Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 139
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 139
 
alternations like drink and drank as though they represented the high-water mark of inflection, a kind of spiritualized essence of pure inflective form. In such Greek forms, nevertheless, as pepomph-a “I have sent,” as contrasted with pemp-o “I send,” with its trebly symbolic change of the radical element (reduplicating pe-, change of e to o, change of p to ph), it is rather the peculiar alternation of the first person singular -a of the perfect with the -o of the present that gives them their inflective cast. Nothing could be more erroneous than to imagine that symbolic changes of the radical element, even for the expression of such abstract concepts as those of number and tense, is always associated with the syntactic peculiarities of an inflective language. If by an “agglutinative” language we mean one that affixes according to the juxtaposing technique, then we can only say that there are hundreds of fusing and symbolic languages—non-agglutinative by definition—that are, for all that, quite alien in spirit to the inflective type of Latin and Greek. We can call such languages inflective, if we like, but we must then be prepared to revise radically our notion of inflective form.
  It is necessary to understand that fusion of the radical element and the affix may be taken in a broader psychological sense than I have yet indicated. If every noun plural in English were of the type of book: books, if there were not such conflicting patterns as deer: deer, ox: oxen, goose: geese to complicate the general form picture of plurality, there is little doubt that the fusion of the elements book and -s into the unified word books would be felt as a little less complete than it actually is. One reasons, or feels, unconsciously about the matter somewhat as follows:—If the form pattern represented by the word books is identical, as far as use is concerned,

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