Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
stem2 or radical element (sing-) of a word. The element b (-s, -ing, -er) is the indicator of a subsidiary and, as a rule, a more abstract concept; in the widest sense of the word form, it puts upon the fundamental concept a formal limitation. We may term it a grammatical element or affix. As we shall see later on, the grammatical element or the grammatical increment, as we had better put it, need not be suffixed to the radical element. It may be a prefixed element (like the un- of unsingable), it may be inserted into the very body of the stem (like the n of the Latin vinco I conquer as contrasted with its absence in vici I have conquered), it may be the complete or partial repetition of the stem, or it may consist of some modification of the inner form of the stem (change of vowel, as in sung and song; change of consonant as in dead and death; change of accent; actual abbreviation). Each and every one of these types of grammatical element or modification has this peculiarity, that it may not, in the vast majority of cases, be used independently but needs to be somehow attached to or welded with a radical element in order to convey an intelligible notion. We had better, therefore, modify our formula, A + b, to A + (b), the round brackets symbolizing the incapacity of an element to stand alone. The grammatical element, moreover, is not only non-existent except as associated with a radical one, it does not even, as a rule, obtain its measure of significance unless it is associated with a particular class of radical elements. Thus, the -s of English he hits symbolizes an utterly different notion from the -s of books, merely because hit and book are differently classified as to function. We must hasten to observe, however, that while the radical element may, on occasion, be identical
Note 2. These words are not here used in a narrowly technical sense. [back]