Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
even less easy to define. All we can say is that it is used in verb forms of definite time and that it marks action as in progress rather than as beginning or coming to an end. The third prefix, -e-, is a pronominal element, I, which can be used only in definite tenses. It is highly important to understand that the use of -e- is conditional on that of -s- or of certain alternative prefixes and that te- also is in practice linked with -s-. The group te-s-e-ya is a firmly knit grammatical unit. The suffix -te, which indicates the future, is no more necessary to its formal balance than is the prefixed re- of the Latin word; it is not an element that is capable of standing alone but its function is materially delimiting rather than strictly formal.6
It is not always, however, that we can clearly set off the suffixes of a language as a group against its prefixes. In probably the majority of languages that use both types of affixes each group has both delimiting and formal or relational functions. The most that we can say is that a language tends to express similar functions in either the one or the other manner. If a certain verb expresses a certain tense by suffixing, the probability is strong that it expresses its other tenses in an analogous fashion and that, indeed, all verbs have suffixed tense elements. Similarly, we normally expect to find the pronominal elements, so far as they are included in the verb at all, either consistently prefixed or suffixed. But
Note 6. This may seem surprising to an English reader. We generally think of time as a function that is appropriately expressed in a purely formal manner. This notion is due to the bias that Latin grammar has given us. As a matter of fact the English future (I shall go) is not expressed by affixing at all; moreover, it may be expressed by the present, as in to-morrow I leave this place, where the temporal function is inherent in the independent adverb. Though in lesser degree, the Hupa -te is as irrelevant to the vital word as is to-morrow to the grammatical feel of I leave. [back]