Re: RE: Humpty Dumpty

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Wed Mar 18 1998 - 14:52:11 EST

Jonathan Robie wrote:

>>I think it is a mistake to think that there is one level which is *the* unit of
meaning. Phonemes are a unit of meaning, so are words, and so are sentences.<<

Sorry, Jonathan, but I have to disagree psychologically and linguistically here.
Phonemes are not units of meaning. They have no meaning. Conversely, Morphemes do
have meaning. Psychologists say that phonemes mean nothing in se. Linguists say that
phomemes "make a functional difference in the meaning of words," but they are not
to be confused with that said meaning. In the word "pill,' P is a phomeme--it has
no meaning in se.

>>These units function in different >>ways. A phoneme by itself
carries no meaning, but if you exchange one phoneme for another in a word,
you change the word itself.<<

I may have jumped the gun in my earlier comments, but I feel a need to make a distinction
between a phoneme having meaning and a phoneme affecting the meaning of a linguistic

>A word by itself can be described in terms of semantic domains, as Peter Phillips
has pointed out, but may have many completely unrelated senses, and the meaning of
a word may only be decipherable in the context of a sentence.<<

I ask you, would Thales need an entire sentence or paragraph if I uttered the word
LOGOS in his presence? Would he think of all the meanings of LOGOS or would he quickly
comprehend what I meant? When a minister uses the word "justification" in a sermon,
most parishoners would sense he was speaking theologically because of an acquired
presupposition pool which they share. In fact, a context added to the word might
obfuscate its meaning. They might have to sort out what he means.

Something to think about,

Edgar Foster
Classics Major (Lenoir-Rhyne)
Hickory, NC

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