Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 120
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 120
far more concrete, 32 that the objective relation was merely implied by the position or accent of the word (radical element) immediately preceding the -m, and that gradually, as its more concrete significance faded away, it took over a syntactic function that did not originally belong to it. This sort of evolution by transfer is traceable in many instances. Thus, the of in an English phrase like “the law of the land” is now as colorless in content, as purely a relational indicator as the “genitive” suffix -is in the Latin lex urbis “the law of the city.” We know, however, that it was originally an adverb of considerable concreteness of meaning, 33 “away, moving from,” and that the syntactic relation was originally expressed by the case form 34 of the second noun. As the case form lost its vitality, the adverb took over its function. If we are actually justified in assuming that the expression of all syntactic relations is ultimately traceable to these two unavoidable, dynamic features of speech—sequence and stress 35—an interesting thesis results:—All of the actual content of speech, its clusters of vocalic and consonantal sounds, is in origin limited to the concrete; relations were originally not expressed in outward form but were merely implied and articulated with the help of order and rhythm. In other words, relations were intuitively felt and could only “leak out” with the help of dynamic factors that themselves move on an intuitional plane.
  There is a special method for the expression of relations that has been so often evolved in the history of language that we must glance at it for a moment. This is the method of “concord” or of like signaling. It is
Note 32.  Perhaps it was a noun-classifying element of some sort. [back]
Note 33.  Compare its close historical parallel off. [back]
Note 34.  “Ablative” at last analysis. [back]
Note 35.  Very likely pitch should be understood along with stress. [back]


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