3.1 Words and Their Meaning

It may seem a superficial question to ask “what is a word?” However, this question has stymied some of the greatest minds on history. Ferdinand de Saussure once said that a word is like a coin. It has two sides in that it has (the sounds that make up a word) and (the concept associated with it). In this sense, we could say that a word links form with meaning.

Words also have some properties that go beyond these observations. For example, words are free as they can appear in . “How was the hamburger?” “Delicious”. A perfectly sensible word that provides meaning on its own. Words are also . They are not bound to a particular position in a sentence. Consider these examples:

  • John is making a hamburger.
  • Hamburger is delicious.
  • Jenny loves to eat hamburgers for dinner.

The word hamburger can appear as the first, last or middle word in a sentence. However, now consider whether the meaning of words is inseparable from the form. We know we can break up a word’s form into phonemes. Can me break up a word’s meaning in the same way?


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Psychology of Language by Dinesh Ramoo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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