Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Universality of Word Boundaries in Human Cognition

"...Twice I have taught intelligent young Indians to write their own languages according to the phonetic system which I employ. They were taught merely how to render accurately the sounds as such. Both had some difficulty in learning to break up a word into its constituent sounds, but none whatever in determining the words. This they both did with spontaneous and complete accuracy. In the hundreds of pages of manuscript Nootka text that I have obtained from one of these young Indians the words, whether abstract relational entities like English that and but or complex sentence-words...are, practically without exception, isolated precisely as I or any other student would have isolated them. Such experiences with naive speakers and recorders do more to convince one of the definitely plastic unity of the word than any amount of purely theoretical argument."

- From Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. Edward Sapir, 1921.

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