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The following quote is from Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser:

In the past he had always commanded a certain amount of respect, which was a compound of appreciation and awe. The familiarity which in part still existed between himself and his daughter he had courted. As it was, it did not go beyond the light assumption of words. The TONE was always modest. Whatever had been, however, had lacked affection, and now he saw that he was losing track of their doings.

I'd like to know what "the light assumption of words" means in the above context. I could not find the apt definition of assumption in any dictionary I could lay my hand on.

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"shallow relationship"

That is not what the phrase literally means in itself, but that is what is referred to in this context. The phrase itself purely describes "shallow meaning". Breaking it down...

  • light - not very heavy; shallow, resting on the surface
  • assumption of words the immediate impression based on mere words, not an experienced understanding of action

In the final clause now he saw that he was losing track of their doings, we see that their actions aren't very important anymore.

So, the phrase itself is about being limited to a "shallow meaning", but the overall context is that of a relationship. So, it means basically the same thing as a "shallow relationship", if you want a simple and accurate way to understand it.

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    Thank a lot for your explanation.
    – f6pafd
    Mar 3, 2023 at 0:58

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