Language levels and their basic units icon

Language levels and their basic units



НазваниеLanguage levels and their basic units
Дата конвертации10.10.2012
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LANGUAGE LEVELS AND THEIR BASIC UNITS

Language is a system of units which are usually divided into segmental and super-segmental units.

Segmental units include phonemes syllables, morphemes, words, phrases and sentences.

Super-segmental units don't exist by themselves. They are actualized together with segmental units.

Super-segmental units include accent, intonation patterns, patterns of word order and pauses.

Taking into consideration segmental units any language may be represented as a hierarchy of levels. This hierarchy is of such character that units of any higher level are analyzable into units of the immediate lower level.

We can say that a unit of a higher level includes one or more units of the lower level.

The matter is that the correlation between levels and their units is rather complicated. It means we can't say that a unit of a higher level is a mere sum of lower units.

A unit of a higher level always has a quality which is not inherent in any of lower units.

The naming power of the word „discover" is not inherent in the morphemes it contains. On the other hand a combination of units of a certain level doesn't make up a units of higher level unless this combination gets the features of the units of this higher level.

The combination of phoneme like "e", "l", "r" doesn't make up a morpheme because it's meaningless but any morpheme should have a meaning.

Or the combination of morphemes “-ing”, “-ly” doesn't make up a word because this combination lacks naming power. But a single unit of a given level may become a unit of higher level without combining with other units if gets the features of the unit of a higher level.

[о:] - it may become a morpheme if it gets significative meaning or it may become even a word if it gets naming power.

or [o:] - или, ore [o:] - руда, oar [о:] - весло

So we can say we really differentiate a number of language levels and their basic units but there's no rigid border between them.

The segmental hierarchy of a language includes the following levels:

  1. Phonemic

  2. Мorphemic

  3. Lexemic

  4. Phrasemic

  5. Рroposemic (sentence)

  6. Super-proposemic (text).

The basic unit of phonemic level is the phoneme. The phoneme is the smallest distinguishing unit of a language. E.g.: sit-set, bad – bed.

The basic unit of the morphemic level is the morpheme. The morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of language.

The lowest level of lingual segments is phonemic. The phoneme has no meaning. Its function is purely differential: it differentiates morphemes and words. Ex.: bad - bed

Phonemes are combined into syllables.


^ The morphemic level. The morpheme is the elementary meaningful part of the word. It is built up by phonemes, so that shortest morpheme includes only one phoneme. Ex.: ros - у [i], afire [e], come-s [z].

The morpheme expresses abstract, significative meanings, which are used as constituents for the formation of more concrete, nominative meanings of words. The third level in the hierarchy is the level of words, or lexemic level. The word, as different from the morphemes, is a directly naming (nominative) unit of language: it names things and their relations. Since words are built up by morphemes, the shortest words consist of one explicit morpheme. Ex.: man, will, but, etc.

The next higher level is the level of phrases (word groups), or phrasemic level. To phrases belong combinations of two or more notional words. These combinations, like separating words, having a nominative function. Like words phrases are naming units, but unlike words they name more complicated phenomena. Ex.: a picturesque village; to start with a jerk; extremely difficult the unexpected arrival of the chief.

Phrases name an object and its property, an action and its property etc. This kind of omination can be called "polynomination", as different from "mononomination" affected by separate words.

There are syntactic relations between the components of the phrase. Hence the shortest phrase consists of at least two words. So the phrase is the smallest language unit, which is characterized by syntactic relations.

Above the phrasemic level lays the level of sentence, or proposemic level. The sentence is the smallest communicative unit of the language. We can express our thoughts only with the help of sentences. Naming a certain situation, the sentence expresses predication, i.e. shows the relation of the denoted event to reality. It shows whether this event is real or unreal, desirable or obligatory, stated as a truth or asked about, etc.

In this sense, as different from the word and the phrase, the sentence is a predicative unit.

The sentence is not the highest unit of language in the hierarchy of levels. There is still another one the level of sentence - groups, supra- proposemic level. It is a combination of separate sentences forming a textual unity. The minimal text consists of at least 2 sentences which are thematically connected with each other.

To sum up:

  1. The function of the phoneme is differential.

  2. The function of the morpheme is significative.

  3. The function of the word is nominative.

  4. The function of the phrase is polynominative.

  5. The function of the sentence is predicative.



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