Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 61
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 61
 
are closely related in form and meaning (goose; sing, sung).
  Every language possesses one or more formal methods for indicating the relation of a secondary concept to the main concept of the radical element. Some of these grammatical processes, like suffixing, are exceedingly wide-spread; others, like vocalic change, are less common but far from rare; still others, like accent and consonantal change, are somewhat exceptional as functional processes. Not all languages are as irregular as English in the assignment of functions to its stock of grammatical processes. As a rule, such basic concepts as those of plurality and time are rendered by means of one or other method alone, but the rule has so many exceptions that we cannot safely lay it down as a principle. Wherever we go we are impressed by the fact that pattern is one thing, the utilization of pattern quite another. A few further examples of the multiple expression of identical functions in other languages than English may help to make still more vivid this idea of the relative independence of form and function.
  In Hebrew, as in other Semitic languages, the verbal idea as such is expressed by three, less often by two or four, characteristic consonants. Thus, the group sh-m-r expresses the idea of “guarding,” the group g-n-b that of “stealing,” n-t-n that of “giving.” Naturally these consonantal sequences are merely abstracted from the actual forms. The consonants are held together in different forms by characteristic vowels that vary according to the idea that it is desired to express. Prefixed and suffixed elements are also frequently used. The method of internal vocalic change is exemplified in shamar “he has guarded,” shomer “guarding,” shamur “being guarded,” shmor “(to) guard.” Analogously,

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