Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
has a very considerable bent for the formation of compound terms.
It is curious to observe how greatly languages differ in their ability to make use of the process of composition. One would have thought on general principles that so simple a device as gives us our typewriter and blackbird and hosts of other words would be an all but universal grammatical process. Such is not the case. There are a great many languages, like Eskimo and Nootka and, aside from paltry exceptions, the Semitic languages, that cannot compound radical elements. What is even stranger is the fact that many of these languages are not in the least averse to complex word-formations, but may on the contrary effect a synthesis that far surpasses the utmost that Greek and Sanskrit are capable of. Such a Nootka word, for instance, as when, as they say, he had been absent for four days might be expected to embody at least three radical elements corresponding to the concepts of absent, four, and day. As a matter of fact the Nootka word is utterly incapable of composition in our sense. It is invariably built up out of a single radical element and a greater or less number of suffixed elements, some of which may have as concrete a significance as the radical element itself. In the particular case we have cited the radical element conveys the idea of four, the notions of day and absent being expressed by suffixes that are as inseparable from the radical nucleus of the word as is an English element like -er from the sing or hunt of such words as singer and hunter. The tendency to word synthesis is, then, by no means the same thing as the tendency to compounding radical elements, though the latter is not infrequently a ready means for the synthetic tendency to work with.