Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
to the definition of either the subject of discourse or the core of the predicate.7 Such a sentence as The mayor of New York is going to deliver a speech of welcome in French is readily felt as a unified statement, incapable of reduction by the transfer of certain of its elements, in their given form, to the preceding or following sentences. The contributory ideas of of New York, of welcome, and in French may be eliminated without hurting the idiomatic flow of the sentence. The mayor is going to deliver a speech is a perfectly intelligible proposition. But further than this we cannot go in the process of reduction. We cannot say, for instance, Mayor is going to deliver.8 The reduced sentence resolves itself into the subject of discoursethe mayorand the predicateis going to deliver a speech. It is customary to say that the true subject of such a sentence is mayor, the true predicate is going or even is, the other elements being strictly subordinate. Such an analysis, however, is purely schematic and is without psychological value. It is much better frankly to recognize the fact that either or both of the two terms of the sentence-proposition may be incapable of expression in the form of single words. There are languages that can convey all that is conveyed by The-mayor is-going-to-deliver-a-speech in two words, a subject word and a predicate word, but English is not so highly synthetic. The point that we are really making here is that underlying the finished
Note 7. Coördinate sentences like I shall remain but you may go may only doubtfully be considered as truly unified predications, as true sentences. They are sentences in a stylistic sense rather than from the strictly formal linguistic standpoint. The orthography I shall remain. But you may go is as intrinsically justified as I shall remain. Now you may go. The closer connection in sentiment between the first two propositions has led to a conventional visual representation that must not deceive the analytic spirit. [back]
Note 8. Except, possibly, in a newspaper headline. Such headlines, however, are language only in a derived sense. [back]