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Saturday, June 9, 2018

What is a word?


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Rod Allday

Photo license: CC BY-SA 2.0


What is a word? Here is my definition:


A word is a symbol consisting of letters, phonetic sounds or conventional gestures


I believe that words are portable concepts. For example, think of the word 'wall'. To establish the word 'wall', we can point to multiple examples of walls and say 'wall'. After this process, the word 'wall' becomes an established tool to convey the concept of a wall. Saying the word 'wall' is much easier than pointing to the concept it represents.


Another common way to establish a word is to provide a definition. A definition is a statement of the meaning of a word. This method is only possible once we have already established a large variety of other words.


I believe that words are necessary for us to express complex ideas. Complex ideas are usually the combination of multiple concepts. To express a complex proposition, we could physically point at multiple things but this would be unclear and slow. Words enable us to skip the step of pointing, allowing us to express complex ideas much easier.



License: CC BY-SA 4.0