Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
I or towards IV, the two poles of linguistic expression. Nor dare we look down on the Nootka Indian and the Tibetan for their material attitude towards a concept which to us is abstract and relational, lest we invite the reproaches of the Frenchman who feels a subtlety of relation in femme blanche and homme blanc that he misses in the coarser-grained white woman and white man. But the Bantu Negro, were he a philosopher, might go further and find it strange that we put in group II a category, the diminutive, which he strongly feels to belong to group III and which he uses, along with a number of other classificatory concepts,21 to relate his subjects and objects, attributes and predicates, as a Russian or a German handles his genders and, if possible, with an even greater finesse.
It is because our conceptual scheme is a sliding scale rather than a philosophical analysis of experience that we cannot say in advance just where to put a given concept. We must dispense, in other words, with a well-ordered classification of categories. What boots it to put tense and mode here or number there when the next language one handles puts tense a peg lower down (towards I), mode and number a peg higher up (towards IV)? Nor is there much to be gained in a summary work of this kind from a general inventory of the types of concepts generally found in groups II, III, and IV. There are too many possibilities. It would be interesting to show what are the most typical noun-forming and verb-forming elements of group II; how variously nouns may be classified (by gender; personal and non-personal; animate and inanimate; by form; common and proper); how the concept
Note 21. Such as person class, animal class, instrument class, augmentative class. [back]