Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Chapter 5. Form in Language: Grammatical Concepts
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD ·  SUBJECT INDEX
Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.

V.  Form in Language: Grammatical Concepts
 
The nature of these four classes of concepts as regards their concreteness or their power to express syntactic relations may be thus symbolized:
WE have seen that the single word expresses either a simple concept or a combination of concepts so interrelated as to form a psychological unity. We have, furthermore, briefly reviewed from a strictly formal standpoint the main processes that are used by all known languages to affect the fundamental concepts—those embodied in unanalyzable words or in the radical elements of words—by the modifying or formative influence of subsidiary concepts. In this chapter we shall look a little more closely into the nature of the world of concepts, in so far as that world is reflected and systematized in linguistic structure.   1
  Let us begin with a simple sentence that involves various kinds of concepts—the farmer kills the duckling. A rough and ready analysis discloses here the presence of three distinct and fundamental concepts that are brought into connection with each other in a number of ways. These three concepts are “farmer” (the subject of discourse), “kill” (defining the nature of the activity which the sentence informs us about), and “duckling” (another subject 1 of discourse that takes an important though somewhat passive part in this activity). We can visualize the farmer and the duckling and we have also no difficulty in constructing an image of the killing. In other words, the elements farmer, kill, and duckling define concepts of a concrete order.   2
  But a more careful linguistic analysis soon brings us to see that the two subjects of discourse, however simply we may visualize them, are not expressed quite as directly, as immediately, as we feel them. A “farmer” is in one sense a perfectly unified concept, in another he is “one who farms.” The concept conveyed by the radical element (farm-) is not one of personality at all but of an industrial activity (to farm), itself based on the concept of a particular type of object (a farm). Similarly, the concept of duckling is at one remove from that which is expressed by the radical element of the word, duck. This element, which may occur as an independent word, refers to a whole class of animals, big and little, while duckling is limited in its application to the young of that class. The word farmer has an “agentive” suffix -er that performs the function of indicating the one that carries out a given activity, in this case that of farming. It transforms the verb to farm into an agentive noun precisely as it transforms the verbs to sing, to paint, to teach into the corresponding agentive nouns singer, painter, teacher. The element -ling is not so freely used, but its significance is obvious. It adds to the basic concept the notion of smallness (as also in gosling, fledgeling) or the somewhat related notion of “contemptible” (as in weakling, princeling, hireling). The agentive -er and the diminutive -ling both convey fairly concrete ideas (roughly those of “doer” and “little”), but the concreteness is not stressed. They do not so much define distinct concepts as mediate between concepts. The -er of farmer does not quite say “one who (farms)” it merely indicates that the sort of person we call a “farmer” is closely enough associated with activity on a farm to be conventionally thought of as always so occupied. He may, as a matter of fact, go to town and engage in any pursuit but farming, yet his linguistic label remains “farmer.” Language here betrays a certain helplessness or, if one prefers, a stubborn tendency to look away from the immediately suggested function, trusting to the imagination and to usage to fill in the transitions of thought and the details of application that distinguish one concrete concept (to farm) from another “derived” one (farmer). It would be impossible for any language to express every concrete idea by an independent word or radical element. The concreteness of experience is infinite, the resources of the richest language are strictly limited. It must perforce throw countless concepts under the rubric of certain basic ones, using other concrete or semi-concrete ideas as functional mediators. The ideas expressed by these mediating elements—they may be independent words, affixes, or modifications of the radical element—may be called “derivational” or “qualifying.” Some concrete concepts, such as kill, are expressed radically; others, such as farmer and duckling, are expressed derivatively. Corresponding to these two modes of expression we have two types of concepts and of linguistic elements, radical (farm, kill, duck) and derivational (-er, -ling). When a word (or unified group of words) contains a derivational element (or word) the concrete significance of the radical element (farm-, duck-) tends to fade from consciousness and to yield to a new concreteness (farmer, duckling) that is synthetic in expression rather than in thought. In our sentence the concepts of farm and duck are not really involved at all; they are merely latent, for formal reasons, in the linguistic expression.   3
  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 threefold—the 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.   4
  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 established between either of them and what is already in the minds of the speaker and his auditor. As soon as a the is put before the two nouns, we feel relieved. We know that the farmer and duckling which the sentence tells us about are the same farmer and duckling that we had been talking about or hearing about or thinking about some time before. If I meet a man who is not looking at and knows nothing about the farmer in question, I am likely to be stared at for my pains if I announce to him that “the farmer [what farmer?] kills the duckling [didn’t know he had any, whoever he is].” If the fact nevertheless seems interesting enough to communicate, I should be compelled to speak of “a farmer up my way” and of “a duckling of his.” These little words, the and a, have the important function of establishing a definite or an indefinite reference.   5
  If I omit the first the and also leave out the suffixed -s, I obtain an entirely new set of relations. Farmer, kill the duckling implies that I am now speaking to the farmer, not merely about him; further, that he is not actually killing the bird, but is being ordered by me to do so. The subjective relation of the first sentence has become a vocative one, one of address, and the activity is conceived in terms of command, not of statement. We conclude, therefore, that if the farmer is to be merely talked about, the little the must go back into its place and the -s must not be removed. The latter element clearly defines, or rather helps to define, statement as contrasted with command. I find, moreover, that if I wish to speak of several farmers, I cannot say the farmers kills the duckling, but must say the farmers kill the duckling. Evidently -s involves the notion of singularity in the subject. If the noun is singular, the verb must have a form to correspond; if the noun is plural, the verb has another, corresponding form. 2 Comparison with such forms as I kill and you kill shows, moreover, that the -s has exclusive reference to a person other than the speaker or the one spoken to. We conclude, therefore, that it connotes a personal relation as well as the notion of singularity. And comparison with a sentence like the farmer killed the duckling indicates that there is implied in this overburdened -s a distinct reference to present time. Statement as such and personal reference may well be looked upon as inherently relational concepts. Number is evidently felt by those who speak English as involving a necessary relation, otherwise there would be no reason to express the concept twice, in the noun and in the verb. Time also is clearly felt as a relational concept; if it were not, we should be allowed to say the farmer killed -s to correspond to the farmer kill -s. Of the four concepts inextricably interwoven in the -s suffix, all are felt as relational, two necessarily so. The distinction between a truly relational concept and one that is so felt and treated, though it need not be in the nature of things, will receive further attention in a moment.   6
  Finally, I can radically disturb the relational cut of the sentence by changing the order of its elements. If the positions of farmer and kills are interchanged, the sentence reads kills the farmer the duckling, which is most naturally interpreted as an unusual but not unintelligible mode of asking the question, does the farmer kill the duckling? In this new sentence the act is not conceived as necessarily taking place at all. It may or it may not be happening, the implication being that the speaker wishes to know the truth of the matter and that the person spoken to is expected to give him the information. The interrogative sentence possesses an entirely different “modality” from the declarative one and implies a markedly different attitude of the speaker towards his companion. An even more striking change in personal relations is effected if we interchange the farmer and the duckling. The duckling kills the farmer involves precisely the same subjects of discourse and the same type of activity as our first sentence, but the rôles of these subjects of discourse are now reversed. The duckling has turned, like the proverbial worm, or, to put it in grammatical terminology, what was “subject” is now “object,” what was object is now subject.   7
  The following tabular statement analyzes the sentence from the point of view of the concepts expressed in it and of the grammatical processes employed for their expression.
  1. CONCRETE CONCEPTS:
    1. First subject of discourse: farmer
    2. Second subject of discourse: duckling
    3. Activity: kill
      ——analyzable into:
    1. RADICAL CONCEPTS:
      1. Verb: (to) farm
      2. Noun: duck
      3. Verb: kill
    2. DERIVATIONAL CONCEPTS:
      1. Agentive: expressed by suffix -er
      2. Diminutive: expressed by suffix -ling
  2. RELATIONAL CONCEPTS:
    Reference:
    1. Definiteness of reference to first subject of discourse: expressed by first the, which has preposed position
    2. Definiteness of reference to second subject of discourse: expressed by second the, which has preposed position
      Modality:
    3. Declarative: expressed by sequence of “subject” plus verb; and implied by suffixed -s
      Personal relations:
    4. Subjectivity of farmer: expressed by position of farmer before kills; and by suffixed -s
    5. Objectivity of duckling: expressed by position of duckling after kills
      Number:
    6. Singularity of first subject of discourse: expressed by lack of plural suffix in farmer; and by suffix -s in following verb
    7. Singularity of second subject of discourse: expressed by lack of plural suffix in duckling
      Time:
    8. Present: expressed by lack of preterit suffix in verb; and by suffixed -s
   8
  In this short sentence of five words there are expressed, therefore, thirteen distinct concepts, of which three are radical and concrete, two derivational, and eight relational. Perhaps the most striking result of the analysis is a renewed realization of the curious lack of accord in our language between function and form. The method of suffixing is used both for derivational and for relational elements; independent words or radical elements express both concrete ideas (objects, activities, qualities) and relational ideas (articles likes the and a; words defining case relations, like of, to, for, with, by; words defining local relations, like in, on, at); the same relational concept may be expressed more than once (thus, the singularity of farmer is both negatively expressed in the noun and positively in the verb); and one element may 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).   9
  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.   10
  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 only be expressed in different form but that they may be differently grouped among themselves; that some among them may be dispensed with; and that other concepts, not considered worth expressing in English idiom, may be treated as absolutely indispensable to the intelligible rendering of the proposition. First as to a different method of handling such concepts as we have found expressed in the English sentence. If we turn to German, we find that in the equivalent sentence (Der Bauer töotet das Entelein) the definiteness of reference expressed by the English the is unavoidably coupled with three other concepts—number (both der and das are explicitly singular), case (deris subjective; dasis subjective or objective, by elimination therefore objective), and gender, a new concept of the relational order that is not in this case explicitly involved in English (deris masculine, dasis neuter). Indeed, the chief burden of the expression of case, gender, and number is in the German sentence borne by the particles of reference rather than by the words that express the concrete concepts (Bauer, Entelein) to which these relational concepts ought logically to attach themselves. In the sphere of concrete concepts too it is worth nothing that the German splits up the idea of “killing” into the basic concept of “dead” (tot) and the derivational one of “causing to do (or be) so and so” (by the method of vocalic change, töot-); the German töot-et (analytically tot-+ vowel change+-et) “causes to be dead” is, approximately, the formal equivalent of our dead-en-s, though the idiomatic application of this latter word is different 3   11
  Wandering still further afield, we may glance at the Yana method of expression. Literally translated, the equivalent Yana sentence would read something like “kill-s he farmer 4 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 another’s 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.   12
  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 kills the duck,” there is by no means present for the Chinese consciousness that childish, halting, empty feeling which we experience in the literal English translation. The three concrete concepts—two objects and an action—are each directly expressed by a monosyllabic word which is at the same time a radical element; the two relational concepts—“subject” and “object”—are expressed solely by the position of the concrete words before and after the word of action. And that is all. Definiteness or indefiniteness of reference, number, personality as an inherent aspect of the verb, tense, not to speak of gender—all these are given no expression in the Chinese sentence, which, for all that, is a perfectly adequate communication—provided, of course, there is that context, that background of mutual understanding that is essential to the complete intelligibility of all speech. Nor does this qualification impair our argument, for in the English sentence too we leave unexpressed a large number of ideas which are either taken for granted or which have been developed or are about to be developed in the course of the conversation. Nothing has been said, for example, in the English, German, Yana, or Chinese sentence as to the place relations of the farmer, the duck, the speaker, and the listener. Are the farmer and the duck both visible or is one or the other invisible from the point of view of the speaker, and are both placed within the horizon of the speaker, the listener, or of some indefinite point of reference “off yonder”? In other words, to paraphrase awkwardly certain latent “demonstrative” ideas, does this farmer (invisible to us but standing behind a door not far away from me, you being seated yonder well out of reach) kill that duckling (which belongs to you)?or does that farmer (who lives in your neighborhood and 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.   13
  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 symbols for these concrete ideas in any order, higgledy-piggledy, trusting that the hearer may construct some kind of a relational pattern out of the general probabilities of the case. The fundamental syntactic relations must be unambiguously expressed. I can afford to be silent on the subject of time and place and number and of a host of other possible types of concepts, but I can find no way of dodging the issue as to who is doing the killing. There is no known language that can or does dodge it, any more than it succeeds in saying something without the use of symbols for the concrete concepts.   14
  We are thus once more reminded of the distinction between essential or unavoidable relational concepts and the dispensable type. The former are universally expressed, the latter are but sparsely developed in some languages, elaborated with a bewildering exuberance in others. But what prevents us from throwing in these “dispensable” or “secondary” relational concepts with the large, floating group of derivational, qualifying concepts that we have already discussed? Is there, after all is said and done, a fundamental difference between a qualifying concept like the negative in unhealthy and a relational one like the number concept in books? If unhealthy may be roughly paraphrased as not healthy, may not books be just as legitimately paraphrased, barring the violence to English idiom, as several book? There are, indeed, languages in which the plural, if expressed at all, is conceived of in the same sober, restricted, one might almost say casual, spirit in which we feel the negative in unhealthy. For such languages the number concept has no syntactic significance whatever, is not essentially conceived of as defining a relation, but falls into the group of derivational or even of basic concepts. In English, however, as in French, German, Latin, Greek—indeed in all the languages that we have most familiarity with—the idea of number is not merely appended to a given concept of a thing. It may have something of this merely qualifying value, but its force extends far beyond. It infects much else in the sentence, molding other concepts, even such as have no intelligible relation to number, into forms that are said to correspond to or “agree with” the basic concept to which it is attached in the first instance. If “a man falls” but “men fall” in English, it is not because of any inherent change that has taken place in the nature of the action or because the idea of plurality inherent in “men” must, in the very nature of ideas, relate itself also to the action performed by these men. What we are doing in these sentences is what most languages, in greater or less degree and in a hundred varying ways, are in the habit of doing—throwing a bold bridge between the two basically distinct types of concept, the concrete and the abstractly relational, infecting the latter, as it were, with the color and grossness of the former. By a certain violence of metaphor the material concept is forced to do duty for (or intertwine itself with) the strictly relational.   15
  The case is even more obvious if we take gender as our text. In the two English phrases, “The white woman that comes” and “The white men that come,” we are not reminded that gender, as well as number, may be elevated into a secondary relational concept. It would seem a little far-fetched to make of masculinity and femininity, crassly material, philosophically accidental concepts that they are, a means of relating quality and person, person and action, nor would it easily occur to us, if we had not studied the classics, that it was anything but absurd to inject into two such highly attenuated relational concepts as are expressed by “the” and “that” the combined notions of number and sex. Yet all this, and more, happens in Latin. Illa alba femina quae venit and illi albi homines qui veniunt, conceptually translated, amount to this: that-one-feminine-doer 5 one-feminine-white-doer feminine-doing-one-woman which-one-feminine-doer other 6-one-now-come; and : that-several-masculine-doer several-masculine-white-doer masculine-doing-several-man which-several-masculine-doer other-several-now-come. Each word involves no less than four concepts, a radical concept (either properly concrete—white, man, woman, come—or demonstrative—that, which) and three relational concepts, selected from the categories of case, number, gender, person, and tense. Logically, only case 7 (the relation of woman or men to a following verb, of which to its antecedent, of that and white to woman or men, and of which to come) imperatively demands expression, and that only in connection with the concepts directly affected (there is, for instance, no need to be informed that the whiteness is a doing or doer’s whiteness 8). The other relational concepts are either merely parasitic (gender throughout; number in the demonstrative, the adjective, the relative, and the verb) or irrelevant to the essential syntactic form of the sentence (number in the noun; person; tense). An intelligent and sensitive Chinaman, accustomed as he is to cut to the very bone of linguistic form, might well say of the Latin sentence, “How pedantically imaginative!” It must be difficult for him, when first confronted by the illogical complexities of our European languages, to feel at home in an attitude that so largely confounds the subject-matter of speech with its formal pattern or, to be more accurate, that turns certain fundamentally concrete concepts to such attenuated relational uses.   16
  I have exaggerated somewhat the concreteness of our subsidiary or rather non-syntactical relational concepts in order that the essential facts might come out in bold relief. It goes without saying that a Frenchman has no clear sex notion in his mind when he speaks of un arbre (“a-masculine tree”) or of une pomme (“a-feminine apple”). Nor have we, despite the grammarians, a very vivid sense of the present as contrasted with all past and all future time when we say He comes. 9 This is evident from our use of the present to indicate both future time (“He comes to-morrow”) and general activity unspecified as to time (“Whenever he comes, I am glad to see him,” where “comes” refers to past occurrences and possible future ones rather than to present activity). In both the French and English instances the primary ideas of sex and time have become diluted by form-analogy and by extensions into the relational sphere, the concepts ostensibly indicated being now so vaguely delimited that it is rather the tyranny of usage than the need of their concrete expression that sways us in the selection of this or that form. If the thinning-out process continues long enough, we may eventually be left with a system of forms on our hands from which all the color of life has vanished and which merely persist by inertia, duplicating each other’s secondary, syntactic functions with endless prodigality. Hence, in part, the complex conjugational systems of so many languages, in which differences of form are attended by no assignable differences of function. There must have been a time, for instance, though it antedates our earliest documentary evidence, when the type of tense formation represented by drove or sank differed in meaning, in however slightly nuanced a degree, from the type (killed, worked) which has now become established in English as the prevailing preterit formation, very much as we recognize a valuable distinction at present between both these types and the “perfect” (has driven, has killed) but may have ceased to do so at some point in the future. 10 Now form lives longer than its own conceptual content. Both are ceaselessly changing, but, on the whole, the form tends to linger on when the spirit has flown or changed its being. Irrational form, form for form’s sake—however we term this tendency to hold on to formal distinctions once they have come to be—is as natural to the life of language as is the retention of modes of conduct that have long outlived the meaning they once had.   17
  There is another powerful tendency which makes for a formal elaboration that does not strictly correspond to clear-cut conceptual differences. This is the tendency to construct schemes of classification into which all the concepts of language must be fitted. Once we have made up our minds that all things are either definitely good or bad or definitely black or white, it is difficult to get into the frame of mind that recognizes that any particular thing may be both good and bad (in other words, indifferent) or both black and white (in other words, gray), still more difficult to realize that the good-bad or black-white categories may not apply at all. Language is in many respects as unreasonable and stubborn about its classifications as is such a mind. It must have its perfectly exclusive pigeon-holes and will tolerate no flying vagrants. Any concept that asks for expression must submit to the classificatory rules of the game, just as there are statistical surveys in which even the most convinced atheist must perforce be labeled Catholic, Protestant, or Jew or get no hearing. In English we have made up our minds that all action must be conceived of in reference to three standard times. If, therefore, we desire to state a proposition that is as true to-morrow as it was yesterday, we have to pretend that the present moment may be elongated fore and aft so as to take in all eternity. 11 In French we know once for all that an object is masculine or feminine, whether it be living or not; just as in many American and East Asiatic languages it must be understood to belong to a certain form-category (say, ring-round, ball-round, long and slender, cylindrical, sheet-like, in mass like sugar) before it can be enumerated (e.g., “two ball-class potatoes,” “three sheet-class carpets”) or even said to “be” or “be handled in a definite way” (thus, in the Athabaskan languages and in Yana, “to carry” or “throw” a pebble is quite another thing than to carry or throw a log, linguistically no less than in terms of muscular experience). Such instances might be multiplied at will. It is almost as though at some period in the past the unconscious mind of the race had made a hasty inventory of experience, committed itself to a premature classification that allowed of no revision, and saddled the inheritors of its language with a science that they no longer quite believed in nor had the strength to overthrow. Dogma, rigidly prescribed by tradition, stiffens into formalism. Linguistic categories make up a system of surviving dogma—dogma of the unconscious. They are often but half real as concepts; their life tends ever to languish away into form for form’s sake.   18
  There is still a third cause for the rise of this nonsignificant form, or rather of non-significant differences of form. This is the mechanical operation of phonetic processes, which may bring about formal distinctions that have not and never had a corresponding functional distinction. Much of the irregularity and general formal complexity of our declensional and conjugational systems is due to this process. The plural of hat is hats, the plural of self is selves. In the former case we have a true -s symbolizing plurality, in the latter a z-sound coupled with a change in the radical element of the word of f to v. Here we have not a falling together of forms that originally stood for fairly distinct concepts—as we saw was presumably the case with such parallel forms as drove and worked—but a merely mechanical manifolding of the same formal element without a corresponding growth of a new concept. This type of form development, therefore, while of the greatest interest for the general history of language, does not directly concern us now in our effort to understand the nature of grammatical concepts and their tendency to degenerate into purely formal counters.   19
  We may now conveniently revise our first classification of concepts as expressed in language and suggest the following scheme:
    Basic (Concrete) Concepts (such as objects, actions, qualities) : normally expressed by independent words or radical elements; involve no relation as such 12
    Derivational Concepts (less concrete, as a rule, than I, more so than III): normally expressed by affixing non-radical elements to radical elements or by inner modification of these; differ from type I in defining ideas that are irrelevant to the proposition as a whole but that give a radical element a particular increment of significance and that are thus inherently related in a specific way to concepts of type I 13
    Concrete Relational Concepts (still more abstract, yet not entirely devoid of a measure of concreteness): normally expressed by affixing non-radical elements to radical elements, but generally at a greater remove from these than is the case with elements of type II, or by inner modification of radical elements; differ fundamentally from type II in indicating or implying relations that transcend the particular word to which they are immediately attached, thus leading over to
    Pure Relational Concepts (purely abstract): normally expressed by affixing non-radical elements to radical elements (in which case these concepts are frequently intertwined with those of type III) or by their inner modification, by independent words, or by position; serve to relate the concrete elements of the proposition to each other, thus giving it definite syntactic form.
    Material
    Content
    I. Basic Concepts
    II. Derivational Concepts
    Relation III. Concrete Relational Concepts
    IV. Pure Relational Concepts
       20
      These schemes must not be worshipped as fetiches. In the actual work of analysis difficult problems frequently arise and we may well be in doubt as to how to group a given set of concepts. This is particularly apt to be the case in exotic languages, where we may be quite sure of the analysis of the words in a sentence and yet not succeed in acquiring that inner “feel” of its structure that enables us to tell infallibly what is “material content” and what is “relation.” Concepts of class I are essential to all speech, also concepts of class IV. Concepts II and III are both common, but not essential; particularly group III, which represents, in effect, a psychological and formal confusion of types II and IV or of types I and IV, is an avoidable class of concepts. Logically there is an impassable gulf between I and IV, but the illogical, metaphorical genius of speech has wilfully spanned the gulf and set up a continuous gamut of concepts and forms that leads imperceptibly from the crudest of materialities (“house” or “John Smith”) to the most subtle of relations. It is particularly significant that the unanalyzable independent word belongs in most cases to either group I or group IV, rather less commonly to II or III. It is possible for a concrete concept, represented by a simple word, to lose its material significance entirely and pass over directly into the relational sphere without at the same time losing its independence as a word. This happens, for instance, in Chinese and Cambodgian when the verb “give” is used in an abstract sense as a mere symbol of the “indirect objective” relation (e.g., Cambodgian “We make story this give all that person who have child,” i.e., “We have made this story for all those that have children”).   21
      There are, of course, also not a few instances of transitions between groups I and II and I and III, as well as of the less radical one between II and III. To the first of these transitions belongs that whole class of examples in which the independent word, after passing through the preliminary stage of functioning as the secondary or qualifying element in a compound, ends up by being a derivational affix pure and simple, yet without losing the memory of its former independence. Such an element and concept is the full of teaspoonfull, which hovers psychologically between the status of an independent, radical concept (compare full) or of a subsidiary element in a compound (cf. brim-full) and that of a simple suffix (cf. dutiful) in which the primary concreteness is no longer felt. In general, the more highly synthetic our linguistic type, the more difficult and even arbitrary it becomes to distinguish groups I and II.   22
      Not only is there a gradual loss of the concrete as we pass through from group I to group IV, there is also a constant fading away of the feeling of sensible reality within the main groups of linguistic concepts themselves. In many languages it becomes almost imperative, therefore, to make various sub-classifications, to segregate, for instance, the more concrete from the more abstract concepts of group II. Yet we must always beware of reading into such abstracter groups that purely formal, relational feeling that we can hardly help associating with certain of the abstracter concepts which, with us, fall in group III, unless, indeed, there is clear evidence to warrant such a reading in. An example or two should make clear these all-important distinctions. 14 In Nootka we have an unusually large number of derivational affixes (expressing concepts of group II). Some of these are quite material in content (e.g., “in the house,” “to dream of”, others, like an element denoting plurality and a diminutive affix, are far more abstract in content. The former type are more closely welded with the radical element than the latter, which can only be suffixed to formations that have the value of complete words. If, therefore, I wish to say “the small fires in the house”—and I can do this in one word—I must form the word “fire-in-the-house,” to which elements corresponding to “small,” our plural, and “the” are appended. The element indicating the definiteness of reference that is implied in our “the” comes at the very end of the word. So far, so good. “Fire-in-the-house-the” is an intelligible correlate of our “the house-fire.” 15 But is the Nootka correlate of “the small fires in the house” the true equivalent of an English “the house-firelets”? 16 By no means. First of all, the plural element precedes the diminutive in Nootka: “fire-in-the-house-plural-small-the,” in other words “the house-fires-let,” which at once reveals the important fact that the plural concept is not as abstractly, as relationally, felt as in English. A more adequate rendering would be “the house-fire-several-let,” in which, however, “several” is too gross a word, “-let” too choice an element (“small” again is too gross). In truth we cannot carry over into English the inherent feeling of the Nootka word, which seems to hover somewhere between “the house-firelets” and “the house-fire-several-small.” But what more than anything else cuts off all possibility of comparison between the English-s of “house-firelets” and the “-several-small” of the Nootka word is this, that in Nootka neither the plural nor the diminutive affix corresponds or refers to anything else in the sentence. In English “the house-firelets burn” (not “burns”), in Nootka neither verb, nor adjective, nor anything else in the proposition is in the least concerned with the plurality or the diminutiveness of the fire. Hence, while Nootka recognizes a cleavage between concrete and less concrete within group II, the less concrete do not transcend the group and lead us into that abstracter air into which our plural -s carries us. But at any rate, the reader may object, it is something that the Nootka plural affix is set apart from the concreter group of affixes; and may not the Nootka diminutive have a slenderer, a more elusive content than our -let or -ling or the German -chen or -lein? 17   23
      Can such a concept as that of plurality ever be classified with the more material concepts of group II? Indeed it can be. In Yana the third person of the verb makes no formal distinction between singular and plural. Nevertheless the plural concept can be, and nearly always is, expressed by the suffixing of an element (-ba-) to the radical element of the verb. “It burns in the east” is rendered by the verb ya-hau-si “burn-east-s.” 18 “They burn in the east” is ya-ba-hau-si. Note that the plural affix immediately follows the radical element (ya-), disconnecting it from the local element (-hau-). It needs no labored argument to prove that the concept of plurality is here hardly less concrete than that of location “in the east,” and that the Yana form corresponds in feeling not so much to our “They burn in the east” (ardunt oriente) as to a “Burn-several-east-s, it plurally burns in the east,” an expression which we cannot adequately assimilate for lack of the necessary form-grooves into which to run it.   24
      But can we go a step farther and dispose of the category of plurality as an utterly material idea, one that would make of “books” a “plural book,” in which the “plural,” like the “white” of “white book,” falls contentedly into group I? Our “many books” and “several books” are obviously not cases in point. Even if we could say “many book” and “several book” (as we can say “many a book” and “each book”), the plural concept would still not emerge as clearly as it should for our argument; “many” and “several” are contaminated by certain notions of quantity or scale that are not essential to the idea of plurality itself. We must turn to central and eastern Asia for the type of expression we are seeking. In Tibetan, for instance, nga-s mi mthong 19 “I-by man see, by me a man is seen, I see a man” may just as well be understood to mean “I see men,” if there happens to be no reason to emphasize the fact of plurality. 20 If the fact is worth expressing, however, I can say nga-s mi rnams mthong “by me man plural see,” where rnams is the perfect conceptual analogue of -s in books, divested of all relational strings. Rnams follows its noun as would any other attributive word—“man plural” (whether two or a million) like “man white.” No need to bother about his plurality any more than about his whiteness unless we insist on the point.   25
      What is true of the idea of plurality is naturally just as true of a great many other concepts. They do not necessarily belong where we who speak English are in the habit of putting them. They may be shifted towards I or towards IV, the two poles of linguistic expression. Nor dare we look down on the Nootka Indian and the Tibetan for their material attitude towards a concept which to us is abstract and relational, lest we invite the reproaches of the Frenchman who feels a subtlety of relation in femme blanche and homme blanc that he misses in the coarser-grained white woman and white man. But the Bantu Negro, were he a philosopher, might go further and find it strange that we put in group II a category, the diminutive, which he strongly feels to belong to group III and which he uses, along with a number of other classificatory concepts, 21 to relate his subjects and objects, attributes and predicates, as a Russian or a German handles his genders and, if possible, with an even greater finesse.   26
      It is because our conceptual scheme is a sliding scale rather than a philosophical analysis of experience that we cannot say in advance just where to put a given concept. We must dispense, in other words, with a well-ordered classification of categories. What boots it to put tense and mode here or number there when the next language one handles puts tense a peg “lower down” (towards I), mode and number a peg “higher up” (towards IV)? Nor is there much to be gained in a summary work of this kind from a general inventory of the types of concepts generally found in groups II, III, and IV. There are too many possibilities. It would be interesting to show what are the most typical noun-forming and verb-forming elements of group II; how variously nouns may be classified (by gender; personal and non-personal; animate and inanimate; by form; common and proper); how the concept of number is elaborated (singular and plural; singular, dual, and plural; singular, dual, trial, and plural; single, distributive, and collective); what tense distinctions may be made in verb or noun (the “past,” for instance, may be an indefinite past, immediate, remote, mythical, completed, prior); how delicately certain languages have developed the idea of “aspect” 22 (momentaneous, durative, continuative, inceptive, cessative, durative-inceptive, iterative, momentaneous-iterative, durative-iterative, resultative, and still others); what modalities may be recognized (indicative, imperative, potential, dubitative, optative, negative, and a host of others 23); what distinctions of person are possible (is “we,” for instance, conceived of as a plurality of “I” or is it as distinct from “I” as either is from “you” or “he”?—both attitudes are illustrated in language; moreover, does “we” include you to whom I speak or not?—“inclusive” and “exclusive” forms); what may be the general scheme of orientation, the so-called demonstrative categories (“this” and “that” in an endless procession of nuances); 24 how frequently the form expresses the source or nature of the speaker’s knowledge (known by actual experience, by hearsay, 25 by inference); how the syntactic relations may be expressed in the noun (subjective and objective; agentive, instrumental, and person affected; 26 various types of “genitive” and indirect relations) and, correspondingly, in the verb (active and passive; active and static; transitive and intransitive; impersonal, reflexive, reciprocal, indefinite as to object, and many other special limitations on the starting-point and end-point of the flow of activity). These details, important as many of them are to an understanding of the “inner form” of language, yield in general significance to the more radical group-distinctions that we have set up. It is enough for the general reader to feel that language struggles towards two poles of linguistic expression—material content and relation—and that these poles tend to be connected by a long series of transitional concepts.   27
      In dealing with words and their varying forms we have had to anticipate much that concerns the sentence as a whole. Every language has its special method or methods of binding words into a larger unity. The importance of these methods is apt to vary with the complexity of the individual word. The more synthetic the language, in other words, the more clearly the status of each word in the sentence is indicated by its own resources, the less need is there for looking beyond the word to the sentence as a whole. The Latin agit “(he) acts” needs no outside help to establish its place in a proposition. Whether I say agit dominus “the master acts” or sic femina agit “thus the woman acts,” the net result as to the syntactic feel of the agit is practically the same. It can only be a verb, the predicate of a proposition, and it can only be conceived as a statement of activity carried out by a person (or thing) other than you or me. It is not so with such a word as the English act. Act is a syntactic waif until we have defined its status in a proposition—one thing in “they act abominably,” quite another in “that was a kindly act.” The Latin sentence speaks with the assurance of its individual members, the English word needs the prompting of its fellows. Roughly speaking, to be sure. And yet to say that a sufficiently elaborate word-structure compensates for external syntactic methods is perilously close to begging the question. The elements of the word are related to each other in a specific way and follow each other in a rigorously determined sequence. This is tantamount to saying that a word which consists of more than a radical element is a crystallization of a sentence or of some portion of a sentence, that a form like agit is roughly the psychological 27 equivalent of a form like age is “act he.” Breaking down, then, the wall that separates word and sentence, we may ask: What, at last analysis, are the fundamental methods of relating word to word and element to element, in short, of passing from the isolated notions symbolized by each word and by each element to the unified proposition that corresponds to a thought?   28
      The answer is simple and is implied in the preceding remarks. The most fundamental and the most powerful of all relating methods is the method of order. Let us think of some more or less concrete idea, say a color, and set down its symbol—red; of another concrete idea, say a person or object, setting down its symbol—dog; finally, of a third concrete idea, say an action, setting down its symbol—run. It is hardly possible to set down these three symbols—red dog run—without relating them in some way, for example (the) red dog run(s). I am far from wishing to state that the proposition has always grown up in this analytic manner, merely that the very process of juxtaposing concept to concept, symbol to symbol, forces some kind of relational “feeling,” if nothing else, upon us. To certain syntactic adhesions we are very sensitive, for example, to the attributive relation of quality (red dog) or the subjective relation (dog run) or the objective relation (kill dog), to others we are more indifferent, for example, to the attributive relation of circumstance (to-day red dog run or red dog to-day run or red dog run to-day, all of which are equivalent propositions or propositions in embroyo). Words and elements, then, once they are listed in a certain order, tend not only to establish some kind of relation among themselves but are attracted to each other in greater or in less degree. It is presumably this very greater or less that ultimately leads to those firmly solidified groups of elements (radical element or elements plus one or more grammatical elements) that we have studied as complex words. They are in all likelihood nothing but sequences that have shrunk together and away from other sequences or isolated elements in the flow of speech. While they are fully alive, in other words, while they are functional at every point, they can keep themselves at a psychological distance from their neighbors. As they gradually lose much of their life, they fall back into the embrace of the sentence as a whole and the sequence of independent words regains the importance it had in part transferred to the crystallized groups of elements. Speech is thus constantly tightening and loosening its sequences. In its highly integrated forms (Latin, Eskimo) the “energy” of sequence is largely locked up in complex word formations, it becomes transformed into a kind of potential energy that may not be released for millennia. In its more analytic forms (Chinese, English) this energy is mobile, ready to hand for such service as we demand of it.   29
      There can be little doubt that stress has frequently played a controlling influence in the formation of element-groups or complex words out of certain sequences in the sentence. Such an English word as withstand is merely an old sequence with stand, i.e., “against 28 stand,” in which the unstressed adverb was permanently drawn to the following verb and lost its independence as a significant element. In the same way French futures of the type irai “(I) shall go” are but the resultants of a coalescence of originally independent words: ir 29 a'i “to-go I-have,” under the influence of a unifying accent. But stress has done more than articulate or unify sequences that in their own right imply a syntactic relation. Stress is the most natural means at our disposal to emphasize a linguistic contrast, to indicate the major element in a sequence. Hence we need not be surprised to find that accent too, no less than sequence, may serve as the unaided symbol of certain relations. Such a contrast as that of go' between (“one who goes between”) and to go between' may be of quite secondary origin in English, but there is every reason to believe that analogous distinctions have prevailed at all times in linguistic history. A sequence like see' man might imply some type of relation in which see qualifies the following word, hence “a seeing man” or “a seen (or visible) man,” or is its predication, hence “the man sees” or “the man is seen,” while a sequence like see man' might indicate that the accented word in some way limits the application of the first, say as direct object, hence “to see a man” or “(he) sees the man.” Such alternations of relation, as symbolized by varying stresses, are important and frequent in a number of languages. 30   30
      It is a somewhat venturesome and yet not an altogether unreasonable speculation that sees in word order and stress the primary methods for the expression of all syntactic relations and looks upon the present relational value of specific words and elements as but a secondary condition due to a transfer of values. Thus, we may surmise that the Latin -m of words like feminam, dominum, and civem did not originally 31 denote that “woman,” “master,” and “citizen” were objectively related to the verb of the proposition but indicated something far more concrete, 32 that the objective relation was merely implied by the position or accent of the word (radical element) immediately preceding the -m, and that gradually, as its more concrete significance faded away, it took over a syntactic function that did not originally belong to it. This sort of evolution by transfer is traceable in many instances. Thus, the of in an English phrase like “the law of the land” is now as colorless in content, as purely a relational indicator as the “genitive” suffix -is in the Latin lex urbis “the law of the city.” We know, however, that it was originally an adverb of considerable concreteness of meaning, 33 “away, moving from,” and that the syntactic relation was originally expressed by the case form 34 of the second noun. As the case form lost its vitality, the adverb took over its function. If we are actually justified in assuming that the expression of all syntactic relations is ultimately traceable to these two unavoidable, dynamic features of speech—sequence and stress 35—an interesting thesis results:—All of the actual content of speech, its clusters of vocalic and consonantal sounds, is in origin limited to the concrete; relations were originally not expressed in outward form but were merely implied and articulated with the help of order and rhythm. In other words, relations were intuitively felt and could only “leak out” with the help of dynamic factors that themselves move on an intuitional plane.   31
      There is a special method for the expression of relations that has been so often evolved in the history of language that we must glance at it for a moment. This is the method of “concord” or of like signaling. It is based on the same principle as the password or label. All persons or objects that answer to the same countersign or that bear the same imprint are thereby stamped as somehow related. It makes little difference, once they are so stamped, where they are to be found or how they behave themselves. They are known to belong together. We are familiar with the principle of concord in Latin and Greek. Many of us have been struck by such relentless rhymes as vidi illum bonum dominum “I saw that good master” or quarum dearum saevarum “of which stern goddesses.” Not that sound-echo, whether in the form of rhyme or of alliteration 36 is necessary to concord, though in its most typical and original forms concord is nearly always accompanied by sound repetition. The essence of the principle is simply this, that words (elements) that belong together, particularly if they are syntactic equivalents or are related in like fashion to another word or element, are outwardly marked by the same or functionally equivalent affixes. The application of the principle varies considerably according to the genius of the particular language. In Latin and Greek, for instance, there is concord between noun and qualifying word (adjective or demonstrative) as regards gender, number, and case, between verb and subject only as regards number, and no concord between verb and object.   32
      In Chinook there is a more far-reaching concord between noun, whether subject or object, and verb. Every noun is classified according to five categories—masculine, feminine, neuter, 37 dual, and plural. “Woman” is feminine, “sand” is neuter, “table” is masculine. If, therefore, I wish to say “The woman put the sand on the table,” I must place in the verb certain class or gender prefixes that accord with corresponding noun prefixes. The sentence reads then, “The (fem.)-woman she (fem.)-it (neut.)-it (masc.)-on-put the (neut.)-sand the (masc.)-table.” If “sand” is qualified as “much” and “table” as “large,” these new ideas are expressed as abstract nouns, each with its inherent class-prefix (“much” is neuter or feminine, “large” is masculine) and with a possessive prefix referring to the qualified noun. Adjective thus calls to noun, noun to verb. “The woman put much sand on the large table,” therefore, takes the form: “The (fem.)-woman she (fem.)-it (neut.)-it (masc.)-on-put the (fem.)-thereof (neut.)-quantity the (neut.)-sand the (masc.)-thereof (masc.)-largeness the (masc.)-table.” The classification of “table” as masculine is thus three times insisted on—in the noun, in the adjective, and in the verb. In the Bantu languages, 38 the principle of concord works very much as in Chinook. In them also nouns are classified into a number of categories and are brought into relation with adjectives, demonstratives, relative pronouns, and verbs by means of prefixed elements that call off the class and make up a complex system of concordances. In such a sentence as “That fierce lion who came here is dead,” the class of “lion,” which we may call the animal class, would be referred to by concording prefixes no less than six times,—with the demonstrative (“that”), the qualifying adjective, the noun itself, the relative pronoun, the subjective prefix to the verb of the relative clause, and the subjective prefix to the verb of the main clause (“is dead”). We recognize in this insistence on external clarity of reference the same spirit as moves in the more familiar illum bonum dominum.   33
      Psychologically the methods of sequence and accent lie at the opposite pole to that of concord. Where they are all for implication, for subtlety of feeling, concord is impatient of the least ambiguity but must have its well-certificated tags at every turn. Concord tends to dispense with order. In Latin and Chinook the independent words are free in position, less so in Bantu. In both Chinook and Bantu, however, the methods of concord and order are equally important for the differentiation of subject and object, as the classifying verb prefixes refer to subject, object, or indirect object according to the relative position they occupy. These examples again bring home to us the significant fact that at some point or other order asserts itself in every language as the most fundamental of relating principles.   34
      The observant reader has probably been surprised that all this time we have had so little to say of the time-honored “parts of speech.” The reason for this is not far to seek. Our conventional classification of words into parts of speech is only a vague, wavering approximation to a consistently worked out inventory of experience. We imagine, to begin with, that all “verbs” are inherently concerned with action as such, that a “noun” is the name of some definite object or personality that can be pictured by the mind, that all qualities are necessarily expressed by a definite group of words to which we may appropriately apply the term “adjective.” As soon as we test our vocabulary, we discover that the parts of speech are far from corresponding to so simple an analysis of reality. We say “it is red” and define “red” as a quality-word or adjective. We should consider it strange to think of an equivalent of “is red” in which the whole predication (adjective and verb of being) is conceived of as a verb in precisely the same way in which we think of “extends” or “lies” or “sleeps” as a verb. Yet as soon as we give the “durative” notion of being red an inceptive or transitional turn, we can avoid the parallel form “it becomes red, it turns red” and say “it reddens.” No one denies that “reddens” is as good a verb as “sleeps” or even “walks.” Yet “it is red” is related to “it reddens” very much as is “he stands” to “he stands up” or “he rises.” It is merely a matter of English or of general Indo-European idiom that we cannot say “it reds” in the sense of “it is red.” There are hundreds of languages that can. Indeed there are many that can express what we should call an adjective only by making a participle out of a verb. “Red” in such languages is merely a derivative “being red,” as our “sleeping” or “walking” are derivatives of primary verbs.   35
      Just as we can verbify the idea of a quality in such cases as “reddens,” so we can represent a quality or an action to ourselves as a thing. We speak of “the height of a building” or “the fall of an apple” quite as though these ideas were parallel to “the roof of a building” or “the skin of an apple,” forgetting that the nouns (height, fall) have not ceased to indicate a quality and an act when we have made them speak with the accent of mere objects. And just as there are languages that make verbs of the great mass of adjectives, so there are others that make nouns of them. In Chinook, as we have seen, “the big table” is “the-table its-bigness”; in Tibetan the same idea may be expressed by “the table of bigness,” very much as we may say “a man of wealth” instead of “a rich man.”   36
      But are there not certain ideas that it is impossible to render except by way of such and such parts of speech? What can be done with the “to” of “he came to the house”? Well, we can say “he reached the house” and dodge the preposition altogether, giving the verb a nuance that absorbs the idea of local relation carried by the “to.” But let us insist on giving independence to this idea of local relation. Must we not then hold to the preposition? No, we can make a noun of it. We can say something like “he reached the proximity of the house” or “he reached the house-locality.” Instead of saying “he looked into the glass” we may say “he scrutinized the glass-interior.” Such expressions are stilted in English because they do not easily fit into our formal grooves, but in language after language we find that local relations are expressed in just this way. The local relation is nominalized. And so we might go on examining the various parts of speech and showing how they not merely grade into each other but are to an astonishing degree actually convertible into each other. The upshot of such an examination would be to feel convinced that the “part of speech” reflects not so much our intuitive analysis of reality as our ability to compose that reality into a variety of formal patterns. A part of speech outside of the limitations of syntactic form is but a will o’ the wisp. For this reason no logical scheme of the parts of speech—their number, nature, and necessary confines—is of the slightest interest to the linguist. Each language has its own scheme. Everything depends on the formal demarcations which it recognizes.   37
      Yet we must not be too destructive. It is well to remember that speech consists of a series of propositions. There must be something to talk about and something must be said about this subject of discourse once it is selected. This distinction is of such fundamental importance that the vast majority of languages have emphasized it by creating some sort of formal barrier between the two terms of the proposition. The subject of discourse is a noun. As the most common subject of discourse is either a person or a thing, the noun clusters about concrete concepts of that order. As the thing predicated of a subject is generally an activity in the widest sense of the word, a passage from one moment of existence to another, the form which has been set aside for the business of predicating, in other words, the verb, clusters about concepts of activity. No language wholly fails to distinguish noun and verb, though in particular cases the nature of the distinction may be an elusive one. It is different with the other parts of speech. Not one of them is imperatively required for the life of language. 39   38
     
    Note 1.  Not in its technical sense. [back]
    Note 2.  It is, of course, an “accident” that -s denotes plurality in the noun, singularity in the verb. [back]
    Note 3.  “To cause to be dead” or “to cause to die” in the sense of “to kill” is an exceedingly wide-spread usage. It is found, for instance, also in Nootka and Sioux. [back]
    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]
    Note 5.  “Doer,” not “done to.” This is a necessarily clumsy tag to represent the “nominative” (subjective) in contrast to the “accusative” (objective). [back]
    Note 6.  I.e., not you or I. [back]
    Note 7.  By “case” is here meant not only the subjective-objective relation but also that of attribution. [back]
    Note 8.  Except in so far as Latin uses this method as a rather awkward, roundabout method of establishing the attribution of the color to the particular object or person. In effect one cannot in Latin directly say that a person is white, merely that what is white is identical with the person who is, acts, or is acted upon in such and such a manner. In origin the feel of the Latin illa alba femina is really “that-one, the-white-one, (namely) the-woman”—three substantive ideas that are related to each other by a juxtaposition intended to convey an identity. English and Chinese express the attribution directly by means of order. In Latin the illa and alba may occupy almost any position in the sentence. It is important to observe that the subjective from of illa and alba does not truly define a relation of these qualifying concepts to femina. Such a relation might be formally expressed via an attributive case, say the genitive (woman of whiteness). In Tibetan both the methods of order and of true case relation may be employed: woman white (i.e., “white woman”) or white-of woman (i.e., “woman of whiteness, woman who is white, white woman”). [back]
    Note 9.  Aside, naturally, from the life and imminence that may be created for such a sentence by a particular context. [back]
    Note 10.  This has largely happened in popular French and German, where the difference is stylistic rather than functional. The preterits are more literary or formal in tone than the perfects. [back]
    Note 11.  Hence, “the square root of 4 is 2,” precisely as “my uncle is here now.” There are many “primitive” languages that are more philosophical and distinguish between a true “present” and a “customary” or “general” tense. [back]
    Note 12.  Except, of course, the fundamental selection and contrast necessarily implied in defining one concept as against another. “Man” and “white” possess an inherent relation to “woman” and “black,” but it is a relation of conceptual content only and is of no direct interest to grammar. [back]
    Note 13.  Thus, the -er of farmer may be defined as indicating that particular substantive concept (object or thing) that serves as the habitual subject of the particular verb to which it is affixed. This relation of “subject” (a farmer farms) is inherent in and specific to the word; it does not exist for the sentence as a whole. In the same way the -ling of duckling defines a specific relation of attribution that concerns only the radical element, not the sentence. [back]
    Note 14.  It is precisely the failure to feel the “value” or “tone,” as distinct from the outer significance, of the concept expressed by a given grammatical element that has so often led students to misunderstand the nature of languages profoundly alien to their own. Not everything that calls itself “tense” or “mode” or “number” or “gender” or “person” is genuinely comparable to what we mean by these terms in Latin or French. [back]
    Note 15.  Suffixed articles occur also in Danish and Swedish and in numerous other languages. The Nootka element for “in the house” differs from our “house” in that it is suffixed and cannot occur as an independent word; nor is it related to the Nootka word for “house.” [back]
    Note 16.  Assuming the existence of a word “firelet.” [back]
    Note 17.  The Nootka diminutive is doubtless more of a feeling-element, an element of nuance, than our -lung. This is shown by the fact that it may be used with verbs as well as with nouns. In speaking to a child, one is likely to add the diminutive to any word in the sentence, regardless of whether there is an inherent diminutive meaning in the word or not. [back]
    Note 18.  -si is the third person of the present tense. -hau- “east” is an affix, not a compounded radical element. [back]
    Note 19.  These are classical, not modern colloquial, forms. [back]
    Note 20.  Just as in English “He has written books” makes no commitment on the score of quantity (“a few, several, many”). [back]
    Note 21.  Such as person class, animal class, instrument class, augmentative class. [back]
    Note 22.  A term borrowed from Slavic grammar. It indicates the lapse of action, its nature from the standpoint of continuity. Our “cry” is indefinite as to aspect, “be crying” is durative, “cry out” is momentaneous, “burst into tears” is inceptive, “keep crying” is continuative, “start in crying” is durative-inceptive, “cry now and again” is iterative, “cry out every now and then” or “cry in fits and starts” is momentaneous-iterative. “To put on a coat” is momentaneous, “to wear a coat” is resultative. As our examples show, aspect is expressed in English by all kinds of idiomatic turns rather than by a consistently worked out set of grammatical forms. In many languages aspect is of far greater formal significance than tense, with which the naïve student is apt to confuse it. [back]
    Note 23.  By “modalities” I do not mean the matter of fact statement, say, of negation or uncertainty as such, rather their implication in terms of form. There are languages, for instance, which have as elaborate an apparatus of negative forms for the verb as Greek has of the optative or wish-modality. [back]
    Note 24.  Compare page 97. [back]
    Note 25.  It is because of this classification of experience that in many languages the verb forms which are proper, say, to a mythical narration differ from those commonly used in daily intercourse. We leave these shades to the context or content ourselves with a more explicit and roundabout mode of expression, e.g., “He is dead, as I happen to know,” “They say he is dead,” “He must be dead by the looks of things.” [back]
    Note 26.  We say “I sleep” and “I go,” as well as “I kill him,” but “he kills me.” Yet me of the last example is at least as close psychologically to I of “I sleep” as is the latter to “I” of “I kill him.” It is only by form that we can classify the “I” notion of “I sleep” as that of an acting subject. Properly speaking, I am handled by forces beyond my control when I sleep just as truly as when some one is killing me. Numerous languages differentiate clearly between active subject and static subject (I go and I kill him as distinct from I sleep, I am good, I am killed) or between transitive subject and intransitive subject (I kill him as distinct from I sleep, I am good, I am killed, I go). The intransitive or static subjects may or may not be identical with the object of the transitive verb. [back]
    Note 27.  Ultimately, also historical—say, age to “act that (one).” [back]
    Note 28.  For with in the sense of “against,” compare German widen “against.” [back]
    Note 29.  Cf. Latin ire “to go”; also our English idiom “I have to go,” i.e., “must go.” [back]
    Note 30.  In Chinese no less than in English. [back]
    Note 31.  By “originally” I mean, of course, some time antedating the earliest period of the Indo-European languages that we can get at by comparative evidence. [back]
    Note 32.  Perhaps it was a noun-classifying element of some sort. [back]
    Note 33.  Compare its close historical parallel off. [back]
    Note 34.  “Ablative” at last analysis. [back]
    Note 35.  Very likely pitch should be understood along with stress. [back]
    Note 36.  As in Bantu or Chinook. [back]
    Note 37.  Perhaps better “general.” The Chinook “neuter” may refer to persons as well as things and may also be used as a plural. “Masculine” and “feminine,” as in German and French, include a great number of inanimate nouns. [back]
    Note 38.  Spoken in the greater part of the southern half of Africa. Chinook is spoken in a number of dialects in the lower Columbia River valley. It is impressive to observe how the human mind has arrived at the same form of expression in two such historically unconnected regions. [back]
    Note 39.  In Yana the noun and the verb are well distinct, though there are certain features that they hold in common which tend to draw them nearer to each other than we feel to be possible. But there are, strictly speaking, no other parts of speech. The adjective is a verb. So are the numeral, the interrogative pronoun (e.g., “to be what?”), and certain “conjunctions” and adverbs (e.g., “to be and” and “to be not”; one says “and-past-I go,” i.e., “and I went”). Adverbs and prepositions are either nouns or merely derivative affixes in the verb. [back]
     

    CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD ·  SUBJECT INDEX
      PREVIOUS NEXT  
     
    Loading
    Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

    Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
    © 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors