Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
words of numerous other languages.3 Such a radical-word, to take a random example, is the Nootka4 word hamot bone. Our English correspondent is only superficially comparable. Hamot means bone in a quite indefinite sense; to our English word clings the notion of singularity. The Nootka Indian can convey the idea of plurality, in one of several ways, if he so desires, but he does not need to; hamot may do for either singular or plural, should no interest happen to attach to the distinction. As soon as we say bone (aside from its secondary usage to indicate material), we not merely specify the nature of the object but we imply, whether we will or no, that there is but one of these objects to be considered. And this increment of value makes all the difference.
We now know of four distinct formal types of word: A (Nootka hamot); A + (0) (sing,bone); A + (b) (singing); (A) + (b) (Latin hortus). There is but one other type that is fundamentally possible: A + B, the union of two (or more) independently occurring radical elements into a single term. Such a word is the compound fire-engine or a Sioux form equivalent to eat-stand (i. e., to eat while standing). It frequently happens, however, that one of the radical elements becomes functionally so subordinated to the other that it takes on the character of a grammatical element. We may symbolize this by A + b, a type that may gradually, by loss of external connection between the subordinated element b and its independent counterpart B merge with the commoner type A + (b). A word like beautiful
Note 3. It is not a question of the general isolating character of such languages as Chinese (see Chapter VI). Radical-words may and do occur in languages of all varieties, many of them of a high degree of complexity. [back]
Note 4. Spoken by a group of Indian tribes in Vancouver Island. [back]