Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 47
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 47
articulation is the price we have had to pay for easy mastery of a highly necessary symbolism. One cannot be both splendidly free in the random choice of movements and selective with deadly certainty. 2
  There are, then, an indefinitely large number of articulated sounds available for the mechanics of speech; any given language makes use of an explicit, rigidly economical selection of these rich resources; and each of the many possible sounds of speech is conditioned by a number of independent muscular adjustments that work together simultaneously towards its production. A full account of the activity of each of the organs of speech—in so far as its activity has a bearing on language—is impossible here, nor can we concern ourselves in a systematic way with the classification of sounds on the basis of their mechanics. 3 A few bold outlines are all that we can attempt. The organs of speech are the
Note 2.  If speech, in its acoustic and articulatory aspect, is indeed a rigid system, how comes it, one may plausibly object, that no two people speak alike? The answer is simple. All that part of speech which falls out of the rigid articulatory framework is not speech in idea, but is merely a superadded, more or less instinctively determined vocal complication inseparable from speech in practice. All the individual color of speech—personal emphasis, speed, personal cadence, personal pitch—is a non-linguistic fact, just as the incidental expression of desire and emotion are, for the most part, alien to linguistic expression. Speech, like all elements of culture, demands conceptual selection, inhibition of the randomness of instinctive behavior. That its “idea” is never realized as such in practice, its carriers being instinctively animated organisms, is of course true of each and every aspect of culture. [back]
Note 3.  Purely acoustic classifications, such as more easily suggest themselves to a first attempt at analysis, are now in less favor among students of phonetics than organic classifications. The latter have the advantage of being more objective. Moreover, the acoustic quality of a sound is dependent on the articulation, even though in linguistic consciousness this quality is the primary, not the secondary, fact. [back]


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