Language - Structure


When described as a system of symbolic communication, language is traditionally seen as consisting of three parts: signs, meanings and a code connecting signs with their meanings. The study of the process of semiosis, how signs and meanings are combined, used and interpreted is called semiotics. Signs can be composed of sounds, gestures, letters or symbols, depending on whether the language is spoken, signed or written, and they can be combined into complex signs such as words and phrases. When used in communication a sign is encoded and transmitted by a sender through a channel to a receiver who decodes it.

Some of the properties that define human language as opposed to other communication systems are: the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign, meaning that there is no predictable connection between a linguistic sign and its meaning; the duality of the linguistic system, meaning that linguistic structures are built by combining elements into larger structures that can be seen as layered, e.g. how sounds build words and words build phrases; the discreteness of the elements of language, meaning that the elements out of which linguistic signs are constructed are discrete units, e.g. sounds and words, that can be distinguished from each other and rearranged in different patterns; and the productivity of the linguistic system, meaning that the finite number of linguistic elements can be combined into a theoretically infinite number of combinations.

The rules under which signs can be combined to form words and phrases are called syntax or grammar. The meaning that is connected to individual signs, morphemes, words, phrases and texts is called semantics. The division of language into separate but connected systems of sign and meaning goes back to the first linguistic studies of de Saussure and is now used in almost all branches of linguistics.

Read more about this topic:  Language

Other articles related to "structure":

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Famous quotes containing the word structure:

    Vashtar: So it’s finished. A structure to house one man and the greatest treasure of all time.
    Senta: And a structure that will last for all time.
    Vashtar: Only history will tell that.
    Senta: Sire, will he not be remembered?
    Vashtar: Yes, he’ll be remembered. The pyramid’ll keep his memory alive. In that he built better than he knew.
    William Faulkner (1897–1962)

    It is difficult even to choose the adjective
    For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
    The great structure has become a minor house.
    No turban walks across the lessened floors.
    The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
    Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)

    The verbal poetical texture of Shakespeare is the greatest the world has known, and is immensely superior to the structure of his plays as plays. With Shakespeare it is the metaphor that is the thing, not the play.
    Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977)