THE LOOM OF LANGUAGE by Frederick Bodner


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I was fascinated by the idea back of this book -- and disappointed in the results. Even the Lancelot Hogben touch was insufficient to lift it from the slough of serious scholarship to a level of popularisation of a subject in which my interest did not need to be aroused. Sorry! perhaps you'll feel differently. The first part of the book was to me the most stimulating in its presentation of the practical reasons for studying languages simultaneously for their likenesses and differences, for the essential minimum of a basic vocabulary of individual words and a few basic grammatical rules. Using Basic English as a springboard to prove that such a procedure is workable, he suggests a thrifty use of fewer verbs, a knowledge of essential particles and pronouns, a recognition of the differences and resemblances of languages within the same ""families"", and -- under grammatical rules -- an acceptance of the inevitability of knowing something about such things as conjugations and declensions and word derivations. The story of the alphabet surveys the historical development of various scripts, the Oriental scripts and how they grew, the Semitic language scripts, the Greek development of Arabic and Phoenician script -- all interestingly presented. And then -- for me -- the book beds down in the minuties of grammatical terms, flexiens, syntax classification of languages. Bits here and there of historical growth and structure held my attention, the romance of language never fails to absorb me. But the major part of the book in this section demands close study, and does not carry out the promise of devising a short out to learning new languages. Part three deals with the problems of a world language, and he puts forward two claims:- one, that basic English is fast on the road to becoming a possible world language; two, that we can look forward to ultimate intelligent language planning as a new instrument to human collaboration, but that none of the present attempts (Esperanto, etc.) seem to him to be on the right road. The last section of the book is called a ""language museum"" and consists of word lists, which in themselves hold interest for any student of words and word forms.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1944
Publisher: Norton