Edward Sapir

Part 4 out of 5

unrounded, were indistinguishable from the mass of long _i_-vowels. This
meant that the long _i_-vowel became a more heavily weighted point of
the phonetic pattern than before. It is curious to observe how often
languages have striven to drive originally distinct sounds into certain
favorite positions, regardless of resulting confusions.[160] In Modern
Greek, for instance, the vowel _i_ is the historical resultant of no
less than ten etymologically distinct vowels (long and short) and
diphthongs of the classical speech of Athens. There is, then, good
evidence to show that there are general phonetic drifts toward
particular sounds.

[Footnote 159: In practice phonetic laws have their exceptions, but more
intensive study almost invariably shows that these exceptions are more
apparent than real. They are generally due to the disturbing influence
of morphological groupings or to special psychological reasons which
inhibit the normal progress of the phonetic drift. It is remarkable with
how few exceptions one need operate in linguistic history, aside from
"analogical leveling" (morphological replacement).]

[Footnote 160: These confusions are more theoretical than real, however.
A language has countless methods of avoiding practical ambiguities.]

More often the phonetic drift is of a more general character. It is not
so much a movement toward a particular set of sounds as toward
particular types of articulation. The vowels tend to become higher or
lower, the diphthongs tend to coalesce into monophthongs, the voiceless
consonants tend to become voiced, stops tend to become spirants. As a
matter of fact, practically all the phonetic laws enumerated in the two
tables are but specific instances of such far-reaching phonetic drifts.
The raising of English long _o_ to _u_ and of long _e_ to _i_, for
instance, was part of a general tendency to raise the position of the
long vowels, just as the change of _t_ to _ss_ in Old High German was
part of a general tendency to make voiceless spirants of the old
voiceless stopped consonants. A single sound change, even if there is no
phonetic leveling, generally threatens to upset the old phonetic pattern
because it brings about a disharmony in the grouping of sounds. To
reestablish the old pattern without going back on the drift the only
possible method is to have the other sounds of the series shift in
analogous fashion. If, for some reason or other, _p_ becomes shifted to
its voiced correspondent _b_, the old series _p_, _t_, _k_ appears in
the unsymmetrical form _b_, _t_, _k_. Such a series is, in phonetic
effect, not the equivalent of the old series, however it may answer to
it in etymology. The general phonetic pattern is impaired to that
extent. But if _t_ and _k_ are also shifted to their voiced
correspondents _d_ and _g_, the old series is reestablished in a new
form: _b_, _d_, _g_. The pattern as such is preserved, or restored.
_Provided that_ the new series _b_, _d_, _g_ does not become confused
with an old series _b_, _d_, _g_ of distinct historical antecedents. If
there is no such older series, the creation of a _b_, _d_, _g_ series
causes no difficulties. If there is, the old patterning of sounds can be
kept intact only by shifting the old _b_, _d_, _g_ sounds in some way.
They may become aspirated to _bh_, _dh_, _gh_ or spirantized or
nasalized or they may develop any other peculiarity that keeps them
intact as a series and serves to differentiate them from other series.
And this sort of shifting about without loss of pattern, or with a
minimum loss of it, is probably the most important tendency in the
history of speech sounds. Phonetic leveling and "splitting" counteract
it to some extent but, on the whole, it remains the central unconscious
regulator of the course and speed of sound changes.

The desire to hold on to a pattern, the tendency to "correct" a
disturbance by an elaborate chain of supplementary changes, often spread
over centuries or even millennia--these psychic undercurrents of
language are exceedingly difficult to understand in terms of individual
psychology, though there can be no denial of their historical reality.
What is the primary cause of the unsettling of a phonetic pattern and
what is the cumulative force that selects these or those particular
variations of the individual on which to float the pattern readjustments
we hardly know. Many linguistic students have made the fatal error of
thinking of sound change as a quasi-physiological instead of as a
strictly psychological phenomenon, or they have tried to dispose of the
problem by bandying such catchwords as "the tendency to increased ease
of articulation" or "the cumulative result of faulty perception" (on the
part of children, say, in learning to speak). These easy explanations
will not do. "Ease of articulation" may enter in as a factor, but it is
a rather subjective concept at best. Indians find hopelessly difficult
sounds and sound combinations that are simple to us; one language
encourages a phonetic drift that another does everything to fight.
"Faulty perception" does not explain that impressive drift in speech
sounds which I have insisted upon. It is much better to admit that we do
not yet understand the primary cause or causes of the slow drift in
phonetics, though we can frequently point to contributing factors. It is
likely that we shall not advance seriously until we study the
intuitional bases of speech. How can we understand the nature of the
drift that frays and reforms phonetic patterns when we have never
thought of studying sound patterning as such and the "weights" and
psychic relations of the single elements (the individual sounds) in
these patterns?

Every linguist knows that phonetic change is frequently followed by
morphological rearrangements, but he is apt to assume that morphology
exercises little or no influence on the course of phonetic history. I am
inclined to believe that our present tendency to isolate phonetics and
grammar as mutually irrelevant linguistic provinces is unfortunate.
There are likely to be fundamental relations between them and their
respective histories that we do not yet fully grasp. After all, if
speech sounds exist merely because they are the symbolic carriers of
significant concepts and groupings of concepts, why may not a strong
drift or a permanent feature in the conceptual sphere exercise a
furthering or retarding influence on the phonetic drift? I believe that
such influences may be demonstrated and that they deserve far more
careful study than they have received.

This brings us back to our unanswered question: How is it that both
English and German developed the curious alternation of unmodified vowel
in the singular (_foot_, _Fuss_) and modified vowel in the plural
(_feet_, _Fuesse_)? Was the pre-Anglo-Saxon alternation of _fot_ and
_foeti_ an absolutely mechanical matter, without other than incidental
morphological interest? It is always so represented, and, indeed, all
the external facts support such a view. The change from _o_ to _oe_,
later _e_, is by no means peculiar to the plural. It is found also in
the dative singular (_fet_), for it too goes back to an older _foti_.
Moreover, _fet_ of the plural applies only to the nominative and
accusative; the genitive has _fota_, the dative _fotum_. Only centuries
later was the alternation of _o_ and _e_ reinterpreted as a means of
distinguishing number; _o_ was generalized for the singular, _e_ for the
plural. Only when this reassortment of forms took place[161] was the
modern symbolic value of the _foot_: _feet_ alternation clearly
established. Again, we must not forget that _o_ was modified to _oe (e)_
in all manner of other grammatical and derivative formations. Thus, a
pre-Anglo-Saxon _hohan_ (later _hon_) "to hang" corresponded to a
_hoehith_, _hehith_ (later _hehth_) "hangs"; to _dom_ "doom," _blod_
"blood," and _fod_ "food" corresponded the verbal derivatives _doemian_
(later _deman_) "to deem," _bloedian_ (later _bledan_) "to bleed," and
_foedian_ (later _fedan_) "to feed." All this seems to point to the
purely mechanical nature of the modification of _o_ to _oe_ to _e_. So
many unrelated functions were ultimately served by the vocalic change
that we cannot believe that it was motivated by any one of them.

[Footnote 161: A type of adjustment generally referred to as "analogical

The German facts are entirely analogous. Only later in the history of
the language was the vocalic alternation made significant for number.
And yet consider the following facts. The change of _foti_ to _foeti_
antedated that of _foeti_ to _foete_, _foet_. This may be looked upon as a
"lucky accident," for if _foti_ had become _fote_, _fot_ before the _-i_
had had the chance to exert a retroactive influence on the _o_, there
would have been no difference between the singular and the plural. This
would have been anomalous in Anglo-Saxon for a masculine noun. But was
the sequence of phonetic changes an "accident"? Consider two further
facts. All the Germanic languages were familiar with vocalic change as
possessed of functional significance. Alternations like _sing_, _sang_,
_sung_ (Anglo-Saxon _singan_, _sang_, _sungen_) were ingrained in the
linguistic consciousness. Further, the tendency toward the weakening of
final syllables was very strong even then and had been manifesting
itself in one way and another for centuries. I believe that these
further facts help us to understand the actual sequence of phonetic
changes. We may go so far as to say that the _o_ (and _u_) could afford
to stay the change to _oe_ (and _ue_) until the destructive drift had
advanced to the point where failure to modify the vowel would soon
result in morphological embarrassment. At a certain moment the _-i_
ending of the plural (and analogous endings with _i_ in other
formations) was felt to be too weak to quite bear its functional burden.
The unconscious Anglo-Saxon mind, if I may be allowed a somewhat summary
way of putting the complex facts, was glad of the opportunity afforded
by certain individual variations, until then automatically canceled out,
to have some share of the burden thrown on them. These particular
variations won through because they so beautifully allowed the general
phonetic drift to take its course without unsettling the morphological
contours of the language. And the presence of symbolic variation
(_sing_, _sang_, _sung_) acted as an attracting force on the rise of a
new variation of similar character. All these factors were equally true
of the German vocalic shift. Owing to the fact that the destructive
phonetic drift was proceeding at a slower rate in German than in
English, the preservative change of _uo_ to _uee_ (_u_ to _ue_) did not
need to set in until 300 years or more after the analogous English
change. Nor did it. And this is to my mind a highly significant fact.
Phonetic changes may sometimes be unconsciously encouraged in order to
keep intact the psychological spaces between words and word forms. The
general drift seizes upon those individual sound variations that help to
preserve the morphological balance or to lead to the new balance that
the language is striving for.

I would suggest, then, that phonetic change is compacted of at least
three basic strands: (1) A general drift in one direction, concerning
the nature of which we know almost nothing but which may be suspected to
be of prevailingly dynamic character (tendencies, e.g., to greater or
less stress, greater or less voicing of elements); (2) A readjusting
tendency which aims to preserve or restore the fundamental phonetic
pattern of the language; (3) A preservative tendency which sets in when
a too serious morphological unsettlement is threatened by the main
drift. I do not imagine for a moment that it is always possible to
separate these strands or that this purely schematic statement does
justice to the complex forces that guide the phonetic drift. The
phonetic pattern of a language is not invariable, but it changes far
less readily than the sounds that compose it. Every phonetic element
that it possesses may change radically and yet the pattern remain
unaffected. It would be absurd to claim that our present English pattern
is identical with the old Indo-European one, yet it is impressive to
note that even at this late day the English series of initial

_p_ _t_ _k_
_b_ _d_ _g_
_f_ _th_ _h_

corresponds point for point to the Sanskrit series:

_b_ _d_ _g_
_bh_ _dh_ _gh_
_p_ _t_ _k_

The relation between phonetic pattern and individual sound is roughly
parallel to that which obtains between the morphologic type of a
language and one of its specific morphological features. Both phonetic
pattern and fundamental type are exceedingly conservative, all
superficial appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Which is more
so we cannot say. I suspect that they hang together in a way that we
cannot at present quite understand.

If all the phonetic changes brought about by the phonetic drift were
allowed to stand, it is probable that most languages would present such
irregularities of morphological contour as to lose touch with their
formal ground-plan. Sound changes work mechanically. Hence they are
likely to affect a whole morphological group here--this does not
matter--, only part of a morphological group there--and this may be
disturbing. Thus, the old Anglo-Saxon paradigm:

Sing. Plur.
N. Ac. _fot_ _fet_ (older _foti_)
G. _fotes_ _fota_
D. _fet_ (older _foti_) _fotum_

could not long stand unmodified. The _o_--_e_ alternation was welcome in
so far as it roughly distinguished the singular from the plural. The
dative singular _fet_, however, though justified historically, was soon
felt to be an intrusive feature. The analogy of simpler and more
numerously represented paradigms created the form _fote_ (compare, e.g.,
_fisc_ "fish," dative singular _fisce_). _Fet_ as a dative becomes
obsolete. The singular now had _o_ throughout. But this very fact made
the genitive and dative _o_-forms of the plural seem out of place. The
nominative and accusative _fet_ was naturally far more frequently in use
than were the corresponding forms of the genitive and dative. These, in
the end, could not but follow the analogy of _fet_. At the very
beginning of the Middle English period, therefore, we find that the old
paradigm has yielded to a more regular one:

Sing. Plur.
N. Ac. *_fot_ *_fet_
G. *_fotes_ _fete_
D. _fote_ _feten_

The starred forms are the old nucleus around which the new paradigm is
built. The unstarred forms are not genealogical kin of their formal
prototypes. They are analogical replacements.

The history of the English language teems with such levelings or
extensions. _Elder_ and _eldest_ were at one time the only possible
comparative and superlative forms of _old_ (compare German _alt_,
_aelter_, _der aelteste_; the vowel following the _old-_, _alt-_ was
originally an _i_, which modified the quality of the stem vowel). The
general analogy of the vast majority of English adjectives, however, has
caused the replacement of the forms _elder_ and _eldest_ by the forms
with unmodified vowel, _older_ and _oldest_. _Elder_ and _eldest_
survive only as somewhat archaic terms for the older and oldest brother
or sister. This illustrates the tendency for words that are
psychologically disconnected from their etymological or formal group to
preserve traces of phonetic laws that have otherwise left no
recognizable trace or to preserve a vestige of a morphological process
that has long lost its vitality. A careful study of these survivals or
atrophied forms is not without value for the reconstruction of the
earlier history of a language or for suggestive hints as to its remoter

Analogy may not only refashion forms within the confines of a related
cluster of forms (a "paradigm") but may extend its influence far beyond.
Of a number of functionally equivalent elements, for instance, only one
may survive, the rest yielding to its constantly widening influence.
This is what happened with the English _-s_ plural. Originally confined
to a particular class of masculines, though an important class, the _-s_
plural was gradually generalized for all nouns but a mere handful that
still illustrate plural types now all but extinct (_foot_: feet,
_goose_: _geese_, _tooth_: _teeth_, _mouse_: _mice_, _louse_: _lice_;
_ox_: _oxen_; _child_: _children_; _sheep_: _sheep_, _deer_: _deer_).
Thus analogy not only regularizes irregularities that have come in the
wake of phonetic processes but introduces disturbances, generally in
favor of greater simplicity or regularity, in a long established system
of forms. These analogical adjustments are practically always symptoms
of the general morphological drift of the language.

A morphological feature that appears as the incidental consequence of a
phonetic process, like the English plural with modified vowel, may
spread by analogy no less readily than old features that owe their
origin to other than phonetic causes. Once the _e_-vowel of Middle
English _fet_ had become confined to the plural, there was no
theoretical reason why alternations of the type _fot_: _fet_ and
_mus_: _mis_ might not have become established as a productive type of
number distinction in the noun. As a matter of fact, it did not so
become established. The _fot_: _fet_ type of plural secured but a
momentary foothold. It was swept into being by one of the surface drifts
of the language, to be swept aside in the Middle English period by the
more powerful drift toward the use of simple distinctive forms. It was
too late in the day for our language to be seriously interested in such
pretty symbolisms as _foot_: _feet_. What examples of the type arose
legitimately, in other words _via_ purely phonetic processes, were
tolerated for a time, but the type as such never had a serious future.

It was different in German. The whole series of phonetic changes
comprised under the term "umlaut," of which _u_: _ue_ and _au_: _oi_
(written _aeu_) are but specific examples, struck the German language at
a time when the general drift to morphological simplification was not so
strong but that the resulting formal types (e.g., _Fuss_: _Fuesse_;
_fallen_ "to fall": _faellen_ "to fell"; _Horn_ "horn": _Gehoerne_ "group
of horns"; _Haus_ "house": _Haeuslein_ "little house") could keep
themselves intact and even extend to forms that did not legitimately
come within their sphere of influence. "Umlaut" is still a very live
symbolic process in German, possibly more alive to-day than in medieval
times. Such analogical plurals as _Baum_ "tree": _Baeume_ (contrast
Middle High German _boum_: _boume_) and derivatives as _lachen_ "to
laugh": _Gelaechter_ "laughter" (contrast Middle High German _gelach_)
show that vocalic mutation has won through to the status of a productive
morphologic process. Some of the dialects have even gone further than
standard German, at least in certain respects. In Yiddish,[162] for
instance, "umlaut" plurals have been formed where there are no Middle
High German prototypes or modern literary parallels, e.g., _tog_ "day":
_teg_ "days" (but German _Tag_: _Tage_) on the analogy of _gast_
"guest": _gest_ "guests" (German _Gast_: _Gaeste_), _shuch_[163] "shoe":
_shich_ "shoes" (but German _Schuh_: _Schuhe_) on the analogy of _fus_
"foot": _fis_ "feet." It is possible that "umlaut" will run its course
and cease to operate as a live functional process in German, but that
time is still distant. Meanwhile all consciousness of the merely
phonetic nature of "umlaut" vanished centuries ago. It is now a strictly
morphological process, not in the least a mechanical phonetic
adjustment. We have in it a splendid example of how a simple phonetic
law, meaningless in itself, may eventually color or transform large
reaches of the morphology of a language.

[Footnote 162: Isolated from other German dialects in the late fifteenth
and early sixteenth centuries. It is therefore a good test for gauging
the strength of the tendency to "umlaut," particularly as it has
developed a strong drift towards analytic methods.]

[Footnote 163: _Ch_ as in German _Buch_.]



Languages, like cultures, are rarely sufficient unto themselves. The
necessities of intercourse bring the speakers of one language into
direct or indirect contact with those of neighboring or culturally
dominant languages. The intercourse may be friendly or hostile. It may
move on the humdrum plane of business and trade relations or it may
consist of a borrowing or interchange of spiritual goods--art, science,
religion. It would be difficult to point to a completely isolated
language or dialect, least of all among the primitive peoples. The tribe
is often so small that intermarriages with alien tribes that speak other
dialects or even totally unrelated languages are not uncommon. It may
even be doubted whether intermarriage, intertribal trade, and general
cultural interchanges are not of greater relative significance on
primitive levels than on our own. Whatever the degree or nature of
contact between neighboring peoples, it is generally sufficient to lead
to some kind of linguistic interinfluencing. Frequently the influence
runs heavily in one direction. The language of a people that is looked
upon as a center of culture is naturally far more likely to exert an
appreciable influence on other languages spoken in its vicinity than to
be influenced by them. Chinese has flooded the vocabularies of Corean,
Japanese, and Annamite for centuries, but has received nothing in
return. In the western Europe of medieval and modern times French has
exercised a similar, though probably a less overwhelming, influence.
English borrowed an immense number of words from the French of the
Norman invaders, later also from the court French of Isle de France,
appropriated a certain number of affixed elements of derivational value
(e.g., _-ess_ of _princess_, _-ard_ of _drunkard_, _-ty_ of _royalty_),
may have been somewhat stimulated in its general analytic drift by
contact with French,[164] and even allowed French to modify its phonetic
pattern slightly (e.g., initial _v_ and _j_ in words like _veal_ and
_judge_; in words of Anglo-Saxon origin _v_ and _j_ can only occur after
vowels, e.g., _over_, _hedge_). But English has exerted practically no
influence on French.

[Footnote 164: The earlier students of English, however, grossly
exaggerated the general "disintegrating" effect of French on middle
English. English was moving fast toward a more analytic structure long
before the French influence set in.]

The simplest kind of influence that one language may exert on another is
the "borrowing" of words. When there is cultural borrowing there is
always the likelihood that the associated words may be borrowed too.
When the early Germanic peoples of northern Europe first learned of
wine-culture and of paved streets from their commercial or warlike
contact with the Romans, it was only natural that they should adopt the
Latin words for the strange beverage (_vinum_, English _wine_, German
_Wein_) and the unfamiliar type of road (_strata [via]_, English
_street_, German _Strasse_). Later, when Christianity was introduced
into England, a number of associated words, such as _bishop_ and
_angel_, found their way into English. And so the process has continued
uninterruptedly down to the present day, each cultural wave bringing to
the language a new deposit of loan-words. The careful study of such
loan-words constitutes an interesting commentary on the history of
culture. One can almost estimate the role which various peoples have
played in the development and spread of cultural ideas by taking note of
the extent to which their vocabularies have filtered into those of other
peoples. When we realize that an educated Japanese can hardly frame a
single literary sentence without the use of Chinese resources, that to
this day Siamese and Burmese and Cambodgian bear the unmistakable
imprint of the Sanskrit and Pali that came in with Hindu Buddhism
centuries ago, or that whether we argue for or against the teaching of
Latin and Greek our argument is sure to be studded with words that have
come to us from Rome and Athens, we get some inkling of what early
Chinese culture and Buddhism and classical Mediterranean civilization
have meant in the world's history. There are just five languages that
have had an overwhelming significance as carriers of culture. They are
classical Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Greek, and Latin. In comparison
with these even such culturally important languages as Hebrew and French
sink into a secondary position. It is a little disappointing to learn
that the general cultural influence of English has so far been all but
negligible. The English language itself is spreading because the English
have colonized immense territories. But there is nothing to show that it
is anywhere entering into the lexical heart of other languages as French
has colored the English complexion or as Arabic has permeated Persian
and Turkish. This fact alone is significant of the power of nationalism,
cultural as well as political, during the last century. There are now
psychological resistances to borrowing, or rather to new sources of
borrowing,[165] that were not greatly alive in the Middle Ages or during
the Renaissance.

[Footnote 165: For we still name our new scientific instruments and
patent medicines from Greek and Latin.]

Are there resistances of a more intimate nature to the borrowing of
words? It is generally assumed that the nature and extent of borrowing
depend entirely on the historical facts of culture relation; that if
German, for instance, has borrowed less copiously than English from
Latin and French it is only because Germany has had less intimate
relations than England with the culture spheres of classical Rome and
France. This is true to a considerable extent, but it is not the whole
truth. We must not exaggerate the physical importance of the Norman
invasion nor underrate the significance of the fact that Germany's
central geographical position made it peculiarly sensitive to French
influences all through the Middle Ages, to humanistic influences in the
latter fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and again to the
powerful French influences of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
It seems very probable that the psychological attitude of the borrowing
language itself towards linguistic material has much to do with its
receptivity to foreign words. English has long been striving for the
completely unified, unanalyzed word, regardless of whether it is
monosyllabic or polysyllabic. Such words as _credible_, _certitude_,
_intangible_ are entirely welcome in English because each represents a
unitary, well-nuanced idea and because their formal analysis
(_cred-ible_, _cert-itude_, _in-tang-ible_) is not a necessary act of
the unconscious mind (_cred-_, _cert-_, and _tang-_ have no real
existence in English comparable to that of _good-_ in _goodness_). A
word like _intangible_, once it is acclimated, is nearly as simple a
psychological entity as any radical monosyllable (say _vague_, _thin_,
_grasp_). In German, however, polysyllabic words strive to analyze
themselves into significant elements. Hence vast numbers of French and
Latin words, borrowed at the height of certain cultural influences,
could not maintain themselves in the language. Latin-German words like
_kredibel_ "credible" and French-German words like _reussieren_ "to
succeed" offered nothing that the unconscious mind could assimilate to
its customary method of feeling and handling words. It is as though this
unconscious mind said: "I am perfectly willing to accept _kredibel_ if
you will just tell me what you mean by _kred-_." Hence German has
generally found it easier to create new words out of its own resources,
as the necessity for them arose.

The psychological contrast between English and German as regards the
treatment of foreign material is a contrast that may be studied in all
parts of the world. The Athabaskan languages of America are spoken by
peoples that have had astonishingly varied cultural contacts, yet
nowhere do we find that an Athabaskan dialect has borrowed at all
freely[166] from a neighboring language. These languages have always
found it easier to create new words by compounding afresh elements ready
to hand. They have for this reason been highly resistant to receiving
the linguistic impress of the external cultural experiences of their
speakers. Cambodgian and Tibetan offer a highly instructive contrast in
their reaction to Sanskrit influence. Both are analytic languages, each
totally different from the highly-wrought, inflective language of India.
Cambodgian is isolating, but, unlike Chinese, it contains many
polysyllabic words whose etymological analysis does not matter. Like
English, therefore, in its relation to French and Latin, it welcomed
immense numbers of Sanskrit loan-words, many of which are in common use
to-day. There was no psychological resistance to them. Classical Tibetan
literature was a slavish adaptation of Hindu Buddhist literature and
nowhere has Buddhism implanted itself more firmly than in Tibet, yet it
is strange how few Sanskrit words have found their way into the
language. Tibetan was highly resistant to the polysyllabic words of
Sanskrit because they could not automatically fall into significant
syllables, as they should have in order to satisfy the Tibetan feeling
for form. Tibetan was therefore driven to translating the great majority
of these Sanskrit words into native equivalents. The Tibetan craving for
form was satisfied, though the literally translated foreign terms must
often have done violence to genuine Tibetan idiom. Even the proper names
of the Sanskrit originals were carefully translated, element for
element, into Tibetan; e.g., _Suryagarbha_ "Sun-bosomed" was carefully
Tibetanized into _Nyi-mai snying-po_ "Sun-of heart-the, the heart (or
essence) of the sun." The study of how a language reacts to the presence
of foreign words--rejecting them, translating them, or freely accepting
them--may throw much valuable light on its innate formal tendencies.

[Footnote 166: One might all but say, "has borrowed at all."]

The borrowing of foreign words always entails their phonetic
modification. There are sure to be foreign sounds or accentual
peculiarities that do not fit the native phonetic habits. They are then
so changed as to do as little violence as possible to these habits.
Frequently we have phonetic compromises. Such an English word as the
recently introduced _camouflage_, as now ordinarily pronounced,
corresponds to the typical phonetic usage of neither English nor French.
The aspirated _k_, the obscure vowel of the second syllable, the precise
quality of the _l_ and of the last _a_, and, above all, the strong
accent on the first syllable, are all the results of unconscious
assimilation to our English habits of pronunciation. They differentiate
our _camouflage_ clearly from the same word as pronounced by the
French. On the other hand, the long, heavy vowel in the third syllable
and the final position of the "zh" sound (like _z_ in _azure_) are
distinctly un-English, just as, in Middle English, the initial _j_ and
_v_[167] must have been felt at first as not strictly in accord with
English usage, though the strangeness has worn off by now. In all four
of these cases--initial _j_, initial _v_, final "zh," and unaccented _a_
of _father_--English has not taken on a new sound but has merely
extended the use of an old one.

[Footnote 167: See page 206.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 167 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 6329.]

Occasionally a new sound is introduced, but it is likely to melt away
before long. In Chaucer's day the old Anglo-Saxon _ue_ (written _y_) had
long become unrounded to _i_, but a new set of _ue_-vowels had come in
from the French (in such words as _due_, _value_, _nature_). The new _ue_
did not long hold its own; it became diphthongized to _iu_ and was
amalgamated with the native _iw_ of words like _new_ and _slew_.
Eventually this diphthong appears as _yu_, with change of stress--_dew_
(from Anglo-Saxon _deaw_) like _due_ (Chaucerian _due_). Facts like these
show how stubbornly a language resists radical tampering with its
phonetic pattern.

Nevertheless, we know that languages do influence each other in phonetic
respects, and that quite aside from the taking over of foreign sounds
with borrowed words. One of the most curious facts that linguistics has
to note is the occurrence of striking phonetic parallels in totally
unrelated or very remotely related languages of a restricted
geographical area. These parallels become especially impressive when
they are seen contrastively from a wide phonetic perspective. Here are a
few examples. The Germanic languages as a whole have not developed
nasalized vowels. Certain Upper German (Suabian) dialects, however,
have now nasalized vowels in lieu of the older vowel + nasal consonant
(_n_). Is it only accidental that these dialects are spoken in proximity
to French, which makes abundant use of nasalized vowels? Again, there
are certain general phonetic features that mark off Dutch and Flemish in
contrast, say, to North German and Scandinavian dialects. One of these
is the presence of unaspirated voiceless stops (_p_, _t_, _k_), which
have a precise, metallic quality reminiscent of the corresponding French
sounds, but which contrast with the stronger, aspirated stops of
English, North German, and Danish. Even if we assume that the
unaspirated stops are more archaic, that they are the unmodified
descendants of the old Germanic consonants, is it not perhaps a
significant historical fact that the Dutch dialects, neighbors of
French, were inhibited from modifying these consonants in accordance
with what seems to have been a general Germanic phonetic drift? Even
more striking than these instances is the peculiar resemblance, in
certain special phonetic respects, of Russian and other Slavic languages
to the unrelated Ural-Altaic languages[168] of the Volga region. The
peculiar, dull vowel, for instance, known in Russian as "yeri"[169] has
Ural-Altaic analogues, but is entirely wanting in Germanic, Greek,
Armenian, and Indo-Iranian, the nearest Indo-European congeners of
Slavic. We may at least suspect that the Slavic vowel is not
historically unconnected with its Ural-Altaic parallels. One of the most
puzzling cases of phonetic parallelism is afforded by a large number of
American Indian languages spoken west of the Rockies. Even at the most
radical estimate there are at least four totally unrelated linguistic
stocks represented in the region from southern Alaska to central
California. Nevertheless all, or practically all, the languages of this
immense area have some important phonetic features in common. Chief of
these is the presence of a "glottalized" series of stopped consonants of
very distinctive formation and of quite unusual acoustic effect.[170] In
the northern part of the area all the languages, whether related or not,
also possess various voiceless _l_-sounds and a series of "velar"
(back-guttural) stopped consonants which are etymologically distinct
from the ordinary _k_-series. It is difficult to believe that three such
peculiar phonetic features as I have mentioned could have evolved
independently in neighboring groups of languages.

[Footnote 168: Ugro-Finnic and Turkish (Tartar)]

[Footnote 169: Probably, in Sweet's terminology, high-back (or, better,
between back and "mixed" positions)-narrow-unrounded. It generally
corresponds to an Indo-European long _u_.]

[Footnote 170: There seem to be analogous or partly analogous sounds in
certain languages of the Caucasus.]

How are we to explain these and hundreds of similar phonetic
convergences? In particular cases we may really be dealing with archaic
similarities due to a genetic relationship that it is beyond our present
power to demonstrate. But this interpretation will not get us far. It
must be ruled entirely out of court, for instance, in two of the three
European examples I have instanced; both nasalized vowels and the Slavic
"yeri" are demonstrably of secondary origin in Indo-European. However we
envisage the process in detail, we cannot avoid the inference that there
is a tendency for speech sounds or certain distinctive manners of
articulation to spread over a continuous area in somewhat the same way
that elements of culture ray out from a geographical center. We may
suppose that individual variations arising at linguistic
borderlands--whether by the unconscious suggestive influence of foreign
speech habits or by the actual transfer of foreign sounds into the
speech of bilingual individuals--have gradually been incorporated into
the phonetic drift of a language. So long as its main phonetic concern
is the preservation of its sound patterning, not of its sounds as such,
there is really no reason why a language may not unconsciously
assimilate foreign sounds that have succeeded in worming their way into
its gamut of individual variations, provided always that these new
variations (or reinforced old variations) are in the direction of the
native drift.

A simple illustration will throw light on this conception. Let us
suppose that two neighboring and unrelated languages, A and B, each
possess voiceless _l_-sounds (compare Welsh _ll_). We surmise that this
is not an accident. Perhaps comparative study reveals the fact that in
language A the voiceless _l_-sounds correspond to a sibilant series in
other related languages, that an old alternation _s_: _sh_ has been
shifted to the new alternation _l_ (voiceless): _s_.[171] Does it follow
that the voiceless _l_ of language B has had the same history? Not in
the least. Perhaps B has a strong tendency toward audible breath release
at the end of a word, so that the final _l_, like a final vowel, was
originally followed by a marked aspiration. Individuals perhaps tended
to anticipate a little the voiceless release and to "unvoice" the latter
part of the final _l_-sound (very much as the _l_ of English words like
_felt_ tends to be partly voiceless in anticipation of the voicelessness
of the _t_). Yet this final _l_ with its latent tendency to unvoicing
might never have actually developed into a fully voiceless _l_ had not
the presence of voiceless _l_-sounds in A acted as an unconscious
stimulus or suggestive push toward a more radical change in the line of
B's own drift. Once the final voiceless _l_ emerged, its alternation in
related words with medial voiced _l_ is very likely to have led to its
analogical spread. The result would be that both A and B have an
important phonetic trait in common. Eventually their phonetic systems,
judged as mere assemblages of sounds, might even become completely
assimilated to each other, though this is an extreme case hardly ever
realized in practice. The highly significant thing about such phonetic
interinfluencings is the strong tendency of each language to keep its
phonetic pattern intact. So long as the respective alignments of the
similar sounds is different, so long as they have differing "values" and
"weights" in the unrelated languages, these languages cannot be said to
have diverged materially from the line of their inherent drift. In
phonetics, as in vocabulary, we must be careful not to exaggerate the
importance of interlinguistic influences.

[Footnote 171: This can actually be demonstrated for one of the
Athabaskan dialects of the Yukon.]

I have already pointed out in passing that English has taken over a
certain number of morphological elements from French. English also uses
a number of affixes that are derived from Latin and Greek. Some of these
foreign elements, like the _-ize_ of _materialize_ or the _-able_ of
_breakable_, are even productive to-day. Such examples as these are
hardly true evidences of a morphological influence exerted by one
language on another. Setting aside the fact that they belong to the
sphere of derivational concepts and do not touch the central
morphological problem of the expression of relational ideas, they have
added nothing to the structural peculiarities of our language. English
was already prepared for the relation of _pity_ to _piteous_ by such a
native pair as _luck_ and _lucky_; _material_ and _materialize_ merely
swelled the ranks of a form pattern familiar from such instances as
_wide_ and _widen_. In other words, the morphological influence exerted
by foreign languages on English, if it is to be gauged by such examples
as I have cited, is hardly different in kind from the mere borrowing of
words. The introduction of the suffix _-ize_ made hardly more difference
to the essential build of the language than did the mere fact that it
incorporated a given number of words. Had English evolved a new future
on the model of the synthetic future in French or had it borrowed from
Latin and Greek their employment of reduplication as a functional device
(Latin _tango_: _tetigi_; Greek _leipo_: _leloipa_), we should have the
right to speak of true morphological influence. But such far-reaching
influences are not demonstrable. Within the whole course of the history
of the English language we can hardly point to one important
morphological change that was not determined by the native drift, though
here and there we may surmise that this drift was hastened a little by
the suggestive influence of French forms.[172]

[Footnote 172: In the sphere of syntax one may point to certain French
and Latin influences, but it is doubtful if they ever reached deeper
than the written language. Much of this type of influence belongs rather
to literary style than to morphology proper.]

It is important to realize the continuous, self-contained morphological
development of English and the very modest extent to which its
fundamental build has been affected by influences from without. The
history of the English language has sometimes been represented as though
it relapsed into a kind of chaos on the arrival of the Normans, who
proceeded to play nine-pins with the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Students are
more conservative today. That a far-reaching analytic development may
take place without such external foreign influence as English was
subjected to is clear from the history of Danish, which has gone even
further than English in certain leveling tendencies. English may be
conveniently used as an _a fortiori_ test. It was flooded with French
loan-words during the later Middle Ages, at a time when its drift toward
the analytic type was especially strong. It was therefore changing
rapidly both within and on the surface. The wonder, then, is not that it
took on a number of external morphological features, mere accretions on
its concrete inventory, but that, exposed as it was to remolding
influences, it remained so true to its own type and historic drift. The
experience gained from the study of the English language is strengthened
by all that we know of documented linguistic history. Nowhere do we find
any but superficial morphological interinfluencings. We may infer one of
several things from this:--That a really serious morphological influence
is not, perhaps, impossible, but that its operation is so slow that it
has hardly ever had the chance to incorporate itself in the relatively
small portion of linguistic history that lies open to inspection; or
that there are certain favorable conditions that make for profound
morphological disturbances from without, say a peculiar instability of
linguistic type or an unusual degree of cultural contact, conditions
that do not happen to be realized in our documentary material; or,
finally, that we have not the right to assume that a language may easily
exert a remolding morphological influence on another.

Meanwhile we are confronted by the baffling fact that important traits
of morphology are frequently found distributed among widely differing
languages within a large area, so widely differing, indeed, that it is
customary to consider them genetically unrelated. Sometimes we may
suspect that the resemblance is due to a mere convergence, that a
similar morphological feature has grown up independently in unrelated
languages. Yet certain morphological distributions are too specific in
character to be so lightly dismissed. There must be some historical
factor to account for them. Now it should be remembered that the concept
of a "linguistic stock" is never definitive[173] in an exclusive sense.
We can only say, with reasonable certainty, that such and such languages
are descended from a common source, but we cannot say that such and such
other languages are not genetically related. All we can do is to say
that the evidence for relationship is not cumulative enough to make the
inference of common origin absolutely necessary. May it not be, then,
that many instances of morphological similarity between divergent
languages of a restricted area are merely the last vestiges of a
community of type and phonetic substance that the destructive work of
diverging drifts has now made unrecognizable? There is probably still
enough lexical and morphological resemblance between modern English and
Irish to enable us to make out a fairly conclusive case for their
genetic relationship on the basis of the present-day descriptive
evidence alone. It is true that the case would seem weak in comparison
to the case that we can actually make with the help of the historical
and the comparative data that we possess. It would not be a bad case
nevertheless. In another two or three millennia, however, the points of
resemblance are likely to have become so obliterated that English and
Irish, in the absence of all but their own descriptive evidence, will
have to be set down as "unrelated" languages. They will still have in
common certain fundamental morphological features, but it will be
difficult to know how to evaluate them. Only in the light of the
contrastive perspective afforded by still more divergent languages, such
as Basque and Finnish, will these vestigial resemblances receive their
true historic value.

[Footnote 173: See page 163.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 173 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 5037.]

I cannot but suspect that many of the more significant distributions of
morphological similarities are to be explained as just such vestiges.
The theory of "borrowing" seems totally inadequate to explain those
fundamental features of structure, hidden away in the very core of the
linguistic complex, that have been pointed out as common, say, to
Semitic and Hamitic, to the various Soudanese languages, to
Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer[174] and Munda,[175] to Athabaskan and
Tlingit and Haida. We must not allow ourselves to be frightened away by
the timidity of the specialists, who are often notably lacking in the
sense of what I have called "contrastive perspective."

[Footnote 174: A group of languages spoken in southeastern Asia, of
which Khmer (Cambodgian) is the best known representative.]

[Footnote 175: A group of languages spoken in northeastern India.]

Attempts have sometimes been made to explain the distribution of these
fundamental structural features by the theory of diffusion. We know that
myths, religious ideas, types of social organization, industrial
devices, and other features of culture may spread from point to point,
gradually making themselves at home in cultures to which they were at
one time alien. We also know that words may be diffused no less freely
than cultural elements, that sounds also may be "borrowed," and that
even morphological elements may be taken over. We may go further and
recognize that certain languages have, in all probability, taken on
structural features owing to the suggestive influence of neighboring
languages. An examination of such cases,[176] however, almost invariably
reveals the significant fact that they are but superficial additions on
the morphological kernel of the language. So long as such direct
historical testimony as we have gives us no really convincing examples
of profound morphological influence by diffusion, we shall do well not
to put too much reliance in diffusion theories. On the whole, therefore,
we shall ascribe the major concordances and divergences in linguistic
form--phonetic pattern and morphology--to the autonomous drift of
language, not to the complicating effect of single, diffused features
that cluster now this way, now that. Language is probably the most
self-contained, the most massively resistant of all social phenomena. It
is easier to kill it off than to disintegrate its individual form.

[Footnote 176: I have in mind, e.g., the presence of postpositions in
Upper Chinook, a feature that is clearly due to the influence of
neighboring Sahaptin languages; or the use by Takelma of instrumental
prefixes, which are likely to have been suggested by neighboring "Hokan"
languages (Shasta, Karok).]



Language has a setting. The people that speak it belong to a race (or a
number of races), that is, to a group which is set off by physical
characteristics from other groups. Again, language does not exist apart
from culture, that is, from the socially inherited assemblage of
practices and beliefs that determines the texture of our lives.
Anthropologists have been in the habit of studying man under the three
rubrics of race, language, and culture. One of the first things they do
with a natural area like Africa or the South Seas is to map it out from
this threefold point of view. These maps answer the questions: What and
where are the major divisions of the human animal, biologically
considered (e.g., Congo Negro, Egyptian White; Australian Black,
Polynesian)? What are the most inclusive linguistic groupings, the
"linguistic stocks," and what is the distribution of each (e.g., the
Hamitic languages of northern Africa, the Bantu languages of the south;
the Malayo-Polynesian languages of Indonesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and
Polynesia)? How do the peoples of the given area divide themselves as
cultural beings? what are the outstanding "cultural areas" and what are
the dominant ideas in each (e.g., the Mohammedan north of Africa; the
primitive hunting, non-agricultural culture of the Bushmen in the south;
the culture of the Australian natives, poor in physical respects but
richly developed in ceremonialism; the more advanced and highly
specialized culture of Polynesia)?

The man in the street does not stop to analyze his position in the
general scheme of humanity. He feels that he is the representative of
some strongly integrated portion of humanity--now thought of as a
"nationality," now as a "race"--and that everything that pertains to him
as a typical representative of this large group somehow belongs
together. If he is an Englishman, he feels himself to be a member of the
"Anglo-Saxon" race, the "genius" of which race has fashioned the English
language and the "Anglo-Saxon" culture of which the language is the
expression. Science is colder. It inquires if these three types of
classification--racial, linguistic, and cultural--are congruent, if
their association is an inherently necessary one or is merely a matter
of external history. The answer to the inquiry is not encouraging to
"race" sentimentalists. Historians and anthropologists find that races,
languages, and cultures are not distributed in parallel fashion, that
their areas of distribution intercross in the most bewildering fashion,
and that the history of each is apt to follow a distinctive course.
Races intermingle in a way that languages do not. On the other hand,
languages may spread far beyond their original home, invading the
territory of new races and of new culture spheres. A language may even
die out in its primary area and live on among peoples violently hostile
to the persons of its original speakers. Further, the accidents of
history are constantly rearranging the borders of culture areas without
necessarily effacing the existing linguistic cleavages. If we can once
thoroughly convince ourselves that race, in its only intelligible, that
is biological, sense, is supremely indifferent to the history of
languages and cultures, that these are no more directly explainable on
the score of race than on that of the laws of physics and chemistry, we
shall have gained a viewpoint that allows a certain interest to such
mystic slogans as Slavophilism, Anglo-Saxondom, Teutonism, and the Latin
genius but that quite refuses to be taken in by any of them. A careful
study of linguistic distributions and of the history of such
distributions is one of the driest of commentaries on these sentimental

That a group of languages need not in the least correspond to a racial
group or a culture area is easily demonstrated. We may even show how a
single language intercrosses with race and culture lines. The English
language is not spoken by a unified race. In the United States there are
several millions of negroes who know no other language. It is their
mother-tongue, the formal vesture of their inmost thoughts and
sentiments. It is as much their property, as inalienably "theirs," as
the King of England's. Nor do the English-speaking whites of America
constitute a definite race except by way of contrast to the negroes. Of
the three fundamental white races in Europe generally recognized by
physical anthropologists--the Baltic or North European, the Alpine, and
the Mediterranean--each has numerous English-speaking representatives in
America. But does not the historical core of English-speaking peoples,
those relatively "unmixed" populations that still reside in England and
its colonies, represent a race, pure and single? I cannot see that the
evidence points that way. The English people are an amalgam of many
distinct strains. Besides the old "Anglo-Saxon," in other words North
German, element which is conventionally represented as the basic
strain, the English blood comprises Norman French,[177] Scandinavian,
"Celtic,"[178] and pre-Celtic elements. If by "English" we mean also
Scotch and Irish,[179] then the term "Celtic" is loosely used for at
least two quite distinct racial elements--the short, dark-complexioned
type of Wales and the taller, lighter, often ruddy-haired type of the
Highlands and parts of Ireland. Even if we confine ourselves to the
Saxon element, which, needless to say, nowhere appears "pure," we are
not at the end of our troubles. We may roughly identify this strain with
the racial type now predominant in southern Denmark and adjoining parts
of northern Germany. If so, we must content ourselves with the
reflection that while the English language is historically most closely
affiliated with Frisian, in second degree with the other West Germanic
dialects (Low Saxon or "Plattdeutsch," Dutch, High German), only in
third degree with Scandinavian, the specific "Saxon" racial type that
overran England in the fifth and sixth centuries was largely the same as
that now represented by the Danes, who speak a Scandinavian language,
while the High German-speaking population of central and southern
Germany[180] is markedly distinct.

[Footnote 177: Itself an amalgam of North "French" and Scandinavian

[Footnote 178: The "Celtic" blood of what is now England and Wales is by
no means confined to the Celtic-speaking regions--Wales and, until
recently, Cornwall. There is every reason to believe that the invading
Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) did not exterminate the
Brythonic Celts of England nor yet drive them altogether into Wales and
Cornwall (there has been far too much "driving" of conquered peoples
into mountain fastnesses and land's ends in our histories), but simply
intermingled with them and imposed their rule and language upon them.]

[Footnote 179: In practice these three peoples can hardly be kept
altogether distinct. The terms have rather a local-sentimental than a
clearly racial value. Intermarriage has gone on steadily for centuries
and it is only in certain outlying regions that we get relatively pure
types, e.g., the Highland Scotch of the Hebrides. In America, English,
Scotch, and Irish strands have become inextricably interwoven.]

[Footnote 180: The High German now spoken in northern Germany is not of
great age, but is due to the spread of standardized German, based on
Upper Saxon, a High German dialect, at the expense of "Plattdeutsch."]

But what if we ignore these finer distinctions and simply assume that
the "Teutonic" or Baltic or North European racial type coincided in its
distribution with that of the Germanic languages? Are we not on safe
ground then? No, we are now in hotter water than ever. First of all, the
mass of the German-speaking population (central and southern Germany,
German Switzerland, German Austria) do not belong to the tall,
blond-haired, long-headed[181] "Teutonic" race at all, but to the
shorter, darker-complexioned, short-headed[182] Alpine race, of which
the central population of France, the French Swiss, and many of the
western and northern Slavs (e.g., Bohemians and Poles) are equally good
representatives. The distribution of these "Alpine" populations
corresponds in part to that of the old continental "Celts," whose
language has everywhere given way to Italic, Germanic, and Slavic
pressure. We shall do well to avoid speaking of a "Celtic race," but if
we were driven to give the term a content, it would probably be more
appropriate to apply it to, roughly, the western portion of the Alpine
peoples than to the two island types that I referred to before. These
latter were certainly "Celticized," in speech and, partly, in blood,
precisely as, centuries later, most of England and part of Scotland was
"Teutonized" by the Angles and Saxons. Linguistically speaking, the
"Celts" of to-day (Irish Gaelic, Manx, Scotch Gaelic, Welsh, Breton) are
Celtic and most of the Germans of to-day are Germanic precisely as the
American Negro, Americanized Jew, Minnesota Swede, and German-American
are "English." But, secondly, the Baltic race was, and is, by no means
an exclusively Germanic-speaking people. The northernmost "Celts," such
as the Highland Scotch, are in all probability a specialized offshoot of
this race. What these people spoke before they were Celticized nobody
knows, but there is nothing whatever to indicate that they spoke a
Germanic language. Their language may quite well have been as remote
from any known Indo-European idiom as are Basque and Turkish to-day.
Again, to the east of the Scandinavians are non-Germanic members of the
race--the Finns and related peoples, speaking languages that are not
definitely known to be related to Indo-European at all.

[Footnote 181: "Dolichocephalic."]

[Footnote 182: "Brachycephalic."]

We cannot stop here. The geographical position of the Germanic languages
is such[183] as to make it highly probable that they represent but an
outlying transfer of an Indo-European dialect (possibly a Celto-Italic
prototype) to a Baltic people speaking a language or a group of
languages that was alien to Indo-European.[184] Not only, then, is
English not spoken by a unified race at present but its prototype, more
likely than not, was originally a foreign language to the race with
which English is more particularly associated. We need not seriously
entertain the idea that English or the group of languages to which it
belongs is in any intelligible sense the expression of race, that there
are embedded in it qualities that reflect the temperament or "genius" of
a particular breed of human beings.

[Footnote 183: By working back from such data as we possess we can make
it probable that these languages were originally confined to a
comparatively small area in northern Germany and Scandinavia. This area
is clearly marginal to the total area of distribution of the
Indo-European-speaking peoples. Their center of gravity, say 1000 B.C.,
seems to have lain in southern Russia.]

[Footnote 184: While this is only a theory, the technical evidence for
it is stronger than one might suppose. There are a surprising number of
common and characteristic Germanic words which cannot be connected with
known Indo-European radical elements and which may well be survivals of
the hypothetical pre-Germanic language; such are _house_, _stone_,
_sea_, _wife_ (German _Haus_, _Stein_, _See_, _Weib_).]

Many other, and more striking, examples of the lack of correspondence
between race and language could be given if space permitted. One
instance will do for many. The Malayo-Polynesian languages form a
well-defined group that takes in the southern end of the Malay Peninsula
and the tremendous island world to the south and east (except Australia
and the greater part of New Guinea). In this vast region we find
represented no less than three distinct races--the Negro-like Papuans of
New Guinea and Melanesia, the Malay race of Indonesia, and the
Polynesians of the outer islands. The Polynesians and Malays all speak
languages of the Malayo-Polynesian group, while the languages of the
Papuans belong partly to this group (Melanesian), partly to the
unrelated languages ("Papuan") of New Guinea.[185] In spite of the fact
that the greatest race cleavage in this region lies between the Papuans
and the Polynesians, the major linguistic division is of Malayan on the
one side, Melanesian and Polynesian on the other.

[Footnote 185: Only the easternmost part of this island is occupied by
Melanesian-speaking Papuans.]

As with race, so with culture. Particularly in more primitive levels,
where the secondarily unifying power of the "national"[186] ideal does
not arise to disturb the flow of what we might call natural
distributions, is it easy to show that language and culture are not
intrinsically associated. Totally unrelated languages share in one
culture, closely related languages--even a single language--belong to
distinct culture spheres. There are many excellent examples in
aboriginal America. The Athabaskan languages form as clearly unified, as
structurally specialized, a group as any that I know of.[187] The
speakers of these languages belong to four distinct culture areas--the
simple hunting culture of western Canada and the interior of Alaska
(Loucheux, Chipewyan), the buffalo culture of the Plains (Sarcee), the
highly ritualized culture of the southwest (Navaho), and the peculiarly
specialized culture of northwestern California (Hupa). The cultural
adaptability of the Athabaskan-speaking peoples is in the strangest
contrast to the inaccessibility to foreign influences of the languages
themselves.[188] The Hupa Indians are very typical of the culture area
to which they belong. Culturally identical with them are the neighboring
Yurok and Karok. There is the liveliest intertribal intercourse between
the Hupa, Yurok, and Karok, so much so that all three generally attend
an important religious ceremony given by any one of them. It is
difficult to say what elements in their combined culture belong in
origin to this tribe or that, so much at one are they in communal
action, feeling, and thought. But their languages are not merely alien
to each other; they belong to three of the major American linguistic
groups, each with an immense distribution on the northern continent.
Hupa, as we have seen, is Athabaskan and, as such, is also distantly
related to Haida (Queen Charlotte Islands) and Tlingit (southern
Alaska); Yurok is one of the two isolated Californian languages of the
Algonkin stock, the center of gravity of which lies in the region of the
Great Lakes; Karok is the northernmost member of the Hokan group, which
stretches far to the south beyond the confines of California and has
remoter relatives along the Gulf of Mexico.

[Footnote 186: A "nationality" is a major, sentimentally unified, group.
The historical factors that lead to the feeling of national unity are
various--political, cultural, linguistic, geographic, sometimes
specifically religious. True racial factors also may enter in, though
the accent on "race" has generally a psychological rather than a
strictly biological value. In an area dominated by the national
sentiment there is a tendency for language and culture to become uniform
and specific, so that linguistic and cultural boundaries at least tend
to coincide. Even at best, however, the linguistic unification is never
absolute, while the cultural unity is apt to be superficial, of a
quasi-political nature, rather than deep and far-reaching.]

[Footnote 187: The Semitic languages, idiosyncratic as they are, are no
more definitely ear-marked.]

[Footnote 188: See page 209.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 188 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 6448.]

Returning to English, most of us would readily admit, I believe, that
the community of language between Great Britain and the United States is
far from arguing a like community of culture. It is customary to say
that they possess a common "Anglo-Saxon" cultural heritage, but are not
many significant differences in life and feeling obscured by the
tendency of the "cultured" to take this common heritage too much for
granted? In so far as America is still specifically "English," it is
only colonially or vestigially so; its prevailing cultural drift is
partly towards autonomous and distinctive developments, partly towards
immersion in the larger European culture of which that of England is
only a particular facet. We cannot deny that the possession of a common
language is still and will long continue to be a smoother of the way to
a mutual cultural understanding between England and America, but it is
very clear that other factors, some of them rapidly cumulative, are
working powerfully to counteract this leveling influence. A common
language cannot indefinitely set the seal on a common culture when the
geographical, political, and economic determinants of the culture are no
longer the same throughout its area.

Language, race, and culture are not necessarily correlated. This does
not mean that they never are. There is some tendency, as a matter of
fact, for racial and cultural lines of cleavage to correspond to
linguistic ones, though in any given case the latter may not be of the
same degree of importance as the others. Thus, there is a fairly
definite line of cleavage between the Polynesian languages, race, and
culture on the one hand and those of the Melanesians on the other, in
spite of a considerable amount of overlapping.[189] The racial and
cultural division, however, particularly the former, are of major
importance, while the linguistic division is of quite minor
significance, the Polynesian languages constituting hardly more than a
special dialectic subdivision of the combined Melanesian-Polynesian
group. Still clearer-cut coincidences of cleavage may be found. The
language, race, and culture of the Eskimo are markedly distinct from
those of their neighbors;[190] in southern Africa the language, race,
and culture of the Bushmen offer an even stronger contrast to those of
their Bantu neighbors. Coincidences of this sort are of the greatest
significance, of course, but this significance is not one of inherent
psychological relation between the three factors of race, language, and
culture. The coincidences of cleavage point merely to a readily
intelligible historical association. If the Bantu and Bushmen are so
sharply differentiated in all respects, the reason is simply that the
former are relatively recent arrivals in southern Africa. The two
peoples developed in complete isolation from each other; their present
propinquity is too recent for the slow process of cultural and racial
assimilation to have set in very powerfully. As we go back in time, we
shall have to assume that relatively scanty populations occupied large
territories for untold generations and that contact with other masses of
population was not as insistent and prolonged as it later became. The
geographical and historical isolation that brought about race
differentiations was naturally favorable also to far-reaching variations
in language and culture. The very fact that races and cultures which are
brought into historical contact tend to assimilate in the long run,
while neighboring languages assimilate each other only casually and in
superficial respects[191], indicates that there is no profound causal
relation between the development of language and the specific
development of race and of culture.

[Footnote 189: The Fijians, for instance, while of Papuan (negroid)
race, are Polynesian rather than Melanesian in their cultural and
linguistic affinities.]

[Footnote 190: Though even here there is some significant overlapping.
The southernmost Eskimo of Alaska were assimilated in culture to their
Tlingit neighbors. In northeastern Siberia, too, there is no sharp
cultural line between the Eskimo and the Chukchi.]

[Footnote 191: The supersession of one language by another is of course
not truly a matter of linguistic assimilation.]

But surely, the wary reader will object, there must be some relation
between language and culture, and between language and at least that
intangible aspect of race that we call "temperament". Is it not
inconceivable that the particular collective qualities of mind that have
fashioned a culture are not precisely the same as were responsible for
the growth of a particular linguistic morphology? This question takes us
into the heart of the most difficult problems of social psychology. It
is doubtful if any one has yet attained to sufficient clarity on the
nature of the historical process and on the ultimate psychological
factors involved in linguistic and cultural drifts to answer it
intelligently. I can only very briefly set forth my own views, or rather
my general attitude. It would be very difficult to prove that
"temperament", the general emotional disposition of a people[192], is
basically responsible for the slant and drift of a culture, however much
it may manifest itself in an individual's handling of the elements of
that culture. But granted that temperament has a certain value for the
shaping of culture, difficult though it be to say just how, it does not
follow that it has the same value for the shaping of language. It is
impossible to show that the form of a language has the slightest
connection with national temperament. Its line of variation, its drift,
runs inexorably in the channel ordained for it by its historic
antecedents; it is as regardless of the feelings and sentiments of its
speakers as is the course of a river of the atmospheric humors of the
landscape. I am convinced that it is futile to look in linguistic
structure for differences corresponding to the temperamental variations
which are supposed to be correlated with race. In this connection it is
well to remember that the emotional aspect of our psychic life is but
meagerly expressed in the build of language[193].

[Footnote 192: "Temperament" is a difficult term to work with. A great
deal of what is loosely charged to national "temperament" is really
nothing but customary behavior, the effect of traditional ideals of
conduct. In a culture, for instance, that does not look kindly upon
demonstrativeness, the natural tendency to the display of emotion
becomes more than normally inhibited. It would be quite misleading to
argue from the customary inhibition, a cultural fact, to the native
temperament. But ordinarily we can get at human conduct only as it is
culturally modified. Temperament in the raw is a highly elusive thing.]

[Footnote 193: See pages 39, 40.]

[Transcriber's note: Footnote 193 refers to the paragraph beginning on
line 1256.]

Language and our thought-grooves are inextricably interwoven, are, in a
sense, one and the same. As there is nothing to show that there are
significant racial differences in the fundamental conformation of
thought, it follows that the infinite variability of linguistic form,
another name for the infinite variability of the actual process of
thought, cannot be an index of such significant racial differences. This
is only apparently a paradox. The latent content of all languages is the
same--the intuitive _science_ of experience. It is the manifest form
that is never twice the same, for this form, which we call linguistic
morphology, is nothing more nor less than a collective _art_ of thought,
an art denuded of the irrelevancies of individual sentiment. At last
analysis, then, language can no more flow from race as such than can the
sonnet form.

Nor can I believe that culture and language are in any true sense
causally related. Culture may be defined as _what_ a society does and
thinks. Language is a particular _how_ of thought. It is difficult to
see what particular causal relations may be expected to subsist between
a selected inventory of experience (culture, a significant selection
made by society) and the particular manner in which the society
expresses all experience. The drift of culture, another way of saying
history, is a complex series of changes in society's selected
inventory--additions, losses, changes of emphasis and relation. The
drift of language is not properly concerned with changes of content at
all, merely with changes in formal expression. It is possible, in
thought, to change every sound, word, and concrete concept of a language
without changing its inner actuality in the least, just as one can pour
into a fixed mold water or plaster or molten gold. If it can be shown
that culture has an innate form, a series of contours, quite apart from
subject-matter of any description whatsoever, we have a something in
culture that may serve as a term of comparison with and possibly a
means of relating it to language. But until such purely formal patterns
of culture are discovered and laid bare, we shall do well to hold the
drifts of language and of culture to be non-comparable and unrelated
processes. From this it follows that all attempts to connect particular
types of linguistic morphology with certain correlated stages of
cultural development are vain. Rightly understood, such correlations are
rubbish. The merest _coup d'oeil_ verifies our theoretical argument on
this point. Both simple and complex types of language of an indefinite
number of varieties may be found spoken at any desired level of cultural
advance. When it comes to linguistic form, Plato walks with the
Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the head-hunting savage of Assam.

It goes without saying that the mere content of language is intimately
related to culture. A society that has no knowledge of theosophy need
have no name for it; aborigines that had never seen or heard of a horse
were compelled to invent or borrow a word for the animal when they made
his acquaintance. In the sense that the vocabulary of a language more or
less faithfully reflects the culture whose purposes it serves it is
perfectly true that the history of language and the history of culture
move along parallel lines. But this superficial and extraneous kind of
parallelism is of no real interest to the linguist except in so far as
the growth or borrowing of new words incidentally throws light on the
formal trends of the language. The linguistic student should never make
the mistake of identifying a language with its dictionary.

If both this and the preceding chapter have been largely negative in
their contentions, I believe that they have been healthily so. There is
perhaps no better way to learn the essential nature of speech than to
realize what it is not and what it does not do. Its superficial
connections with other historic processes are so close that it needs to
be shaken free of them if we are to see it in its own right. Everything
that we have so far seen to be true of language points to the fact that
it is the most significant and colossal work that the human spirit has
evolved--nothing short of a finished form of expression for all
communicable experience. This form may be endlessly varied by the
individual without thereby losing its distinctive contours; and it is
constantly reshaping itself as is all art. Language is the most massive
and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of
unconscious generations.



Languages are more to us than systems of thought-transference. They are
invisible garments that drape themselves about our spirit and give a
predetermined form to all its symbolic expression. When the expression
is of unusual significance, we call it literature.[194] Art is so
personal an expression that we do not like to feel that it is bound to
predetermined form of any sort. The possibilities of individual
expression are infinite, language in particular is the most fluid of
mediums. Yet some limitation there must be to this freedom, some
resistance of the medium. In great art there is the illusion of absolute
freedom. The formal restraints imposed by the material--paint, black and
white, marble, piano tones, or whatever it may be--are not perceived; it
is as though there were a limitless margin of elbow-room between the
artist's fullest utilization of form and the most that the material is
innately capable of. The artist has intuitively surrendered to the
inescapable tyranny of the material, made its brute nature fuse easily
with his conception.[195] The material "disappears" precisely because
there is nothing in the artist's conception to indicate that any other
material exists. For the time being, he, and we with him, move in the
artistic medium as a fish moves in the water, oblivious of the existence
of an alien atmosphere. No sooner, however, does the artist transgress
the law of his medium than we realize with a start that there is a
medium to obey.

[Footnote 194: I can hardly stop to define just what kind of expression
is "significant" enough to be called art or literature. Besides, I do
not exactly know. We shall have to take literature for granted.]

[Footnote 195: This "intuitive surrender" has nothing to do with
subservience to artistic convention. More than one revolt in modern art
has been dominated by the desire to get out of the material just what it
is really capable of. The impressionist wants light and color because
paint can give him just these; "literature" in painting, the sentimental
suggestion of a "story," is offensive to him because he does not want
the virtue of his particular form to be dimmed by shadows from another
medium. Similarly, the poet, as never before, insists that words mean
just what they really mean.]

Language is the medium of literature as marble or bronze or clay are the
materials of the sculptor. Since every language has its distinctive
peculiarities, the innate formal limitations--and possibilities--of one
literature are never quite the same as those of another. The literature
fashioned out of the form and substance of a language has the color and
the texture of its matrix. The literary artist may never be conscious of
just how he is hindered or helped or otherwise guided by the matrix, but
when it is a question of translating his work into another language, the
nature of the original matrix manifests itself at once. All his effects
have been calculated, or intuitively felt, with reference to the formal
"genius" of his own language; they cannot be carried over without loss
or modification. Croce[196] is therefore perfectly right in saying that
a work of literary art can never be translated. Nevertheless literature
does get itself translated, sometimes with astonishing adequacy. This
brings up the question whether in the art of literature there are not
intertwined two distinct kinds or levels of art--a generalized,
non-linguistic art, which can be transferred without loss into an alien
linguistic medium, and a specifically linguistic art that is not
transferable.[197] I believe the distinction is entirely valid, though
we never get the two levels pure in practice. Literature moves in
language as a medium, but that medium comprises two layers, the latent
content of language--our intuitive record of experience--and the
particular conformation of a given language--the specific how of our
record of experience. Literature that draws its sustenance mainly--never
entirely--from the lower level, say a play of Shakespeare's, is
translatable without too great a loss of character. If it moves in the
upper rather than in the lower level--a fair example is a lyric of
Swinburne's--it is as good as untranslatable. Both types of literary
expression may be great or mediocre.

[Footnote 196: See Benedetto Croce, "Aesthetic."]

[Footnote 197: The question of the transferability of art productions
seems to me to be of genuine theoretic interest. For all that we speak
of the sacrosanct uniqueness of a given art work, we know very well,
though we do not always admit it, that not all productions are equally
intractable to transference. A Chopin etude is inviolate; it moves
altogether in the world of piano tone. A Bach fugue is transferable into
another set of musical timbres without serious loss of esthetic
significance. Chopin plays with the language of the piano as though no
other language existed (the medium "disappears"); Bach speaks the
language of the piano as a handy means of giving outward expression to a
conception wrought in the generalized language of tone.]

There is really no mystery in the distinction. It can be clarified a
little by comparing literature with science. A scientific truth is
impersonal, in its essence it is untinctured by the particular
linguistic medium in which it finds expression. It can as readily
deliver its message in Chinese[198] as in English. Nevertheless it must
have some expression, and that expression must needs be a linguistic
one. Indeed the apprehension of the scientific truth is itself a
linguistic process, for thought is nothing but language denuded of its
outward garb. The proper medium of scientific expression is therefore a
generalized language that may be defined as a symbolic algebra of which
all known languages are translations. One can adequately translate
scientific literature because the original scientific expression is
itself a translation. Literary expression is personal and concrete, but
this does not mean that its significance is altogether bound up with the
accidental qualities of the medium. A truly deep symbolism, for
instance, does not depend on the verbal associations of a particular
language but rests securely on an intuitive basis that underlies all
linguistic expression. The artist's "intuition," to use Croce's term, is
immediately fashioned out of a generalized human experience--thought and
feeling--of which his own individual experience is a highly personalized
selection. The thought relations in this deeper level have no specific
linguistic vesture; the rhythms are free, not bound, in the first
instance, to the traditional rhythms of the artist's language. Certain
artists whose spirit moves largely in the non-linguistic (better, in the
generalized linguistic) layer even find a certain difficulty in getting
themselves expressed in the rigidly set terms of their accepted idiom.
One feels that they are unconsciously striving for a generalized art
language, a literary algebra, that is related to the sum of all known
languages as a perfect mathematical symbolism is related to all the
roundabout reports of mathematical relations that normal speech is
capable of conveying. Their art expression is frequently strained, it
sounds at times like a translation from an unknown original--which,
indeed, is precisely what it is. These artists--Whitmans and
Brownings--impress us rather by the greatness of their spirit than the
felicity of their art. Their relative failure is of the greatest
diagnostic value as an index of the pervasive presence in literature of
a larger, more intuitive linguistic medium than any particular language.

[Footnote 198: Provided, of course, Chinese is careful to provide itself
with the necessary scientific vocabulary. Like any other language, it
can do so without serious difficulty if the need arises.]

Nevertheless, human expression being what it is, the greatest--or shall
we say the most satisfying--literary artists, the Shakespeares and
Heines, are those who have known subconsciously to fit or trim the
deeper intuition to the provincial accents of their daily speech. In
them there is no effect of strain. Their personal "intuition" appears as
a completed synthesis of the absolute art of intuition and the innate,
specialized art of the linguistic medium. With Heine, for instance, one
is under the illusion that the universe speaks German. The material

Every language is itself a collective art of expression. There is
concealed in it a particular set of esthetic factors--phonetic,
rhythmic, symbolic, morphological--which it does not completely share
with any other language. These factors may either merge their potencies
with those of that unknown, absolute language to which I have
referred--this is the method of Shakespeare and Heine--or they may weave
a private, technical art fabric of their own, the innate art of the
language intensified or sublimated. The latter type, the more
technically "literary" art of Swinburne and of hosts of delicate "minor"
poets, is too fragile for endurance. It is built out of spiritualized
material, not out of spirit. The successes of the Swinburnes are as
valuable for diagnostic purposes as the semi-failures of the Brownings.
They show to what extent literary art may lean on the collective art of
the language itself. The more extreme technical practitioners may so
over-individualize this collective art as to make it almost unendurable.
One is not always thankful to have one's flesh and blood frozen to

An artist must utilize the native esthetic resources of his speech. He
may be thankful if the given palette of colors is rich, if the
springboard is light. But he deserves no special credit for felicities
that are the language's own. We must take for granted this language with
all its qualities of flexibility or rigidity and see the artist's work
in relation to it. A cathedral on the lowlands is higher than a stick on
Mont Blanc. In other words, we must not commit the folly of admiring a
French sonnet because the vowels are more sonorous than our own or of
condemning Nietzsche's prose because it harbors in its texture
combinations of consonants that would affright on English soil. To so
judge literature would be tantamount to loving "Tristan und Isolde"
because one is fond of the timbre of horns. There are certain things
that one language can do supremely well which it would be almost vain
for another to attempt. Generally there are compensations. The vocalism
of English is an inherently drabber thing than the vowel scale of
French, yet English compensates for this drawback by its greater
rhythmical alertness. It is even doubtful if the innate sonority of a
phonetic system counts for as much, as esthetic determinant, as the
relations between the sounds, the total gamut of their similarities and
contrasts. As long as the artist has the wherewithal to lay out his
sequences and rhythms, it matters little what are the sensuous qualities
of the elements of his material.

The phonetic groundwork of a language, however, is only one of the
features that give its literature a certain direction. Far more
important are its morphological peculiarities. It makes a great deal of
difference for the development of style if the language can or cannot
create compound words, if its structure is synthetic or analytic, if the
words of its sentences have considerable freedom of position or are
compelled to fall into a rigidly determined sequence. The major
characteristics of style, in so far as style is a technical matter of
the building and placing of words, are given by the language itself,
quite as inescapably, indeed, as the general acoustic effect of verse is
given by the sounds and natural accents of the language. These necessary
fundamentals of style are hardly felt by the artist to constrain his
individuality of expression. They rather point the way to those
stylistic developments that most suit the natural bent of the language.
It is not in the least likely that a truly great style can seriously
oppose itself to the basic form patterns of the language. It not only
incorporates them, it builds on them. The merit of such a style as W.H.
Hudson's or George Moore's[199] is that it does with ease and economy
what the language is always trying to do. Carlylese, though individual
and vigorous, is yet not style; it is a Teutonic mannerism. Nor is the
prose of Milton and his contemporaries strictly English; it is
semi-Latin done into magnificent English words.

[Footnote 199: Aside from individual peculiarities of diction, the
selection and evaluation of particular words as such.]

It is strange how long it has taken the European literatures to learn
that style is not an absolute, a something that is to be imposed on the
language from Greek or Latin models, but merely the language itself,
running in its natural grooves, and with enough of an individual accent
to allow the artist's personality to be felt as a presence, not as an
acrobat. We understand more clearly now that what is effective and
beautiful in one language is a vice in another. Latin and Eskimo, with
their highly inflected forms, lend themselves to an elaborately periodic
structure that would be boring in English. English allows, even demands,
a looseness that would be insipid in Chinese. And Chinese, with its
unmodified words and rigid sequences, has a compactness of phrase, a
terse parallelism, and a silent suggestiveness that would be too tart,
too mathematical, for the English genius. While we cannot assimilate the
luxurious periods of Latin nor the pointilliste style of the Chinese
classics, we can enter sympathetically into the spirit of these alien

I believe that any English poet of to-day would be thankful for the
concision that a Chinese poetaster attains without effort. Here is an

[Footnote 200: Not by any means a great poem, merely a bit of occasional
verse written by a young Chinese friend of mine when he left Shanghai
for Canada.]

Wu-river[201] stream mouth evening sun sink,
North look Liao-Tung,[202] not see home.
Steam whistle several noise, sky-earth boundless,
Float float one reed out Middle-Kingdom.

[Footnote 201: The old name of the country about the mouth of the

[Footnote 202: A province of Manchuria.]

These twenty-eight syllables may be clumsily interpreted: "At the mouth
of the Yangtsze River, as the sun is about to sink, I look north toward
Liao-Tung but do not see my home. The steam-whistle shrills several
times on the boundless expanse where meet sky and earth. The steamer,
floating gently like a hollow reed, sails out of the Middle
Kingdom."[203] But we must not envy Chinese its terseness unduly. Our
more sprawling mode of expression is capable of its own beauties, and
the more compact luxuriance of Latin style has its loveliness too.
There are almost as many natural ideals of literary style as there are
languages. Most of these are merely potential, awaiting the hand of
artists who will never come. And yet in the recorded texts of primitive
tradition and song there are many passages of unique vigor and beauty.
The structure of the language often forces an assemblage of concepts
that impresses us as a stylistic discovery. Single Algonkin words are
like tiny imagist poems. We must be careful not to exaggerate a
freshness of content that is at least half due to our freshness of
approach, but the possibility is indicated none the less of utterly
alien literary styles, each distinctive with its disclosure of the
search of the human spirit for beautiful form.

[Footnote 203: I.e., China.]

Probably nothing better illustrates the formal dependence of literature
on language than the prosodic aspect of poetry. Quantitative verse was
entirely natural to the Greeks, not merely because poetry grew up in
connection with the chant and the dance,[204] but because alternations
of long and short syllables were keenly live facts in the daily economy
of the language. The tonal accents, which were only secondarily stress
phenomena, helped to give the syllable its quantitative individuality.
When the Greek meters were carried over into Latin verse, there was
comparatively little strain, for Latin too was characterized by an acute
awareness of quantitative distinctions. However, the Latin accent was
more markedly stressed than that of Greek. Probably, therefore, the
purely quantitative meters modeled after the Greek were felt as a shade
more artificial than in the language of their origin. The attempt to
cast English verse into Latin and Greek molds has never been successful.
The dynamic basis of English is not quantity,[205] but stress, the
alternation of accented and unaccented syllables. This fact gives
English verse an entirely different slant and has determined the
development of its poetic forms, is still responsible for the evolution
of new forms. Neither stress nor syllabic weight is a very keen
psychologic factor in the dynamics of French. The syllable has great
inherent sonority and does not fluctuate significantly as to quantity
and stress. Quantitative or accentual metrics would be as artificial in
French as stress metrics in classical Greek or quantitative or purely
syllabic metrics in English. French prosody was compelled to develop on
the basis of unit syllable-groups. Assonance, later rhyme, could not but
prove a welcome, an all but necessary, means of articulating or
sectioning the somewhat spineless flow of sonorous syllables. English
was hospitable to the French suggestion of rhyme, but did not seriously
need it in its rhythmic economy. Hence rhyme has always been strictly
subordinated to stress as a somewhat decorative feature and has been
frequently dispensed with. It is no psychologic accident that rhyme came
later into English than in French and is leaving it sooner.[206] Chinese
verse has developed along very much the same lines as French verse. The
syllable is an even more integral and sonorous unit than in French,
while quantity and stress are too uncertain to form the basis of a
metric system. Syllable-groups--so and so many syllables per rhythmic
unit--and rhyme are therefore two of the controlling factors in Chinese
prosody. The third factor, the alternation of syllables with level tone
and syllables with inflected (rising or falling) tone, is peculiar to

[Footnote 204: Poetry everywhere is inseparable in its origins from the
singing voice and the measure of the dance. Yet accentual and syllabic
types of verse, rather than quantitative verse, seem to be the
prevailing norms.]

[Footnote 205: Quantitative distinctions exist as an objective fact.
They have not the same inner, psychological value that they had in

[Footnote 206: Verhaeren was no slave to the Alexandrine, yet he
remarked to Symons, _a propos_ of the translation of _Les Aubes_, that
while he approved of the use of rhymeless verse in the English version,
he found it "meaningless" in French.]

To summarize, Latin and Greek verse depends on the principle of
contrasting weights; English verse, on the principle of contrasting
stresses; French verse, on the principles of number and echo; Chinese
verse, on the principles of number, echo, and contrasting pitches. Each
of these rhythmic systems proceeds from the unconscious dynamic habit of
the language, falling from the lips of the folk. Study carefully the
phonetic system of a language, above all its dynamic features, and you
can tell what kind of a verse it has developed--or, if history has
played pranks with its phychology, what kind of verse it should have
developed and some day will.

Whatever be the sounds, accents, and forms of a language, however these
lay hands on the shape of its literature, there is a subtle law of
compensations that gives the artist space. If he is squeezed a bit here,
he can swing a free arm there. And generally he has rope enough to hang
himself with, if he must. It is not strange that this should be so.
Language is itself the collective art of expression, a summary of
thousands upon thousands of individual intuitions. The individual goes
lost in the collective creation, but his personal expression has left
some trace in a certain give and flexibility that are inherent in all
collective works of the human spirit. The language is ready, or can be
quickly made ready, to define the artist's individuality. If no
literary artist appears, it is not essentially because the language is
too weak an instrument, it is because the culture of the people is not
favorable to the growth of such personality as seeks a truly individual
verbal expression.


_Note_. Italicized entries are names of languages or groups of languages.


Abbreviation of stem,
Accent, stress,
as grammatical process,
importance of,
metrical value of
"Adam's apple,"
Affixing languages,
African languages, pitch in,
Agglutinative languages,
_Algonkin_ languages (N. Amer.),
Alpine race,
Analogical leveling,
Analytic tendency,
_Annamite_ (S.E. Asia),
_Apache_ (N. Amer.),
language as,
transferability of,
ease of,
types of, drift toward,
manner of consonantal,
place of consonantal,
_Aryan_. See _Indo-European_.
Association of concepts and speech elements,
Associations fundamental to speech,
_Athabaskan_ languages (N. Amer.),
Athabaskans, cultures of,
_Attic_ dialect,
Auditory cycle in language,
Australian culture,


Baltic race,
_Bantu_ languages (Africa),
_Basque_ (Pyrenees),
_Bengali_ (India),
_Berber_. See _Hamitic_.
_Bontoc Igorot_ (Philippines),
Borrowing, morphological,
Borrowing, word,
phonetic adaptation in,
resistances to,
Bronchial tubes,
Buddhism, influence of,
_Bushman_ (S. Africa),


_Cambodgian_ (S.E. Asia),
_Carrier_ (British Columbia),
See _Attribution_; _Object_; _Personal relations_; _Subject_.
Case-system, history of,
Caucasus, languages of,
Celtic. See _Celts_.
_Celtic_ languages,
"Cerebral" articulations,
Chaucer, English of,
_Chimariko_ (N. California),
absence of affixes,
analytic character,
grammatical concepts illustrated,
"inner form,",
pitch accent,
radical words,
relational use of material words,
survivals, morphological,
word duplication,
word order,
_Chinook_ (N. Amer.),
_Chipewyan_ (N. Amer.),
C. Indians,
Christianity, influence of,
of concepts, rigid,
of linguistic types,
See _Structure, linguistic_.
absence of, in certain languages,
types of,
word order as related to,
Concepts, grammatical:
analysis of, in sentence,
classification of,
concrete relational,
concreteness in, varying degree of,
derivational, abstract,
grouping of, non-logical,
lack of expression of certain,
pure relational,
redistribution of,
thinning-out of significance of,
types of,
typical categories of,
See _Structure, linguistic_.
Concrete concepts. See _Concepts_.
Consonantal change,
combinations of,
Cooerdinate sentences,
Croce, Benedetto,
language and,
language as aspect of,
language, race and,
reflection of history of, in language,
Culture areas,


Demonstrative ideas,
Dental articulations,
Derivational concepts. See _Concepts_.
Determinative structure,
causes of,
compromise between,
distinctness of,
drifts in, diverging,
drifts in, parallel,
splitting up of,
unity of,
Diffusion, morphological,
Drift, linguistic,
components of,
determinants of, in English,
direction of,
direction of, illustrated in English,
examples of general, in English,
parallelisms in,
speed of,
See _Phonetic Law_; _Phonetic processes_.
Duplication of words,


Elements of speech,
Emotion, expression of:
agentive suffix,
analogical leveling,
analytic tendency,
animate and inanimate,
case, history of,
concepts, grammatical, in sentence,
concepts, passage of concrete into derivational,
consonantal change,
culture of speakers of,
desire, expression of,
diminutive suffix,
duplication, word,
esthetic qualities,
form, word,
French influence on,
function and form,
fusing and juxtaposing,
Greek influence on,
influence of,
influence on, morphological, lack of deep,
interrogative words,
invariable words, tendency to,
Latin influence on,
order, word,
parts of speech,
patterning, formal,
personal relations,
phonetic drifts, history of,
phonetic leveling,
phonetic pattern,
race of speakers of,
reference, definiteness of,
relational words,
relations, genetic,
sentence, analysis of,
sentence, dependence of word on,
sound-imitative words,
stress and pitch,
survivals, morphological,
syntactic adhesions,
syntactic values, transfer of,
verb, syntactic relations of,
vocalic change,
word and element, analysis of,
_English, Middle_,
English people,
_Ewe_ (Guinea coast, Africa),
Expiratory sounds,


Faucal position,
Feeling-tones of words,
"Foot, feet" (English), history of,
Form, cultural,
feeling of language for,
Form, linguistic:
conservatism of,
differences of, mechanical origin of,
elaboration of, reasons for,
function and, independence of,
grammatical concepts embodied in,
grammatical processes embodying,
permanence of different aspects of, relative,
twofold consideration of,
See _Structure, linguistic_.
See _Gender_.
Formal units of speech,
"Formlessness, inner,"
_Fox_ (N. Amer.),
analytical tendency,
esthetic qualities,
order, word,
sounds as words, single,
tense forms,
French, Norman,
French people,
_Ful_ (Soudan),
Function, independence of form and,
Functional units of speech,
Fusional languages,
See _Fusion_.
"Fuss, Fuesse" (German), history of,


French influence on,
concepts in sentence,
Latin influence on,
phonetic drifts, history of,
sound-imitative words,
tense forms,
unanalyzable words, resistance to,
_German, High_,
_German, Middle High_,
_German, Old High_,
_Germanic_ languages,
_Germanic, West_,
Gesture languages,
Ginneken, Jac van,
Glottal cords,
action of,
Glottal stop,
Grammatical element,
Grammatical concepts. See _Concepts, grammatical_.
Grammatical processes:
classified by, languages,
particular, development by each language of,
types of,
variety of, use in one language of,
_Greek_, dialectic history of,
_Greek, classical_:
pitch accent,
reduplicated perfects,
synthetic character,
_Greek, modern_,


_Haida_ (British Columbia),
_Hamitic_ languages (N. Africa),
_Hausa_ (Soudan),
History, linguistic,
_Hokan_ languages (N. Amer.),
_Hottentot_ (S. Africa),
Hudson, W.H.,
_Hupa_ (N. California),


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