THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF LANGUAGE
Languages consist of a hierarchy of unit types, which combine and recombine to form higher and higher level categories so that, with a relatively small number of basic units, each person can express and understand innumerable new thoughts. At the bottom are the units of sound such as c, t, and a, which combine into such words as cat, act, and tact. These words combine in turn into such phrases as a fat cat, and the phrases thencombine into such sentences as A fat cat acts with tact and That’s the act of a tacky cat. (Figure 10.2 illustrates this hierarchy of linguistic categories.) We now take up each of these levels of organization in turn.
• The Sound Units
• Morphemes and Words
• Phrases and Sentences