(The Sound Shape of Language, Roman Jakobson and Linda R. Waugh)
"Sound Patterns in Language" (1925) was Edward Sapir's momentous contribution to the first issue of the first volume of the review 'Language', published by the newborn Linguistic Society of America. This first American pathfinder (1884-1939) in the theoretical insights into the sound shape of language said that "a speech sound is not merely an articulation or an acoustic image, but material for symbolic expression in an appropriate linguistic context"; and it was on "the relational gaps between sounds of a language" that Sapir put the chief emphasis. Similarly, the topological idea that in any analysis of structure "it is not things that matter but the relations between
them", an idea which found a manifold expression in contemporaneous sciences and arts, was a main guide for the exponents of the Prague Linguistic Circle, founded in 1926. They endeavored to derive the characteristics of phonemes from the interrelations of these units and in the "Project of Standardized Phonological Terminology" of 1930 they defined a 'phonological unit' as a term of an opposition. The concept of 'opposition' took on fundamental importance for the differentiation of cognitive meanings. The question of the relationship between the sense-discriminative units bacame the necessary requirement for any delineation of functional sound systems.