Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
with that of the word oxen, the pluralizing elements -s and -en cannot have quite so definite, quite so autonomous, a value as we might at first be inclined to suppose. They are plural elements only in so far as plurality is predicated of certain selected concepts. The words books and oxen are therefore a little other than mechanical combinations of the symbol of a thing (book, ox) and a clear symbol of plurality. There is a slight psychological uncertainty or haze about the juncture in book-s and ox-en. A little of the force of -s and -en is anticipated by, or appropriated by, the words book and ox themselves, just as the conceptual force of -th in dep-th is appreciably weaker than that of -ness in good-ness in spite of the functional parallelism between depth and goodness. Where there is uncertainty about the juncture, where the affixed element cannot rightly claim to possess its full share of significance, the unity of the complete word is more strongly emphasized. The mind must rest on something. If it cannot linger on the constituent elements, it hastens all the more eagerly to the acceptance of the word as a whole. A word like goodness illustrates agglutination, books regular fusion, depth irregular fusion, geese symbolic fusion or symbolism.15
The psychological distinctness of the affixed elements in an agglutinative term may be even more marked than in the -ness of goodness. To be strictly accurate, the significance of the -ness is not quite as inherently determined,
Note 15. The following formulæ may prove useful to those that are mathematically inclined. Agglutination: c=a+b; regular fusion: c=a+(b-x)+x; irregular fusion: c=(a-x)+(b-y)+(x+y); symbolism: c=(a-x)+x. I do not wish to imply that there is any mystic value in the process of fusion. It is quite likely to have developed as a purely mechanical product of phonetic forces that brought about irregularities of various sorts. [back]