Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
classification of sounds, worked out in all its detailed ramifications,14 is sufficient to account for all, or practically all, the sounds of language.15
The phonetic habits of a given language are not exhaustively defined by stating that it makes use of such and such particular sounds out of the all but endless gamut that we have briefly surveyed. There remains the important question of the dynamics of these phonetic elements. Two languages may, theoretically, be built up of precisely the same series of consonants and vowels and yet produce utterly different acoustic effects. One of them may not recognize striking variations in the lengths or quantities of the phonetic elements, the other may note such variations most punctiliously (in probably the majority of languages long and short vowels are distinguished; in many, as in Italian or Swedish or Ojibwa, long consonants are recognized as distinct from short ones). Or the one, say English, may be very sensitive to relative stresses, while in the other, say French, stress is a very minor consideration. Or, again, the pitch differences which are inseparable from the actual practice of language may not affect the word as such, but, as in English, may be a more or less random or, at best, but a rhetorical phenomenon, while in other languages, as in Swedish, Lithuanian, Chinese, Siamese, and the majority of African languages, they may be more finely graduated and felt as integral characteristics of the words themselves. Varying methods
Note 14. Including, under the fourth category, a number of special resonance adjustments that we have not been able to take up specifically. [back]
Note 15. In so far, it should be added, as these sounds are expiratory, i.e., pronounced with the outgoing breath. Certain languages, like the South African Hottentot and Bushman, have also a number of inspiratory sounds, pronounced by sucking in the breath at various points of oral contact. These are the so-called clicks. [back]