evolved from the isolating, and the inflective as the latest and so-called highest type of all. Further study, however, has shown that there is little to support this theory of evolution of types. The Chinese language, for instance, so far from being typical of a primitive stage, as used to be asserted, has been quite conclusively proven by internal and comparative evidence to be the resultant of a long process of simplification from an agglutinative type of language. English itself, in its historical affiliations an inflective language, has ceased to be a clear example of the inflective type and may perhaps be said to be an isolating language in the making. Nor should we be too hasty in attaching values to the various types and, as is too often done even to-day, look with contempt on the isolating, condescendingly tolerate the agglutinative, and vaunt the superiority of the inflective type. A well-developed agglutinative language may display a more logical system than the typically inflective language. And as for myself, I should not find it ridiculous or even paradoxical if one asserted that the most perfect linguistic form, at least from the point of view of logic, had been attained by Chinese, for here we have a language that, with the simplest possible means at its disposal, can express the most technical or philosophical ideas with absolute lack of ambiguity and with admirable conciseness and directness.
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/71
This page has been validated.