Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 65
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 65
 
sing praise. This conveys no finished thought in English, nor does it clearly establish a relation between the idea of singing and that of praising. Nevertheless, it is psychologically impossible to hear or see the two words juxtaposed without straining to give them some measure of coherent significance. The attempt is not likely to yield an entirely satisfactory result, but what is significant is that as soon as two or more radical concepts are put before the human mind in immediate sequence it strives to bind them together with connecting values of some sort. In the case of sing praise different individuals are likely to arrive at different provisional results. Some of the latent possibilities of the juxtaposition, expressed in currently satisfying form, are: sing praise (to him)! or singing praise, praise expressed in a song or to sing and praise or one who sings a song of praise (compare such English compounds as killjoy, i.e., one who kills joy) or he sings a song of praise (to him). The theoretical possibilities in the way of rounding out these two concepts into a significant group of concepts or even into a finished thought are indefinitely numerous. None of them will quite work in English, but there are numerous languages where one or other of these amplifying processes is habitual. It depends entirely on the genius of the particular language what function is inherently involved in a given sequence of words.
  Some languages, like Latin, express practically all relations by means of modifications within the body of the word itself. In these, sequence is apt to be a rhetorical rather than a strictly grammatical principle. Whether I say in Latin hominem femina videt or femina hominem videt or hominem videt femina or videt femina hominem makes little or no difference beyond, possibly, a rhetorical or stylistic one. The woman sees the man

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