Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
a manner that is analogous to the expression of the idea conveyed by -ly. It is perfectly conceivable that in another language the concept of manner (-ly) may be treated according to an entirely different pattern from that of plurality. The former might have to be expressed by an independent word (say, thus unthinking), the latter by a prefixed element (say, plural2-reform-er). There are, of course, an unlimited number of other possibilities. Even within the confines of English alone the relative independence of form and function can be made obvious. Thus, the negative idea conveyed by un- can be just as adequately expressed by a suffixed element (-less) in such a word as thoughtlessly. Such a twofold formal expression of the negative function would be inconceivable in certain languages, say Eskimo, where a suffixed element would alone be possible. Again, the plural notion conveyed by the -s of reformers is just as definitely expressed in the word geese, where an utterly distinct method is employed. Furthermore, the principle of vocalic change (goosegeese) is by no means confined to the expression of the idea of plurality; it may also function as an indicator of difference of time (e.g., singsang, throwthrew). But the expression in English of past time is not by any means always bound up with a change of vowel. In the great majority of cases the same idea is expressed by means of a distinct suffix (die-d, work-ed). Functionally, died and sang are analogous; so are reformers and geese. Formally, we must arrange these words quite otherwise. Both die-d and re-form-er-s employ the method of suffixing grammatical elements; both sang and geese have grammatical form by virtue of the fact that their vowels differ from the vowels of other words with which they
Note 2.Plural is here a symbol for any prefix indicating plurality. [back]