Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
The Sounds of Language
WE have seen that the mere phonetic framework of speech does not constitute the inner fact of language and that the single sound of articulated speech is not, as such, a linguistic element at all. For all that, speech is so inevitably bound up with sounds and their articulation that we can hardly avoid giving the subject of phonetics some general consideration. Experience has shown that neither the purely formal aspects of a language nor the course of its history can be fully understood without reference to the sounds in which this form and this history are embodied. A detailed survey of phonetics would be both too technical for the general reader and too loosely related to our main theme to warrant the needed space, but we can well afford to consider a few outstanding facts and ideas connected with the sounds of language.
The feeling that the average speaker has of his language is that it is built up, acoustically speaking, of a comparatively small number of distinct sounds, each of which is rather accurately provided for in the current alphabet by one letter or, in a few cases, by two or more alternative letters. As for the languages of foreigners, he generally feels that, aside from a few striking differences that cannot escape even the uncritical ear, the sounds they use are the same as those he is familiar with but that there is a mysterious accent to these foreign languages, a certain unanalyzed phonetic character, apart