Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 157
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 157

VII   Language as a Historical Product: Drift
  EVERY ONE knows that language is variable. Two individuals of the same generation and locality, speaking precisely the same dialect and moving in the same social circles, are never absolutely at one in their speech habits. A minute investigation of the speech of each individual would reveal countless differences of detail—in choice of words, in sentence structure, in the relative frequency with which particular forms or combinations of words are used, in the pronunciation of particular vowels and consonants and of combinations of vowels and consonants, in all those features, such as speed, stress, and tone, that give life to spoken language. In a sense they speak slightly divergent dialects of the same language rather than identically the same language.
  There is an important difference, however, between individual and dialectic variations. If we take two closely related dialects, say English as spoken by the “middle classes” of London and English as spoken by the average New Yorker, we observe that, however much the individual speakers in each city differ from each other, the body of Londoners forms a compact, relatively unified group in contrast to the body of New Yorkers. The individual variations are swamped in or absorbed by certain major agreements—say of pronunciation and vocabulary—which stand out very strongly

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