Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/61

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HUMAN SPEECH

i, after being dulled to an e, finally dropped off altogether. The form fōti thus step by step developed into the later fēt, which is the normal Anglo-Saxon form. Note the result. In fōti and other words of its type the plural is expressed by a distinct suffix -i, in fēt, as in modern English feet, and in words of corresponding form it is expressed by an internal change of vowel. Thus an entirely new grammatical feature in English, as also in quite parallel fashion in German, was brought about by a series of purely phonetic changes, in themselves of no grammatical significance whatever.

Such grammatical developments on the basis of phonetic changes have occurred with great frequency in the history of language. In the long run, not only may in this way old grammatical features be lost and new ones evolved, but the entire morphologic type of the language may undergo profound modification. A striking example is furnished again by the history of the English language. It is a well-known feature of English that absolutely the same word, phonetically speaking, may often, according to its syntactic employment, be construed as verb or as noun. Thus we not only love and kiss, but we also give our love or a kiss, that is, the words love and kiss may be indifferently used to predicate or to denominate an activity. There are so many examples in English of the formal, though not syntactic, identity of noun stem and verb stem that it may well be said that the English language is on the way to become of a purely analytic or isolating type, more or less similar to that of Chinese. And yet the typical Indogermanic language of earlier times, as represented say by Latin or Greek, always makes a rigidly formal, not merely syntactic, distinction between these fundamental parts of speech. If we examine the history of this truly significant change of type in English, we shall find that it has been due at last analysis to the operation of merely phonetic laws. The original Anglo-Saxon form of the infinitive of the verb kiss was cyssan, while the Anglo-Saxon form of the noun kiss was cyss. The forms in early middle English times became dulled to kissen and kiss, respectively. Final unaccented -n later regularly dropped off, so that the infinitive of the verb came to be kisse. In Chaucer's day the verb and the noun were still kept apart as kisse and kiss, respectively; later on, as a final unaccented -e regularly dropped off, kisse became kiss, so that there ceased to be any formal difference between the verb and noun. The history of the Anglo-Saxon verb lufian "to love" and noun lufu "love" has been quite parallel; the two finally became confused in a single form luv, modern English love. Once the pace has been set, so to speak, for an interchange in English between verbal and nominal use of the same word, the process, by the working of simple analogy, is made to apply also to cases where in origin we have to deal with only one part of speech; thus we may not only have a sick stomach,