Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
complete words. If, therefore, I wish to say the small fires in the houseand I can do this in one wordI must form the word fire-in-the-house, to which elements corresponding to small, our plural, and the are appended. The element indicating the definiteness of reference that is implied in our the comes at the very end of the word. So far, so good. Fire-in-the-house-the is an intelligible correlate of our the house-fire.15 But is the Nootka correlate of the small fires in the house the true equivalent of an English the house-firelets?16 By no means. First of all, the plural element precedes the diminutive in Nootka: fire-in-the-house-plural-small-the, in other words the house-fires-let, which at once reveals the important fact that the plural concept is not as abstractly, as relationally, felt as in English. A more adequate rendering would be the house-fire-several-let, in which, however, several is too gross a word, -let too choice an element (small again is too gross). In truth we cannot carry over into English the inherent feeling of the Nootka word, which seems to hover somewhere between the house-firelets and the house-fire-several-small. But what more than anything else cuts off all possibility of comparison between the English-s of house-firelets and the -several-small of the Nootka word is this, that in Nootka neither the plural nor the diminutive affix corresponds or refers to anything else in the sentence. In English the house-firelets burn (not burns), in Nootka neither verb, nor adjective, nor
Note 15. Suffixed articles occur also in Danish and Swedish and in numerous other languages. The Nootka element for in the house differs from our house in that it is suffixed and cannot occur as an independent word; nor is it related to the Nootka word for house. [back]