Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 169
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 169
 
reluctance to use locutions involving the word “whom,” particularly in its interrogative sense. The only distinctively objective forms which we still possess in English are me, him, her (a little blurred because of its identity with the possessive her), us, them, and whom. In all other cases the objective has come to be identical with the subjective—that is, in outer form, for we are not now taking account of position in the sentence. We observe immediately in looking through the list of objective forms that whom is psychologically isolated. Me, him, her, us, and them form a solid, well-integrated group of objective personal pronouns parallel to the subjective series I, he, she, we, they. The forms who and whom are technically “pronouns” but they are not felt to be in the same box as the personal pronouns. Whom has clearly a weak position, an exposed flank, for words of a feather tend to flock together, and if one strays behind, it is likely to incur danger of life. Now the other interrogative and relative pronouns (which, what, that), with which whom should properly flock, do not distinguish the subjective and objective forms. It is psychologically unsound to draw the line of form cleavage between whom and the personal pronouns on the one side, the remaining interrogative and relative pronouns on the other. The form groups should be symmetrically related to, if not identical with, the function groups. Had which, what, and that objective forms parallel to whom, the position of this last would be more secure. As it is, there is something unesthetic about the word. It suggests a form pattern which is not filled out by its fellows. The only way to remedy the irregularity of form distribution is to abandon the whom altogether, for we have lost the power to create new objective forms and cannot remodel our which-what-that group

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