Chapter 10 language
The building blocks of language
Consists of a hierarchy of unit types, which combine and recombine to form higher and higher level
categories so that, with a relativity small number of basic units, each person can express and understand
innumerable new thoughts.
The sound units
Phoneme: the smallest significant unit of sound in a language. Alphabetic characters roughly
correspond to phonemes.
Morphemes and words
Morpheme: the smallest significant unit of meaning in a word.
Content morphemes and function morphemes
Content morpheme: a morpheme that carries the main semantic and referential content of a sentence.
In english content morphemes are usually nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs.
Function morpheme: a morpheme that, while adding such content as time, mode, individuation, and
evidentiality, also serves a grammatical purpose.
Phrases and sentences
Rules of syntax or grammar: the regular principles governing how words can be assembles into
The basics of syntactic organization
Tree diagram: a geometric representation of the structure of a sentence. Its nodes are labeled with
phrase and word class category names, and the descending branches indicate relationships among these
Phrase structure description: a tree diagram or labeled bracketing that shows the hierarchal structure
of a sentence.
How language conveys meaning
The meaning of words
Definitional theory of word meaning: the theory that mental representations of word meanings consist
of a necessary and sufficient set of semantic features.
Semantic features: a basic semantic category or concept that cannot be decomposed into smaller or gar The prototype theory of meaning
Prototype theory: a theory in which concepts or word meanings are formed around average or typical
Family resemblance structure: an overlapping set of semantic features shared by members of a
category, such that no members of the category need to have all of the features but all members have
at least one of them.