Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
Returning to this sentence, we feel that the analysis of farmer and duckling are practically irrelevant to an understanding of its content and entirely irrelevant to a feeling for the structure of the sentence as a whole. From the standpoint of the sentence the derivational elements -er and -ling are merely details in the local economy of two of its terms (farmer, duckling) that it accepts as units of expression. This indifference of the sentence as such to some part of the analysis of its words is shown by the fact that if we substitute such radical words as man and chick for farmer and duckling, we obtain a new material content, it is true, but not in the least a new structural mold. We can go further and substitute another activity for that of killing, say taking. The new sentence, the man takes the chick, is totally different from the first sentence in what it conveys, not in how it conveys it. We feel instinctively, without the slightest attempt at conscious analysis, that the two sentences fit precisely the same pattern, that they are really the same fundamental sentence, differing only in their material trappings. In other words, they express identical relational concepts in an identical manner. The manner is here threefoldthe use of an inherently relational word (the) in analogous positions, the analogous sequence (subject; predicate, consisting of verb and object) of the concrete terms of the sentence, and the use of the suffixed element -s in the verb.
Change any of these features of the sentence and it becomes modified, slightly or seriously, in some purely relational, non-material regard. If the is omitted (farmer kills duckling, man takes chick), the sentence becomes impossible; it falls into no recognized formal pattern and the two subjects of discourse seem to hang incompletely in the void. We feel that there is no relation