Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 109
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 109
hovers psychologically between the status of an independent, radical concept (compare full) or of a subsidiary element in a compound (cf. brim-full) and that of a simple suffix (cf. dutiful) in which the primary concreteness is no longer felt. In general, the more highly synthetic our linguistic type, the more difficult and even arbitrary it becomes to distinguish groups I and II.
  Not only is there a gradual loss of the concrete as we pass through from group I to group IV, there is also a constant fading away of the feeling of sensible reality within the main groups of linguistic concepts themselves. In many languages it becomes almost imperative, therefore, to make various sub-classifications, to segregate, for instance, the more concrete from the more abstract concepts of group II. Yet we must always beware of reading into such abstracter groups that purely formal, relational feeling that we can hardly help associating with certain of the abstracter concepts which, with us, fall in group III, unless, indeed, there is clear evidence to warrant such a reading in. An example or two should make clear these all-important distinctions. 14 In Nootka we have an unusually large number of derivational affixes (expressing concepts of group II). Some of these are quite material in content (e.g., “in the house,” “to dream of”, others, like an element denoting plurality and a diminutive affix, are far more abstract in content. The former type are more closely welded with the radical element than the latter, which can only be suffixed to formations that have the value of
Note 14.  It is precisely the failure to feel the “value” or “tone,” as distinct from the outer significance, of the concept expressed by a given grammatical element that has so often led students to misunderstand the nature of languages profoundly alien to their own. Not everything that calls itself “tense” or “mode” or “number” or “gender” or “person” is genuinely comparable to what we mean by these terms in Latin or French. [back]

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