Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 125
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 125
 
of bigness,” very much as we may say “a man of wealth” instead of “a rich man.”
  But are there not certain ideas that it is impossible to render except by way of such and such parts of speech? What can be done with the “to” of “he came to the house”? Well, we can say “he reached the house” and dodge the preposition altogether, giving the verb a nuance that absorbs the idea of local relation carried by the “to.” But let us insist on giving independence to this idea of local relation. Must we not then hold to the preposition? No, we can make a noun of it. We can say something like “he reached the proximity of the house” or “he reached the house-locality.” Instead of saying “he looked into the glass” we may say “he scrutinized the glass-interior.” Such expressions are stilted in English because they do not easily fit into our formal grooves, but in language after language we find that local relations are expressed in just this way. The local relation is nominalized. And so we might go on examining the various parts of speech and showing how they not merely grade into each other but are to an astonishing degree actually convertible into each other. The upshot of such an examination would be to feel convinced that the “part of speech” reflects not so much our intuitive analysis of reality as our ability to compose that reality into a variety of formal patterns. A part of speech outside of the limitations of syntactic form is but a will o’ the wisp. For this reason no logical scheme of the parts of speech—their number, nature, and necessary confines—is of the slightest interest to the linguist. Each language has its own scheme. Everything depends on the formal demarcations which it recognizes.
  Yet we must not be too destructive. It is well to remember

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