General Problems of the Theory of the Word. The Definition of the Word.
The problems associated with the definition of the word have always been most complex and remain disputable. Determining the word involves considerable difficulties for the criteria employed in establishing it are of different character and each language presents a separate system with its own patterns of vocabulary items, its specific types of structural units and its own ways of distinguishing them. The matter is that the simplest word has many different aspects. It has a sound form because it is a certain arrangement of phonemes.
It has its morphological structure, being a certain arrangement of morphemes.
Being the central element of any language system, the word is a sort of focus for the problems of phonology, lexicology, syntax, morphology and also some other sciences that have to deal with language and speech, such as philosophy, psychology and probably quite a few other branches of knowledge. All attempts to characterise the word are necessarily specific for each domain of science and are considered one-sided by the representatives of all the other domains and criticised for incompleteness,
The definition of the word from the point of view of philosophy:
Words are not mere sounds but names of matter (T. Hobbes).
The definition of the word from the point of view of physiology:
A word is a universal signal that can substitute any other signal from the environment in evoking a response in a human organism (I. Pavlov).
The definition of the word from the point of view of Machine Mathematical Linguistics:
A word is a sequence of graphemes between two blanks.
The definition of the word from the point of view of syntax:
A word is a minimum sentence (H. Sweet).
A word is a minimum free form (L. Bloomfield).
The definition of the word from the point of view of semantics:
Words are meaningful units (S. Ullmann).
The definition of the word from the point of view of syntax and semantics:
A word is one of the smallest completely satisfying bits of isolated units into which the sentence resolves itself (E. Sapir).
The definition of the word from the point of view of semantics and phonology:
A word is an articulate sound-symbol in its aspect of denoting something which is spoken about ( A. Gardiner).
The definition of the word from the point of view of semantics, phonology and grammar:
A word is the association of a given meaning with a given group of sounds susceptible to a given grammatical employment (A. Meillet).
Many scholars have attempted to define the word as a linguistic phenomenon. Yet none of the definitions can be considered totally satisfactory in all aspects. The definition which is a bit extended but takes into account different aspects and hence can be considered optimal is the definition of the word given be I. Arnold:
The word is a speech unit used for the purposes of human communication, materially representing a group of sounds, possessing a meaning, susceptible to grammatical employment and characterised by formal and semantic unity.
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