VIII
WORDS

A WORD is an autonomous unit of thought and sense. It 'results from the association of a given meaning with a given group of sounds susceptible of a given grammatical employment' or is 'a complex of sounds which in itself possesses a meaning fixed and accepted by convention' or is 'the smallest thought-unit vocally expressible'.1

Though a word is no more than a somewhat shifty hummock on the contour of a breath-group, though it is embedded in the sentence and its unity has to be defined for each separate language, though there are languages which have no words in our sense either for completeness of form or precision of meaning, and though the meaning of meaning is an unresolved problem in both linguistics and philosophy, the emergence of words as counters of thought is of the utmost importance. Because of it language studies have been inverted and made to turn on words, not the sentence. Syntax is the arrangement of words in a sentence. Etymology seeks the 'true account' or at least the origins of words. Morphology is defined as treating of morphemes, significant addition, or variations of words. Phonetic transcriptions are divided into words. Lexicography traces the history of meanings of words and arranges them in the most convenient sequences. Semantics deals with meanings, derivation with secondary word-forms. Words are entered on linguistic maps even when sounds or phrases are to be studied, because it is found that these vary according to the words that compose them. Words and things are studied in a special branch of linguistics and others are concerned with particular sources of words, such as personal and place names and names of particular classes of objects.

Words also attract the attention of non-linguists. Philosophers study certain words and attempt to impose on them meanings which they assert to be common and which are either incapable of confusion or are a guide through words to reality. The philosophical

____________________
1
A. Rosetti, Le Mot, Copenhagen-Bucharest, 1947, has a full bibliography and is a summary sketch of the subject. Cf. L. H. Gray, Foundations of Language, New York, 1939, p. 146; A. Meillet, Linguistique historique et linguistique générale, Paris, 1921, p. 30.

-226-

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Aspects of Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editor''s Preface v
  • Prefatory Letter vii
  • Contents xi
  • I- Language 1
  • II- Change 34
  • III- Techniques 71
  • IV- Sounds 97
  • V- Grammar- Form and Function 145
  • VI- Grammar- The Sentence 167
  • VII- Grammar- Parts of Speech 187
  • VIII- Words 226
  • IX- Values 265
  • X- Classification, Description, Affiliation 286
  • XI- Languages 305
  • Index 363
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