Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 98
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 98
 
whom we see over there) kill that duckling (that belongs to him)? This type of demonstrative elaboration is foreign to our way of thinking, but it would seem very natural, indeed unavoidable, to a Kwakiutl Indian.
  What, then, are the absolutely essential concepts in speech, the concepts that must be expressed if language is to be a satisfactory means of communication? Clearly we must have, first of all, a large stock of basic or radical concepts, the concrete wherewithal of speech. We must have objects, actions, qualities to talk about, and these must have their corresponding symbols in independent words or in radical elements. No proposition, however abstract its intent, is humanly possible without a tying on at one or more points to the concrete world of sense. In every intelligible proposition at least two of these radical ideas must be expressed, though in exceptional cases one or even both may be understood from the context. And, secondly, such relational concepts must be expressed as moor the concrete concepts to each other and construct a definite, fundamental form of proposition. In this fundamental form there must be no doubt as to the nature of the relations that obtain between the concrete concepts. We must know what concrete concept is directly or indirectly related to what other, and how. If we wish to talk of a thing and an action, we must know if they are coordinately related to each other (e.g., “He is fond of wine and gambling”); or if the thing is conceived of as the starting point, the “doer” of the action, or, as it is customary to say, the “subject” of which the action is predicated; or if, on the contrary, it is the end point, the “object” of the action. If I wish to communicate an intelligible idea about a farmer, a duckling, and the act of killing, it is not enough to state the linguistic

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