Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 33
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 33
 
thought (as in Latin dico “I say” or, with greater elaborateness of form, in a Nootka verb form denoting “I have been accustomed to eat twenty round objects [e.g., apples] while engaged in [doing so and so]”). In the latter case the word becomes identical with the sentence. The word is merely a form, a definitely molded entity that takes in as much or as little of the conceptual material of the whole thought as the genius of the language cares to allow. Thus it is that while the single radical elements and grammatical elements, the carriers of isolated concepts, are comparable as we pass from language to language, the finished words are not. Radical (or grammatical) element and sentence—these are the primary functional units of speech, the former as an abstracted minimum, the latter as the esthetically satisfying embodiment of a unified thought. The actual formal units of speech, the words, may on occasion identify themselves with either of the two functional units; more often they mediate between the two extremes, embodying one or more radical notions and also one or more subsidiary ones. We may put the whole matter in a nutshell by saying that the radical and grammatical elements of language, abstracted as they are from the realities of speech, respond to the conceptual world of science, abstracted as it is from the realities of experience, and that the word, the existent unit of living speech, responds to the unit of actually apprehended experience, of history, of art. The sentence is the logical counterpart of the complete thought only if it be felt as made up of the radical and grammatical elements that lurk in the recesses of its words. It is the psychological counterpart of experience, of art, when it is felt, as indeed it normally is, as the finished play of word with

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