Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
Form in Language: Grammatical Processes
THE QUESTION of form in language presents itself under two aspects. We may either consider the formal methods employed by a language, its grammatical processes, or we may ascertain the distribution of concepts with reference to formal expression. What are the formal patterns of the language? And what types of concepts make up the content of these formal patterns? The two points of view are quite distinct. The English word unthinkingly is, broadly speaking, formally parallel to the word reformers, each being built up on a radical element which may occur as an independent verb (think, form), this radical element being preceded by an element (un-, re-) that conveys a definite and fairly concrete significance but that cannot be used independently, and followed by two elements (-ing, -ly; -er, -s) that limit the application of the radical concept in a relational sense. This formal pattern(b) + A + (c) + (d)1is a characteristic feature of the language. A countless number of functions may be expressed by it; in other words, all the possible ideas conveyed by such prefixed and suffixed elements, while tending to fall into minor groups, do not necessarily form natural, functional systems. There is no logical reason, for instance, why the numeral function of -s should be formally expressed in