Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 94
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

Page 94
convey a group of interwoven concepts rather than one definite concept alone (thus the -s of kills embodies no less than four logically independent relations).
  Our analysis may seem a bit labored, but only because we are so accustomed to our own well-worn grooves of expression that they have come to be felt as inevitable. Yet destructive analysis of the familiar is the only method of approach to an understanding of fundamentally different modes of expression. When one has learned to feel what is fortuitous or illogical or unbalanced in the structure of his own language, he is already well on the way towards a sympathetic grasp of the expression of the various classes of concepts in alien types of speech. Not everything that is “outlandish” is intrinsically illogical or far-fetched. It is often precisely the familiar that a wider perspective reveals as the curiously exceptional. From a purely logical standpoint it is obvious that there is no inherent reason why the concepts expressed in our sentence should have been singled out, treated, and grouped as they have been and not otherwise. The sentence is the outgrowth of historical and of unreasoning psychological forces rather than of a logical synthesis of elements that have been clearly grasped in their individuality. This is the case, to a greater or less degree, in all languages, though in the forms of many we find a more coherent, a more consistent, reflection than in our English forms of that unconscious analysis into individual concepts which is never entirely absent from speech, however it may be complicated with or overlaid by the more irrational factors.
  A cursory examination of other languages, near and far, would soon show that some or all of the thirteen concepts that our sentence happens to embody may not

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