Edward Sapir

Part 2 out of 5

sub-types of the process of internal modification. Possibly still other
formal types exist, but they are not likely to be of importance in a
general survey. It is important to bear in mind that a linguistic
phenomenon cannot be looked upon as illustrating a definite "process"
unless it has an inherent functional value. The consonantal change in
English, for instance, of _book-s_ and _bag-s_ (_s_ in the former, _z_
in the latter) is of no functional significance. It is a purely
external, mechanical change induced by the presence of a preceding
voiceless consonant, _k_, in the former case, of a voiced consonant,
_g_, in the latter. This mechanical alternation is objectively the same
as that between the noun _house_ and the verb _to house_. In the latter
case, however, it has an important grammatical function, that of
transforming a noun into a verb. The two alternations belong, then, to
entirely different psychological categories. Only the latter is a true
illustration of consonantal modification as a grammatical process.

The simplest, at least the most economical, method of conveying some
sort of grammatical notion is to juxtapose two or more words in a
definite sequence without making any attempt by inherent modification of
these words to establish a connection between them. Let us put down two
simple English words at random, say _sing praise_. This conveys no
finished thought in English, nor does it clearly establish a relation
between the idea of singing and that of praising. Nevertheless, it is
psychologically impossible to hear or see the two words juxtaposed
without straining to give them some measure of coherent significance.
The attempt is not likely to yield an entirely satisfactory result, but
what is significant is that as soon as two or more radical concepts are
put before the human mind in immediate sequence it strives to bind them
together with connecting values of some sort. In the case of _sing
praise_ different individuals are likely to arrive at different
provisional results. Some of the latent possibilities of the
juxtaposition, expressed in currently satisfying form, are: _sing praise
(to him)!_ or _singing praise, praise expressed in a song_ or _to sing
and praise_ or _one who sings a song of praise_ (compare such English
compounds as _killjoy_, i.e., _one who kills joy_) or _he sings a song
of praise (to him)_. The theoretical possibilities in the way of
rounding out these two concepts into a significant group of concepts or
even into a finished thought are indefinitely numerous. None of them
will quite work in English, but there are numerous languages where one
or other of these amplifying processes is habitual. It depends entirely
on the genius of the particular language what function is inherently
involved in a given sequence of words.

Some languages, like Latin, express practically all relations by means
of modifications within the body of the word itself. In these, sequence
is apt to be a rhetorical rather than a strictly grammatical principle.
Whether I say in Latin _hominem femina videt_ or _femina hominem videt_
or _hominem videt femina_ or _videt femina hominem_ makes little or no
difference beyond, possibly, a rhetorical or stylistic one. _The woman
sees the man_ is the identical significance of each of these sentences.
In Chinook, an Indian language of the Columbia River, one can be equally
free, for the relation between the verb and the two nouns is as
inherently fixed as in Latin. The difference between the two languages
is that, while Latin allows the nouns to establish their relation to
each other and to the verb, Chinook lays the formal burden entirely on
the verb, the full content of which is more or less adequately rendered
by _she-him-sees_. Eliminate the Latin case suffixes (_-a_ and _-em_)
and the Chinook pronominal prefixes (_she-him-_) and we cannot afford to
be so indifferent to our word order. We need to husband our resources.
In other words, word order takes on a real functional value. Latin and
Chinook are at one extreme. Such languages as Chinese, Siamese, and
Annamite, in which each and every word, if it is to function properly,
falls into its assigned place, are at the other extreme. But the
majority of languages fall between these two extremes. In English, for
instance, it may make little grammatical difference whether I say
_yesterday the man saw the dog_ or _the man saw the dog yesterday_, but
it is not a matter of indifference whether I say _yesterday the man saw
the dog_ or _yesterday the dog saw the man_ or whether I say _he is
here_ or _is he here?_ In the one case, of the latter group of examples,
the vital distinction of subject and object depends entirely on the
placing of certain words of the sentence, in the latter a slight
difference of sequence makes all the difference between statement and
question. It goes without saying that in these cases the English
principle of word order is as potent a means of expression as is the
Latin use of case suffixes or of an interrogative particle. There is
here no question of functional poverty, but of formal economy.

We have already seen something of the process of composition, the
uniting into a single word of two or more radical elements.
Psychologically this process is closely allied to that of word order in
so far as the relation between the elements is implied, not explicitly
stated. It differs from the mere juxtaposition of words in the sentence
in that the compounded elements are felt as constituting but parts of a
single word-organism. Such languages as Chinese and English, in which
the principle of rigid sequence is well developed, tend not infrequently
also to the development of compound words. It is but a step from such a
Chinese word sequence as _jin tak_ "man virtue," i.e., "the virtue of
men," to such more conventionalized and psychologically unified
juxtapositions as _t'ien tsz_ "heaven son," i.e., "emperor," or _shui
fu_ "water man," i.e., "water carrier." In the latter case we may as
well frankly write _shui-fu_ as a single word, the meaning of the
compound as a whole being as divergent from the precise etymological
values of its component elements as is that of our English word
_typewriter_ from the merely combined values of _type_ and _writer_. In
English the unity of the word _typewriter_ is further safeguarded by a
predominant accent on the first syllable and by the possibility of
adding such a suffixed element as the plural _-s_ to the whole word.
Chinese also unifies its compounds by means of stress. However, then, in
its ultimate origins the process of composition may go back to typical
sequences of words in the sentence, it is now, for the most part, a
specialized method of expressing relations. French has as rigid a word
order as English but does not possess anything like its power of
compounding words into more complex units. On the other hand, classical
Greek, in spite of its relative freedom in the placing of words, has a
very considerable bent for the formation of compound terms.

It is curious to observe how greatly languages differ in their ability
to make use of the process of composition. One would have thought on
general principles that so simple a device as gives us our _typewriter_
and _blackbird_ and hosts of other words would be an all but universal
grammatical process. Such is not the case. There are a great many
languages, like Eskimo and Nootka and, aside from paltry exceptions, the
Semitic languages, that cannot compound radical elements. What is even
stranger is the fact that many of these languages are not in the least
averse to complex word-formations, but may on the contrary effect a
synthesis that far surpasses the utmost that Greek and Sanskrit are
capable of. Such a Nootka word, for instance, as "when, as they say, he
had been absent for four days" might be expected to embody at least
three radical elements corresponding to the concepts of "absent,"
"four," and "day." As a matter of fact the Nootka word is utterly
incapable of composition in our sense. It is invariably built up out of
a single radical element and a greater or less number of suffixed
elements, some of which may have as concrete a significance as the
radical element itself. In, the particular case we have cited the
radical element conveys the idea of "four," the notions of "day" and
"absent" being expressed by suffixes that are as inseparable from the
radical nucleus of the word as is an English element like _-er_ from the
_sing_ or _hunt_ of such words as _singer_ and _hunter_. The tendency to
word synthesis is, then, by no means the same thing as the tendency to
compounding radical elements, though the latter is not infrequently a
ready means for the synthetic tendency to work with.

There is a bewildering variety of types of composition. These types
vary according to function, the nature of the compounded elements, and
order. In a great many languages composition is confined to what we may
call the delimiting function, that is, of the two or more compounded
elements one is given a more precisely qualified significance by the
others, which contribute nothing to the formal build of the sentence. In
English, for instance, such compounded elements as _red_ in _redcoat_ or
_over_ in _overlook_ merely modify the significance of the dominant
_coat_ or _look_ without in any way sharing, as such, in the predication
that is expressed by the sentence. Some languages, however, such as
Iroquois and Nahuatl,[28] employ the method of composition for much
heavier work than this. In Iroquois, for instance, the composition of a
noun, in its radical form, with a following verb is a typical method of
expressing case relations, particularly of the subject or object.
_I-meat-eat_ for instance, is the regular Iroquois method of expressing
the sentence _I am eating meat_. In other languages similar forms may
express local or instrumental or still other relations. Such English
forms as _killjoy_ and _marplot_ also illustrate the compounding of a
verb and a noun, but the resulting word has a strictly nominal, not a
verbal, function. We cannot say _he marplots_. Some languages allow the
composition of all or nearly all types of elements. Paiute, for
instance, may compound noun with noun, adjective with noun, verb with
noun to make a noun, noun with verb to make a verb, adverb with verb,
verb with verb. Yana, an Indian language of California, can freely
compound noun with noun and verb with noun, but not verb with verb.
On the other hand, Iroquois can compound only noun with verb, never
noun and noun as in English or verb and verb as in so many other
languages. Finally, each language has its characteristic types of order
of composition. In English the qualifying element regularly precedes; in
certain other languages it follows. Sometimes both types are used in the
same language, as in Yana, where "beef" is "bitter-venison" but
"deer-liver" is expressed by "liver-deer." The compounded object of a
verb precedes the verbal element in Paiute, Nahuatl, and Iroquois,
follows it in Yana, Tsimshian,[29] and the Algonkin languages.

[Footnote 28: The language of the Aztecs, still spoken in large parts of

[Footnote 29: Indian language of British Columbia closely related to the
Nass already cited.]

Of all grammatical processes affixing is incomparably the most
frequently employed. There are languages, like Chinese and Siamese, that
make no grammatical use of elements that do not at the same time possess
an independent value as radical elements, but such languages are
uncommon. Of the three types of affixing--the use of prefixes, suffixes,
and infixes--suffixing is much the commonest. Indeed, it is a fair guess
that suffixes do more of the formative work of language than all other
methods combined. It is worth noting that there are not a few affixing
languages that make absolutely no use of prefixed elements but possess a
complex apparatus of suffixes. Such are Turkish, Hottentot, Eskimo,
Nootka, and Yana. Some of these, like the three last mentioned, have
hundreds of suffixed elements, many of them of a concreteness of
significance that would demand expression in the vast majority of
languages by means of radical elements. The reverse case, the use of
prefixed elements to the complete exclusion of suffixes, is far less
common. A good example is Khmer (or Cambodgian), spoken in French
Cochin-China, though even here there are obscure traces of old suffixes
that have ceased to function as such and are now felt to form part of
the radical element.

A considerable majority of known languages are prefixing and suffixing
at one and the same time, but the relative importance of the two groups
of affixed elements naturally varies enormously. In some languages, such
as Latin and Russian, the suffixes alone relate the word to the rest of
the sentence, the prefixes being confined to the expression of such
ideas as delimit the concrete significance of the radical element
without influencing its bearing in the proposition. A Latin form like
_remittebantur_ "they were being sent back" may serve as an illustration
of this type of distribution of elements. The prefixed element _re-_
"back" merely qualifies to a certain extent the inherent significance of
the radical element _mitt-_ "send," while the suffixes _-eba-_, _-nt-_,
and _-ur_ convey the less concrete, more strictly formal, notions of
time, person, plurality, and passivity.

On the other hand, there are languages, like the Bantu group of Africa
or the Athabaskan languages[30] of North America, in which the
grammatically significant elements precede, those that follow the
radical element forming a relatively dispensable class. The Hupa word
_te-s-e-ya-te_ "I will go," for example, consists of a radical element
_-ya-_ "to go," three essential prefixes and a formally subsidiary
suffix. The element _te-_ indicates that the act takes place here and
there in space or continuously over space; practically, it has no
clear-cut significance apart from such verb stems as it is customary to
connect it with. The second prefixed element, _-s-_, is even less easy
to define. All we can say is that it is used in verb forms of "definite"
time and that it marks action as in progress rather than as beginning or
coming to an end. The third prefix, _-e-_, is a pronominal element, "I,"
which can be used only in "definite" tenses. It is highly important to
understand that the use of _-e-_ is conditional on that of _-s-_ or of
certain alternative prefixes and that _te-_ also is in practice linked
with _-s-_. The group _te-s-e-ya_ is a firmly knit grammatical unit. The
suffix _-te_, which indicates the future, is no more necessary to its
formal balance than is the prefixed _re-_ of the Latin word; it is not
an element that is capable of standing alone but its function is
materially delimiting rather than strictly formal.[31]

[Footnote 30: Including such languages as Navaho, Apache, Hupa, Carrier,
Chipewyan, Loucheux.]

[Footnote 31: This may seem surprising to an English reader. We
generally think of time as a function that is appropriately expressed in
a purely formal manner. This notion is due to the bias that Latin
grammar has given us. As a matter of fact the English future (_I shall
go_) is not expressed by affixing at all; moreover, it may be expressed
by the present, as in _to-morrow I leave this place_, where the temporal
function is inherent in the independent adverb. Though in lesser degree,
the Hupa _-te_ is as irrelevant to the vital word as is _to-morrow_ to
the grammatical "feel" of _I leave_.]

It is not always, however, that we can clearly set off the suffixes of a
language as a group against its prefixes. In probably the majority of
languages that use both types of affixes each group has both delimiting
and formal or relational functions. The most that we can say is that a
language tends to express similar functions in either the one or the
other manner. If a certain verb expresses a certain tense by suffixing,
the probability is strong that it expresses its other tenses in an
analogous fashion and that, indeed, all verbs have suffixed tense
elements. Similarly, we normally expect to find the pronominal elements,
so far as they are included in the verb at all, either consistently
prefixed or suffixed. But these rules are far from absolute. We have
already seen that Hebrew prefixes its pronominal elements in certain
cases, suffixes them in others. In Chimariko, an Indian language of
California, the position of the pronominal affixes depends on the verb;
they are prefixed for certain verbs, suffixed for others.

It will not be necessary to give many further examples of prefixing and
suffixing. One of each category will suffice to illustrate their
formative possibilities. The idea expressed in English by the sentence
_I came to give it to her_ is rendered in Chinook[32] by
_i-n-i-a-l-u-d-am_. This word--and it is a thoroughly unified word with
a clear-cut accent on the first _a_--consists of a radical element,
_-d-_ "to give," six functionally distinct, if phonetically frail,
prefixed elements, and a suffix. Of the prefixes, _i-_ indicates
recently past time; _n-_, the pronominal subject "I"; _-i-_, the
pronominal object "it";[33] _-a-_, the second pronominal object "her";
_-l-_, a prepositional element indicating that the preceding pronominal
prefix is to be understood as an indirect object (_-her-to-_, i.e., "to
her"); and _-u-_, an element that it is not easy to define
satisfactorily but which, on the whole, indicates movement away from the
speaker. The suffixed _-am_ modifies the verbal content in a local
sense; it adds to the notion conveyed by the radical element that of
"arriving" or "going (or coming) for that particular purpose." It is
obvious that in Chinook, as in Hupa, the greater part of the grammatical
machinery resides in the prefixes rather than in the suffixes.

[Footnote 32: Wishram dialect.]

[Footnote 33: Really "him," but Chinook, like Latin or French, possesses
grammatical gender. An object may be referred to as "he," "she," or
"it," according to the characteristic form of its noun.]

A reverse case, one in which the grammatically significant elements
cluster, as in Latin, at the end of the word is yielded by Fox, one of
the better known Algonkin languages of the Mississippi Valley. We may
take the form _eh-kiwi-n-a-m-oht-ati-wa-ch(i)_ "then they together kept
(him) in flight from them." The radical element here is _kiwi-_, a verb
stem indicating the general notion of "indefinite movement round about,
here and there." The prefixed element _eh-_ is hardly more than an
adverbial particle indicating temporal subordination; it may be
conveniently rendered as "then." Of the seven suffixes included in this
highly-wrought word, _-n-_ seems to be merely a phonetic element serving
to connect the verb stem with the following _-a-_;[34] _-a-_ is a
"secondary stem"[35] denoting the idea of "flight, to flee"; _-m-_
denotes causality with reference to an animate object;[36] _-o(ht)-_
indicates activity done for the subject (the so-called "middle" or
"medio-passive" voice of Greek); _-(a)ti-_ is a reciprocal element, "one
another"; _-wa-ch(i)_ is the third person animate plural (_-wa-_,
plural; _-chi_, more properly personal) of so-called "conjunctive"
forms. The word may be translated more literally (and yet only
approximately as to grammatical feeling) as "then they (animate) caused
some animate being to wander about in flight from one another of
themselves." Eskimo, Nootka, Yana, and other languages have similarly
complex arrays of suffixed elements, though the functions performed by
them and their principles of combination differ widely.

[Footnote 34: This analysis is doubtful. It is likely that _-n-_
possesses a function that still remains to be ascertained. The Algonkin
languages are unusually complex and present many unsolved problems of

[Footnote 35: "Secondary stems" are elements which are suffixes from a
formal point of view, never appearing without the support of a true
radical element, but whose function is as concrete, to all intents and
purposes, as that of the radical element itself. Secondary verb stems of
this type are characteristic of the Algonkin languages and of Yana.]

[Footnote 36: In the Algonkin languages all persons and things are
conceived of as either animate or inanimate, just as in Latin or German
they are conceived of as masculine, feminine, or neuter.]

We have reserved the very curious type of affixation known as "infixing"
for separate illustration. It is utterly unknown in English, unless we
consider the _-n-_ of _stand_ (contrast _stood_) as an infixed element.
The earlier Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Greek and Sanskrit,
made a fairly considerable use of infixed nasals to differentiate the
present tense of a certain class of verbs from other forms (contrast
Latin _vinc-o_ "I conquer" with _vic-i_ "I conquered"; Greek _lamb-an-o_
"I take" with _e-lab-on_ "I took"). There are, however, more striking
examples of the process, examples in which it has assumed a more clearly
defined function than in these Latin and Greek cases. It is particularly
prevalent in many languages of southeastern Asia and of the Malay
archipelago. Good examples from Khmer (Cambodgian) are _tmeu_ "one who
walks" and _daneu_ "walking" (verbal noun), both derived from _deu_ "to
walk." Further examples may be quoted from Bontoc Igorot, a Filipino
language. Thus, an infixed _-in-_ conveys the idea of the product of an
accomplished action, e.g., _kayu_ "wood," _kinayu_ "gathered wood."
Infixes are also freely used in the Bontoc Igorot verb. Thus, an infixed
_-um-_ is characteristic of many intransitive verbs with personal
pronominal suffixes, e.g., _sad-_ "to wait," _sumid-ak_ "I wait";
_kineg_ "silent," _kuminek-ak_ "I am silent." In other verbs it
indicates futurity, e.g., _tengao-_ "to celebrate a holiday,"
_tumengao-ak_ "I shall have a holiday." The past tense is frequently
indicated by an infixed _-in-_; if there is already an infixed _-um-_,
the two elements combine to _-in-m-_, e.g., _kinminek-ak_ "I am silent."
Obviously the infixing process has in this (and related) languages the
same vitality that is possessed by the commoner prefixes and suffixes
of other languages. The process is also found in a number of aboriginal
American languages. The Yana plural is sometimes formed by an infixed
element, e.g., _k'uruwi_ "medicine-men," _k'uwi_ "medicine-man"; in
Chinook an infixed _-l-_ is used in certain verbs to indicate repeated
activity, e.g., _ksik'ludelk_ "she keeps looking at him," _iksik'lutk_
"she looked at him" (radical element _-tk_). A peculiarly interesting
type of infixation is found in the Siouan languages, in which certain
verbs insert the pronominal elements into the very body of the radical
element, e.g., Sioux _cheti_ "to build a fire," _chewati_ "I build a
fire"; _shuta_ "to miss," _shuunta-pi_ "we miss."

A subsidiary but by no means unimportant grammatical process is that of
internal vocalic or consonantal change. In some languages, as in English
(_sing_, _sang_, _sung_, _song_; _goose_, _geese_), the former of these
has become one of the major methods of indicating fundamental changes of
grammatical function. At any rate, the process is alive enough to lead
our children into untrodden ways. We all know of the growing youngster
who speaks of having _brung_ something, on the analogy of such forms as
_sung_ and _flung_. In Hebrew, as we have seen, vocalic change is of
even greater significance than in English. What is true of Hebrew is of
course true of all other Semitic languages. A few examples of so-called
"broken" plurals from Arabic[37] will supplement the Hebrew verb forms
that I have given in another connection. The noun _balad_ "place" has
the plural form _bilad_;[38] _gild_ "hide" forms the plural _gulud_;
_ragil_ "man," the plural _rigal_; _shibbak_ "window," the plural
_shababik_. Very similar phenomena are illustrated by the Hamitic
languages of Northern Africa, e.g., Shilh[39] _izbil_ "hair," plural
_izbel_; _a-slem_ "fish," plural _i-slim-en_; _sn_ "to know," _sen_ "to
be knowing"; _rmi_ "to become tired," _rumni_ "to be tired"; _ttss_[40]
"to fall asleep," _ttoss_ "to sleep." Strikingly similar to English and
Greek alternations of the type _sing_--_sang_ and _leip-o_ "I leave,"
_leloip-a_ "I have left," are such Somali[41] cases as _al_ "I am," _il_
"I was"; _i-dah-a_ "I say," _i-di_ "I said," _deh_ "say!"

[Footnote 37: Egyptian dialect.]

[Footnote 38: There are changes of accent and vocalic quantity in these
forms as well, but the requirements of simplicity force us to neglect

[Footnote 39: A Berber language of Morocco.]

[Footnote 40: Some of the Berber languages allow consonantal
combinations that seem unpronounceable to us.]

[Footnote 41: One of the Hamitic languages of eastern Africa.]

Vocalic change is of great significance also in a number of American
Indian languages. In the Athabaskan group many verbs change the quality
or quantity of the vowel of the radical element as it changes its tense
or mode. The Navaho verb for "I put (grain) into a receptacle" is
_bi-hi-sh-ja_, in which _-ja_ is the radical element; the past tense,
_bi-hi-ja'_, has a long _a_-vowel, followed by the "glottal stop"[42];
the future is _bi-h-de-sh-ji_ with complete change of vowel. In other
types of Navaho verbs the vocalic changes follow different lines, e.g.,
_yah-a-ni-ye_ "you carry (a pack) into (a stable)"; past, _yah-i-ni-yin_
(with long _i_ in _-yin_; _-n_ is here used to indicate nasalization);
future, _yah-a-di-yehl_ (with long _e_). In another Indian language,
Yokuts[43], vocalic modifications affect both noun and verb forms. Thus,
_buchong_ "son" forms the plural _bochang-i_ (contrast the objective
_buchong-a_); _enash_ "grandfather," the plural _inash-a_; the verb
_engtyim_ "to sleep" forms the continuative _ingetym-ad_ "to be
sleeping" and the past _ingetym-ash_.

[Footnote 42: See page 49.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 42 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 1534.]

[Footnote 43: Spoken in the south-central part of California.]

Consonantal change as a functional process is probably far less common
than vocalic modifications, but it is not exactly rare. There is an
interesting group of cases in English, certain nouns and corresponding
verbs differing solely in that the final consonant is voiceless or
voiced. Examples are _wreath_ (with _th_ as in _think_), but _to
wreathe_ (with _th_ as in _then_); _house_, but _to house_ (with _s_
pronounced like _z_). That we have a distinct feeling for the
interchange as a means of distinguishing the noun from the verb is
indicated by the extension of the principle by many Americans to such a
noun as _rise_ (e.g., _the rise of democracy_)--pronounced like
_rice_--in contrast to the verb _to rise_ (_s_ like _z_).

In the Celtic languages the initial consonants undergo several types of
change according to the grammatical relation that subsists between the
word itself and the preceding word. Thus, in modern Irish, a word like
_bo_ "ox" may under the appropriate circumstances, take the forms _bho_
(pronounce _wo_) or _mo_ (e.g., _an bo_ "the ox," as a subject, but _tir
na mo_ "land of the oxen," as a possessive plural). In the verb the
principle has as one of its most striking consequences the "aspiration"
of initial consonants in the past tense. If a verb begins with _t_, say,
it changes the _t_ to _th_ (now pronounced _h_) in forms of the past; if
it begins with _g_, the consonant changes, in analogous forms, to _gh_
(pronounced like a voiced spirant[44] _g_ or like _y_, according to the
nature of the following vowel). In modern Irish the principle of
consonantal change, which began in the oldest period of the language as
a secondary consequence of certain phonetic conditions, has become one
of the primary grammatical processes of the language.

[Footnote 44: See page 50.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 44 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 1534.]

Perhaps as remarkable as these Irish phenomena are the consonantal
interchanges of Ful, an African language of the Soudan. Here we find
that all nouns belonging to the personal class form the plural by
changing their initial _g_, _j_, _d_, _b_, _k_, _ch_, and _p_ to _y_ (or
_w_), _y_, _r_, _w_, _h_, _s_ and _f_ respectively; e.g., _jim-o_
"companion," _yim-'be_ "companions"; _pio-o_ "beater," _fio-'be_
"beaters." Curiously enough, nouns that belong to the class of things
form their singular and plural in exactly reverse fashion, e.g.,
_yola-re_ "grass-grown place," _jola-je_ "grass-grown places";
_fitan-du_ "soul," _pital-i_ "souls." In Nootka, to refer to but one
other language in which the process is found, the _t_ or _tl_[45] of
many verbal suffixes becomes _hl_ in forms denoting repetition, e.g.,
_hita-'ato_ "to fall out," _hita-'ahl_ "to keep falling out";
_mat-achisht-utl_ "to fly on to the water," _mat-achisht-ohl_ "to keep
flying on to the water." Further, the _hl_ of certain elements changes
to a peculiar _h_-sound in plural forms, e.g., _yak-ohl_ "sore-faced,"
_yak-oh_ "sore-faced (people)."

[Footnote 45: These orthographies are but makeshifts for simple sounds.]

Nothing is more natural than the prevalence of reduplication, in other
words, the repetition of all or part of the radical element. The process
is generally employed, with self-evident symbolism, to indicate such
concepts as distribution, plurality, repetition, customary activity,
increase of size, added intensity, continuance. Even in English it is
not unknown, though it is not generally accounted one of the typical
formative devices of our language. Such words as _goody-goody_ and _to
pooh-pooh_ have become accepted as part of our normal vocabulary, but
the method of duplication may on occasion be used more freely than is
indicated by such stereotyped examples. Such locutions as _a big big
man_ or _Let it cool till it's thick thick_ are far more common,
especially in the speech of women and children, than our linguistic
text-books would lead one to suppose. In a class by themselves are the
really enormous number of words, many of them sound-imitative or
contemptuous in psychological tone, that consist of duplications with
either change of the vowel or change of the initial consonant--words of
the type _sing-song_, _riff-raff_, _wishy-washy_, _harum-skarum_,
_roly-poly_. Words of this type are all but universal. Such examples as
the Russian _Chudo-Yudo_ (a dragon), the Chinese _ping-pang_ "rattling
of rain on the roof,"[46] the Tibetan _kyang-kyong_ "lazy," and the
Manchu _porpon parpan_ "blear-eyed" are curiously reminiscent, both in
form and in psychology, of words nearer home. But it can hardly be said
that the duplicative process is of a distinctively grammatical
significance in English. We must turn to other languages for
illustration. Such cases as Hottentot _go-go_ "to look at carefully"
(from _go_ "to see"), Somali _fen-fen_ "to gnaw at on all sides" (from
_fen_ "to gnaw at"), Chinook _iwi iwi_ "to look about carefully, to
examine" (from _iwi_ "to appear"), or Tsimshian _am'am_ "several (are)
good" (from _am_ "good") do not depart from the natural and fundamental
range of significance of the process. A more abstract function is
illustrated in Ewe,[47] in which both infinitives and verbal adjectives
are formed from verbs by duplication; e.g., _yi_ "to go," _yiyi_ "to go,
act of going"; _wo_ "to do," _wowo_[48] "done"; _mawomawo_ "not to do"
(with both duplicated verb stem and duplicated negative particle).
Causative duplications are characteristic of Hottentot, e.g.,
_gam-gam_[49] "to cause to tell" (from _gam_ "to tell"). Or the process
may be used to derive verbs from nouns, as in Hottentot _khoe-khoe_ "to
talk Hottentot" (from _khoe-b_ "man, Hottentot"), or as in Kwakiutl
_metmat_ "to eat clams" (radical element _met-_ "clam").

[Footnote 46: Whence our _ping-pong_.]

[Footnote 47: An African language of the Guinea Coast.]

[Footnote 48: In the verbal adjective the tone of the second syllable
differs from that of the first.]

[Footnote 49: Initial "click" (see page 55, note 15) omitted.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 49 refers to Footnote 24, beginning on
line 1729.]

The most characteristic examples of reduplication are such as repeat
only part of the radical element. It would be possible to demonstrate
the existence of a vast number of formal types of such partial
duplication, according to whether the process makes use of one or more
of the radical consonants, preserves or weakens or alters the radical
vowel, or affects the beginning, the middle, or the end of the radical
element. The functions are even more exuberantly developed than with
simple duplication, though the basic notion, at least in origin, is
nearly always one of repetition or continuance. Examples illustrating
this fundamental function can be quoted from all parts of the globe.
Initially reduplicating are, for instance, Shilh _ggen_ "to be sleeping"
(from _gen_ "to sleep"); Ful _pepeu-'do_ "liar" (i.e., "one who always
lies"), plural _fefeu-'be_ (from _fewa_ "to lie"); Bontoc Igorot _anak_
"child," _ananak_ "children"; _kamu-ek_ "I hasten," _kakamu-ek_ "I
hasten more"; Tsimshian _gyad_ "person," _gyigyad_ "people"; Nass
_gyibayuk_ "to fly," _gyigyibayuk_ "one who is flying." Psychologically
comparable, but with the reduplication at the end, are Somali _ur_
"body," plural _urar_; Hausa _suna_ "name," plural _sunana-ki;_
Washo[50] _gusu_ "buffalo," _gususu_ "buffaloes"; Takelma[51] _himi-d-_
"to talk to," _himim-d-_ "to be accustomed to talk to." Even more
commonly than simple duplication, this partial duplication of the
radical element has taken on in many languages functions that seem in no
way related to the idea of increase. The best known examples are
probably the initial reduplication of our older Indo-European languages,
which helps to form the perfect tense of many verbs (e.g., Sanskrit
_dadarsha_ "I have seen," Greek _leloipa_ "I have left," Latin _tetigi_
"I have touched," Gothic _lelot_ "I have let"). In Nootka reduplication
of the radical element is often employed in association with certain
suffixes; e.g., _hluch-_ "woman" forms _hluhluch-'ituhl_ "to dream of a
woman," _hluhluch-k'ok_ "resembling a woman." Psychologically similar to
the Greek and Latin examples are many Takelma cases of verbs that
exhibit two forms of the stem, one employed in the present or past, the
other in the future and in certain modes and verbal derivatives. The
former has final reduplication, which is absent in the latter; e.g.,
_al-yebeb-i'n_ "I show (or showed) to him," _al-yeb-in_ "I shall show

[Footnote 50: An Indian language of Nevada.]

[Footnote 51: An Indian language of Oregon.]

We come now to the subtlest of all grammatical processes, variations in
accent, whether of stress or pitch. The chief difficulty in isolating
accent as a functional process is that it is so often combined with
alternations in vocalic quantity or quality or complicated by the
presence of affixed elements that its grammatical value appears as a
secondary rather than as a primary feature. In Greek, for instance, it
is characteristic of true verbal forms that they throw the accent back
as far as the general accentual rules will permit, while nouns may be
more freely accented. There is thus a striking accentual difference
between a verbal form like _eluthemen_ "we were released," accented on
the second syllable of the word, and its participial derivative
_lutheis_ "released," accented on the last. The presence of the
characteristic verbal elements _e-_ and _-men_ in the first case and of
the nominal _-s_ in the second tends to obscure the inherent value of
the accentual alternation. This value comes out very neatly in such
English doublets as _to refund_ and _a refund_, _to extract_ and _an
extract, to come down_ and _a come down_, _to lack luster_ and
_lack-luster eyes_, in which the difference between the verb and the
noun is entirely a matter of changing stress. In the Athabaskan
languages there are not infrequently significant alternations of accent,
as in Navaho _ta-di-gis_ "you wash yourself" (accented on the second
syllable), _ta-di-gis_ "he washes himself" (accented on the first).[52]

[Footnote 52: It is not unlikely, however, that these Athabaskan
alternations are primarily tonal in character.]

Pitch accent may be as functional as stress and is perhaps more often
so. The mere fact, however, that pitch variations are phonetically
essential to the language, as in Chinese (e.g., _feng_ "wind" with a
level tone, _feng_ "to serve" with a falling tone) or as in classical
Greek (e.g., _lab-on_ "having taken" with a simple or high tone on the
suffixed participial _-on_, _gunaik-on_ "of women" with a compound or
falling tone on the case suffix _-on_) does not necessarily constitute a
functional, or perhaps we had better say grammatical, use of pitch. In
such cases the pitch is merely inherent in the radical element or affix,
as any vowel or consonant might be. It is different with such Chinese
alternations as _chung_ (level) "middle" and _chung_ (falling) "to hit
the middle"; _mai_ (rising) "to buy" and _mai_ (falling) "to sell";
_pei_ (falling) "back" and _pei_ (level) "to carry on the back."
Examples of this type are not exactly common in Chinese and the language
cannot be said to possess at present a definite feeling for tonal
differences as symbolic of the distinction between noun and verb.

There are languages, however, in which such differences are of the most
fundamental grammatical importance. They are particularly common in the
Soudan. In Ewe, for instance, there are formed from _subo_ "to serve"
two reduplicated forms, an infinitive _subosubo_ "to serve," with a low
tone on the first two syllables and a high one on the last two, and an
adjectival _subosubo_ "serving," in which all the syllables have a high
tone. Even more striking are cases furnished by Shilluk, one of the
languages of the headwaters of the Nile. The plural of the noun often
differs in tone from the singular, e.g., _yit_ (high) "ear" but _yit_
(low) "ears." In the pronoun three forms may be distinguished by tone
alone; _e_ "he" has a high tone and is subjective, _-e_ "him" (e.g., _a
chwol-e_ "he called him") has a low tone and is objective, _-e_ "his"
(e.g., _wod-e_ "his house") has a middle tone and is possessive. From
the verbal element _gwed-_ "to write" are formed _gwed-o_ "(he) writes"
with a low tone, the passive _gwet_ "(it was) written" with a falling
tone, the imperative _gwet_ "write!" with a rising tone, and the verbal
noun _gwet_ "writing" with a middle tone. In aboriginal America also
pitch accent is known to occur as a grammatical process. A good example
of such a pitch language is Tlingit, spoken by the Indians of the
southern coast of Alaska. In this language many verbs vary the tone of
the radical element according to tense; _hun_ "to sell," _sin_ "to
hide," _tin_ "to see," and numerous other radical elements, if
low-toned, refer to past time, if high-toned, to the future. Another
type of function is illustrated by the Takelma forms _hel_ "song," with
falling pitch, but _hel_ "sing!" with a rising inflection; parallel to
these forms are _sel_ (falling) "black paint," _sel_ (rising) "paint
it!" All in all it is clear that pitch accent, like stress and vocalic
or consonantal modifications, is far less infrequently employed as a
grammatical process than our own habits of speech would prepare us to
believe probable.



We have seen that the single word expresses either a simple concept or a
combination of concepts so interrelated as to form a psychological
unity. We have, furthermore, briefly reviewed from a strictly formal
standpoint the main processes that are used by all known languages to
affect the fundamental concepts--those embodied in unanalyzable words or
in the radical elements of words--by the modifying or formative
influence of subsidiary concepts. In this chapter we shall look a little
more closely into the nature of the world of concepts, in so far as that
world is reflected and systematized in linguistic structure.

Let us begin with a simple sentence that involves various kinds of
concepts--_the farmer kills the duckling_. A rough and ready analysis
discloses here the presence of three distinct and fundamental concepts
that are brought into connection with each other in a number of ways.
These three concepts are "farmer" (the subject of discourse), "kill"
(defining the nature of the activity which the sentence informs us
about), and "duckling" (another subject[53] of discourse that takes an
important though somewhat passive part in this activity). We can
visualize the farmer and the duckling and we have also no difficulty in
constructing an image of the killing. In other words, the elements
_farmer_, _kill_, and _duckling_ define concepts of a concrete order.

[Footnote 53: Not in its technical sense.]

But a more careful linguistic analysis soon brings us to see that the
two subjects of discourse, however simply we may visualize them, are not
expressed quite as directly, as immediately, as we feel them. A "farmer"
is in one sense a perfectly unified concept, in another he is "one who
farms." The concept conveyed by the radical element (_farm-_) is not one
of personality at all but of an industrial activity (_to farm_), itself
based on the concept of a particular type of object (_a farm_).
Similarly, the concept of _duckling_ is at one remove from that which is
expressed by the radical element of the word, _duck_. This element,
which may occur as an independent word, refers to a whole class of
animals, big and little, while _duckling_ is limited in its application
to the young of that class. The word _farmer_ has an "agentive" suffix
_-er_ that performs the function of indicating the one that carries out
a given activity, in this case that of farming. It transforms the verb
_to farm_ into an agentive noun precisely as it transforms the verbs _to
sing_, _to paint_, _to teach_ into the corresponding agentive nouns
_singer_, _painter_, _teacher_. The element _-ling_ is not so freely
used, but its significance is obvious. It adds to the basic concept the
notion of smallness (as also in _gosling_, _fledgeling_) or the somewhat
related notion of "contemptible" (as in _weakling_, _princeling_,
_hireling_). The agentive _-er_ and the diminutive _-ling_ both convey
fairly concrete ideas (roughly those of "doer" and "little"), but the
concreteness is not stressed. They do not so much define distinct
concepts as mediate between concepts. The _-er_ of _farmer_ does not
quite say "one who (farms)" it merely indicates that the sort of person
we call a "farmer" is closely enough associated with activity on a farm
to be conventionally thought of as always so occupied. He may, as a
matter of fact, go to town and engage in any pursuit but farming, yet
his linguistic label remains "farmer." Language here betrays a certain
helplessness or, if one prefers, a stubborn tendency to look away from
the immediately suggested function, trusting to the imagination and to
usage to fill in the transitions of thought and the details of
application that distinguish one concrete concept (_to farm_) from
another "derived" one (_farmer_). It would be impossible for any
language to express every concrete idea by an independent word or
radical element. The concreteness of experience is infinite, the
resources of the richest language are strictly limited. It must perforce
throw countless concepts under the rubric of certain basic ones, using
other concrete or semi-concrete ideas as functional mediators. The ideas
expressed by these mediating elements--they may be independent words,
affixes, or modifications of the radical element--may be called
"derivational" or "qualifying." Some concrete concepts, such as _kill_,
are expressed radically; others, such as _farmer_ and _duckling_, are
expressed derivatively. Corresponding to these two modes of expression
we have two types of concepts and of linguistic elements, radical
(_farm_, _kill_, _duck_) and derivational (_-er_, _-ling_). When a word
(or unified group of words) contains a derivational element (or word)
the concrete significance of the radical element (_farm-_, _duck-_)
tends to fade from consciousness and to yield to a new concreteness
(_farmer_, _duckling_) that is synthetic in expression rather than in
thought. In our sentence the concepts of _farm_ and _duck_ are not
really involved at all; they are merely latent, for formal reasons, in
the linguistic expression.

Returning to this sentence, we feel that the analysis of _farmer_ and
_duckling_ are practically irrelevant to an understanding of its content
and entirely irrelevant to a feeling for the structure of the sentence
as a whole. From the standpoint of the sentence the derivational
elements _-er_ and _-ling_ are merely details in the local economy of
two of its terms (_farmer_, _duckling_) that it accepts as units of
expression. This indifference of the sentence as such to some part of
the analysis of its words is shown by the fact that if we substitute
such radical words as _man_ and _chick_ for _farmer_ and _duckling_, we
obtain a new material content, it is true, but not in the least a new
structural mold. We can go further and substitute another activity for
that of "killing," say "taking." The new sentence, _the man takes the
chick_, is totally different from the first sentence in what it conveys,
not in how it conveys it. We feel instinctively, without the slightest
attempt at conscious analysis, that the two sentences fit precisely the
same pattern, that they are really the same fundamental sentence,
differing only in their material trappings. In other words, they express
identical relational concepts in an identical manner. The manner is here
threefold--the use of an inherently relational word (_the_) in analogous
positions, the analogous sequence (subject; predicate, consisting of
verb and object) of the concrete terms of the sentence, and the use of
the suffixed element _-s_ in the verb.

Change any of these features of the sentence and it becomes modified,
slightly or seriously, in some purely relational, non-material regard.
If _the_ is omitted (_farmer kills duckling_, _man takes chick_), the
sentence becomes impossible; it falls into no recognized formal pattern
and the two subjects of discourse seem to hang incompletely in the void.
We feel that there is no relation established between either of them
and what is already in the minds of the speaker and his auditor. As soon
as a _the_ is put before the two nouns, we feel relieved. We know that
the farmer and duckling which the sentence tells us about are the same
farmer and duckling that we had been talking about or hearing about or
thinking about some time before. If I meet a man who is not looking at
and knows nothing about the farmer in question, I am likely to be stared
at for my pains if I announce to him that "the farmer [what farmer?]
kills the duckling [didn't know he had any, whoever he is]." If the fact
nevertheless seems interesting enough to communicate, I should be
compelled to speak of "_a farmer_ up my way" and of "_a duckling_ of
his." These little words, _the_ and _a_, have the important function of
establishing a definite or an indefinite reference.

If I omit the first _the_ and also leave out the suffixed _-s_, I obtain
an entirely new set of relations. _Farmer, kill the duckling_ implies
that I am now speaking to the farmer, not merely about him; further,
that he is not actually killing the bird, but is being ordered by me to
do so. The subjective relation of the first sentence has become a
vocative one, one of address, and the activity is conceived in terms of
command, not of statement. We conclude, therefore, that if the farmer is
to be merely talked about, the little _the_ must go back into its place
and the _-s_ must not be removed. The latter element clearly defines, or
rather helps to define, statement as contrasted with command. I find,
moreover, that if I wish to speak of several farmers, I cannot say _the
farmers kills the duckling_, but must say _the farmers kill the
duckling_. Evidently _-s_ involves the notion of singularity in the
subject. If the noun is singular, the verb must have a form to
correspond; if the noun is plural, the verb has another, corresponding
form.[54] Comparison with such forms as _I kill_ and _you kill_ shows,
moreover, that the _-s_ has exclusive reference to a person other than
the speaker or the one spoken to. We conclude, therefore, that it
connotes a personal relation as well as the notion of singularity. And
comparison with a sentence like _the farmer killed the duckling_
indicates that there is implied in this overburdened _-s_ a distinct
reference to present time. Statement as such and personal reference may
well be looked upon as inherently relational concepts. Number is
evidently felt by those who speak English as involving a necessary
relation, otherwise there would be no reason to express the concept
twice, in the noun and in the verb. Time also is clearly felt as a
relational concept; if it were not, we should be allowed to say _the
farmer killed-s_ to correspond to _the farmer kill-s_. Of the four
concepts inextricably interwoven in the _-s_ suffix, all are felt as
relational, two necessarily so. The distinction between a truly
relational concept and one that is so felt and treated, though it need
not be in the nature of things, will receive further attention in a

[Footnote 54: It is, of course, an "accident" that _-s_ denotes
plurality in the noun, singularity in the verb.]

Finally, I can radically disturb the relational cut of the sentence by
changing the order of its elements. If the positions of _farmer_ and
_kills_ are interchanged, the sentence reads _kills the farmer the
duckling_, which is most naturally interpreted as an unusual but not
unintelligible mode of asking the question, _does the farmer kill the
duckling?_ In this new sentence the act is not conceived as necessarily
taking place at all. It may or it may not be happening, the implication
being that the speaker wishes to know the truth of the matter and that
the person spoken to is expected to give him the information. The
interrogative sentence possesses an entirely different "modality" from
the declarative one and implies a markedly different attitude of the
speaker towards his companion. An even more striking change in personal
relations is effected if we interchange _the farmer_ and _the duckling_.
_The duckling kills the farmer_ involves precisely the same subjects of
discourse and the same type of activity as our first sentence, but the
roles of these subjects of discourse are now reversed. The duckling has
turned, like the proverbial worm, or, to put it in grammatical
terminology, what was "subject" is now "object," what was object is now

The following tabular statement analyzes the sentence from the point of
view of the concepts expressed in it and of the grammatical processes
employed for their expression.

1. First subject of discourse: _farmer_
2. Second subject of discourse: _duckling_
3. Activity: _kill_
---- analyzable into:
1. Verb: _(to) farm_
2. Noun: _duck_
3. Verb: _kill_
1. Agentive: expressed by suffix _-er_
2. Diminutive: expressed by suffix _-ling_
1. Definiteness of reference to first subject of discourse:
expressed by first _the_, which has preposed position
2. Definiteness of reference to second subject of discourse:
expressed by second _the_, which has preposed position
3. Declarative: expressed by sequence of "subject" plus verb; and
implied by suffixed _-s_
Personal relations:
4. Subjectivity of _farmer_: expressed by position of _farmer_
before kills; and by suffixed _-s_
5. Objectivity of _duckling_: expressed by position of _duckling_
after _kills_
6. Singularity of first subject of discourse: expressed by lack of
plural suffix in _farmer_; and by suffix _-s_ in following verb
7. Singularity of second subject of discourse: expressed by lack
of plural suffix in _duckling_
8. Present: expressed by lack of preterit suffix in verb; and by
suffixed _-s_

In this short sentence of five words there are expressed, therefore,
thirteen distinct concepts, of which three are radical and concrete, two
derivational, and eight relational. Perhaps the most striking result of
the analysis is a renewed realization of the curious lack of accord in
our language between function and form. The method of suffixing is used
both for derivational and for relational elements; independent words or
radical elements express both concrete ideas (objects, activities,
qualities) and relational ideas (articles like _the_ and _a_; words
defining case relations, like _of_, _to_, _for_, _with_, _by_; words
defining local relations, like _in_, _on_, _at_); the same relational
concept may be expressed more than once (thus, the singularity of
_farmer_ is both negatively expressed in the noun and positively in the
verb); and one element may convey a group of interwoven concepts rather
than one definite concept alone (thus the _-s_ of _kills_ embodies no
less than four logically independent relations).

Our analysis may seem a bit labored, but only because we are so
accustomed to our own well-worn grooves of expression that they have
come to be felt as inevitable. Yet destructive analysis of the familiar
is the only method of approach to an understanding of fundamentally
different modes of expression. When one has learned to feel what is
fortuitous or illogical or unbalanced in the structure of his own
language, he is already well on the way towards a sympathetic grasp of
the expression of the various classes of concepts in alien types of
speech. Not everything that is "outlandish" is intrinsically illogical
or far-fetched. It is often precisely the familiar that a wider
perspective reveals as the curiously exceptional. From a purely logical
standpoint it is obvious that there is no inherent reason why the
concepts expressed in our sentence should have been singled out,
treated, and grouped as they have been and not otherwise. The sentence
is the outgrowth of historical and of unreasoning psychological forces
rather than of a logical synthesis of elements that have been clearly
grasped in their individuality. This is the case, to a greater or less
degree, in all languages, though in the forms of many we find a more
coherent, a more consistent, reflection than in our English forms of
that unconscious analysis into individual concepts which is never
entirely absent from speech, however it may be complicated with or
overlaid by the more irrational factors.

A cursory examination of other languages, near and far, would soon show
that some or all of the thirteen concepts that our sentence happens to
embody may not only be expressed in different form but that they may be
differently grouped among themselves; that some among them may be
dispensed with; and that other concepts, not considered worth expressing
in English idiom, may be treated as absolutely indispensable to the
intelligible rendering of the proposition. First as to a different
method of handling such concepts as we have found expressed in the
English sentence. If we turn to German, we find that in the equivalent
sentence (_Der Bauer toetet das Entelein_) the definiteness of reference
expressed by the English _the_ is unavoidably coupled with three other
concepts--number (both _der_ and _das_ are explicitly singular), case
(_der_ is subjective; _das_ is subjective or objective, by elimination
therefore objective), and gender, a new concept of the relational order
that is not in this case explicitly involved in English (_der_ is
masculine, _das_ is neuter). Indeed, the chief burden of the expression
of case, gender, and number is in the German sentence borne by the
particles of reference rather than by the words that express the
concrete concepts (_Bauer_, _Entelein_) to which these relational
concepts ought logically to attach themselves. In the sphere of concrete
concepts too it is worth noting that the German splits up the idea of
"killing" into the basic concept of "dead" (_tot_) and the derivational
one of "causing to do (or be) so and so" (by the method of vocalic
change, _toet-_); the German _toet-et_ (analytically _tot-_+vowel
change+_-et_) "causes to be dead" is, approximately, the formal
equivalent of our _dead-en-s_, though the idiomatic application of this
latter word is different.[55]

[Footnote 55: "To cause to be dead" or "to cause to die" in the sense of
"to kill" is an exceedingly wide-spread usage. It is found, for
instance, also in Nootka and Sioux.]

Wandering still further afield, we may glance at the Yana method of
expression. Literally translated, the equivalent Yana sentence would
read something like "kill-s he farmer[56] he to duck-ling," in which
"he" and "to" are rather awkward English renderings of a general third
personal pronoun (_he_, _she_, _it_, or _they_) and an objective
particle which indicates that the following noun is connected with the
verb otherwise than as subject. The suffixed element in "kill-s"
corresponds to the English suffix with the important exceptions that it
makes no reference to the number of the subject and that the statement
is known to be true, that it is vouched for by the speaker. Number is
only indirectly expressed in the sentence in so far as there is no
specific verb suffix indicating plurality of the subject nor specific
plural elements in the two nouns. Had the statement been made on
another's authority, a totally different "tense-modal" suffix would have
had to be used. The pronouns of reference ("he") imply nothing by
themselves as to number, gender, or case. Gender, indeed, is completely
absent in Yana as a relational category.

[Footnote 56: Agriculture was not practised by the Yana. The verbal idea
of "to farm" would probably be expressed in some such synthetic manner
as "to dig-earth" or "to grow-cause." There are suffixed elements
corresponding to _-er_ and _-ling_.]

The Yana sentence has already illustrated the point that certain of our
supposedly essential concepts may be ignored; both the Yana and the
German sentence illustrate the further point that certain concepts may
need expression for which an English-speaking person, or rather the
English-speaking habit, finds no need whatever. One could go on and give
endless examples of such deviations from English form, but we shall have
to content ourselves with a few more indications. In the Chinese
sentence "Man kill duck," which may be looked upon as the practical
equivalent of "The man kills the duck," there is by no means present
for the Chinese consciousness that childish, halting, empty feeling
which we experience in the literal English translation. The three
concrete concepts--two objects and an action--are each directly
expressed by a monosyllabic word which is at the same time a radical
element; the two relational concepts--"subject" and "object"--are
expressed solely by the position of the concrete words before and after
the word of action. And that is all. Definiteness or indefiniteness of
reference, number, personality as an inherent aspect of the verb, tense,
not to speak of gender--all these are given no expression in the
Chinese sentence, which, for all that, is a perfectly adequate
communication--provided, of course, there is that context, that
background of mutual understanding that is essential to the complete
intelligibility of all speech. Nor does this qualification impair our
argument, for in the English sentence too we leave unexpressed a large
number of ideas which are either taken for granted or which have been
developed or are about to be developed in the course of the
conversation. Nothing has been said, for example, in the English,
German, Yana, or Chinese sentence as to the place relations of the
farmer, the duck, the speaker, and the listener. Are the farmer and the
duck both visible or is one or the other invisible from the point of
view of the speaker, and are both placed within the horizon of the
speaker, the listener, or of some indefinite point of reference "off
yonder"? In other words, to paraphrase awkwardly certain latent
"demonstrative" ideas, does this farmer (invisible to us but standing
behind a door not far away from me, you being seated yonder well out of
reach) kill that duckling (which belongs to you)? or does that farmer
(who lives in your neighborhood and whom we see over there) kill that
duckling (that belongs to him)? This type of demonstrative elaboration
is foreign to our way of thinking, but it would seem very natural,
indeed unavoidable, to a Kwakiutl Indian.

What, then, are the absolutely essential concepts in speech, the
concepts that must be expressed if language is to be a satisfactory
means of communication? Clearly we must have, first of all, a large
stock of basic or radical concepts, the concrete wherewithal of speech.
We must have objects, actions, qualities to talk about, and these must
have their corresponding symbols in independent words or in radical
elements. No proposition, however abstract its intent, is humanly
possible without a tying on at one or more points to the concrete world
of sense. In every intelligible proposition at least two of these
radical ideas must be expressed, though in exceptional cases one or even
both may be understood from the context. And, secondly, such relational
concepts must be expressed as moor the concrete concepts to each other
and construct a definite, fundamental form of proposition. In this
fundamental form there must be no doubt as to the nature of the
relations that obtain between the concrete concepts. We must know what
concrete concept is directly or indirectly related to what other, and
how. If we wish to talk of a thing and an action, we must know if they
are cooerdinately related to each other (e.g., "He is fond of _wine and
gambling_"); or if the thing is conceived of as the starting point, the
"doer" of the action, or, as it is customary to say, the "subject" of
which the action is predicated; or if, on the contrary, it is the end
point, the "object" of the action. If I wish to communicate an
intelligible idea about a farmer, a duckling, and the act of killing, it
is not enough to state the linguistic 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

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, German, Latin, Greek--indeed in all the languages that we have
most familiarity with--the idea of number is not merely appended to a
given concept of a thing. It may have something of this merely
qualifying value, but its force extends far beyond. It infects much else
in the sentence, molding other concepts, even such as have no
intelligible relation to number, into forms that are said to correspond
to or "agree with" the basic concept to which it is attached in the
first instance. If "a man falls" but "men fall" in English, it is not
because of any inherent change that has taken place in the nature of the
action or because the idea of plurality inherent in "men" must, in the
very nature of ideas, relate itself also to the action performed by
these men. What we are doing in these sentences is what most languages,
in greater or less degree and in a hundred varying ways, are in the
habit of doing--throwing a bold bridge between the two basically
distinct types of concept, the concrete and the abstractly relational,
infecting the latter, as it were, with the color and grossness of the
former. By a certain violence of metaphor the material concept is forced
to do duty for (or intertwine itself with) the strictly relational.

The case is even more obvious if we take gender as our text. In the two
English phrases, "The white woman that comes" and "The white men that
come," we are not reminded that gender, as well as number, may be
elevated into a secondary relational concept. It would seem a little
far-fetched to make of masculinity and femininity, crassly material,
philosophically accidental concepts that they are, a means of relating
quality and person, person and action, nor would it easily occur to us,
if we had not studied the classics, that it was anything but absurd to
inject into two such highly attenuated relational concepts as are
expressed by "the" and "that" the combined notions of number and sex.
Yet all this, and more, happens in Latin. _Illa alba femina quae venit_
and _illi albi homines qui veniunt_, conceptually translated, amount to
this: _that_-one-feminine-doer[57] one-feminine-_white_-doer
feminine-doing-one-_woman_ _which_-one-feminine-doer
other[58]-one-now-_come_; and: _that_-several-masculine-doer
several-masculine-_white_-doer masculine-doing-several-_man_
_which_-several-masculine-doer other-several-now-_come_. Each word
involves no less than four concepts, a radical concept (either properly
concrete--_white_, _man_, _woman_, _come_--or demonstrative--_that_,
_which_) and three relational concepts, selected from the categories of
case, number, gender, person, and tense. Logically, only case[59] (the
relation of _woman_ or _men_ to a following verb, of _which_ to its
antecedent, of _that_ and _white_ to _woman_ or _men_, and of _which_ to
_come_) imperatively demands expression, and that only in connection
with the concepts directly affected (there is, for instance, no need to
be informed that the whiteness is a doing or doer's whiteness[60]). The
other relational concepts are either merely parasitic (gender
throughout; number in the demonstrative, the adjective, the relative,
and the verb) or irrelevant to the essential syntactic form of the
sentence (number in the noun; person; tense). An intelligent and
sensitive Chinaman, accustomed as he is to cut to the very bone of
linguistic form, might well say of the Latin sentence, "How pedantically
imaginative!" It must be difficult for him, when first confronted by the
illogical complexities of our European languages, to feel at home in an
attitude that so largely confounds the subject-matter of speech with its
formal pattern or, to be more accurate, that turns certain fundamentally
concrete concepts to such attenuated relational uses.

[Footnote 57: "Doer," not "done to." This is a necessarily clumsy tag to
represent the "nominative" (subjective) in contrast to the "accusative"

[Footnote 58: I.e., not you or I.]

[Footnote 59: By "case" is here meant not only the subjective-objective
relation but also that of attribution.]

[Footnote 60: Except in so far as Latin uses this method as a rather
awkward, roundabout method of establishing the attribution of the color
to the particular object or person. In effect one cannot in Latin
directly say that a person is white, merely that what is white is
identical with the person who is, acts, or is acted upon in such and
such a manner. In origin the feel of the Latin _illa alba femina_ is
really "that-one, the-white-one, (namely) the-woman"--three substantive
ideas that are related to each other by a juxtaposition intended to
convey an identity. English and Chinese express the attribution directly
by means of order. In Latin the _illa_ and _alba_ may occupy almost any
position in the sentence. It is important to observe that the subjective
form of _illa_ and _alba_, does not truly define a relation of these
qualifying concepts to _femina_. Such a relation might be formally
expressed _via_ an attributive case, say the genitive (_woman of
whiteness_). In Tibetan both the methods of order and of true case
relation may be employed: _woman white_ (i.e., "white woman") or
_white-of woman_ (i.e., "woman of whiteness, woman who is white, white

I have exaggerated somewhat the concreteness of our subsidiary or rather
non-syntactical relational concepts In order that the essential facts
might come out in bold relief. It goes without saying that a Frenchman
has no clear sex notion in his mind when he speaks of _un arbre_
("a-masculine tree") or of _une pomme_ ("a-feminine apple"). Nor have
we, despite the grammarians, a very vivid sense of the present as
contrasted with all past and all future time when we say _He comes_.[61]
This is evident from our use of the present to indicate both future time
("He comes to-morrow") and general activity unspecified as to time
("Whenever he comes, I am glad to see him," where "comes" refers to past
occurrences and possible future ones rather than to present activity).
In both the French and English instances the primary ideas of sex and
time have become diluted by form-analogy and by extensions into the
relational sphere, the concepts ostensibly indicated being now so
vaguely delimited that it is rather the tyranny of usage than the need
of their concrete expression that sways us in the selection of this or
that form. If the thinning-out process continues long enough, we may
eventually be left with a system of forms on our hands from which all
the color of life has vanished and which merely persist by inertia,
duplicating each other's secondary, syntactic functions with endless
prodigality. Hence, in part, the complex conjugational systems of so
many languages, in which differences of form are attended by no
assignable differences of function. There must have been a time, for
instance, though it antedates our earliest documentary evidence, when
the type of tense formation represented by _drove_ or _sank_ differed in
meaning, in however slightly nuanced a degree, from the type (_killed_,
_worked_) which has now become established in English as the prevailing
preterit formation, very much as we recognize a valuable distinction at
present between both these types and the "perfect" (_has driven, has
killed_) but may have ceased to do so at some point in the future.[62]
Now form lives longer than its own conceptual content. Both are
ceaselessly changing, but, on the whole, the form tends to linger on
when the spirit has flown or changed its being. Irrational form, form
for form's sake--however we term this tendency to hold on to formal
distinctions once they have come to be--is as natural to the life of
language as is the retention of modes of conduct that have long outlived
the meaning they once had.

[Footnote 61: Aside, naturally, from the life and imminence that may be
created for such a sentence by a particular context.]

[Footnote 62: This has largely happened in popular French and German,
where the difference is stylistic rather than functional. The preterits
are more literary or formal in tone than the perfects.]

There is another powerful tendency which makes for a formal elaboration
that does not strictly correspond to clear-cut conceptual differences.
This is the tendency to construct schemes of classification into which
all the concepts of language must be fitted. Once we have made up our
minds that all things are either definitely good or bad or definitely
black or white, it is difficult to get into the frame of mind that
recognizes that any particular thing may be both good and bad (in other
words, indifferent) or both black and white (in other words, gray),
still more difficult to realize that the good-bad or black-white
categories may not apply at all. Language is in many respects as
unreasonable and stubborn about its classifications as is such a mind.
It must have its perfectly exclusive pigeon-holes and will tolerate no
flying vagrants. Any concept that asks for expression must submit to the
classificatory rules of the game, just as there are statistical surveys
in which even the most convinced atheist must perforce be labeled
Catholic, Protestant, or Jew or get no hearing. In English we have made
up our minds that all action must be conceived of in reference to three
standard times. If, therefore, we desire to state a proposition that is
as true to-morrow as it was yesterday, we have to pretend that the
present moment may be elongated fore and aft so as to take in all
eternity.[63] In French we know once for all that an object is masculine
or feminine, whether it be living or not; just as in many American and
East Asiatic languages it must be understood to belong to a certain
form-category (say, ring-round, ball-round, long and slender,
cylindrical, sheet-like, in mass like sugar) before it can be enumerated
(e.g., "two ball-class potatoes," "three sheet-class carpets") or even
said to "be" or "be handled in a definite way" (thus, in the Athabaskan
languages and in Yana, "to carry" or "throw" a pebble is quite another
thing than to carry or throw a log, linguistically no less than in terms
of muscular experience). Such instances might be multiplied at will. It
is almost as though at some period in the past the unconscious mind of
the race had made a hasty inventory of experience, committed itself to a
premature classification that allowed of no revision, and saddled the
inheritors of its language with a science that they no longer quite
believed in nor had the strength to overthrow. Dogma, rigidly prescribed
by tradition, stiffens into formalism. Linguistic categories make up a
system of surviving dogma--dogma of the unconscious. They are often but
half real as concepts; their life tends ever to languish away into form
for form's sake.

[Footnote 63: Hence, "the square root of 4 _is_ 2," precisely as "my
uncle _is_ here now." There are many "primitive" languages that are more
philosophical and distinguish between a true "present" and a "customary"
or "general" tense.]

There is still a third cause for the rise of this non-significant form,
or rather of non-significant differences of form. This is the mechanical
operation of phonetic processes, which may bring about formal
distinctions that have not and never had a corresponding functional
distinction. Much of the irregularity and general formal complexity of
our declensional and conjugational systems is due to this process. The
plural of _hat_ is _hats_, the plural of _self_ is _selves_. In the
former case we have a true _-s_ symbolizing plurality, in the latter a
_z_-sound coupled with a change in the radical element of the word of
_f_ to _v_. Here we have not a falling together of forms that
originally stood for fairly distinct concepts--as we saw was presumably
the case with such parallel forms as _drove_ and _worked_--but a merely
mechanical manifolding of the same formal element without a
corresponding growth of a new concept. This type of form development,
therefore, while of the greatest interest for the general history of
language, does not directly concern us now in our effort to understand
the nature of grammatical concepts and their tendency to degenerate into
purely formal counters.

We may now conveniently revise our first classification of concepts as
expressed in language and suggest the following scheme:

I. _Basic (Concrete) Concepts_ (such as objects, actions, qualities):
normally expressed by independent words or radical elements; involve
no relation as such[64]

II. _Derivational Concepts_ (less concrete, as a rule, than I, more so
than III): normally expressed by affixing non-radical elements to
radical elements or by inner modification of these; differ from type
I in defining ideas that are irrelevant to the proposition as a
whole but that give a radical element a particular increment of
significance and that are thus inherently related in a specific way
to concepts of type I[65]

III. _Concrete Relational Concepts_ (still more abstract, yet not
entirely devoid of a measure of concreteness): normally expressed by
affixing non-radical elements to radical elements, but generally at
a greater remove from these than is the case with elements of type
II, or by inner modification of radical elements; differ
fundamentally from type II in indicating or implying relations that
transcend the particular word to which they are immediately
attached, thus leading over to

IV. _Pure Relational Concepts_ (purely abstract): normally expressed by
affixing non-radical elements to radical elements (in which case
these concepts are frequently intertwined with those of type III) or
by their inner modification, by independent words, or by position;
serve to relate the concrete elements of the proposition to each
other, thus giving it definite syntactic form.

[Footnote 64: Except, of course, the fundamental selection and contrast
necessarily implied in defining one concept as against another. "Man"
and "white" possess an inherent relation to "woman" and "black," but it
is a relation of conceptual content only and is of no direct interest to

[Footnote 65: Thus, the _-er_ of _farmer_ may he defined as indicating
that particular substantive concept (object or thing) that serves as the
habitual subject of the particular verb to which it is affixed. This
relation of "subject" (_a farmer farms_) is inherent in and specific to
the word; it does not exist for the sentence as a whole. In the same way
the _-ling_ of _duckling_ defines a specific relation of attribution
that concerns only the radical element, not the sentence.]

The nature of these four classes of concepts as regards their
concreteness or their power to express syntactic relations may be thus
Material _/ I. Basic Concepts
Content \_ II. Derivational Concepts
Relation _/ III. Concrete Relational Concepts
\_ IV. Pure Relational Concepts

These schemes must not be worshipped as fetiches. In the actual work of
analysis difficult problems frequently arise and we may well be in doubt
as to how to group a given set of concepts. This is particularly apt to
be the case in exotic languages, where we may be quite sure of the
analysis of the words in a sentence and yet not succeed in acquiring
that inner "feel" of its structure that enables us to tell infallibly
what is "material content" and what is "relation." Concepts of class I
are essential to all speech, also concepts of class IV. Concepts II and
III are both common, but not essential; particularly group III, which
represents, in effect, a psychological and formal confusion of types II
and IV or of types I and IV, is an avoidable class of concepts.
Logically there is an impassable gulf between I and IV, but the
illogical, metaphorical genius of speech has wilfully spanned the gulf
and set up a continuous gamut of concepts and forms that leads
imperceptibly from the crudest of materialities ("house" or "John
Smith") to the most subtle of relations. It is particularly significant
that the unanalyzable independent word belongs in most cases to either
group I or group IV, rather less commonly to II or III. It is possible
for a concrete concept, represented by a simple word, to lose its
material significance entirely and pass over directly into the
relational sphere without at the same time losing its independence as a
word. This happens, for instance, in Chinese and Cambodgian when the
verb "give" is used in an abstract sense as a mere symbol of the
"indirect objective" relation (e.g., Cambodgian "We make story this give
all that person who have child," i.e., "We have made this story _for_
all those that have children").

There are, of course, also not a few instances of transitions between
groups I and II and I and III, as well as of the less radical one
between II and III. To the first of these transitions belongs that whole
class of examples in which the independent word, after passing through
the preliminary stage of functioning as the secondary or qualifying
element in a compound, ends up by being a derivational affix pure and
simple, yet without losing the memory of its former independence. Such
an element and concept is the _full_ of _teaspoonfull_, which hovers
psychologically between the status of an independent, radical concept
(compare _full_) or of a subsidiary element in a compound (cf.
_brim-full_) and that of a simple suffix (cf. _dutiful_) in which the
primary concreteness is no longer felt. In general, the more highly
synthetic our linguistic type, the more difficult and even arbitrary it
becomes to distinguish groups I and II.

Not only is there a gradual loss of the concrete as we pass through from
group I to group IV, there is also a constant fading away of the feeling
of sensible reality within the main groups of linguistic concepts
themselves. In many languages it becomes almost imperative, therefore,
to make various sub-classifications, to segregate, for instance, the
more concrete from the more abstract concepts of group II. Yet we must
always beware of reading into such abstracter groups that purely formal,
relational feeling that we can hardly help associating with certain of
the abstracter concepts which, with us, fall in group III, unless,
indeed, there is clear evidence to warrant such a reading in. An example
or two should make clear these all-important distinctions.[66] In Nootka
we have an unusually large number of derivational affixes (expressing
concepts of group II). Some of these are quite material in content
(e.g., "in the house," "to dream of"), others, like an element denoting
plurality and a diminutive affix, are far more abstract in content. The
former type are more closely welded with the radical element than the
latter, which can only be suffixed to formations that have the value of
complete words. If, therefore, I wish to say "the small fires in the
house"--and I can do this in one word--I must form the word
"fire-in-the-house," to which elements corresponding to "small," our
plural, and "the" are appended. The element indicating the definiteness
of reference that is implied in our "the" comes at the very end of the
word. So far, so good. "Fire-in-the-house-the" is an intelligible
correlate of our "the house-fire."[67] But is the Nootka correlate of
"the small fires in the house" the true equivalent of an English "_the
house-firelets_"?[68] By no means. First of all, the plural element
precedes the diminutive in Nootka: "fire-in-the-house-plural-small-the,"
in other words "the house-fires-let," which at once reveals the
important fact that the plural concept is not as abstractly, as
relationally, felt as in English. A more adequate rendering would be
"the house-fire-several-let," in which, however, "several" is too gross
a word, "-let" too choice an element ("small" again is too gross). In
truth we cannot carry over into English the inherent feeling of the
Nootka word, which seems to hover somewhere between "the house-firelets"
and "the house-fire-several-small." But what more than anything else
cuts off all possibility of comparison between the English _-s_ of
"house-firelets" and the "-several-small" of the Nootka word is this,
that in Nootka neither the plural nor the diminutive affix corresponds
or refers to anything else in the sentence. In English "the
house-firelets burn" (not "burns"), in Nootka neither verb, nor
adjective, nor anything else in the proposition is in the least
concerned with the plurality or the diminutiveness of the fire. Hence,
while Nootka recognizes a cleavage between concrete and less concrete
concepts within group II, the less concrete do not transcend the group
and lead us into that abstracter air into which our plural _-s_ carries
us. But at any rate, the reader may object, it is something that the
Nootka plural affix is set apart from the concreter group of affixes;
and may not the Nootka diminutive have a slenderer, a more elusive
content than our _-let_ or _-ling_ or the German _-chen_ or _-lein?_[69]

[Footnote 66: It is precisely the failure to feel the "value" or "tone,"
as distinct from the outer significance, of the concept expressed by a
given grammatical element that has so often led students to
misunderstand the nature of languages profoundly alien to their own. Not
everything that calls itself "tense" or "mode" or "number" or "gender"
or "person" is genuinely comparable to what we mean by these terms in
Latin or French.]

[Footnote 67: Suffixed articles occur also in Danish and Swedish and in
numerous other languages. The Nootka element for "in the house" differs
from our "house-" in that it is suffixed and cannot occur as an
independent word; nor is it related to the Nootka word for "house."]

[Footnote 68: Assuming the existence of a word "firelet."]

[Footnote 69: The Nootka diminutive is doubtless more of a
feeling-element, an element of nuance, than our _-ling_. This is shown
by the fact that it may be used with verbs as well as with nouns. In
speaking to a child, one is likely to add the diminutive to any word in
the sentence, regardless of whether there is an inherent diminutive
meaning in the word or not.]

Can such a concept as that of plurality ever be classified with the more
material concepts of group II? Indeed it can be. In Yana the third
person of the verb makes no formal distinction between singular and
plural. Nevertheless the plural concept can be, and nearly always is,
expressed by the suffixing of an element (_-ba-_) to the radical element
of the verb. "It burns in the east" is rendered by the verb _ya-hau-si_
"burn-east-s."[70] "They burn in the east" is _ya-ba-hau-si_. Note that
the plural affix immediately follows the radical element (_ya-_),
disconnecting it from the local element (_-hau-_). It needs no labored
argument to prove that the concept of plurality is here hardly less
concrete than that of location "in the east," and that the Yana form
corresponds in feeling not so much to our "They burn in the east"
(_ardunt oriente_) as to a "Burn-several-east-s, it plurally burns in
the east," an expression which we cannot adequately assimilate for lack
of the necessary form-grooves into which to run it.

[Footnote 70: _-si_ is the third person of the present tense. _-hau-_
"east" is an affix, not a compounded radical element.]

But can we go a step farther and dispose of the category of plurality as
an utterly material idea, one that would make of "books" a "plural
book," in which the "plural," like the "white" of "white book," falls
contentedly into group I? Our "many books" and "several books" are
obviously not cases in point. Even if we could say "many book" and
"several book" (as we can say "many a book" and "each book"), the plural
concept would still not emerge as clearly as it should for our argument;
"many" and "several" are contaminated by certain notions of quantity or
scale that are not essential to the idea of plurality itself. We must
turn to central and eastern Asia for the type of expression we are
seeking. In Tibetan, for instance, _nga-s mi mthong_[71] "I-by man see,
by me a man is seen, I see a man" may just as well be understood to mean
"I see men," if there happens to be no reason to emphasize the fact of
plurality.[72] If the fact is worth expressing, however, I can say
_nga-s mi rnams mthong_ "by me man plural see," where _rnams_ is the
perfect conceptual analogue of _-s_ in _books_, divested of all
relational strings. _Rnams_ follows its noun as would any other
attributive word--"man plural" (whether two or a million) like "man
white." No need to bother about his plurality any more than about his
whiteness unless we insist on the point.

[Footnote 71: These are classical, not modern colloquial, forms.]

[Footnote 72: Just as in English "He has written books" makes no
commitment on the score of quantity ("a few, several, many").]

What is true of the idea of plurality is naturally just as true of a
great many other concepts. They do not necessarily belong where we who
speak English are in the habit of putting them. They may be shifted
towards I or towards IV, the two poles of linguistic expression. Nor
dare we look down on the Nootka Indian and the Tibetan for their
material attitude towards a concept which to us is abstract and
relational, lest we invite the reproaches of the Frenchman who feels a
subtlety of relation in _femme blanche_ and _homme blanc_ that he misses
in the coarser-grained _white woman_ and _white man_. But the Bantu
Negro, were he a philosopher, might go further and find it strange that
we put in group II a category, the diminutive, which he strongly feels
to belong to group III and which he uses, along with a number of other
classificatory concepts,[73] to relate his subjects and objects,
attributes and predicates, as a Russian or a German handles his genders
and, if possible, with an even greater finesse.

[Footnote 73: Such as person class, animal class, instrument class,
augmentative class.]

It is because our conceptual scheme is a sliding scale rather than a
philosophical analysis of experience that we cannot say in advance just
where to put a given concept. We must dispense, in other words, with a
well-ordered classification of categories. What boots it to put tense
and mode here or number there when the next language one handles puts
tense a peg "lower down" (towards I), mode and number a peg "higher up"
(towards IV)? Nor is there much to be gained in a summary work of this
kind from a general inventory of the types of concepts generally found
in groups II, III, and IV. There are too many possibilities. It would be
interesting to show what are the most typical noun-forming and
verb-forming elements of group II; how variously nouns may be classified
(by gender; personal and non-personal; animate and inanimate; by form;
common and proper); how the concept of number is elaborated (singular
and plural; singular, dual, and plural; singular, dual, trial, and
plural; single, distributive, and collective); what tense distinctions
may be made in verb or noun (the "past," for instance, may be an
indefinite past, immediate, remote, mythical, completed, prior); how
delicately certain languages have developed the idea of "aspect"[74]
(momentaneous, durative, continuative, inceptive, cessative,
durative-inceptive, iterative, momentaneous-iterative,
durative-iterative, resultative, and still others); what modalities may
be recognized (indicative, imperative, potential, dubitative, optative,
negative, and a host of others[75]); what distinctions of person are
possible (is "we," for instance, conceived of as a plurality of "I" or
is it as distinct from "I" as either is from "you" or "he"?--both
attitudes are illustrated in language; moreover, does "we" include you
to whom I speak or not?--"inclusive" and "exclusive" forms); what may be
the general scheme of orientation, the so-called demonstrative
categories ("this" and "that" in an endless procession of nuances);[76]
how frequently the form expresses the source or nature of the speaker's
knowledge (known by actual experience, by hearsay,[77] by inference);
how the syntactic relations may be expressed in the noun (subjective and
objective; agentive, instrumental, and person affected;[78] various
types of "genitive" and indirect relations) and, correspondingly, in the
verb (active and passive; active and static; transitive and
intransitive; impersonal, reflexive, reciprocal, indefinite as to
object, and many other special limitations on the starting-point and
end-point of the flow of activity). These details, important as many of
them are to an understanding of the "inner form" of language, yield in
general significance to the more radical group-distinctions that we have
set up. It is enough for the general reader to feel that language
struggles towards two poles of linguistic expression--material content
and relation--and that these poles tend to be connected by a long series
of transitional concepts.

[Footnote 74: A term borrowed from Slavic grammar. It indicates the
lapse of action, its nature from the standpoint of continuity. Our "cry"
is indefinite as to aspect, "be crying" is durative, "cry put" is
momentaneous, "burst into tears" is inceptive, "keep crying" is
continuative, "start in crying" is durative-inceptive, "cry now and
again" is iterative, "cry out every now and then" or "cry in fits and
starts" is momentaneous-iterative. "To put on a coat" is momentaneous,
"to wear a coat" is resultative. As our examples show, aspect is
expressed in English by all kinds of idiomatic turns rather than by a
consistently worked out set of grammatical forms. In many languages
aspect is of far greater formal significance than tense, with which the
naive student is apt to confuse it.]

[Footnote 75: By "modalities" I do not mean the matter of fact
statement, say, of negation or uncertainty as such, rather their
implication in terms of form. There are languages, for instance, which
have as elaborate an apparatus of negative forms for the verb as Greek
has of the optative or wish-modality.]

[Footnote 76: Compare page 97.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 76 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 2948.]

[Footnote 77: It is because of this classification of experience that in
many languages the verb forms which are proper, say, to a mythical
narration differ from those commonly used in daily intercourse. We leave
these shades to the context or content ourselves with a more explicit
and roundabout mode of expression, e.g., "He is dead, as I happen to
know," "They say he is dead," "He must be dead by the looks of things."]

[Footnote 78: We say "_I_ sleep" and "_I_ go," as well as "_I_ kill
him," but "he kills _me_." Yet _me_ of the last example is at least as
close psychologically to _I_ of "I sleep" as is the latter to _I_ of "I
kill him." It is only by form that we can classify the "I" notion of "I
sleep" as that of an acting subject. Properly speaking, I am handled by
forces beyond my control when I sleep just as truly as when some one is
killing me. Numerous languages differentiate clearly between active
subject and static subject (_I go_ and _I kill him_ as distinct from _I
sleep_, _I am good_, _I am killed_) or between transitive subject and
intransitive subject (_I kill him_ as distinct from _I sleep_, _I am
good_, _I am killed_, _I go_). The intransitive or static subjects may
or may not be identical with the object of the transitive verb.]

In dealing with words and their varying forms we have had to anticipate
much that concerns the sentence as a whole. Every language has its
special method or methods of binding words into a larger unity. The
importance of these methods is apt to vary with the complexity of the
individual word. The more synthetic the language, in other words, the
more clearly the status of each word in the sentence is indicated by its
own resources, the less need is there for looking beyond the word to the
sentence as a whole. The Latin _agit_ "(he) acts" needs no outside help
to establish its place in a proposition. Whether I say _agit dominus_
"the master acts" or _sic femina agit_ "thus the woman acts," the net
result as to the syntactic feel of the _agit_ is practically the same.
It can only be a verb, the predicate of a proposition, and it can only
be conceived as a statement of activity carried out by a person (or
thing) other than you or me. It is not so with such a word as the
English _act_. _Act_ is a syntactic waif until we have defined its
status in a proposition--one thing in "they act abominably," quite
another in "that was a kindly act." The Latin sentence speaks with the
assurance of its individual members, the English word needs the
prompting of its fellows. Roughly speaking, to be sure. And yet to say
that a sufficiently elaborate word-structure compensates for external
syntactic methods is perilously close to begging the question. The
elements of the word are related to each other in a specific way and
follow each other in a rigorously determined sequence. This is
tantamount to saying that a word which consists of more than a radical
element is a crystallization of a sentence or of some portion of a
sentence, that a form like _agit_ is roughly the psychological[79]
equivalent of a form like _age is_ "act he." Breaking down, then, the
wall that separates word and sentence, we may ask: What, at last
analysis, are the fundamental methods of relating word to word and
element to element, in short, of passing from the isolated notions
symbolized by each word and by each element to the unified proposition
that corresponds to a thought?

[Footnote 79: Ultimately, also historical--say, _age to_ "act that

The answer is simple and is implied in the preceding remarks. The most
fundamental and the most powerful of all relating methods is the method
of order. Let us think of some more or less concrete idea, say a color,
and set down its symbol--_red_; of another concrete idea, say a person
or object, setting down its symbol--_dog_; finally, of a third concrete
idea, say an action, setting down its symbol--_run_. It is hardly
possible to set down these three symbols--_red dog run_--without
relating them in some way, for example _(the) red dog run(s)_. I am far
from wishing to state that the proposition has always grown up in this
analytic manner, merely that the very process of juxtaposing concept to
concept, symbol to symbol, forces some kind of relational "feeling," if
nothing else, upon us. To certain syntactic adhesions we are very
sensitive, for example, to the attributive relation of quality (_red
dog_) or the subjective relation (_dog run_) or the objective relation
(_kill dog_), to others we are more indifferent, for example, to the
attributive relation of circumstance (_to-day red dog run_ or _red dog
to-day run_ or _red dog run to-day_, all of which are equivalent
propositions or propositions in embryo). Words and elements, then, once
they are listed in a certain order, tend not only to establish some kind
of relation among themselves but are attracted to each other in greater
or in less degree. It is presumably this very greater or less that
ultimately leads to those firmly solidified groups of elements (radical
element or elements plus one or more grammatical elements) that we have
studied as complex words. They are in all likelihood nothing but
sequences that have shrunk together and away from other sequences or
isolated elements in the flow of speech. While they are fully alive, in
other words, while they are functional at every point, they can keep
themselves at a psychological distance from their neighbors. As they
gradually lose much of their life, they fall back into the embrace of
the sentence as a whole and the sequence of independent words regains
the importance it had in part transferred to the crystallized groups of
elements. Speech is thus constantly tightening and loosening its
sequences. In its highly integrated forms (Latin, Eskimo) the "energy"
of sequence is largely locked up in complex word formations, it becomes
transformed into a kind of potential energy that may not be released for
millennia. In its more analytic forms (Chinese, English) this energy is
mobile, ready to hand for such service as we demand of it.

There can be little doubt that stress has frequently played a
controlling influence in the formation of element-groups or complex
words out of certain sequences in the sentence. Such an English word as
_withstand_ is merely an old sequence _with stand_, i.e., "against[80]
stand," in which the unstressed adverb was permanently drawn to the
following verb and lost its independence as a significant element. In
the same way French futures of the type _irai_ "(I) shall go" are but
the resultants of a coalescence of originally independent words: _ir[81]
a'i_ "to-go I-have," under the influence of a unifying accent. But
stress has done more than articulate or unify sequences that in their
own right imply a syntactic relation. Stress is the most natural means
at our disposal to emphasize a linguistic contrast, to indicate the
major element in a sequence. Hence we need not be surprised to find that
accent too, no less than sequence, may serve as the unaided symbol of
certain relations. Such a contrast as that of _go' between_ ("one who
goes between") and _to go between'_ may be of quite secondary origin in
English, but there is every reason to believe that analogous
distinctions have prevailed at all times in linguistic history. A
sequence like _see' man_ might imply some type of relation in which
_see_ qualifies the following word, hence "a seeing man" or "a seen (or
visible) man," or is its predication, hence "the man sees" or "the man
is seen," while a sequence like _see man'_ might indicate that the
accented word in some way limits the application of the first, say as
direct object, hence "to see a man" or "(he) sees the man." Such
alternations of relation, as symbolized by varying stresses, are
important and frequent in a number of languages.[82]

[Footnote 80: For _with_ in the sense of "against," compare German
_wider_ "against."]

[Footnote 81: Cf. Latin _ire_ "to go"; also our English idiom "I have to
go," i.e., "must go."]

[Footnote 82: In Chinese no less than in English.]

It is a somewhat venturesome and yet not an altogether unreasonable
speculation that sees in word order and stress the primary methods for
the expression of all syntactic relations and looks upon the present
relational value of specific words and elements as but a secondary
condition due to a transfer of values. Thus, we may surmise that the
Latin _-m_ of words like _feminam_, _dominum_, and _civem_ did not
originally[83] denote that "woman," "master," and "citizen" were
objectively related to the verb of the proposition but indicated
something far more concrete,[84] that the objective relation was merely
implied by the position or accent of the word (radical element)
immediately preceding the _-m_, and that gradually, as its more concrete
significance faded away, it took over a syntactic function that did not
originally belong to it. This sort of evolution by transfer is traceable
in many instances. Thus, the _of_ in an English phrase like "the law of
the land" is now as colorless in content, as purely a relational
indicator as the "genitive" suffix _-is_ in the Latin _lex urbis_ "the
law of the city." We know, however, that it was originally an adverb of
considerable concreteness of meaning,[85] "away, moving from," and that
the syntactic relation was originally expressed by the case form[86] of
the second noun. As the case form lost its vitality, the adverb took
over its function. If we are actually justified in assuming that the
expression of all syntactic relations is ultimately traceable to these
two unavoidable, dynamic features of speech--sequence and stress[87]--an
interesting thesis results:--All of the actual content of speech, its
clusters of vocalic and consonantal sounds, is in origin limited to the
concrete; relations were originally not expressed in outward form but
were merely implied and articulated with the help of order and rhythm.
In other words, relations were intuitively felt and could only "leak
out" with the help of dynamic factors that themselves move on an
intuitional plane.

[Footnote 83: By "originally" I mean, of course, some time antedating
the earliest period of the Indo-European languages that we can get at by
comparative evidence.]

[Footnote 84: Perhaps it was a noun-classifying element of some sort.]

[Footnote 85: Compare its close historical parallel _off_.]

[Footnote 86: "Ablative" at last analysis.]

[Footnote 87: Very likely pitch should be understood along with stress.]

There is a special method for the expression of relations that has been
so often evolved in the history of language that we must glance at it
for a moment. This is the method of "concord" or of like signaling. It
is based on the same principle as the password or label. All persons or
objects that answer to the same counter-sign or that bear the same
imprint are thereby stamped as somehow related. It makes little
difference, once they are so stamped, where they are to be found or how
they behave themselves. They are known to belong together. We are
familiar with the principle of concord in Latin and Greek. Many of us
have been struck by such relentless rhymes as _vidi ilium bonum dominum_
"I saw that good master" or _quarum dearum saevarum_ "of which stern
goddesses." Not that sound-echo, whether in the form of rhyme or of
alliteration[88] is necessary to concord, though in its most typical and
original forms concord is nearly always accompanied by sound repetition.
The essence of the principle is simply this, that words (elements) that
belong together, particularly if they are syntactic equivalents or are
related in like fashion to another word or element, are outwardly marked
by the same or functionally equivalent affixes. The application of the
principle varies considerably according to the genius of the particular
language. In Latin and Greek, for instance, there is concord between
noun and qualifying word (adjective or demonstrative) as regards gender,
number, and case, between verb and subject only as regards number, and
no concord between verb and object.

[Footnote 88: As in Bantu or Chinook.]

In Chinook there is a more far-reaching concord between noun, whether
subject or object, and verb. Every noun is classified according to five
categories--masculine, feminine, neuter,[89] dual, and plural. "Woman"
is feminine, "sand" is neuter, "table" is masculine. If, therefore, I
wish to say "The woman put the sand on the table," I must place in the
verb certain class or gender prefixes that accord with corresponding
noun prefixes. The sentence reads then, "The (fem.)-woman she (fem.)-it
(neut.)-it (masc.)-on-put the (neut.)-sand the (masc.)-table." If "sand"
is qualified as "much" and "table" as "large," these new ideas are
expressed as abstract nouns, each with its inherent class-prefix ("much"
is neuter or feminine, "large" is masculine) and with a possessive
prefix referring to the qualified noun. Adjective thus calls to noun,
noun to verb. "The woman put much sand on the large table," therefore,
takes the form: "The (fem.)-woman she (fem.)-it (neut.)-it
(masc.)-on-put the (fem.)-thereof (neut.)-quantity the (neut.)-sand the
(masc.)-thereof (masc.)-largeness the (masc.)-table." The classification
of "table" as masculine is thus three times insisted on--in the noun, in
the adjective, and in the verb. In the Bantu languages,[90] the
principle of concord works very much as in Chinook. In them also nouns
are classified into a number of categories and are brought into relation
with adjectives, demonstratives, relative pronouns, and verbs by means
of prefixed elements that call off the class and make up a complex
system of concordances. In such a sentence as "That fierce lion who came
here is dead," the class of "lion," which we may call the animal class,
would be referred to by concording prefixes no less than six
times,--with the demonstrative ("that"), the qualifying adjective, the
noun itself, the relative pronoun, the subjective prefix to the verb of
the relative clause, and the subjective prefix to the verb of the main
clause ("is dead"). We recognize in this insistence on external clarity
of reference the same spirit as moves in the more familiar _illum bonum

[Footnote 89: Perhaps better "general." The Chinook "neuter" may refer
to persons as well as things and may also be used as a plural.
"Masculine" and "feminine," as in German and French, include a great
number of inanimate nouns.]

[Footnote 90: Spoken in the greater part of the southern half of Africa.
Chinook is spoken in a number of dialects in the lower Columbia River
valley. It is impressive to observe how the human mind has arrived at
the same form of expression in two such historically unconnected

Psychologically the methods of sequence and accent lie at the opposite
pole to that of concord. Where they are all for implication, for
subtlety of feeling, concord is impatient of the least ambiguity but
must have its well-certificated tags at every turn. Concord tends to
dispense with order. In Latin and Chinook the independent words are free
in position, less so in Bantu. In both Chinook and Bantu, however, the
methods of concord and order are equally important for the
differentiation of subject and object, as the classifying verb prefixes
refer to subject, object, or indirect object according to the relative
position they occupy. These examples again bring home to us the
significant fact that at some point or other order asserts itself in
every language as the most fundamental of relating principles.

The observant reader has probably been surprised that all this time we
have had so little to say of the time-honored "parts of speech." The
reason for this is not far to seek. Our conventional classification of
words into parts of speech is only a vague, wavering approximation to a
consistently worked out inventory of experience. We imagine, to begin
with, that all "verbs" are inherently concerned with action as such,
that a "noun" is the name of some definite object or personality that
can be pictured by the mind, that all qualities are necessarily
expressed by a definite group of words to which we may appropriately
apply the term "adjective." As soon as we test our vocabulary, we
discover that the parts of speech are far from corresponding to so
simple an analysis of reality. We say "it is red" and define "red" as a
quality-word or adjective. We should consider it strange to think of an
equivalent of "is red" in which the whole predication (adjective and
verb of being) is conceived of as a verb in precisely the same way in
which we think of "extends" or "lies" or "sleeps" as a verb. Yet as soon
as we give the "durative" notion of being red an inceptive or
transitional turn, we can avoid the parallel form "it becomes red, it
turns red" and say "it reddens." No one denies that "reddens" is as good
a verb as "sleeps" or even "walks." Yet "it is red" is related to "it
reddens" very much as is "he stands" to "he stands up" or "he rises." It
is merely a matter of English or of general Indo-European idiom that we
cannot say "it reds" in the sense of "it is red." There are hundreds of
languages that can. Indeed there are many that can express what we
should call an adjective only by making a participle out of a verb.
"Red" in such languages is merely a derivative "being red," as our
"sleeping" or "walking" are derivatives of primary verbs.

Just as we can verbify the idea of a quality in such cases as "reddens,"
so we can represent a quality or an action to ourselves as a thing. We
speak of "the height of a building" or "the fall of an apple" quite as
though these ideas were parallel to "the roof of a building" or "the
skin of an apple," forgetting that the nouns (_height_, _fall_) have not
ceased to indicate a quality and an act when we have made them speak
with the accent of mere objects. And just as there are languages that
make verbs of the great mass of adjectives, so there are others that
make nouns of them. In Chinook, as we have seen, "the big table" is
"the-table its-bigness"; in Tibetan the same idea may be expressed by
"the table of bigness," very much as we may say "a man of wealth"
instead of "a rich man."

But are there not certain ideas that it is impossible to render except
by way of such and such parts of speech? What can be done with the "to"
of "he came to the house"? Well, we can say "he reached the house" and
dodge the preposition altogether, giving the verb a nuance that absorbs
the idea of local relation carried by the "to." But let us insist on
giving independence to this idea of local relation. Must we not then
hold to the preposition? No, we can make a noun of it. We can say
something like "he reached the proximity of the house" or "he reached
the house-locality." Instead of saying "he looked into the glass" we may
say "he scrutinized the glass-interior." Such expressions are stilted in
English because they do not easily fit into our formal grooves, but in
language after language we find that local relations are expressed in
just this way. The local relation is nominalized. And so we might go on
examining the various parts of speech and showing how they not merely
grade into each other but are to an astonishing degree actually
convertible into each other. The upshot of such an examination would be
to feel convinced that the "part of speech" reflects not so much our
intuitive analysis of reality as our ability to compose that reality
into a variety of formal patterns. A part of speech outside of the
limitations of syntactic form is but a will o' the wisp. For this reason
no logical scheme of the parts of speech--their number, nature, and
necessary confines--is of the slightest interest to the linguist. Each
language has its own scheme. Everything depends on the formal
demarcations which it recognizes.

Yet we must not be too destructive. It is well to remember that speech
consists of a series of propositions. There must be something to talk
about and something must be said about this subject of discourse once it
is selected. This distinction is of such fundamental importance that the
vast majority of languages have emphasized it by creating some sort of
formal barrier between the two terms of the proposition. The subject of
discourse is a noun. As the most common subject of discourse is either a
person or a thing, the noun clusters about concrete concepts of that
order. As the thing predicated of a subject is generally an activity in
the widest sense of the word, a passage from one moment of existence to
another, the form which has been set aside for the business of
predicating, in other words, the verb, clusters about concepts of
activity. No language wholly fails to distinguish noun and verb, though
in particular cases the nature of the distinction may be an elusive one.
It is different with the other parts of speech. Not one of them is
imperatively required for the life of language.[91]

[Footnote 91: In Yana the noun and the verb are well distinct, though
there are certain features that they hold in common which tend to draw
them nearer to each other than we feel to be possible. But there are,
strictly speaking, no other parts of speech. The adjective is a verb. So
are the numeral, the interrogative pronoun (e.g., "to be what?"), and
certain "conjunctions" and adverbs (e.g., "to be and" and "to be not";
one says "and-past-I go," i.e., "and I went"). Adverbs and prepositions
are either nouns or merely derivative affixes in the verb.]



So far, in dealing with linguistic form, we have been concerned only
with single words and with the relations of words in sentences. We have
not envisaged whole languages as conforming to this or that general
type. Incidentally we have observed that one language runs to tight-knit
synthesis where another contents itself with a more analytic, piece-meal
handling of its elements, or that in one language syntactic relations
appear pure which in another are combined with certain other notions
that have something concrete about them, however abstract they may be
felt to be in practice. In this way we may have obtained some inkling of
what is meant when we speak of the general form of a language. For it
must be obvious to any one who has thought about the question at all or
who has felt something of the spirit of a foreign language that there is
such a thing as a basic plan, a certain cut, to each language. This type
or plan or structural "genius" of the language is something much more
fundamental, much more pervasive, than any single feature of it that we
can mention, nor can we gain an adequate idea of its nature by a mere
recital of the sundry facts that make up the grammar of the language.
When we pass from Latin to Russian, we feel that it is approximately the
same horizon that bounds our view, even though the near, familiar
landmarks have changed. When we come to English, we seem to notice that
the hills have dipped down a little, yet we recognize the general lay
of the land. And when we have arrived at Chinese, it is an utterly
different sky that is looking down upon us. We can translate these
metaphors and say that all languages differ from one another but that
certain ones differ far more than others. This is tantamount to saying
that it is possible to group them into morphological types.

Strictly speaking, we know in advance that it is impossible to set up a
limited number of types that would do full justice to the peculiarities
of the thousands of languages and dialects spoken on the surface of the
earth. Like all human institutions, speech is too variable and too
elusive to be quite safely ticketed. Even if we operate with a minutely
subdivided scale of types, we may be quite certain that many of our
languages will need trimming before they fit. To get them into the
scheme at all it will be necessary to overestimate the significance of
this or that feature or to ignore, for the time being, certain
contradictions in their mechanism. Does the difficulty of classification
prove the uselessness of the task? I do not think so. It would be too
easy to relieve ourselves of the burden of constructive thinking and to
take the standpoint that each language has its unique history, therefore
its unique structure. Such a standpoint expresses only a half truth.
Just as similar social, economic, and religious institutions have grown
up in different parts of the world from distinct historical antecedents,
so also languages, traveling along different roads, have tended to
converge toward similar forms. Moreover, the historical study of
language has proven to us beyond all doubt that a language changes not
only gradually but consistently, that it moves unconsciously from one
type towards another, and that analogous trends are observable in
remote quarters of the globe. From this it follows that broadly similar
morphologies must have been reached by unrelated languages,
independently and frequently. In assuming the existence of comparable
types, therefore, we are not gainsaying the individuality of all
historical processes; we are merely affirming that back of the face of
history are powerful drifts that move language, like other social
products, to balanced patterns, in other words, to types. As linguists
we shall be content to realize that there are these types and that
certain processes in the life of language tend to modify them. Why
similar types should be formed, just what is the nature of the forces
that make them and dissolve them--these questions are more easily asked
than answered. Perhaps the psychologists of the future will be able to
give us the ultimate reasons for the formation of linguistic types.

When it comes to the actual task of classification, we find that we have
no easy road to travel. Various classifications have been suggested, and
they all contain elements of value. Yet none proves satisfactory. They
do not so much enfold the known languages in their embrace as force them
down into narrow, straight-backed seats. The difficulties have been of
various kinds. First and foremost, it has been difficult to choose a
point of view. On what basis shall we classify? A language shows us so
many facets that we may well be puzzled. And is one point of view
sufficient? Secondly, it is dangerous to generalize from a small number
of selected languages. To take, as the sum total of our material, Latin,
Arabic, Turkish, Chinese, and perhaps Eskimo or Sioux as an
afterthought, is to court disaster. We have no right to assume that a
sprinkling of exotic types will do to supplement the few languages
nearer home that we are more immediately interested in. Thirdly, the
strong craving for a simple formula[92] has been the undoing of
linguists. There is something irresistible about a method of
classification that starts with two poles, exemplified, say, by Chinese
and Latin, clusters what it conveniently can about these poles, and
throws everything else into a "transitional type." Hence has arisen the
still popular classification of languages into an "isolating" group, an
"agglutinative" group, and an "inflective" group. Sometimes the
languages of the American Indians are made to straggle along as an
uncomfortable "polysynthetic" rear-guard to the agglutinative languages.
There is justification for the use of all of these terms, though not
perhaps in quite the spirit in which they are commonly employed. In any
case it is very difficult to assign all known languages to one or other
of these groups, the more so as they are not mutually exclusive. A
language may be both agglutinative and inflective, or inflective and
polysynthetic, or even polysynthetic and isolating, as we shall see a
little later on.

[Footnote 92: If possible, a triune formula.]

There is a fourth reason why the classification of languages has
generally proved a fruitless undertaking. It is probably the most
powerful deterrent of all to clear thinking. This is the evolutionary
prejudice which instilled itself into the social sciences towards the
middle of the last century and which is only now beginning to abate its


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