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Thought-Connectives There are certain words that express the great essentials of human thought, as objects, qualities, or actions; these are nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Such words must always make up the substance of language. Yet these are dependent for their full value and utility upon another class of words, the thought-connectives, that simply indicate relation; these are prepositions, conjunctions, relative pro, nouns and adverbs. If we compare words of the former class to the bricks that make up the substance of a wall, we may compare those of the latter class — the thought-connectives — to the mortar that binds the separate elements into the cohesion and unity of a single structure.
The value of these connectives may be clearly manifested by simply striking them out of any wellknown paragraph and showing the barrenness and confusion that result.
Thus by the omission of the thought-connectives, the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence becomes a mere cipher, capable of many meanings, and needing a key for its interpretation, while by the restoration of the thought-connectives the meaning becomes luminous, as in the following:
“The course human events becomes “When, in the conrse of human events, necessary one people dissolve the polit- it* becomes necessary for one people to Ical bands have connected them another, dissolve the political bands which have assume the powers the earth the separate connected them with another, and to equal station the laws nature nature's assume among the powers of the earth God entitle them, a decent respect the the separate and equal station to which opinions mankind requires they should the laws of nature and of nature's God declare the causes impel them the sepa- entitle them, a decent respect to the ration."
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation." Such an example shows the great importance of prepositions and other connectives as the means of binding words into sentences. Without such helps all speech would be made up of brief, isolated, and fragmentary statements. The movement of thought would be constantly and abruptly broken. Much would need to be guessed at; much would, after all, be doubtful or obscure; while the mental difficulty involved in following such statements would render them practically valueless. For easy, effective, and pleasant reading or hearing, the mind needs to have the connections of thought clearly indicated from point to point. The path of discourse may be steep, winding, or even intricate, but should always clearly show enough of forward reach to leave the traveler in no doubt where to set his foot. Prepositions, con. junctions, relative pronouns and adverbs are the ever-recurring finger-boards that point the thought onward, or enable it on occasion to retrace its way, and make all clearer and surer by turning backward for a new start. At the same time it should be said that the discourse in which these thought-connectives are most freely and wisely used is that in which it will be found least necessary to turn backward in order to make the meaning clear and sure.
*NOTE.-For the connective force of it in such use see INTRODUCTORY PARTICLES in the Addenda, pp. 315, 316.
As has been well said by Austin Phelps, * "The wrong use or the omission of connective words is often the occasion of looseness of style. The superior precision of the Greek tongue is said, by those who are experts in teaching it, to be in part due to the abundance of connectives in its vocabulary. For some of its connective particles our language has no equivalents; yet such as we have serve often to knit one's style together in exact and forcible collocations. Coleridge says that a master of our language may be known by his skilful use of connectives. This is one secret of the vigor of Coleridge's own style. His prolonged and involuted sentences derive from this source often a wonderful continuity, without which his profound conceptions could not find adequate expression. In order to represent some thoughts, style needs a certain sweep of sustained expression, like the sailing of an eagle on wings of scarcely visible vibration. Such, often, is Coleridge's style; and his command of it is often due to his precise use of connective words. It is still more abundantly and grandly illustrated in the prose style of Milton. Hence arises the independence of both of fragmentary expression, such as the majority of
* English Style in Public Discourse ch. 1, pp. 83, 84.
writers would think to be all that some thoughts admit of in human speech. Hence their freedom from that which Southey calls the 'Anglo-Gallican style, whose cementless periods are understood beforehand, they are so free from all the connections of logic.' Dr. Arnold, speaking of this feature in the thinking of Coleridge, says that he would have been more perfectly understood if he had written in classic Greek. . . . No man can be supremely eloquent in laconics. You can not express the rising and the expanding and the sweep and the circling of eloquent feeling, in a style resembling that which seamen call 'a chopping sea. For such thinking, you must have at command a style of which an oceanic ground-swell, or the Gothic interweaving of forest-trees, is the more becoming symbol. . . . But you must have such a style for the most exact utterance of certain elevated and impassioned thoughts. . . . Yet, in the construction of such a style, you must use connective words, links elaborately forged, inserted in the right joints of style, to make them flexible without loss of compactness. One word of such exact connective force in the right place, with the right surroundings before and after, may make all the difference between a disjointed and a linked style.”
The connective words, those "links elaborately forged” through centuries as the means of binding words and sentences together into a structural unity, are worthy of thorough and careful consideration such as they have scarcely yet received.