Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/62

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but we may stomach an injury (noun becomes verb), and conversely we may not only write up a person, but he may get a write up (verb becomes noun). It has, I hope, become quite clear by this time how the trivial changes of pronunciation that are necessitated by the very process of speech acquirement may, in due course of time, profoundly change the fundamental characteristics of language. So also, if I may be pardoned the use of a simile, may the slow erosive action of water, continued through weary ages, profoundly transform the character of a landscape. If there is one point of historic method rather than another that the scientific study of language may teach other historical sciences, it is that changes of the greatest magnitude may often be traced to phenomena or processes of a minimal magnitude.

On the whole, phonetic change may be said to be a destructive or at best transforming force in the history of language. Reference has already been made to the influence of analogy, which may, on the contrary, be considered a preservative and creative force. In every language the existing morphological groups establish more or less definite paths of analogy to which all or practically all the lexical material is subjected; thus a recently acquired verb like to telegraph in English is handled in strict analogy to the great mass of old verbs with their varying forms. Such forms as he walks and he laughs set the precedent for he telegraphs, forms like walking and laughing for telegraphing. Without such clear-cut grooves of analogy, indeed, it would be impossible to learn to speak, a corollary of which is that there is a limit to the extent of grammatical irregularity in any language. When, for some reason or other, as by the disintegrating action of phonetic laws, too great irregularity manifests itself in the morphology of the language, the force of analogy may assert itself to establish comparative regularity, that is, forms which belong to ill-defined or sparsely represented morphologic groups may be replaced by equivalent forms that follow the analogy of better-defined or more numerously represented groups. In this way all the noun plurals of English, if we except a few survivals like feet and oxen, have come to be characterized by a suffixed -s; the analogical power of the old -s plurals was strong enough to transform all other plurals, of which Anglo-Saxon possessed several distinct types. The great power exerted by analogy is seen in the persistence with which children, whose minds are naturally unbiased by tradition, use such forms as foots and he swimmed. Let us not smile too condescendingly at the use of such forms; it may not be going too far to say that there is hardly a word, form, or sound in present-day English which was not at its first appearance looked upon as incorrect.

The disintegrating influence of phonetic change and the leveling influence of analogy are perhaps the two main forces that make for linguistic change. The various influences, however, that one language