Page:The American Indian.djvu/348

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THE AMERICAN INDIAN

subject is quite undeveloped. In the main, the time of investigators has been taken up with the necessary recording of texts and the working out of translations, and though their published papers often close with summaries of the structural systems employed, this has in no case gone far enough to admit of extensive comparative studies for the continents at large. However, the reader will sometimes find in the older literature certain characterizations of New World languages, cited as distinguishing them from languages in other parts of the world. These should be ignored, for the different tongues of the New World show very wide divergence in their structure, in fact, presenting about all the known varieties.

Yet there is one aspect of morphology in which the New World shows some distinction. While, in general, the morphological classification of all languages is rather difficult, yet from the point of view of the internal coherence of the word they can be comprehended under three heads: isolating, agglutinative, and inflective.[1] Other bases of classification have been proposed, but are found less satisfactory; hence, they may be ignored here. Applying the above criterion to the speech of the New World, we find it chiefly agglutinative, in fact, as far as we know, exclusively so. On the other hand, agglutinative speech occurs in the Old World so that this character can not be taken as peculiar, we can only say that perhaps in this respect greater morphological unity exists among New World languages. Further, there seem to be some indications that certain processes, as the incorporation of the object in the verbal phrase, the polysynthetic formation of terms, etc., are of more frequent occurrence here than in the Old World, but it remains for future students to definitely establish the facts. In fact, as the case stands at present, there are no known morphological characters strictly peculiar to New World speech as a whole.

If we attempt a review of comparative studies in morphology, we must again turn to California and the Pacific Coast, for as we shall see presently, this portion of the continent is the home of a large number of small linguistic families. The most important single contribution to the subject is by Dixon

  1. Sapir, 1911. I.