Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 208
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 208
 
  Are there resistances of a more intimate nature to the borrowing of words? It is generally assumed that the nature and extent of borrowing depend entirely on the historical facts of culture relation; that if German, for instance, has borrowed less copiously than English from Latin and French it is only because Germany has had less intimate relations than England with the culture spheres of classical Rome and France. This is true to a considerable extent, but it is not the whole truth. We must not exaggerate the physical importance of the Norman invasion nor underrate the significance of the fact that Germany’s central geographical position made it peculiarly sensitive to French influences all through the Middle Ages, to humanistic influences in the latter fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and again to the powerful French influences of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It seems very probable that the psychological attitude of the borrowing language itself towards linguistic material has much to do with its receptivity to foreign words. English has long been striving for the completely unified, unanalyzed word, regardless of whether it is monosyllabic or polysyllabic. Such words as credible, certitude, intangible are entirely welcome in English because each represents a unitary, well-nuanced idea and because their formal analysis (cred-ible, certitude, in-tang-ible) is not a necessary act of the unconscious mind (cred-, cert-, and tang- have no real existence in English comparable to that of good- in goodness). A word like intangible, once it is acclimated, is nearly as simple a psychological entity as any radical monosyllable (say vague, thin, grasp). In German, however, polysyllabic words strive to analyze themselves into significant elements. Hence vast numbers of French and Latin words, borrowed at the height of certain cultural

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