Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 132
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 132
to look upon English and Hottentot with the same cool, yet interested, detachment.
  We come back to our first difficulty. What point of view shall we adopt for our classification? After all that we have said about grammatical form in the preceding chapter, it is clear that we cannot now make the distinction between form languages and formless languages that used to appeal to some of the older writers. Every language can and must express the fundamental syntactic relations even though there is not a single affix to be found in its vocabulary. We conclude that every language is a form language. Aside from the expression of pure relation a language may, of course, be “formless”—formless, that is, in the mechanical and rather superficial sense that it is not encumbered by the use of non-radical elements. The attempt has sometimes been made to formulate a distinction on the basis of “inner form.” Chinese, for instance, has no formal elements pure and simple, no “outer form,” but it evidences a keen sense of relations, of the difference between subject and object, attribute and predicate, and so on. In other words, it has an “inner form” in the same sense in which Latin possesses it, though it is outwardly “formless” where Latin is outwardly “formal.” On the other hand, there are supposed to be languages 4 which have no true grasp of the fundamental relations but content themselves with the more or less minute
Note 4.  E.g., Malay, Polynesian. [back]

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