the full light of comparatively
recent history a giving up of the old flexion with its inseparability
of the constituent elements of the word and with its strictness of
concord; an easier and more regular system is developed, in which the
ending leads a more independent existence and may be compared with the
‘agglutinated’ elements of such a language as Magyar or even with the
‘empty words’ of Chinese grammar. The direction of this development
is the direct opposite of that assumed by most linguists for the
development of languages in prehistoric times.

XVIII.--§ 9. Bantu Concord.

One of the most characteristic traits of the history of English is
thus seen to be the gradual getting rid of concord as of something
superfluous. Where concord is found in our family of languages, it
certainly is an heirloom from a primitive age, and strikes us now as
an outcome of a tendency to be more explicit than to more advanced
people seems strictly necessary. It is on a par with the ‘concord of
negatives,’ as we might term the emphasizing of the negative idea by
seemingly redundant repetitions. In Old English it was the regular
idiom to say: _n_an man _n_yste _n_an þing, ‘no man not-knew nothing’;
so it was in Chaucer’s time: he _n_euere yet _n_o vileynye _n_e sayde
In all his lyf unto _n_o manner wight; and it survives in the vulgar
speech of our own days: there was _n_iver _n_obody else gen (gave) me
_n_othin’ (George Eliot); whereas standard Modern English is content
with one negation: no man knew anything, etc. That concord is really a
primitive trait (though not, of course, found equally distributed among
all ‘primitive peoples’) will be seen also by a rapid glance at the
structure of the South African group of languages called Bantu, for
here we find not only repetition of negatives, but also other phenomena
of concord in specially luxuriant growth.

I take the following examples chiefly from W. H. I. Bleek’s excellent,
though unfortunately unfinished, _Comparative Grammar_, though I am
well aware that expressions like _si-m-tanda_ (we love him) “are never
used by natives with this meaning without being determined by some
other expression” (Torrend, p. 7). The Zulu word for ‘man’ is _umuntu_;
every word in the same or a following sentence having any reference to
that word must begin with something to remind you of the beginning of
_umuntu_. This will be, according to fixed rules, either _mu_ or _u_,
or _w_ or _m_. In the following sentence, the meaning of which is ‘our
handsome man (or woman) appears, we love him (or her),’ these reminders
(as I shall term them) are printed in italics:

  _umu_ntu  _w_etu  _omu_chle _u_yabonakala,  si_m_tanda (1)
   man       ours    handsome appears,        we love.

If, instead of the singular, we take the corresponding plural _abantu_,
‘men, people’ (whence the generic name of Bantu), the sentence looks
quite different:

  _aba_ntu _b_etu _aba_chle _ba_yabonakala, si_ba_tanda (2).

In the same way, if we successively take as our starting-point
_ilizwe_, ‘country,’ the corresponding plural _amazwe_, ‘countries,’
_isizwe_, ‘nation,’ _izizwe_, ‘nations,’ _intombi_, ‘girl,’
_izintombi_, ‘girls,’ we get:

  _ili_zwe      _l_etu   _eli_chle    _li_yabonakala,   si_li_tanda   (5)
  _ama_zwe      _e_tu    _ama_chle    _a_yabonakala,    si_wa_tanda   (6)
  _isi_zwe      _s_etu   _esi_chle    _si_yabonakala,   si_si_tanda   (7)
  _izi_zwe      _z_etu   _ezi_chle    _zi_yabonakala,   si_zi_tanda   (8)
  _in_tombi     _y_etu   _en_chle     _i_yabonakala,    si_yi_tanda   (9)
  _izin_tombi   _z_etu   _ezin_chle   _zi_yabonakala,   si_zi_tanda   (10)
   (girls)       our      handsome     appear,          we love.[87]

In other words, every substantive belongs to one of several classes, of
which some have a singular and others a plural meaning; each of these
classes has its own prefix, by means of which the concord of the parts
of a sentence is indicated. (An inhabitant of the country of _U_ganda
is called _mu_ganda, pl. _ba_ganda or _wa_ganda; the language spoken
there is _lu_ganda.)

It will be noticed that adjectives such as ‘handsome’ or ‘ours’ take
different shapes according to the word to which they refer; in the Zulu
Lord’s Prayer ‘thy’ is found in the following forms: _l_ako (referring
to _i_gama, ‘name,’ for _ili_gama, 5), _b_ako, (_ubu_kumkani,
‘kingdom,’ 14), _y_ako (_in_tando, ‘will,’ 9). So also the genitive
case of the same noun has a great many different forms, for the
genitive relation is expressed by the reminder of the governing word
+ the ‘relative particle’ _a_ (which is combined with the following
sound); take, for instance, _inkosi_, ‘chief, king’:

  _umu_ntu _w_enkosi, ‘the king’s man’ (1; _we_ for _w_ + _a_ + _i_).
  _aba_ntu _b_enkosi, ‘the king’s men’ (2).
  _ili_zwe _l_enkosi, ‘the king’s country’ (5).
  _ama_zwe _e_nkosi, ‘the king’s countries’ (6).
  _isi_zwe _s_enkosi, ‘the king’s nation’ (7).
  _uku_tanda _kw_enkosi, ‘the king’s love’ (15).

Livingstone says that these apparently redundant repetitions “impart
energy and perspicuity to each member of a proposition, and prevent
the possibility of a mistake as to the antecedent.” These prefixes are
necessary to the Bantu languages; still, Bleek is right as against
Livingstone in speaking of the repetitions as cumbersome, just as the
endings of Latin _multorum virorum antiquorum_ are cumbersome, however
indispensable they may have been to the contemporaries of Cicero.

These African phenomena have been mentioned here chiefly to show to
what lengths concord may go in the speech of some primitive peoples.
The prevalent opinion is that each of these prefixes (_umu_, _aba_,
_ili_, etc.) was originally an independent word, and that thus words
like _umuntu_, _ilizwe_, were at first compounds like E. _steamship_,
where it would evidently be possible to imagine a reference to this
word by means of a repeated _ship_ (our ship, which ship is a great
ship, the ship appears, we love the ship); but at any rate the Zulus
extend this principle to cases that would be parallel to an imagined
repetition of _friendship_ by means of the same _ship_, or to referring
to _steamer_ by means of the ending _er_ (Bleek 107). Bleek and
others have tried to find out by an analysis of the words making up
the different classes what may have been the original meaning of the
class-prefix, but very often the connecting tie is extremely loose,
and in many cases it seems that a word might with equal right have
belonged to another class than the one to which it actually belongs.
The connexion also frequently seems to be a derived rather than an
original one, and much in this class-division is just as arbitrary as
the reference of Aryan nouns to each of the three genders. In several
of the classes the words have a definite numerical value, so that
they go together in pairs as corresponding singular and plural nouns;
but the existence of a certain number of exceptions shows that these
numerical values cannot originally have been associated with the class
prefixes, but must be due to an extension by analogy (Bleek 140 ff.).
The starting-point may have been substantives standing to each other
in the relation of ‘person’ to ‘people,’ ‘soldier’ to ‘army,’ ‘tree’
to ‘forest,’ etc. The prefixes of such words as the latter of each of
these pairs will easily acquire a certain sense of plurality, no matter
what they may have meant originally, and then they will lend themselves
to forming a kind of plural in other nouns, being either put instead of
the prefix belonging properly to the noun (_ama_zwe, ‘countries,’ 6;
_ili_zwe, ‘country,’ 5), or placed before it (_ma-lu_to, ‘spoons,’ 6,
_lu_to, ‘spoon,’ 11).

In some of the languages “the forms of some of the prefixes have been
so strongly contracted as almost to defy identification.” (Bleek 234).
All the prefixes probably at first had fuller forms than appear now.
Bleek noticed that the _ma-_ prefix never, except in some degraded
languages, had a corresponding _ma-_ as particle, but, on the contrary,
is followed in the sentence by _ga-_, _ya-_, or _a-_, and _mu-_ (3)
generally has a corresponding particle _gu-_. Now, Sir Harry Johnston
(_The Uganda Protectorate_, 1902, 2. 891) has found that on Mount Eldon
and in Kavirondo there are some very archaic forms of Bantu languages,
in which _gumu-_ and _gama-_ are the commonly used forms of the _mu-_
and _ma-_ prefixes, as well as _baba-_ and _bubu-_ for ordinary _ba-_,
_bu-_; he infers that the original forms of _mu-_, _ma-_ were _ngumu-_,
_ngama-_. I am not so sure that he is right when he says that these
prefixes were originally “words which had a separate meaning of their
own, either as directives or demonstrative pronouns, as indications of
sex, weakness, littleness or greatness, and so on”--for, as we shall
see in a subsequent chapter, such grammatical instruments may have been
at first inseparable parts of long words--parts which had no meaning
of their own--and have acquired some more or less vague grammatical
meaning through being extended gradually to other words with which
they had originally nothing to do. The actual irregularity in their
distribution certainly seems to point in that direction.

XVIII.--§ 10. Word Order Again.

Mention has already been made here and there of word order and its
relation to the great question of simplification of grammatical
structure; but it will be well in this place to return to the subject
in a more comprehensive way. The theory of word order has long been
the Cinderella of linguistic science: how many even of the best and
fullest grammars are wholly, or almost wholly, silent about it! And
yet it presents a great many problems of high importance and of the
greatest interest, not only in those languages in which word order has
been extensively utilized for grammatical purposes, such as English and
Chinese, but in other languages as well.

In historical times we see a gradual evolution of strict rules for
word order, while our general impression of the older stages of our
languages is that words were often placed more or less at random. This
is what we should naturally expect from primitive man, whose thoughts
and words are most likely to have come to him rushing helter-skelter,
in wild confusion. One cannot, of course, apply so strong an expression
to languages such as Sanskrit, Greek or Gothic; still, compared with
our modern languages, it cannot be denied that there is in them much
more of what from one point of view is disorder, and from another

This is especially the case with regard to the mutual position of the
subject of a sentence and its verb. In the earliest times, sometimes
one of them comes first, and sometimes the other. Then there is a
growing tendency to place the subject first, and as this position is
found not only in most European languages but also in Chinese and other
languages of far-away, the phenomenon must be founded in the very
nature of human thought, though its non-prevalence in most of the older
Aryan languages goes far to show that this particular order is only
natural to _developed_ human thought.

Survivals of the earlier state of things are found here and there;
thus, in German ballad style: “Kam ein schlanker bursch gegangen.”
But it is well worth noticing that such an arrangement is generally
avoided, in German as well as in the other modern languages of Western
Europe, and in those cases where there is some reason for placing the
verb before the subject, the speaker still, as it were, satisfies his
grammatical instinct by putting a kind of sham subject before the verb,
as in E. _there_ comes a time when ..., Dan. _der_ kommer en tid da
..., G. _es_ kommt eine zeit wo ..., Fr. _il_ arrive un temps où....

In Keltic the habitual word order placed the verb first, but little
by little the tendency prevailed to introduce most sentences by a
periphrasis, as in ‘(it) is the man that comes,’ and as that came to
mean merely ‘the man comes,’ the word order Subject-Verb was thus
brought about circuitously.

Before this particular word order, Subject-Verb, was firmly established
in modern Gothonic languages, an exception obtained wherever the
sentence began with some other word than the subject; this might be
some important member of the proposition that was placed first for the
sake of emphasis, or it might be some unimportant little adverb, but
the rule was that the verb should at any rate have the second place,
as being felt to be in some way the middle or central part of the
whole, and the subject had then to be content to be placed after the
verb. This was the rule in Middle English and in Old French, and it is
still strictly followed in German and Danish: Gestern _kam das schiff_
| Pigen _gav jeg kagen, ikke drengen_. Traces of the practice are
still found in English in parenthetic sentences to indicate who is the
speaker (‘Oh, yes,’ said he), and after a somewhat long subjunct, if
there is no object (‘About this time died the gentle Queen Elizabeth’),
where this word order is little more than a stylistic trick to avoid
the abrupt effect of ending the sentence with an isolated verb like
_died_. Otherwise the order Subject-Verb is almost universal in English.

XVIII.--§ 11. Compromises.

The inverted order, Verb-Subject, is used extensively in many languages
to express questions, wishes and invitations. But, as already stated,
this order was not originally peculiar to such sentences. A question
was expressed, no matter how the words were arranged, by pronouncing
the whole sentence, or the most important part of it, in a peculiar
rising tone. This manner of indicating questions is, of course, still
kept up in modern speech, and is often the only thing to show that
a question is meant (‘John?’ | ‘John is here?’). But although there
was thus a natural manner of expressing questions, and although the
inverted word order was used in other sorts of sentences as well, yet
in course of time there came to be a connexion between the two things,
so that putting the verb before the subject was felt as implying a
question. The rising tone then came to be less necessary, and is
much less marked in inverted sentences like ‘Is John here?’ than in
sentences with the usual word order: ‘John is here?’

Now, after this method of indicating questions had become comparatively
fixed, and after the habit of thinking of the subject first had
become all but universal, these two principles entered into conflict,
the result of which has been, in English, Danish and French, the
establishment in some cases of various kinds of compromise, in which
the interrogatory word order has formally carried the day, while
really the verb, that is to say the verb which means something, is
placed after its subject. In English, this is attained by means of the
auxiliary _do_: instead of Shakespeare’s “Came he not home to-night?”
(_Ro._ II. 4. 2) we now say, “Did he not (or, Didn’t he) come home
to-night?” and so in all cases where a similar arrangement is not
already brought about by the presence of some other auxiliary, ‘Will he
come?’, ‘Can he come?’, etc. Where we have an interrogatory pronoun as
a subject, no auxiliary is required, because the natural front position
of the pronoun maintains the order Subject-Verb (Who came? | What
happened?). But if the pronoun is not the subject, _do_ is required to
establish the balance between the two principles (Who(m) did you see?
| What does he say?).

In Danish, the verb _mon_, used in the old language to indicate a
weak necessity or a vague futurity, fulfils to a certain extent the
same office as the English _do_; up to the eighteenth century _mon_
was really an auxiliary verb, followed by the infinitive: ‘Mon han
komme?’; but now the construction has changed, the indicative is used
with _mon_: ‘Mon han kommer?’, and _mon_ is no longer a verb, but an
interrogatory adverb, which serves the purpose of placing the subject
before the verb, besides making the question more indefinite and vague:
‘Kommer han?’ means ‘Does he come?’ or ‘Will he come?’ but ‘Mon han
kommer?’ means ‘Does he come (Will he come), do you think?’

French, finally, has developed two distinct forms of compromise between
the conflicting principles, for in ‘Est-ce que Pierre bat Jean?’
_est-ce_ represents the interrogatory and _Pierre bat_ the usual word
order, and in ‘Pierre bat-il Jean?’ the real subject is placed before
and the sham subject after the verb. Here also, as in Danish, the
ultimate result is the creation of ‘empty words,’ or interrogatory
adverbs: _est-ce-que_ in every respect except in spelling is one word
(note that it does not change with the tense of the main verb), and
thus is a sentence prefix to introduce questions; and in popular speech
we find another empty word, namely _ti_ (see, among other scholars,
G. Paris, _Mélanges ling._ 276). The origin of this _ti_ is very
curious. While the _t_ of Latin _amat_, etc., coming after a vowel,
disappeared at a very early period of the French language, and so
produced _il aime_, etc., the same _t_ was kept in Old French wherever
a consonant protected it,[88] and so gave the forms _est_, _sont_,
_fait_ (from _fact_, for _facit_), _font_, _chantent_, etc. From
_est-il_, _fait-il_, etc., the _t_ was then by analogy reintroduced in
_aime-t-il_, instead of the earlier _aime il_. Now, towards the end
of the Middle Ages, French final consonants were as a rule dropped in
speech, except when followed immediately by a word beginning with a
vowel. Consequently, while _t_ is mute in sentences like ‘Ton frère
_dit_ | Tes frères _disent_,’ it is sounded in the corresponding
questions, ‘Ton frère _dit-il_? Tes frères _disent-ils_?’ As the final
consonants of _il_ and _ils_ are also generally dropped, even by
educated speakers, the difference between interrogatory and declarative
sentences in the spoken language depends solely on the addition of _ti_
to the verb: written phonetically, the pairs will be:

  [tɔ̃ frɛ·r di--tɔ̃ frɛ·r di ti]
  [te frɛ·r di·z--te frɛ·r di·z ti].

Now, popular instinct seizes upon this _ti_ as a convenient sign of
interrogative sentences, and, forgetting its origin, uses it even with
a feminine subject, turning ‘Ta sœur di(t)’ into the question ‘Ta sœur
di ti?’, and in the first person: ‘Je di ti?’ ‘Nous dison ti?’ ‘Je vous
fais-ti tort?’ (Maupassant). In novels this is often written as if it
were the adverb _y_: C’est-y pas vrai? | Je suis t’y bête! | C’est-y
vous le monsieur de l’Académie qui va avoir cent ans? (Daudet). I have
dwelt on this point because, besides showing the interest of many
problems of word order, it also throws some light on the sometimes
unexpected ways by which languages must often travel to arrive at new
expressions for grammatical categories.

It was mentioned above that the inverted order, Verb-Subject, is used
extensively, not only in questions, but also to express wishes and
invitations. Here, too, we find in English compromises with the usual
order, Subject-Verb. For, apart from such formulas as ‘Long live the
King!’ a wish is generally expressed by means of _may_, which is
placed first, while the real verb comes after the subject: ‘May she be
happy!’, and instead of the old ‘Go we!’ we have now ‘Let us go!’ with
_us_, the virtual subject, placed before the real verb. When a pronoun
is wanted with an imperative, it used to be placed after the verb, as
in Shakespeare: ‘_Stand thou_ forth’ and ‘_Fear_ not _thou_,’ or in the
Bible: ‘_Turn ye_ unto him,’ but now the usual order has prevailed:
‘_You try!_’ ‘_You take_ that seat, and _somebody fetch_ a few more
chairs!’ But if the auxiliary _do_ is used, we have the compromise
order: ‘_Don’t you stir!_’

XVIII.--§ 12. Order Beneficial?

I have here selected one point, the place of the subject, to illustrate
the growing regularity in word order; but the same tendency is
manifested in other fields as well: the place of the object (or of two
objects, if we have an indirect besides a direct object), the place
of the adjunct adjective, the place of a subordinate adverb, which
by coming regularly before a certain case may become a preposition
‘governing’ that case, etc. It cannot be denied that the tendency
towards a more regular word order is universal, and in accordance with
the general trend of this inquiry we must next ask the question: Is
this tendency a beneficial one? Does the more regular word order found
in recent stages of our languages constitute a progress in linguistic
structure? Or should it be deplored because it hinders freedom of

In answering this question we must first of all beware of letting our
judgment be run away with by the word ‘freedom.’ Because freedom is
desirable elsewhere, it does not follow that it should be the best
thing in this domain; just as above we did not allow ourselves to be
imposed on by the phrase ‘wealth of forms,’ so here we must be on
our guard against the word ‘free’: what if we turned the question in
another way: Which is preferable, order or disorder? It may be true
that, viewed exclusively from the standpoint of the speaker, freedom
would seem to be a great advantage, as it is a restraint to him to be
obliged to follow strict rules; but an orderly arrangement is decidedly
in the interest of the hearer, as it very considerably facilitates his
understanding of what is said; it is therefore, though indirectly, in
the interest of the speaker too, because he naturally speaks for the
purpose of being understood. Besides, he is soon in his turn to become
the hearer: as no one is exclusively hearer or speaker, there can be no
real conflict of interest between the two.

If it be urged in favour of a free word order that we owe a certain
regard to the interests of poets, it must be taken into consideration,
first, that we cannot all of us be poets, and that a regard to all
those of us who resemble Molière’s M. Jourdain in speaking prose
without being aware of it is perhaps, after all, more important than a
regard for those very few who are in the enviable position of writing
readable verse; secondly, that a statistical investigation would, no
doubt, give as its result that those poets who make the most extensive
use of inversions are not among the greatest of their craft; and,
finally, that so many methods are found of neutralizing the restraint
of word order, in the shape of particles, passive voice, different
constructions of sentences, etc., that no artist in language need

So far, we have scarcely done more than clear the ground before
answering our question. And now we must recognize that there are some
rules of word order which cannot be called beneficial in any way; they
are like certain rules of etiquette, in so far as one can see no reason
for their existence, and yet one is obliged to bow to them. Historians
may, in some cases, be able to account for their origin and show that
they had a _raison d’être_ at some remote period; but the circumstances
that called them into existence then have passed away, and they are
now felt to be restraints with no concurrent advantage to reconcile
us to their observance. Among rules of this class we may reckon those
for placing the French pronouns now before, and now after, the verb,
now with the dative and now with the accusative first, ‘elle _me le_
donne | elle _le lui_ donne | donnez-_le moi_ | ne _me le_ donnez pas.’
And, again, the rules for placing the verb, object, etc., in German
subordinate clauses otherwise than in main sentences. That the latter
rules are defective and are inferior to the English rules, which are
the same for the two kinds of sentences, was pointed out before, when
we examined Johannson’s German sentences (p. 341), but here we may
state that the real, innermost reason for condemning them is their
inconsistency: the same rule does not apply in all cases. It seems
possible to establish the important principle that the more consistent
a rule for word order is, the more useful it is in the economy of
speech, not only as facilitating the understanding of what is said, but
also as rendering possible certain thoroughgoing changes in linguistic

XVIII.--§ 13. Word Order and Simplification.

This, then, is the conclusion I arrive at, that as simplification of
grammatical structure, abolition of case distinctions, and so forth,
always go hand in hand with the development of a fixed word order,
this cannot be accidental, but there must exist a relation of cause
and effect between the two phenomena. Which, then, is the _prius_
or cause? To my mind undoubtedly the fixed word order, so that the
grammatical simplification is the _posterius_ or effect. It is,
however, by no means uncommon to find a half-latent conception in
people’s minds that the flexional endings were first lost ‘by phonetic
decay,’ or ‘through the blind operation of sound laws,’ and that then
a fixed word order had to step in to make up for the loss of the
previous forms of expression. But if this were true we should have to
imagine an intervening period in which the mutual relations of words
were indicated in neither way; a period, in fact, in which speech was
unintelligible and consequently practically useless. The theory is
therefore untenable. It follows that a fixed word order must have come
in first: it would come quite gradually as a natural consequence of
greater mental development and general maturity, when the speaker’s
ideas no longer came into his mind helter-skelter, but in orderly
sequence. If before the establishment of some sort of fixed word order
any tendency to slur certain final consonants or vowels of grammatical
importance had manifested itself, it could not have become universal,
as it would have been constantly checked by the necessity that speech
should be intelligible, and that therefore those marks which showed the
relation of different words should not be obliterated. But when once
each word was placed at the exact spot where it properly belonged, then
there was no longer anything to forbid the endings being weakened by
assimilation, etc., or being finally dropped altogether.

To bring out my view I have been obliged in the preceding paragraph
to use expressions that should not be taken too literally; I have
spoken as if the changes referred to were made ‘in the lump,’ that
is, as if the word order was first settled in every respect, and
after that the endings began to be dropped. The real facts are, of
course, much more complicated, changes of one kind being interwoven
with changes of the other in such a way as to render it difficult,
if not impossible, in any particular case to discover which was the
_prius_ and which the _posterius_. We are not able to lay our finger
on one spot and say: Here final _m_ or _n_ was dropped, because it was
now rendered superfluous as a case-sign on account of the accusative
being invariably placed after the verb, or for some other such
reason. Nevertheless, the essential truth of my hypothesis seems to
me unimpeachable. Look at Latin final _s_. Cicero (_Orat._ 48. 161)
expressly tells us, what is corroborated by a good many inscriptions,
that there existed a strong tendency to drop final _s_; but the
tendency did not prevail. The reason seems obvious; take a page of
Latin prose and try the effect of striking out all final _s_’s, and
you will find that it will be extremely difficult to determine the
meaning of many passages; a consonant playing so important a part in
the endings of nouns and verbs could not be left out without loss in
a language possessing so much freedom in regard to word position as
Latin. Consequently it was kept, but in course of time word position
became more and more subject to laws; and when, centuries later, after
the splitting up of Latin into the Romanic languages, the tendency to
slur over final _s_ knocked once more at the door, it met no longer
with the same resistance: final _s_ disappeared, first in Italian and
Rumanian, then in French, where it was kept till about the end of the
Middle Ages, and it is now beginning to sound a retreat in Spanish; see
on Andalusian Fr. Wulff, _Un Chapitre de Phonétique Andalouse_, 1889.

The main line of development in historical times has, I take it, been
the following: first, a period in which words were placed somewhere or
other according to the fancy of the moment, but many of them provided
with signs that would show their mutual relations; next, a period
with retention of these signs, combined with a growing regularity in
word order, and at the same time in many connexions a more copious
employment of prepositions; then an increasing indistinctness and
finally complete dropping of the endings, word order (and prepositions)
being now sufficient to indicate the relations at first shown by
endings and similar means.

Viewed in this light, the transition from freedom in word position to
greater strictness must be considered a beneficial change, since it has
enabled the speakers to do away with more circumstantial and clumsy
linguistic means. Schiller says:

  Jeden anderen meister erkennt man an dem, was er ausspricht;
  Was er weise verschweigt, zeigt mir den meister des stils.

(Every other master is known by what he says, but the master of style
by what he is wisely silent on.) What style is to the individual, the
general laws of language are to the nation, and we must award the
palm to that language which makes it possible “to be wisely silent”
about things which in other languages have to be expressed in a
troublesome way, and which have often to be expressed over and over
again (vir_orum_ omn_ium_ bon_orum_ veter_um_, eal_ra_ god_ra_ eald_ra_
mann_a_). Could any linguistic expedient be more worthy of the genus
_homo sapiens_ than using for different purposes, with different
significations, two sentences like ‘John beats Henry’ and ‘Henry beats
John,’ or the four Danish ones, ‘Jens slaar Henrik--Henrik slaar
Jens--slaar Jens Henrik?--slaar Henrik Jens?’ (John beats Henry--H.
beats J.--does J. beat H.?--does H. beat J.?), or the Chinese use of
_či_ in different places (Ch. XIX § 3)? Cannot this be compared with
the ingenious Arabic system of numeration, in which 234 means something
entirely different from 324, or 423, or 432, and the ideas of “tens”
and “hundreds” are elegantly suggested by the order of the characters,
not, as in the Roman system, ponderously expressed?

Now, it should not be forgotten that this system, “where more is meant
than meets the ear,” is not only more convenient, but also clearer
than flexions, as actually found in existing languages, for word
order in those languages which utilize it grammatically is used much
more consistently than any endings have ever been in the old Aryan
languages. It is not true, as Johannson would have us believe, that
the dispensing with old flexional endings was too dearly bought, as it
brought about increasing possibilities of misunderstandings; for in
the evolution of languages the discarding of old flexions goes hand in
hand with the development of simpler and more regular expedients that
are rather less liable than the old ones to produce misunderstandings.
Johannson writes: “In contrast to Jespersen I do not consider that
the masterly expression is the one which is ‘wisely silent,’ and
consequently leaves the meaning to be partly guessed at, but the one
which is able to impart the meaning of the speaker or writer clearly
and perfectly”--but here he seems rather wide of the mark. For, just as
in reading the arithmetical symbol 234 we are perfectly sure that two
hundred and thirty-four is meant, and not three hundred and forty-two,
so in reading and hearing ‘The boy hates the girl’ we cannot have the
least doubt who hates whom. After all, there is less guesswork in the
grammatical understanding of English than of Latin; cf. the examples
given above, Ch. XVIII § 4, p. 343.

The tendency towards a fixed word order is therefore a progressive one,
directly as well as indirectly. The substitution of word order for
flexions means a victory of spiritual over material agencies.

XVIII.--§ 14. Summary.

We may here sum up the results of our comparison of the main features
of the grammatical structures of ancient and modern languages belonging
to our family of speech. We have found certain traits common to the
old stages and certain others characteristic of recent ones, and have
thus been enabled to establish some definite tendencies of development
and to find out the general direction of change; and we have shown
reasons for the conviction that this development has on the whole and
in the main been a beneficial one, thus justifying us in speaking about
‘progress in language.’ The points in which the superiority of the
modern languages manifested itself were the following:

(1) The forms are generally shorter, thus involving less muscular
exertion and requiring less time for their enunciation.

(2) There are not so many of them to burden the memory.

(3) Their formation is much more regular.

(4) Their syntactic use also presents fewer irregularities.

(5) Their more analytic and abstract character facilitates expression
by rendering possible a great many combinations and constructions which
were formerly impossible or unidiomatic.

(6) The clumsy repetitions known under the name of concord have become

(7) A clear and unambiguous understanding is secured through a regular
word order.

These several advantages have not been won all at once, and languages
differ very much in the velocity with which they have been moving
in the direction indicated; thus High German is in many respects
behindhand as compared with Low German; European Dutch as compared
with African Dutch; Swedish as compared with Danish; and all of them
as compared with English; further, among the Romanic languages we see
considerable variations in this respect. What is maintained is chiefly
that there is a general tendency for languages to develop along the
lines here indicated, and that this development may truly, from the
anthropocentric point of view, which is the only justifiable one, be
termed a progressive evolution.

But is this tendency really general, or even universal, in the world
of languages? It will easily be seen that my examples have in the
main been taken from comparatively few languages, those with which
I myself and presumably most of my readers are most familiar, all
of them belonging to the Gothonic and Romanic branches of the Aryan
family. Would the same theory hold good with regard to other languages?
Without pretending to an intimate knowledge of the history of many
languages, I yet dare assert that my conclusions are confirmed by all
those languages whose history is accessible to us. Colloquial Irish
and Gaelic have in many ways a simpler grammatical structure than the
Oldest Irish. Russian has got rid of some of the complications of Old
Slavonic, and the same is true, even in a much higher degree, of some
of the other Slavonic languages; thus, Bulgarian has greatly simplified
its nominal and Serbian its verbal flexions. The grammar of spoken
Modern Greek is much less complicated than that of the language of
Homer or of Demosthenes. The structure of Modern Persian is nearly as
simple as English, though that of Old Persian was highly complicated.
In India we witness a constant simplification of grammar from Sanskrit
through Prakrit and Pali to the modern languages, Hindi, Hindostani
(Urdu), Bengali, etc. Outside the Aryan world we see the same movement:
Hebrew is simpler and more regular than Assyrian, and spoken Arabic
than the old classical language, Koptic than Old Egyptian. Of most
of the other languages we are not in possession of written records
from very early times; still, we may affirm that in Turkish there has
been an evolution, though rather a slow one, of a similar kind; and,
as we shall see in a later chapter, Chinese seems to have moved in
the same direction, though the nature of its writing makes the task
of penetrating into its history a matter of extreme difficulty. A
comparative study of the numerous Bantu languages spoken all over South
Africa justifies us in thinking that their evolution has been along
the same lines: in some of them the prefixes characterizing various
classes of nouns have been reduced in number and in extent (cf. above,
§ 9). Of one of them we have a grammar two hundred years old, by
Brusciotto à Vetralla (re-edited by H. Grattan Guinness, London, 1882).
A comparison of his description with the language now spoken in the
same region (Mpongwe) shows that the class signs have dwindled down
considerably and the number of the classes has been reduced from 16 to
10. In short, though we can only prove it with regard to a minority of
the multitudinous languages spoken on the globe, this minority embraces
_all_ the languages known to us for so long a period that we can talk
of their history, and we may, therefore, confidently maintain that what
may be briefly termed the tendency towards grammatical simplification
is a universal fact of linguistic history.

That this simplification is progressive, i.e. beneficial, was
overlooked by the older generation of linguistic thinkers, because
they saw a kosmos, a beautiful and well-arranged world, in the old
languages, and missed in the modern ones several things that they had
been accustomed to regard with veneration. To some extent they were
right: every language, when studied in the right spirit, presents so
many beautiful points in its systematic structure that it may be called
a ‘kosmos.’ But it is not in every way a kosmos; like everything human,
it presents fine and less fine features, and a comparative valuation,
such as the one here attempted, should take both into consideration.
There is undoubtedly an exquisite beauty in the old Greek language,
and the ancient Hellenes, with their artistic temperament, knew how to
turn that beauty to the best account in their literary productions;
but there is no less beauty in many modern languages--though its
appraisement is a matter of taste, and as such evades scientific
inquiry. But the æsthetic point of view is not the decisive one:
language is of the utmost importance to the whole practical and
spiritual life of mankind, and therefore has to be estimated by such
tests as those applied above; if that is done, we cannot be blind
to the fact that modern languages as wholes are more practical than
ancient ones, and that the latter present so many more anomalies
and irregularities than our present-day languages that we may feel
inclined, if not to apply to them Shakespeare’s line, “Misshapen chaos
of well-seeming forms,” yet to think that the development has been from
something nearer chaos to something nearer kosmos.


[84] Thus also the corresponding Lat. _jecur_ by _ficatum_, Fr. _foie_.

[85] This ungainly repetition is frequent in the Latin of Roman law,
e.g. _Digest._ IV. 5. 2, _Qui quæve_ ... capite _diminuti diminutæ_
esse dicentur, in _eos easve_ ... iudicium dabo. | XLIII. 30, _Qui
quæve_ in potestate Lucii Titii est, si _is eave_ apud te est, dolove
malo tuo factum est quominus apud te esset, ita _eum eamve_ exhibeas.
| XI. 3, Qui _servum servam alienum alienam_ recepisse persuasisseve
quid ei dicitur dolo malo, quo _eum eam_ deteriorem faceret, in eum,
quanti ea res erit, in duplum iudicium dabo. I owe these and some other
Latin examples to my late teacher, Dr. O. Siesbye. From French, Nyrop
(_Kongruens_, p. 12) gives some corresponding examples: _tous ceux
et toutes celles_ qui, ayant été orphelins, avaient eu une enfance
malheureuse (Philippe), and from Old French: Lors donna congié à _ceus
et à celes_ que il avoit rescous (Villehardouin).

[86] If instead of _omnium veterum_ I had chosen, for instance,
_multorum antiquorum_, the meaning of masculine gender would have been
rendered four times: for languages, especially the older ones, are not
distinguished by consistency.

[87] The change of the initial sound of the reminder belonging to the
adjective is explained through composition with a ‘relative particle’
_a_; _au_ becoming _o_, and _ai_, _e_. The numbers within parentheses
refer to the numbers of Bleek’s classes. Similar sentences from Tonga
are found in Torrend’s _Compar. Gr._ p. 6 f.

[88] This protecting consonant was dropped in pronunciation at a later



  § 1. The Old Theory. § 2. Roots. § 3. Structure of Chinese. § 4.
  History of Chinese. § 5. Recent Investigations. § 6. Roots Again.
  § 7. The Agglutination Theory. § 8. Coalescence. § 9. Flexional
  Endings. § 10. Validity of the Theory. § 11. Irregularity Original. §
  12. Coalescence Theory dropped. § 13. Secretion. § 14. Extension of
  Suffixes. § 15. Tainting of Suffixes. § 16. The Classifying Instinct.
  § 17. Character of Suffixes. § 18. Brugmann’s Theory of Gender. § 19.
  Final Considerations.

XIX.--§ 1. The Old Theory.

What has been given in the last two chapters to clear up the problem
“Decay or progress?” has been based, as will readily be noticed,
exclusively on easily controllable facts of linguistic history. So far,
then, it has been very smooth sailing. But now we must venture out into
the open sea of prehistoric speculations. Our voyage will be the safer
if we never lose sight of land and have a reliable compass tested in
known waters.

In our historical survey of linguistic science we have already seen
that the prevalent theory concerning the prehistoric development of
our speech is this: an originally isolating language, consisting of
nothing but formless roots, passed through an agglutinating stage, in
which formal elements had been developed, although these and the roots
were mutually independent, to the third and highest stage found in
flexional languages, in which formal elements penetrated the roots and
made inseparable unities with them. We shall now examine the basis of
this theory.

In the beginning was the root. This is “the result of strict and
careful induction from the facts recorded in the dialects of the
different members of the family” (Whitney L 260). “The firm foundation
of the theory of roots lies in its logical necessity as an inference
from the doctrine of the historical growth of grammatical apparatus”
(Whitney G 200). “An instrumentality cannot but have had rude and
simple beginnings, such as, in language, the so-called roots ... such
imperfect hints of expression as we call roots” (Whitney, _Views of
L._ 338). These are really three different statements: induction from
the facts, a logical inference from the doctrine about grammatical
apparatus (i.e. the usually accepted doctrine, but on what is that
built up except on the root theory?), and the _a priori_ argument that
an ‘instrumentality’ must have simple beginnings. Even granted that
these three arguments given at different times, each of them in turn
as the sole argument, must be taken as supplementing each other, the
three-legged stool on which the root theory is thus made to sit is a
very shaky one, for none of the three legs is very solid, as we shall
soon have occasion to see.

XIX.--§ 2. Roots.

In the beginning was the root--but what was it like? Bopp took over
the conception of root from the Indian grammarians, and like them
was convinced that roots were all monosyllabic, and that view was
accepted by his followers. These latter at times attributed other
phonetic qualities to these roots, e.g. that they always had a short
vowel (Curtius C 22). I quote from a very recent treatise (Wood,
“Indo-European Root-formation,” _Journal of Germ. Philol._ 1. 291): “I
range myself with those who believe that IE. roots were monosyllabic
... these roots began, for the most part, with a vowel. The vowels
certainly were the first utterances,[89] and though we cannot make
the beginning of IE. speech coeval with that of human speech, we may
at least assume that language, at that time, was in a very primitive

The number of these roots was not very great (Curtius, l.c.; Wood 294).
This seems a natural enough conclusion when we picture the earliest
speech as the most meagre thing possible.

These few short monosyllabic roots were real words--this is a necessary
assumption if we are to imagine a root stage as a real language, and it
is often expressly stated; Curtius, for instance, insists that roots
are real and independent words (C 22, K 132); cf. also Whitney, who
says that the root _VAK_ “had also once an independent status, that
it was a word” (L 255). We shall see afterwards that there is another
possible conception of what a ‘root’ is; but let us here grant that
it is a real word. The question whether a language is possible which
contains nothing but such root words was always answered affirmatively
by a reference to Chinese--and it will therefore be well here to give
a short sketch of the chief structural features of that language.

XIX.--§ 3. Structure of Chinese.

Each word consists of one syllable, neither more nor less. Each of
these monosyllables has one of four or five distinct musical tones
(not indicated here). The parts of speech are not distinguished: _ta_
means, according to circumstances, great, much, magnitude, enlarge.
Grammatical relations, such as number, person, tense, case, etc., are
not expressed by endings and similar expedients; the word in itself
is invariable. If a substantive is to be taken as plural, this as a
rule must be gathered from the context; and it is only when there is
any danger of misunderstanding, or when the notion of plurality is to
be emphasized, that separate words are added, e.g. _ki_ ‘some,’ _šu_
‘number.’ The most important part of Chinese grammar is that dealing
with word order: _ta kuok_ means ‘great state(s),’ but _kuok ta_
‘the state is great,’ or, if placed before some other word which can
serve as a verb, ‘the greatness (size) of the state’; _tsï niu_ ‘boys
and girls,’ but _niu tsï_ ‘girl (female child),’ etc. Besides words
properly so called, or as Chinese grammarians call them ‘full words,’
there are several ‘empty words’ serving for grammatical purposes,
often in a wonderfully clever and ingenious way. Thus _či_ has besides
other functions that of indicating a genitive relation more distinctly
than would be indicated by the mere position of the words; _min_
(people) _lik_ (power) is of itself sufficient to signify ‘the power
of the people,’ but the same notion is expressed more explicitly by
_min či lik_. The same expedient is used to indicate different sorts
of connexion: if _či_ is placed after the subject of a sentence it
makes it a genitive, thereby changing the sentence into a kind of
subordinate clause: _wang pao min_ = ‘the king protects the people’;
but if you say _wang či pao min yeu_ (is like) _fu_ (father) _či pao
tsï_, the whole may be rendered, by means of the English verbal noun,
‘the king’s protecting the people is like the father’s protecting
his child.’ Further, it is possible to change a whole sentence into
a genitive; for instance, _wang pao min či tao_ (manner) _k’o_ (can)
_kien_ (see, be seen), ‘the manner in which the king protects (the
manner of the king’s protecting) his people is to be seen’; and in yet
other positions _či_ can be used to join a word-group consisting of a
subject and verb, or of verb and object, as an adjunct (attribute) to a
noun; we have participles to express the same modification of the idea:
_wang pao či min_ ‘the people protected by the king’; _pao min či wang_
‘a king protecting the people.’ Observe here the ingenious method of
distinguishing the active and passive voices by strictly adhering to
the natural order and placing the subject before and the object after
the verb. If we put _i_ before, and _ku_ after, a single word, it
means ‘on account of, because of’ (cf. E. for ...’s sake); if we place
a whole sentence between these ‘brackets,’ as we might term them, they
are a sort of conjunction, and must be translated ‘because.’[90]

XIX.--§ 4. History of Chinese.

These few examples will give some faint idea of the Chinese language,
and--if the whole older generation of scholars is to be trusted--at
the same time of the primeval structure of our own language in the
root-stage. But is it absolutely certain that Chinese has retained
its structure unchanged from the very first period? By no means. As
early as 1861, R. Lepsius, from a comparison of Chinese and Tibetan,
had derived the conviction that “the monosyllabic character of Chinese
is not original, but is a lapse (!) from an earlier polysyllabic
structure.” J. Edkins, while still believing that the structure of
Chinese represents “the speech first used in the world’s grey morning”
(_The Evolution of the Chinese Language_, 1888), was one of the
foremost to examine the evidence offered by the language itself for the
determination of its earlier pronunciation. This, of course, is a much
more complicated problem in Chinese than in our alphabetically written
languages; for a Chinese character, standing for a complete word, may
remain unchanged while the pronunciation is changed indefinitely. But
by means of dialectal pronunciations in our own day, of remarks in
old Chinese dictionaries, of transcriptions of Sanskrit words made by
Chinese Buddhists, of rimes in ancient poetry, of phonetic or partly
phonetic elements in the word-characters, etc., it has been possible
to demonstrate that Chinese pronunciation has changed considerably,
and that the direction of change has been, here as elsewhere, towards
shorter and easier word-forms. Above all, consonant groups have been

In 1894 I ventured to offer my mite to these investigations by
suggesting an explanation of one phenomenon of pronunciation in
present-day Chinese. I refer to the change sometimes wrought in the
meaning of a word by the adoption of a different tone. Thus _wang_
with one tone is ‘king,’ with another ‘to become king’; _lao_ with one
is ‘work,’ with another ‘pay the work’; _tsung_ with one tone means
‘follow,’ with another ‘follower,’ and with a third ‘footsteps’; _tshi_
with one tone is ‘wife,’ with another ‘marry’; _haò_ is ‘good,’ and
_haó_ is ‘love.’ Nay, meanings so different as ‘acquire’ and ‘give’
(_sheu_) or ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ (_mai_) are only distinguished by the
tones. Edkins and V. Henry (_Le Muséon_, Louvain, 1882, i. 435) have
attempted to explain this from gestures; but this is palpably wrong.
In the Danish dialect spoken in Sundeved, in southernmost Jutland,
two tones are distinguished, one high and one low (see articles by
N. Andersen and myself in _Dania_, vol. iv.). Now, these tones often
serve to keep words or forms of words apart that but for the tone,
exactly as in Chinese, would be perfect homophones. Thus _na_ with the
low tone is ‘fool,’ but with the high tone it is either the plural
‘fools’ or else a verb ‘to cheat, hoax’; _ri_ ‘ride’ is imperative or
infinitive according to the tone in which it is uttered; _jem_ in the
low tone is ‘home’ and in the high ‘at home’; and so on in a great
many words. There is no need, however, in this language to resort to
gestures to explain these tonic differences: the low tone is found in
words originally monosyllabic (compare standard Danish _nar_, _rid_,
_hjem_), and the high tone in words originally dissyllabic (compare
Danish _narre_, _ride_, _hjemme_). The tones belonging formerly to
two syllables are now condensed on one syllable. Although, of course,
Chinese tones cannot in every respect be paralleled with Scandinavian
ones, we may provisionally conjecture that the above-mentioned pairs
of Chinese words were formerly distinguished by derivative syllables
or flexional endings (see below, p. 373) which have now disappeared
without leaving any traces behind them except in the tones. This
hypothesis is perhaps rendered more probable by what seems to be an
established fact--that one of the tones has arisen through the dropping
of final stopped consonants (_p_, _t_, _k_).

However this may be, the death-blow was given to the dogma of the
primitiveness of Chinese speech by Ernst Kuhn’s lecture _Ueber
Herkunft und Sprache der Transgangetischen Völker_ (Munich, 1883). He
compares Chinese with the surrounding languages of Tibet, Burmah and
Siam, which are certainly related to Chinese and have essentially the
same structure; they are isolating, have no flexion, and word order
is their chief grammatical instrument. But the laws of word order
prove to be different in these several languages, and Kuhn draws the
incontrovertible conclusion that it is impossible that any one of these
laws of word position should have been the original one; for that would
imply that the other nations have changed it without the least reason
and at a risk of terrible confusion. The only likely explanation is
that these differences are the outcome of a former state of greater
freedom. But if the ancestral speech had a free word order, to be at
all intelligible it must have been possessed of other grammatical
appliances than are now found in the derived tongues; in other words,
it must have indicated the relations of words to each other by
something like our derivatives or flexions.

To the result thus established by Kuhn, that Chinese cannot have had
a fixed word order from the beginning, we seem also to be led if we
ask the question, Is primitive man likely to have arranged his words
in this way? A Chinese sentence, according to Gabelentz (Spr 426), is
arranged with the same logical precision as the direction on an English
envelope, where the most specific word is placed first, and each
subsequent word is like a box comprising all that precedes--only that a
Chinaman would reverse the order, beginning with the most general word
and then in due order specializing. Now, is it probable that primitive
man, that unkempt, savage being, who did not yet deserve the proud
generic name of _homo sapiens_, but would be better termed, if not
_homo insipiens_, at best _homo incipiens_--is it probable that this
_urmensch_, who was little better than an _unmensch_, should have been
able at once to arrange his words, or, what amounts to the same thing,
his thoughts, in such a perfect order? I incline to believe rather
that logical, orderly thinking and speaking have only been attained by
mankind after a long and troublesome struggle, and that the grammatical
expedient of a fixed word order has come to Chinese as to European
languages through a gradual development in which other, less logical
and more material grammatical appliances have in course of time been
given up.

We have thus arrived at a conception of Chinese which is _toto cælo_
removed from the view formerly current. The Chinese language can
no longer be adduced in support of the hypothesis that our Aryan
languages, or all human languages, started at first as a grammarless
speech consisting of monosyllabic root-words.

XIX.--§ 5. Recent Investigations.

I have reprinted the above sketch of Chinese, with a few very
insignificant verbal changes, as I wrote it about thirty years ago,
because I think that the main reasoning is just as valid now as then,
and because everything I have since then read about this interesting
language has only confirmed the opinion I ventured to express after
what was certainly a very insufficient study. Chinese pronunciation,
including its tones, may now be studied in two excellent books,
dealing with two different dialects--Daniel Jones and Kwing Tong Woo,
_A Cantonese Phonetic Reader_, London, 1912, and Bernhard Karlgren,
_A Mandarin Phonetic Reader in the Pekinese Dialect_, Upsala, Leipzig
and Paris, 1917 (Archives d’Études Orientales, vol. 13). Karlgren is
also the author of _Études sur la Phonologie Chinoise_ (ib. vol. 15,
1915-19), in which he deals with the history of Chinese sounds and the
reconstruction of the old pronunciation in a thoroughly scholarly
manner on the basis of an intimate knowledge of spoken and written
Chinese, and in _Ordet och pennan i mittens rike_ (Stockholm, 1918),
he has given a masterly popular sketch of the structure of the Chinese
language and its system of writing.

Of the greatest importance for our purposes is the same scholar’s
recent brilliant discovery of a real case distinction in the oldest
Chinese. In classical Chinese there are four pronouns of the first
person (I, we) which have always been considered as absolutely
synonymous. But Karlgren shows that the two of them which occur as the
usual forms in Confucius’s conversations are so far from being used
indiscriminately that one is nearly always a nominative and the other
an objective case; the exceptions are not numerous and are easily
explained. The present Mandarin pronunciation of the first is [u], of
the second either [uo] or [ŋo]. But if we go back to the sixth century
of our era we are able with certainty to say that the pronunciation of
the former was [ŋuo], and of the latter [ŋa]. This, then, constitutes
a real declension. Now, in the second person Karlgren is also able to
point out a distinction of two pronouns, though not quite so clearly
marked as in the first person, the objective showing here a greater
tendency to encroach on the nominative (Karlgren here ingeniously
adduces the parallel from our languages that the first person has
retained the suppletive system _ego: me_, while the second uses the
same stem _tu: te_). The oldest Chinese thus has the following case

         1st Per.       2nd Per.
  Nom.   ŋuo            nźiwo
  Obj.   ŋa             nźia

(See “Le Proto-chinois, langue flexionnelle,” _Journal Asiatique_,
1920, 205 ff.).[91]

XIX.--§ 6. Roots Again.

To return to roots. The influence of Indian grammar on European
linguists with regard to the theory of roots extended also to the
meanings assigned to roots, which were all of them of verbal
character, and nearly always highly general or abstract, such as
‘breathe, move, be sharp or quick, blow, go,’ etc. The impossibility of
imagining anybody expressing himself by means of a language consisting
exclusively of such abstracts embarrassed people much less than one
would expect: Chinese, of course, has plenty of words for concrete

The usual assumption was that there was one definite root period
in which all the roots were created, and after which this form of
activity ceased. But Whitney demurred to this (M 36), saying that E.
_preach_ and _cost_ may be considered new roots, though ultimately
coming from Lat. _præ-dicare_ and _con-stare_: these old compounds
are felt as units, “reducing to the semblance of roots elements that
are really derivative or compound.” As Whitney goes no further than
to establish the _semblance_ of new roots, he might be taken as an
adherent rather than as an opponent of the theory he objects to. But,
as a matter of fact, new words _are_ created in modern languages, and
if they form the basis of derived words, we may really speak of new
roots (_pun--punning_, _punster_; _fun--funny_; etc.). Why not say
that we have a French root _roul_ in _rouler_, _roulement_, _roulage_,
_roulier_, _rouleau_, _roulette_, _roulis_? This only becomes
unjustifiable if we think that the establishment of this root gives
us the ultimate explanation of these words; for then the linguistic
historian steps in with the objection that the words have been formed,
not from a root, but from a real word, which is not even in itself
a primary word, but a derivative, Lat. _rotula_, a diminutive of
_rota_ ‘wheel.’ (I take this example from Bréal M 407). To the popular
instinct _sorrow_ and _sorry_ are undoubtedly related to one another,
and we may say that they contain a root _sorr-_; but a thousand years
ago they had nothing to do with one another, and belonged to different
roots: OE. _sorg_ ‘care’ and _sārig_ ‘wounded, afflicted.’ If all
traces of Latin and Greek were lost, a linguist would have no more
scruples about connecting _scene_ with _see_ than most illiterate
Englishmen have now. Who will vouch that many Aryan roots may not have
originated at various times through similar processes as these new
roots _preach_, _cost_, _roul_, _sorr_, _see_?

The proper definition of a root seems to be: what is common to a
certain number of words felt by the popular instinct of the speakers as
etymologically belonging together. In this sense we may of course speak
of roots at any stage of any language, and not only at a hypothetical
initial stage. In some cases these roots may be used as separate
words (E. _preach_, _fun_, etc., Fr. _roul_ = what is spelt _roule_,
_roules_, _roulent_); in other cases this is impossible (Lat. _am_ in
_amo_, _amor_, _amicus_; E. _sorr_); in many cases because the common
element cannot, for phonetic reasons, be easily pronounced, as when E.
_drink, drank, drunk_ or _sit, sat, seat, set_ are naturally felt to
belong together, though it is impossible to state the root except in
some formula like _dr.nk_, _s.t_, where the dot stands for some vowel.
Similar considerations may be adduced with regard to the consonants if
we want to establish what is felt to be common in _give_ and _gift_
(_gi_ + labiodental spirant) or in _speak_ and _speech_, etc.; but this
need not detain us here.

In my view, then, the root is something real and important, though
not always tangible. And as its form is not always easy to state or
pronounce, so must its meaning, as a rule, be somewhat vague and
indeterminate, for what is common to several ideas must of course be
more general and abstract than either of the more special ideas thus
connected; it is also natural that it will often be necessary to state
the signification of a root in terms of verbal ideas, for these are
more general and abstract than nominal ideas. But roots thus conceived
belong to any and all periods, and we must cease to speak of the
earliest period of human speech as ‘the root period.’

XIX.--§ 7. The Agglutination Theory.

According to the received theory (see above, § 1) some of the roots
became gradually attached to other roots and lost their independence,
so as to become finally formatives fused with the root. This theory,
generally called the agglutination theory, contains a good deal of
truth; but we can only accept it with three important provisos, namely,
first, that there has never been one definite period in which those
languages which are now flexional were wholly agglutinative, the
process of fusion being liable to occur at any time; second, that the
component parts which become formatives are not at first roots, but
real words; and third, that this process is not the only one by which
formatives may develop: it may be called the rectilinear process, but
by the side of that we have also more circuitous courses, which are no
less important in the life of languages for being less obvious.

In the process of coalescence or integration there are many possible
stages, which may be denominated figuratively by such expressions
as that two words are placed together (that is--in non-figurative
language--pronounced after one another), tied together, knit together,
glued together (‘agglutinated’), soldered together, welded together,
fused together or amalgamated. What is really the most important part
of the process is the degree in which one of the components loses its
independence, phonetically and semantically.

As ‘agglutination’ is thus only one intermediate stage in a continuous
process, it would be better to have another name for the whole
theory of the origin of formatives than ‘the agglutination theory,’
and I propose therefore to use the term ‘coalescence theory.’ The
usual name also fixes the attention too exclusively on the so-called
agglutinative languages, and if we take the formatives of such a
language as Turkish, as in _sev-mek_ ‘to love,’ _sev-il-mek_ ‘to be
loved,’ _sev-dir-mek_ ‘to cause to love,’ _sev-dir-il-mek_ ‘to be made
to love,’ _sev-ish-mek_ ‘to love one another,’ _sev-ish-dir-il-mek_
‘to be made to love one another’--who will vouch that these formatives
were all of them originally independent words? Those who are most
competent to have an opinion on the matter seem nowadays inclined to
doubt it and to reject much of what was current in the description
of these languages given by the earlier scholars; see, especially,
the interesting final chapter of V. Grønbech, _Forstudier til tyrkisk
lydhistorie_ (København, 1902).

XIX.--§ 8. Coalescence.

The various degrees of coalescence, and the coexistence at the same
linguistic period of these various degrees, may be illustrated
by the old example, English _un-tru-th-ful-ly_, and by German
_un-be-stimm-bar-keit_. Let us look a little at each of these
formatives. The only one that can still be used as an independent word
is _ful_(l). From the collocation in ‘I have my hand full of peas’
the transition is easy to ‘a handful of peas,’ where the accentual
subordination of _full_ to _hand_ paves the way for the combination
becoming one word instead of two: this is not accomplished till it
becomes possible to put the plural sign at the end (_handfuls_, thus
also _basketfuls_ and others), while in less familiar combinations
the _s_ is still placed in the middle (_bucketsful_, two _donkeysful_
of children, see MEG ii. 2. 42). In these substantives _-ful_ keeps
its full vowel [u]. But in adjectival compounds, such as _peaceful_,
_awful_, there is a colloquial pronunciation with obscured or omitted
vowel [-fəl, -fl], in which the phonetic connexion with the full word
is thus weakened; the semantic connexion, too, is loosened when it
becomes possible to form such words as _dreadful_, _bashful_, in which
it is not possible to use the definition ‘full of ...’ Here, then, the
transition from a word to a derivative suffix is complete.

English _-hood_, _-head_ in _childhood_, _maidenhead_ also is
originally an independent word, found in OE. and ME. in the form _had_,
meaning ‘state, condition,’ Gothic _haidus_. In German it has two
forms, _-heit_, as in _freiheit_, and _-keit_, whose _k_ was at first
the final sound of the adjective in _ewigkeit_, MHG. _ewecheit_, but
was later felt as part of the suffix and then transferred to cases in
which the stem had no _k_, as in _tapferkeit_, _ehrbarkeit_.

The suffix _-ly_ is from _lik_, which was a substantive meaning
‘form, appearance, body’ (‘a dead body’ in Dan. _lig_, E. _lich_ in
_lichgate_); _manlik_ thus is ‘having the form or appearance of a
man’; the adjective _like_ originally was _ge-lic_ ‘having the same
appearance with’ (as in Lat. _con-form-is_). In compounds _-lik_
was shortened into _-ly_: in some cases we still have competing
forms like _gentlemanlike_ and _gentlemanly_. The ending was, and is
still, used extensively in adjectives; if it is now also used to turn
adjectives into adverbs, as in _truthful-ly_, _luxurious-ly_, this is a
consequence of the two OE. forms, adj. _-lic_ and adv. _-lice_, having
phonetically fallen together.

It may perhaps be doubtful whether the G. suffix _-bar_ (OHG. _-bari_,
OE. _bære_) was ever really an independent word, but its connexion with
the verb _beran_, E. _bear_, cannot be doubted: _fruchtbar_ is what
bears fruit (cf. OE. _æppelbære_ ‘bearing apples’), but the connexion
was later loosened, and such adjectives as _ehrbar_, _kostbar_,
_offenbar_ have little or nothing left of the original meaning of
the suffix. The two prefixes in our examples, _un-_ and _be-_, are
differentiated forms of the old negative _ne_ and the preposition
_by_, and the only affix in our two long words which is thus left
unexplained is _-th_, which makes _true_ into _truth_ and is found also
in _length_, _health_, etc.

XIX.--§ 9. Flexional Endings.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that some at any rate of our suffixes
and prefixes go back to independent words which have been more or less
weakened to become derivative formatives. But does the same hold good
with those endings which we are accustomed to term flexional endings?
The answer certainly must be in the affirmative with regard to _some_

Thus the Scandinavian passive originates in a coalescence of the
active verb and the pronoun _sik_: Old Norse _(þeir) finna sik_ (‘they
find themselves’ or ‘each other’), gradually becomes one word _(þeir)
finnask_, later _finnast_, _finnaz_, Swedish _(de) finnas_, Dan.
_(de) findes_ ‘they are found.’ In Old Icelandic the pronoun is still
to some extent felt as such, though formally an indistinguishable part
of the verb; thus combinations like the following are very frequent:
_Bolli kvaz þessu ráða vilja_ = _kvað sik vilja_; “Bolli dixit se
velle: B. said that he would have his own way” (Laxd. 55). In Danish
a distinction can sometimes be made between a reflexive and a purely
passive employment: _de slås_ with a short vowel is ‘they fight
(one another),’ but with a long vowel ‘they are beaten.’ A similar
coalescence is taking place in Russian, where _sja_ ‘himself’ (myself,
etc.) dwindles down to a suffixed _s_: _kazalos_ ‘it showed itself,
turned out.’

A similar case is the Romanic future: It. _finiro_, Sp. _finire_, Fr.
_finirai_, from _finire habeo_ (_finir ho_, etc.), originally ‘I have
to finish.’ Before the coalescence was complete, it was possible to
insert a pronoun, Old Sp. _cantar-te-hé_ ‘I shall sing to you.’

A third case in point is the suffixed definite article, if we are
allowed to consider that as a kind of flexion: Old Norse _mannenn_
(_manninn_) accusative ‘the man,’ _landet_ (_landit_) ‘the land’;
Dan. _manden_, _landet_, from _mann_, _land_ + the demonstrative
pronoun _enn_, neuter _et_. Rumanian _domnul_ ‘the lord,’ from Lat.
_dominu(m) illu(m)_, is another example.

XIX.--§ 10. Validity of the Theory.

Now, does this kind of explanation admit of universal application--in
other words, were all our derivative affixes and flexional endings
originally independent words before they were ‘glued’ to or fused with
the main word? This has been the prevalent, one might almost say the
orthodox, view of all the leading linguists, who may be mustered in
formidable array in defence of the agglutination theory.[92]

Against the universality of this origin for formatives I adduced in my
former work (1894, p. 66 f., cf. _Kasus_, 1891, p. 36) four reasons,
which I shall here restate in a different order and in a fuller form.

(1) Nothing can be proved with regard to the ultimate genesis of
flexion in general from the adduced examples, for in all of them the
elements were already fully flexional before the coalescence (cf. ON.
_finnask_, _fannsk_; It. _finirò_, _finirai_, _finira_; ON. _maðrenn_,
_mannenn_, _mansens_, etc.). What they show, then, is really nothing
but the growth of new flexional formations on an old flexional soil,
and it might be imagined that the fusion would not have taken place, or
not so completely, if the minds of the speakers had not been already
prepared to accept formations of this character. I do not, however,
attach much importance to this argument, and turn to those that are
more cogent.

(2) The number of actual forms proved beyond a doubt to have
originated through coalescence is comparatively small. It is true that
not a few derivative syllables were originally independent; still,
if we compare them with the number of those for which no such origin
has been proved or even proposed, we find that the proportion is very
small indeed. In the list of English suffixes enumerated in Sweet’s
_Grammar_, only eleven can be traced back to independent words, while
74 are not thus explicable. Anyone going through the countless suffixes
enumerated in the second volume of Brugmann’s _Vergleichende Grammatik_
will, I think, be struck with the impossibility of any great number of
them being traced back to words in the same way as _hood_, etc., above:
their forms and, still more, their vague spheres of meaning, and on the
whole their manner of application, distinctly speak against such an

As to real flexional endings traceable to words, their number is even
comparatively smaller than that of derivative suffixes; the three or
four instances named above are everywhere appealed to, but are there
so many more than these? And are they numerous enough to justify so
general an assertion? My impression is that the basis for the induction
is very far from sufficient.

(3) This argument is strengthened when we are able to point out
instances in which, as a matter of fact, flexional endings have arisen
in a way that is totally opposed to the agglutinative, which then must
renounce all claims to be the _only_ possible way for a language to
arrive at flexional formatives. See below (§ 13) on Secretion.

(4) Assuming the theory to be true, we should expect much greater
regularity, both in formal (morphological) and in semantic (syntactic)
respect than we actually find in the old Aryan languages; for if one
definite element was added to signify one definite modification of
the idea, we see no reason why it should not have been added to all
words in the same way. As a matter of fact, the Romanic future, the
Scandinavian passive voice and definite article present much greater
regularity than is found in the flexion of nouns and verbs in old Aryan.

XIX.--§ 11. Irregularity Original.

It will be objected that the irregularity which we find in these old
languages is of later growth, and that, in fact, flexion, as Schuchardt
says, is “anomal gewordene agglutination.” Whitney said that “each
suffix has its distinct meaning and office, and is applied in a whole
class of analogous words” (L. 254), and in reading Schleicher’s
_Compendium_ one gains the impression that the old Aryan sounds and
forms were like a regiment of well-trained soldiers marching along
in the best military style, while all irregularities were the result
of later decay in each language separately. But the trend of the
whole scientific development of the last fifty years has been in the
direction of demonstrating more and more irregularity in the original
forms: where formerly only one ending was assumed for the same case,
etc., now several are assumed. (See, e.g., Walde in Streitberg’s
_Gesch._, 2. 194, Thumb, ib. 2. 69.) And as with the forms, so also
with the meanings and applications of the forms. Madvig as early as
1857 (p. 27. Kl 202) had seen that the signification of the grammatical
forms must originally have been extremely vague and fluctuating, but
most scholars went on imagining that each case, each tense, each mood
had originally stood for something quite settled and definite, until
gradually the progress of linguistics made away with that conception
point by point. In place of the belief that the original Aryan verb
had a definite system of tense forms, it is now generally assumed
that different ‘aspects’ (‘aktionsarten’), somewhat like those of
Slav verbs, were indicated, and that the notion of ‘time’ differences
was only afterwards developed out of the notion of aspect: but if
we compare the divisions and definitions of these aspects given by
various scholars, we see how essentially vague this notion is; instead
of being a model system of nice logical distinctions, the original
condition must rather have been one in which such notions as duration,
completion, result, beginning, repetition were indistinctly found
as germs, from which such ideas as perfect and imperfect, past and
present, were finally evolved with greater and greater clearness.

Similar remarks apply to moods. All attempts at finding out,
deductively or inductively, the fundamental notion (grundbegriff)
attached to such a mood as the subjunctive have failed: it is
impossible to establish one original, sharply circumscribed sphere of
usage, from which all the various, partly conflicting, usages in the
actually existing languages can be derived. The usual theory is that
there existed one true subjunctive, characterized by long thematic
vowels _-ē-_, _-ā-_, _-ō-_, and distinct from that an optative,
characterized by a formative _-iē-_: _-ī-_,[93] and that these two were
fused in Latin. But, as Oertel and Morris have shown in their valuable
article “An Examination of the Theories regarding the Nature and Origin
of Indo-European Inflection” (_Harvard Studies in Classical Philol._
XVI, 1905) it is probably safer to assume for the Indo-European period
substantial identity of meaning in the modal formatives _iē_: _ī_ and
the long thematic vowels _-ē-_, _-ā-_, _-ō-_, which were then continued
undifferentiated in Latin, while on the one hand the Germanic branch
has practically discarded the forms with long thematic vowel and
confined itself to the _i_ suffix, and on the other hand two branches,
Greek and Indo-Iranic, have availed themselves of the formal difference
and separated a ‘subjunctive’ and an ‘optative’ mood.

XIX.--§ 12. Coalescence Theory dropped.

In the historical part I have already mentioned some instances of
coalescence explanations of Aryan forms which have been abandoned by
most scholars, such as the theory that the _r_ of the Latin passive is
a disguised _se_, which would agree very well with the Scandinavian
passive, but falls to the ground when one remembers that corresponding
forms are found in Keltic, where the transition from _s_ to _r_ is
otherwise unknown: these forms are now believed to be related to some
_r_ forms found in Sanskrit, but there not possessed of any passive
signification, this latter being thus a comparatively late acquisition
of Keltic and Italic: these two branches turning an existing,
non-meaning consonant to excellent use in their flexional system and
generalizing it in the new application.[94]

The explanation of the ‘weak’ Gothonic preterit from a coalescence of
_did_ (_loved_ = _love did_) was long one of the strongholds of the
agglutination theory, Bopp’s original collocation of these forms with
other forms which could not be thus explained (see above 51) having
passed into oblivion. Now we have Collitz’s comprehensive book _Das
schwache Präteritum_, 1912, in which the formative consonant is shown
to have been Aryan _t_, and the close correspondence not only with the
passive participle, but also with the verbal nouns in _-ti_ is duly

The impossibility of explaining the Latin perfect in _-vi_ from
composition with _fui_ has been demonstrated by Merguet (see Walde
in Streitberg’s _Gesch._, 2. 220). Instead of this rectilinear
explanation, scholars now incline to assume an intricate play of
various analogical influences starting from a pre-ethnic perfect in _w_
in isolated instances.

Many have explained the case ending _-s_ as a coalesced demonstrative
pronoun _sa_ or, as it is now given, _so_; the difficulty that the same
_s_ denotes now the nominative and now the genitive was got over by
Curtius (C 12) by the assumption that _sa_ was added at two distinct
periods, and that each period made a different use of the addition,
though Curtius does not tell us how one or the other function could be
evolved from such a pronoun. The latest attempt at explanation, which
reaches me as I am writing this chapter, is by Hermann Möller (KZ 49.
219): according to him the common Aryan and Semitic nominative ended in
_o_ and the genitive in _e_, but to this was added in the masculine,
and more rarely in the feminine, the pronoun _s_ as a definite
article, so that the primitive form corresponding to Lat. _lupus_
meant ‘the wolf’ and _lupu_ ‘(a) wolf’; later the _s_-less form was
given up, and _lupus_ came to be used for both ‘the wolf’ and ‘wolf’
(similarly presumably in the genitive, if we translate the presumed
original forms into Latin _lupis_ ‘the wolf’s’ and _lupi_ ‘(a) wolf’s,’
later _lupi_ in both functions). In Semitic, inversely, an element
_m_, corresponding to the Aryan accusative ending, was added as an
_in_definite article, the _m_-less form thus becoming definite, but in
the oldest Babylonian-Assyrian the distinction has been given up, and
the form in _m_ is (like the Latin form in _s_) used both definitely
and indefinitely. Ingenious as these constructions are, the whole
theory seems to me highly artificial, and it is difficult to imagine
that both Aryans and Semites, after having evolved such a valuable
distinction as that between ‘the wolf’ and ‘a wolf,’ expressed by
simple means, should have wilfully given it up--to evolve it again in a
later period.[95] Fortunately one is allowed to confess one’s ignorance
of the origin of the case endings _s_ and _m_, but if I were on pain
of death to choose between Möller’s hypothesis and the suggestion
thrown out by Humboldt (Versch 129), that the light (high-pitched) _s_
symbolized the living (personal) and active (the subject), and the dark
(low-pitched) _m_ the lifeless (neutral) and passive (the object), I
should certainly prefer the latter explanation.

Hirt (GDS 37) also thinks that the _s_ found in Aryan cases is an
originally independent word, only he thinks that this _se_, _so_ was
not originally a demonstrative pronoun, but the particle, which with
the extension _i_ is found in Gothic _sai_ ‘ecce,’ and as it can thus
be compared with the particle _c_ in Lat. _hic_, it is clear that it
might be added in all cases--and as a matter of fact Hirt finds it in
six different cases in the singular and in all cases in the plural
except the genitive. Hirt makes no attempt at explaining how these
various case-forms have come to acquire the signification (function)
with which we find them in the oldest documents; “the _s_ element had
nothing to do with the denotation of any case, number or gender, and
only after it had been added to some cases and not to others could
it come to be distinctive of cases” (p. 39). In other words, his
explanation explains just nothing at all. The same is true with regard
to the ‘particles’ _om_ or _em_, _e_, _o_, _i_, which he thinks were
added in other cases, and when he ends (p. 42) by saying that “this
must be sufficient to give a glimpse of the way in which Aryan flexion
originated,” the only thing we have really seen is the haphazard way
in which this flexion is formed, and the impossibility at present of
arriving at a fully satisfactory explanation of these things. I should
especially demur to the two suppositions underlying Hirt’s theory
that Aryan had at one period a completely flexionless structure, and
that the same sound when occurring in various cases must have had the
same origin: it seems much more probable to me that the _s_ of the
nominative and the _s_ of the genitive were not at first identical.[96]

That item of the coalescence theory which probably appealed most to
the fancy of scholars and laymen alike was the explanation of the
personal endings in the verbs from the personal pronouns: we have an
_m_ in the first person of the _mi_-verbs (_esmi_) and in the pronoun
_me_, etc., and we have a _t_ in the third person (_esti_) and in a
third-person pronoun or demonstrative (_to_); it is, therefore, quite
natural to think that _esmi_ is simply the root _es_ ‘to be’ + the
pronoun _mi_ ‘I,’ and _esti_ _es_ + the other pronoun, and to extend
this view to the other persons. And yet not even this has been allowed
to stand unchallenged by later disrespectful linguists, headed by A. H.
Sayce (Techmer’s _Zeitschr. f. allg. Sprwiss._ i. 22) and Hirt. As a
matter of fact, the theory is based exclusively on the above-mentioned
correspondence in the first and third persons singular, while the dual
and plural endings do not at all agree with the corresponding personal
pronouns and the endings of the second person can only be compared with
the pronoun through the employment of phonological tricks unworthy of
a scientific linguist. Even in the first person the correspondence is
not complete, for besides _-mi_ we have other endings: _-m_, which
cannot be very well considered a shortened _-mi_ (and which agrees,
as Sayce remarks, much more closely with the accusative ending of
nouns), _-o_ and _-a_, neither of which can be explained from any known
pronoun. There is thus nothing for it except to say, as Brugmann does
(KG § 770): “The origin of the personal endings is not clear”; cf. also
Misteli 47: “The relations between personal endings and the independent
personal pronouns must be much more evident to justify this view....
The Aryan language offers direct evidence against the assumption that
a sentence has been thus drawn together, because it uses in the verbal
forms of the first and third person sg. pronominal stems which are
otherwise employed only as objects, and, moreover, would here place
the subject after the predicate, though in sentences it observes
the opposite order.” Meillet expresses himself very categorically
(_Bulletin de la Soc. de Ling._ 1911, 143): “Scarcely any linguist who
has studied Aryan languages would venture to affirm that *_-mi_ of the
type Gr. _fēmi_ is an old personal pronoun.”

The impression left on us by all these cases is that many of the
earlier explanations by agglutination have proved unsatisfactory, and
that linguists are nowadays inclined either to leave the forms entirely
unexplained or else to admit less rectilinear developments, in which
we see the speakers of the old languages groping tentatively after
means of expression and finding them only by devious and circuitous
courses. It is, of course, difficult to classify such explanations,
and the agglutination or coalescence theory has to be supplemented by
various other kinds of explanation; but I think one of these, which
has not received its legitimate share of attention, is important and
distinctive enough to have its own name, and I propose to term it the
‘secretion’ theory.

XIX.--§ 13. Secretion.

By secretion I understand the phenomenon that one integral portion
of a word comes to acquire a grammatical signification which it had
not at first, and is then felt as something added to the word itself.
Secretion thus is a consequence of a ‘metanalysis’ (above, Ch. X § 2);
it shows its full force when the element thus secreted comes to be
added to other words not originally possessing this element.

A clear instance is offered in the history of some English possessive
pronouns. In Old English _min_ and _þin_ the _n_ is kept throughout
as part and parcel of the words themselves, the other cases having
such forms as _mine_, _minum_, _minre_, exactly as in German _mein_,
_meine_, _meinem_, _meiner_, etc. But in Middle English the endings
were gradually dropped, and _min_ and _þin_ for a short time became
the only forms. Soon, however, _n_ was dropped before substantives
beginning with a consonant, but was retained in other positions
(_my_ father--_mine_ uncle, it is _mine_); then the former form was
transferred also to those cases in which the pronoun was used (as
an adjunct) before words beginning with vowels (_my_ father, _my_
uncle--it is _mine_). The distinction between _my_ and _mine_, _thy_
and _thine_, which was originally a purely phonetic one, exactly like
that between _a_ and _an_ (_a_ father, _an_ uncle), gradually acquired
a functional value, and now serves to distinguish an adjunct from a
principal (or, to use the terms of some grammars, a conjoint from
an absolute form); _my_ came to be looked upon as the proper form,
while the _n_ of _mine_ was felt as an ending serving to indicate the
function as a principal word. That this is really the instinctive
feeling of the people is shown by the fact that in dialectal and vulgar
speech the same _n_ is added to _his_, _her_, _your_ and _their_, to
form the new pronouns _hisn_, _hern_, _yourn_, _theirn_: “He that prigs
what isn’t hisn, when he’s cotch’d, is sent to prison. She that prigs
what isn’t hern, At the treadmill takes a turn.”

Another instance of secretion is _-en_ as a plural ending in E. _oxen_,
G. _ochsen_, etc. Here originally _n_ belonged to the word in all
cases and all numbers, just as much as the preceding _s_; _ox_ was an
_n_ stem in the same way as, for instance, Lat. (homo), homi_n_em,
homi_n_is, etc., or Gr. kuō_n_, ku_n_a, ku_n_os, etc., are _n_ stems.
In Gothic _n_ is found in most of the cases of similar _n_ stems. In
OE. the nom. is _oxa_, the other cases in the sg. _oxan_, pl. _oxan_
(_oxen_), _oxnum_, _oxena_, but in ME. the _n_-less form is found
throughout the singular (gen. analogically _oxes_), and the plural only
kept _-n_. Thus also a great many other words, e.g. (I give the plural
forms) _apen_, _haren_, _sterren_ (stars), _tungen_, _siden_, _eyen_,
which all of them belonged to the _n_ declension in OE. When _-en_ had
thus become established as a plural sign, it was added analogically to
words which were not originally _n_ stems, e.g. ME. _caren_, _synnen_,
_treen_ (OE. _cara_, _synna_, _treow_), and this ending even seemed
for some time destined to be the most usual plural ending in the South
of England, until it was finally supplanted by _-s_, which had been
the prevalent ending in the North; _eyen_, _foen_, _shoen_ were for
a time in competition with _eyes_, _foes_, _shoes_, and now _-n_ is
only found in _oxen_ (and _children_). In German to-day things are
very much as they were in Southern ME.: _-en_ is kept extensively in
the old _n_ stems and is added to some words which had formerly other
endings, e.g. _hirten_, _soldaten_, _thaten_. The result is that
now plurality is indicated by an ending which had formerly no such
function (which, indeed, had no function at all); for if we look upon
the actual language, _oxen_ (G. _ochsen_) is = _ox_ (_ochs_) singular
+ the plural ending _-en_; only we must not on any account imagine
that the form was originally thus welded together (agglutinated)--and
if in G. _soldaten_ we may speak of _-en_ being glued on to _soldat_,
this ending is not, and has never been, an independent word, but is an
originally insignificative part secreted by other words.

A closely similar case is the plural ending _-er_. The consonant
originally was _s_, as seen, for instance, in the Gr. and Lat. nom.
_genos_, _genus_, gen. Gr. _gene(s)os_, _genous_, Lat. _generis_ for
older _genesis_. In Gothonic languages _s_, in accordance with a
regular sound shift in this case, became _r_ (through _z_) whenever it
was retained, but in the nom. sg. it was dropped, and thus we have in
OE. sg. _lamb_, _lambe_, _lambes_, but in the pl. _lambru_, _lambrum_,
_lambra_. In English only few words show traces of this flexion, thus
OE. _cild_, pl. _cildru_, ME. _child_, _childer_, whence, with an
added _-en_, our modern _children_. But in German the class had much
more vitality, and we have not only words belonging to it of old, like
_lamm_, pl. _lämmer_, _rind_, _rinder_, but also gradually more and
more words which originally belonged to other classes, but adopted
this ending after it had become a real sign of the plural number, thus
_wörter_, _bücher_.

There is one trait that should be noticed as highly characteristic
of these instances of secretion, that is, that the occurrence of the
endings originating in this way seems from the first regulated by the
purest accident, seen from the point of view of the speakers: they are
found in some words, but not in others, whereas the endings treated
of under the heading Coalescence are added much more uniformly to the
whole of the vocabulary. But as a similarly irregular or arbitrary
distribution is met with in the case of nearly all flexional endings
in the oldest stages of languages belonging to our family of speech,
the probability is that most of those endings which it is impossible
for us to trace back to their first beginnings have originated through
secretion or similar processes, rather than through coalescence of
independent words or roots.

XIX.--§ 14. Extension of Suffixes.

A special subdivision of secretion comprises those cases in which a
suffix takes over some sound or sounds from words to which it was
added. Clear instances are found in French, where in consequence of the
mutescence of a final consonant some suffixes to the popular instinct
must seem to begin with a consonant, though originally this did not
belong to the suffix. Thus _laitier_, at first formed from _lait_
+ _ier_, now came to be apprehended as = _lai(t)_ + _tier_, and
_cabaretier_ as _cabare(t)_ + _tier_, and the new suffix was then
used to form such new words as _bijoutier_, _ferblantier_, _cafetier_
and others. In the same way we have _tabatière_, where we should
expect _tabaquière_, and the predilection for the extended form of the
suffix is evidently strengthened by the syllable division in frequent
formations like _ren-tier_, _por-tier_, _por-tière_, _charpen-tier_.
In old Gothonic we have similar extensions of suffixes, when instead
of _-ing_ we get _-ling_, starting from words like OHG. _ediling_ from
_edili_, ON. _vesling_ from _vesall_, OE. _lytling_ from _lytel_,
etc. Consequently we have in English quite a number of words with the
extended ending: _duckling_, _gosling_, _hireling_, _underling_, etc.
In Gothic some words formed with _-assus_, such as _þiudin-assus_
‘kingdom,’ were apprehended as formed with _-nassus_, and in all the
related languages the suffix is only known with the initial _n_; thus
in E. _-ness_: _hardness_, _happiness_, _eagerness_, etc.; G. _-keit_
with its _k_ from adjectives in _-ic_ has already been mentioned (376).
From _criticism_, _Scotticism_, we have _witti-cism_, and Milton has
_witticaster_ on the analogy of _criticaster_, where the suffix of
course is _-aster_, as in _poetaster_. Instead of _-ist_ we also find
in some cases _-nist_: _tobacconist_, _lutenist_ (cf. _botan-ist_,

To form a new word it is often sufficient that some existing word is
felt in a vague way to be made up of something + an ending, the latter
being subsequently added on to another word. In Fr. _mérovingien_ the
_v_ of course is legitimate, as the adjective is derived from Mérovée,
Merowig, but this word was made the starting-point for the word
designating the succeeding dynasty: _carlovingien_, where _v_ is simply
taken over as part of the suffix; nowadays historians try to be more
‘correct’ and prefer the adjective _carolingien_, which was unknown to
Littré. _Oligarchy_ is _olig_ + _archy_, but for the opposite notion
the word _poligarchy_ or _polygarchy_ was framed from _poly_ and the
last two syllables of _oli-garchy_, and though now scholars have
made _polyarchy_ the usual form, the word with the intrusive _g_ was
the common form two hundred years ago in English, and corresponding
forms are found in French, Spanish and other languages. _Judgmatical_
is made on the pattern of _dogmatical_, though there the stem is
_dogmat-_. In jocular German _schwachmatikus_ ‘valetudinarian,’ we have
the same suffix with a different colouring, taken from _rheumatikus_
(thus also Dan. _svagmatiker_). Swift does not hesitate to speak of a
_sextumvirate_, which suggests _triumvirate_ better than _sexvirate_
would have done; and Bernard Shaw once writes “his equipage (or
autopage)”--evidently starting from the popular, but erroneous, belief
that _equipage_ is derived from Lat. _equus_ and then dividing the
word _equi_ + _page_. Cf. _Scillonian_ from _Scilly_ on account of
_Devonian_ as if this were _Dev_ + _onian_ instead of _Devon_ + _ian_.

XIX.--§ 15. Tainting of Suffixes.

It will be seen that in some of these instances the suffix has
appropriated to itself not only part of the sound of the stem, but
also part of its signification. This is seen very clearly in the case
of _chandelier_, in French formed from _chandelle_ ‘candle’ with the
suffix _-ier_, of rather vague signification, ‘anything connected
with, or having to do with’; in English the word is used for a hanging
branched frame to hold a number of lights; consequently a similar
apparatus for gas-burners was denominated _gaselier_ (_gasalier_,
_gasolier_), and with the introduction of electricity the formation
has even been extended to _electrolier_. _Vegetarian_ is from the stem
_veget-_ with added _-ari-an_, which ending has no special connexion
with the notion of eating or food, but recently we have seen the new
words _fruitarian_ and _nutarian_, meaning one whose food consists
(exclusively or chiefly) in fruits and nuts. Cf. _solemncholy_,
which according to Payne is in use in Alabama, framed evidently on
_melancholy_, analyzed in a way not approved by Greek scholars. The
whole ending of _septentrionalis_ (from the name of the constellation
_Septem triones_, the seven oxen) is used to form the opposite:

A similar case of ‘tainting’ is found in recent English. The NED, in
the article on the suffix _-eer_, remarks that “in many of the words
so formed there is a more or less contemptuous implication,” but does
not explain this, and has not remarked that it is found only in words
ending in _-teer_ (from words in _-t_). I think this contemptuous
implication starts from _garreteer_ and _crotcheteer_ (perhaps also
_pamphleteer_ and _privateer_); after these were formed the disparaging
words _sonneteer_, _pulpiteer_. During the war (1916, I think) the
additional word _profiteer_[97] came into use, but did not find its
way into the dictionaries till 1919 (Cassell’s). And only the other
day I read in an American publication a new word of the same calibre:
“Against _patrioteering_, against fraud and violence ... Mr. Mencken
has always nobly and bravely contended.”

XIX.--§ 16. The Classifying Instinct.

Man is a classifying animal: in one sense it may be said that the
whole process of speaking is nothing but distributing phenomena, of
which no two are alike in every respect, into different classes on
the strength of perceived similarities and dissimilarities. In the
name-giving process we witness the same ineradicable and very useful
tendency to see likenesses and to express similarity in the phenomena
through similarity in name. Professor Hempl told me that one of his
little daughters, when they had a black kitten which was called _Nig_
(short for Nigger), immediately christened a gray kitten _Grig_ and
a brown one _Brownig_. Here we see the genesis of a suffix through a
natural process, which has little in common with the gradual weakening
of an originally independent word, as in _-hood_ and the other
instances mentioned above. In children’s speech similar instances are
not unfrequent (cf. Ch. VII § 5); Meringer L 148 mentions a child of
1.7 who had the following forms: _augn_, _ogn_, _agn_, for ‘augen,
ohren, haare.’ How many words formed or transformed in the same way
must we require in order to speak of a suffix? Shall we recognize one
in Romanic _leve_, _greve_ (cf. Fr. _grief_), which took the place
of _leve_, _grave_? Here, as Schuchardt aptly remarks, it was not
only the opposite signification, but also the fact that the words
were frequently uttered shortly after one another, that made one word
influence the other.

The classifying instinct often manifests itself in bringing
words together in form which have something in common as regards
signification. In this way we have smaller classes and larger classes,
and sometimes it is impossible for us to say in what way the likeness
in form has come about: we can only state the fact that at a given time
the words in question have a more or less close resemblance. But in
other cases it is easy to see which word of the group has influenced
the others or some other. In the examples I am about to give, I
have been more concerned to bring together words that exhibit the
classifying tendency than to try to find out the impetus which directed
the formation of the several groups.

In OE. we have some names of animals in _-gga_: _frogga_, _stagga_,
_docga_, _wicga_, now _frog_, _stag_, _dog_, _wig_. _Savour_ and
_flavour_ go together, the latter (OFr. _flaur_) having its _v_ from
the former. _Groin_, I suppose, has its diphthong from _loin_; the
older form was _grine_, _grynd(e)_. _Claw_, _paw_ (earlier _powe_,
OFr. _pol_). _Rim_, _brim_. _Hook_, _nook_. _Gruff_, _rough_ (_tough_,
_bluff_, _huff_--_miff_, _tiff_, _whiff_). _Fleer_, _leer_, _jeer_.
_Twig_, _sprig_. _Munch_, _crunch_ (_lunch_). _Without uttering or
muttering a word._ _The trees were lopped and topped._ In old Gothonic
the word for ‘eye’ has got its vowel from the word for ‘ear,’ with
which it was frequently collocated: _augo(n)_, _auso(n)_, but in the
modern languages the two words have again been separated in their
phonetic development. In French I suspect that popular instinct will
class the words _air_, _terre_, _mer_ together as names of what used
to be termed the ‘elements,’ in spite of the different spelling and
origin of the sounds. In Russian _kogot’_ ‘griffe’ (claw), _nogot’_
‘ongle’ (fingernail), and _lokot’_ ‘coude’ (elbow), three names
of parts of the body, go together in flexion and accent (Boyer et
Speranski, _Manuel de la l. russe_ 33). So do in Latin _culex_ ‘gnat’
and _pulex_ ‘flea.’ _Atrox_, _ferox_. A great many examples have been
collected by M. Bloomfield, “On Adaptation of Suffixes in Congeneric
Classes of Substantives” (_Am. Journal of Philol._ XII, 1891), from
which I take a few. A considerable number of designations of parts
of the body were formed with heteroclitic declension as _r-n_ stems
(cf. above, XVIII § 2): ‘liver,’ Gr. _hēpar_, _hēpatos_, ‘udder,’ Gr.
_outhar_, _outhatos_, ‘thigh,’ Lat. _femur_, _feminis_, further Aryan
names for blood, wing, viscera, excrement, etc. Other designations of
parts of the body were partly assimilated to this class, having also
_n_ stems in the oblique cases, though their nominative was formed in
a different way. Words for ‘right’ and ‘left’ frequently influence
one another and adopt the same ending, and so do opposites generally:
Bloomfield explains the _t_ in the Gothonic word corresponding to E.
_white_, where from Sanskr. we should expect _th_, _çveta_, as due to
the word for ‘black’; Goth. _hweits_, _swarts_, ON. _hvítr_, _svartr_,
etc. A great many names of birds and other animals appear with the
same ending, Gr. _glaux_ ‘owl,’ _kokkux_ ‘cuckoo,’ _korax_ ‘crow,’
_ortux_ ‘quail,’ _aix_ ‘goat,’ _alopex_ ‘fox,’ _bombux_ ‘silkworm,’
_lunx_ ‘lynx’ and many others, also some plant-names. Names for winter,
summer, day, evening, etc., also to a great extent form groups. In
a subsequent article (in IF vi. 66 ff.) Bloomfield pursues the same
line of thought and explains likenesses in various words of related
signification, in direct opposition to the current explanation through
added root-determinatives, as due to blendings (cf. above, Ch. XVII §
6). In Latin the inchoative value of the verbs in _-esco_ is due to
the accidentally inherent continuous character of a few verbs of the
class: _adolesco_, _senesco_, _cresco_; but the same suffix is also
found in the oldest words for ‘asking, wishing, searching,’ retained in
E. _ask_, _wish_, G. _forschen_, which thus become a small group linked
together by form and meaning alike.

XIX.--§ 17. Character of Suffixes.

There seems undoubtedly to be something accidental or haphazard in most
of these transferences of sounds from one word to another through which
groups of phonetically and semantically similar words are created; the
process works unsystematically, or rather, it consists in spasmodic
efforts at regularizing something which is from the start utterly
unsystematic. But where conditions are favourable, i.e. where the
notional connexion is patent and the phonetic element is such that
it can easily be added to many words, the group will tend constantly
to grow larger within the natural boundaries given by the common
resemblance in signification.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of our formatives, such as
suffixes and flexional endings, have arisen in this way through
transference of some part, which at first was unmeaning in itself,
from one word to another in which it had originally no business, and
then to another and another, taking as it were a certain colouring
from the words in which it is found, and gradually acquiring a more
or less independent signification or function of its own. In long
words, such as were probably frequent in primitive speech, and which
were to the minds of the speakers as unanalyzable as _marmalade_ or
_crocodile_ is to Englishmen nowadays, it would be perhaps most natural
to keep the beginning unchanged and to modify the final syllable or
syllables to bring about conformity with some word with which it was
associated; hence the prevalence of suffixes in our languages, hence
also the less systematic character of these suffixes as compared with
the prefixes, most of which have originated in independent words,
such as adverbs. What is from the merely phonetic point of view the
‘same’ suffix, in different languages may have the greatest variety of
meaning, sometimes no discernible meaning at all, and it is in many
cases utterly impossible to find out why in one particular language it
can be used with one stem and not with another. Anyone going through
the collections in Brugmann’s great _Grammar_ will be struck with this
purely accidental character of the use of most of the suffixes--a fact
which would be simply unthinkable if each of them had originally one
definite, well-determined signification, but which is easy to account
for on the hypothesis here adopted. And then many of them are not
added to ready-made words or ‘roots,’ but form one indivisible whole
with the initial part of the word; cf., for instance, the suffix _-le_
in English _squabble_, _struggle_, _wriggle_, _babble_, _mumble_,
_bustle_, etc.

XIX.--§ 18. Brugmann’s Theory of Gender.

As I have said, man is a classifying animal, and in his language tends
to express outwardly class distinctions which he feels more or less
vaguely. One of the most important of these class divisions, and at
the same time one of the most difficult to explain, is that of the
three ‘genders’ in our Aryan languages. If we are to believe Brugmann,
we have here a case of what I have in this work termed secretion. In
his well-known paper, “Das Nominalgeschlecht in den indogermanischen
Sprachen” (in Techmer’s _Zs. f. allgem. Sprachwissensch._ 4. 100 ff.,
cf. also his reply to Roethe’s criticism, PBB 15. 522) he puts the
question: How did it come about that the old Aryans attached a definite
gender (or sex, geschlecht) to words meaning foot, head, house, town,
Gr. _pous_, for instance, being masculine, _kephalē_ feminine, _oikos_
masculine, and _polis_ feminine? The generally accepted explanation,
according to which the imagination of mankind looked upon lifeless
things as living beings, is, Brugmann says, unsatisfactory; the
masculine and feminine of grammatical gender are merely unmeaning forms
and have nothing to do with the ideas of masculinity and femininity;
for even where there exists a natural difference of sex, language often
employs only one gender. So in German we have _der hase_, _die maus_,
and _der weibliche hase_ is not felt to be self-contradictory. Again,
in the history of languages we often find words which change their
gender exclusively on account of their form. Thus, in German, many
words in _-e_, such as _traube_, _niere_, _wade_, which were formerly
masculine, have now become feminine, because the great majority of
substantives in _-e_ are feminine (_erde_, _ehre_, _farbe_, etc.).
Nothing accordingly hinders us from supposing that grammatical gender
originally had nothing at all to do with natural sex. The question,
therefore, according to Brugmann, is essentially reduced to this: How
did it come to pass that the suffix _-a_ was used to designate female
beings? At first it had no connexion with femininity, witness Lat.
_aqua_ ‘water’ and hundreds of other words; but among the old words
with that ending there happened to be some denoting females: _mama_
‘mother’ and _gena_ ‘woman’ (compare E. _quean_, _queen_). Now, in
the history of some suffixes we see that, without any regard to their
original etymological signification, they may adopt something of the
radical meaning of the words to which they are added, and transfer
that meaning to new formations. In this way _mama_ and _gena_ became
the starting-point for analogical formations, as if the idea of female
was denoted by the ending, and new words were formed, e.g. Lat. _dea_
‘goddess’ from _deus_ ‘god,’ _equa_ ‘mare’ from _equus_ ‘horse,’ etc.
The suffix _-iē-_ or _-ī-_ probably came to denote feminine sex by a
similar process, possibly from Skr. _strī_ ‘woman,’ which may have
given a fem. *_wḷqī_ ‘she-wolf’ to *_wḷqos_ ‘wolf.’ The above is a
summary of Brugmann’s reasoning; it may interest the reader to know
that a closely similar point of view had, several years previously,
been taken by a far-seeing scholar in respect to a totally different
language, namely Hottentot, where, according to Bleek, CG 2. 118-22,
292-9, a class division which had originally nothing to do with sex has
been employed to distinguish natural sex. I transcribe a few of Bleek’s
remarks: “The apparent sex-denoting character which the classification
of the nouns now has in the Hottentot language was evidently imparted
to it after a division of the nouns into classes[98] had taken place.
It probably arose, in the first instance, from the possibly accidental
circumstance that the nouns indicating (respectively) man and woman
were formed with different derivative suffixes, and consequently
belonged to different classes (or genders) of nouns, and that these
suffixes thus began to indicate the distinction of sex in nouns where
it could be distinguished” (p. 122). “To assume, for example, that the
suffix of the m. sg. (_-p_) had originally the meaning of ‘man,’ or the
fem. sg. (_-s_) that of ‘woman,’ would in no way explain the peculiar
division of the nouns into classes as we find it in Hottentot, and
would be opposed to all that is probable regarding the etymology of
these suffixes, and also to the fact that so many nouns are included in
the sex-denoting classes to which the distinction of sex can only be
applied by a great effort.... If the word for ‘man’ were formed with
one suffix (_-p_), and the word indicating ‘woman’ (be it accidentally
or not) by another (_-s_), then other nouns would be formed with the
same suffixes, in analogy with these, until the majority of the nouns
of each sex were formed with certain suffixes which would thus assume
a sex-denoting character” (p. 298).

Brugmann’s view on Aryan gender has not been unchallenged. The weakest
points in his arguments are, of course, that there are so few old
naturally feminine words in _-a_ and _-i_ to take as starting-points
for such a thoroughgoing modification of the grammatical system, and
that Brugmann was unable to give any striking explanation of the
concord of adjectives and pronouns with words that had not these
endings, but which were nevertheless treated as masculines and
feminines respectively. It would lead us too far here to give any
minute account of the discussion which arose on these points;[99] one
of the most valuable contributions seems to me Jacobi’s suggestion
(_Compositum u. Nebensatz_, 1897, 115 ff.) that the origin of
grammatical gender is not to be sought in the noun, but in the pronoun
(he finds a parallel in the Dravidian languages)--but even he does not
find a fully satisfactory explanation, and the Aryan gender distinction
reaches back to so remote an antiquity, thousands of years before any
literary tradition, that we shall most probably never be able to fathom
all its mysteries. Of late years less attention has been given to the
problem of the feminine, which presented itself to Brugmann, than to
the distinction between two classes, one of which was characterized
by the use of a nominative in _-s_, which is now looked upon as a
‘transitive-active’ case, and the other by no ending or by an ending
_-m_, which is the same as was used as the accusative in the first
class (an ‘intransitive-passive’ case), and an attempt has been made
to see in the distinction something analogous to the division found
in Algonkin languages between a class of ‘living’ and another of
‘lifeless’ things--though these two terms are not to be taken in the
strictly scientific sense, for primitive men do not reason in the
same way as we do, but ascribe or deny ‘life’ to things according to
criteria which we have great difficulty in apprehending. This would
mean a twofold division into one class comprising the historical
masculines and feminines, and another comprising the neuters.

As to the feminine, we saw two old endings characterizing that gender,
_a_ and _i_. With regard to the latter, I venture to throw out the
suggestion that it is connected with diminutive suffixes containing
that vowel in various languages: on the whole, the sound [i] has a
natural affinity with the notion of small, slight, insignificant and
weak (see Ch. XX § 8). In some African languages we find two classes,
one comprising men and big things, and the other women and small
things (Meinhof, _Die Sprachen der Hamiten_ 23), and there is nothing
unnatural in the supposition that similar views may have obtained with
our ancestors. This would naturally account for Skr. _vṛk-ī_ ‘she-wolf’
(orig. little wolf, ‘wolfy’) from Skr. _vṛkas_, _napt-ī_, Lat.
_neptis_, G. _nichte_, Skr. _dēv-ī_, ‘goddess,’ etc. But the feminine
_-a_ is to me just as enigmatic as, say, the _d_ of the old ablative.

XIX.--§ 19. Final Considerations.

The ending _-a_ serves to denote not only female beings, but also
abstracts, and if in later usage it is also applied to males, as
in Latin _nauta_ ‘sailor,’ _auriga_ ‘charioteer,’ this is only a
derived use of the abstracts denoting an activity, sailoring, driving,
etc., just as G. _die wache_, besides the activity of watching,
comes to mean the man on guard, or as _justice_ (Sp. _el justicia_)
comes to mean ‘judge.’ The original sense of _Antonius collega fuit
Ciceronis_ was ‘A. was the co-election of C.’ (Osthoff, _Verbum in d.
Nominal-compos._, 1878, 263 ff., Delbrück, _Synt. Forsch._ 4. 6).

The same _-a_ is finally used as the plural ending of most neuters,
but, as is now universally admitted (see especially Johannes Schmidt,
_Die Pluralbildungen der indogerm. Neutra_, 1889), the ending here
was originally neither neuter nor plural, but, on the contrary,
feminine and singular. The forms in _-a_ are properly collective
formations like those found, for instance, in Lat. _opera_, gen.
_operæ_, ‘work,’ comp. _opus_ ‘(a piece of) work’; Lat. _terra_
‘earth,’ comp. Oscan _terum_ ‘plot of ground’; _pugna_ ‘boxing,
fight,’ comp. _pugnus_ ‘fist.’ This explains among other things the
peculiar syntactic phenomenon, which is found regularly in Greek and
sporadically in Sanskrit and other languages, that a neuter plural
subject takes the verb in the singular. Greek _toxa_ is often used
in speaking of a single bow; and the Latin poetic use of _guttura_,
_colla_, _ora_, where only one person’s throat, neck or face is meant,
points similarly to a period of the past when these words did not
denote the plural. We can now see the reason of this _-a_ being in
some cases also the plural sign of masculine substantives: Lat. _loca_
from _locus_, _joca_ from _jocus_, etc.; Gr. _sita_ from _sitos_. Joh.
Schmidt refers to similar plural formations in Arabic; and as we have
seen (Ch. XIX § 9), the Bantu plural prefixes had probably a similar
origin. And we are thus constantly reminded that languages must often
make the most curious _détours_ to arrive at a grammatical expression
for things which appear to us so self-evident as the difference
between he and she, or that between one and more than one. Expressive
simplicity in linguistic structure is not a primitive, but a derived


[89] Why so? Did sheep and cows also begin with vowels only, adding _b_
and _m_ afterwards to make up their _bah_ and _moo_?

[90] The examples taken from Gabelentz’s _Grammar_ and an article in
Techmer’s _Internat. Zeitschrift_ I.

[91] I must also mention A. Conrady, _Eine indochinesische
Causativ-denominativ-bildung_ (Leipzig, 1896), in which Lepsius’s
theory is carried a great step further and it is demonstrated with
very great learning that many of the tone relations (a well as
modifications of initial sounds) of Chinese and kindred languages find
their explanation in the previous existence of prefixes which are now
extinct, but which can still be pointed out in Tibetan. Though I ought,
therefore, to have spoken of prefixes instead of ‘flexional endings’
above, p. 371, the essence of the contention that prehistoric Chinese
must have had a polysyllabic and non-isolating structure is thus borne
out by the researches of competent specialists in this field.

[92] Madvig Kl 170, Max Müller L 1. 271, Whitney OLS 1. 283, G 124,
Paul P 1st ed. 181, repeated in the following editions, see 4th, 1909,
350 and 347, 349; Brugmann VG 1889, 2. 1 (but in 2nd ed. this has been
struck out in favour of hopeless skepticism), Schuchardt, _Anlass d.
Volapüks_ 11, Gabelentz Spr 189, Tegnér SM 53, Sweet, _New Engl. Gr._ §
559, Storm, _Engl. Phil._ 673, Rozwadowski, _Wortbildung u. Wortbed._,
Uhlenbeck, _Karakt. d. bask. Gramm._ 24, Sütterlin WGS 1902, 122,
Porzezinski, Spr 1910,