Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 163
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 163
the retarding effect of dialectic interinfluences, which I have already touched upon, a group of dialects is bound to diverge on the whole, each from all of the others.
  In course of time each dialect itself splits up into sub-dialects, which gradually take on the dignity of dialects proper while the primary dialects develop into mutually unintelligible languages. And so the budding process continues, until the divergences become so great that none but a linguistic student, armed with his documentary evidence and with his comparative or reconstructive method, would infer that the languages in question were genealogically related, represented independent lines of development, in other words, from a remote and common starting point. Yet it is as certain as any historical fact can be that languages so little resembling each other as Modern Irish, English, Italian, Greek, Russian, Armenian, Persian, and Bengali are but end-points in the present of drifts that converge to a meeting-point in the dim past. There is naturally no reason to believe that this earliest “Indo-European” (or “Aryan”) prototype which we can in part reconstruct, in part but dimly guess at, is itself other than a single “dialect” of a group that has either become largely extinct or is now further represented by languages too divergent for us, with our limited means, to recognize as clear kin. 5
  All languages that are known to be genetically related, i.e., to be divergent forms of a single prototype, may be considered as constituting a “linguistic stock.” There is nothing final about a linguistic stock. When
Note 5.  Though indications are not lacking of what these remoter kin of the Indo-European languages may be. This is disputed ground, however, and hardly fit subject for a purely general study of speech. [back]


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