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What is a word?



A word is a unit which is a constituent at the phrase level and above. It is sometimes identifiable according to such criteria as

  • being the minimal possible unit in a reply
  • having features such as

    • a regular stress pattern, and
    • phonological changes conditioned by or blocked at word boundaries
  • being the largest unit resistant to insertion of new constituents within its boundaries, or
  • being the smallest constituent that can be moved within a sentence without making the sentence ungrammatical.

A word is sometimes placed, in a hierarchy of grammatical constituents, above the morpheme level and below the phrase level.

  Here are some kinds of words:
  A word is a kind of

Hartmann and Stork 1972 256


Crystal 1980 168, 383–384


Cruse 1986 35–36


Mish 1991 1358


Pike and Pike 1982 462

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

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