BLTC Press Titles

available for Kindle at

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Characters of Theophrastus


Analogy and the scope of its application in language

by Benjamin Ide Wheeler




It is the purpose of the following paper to attempt a coherent classification of the generally recognized products of the action of analogy in language. The material to be employed in illustrating the classifications is rarely new. The discussions of Paul, Osthoff, and Henry present no basis of classification that can be made exhaustive, and hence afford no means of ascertaining what are the limitations of the action of this important factor in linguistic development. Furthermore, the various classifications suggested — most notable of which is Paul's division into " stoffliche " and " formale " — describe only the results of the action of analogy, instead of referring back to the activities of the mind, which produce the groupings, and, in accordance with the groupings, the forms. The classifications, in other words, have been grammatical rather than psychological.

The fact that the subject of analogy has received as yet no systematic recognition in any works published in the English language affords an excuse for the presentation of an otherwise unnecessarily voluminous mass of illustrative material, with a view to emphasizing the exceeding importance of this element in the economy of language. For a like reason has been added in conclusion a cursory review of the recent methodological employment of analogy in determining the nature of linguistic growth and in explaining the forms of speech ; and this outline is illustrated by a bibliography of the subject, with chronological classification.

Human life occupies the border-lands of mind and matter, and human speech, like every product of the entire human life, is conditioned by the laws of mind and matter alike. As a collection of spoken symbols, language is physiological in its character ; as a collection of impressions of sound or impressions of movement stored away beneath the levels of consciousness, it falls within the domain of the psychical, and is psychologically conditioned. Its physiological character subjects it to the laws of sound, which, though they may, as resultants of innumerable compromises between individual tendencies, be regarded as social laws, yet in the final analysis owe their peculiar character to the relations existing, in the sound-repertory of the speaking individual, between the various positions of articulation, or between these and the basis of articulation, that normal position to which the organs tend to return after every act of articulation [die Indifferenzlage). In every closely defined dialectic community the sum of inherited phonetic material must be with individuals essentially the same, the relations of the elements the same, the conditions for phonetic development essentially identical, and minute individual divergences must be continually subject to correction by contact. From the deductive side, accordingly, we are prepared to expect what the advancing experience of linguistic investigation also is indicating with ever-increasing clearness to be the line and direction of truth, — that the laws of soundchange have universal application (Allgemeingiltigkeit); i. e., application to the entire like-conditioned material, within the limits of a community-dialect. Induction determines only the line of direction, or the approximate line of direction, toward the truth; but its determinations impose upon the investigator a duty relative to the course and method of his further search. So far as the practical method qf research is concerned, the phonetic "laws" are mere formulas for an observed harmony in phonetic development; they indicate for the etymologist the danger-line.

Whereas, therefore, any given phonetic law can be asserted only for a restricted dialectic community, and general phonetic possibilities or phonetic analogies from other linguistic communities have no direct application in the exact study of language, psychological laws, on the other hand, find no such sharp limitation of application, as they are based upon the universal constituent principles of the human mind. The particular character of these laws is always determined by the relations existing in the storehouses of memory between the various word-pictures or the various thought- or sentence-pictures. Again, the laws of soundchange have application to the entire like-conditioned material of a given language, whereas the intervention of a possible analogy is never necessary. The Greek Okto) was always exposed to the influence of its next neighbor kirra. (and e£), but accepted the spiritus asper, as far as I know, only in the Heraklean dialect (oktco), and the change of consonant only, if at all, in the Elean Otttco. Thirdly, it is to be noticed that the operation of the laws of sound is unconscious and gradual, so that the old form cannot, except through mixing of dialects, survive alongside the new ; with the introduction of rifiij the older rifiS disappeared from the IonicAttic dialect. The products of analogy, however, do not necessarily displace the older forms; thus Germ, gediegen survives, in a special use, beside the new gediehen. In all linguistic investigation the most rigid discrimination between the operation of the physiological factors and the psychological factors is indispensable. Under one of the two categories may be classed every case of change in language. In Latin s between vowels becomes r, and arbSrem admits of a phonetical explanation ; but final s does not become r, hence arbSr beside arbos must be referred to psychological action, namely, the association with the forms of the other cases.

... from the RetroRead library, using Google Book Search, and download any of the books already converted to Kindle format.

Browse the 100 most recent additions to the RetroRead library

Browse the library alphabetically by title

Make books:

Login or register to convert Google epubs to Kindle ebooks



Lost your password?

Not a member yet? Register here, and convert any Google epub you wish

Powerd by Calibre powered by calibre