Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
Yana method of expression. Literally translated, the equivalent Yana sentence would read something like kill-s he farmer4 he to duck-ling, in which he and to are rather awkward English renderings of a general third personal pronoun (he, she, it, or they) and an objective particle which indicates that the following noun is connected with the verb otherwise than as subject. The suffixed element in kill-s corresponds to the English suffix with the important exceptions that it makes no reference to the number of the subject and that the statement is known to be true, that it is vouched for by the speaker. Number is only indirectly expressed in the sentence in so far as there is no specific verb suffix indicating plurality of the subject nor specific plural elements in the two nouns. Had the statement been made on anothers authority, a totally different tense-modal suffix would have had to be used. The pronouns of reference (he) imply nothing by themselves as to number, gender, or case. Gender, indeed, is completely absent in Yana as a relational category.
The Yana sentence has already illustrated the point that certain of our supposedly essential concepts may be ignored; both the Yana and the German sentence illustrate the further point that certain concepts may need expression for which an English-speaking person, or rather the English-speaking habit, finds no need whatever. One could go on and give endless examples of such deviations from English form, but we shall have to content ourselves with a few more indications. In the Chinese sentence Man kill duck, which may be looked upon as the practical equivalent of The man
Note 4. Agriculture was not practised by the Yana. The verbal idea of to farm would probably be expressed in some such synthetic manner as to dig-earth to grow-cause. There are suffixed elements corresponding to -er and -ling. [back]