Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/63

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59
HUMAN SPEECH

may exert upon another, generally summed up in the word borrowing, are also apt to be of importance. As a rule such influence is limited to the taking over or borrowing of certain words of one language by another, the phonetic form of the foreign word almost always adapting itself to the phonetic system of the borrowing language. Besides this very obvious sort of influence, there are more subtle ways in which one language may influence another. It is a very noteworthy phenomenon that the languages of a continuous area, even if genetically unrelated and however much they may differ among themselves from the point of view of morphology, tend to have similar phonetic systems or, at any rate, tend to possess certain distinctive phonetic traits in common. It can not be accidental, for instance, that both the Slavic languages and some of the neighboring but absolutely unrelated Ural-Altaic languages (such as the Cheremiss of the Volga region) have in common a peculiar dull vowel, known in Russian as yerí, and also a set of palatalized or so-called "soft" consonants alongside a parallel set of unpalatalized or so-called "hard" consonants. Similarly, we find that Chinese and Siamese have in common with the unrelated Annamite and certain other languages of Farther India a system of musical accent. A third very striking example is afforded by a large number of American Indian linguistic stocks reaching along the Pacific coast from southern Alaska well into California and beyond, which have in common peculiar voiceless l-sounds and a set of so-called "fortis" consonants with cracked acoustic effect. It is obvious that in all these cases of comparatively uniform phonetic areas embracing at the same time diverse linguistic stocks and types of morphology we must be dealing with some sort of phonetic influence that one language may exert upon another. It may also be shown, though perhaps less frequently, that some of the morphologic traits of one language may be adopted by a neighboring, sometimes quite unrelated, language, or that certain fundamental grammatical features are spread among several unrelated linguistic stocks of a continuous area. One example of this sort of influence will serve for many. The French express the numbers 70, 80 and 90, respectively, by terms meaning 60-10, 4 twenties and 4 twenties 10; these numerals, to which there is no analogy in Latin, have been plausibly explained as survivals of a vigesimal method of counting, that is counting by twenties, the numbers above 20, a method that would seem to have been borrowed from Gallic, a Celtic language, and which still survives in Gaelic and other modern Celtic languages. This example is the more striking as the actual lexical influence which Celtic has exerted upon French is surprisingly small. So much for the influence of borrowing on the history of a language.

We may turn now to take up the matter of the varieties of human speech. One method of classifying the languages of the world has been