Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 114
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 114
of number is elaborated (singular and plural; singular, dual, and plural; singular, dual, trial, and plural; single, distributive, and collective); what tense distinctions may be made in verb or noun (the “past,” for instance, may be an indefinite past, immediate, remote, mythical, completed, prior); how delicately certain languages have developed the idea of “aspect” 22 (momentaneous, durative, continuative, inceptive, cessative, durative-inceptive, iterative, momentaneous-iterative, durative-iterative, resultative, and still others); what modalities may be recognized (indicative, imperative, potential, dubitative, optative, negative, and a host of others 23); what distinctions of person are possible (is “we,” for instance, conceived of as a plurality of “I” or is it as distinct from “I” as either is from “you” or “he”?—both attitudes are illustrated in language; moreover, does “we” include you to whom I speak or not?—“inclusive” and “exclusive” forms); what may be the general scheme of orientation, the so-called demonstrative categories (“this” and “that” in an endless procession of nuances); 24 how frequently the form expresses
Note 22.  A term borrowed from Slavic grammar. It indicates the lapse of action, its nature from the standpoint of continuity. Our “cry” is indefinite as to aspect, “be crying” is durative, “cry out” is momentaneous, “burst into tears” is inceptive, “keep crying” is continuative, “start in crying” is durative-inceptive, “cry now and again” is iterative, “cry out every now and then” or “cry in fits and starts” is momentaneous-iterative. “To put on a coat” is momentaneous, “to wear a coat” is resultative. As our examples show, aspect is expressed in English by all kinds of idiomatic turns rather than by a consistently worked out set of grammatical forms. In many languages aspect is of far greater formal significance than tense, with which the naïve student is apt to confuse it. [back]
Note 23.  By “modalities” I do not mean the matter of fact statement, say, of negation or uncertainty as such, rather their implication in terms of form. There are languages, for instance, which have as elaborate an apparatus of negative forms for the verb as Greek has of the optative or wish-modality. [back]
Note 24.  Compare page 97. [back]


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