Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/439

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THE INADEQUACY OF SPEECH 435

an s to the singular. This method is so simple that it could not be made more so. The exceptions are such plurals as oxen, mice, men, and a few others. On the other hand, the Hausa, a dialect of the Maude spoken in central Africa, employs at least seven different ways of forming the plural regularly either by the addition of another syllable or by reduplicating the final syllable with a euphonic change. The Latin has five forms for the plural. In the language of the Bullum and Temme the plural is made by means of various prefixes, Ml " a house " becoming tikil, pokan, " a man " becoming apokan, and so on. On the other hand, in the Japanese the plural, in a majority of substantives, does not differ from the singular. Sometimes, however, it is formed by repetition of the singular, or by the addition of another word; but the latter process usually means something more than a mere plural. In the French a large number of plurals do not differ from the singular except to the eye. In the Italian the modification of the terminal syllable often adds a qualification to the root : it may indi- cate mere bigness, or bigness and ugliness, or bigness and fatness, or bigness and vigor. Conversely, it possesses likewise several modifying syllables to indicate the opposite qualities, as little and neat, little and lovely, or little and unimportant, or little and contemptible. The Finnish is provided with fifteen cases with which to express the various relations in which a noun may be used. Doubling this number for the plural, a Finnish substantive may appear in thirty different forms. Comparing this method with such languages as the French and the Spanish, in which case-relations are expressed by means of proposi- tions, it looks like the extreme of complexity, or like an effort on the part of the Finnish people to resort to an intricate method for doing that which might be done just as well by a much simpler process. Again, if we compare an English verb with the same part of speech in Sanscrit or Greek we find a similar remarkable diversity. A Greek verb with its participles may take more than five hundred different forms to express person, number, tense and case. It must be evident that with such an astonishing variety of resources at command it can express shades of meaning in a single word quite impossible with a Germanic verb. The Semitic languages are, for the most part, very simple in the structure of the verb, having, like the English, only two tense-forms. On the other hand, they complicate matters by giving to the second person, both singular and plural, a form to agree with the sex of the person addressed. Although they lack a passive voice they indicate the passive state by the use of prefixes and vowels placed before or within the radical consonants. The inadequacy of even the most highly developed language to express abstract ideas with accuracy is strikingly shown by a study of the writings of a thinker like Plato. He had virtually no predecessors in the realm of thought in which his mind often moved. He had, therefore, to coin new words, out of pre-

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