Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
hummed in a rapid line. Neither common feeling nor the poets choice need be at all conscious. It may be that not all are equally sensitive to the rhythmic flow of speech, but it is probable that rhythm is an unconscious linguistic determinant even with those who set little store by its artistic use. In any event the poets rhythms can only be a more sensitive and stylicized application of rhythmic tendencies that are characteristic of the daily speech of his people.
We have discovered no less than four factors which enter into our subtle disinclination to say Whom did you see? The uneducated folk that says Who did you see? with no twinge of conscience has a more acute flair for the genuine drift of the language than its students. Naturally the four restraining factors do not operate independently. Their separate energies, if we may make bold to use a mechanical concept, are canalized into a single force. This force or minute embodiment of the general drift of the language is psychologically registered as a slight hesitation in using the word whom. The hesitation is likely to be quite unconscious, though it may be readily acknowledged when attention is called to it. The analysis is certain to be unconscious, or rather unknown, to the normal speaker. 15 How, then, can we be certain in such an analysis as we have undertaken that all of the assigned determinants are really operative and not merely some one of them? Certainly they are not equally powerful in all cases. Their values are variable, rising and falling according to the individual and the locution.16 But that they really
Note 15. Students of language cannot be entirely normal in their attitude towards their own speech. Perhaps it would be better to say naïve than normal. [back]
Note 16. It is probably this variability of value in the significant compounds of a general linguistic drift that is responsible for the rise of dialectic variations. Each dialect continues the general drift of the common parent, but has not been able to hold fast to constant values for each component of the drift. Deviations as to the drift itself, at first slight, later cumulative, are therefore unavoidable. [back]