Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
The affixing languages would naturally subdivide themselves into such as are prevailingly prefixing, like Bantu or Tlingit, and such as are mainly or entirely suffixing, like Eskimo or Algonkin or Latin. There are two serious difficulties with this fourfold classification (isolating, prefixing, suffixing, symbolic). In the first place, most languages fall into more than one of these groups. The Semitic languages, for instance, are prefixing, suffixing, and symbolic at one and the same time. In the second place, the classification in its bare form is superficial. It would throw together languages that differ utterly in spirit merely because of a certain external formal resemblance. There is clearly a world of difference between a prefixing language like Cambodgian, which limits itself, so far as its prefixes (and infixes) are concerned, to the expression of derivational concepts, and the Bantu languages, in which the prefixed elements have a far-reaching significance as symbols of syntactic relations. The classification has much greater value if it is taken to refer to the expression of relational concepts9 alone. In this modified form we shall return to it as a subsidiary criterion. We shall find that the terms isolating, affixing, and symbolic have a real value. But instead of distinguishing between prefixing and suffixing languages, we shall find that it is of superior interest to make another distinction, one that is based on the relative firmness with
Note 9. Pure or concrete relational. See Chapter V. [back]