Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 124
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 124
 
an analysis of reality. We say “it is red” and define “red” as a quality-word or adjective. We should consider it strange to think of an equivalent of “is red” in which the whole predication (adjective and verb of being) is conceived of as a verb in precisely the same way in which we think of “extends” or “lies” or “sleeps” as a verb. Yet as soon as we give the “durative” notion of being red an inceptive or transitional turn, we can avoid the parallel form “it becomes red, it turns red” and say “it reddens.” No one denies that “reddens” is as good a verb as “sleeps” or even “walks.” Yet “it is red” is related to “it reddens” very much as is “he stands” to “he stands up” or “he rises.” It is merely a matter of English or of general Indo-European idiom that we cannot say “it reds” in the sense of “it is red.” There are hundreds of languages that can. Indeed there are many that can express what we should call an adjective only by making a participle out of a verb. “Red” in such languages is merely a derivative “being red,” as our “sleeping” or “walking” are derivatives of primary verbs.
  Just as we can verbify the idea of a quality in such cases as “reddens,” so we can represent a quality or an action to ourselves as a thing. We speak of “the height of a building” or “the fall of an apple” quite as though these ideas were parallel to “the roof of a building” or “the skin of an apple,” forgetting that the nouns (height, fall) have not ceased to indicate a quality and an act when we have made them speak with the accent of mere objects. And just as there are languages that make verbs of the great mass of adjectives, so there are others that make nouns of them. In Chinook, as we have seen, “the big table” is “the-table its-bigness”; in Tibetan the same idea may be expressed by “the table

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