Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 56
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 56
 
of syllabifying are also responsible for noteworthy acoustic differences. Most important of all, perhaps, are the very different possibilities of combining the phonetic elements. Each language has its peculiarities. The ts combination, for instance, is found in both English and German, but in English it can only occur at the end of a word (as in hats), while it occurs freely in German as the psychological equivalent of a single sound (as in Zeit, Katze). Some languages allow of great heapings of consonants or of vocalic groups (diphthongs), in others no two consonants or no two vowels may ever come together. Frequently a sound occurs only in a special position or under special phonetic circumstances. In English, for instance, the z-sound of azure cannot occur initially, while the peculiar quality of the t of sting is dependent on its being preceded by the s. These dynamic factors, in their totality, are as important for the proper understanding of the phonetic genius of a language as the sound system itself, often far more so.
  We have already seen, in an incidental way, that phonetic elements or such dynamic features as quantity and stress have varying psychological “values.” The English ts of hats is merely a t followed by a functionally independent s, the ts of the German word Zeit has an integral value equivalent, say, to the t of the English word tide. Again, the t of time is indeed noticeably distinct from that of sting, but the difference, to the consciousness of an English-speaking person, is quite irrelevant. It has no “value.” If we compare the t-sounds of Haida, the Indian language spoken in the Queen Charlotte Islands, we find that precisely the same difference of articulation has a real value. In such a word as sting “two,” the t is pronounced precisely

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