Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/65

This page has been validated.
61
HUMAN SPEECH

ments may be characterized as relational; they not merely serve to give the word affected a new increment of meaning, as is the case with the first group, but also assign it a definite syntactic place in the sentence, defining as they do its relation to other words of the sentence. Such a relational grammatical element, in English, is the plural -s suffix; a word, for instance, like books differs from its corresponding singular book not merely in the idea of plurality conveyed by the suffix -s, but assumes a different grammatical relation to other words in the sentence—a book is, but books are. Such relational elements are, furthermore, the case and gender suffixes of nouns and adjectives in Indogermanic languages; furthermore, the personal endings and tense suffixes of verbs. On the whole it may be said that derivational elements are of relatively more concrete signification than the relational ones and tend to become more thoroughly welded into a word unit with the basic word or stem to which they are attached or which they affect. This statement, however, is only approximately of general application and is subject to numerous qualifications. The greatest degree of concreteness of meaning conveyed by derivational elements is probably attained in many, though by no means all, American Indian languages, where ideas of largely material content are apt to be expressed by grammatical means. To this tendency the name of polysynthesis has been applied. Thus in Yana, an Indian language of northern California, such ideas as up a hill, across a creek, in the fire, to the east, from the south, immediately, in vain and a host of others are expressed by means of grammatical suffixes appended to the verb stem; so also in Nootka, an Indian language of Vancouver Island, so highly special ideas as on the head, in the hand, on the rocks, on the surface of the water, and many others, are similarly expressed as suffixes. It is important to note that, although the distinction between derivational and relational grammatical elements we have made is clearly reflected in some way or other in most languages, they differ a great deal as to what particular logical concepts are treated as respectively derivational or relational. Such concepts as those of sex gender, number and tense, which in Indogermanic are expressed as relational elements, are in other linguistic stocks hardly to be separated, as regards their grammatical treatment, from concepts treated in a clearly derivational manner. On the other hand, demonstrative ideas, which in most Indogermanic languages receive no relational syntactic treatment, may, as in the Kwakiutl language of British Columbia, serve an important relational function, analogous, say, to the Indogermanic use of gender; just as in Latin, for instance, such a sentence as "I saw the big house" is expressed by "I-saw house-masculine-objective big-masculine-objective," with a necessary double reference to the concepts of case relation and gender, so in Kwakiutl the sentence "I saw the house" would have to be ex-