Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 12
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 12
 
my generalized memory or my “notion” of this house must be merged with the notions that all other individuals who have seen the house have formed of it. The particular experience that we started with has now been widened so as to embrace all possible impressions or images that sentient beings have formed or may form of the house in question. This first simplification of experience is at the bottom of a large number of elements of speech, the so-called proper nouns or names of single individuals or objects. It is, essentially, the type of simplification which underlies, or forms the crude subject of, history and art. But we cannot be content with this measure of reduction of the infinity of experience. We must cut to the bone of things, we must more or less arbitrarily throw whole masses of experience together as similar enough to warrant their being looked upon—mistakenly, but conveniently—as identical. This house and that house and thousands of other phenomena of like character are thought of as having enough in common, in spite of great and obvious differences of detail, to be classed under the same heading. In other words, the speech element “house” is the symbol, first and foremost, not of a single perception, nor even of the notion of a particular object, but of a “concept,” in other words, of a convenient capsule of thought that embraces thousands of distinct experiences and that is ready to take in thousands more. If the single significant elements of speech are the symbols of concepts, the actual flow of speech may be interpreted as a record of the setting of these concepts into mutual relations.
  The question has often been raised whether thought is possible without speech; further, if speech and thought be not but two facets of the same psychic process. The

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