Language Segmentation

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Segmentation refers to the fact that in human language there is a small set of discrete primitive elements that clearly contrast with each other. The words of human language are composed of discrete segments both meaningful (morphemes) and non-meaningful (phonemes). Phonemes (cf. “Sound/sign patterning (phonology)”) convey no meaning but constitute the stable inventory of sounds utilized by human language to form morphemes. Morphemes (cf. “Rules of word formation (morphology)”) are meaning-bearing segments, e.g. roots and affixes, that combine to yield larger composite meanings (cf. “Combinatorial capacity”). The signs of sign language are also divided into morphemes and phonological segments of handshape, orientation, movement, and (body) location. There is evidence for segmentation of passerine avian, cetacean, and primate and long call systems into discrete acoustic elements. There is no conclusive evidence to date that these systems exhibit segmentation into stable units of meaning across multiple contexts.


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