Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 99
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 99
 
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.
  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,

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