Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 36
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 36
 
characteristics. Chief of these is accent. In many, perhaps in most, languages the single word is marked by a unifying accent, an emphasis on one of the syllables, to which the rest are subordinated. The particular syllable that is to be so distinguished is dependent, needless to say, on the special genius of the language. The importance of accent as a unifying feature of the word is obvious in such English examples as unthinkable, characterizing. The long Paiute word that we have analyzed is marked as a rigid phonetic unit by several features, chief of which are the accent on its second syllable (wií- “knife”) and the slurring (“unvoicing,” to use the technical phonetic term) of its final vowel (-mü, animate plural). Such features as accent, cadence, and the treatment of consonants and vowels within the body of a word are often useful as aids in the external demarcation of the word, but they must by no means be interpreted, as is sometimes done, as themselves responsible for its psychological existence. They at best but strengthen a feeling of unity that is already present on other grounds.
  We have already seen that the major functional unit of speech, the sentence, has, like the word, a psychological as well as a merely logical or abstracted existence. Its definition is not difficult. It is the linguistic expression of a proposition. It combines a subject of discourse with a statement in regard to this subject. Subject and “predicate” may be combined in a single word, as in Latin dico; each may be expressed independently, as in the English equivalent, I say; each or either may be so qualified as to lead to complex propositions of many sorts. No matter how many of these qualifying elements (words or functional parts of words) are introduced, the sentence does not lose its feeling of unity so long as each and every one of them falls in place as contributory

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