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Sounds and Meaning

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Abstract

One of the first questions that we might want to ask about meaning in English is ‘What is the smallest part of the language to carry meaning?’ It is unlikely to be anything as large as a clause or sentence, it might be the word, or even part of a word. In fact linguists often use the idea of ‘the smallest unit of meaning’ as the definition of a ‘morpheme', the term used for both independent words like cat, ball, jump and for meaningful affixes that can be added like ‘-s’ (meaning plural as in cats) or ‘-ing’ (meaning continuing as in jumping).

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© Lesley Jeffries 1998

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