Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 41
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 41
 
them. What there is of truth in their contentions may be summed up, it seems to me, by saying that most words, like practically all elements of consciousness, have an associated feeling-tone, a mild, yet none the less real and at times insidiously powerful, derivative of pleasure or pain. This feeling-tone, however, is not as a rule an inherent value in the word itself; it is rather a sentimental growth on the word’s true body, on its conceptual kernel. Not only may the feeling-tone change from one age to another (this, of course, is true of the conceptual content as well), but it varies remarkably from individual to individual according to the personal associations of each, varies, indeed, from time to time in a single individual’s consciousness as his experiences mold him and his moods change. To be sure, there are socially accepted feeling-tones, or ranges of feeling-tone, for many words over and above the force of individual association, but they are exceedingly variable and elusive things at best. They rarely have the rigidity of the central, primary fact. We all grant, for instance, that storm, tempest, and hurricane, quite aside from their slight differences of actual meaning, have distinct feeling-tones, tones that are felt by all sensitive speakers and readers of English in a roughly equivalent fashion. Storm, we feel, is a more general and a decidedly less “magnificent” word than the other two; tempest is not only associated with the sea but is likely, in the minds of many, to have obtained a softened glamour from a specific association with Shakespeare’s great play; hurricane has a greater forthrightness, a directer ruthlessness than its synonyms. Yet the individual’s feeling-tones for these words are likely to vary enormously. To some tempest and hurricane may seem “soft,” literary words, the simpler storm having a fresh, rugged value

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