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Say I were making a language and I wanted to convey, through writing, anything that a real language could convey, except I didn't want to convey what I wanted to say by using words. Also, in this theoretical language, I didn't want to completely rely upon inflections. How might one do this?

Also, when I am referings to words above, I am talking about a string of letters seperated by spaces or seperate meanings (other than a synthetic word).

Sorry if its too vague, I'm trying to be as clear as possible. Ill try to make it a less open ended question as I get comments.

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    As a heads-up, it's possible your question will be closed soon for not being clear enough. This isn't permanent, though: once you edit the question to make it clearer, it may be opened again. OK, first comment: is your question supposed to apply to an existing language, or a theoretical language? That is do you want to know how we would say such a sentence in a real language like English or Inuinnaqtun, or how such a sentence might possibly exist in any language? Jun 23, 2015 at 1:01
  • @sumelic I have changed the question and I tried to make it clearer. Thanks Jun 23, 2015 at 1:09
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    OK. Another question: how do you define "word"? For example, what's to stop us from defining the entire sentence as a single word? There are languages where single-word sentences can be somewhat common. You could define "word" syntactically, or phonologically, I suppose. Jun 23, 2015 at 1:15
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    Sothissentenceisoneword? Most linguists consider writing to be secondary to the true structure of a language. Even if that's not quite the case with regard to word division, it's a trivial matter to write without spaces, and many languages' writing systems already do so, so I'd advise leaving that out of your definition of a word for the purposes of this question. Jun 23, 2015 at 1:40
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    You could paint your ideas as in the Maya or Aztec codes. But such paintings are prone to be misunderstood. Another possibility is telepathic communication as John Wyndham described it in his SF novel Chrysalids. But those young people who could do it were a new genetic mutation.
    – rogermue
    Jul 25, 2015 at 18:17

2 Answers 2

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Well, the sentence must be made up of something, if not words. Another unit could be syllables. Usually syllables form words, but not necessarily. One could imagine a "sentence" comprised of non-word syllables, the meaning of which is constructed through specific intonation contours imposed on the syllables.

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Words are fixed expressions of language that we remember on a long term basis. If you want to do without words, you're asking for a system with no such expressions. People would be able to communicate somehow without any conventional, memorized connections between expressions and meaning. I don't think it's possible.

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  • Yes, giving names to things or learning names for things seems a basic part of language acquisition and probably the development of language. And in that process, there's not much difference between name and word (at least nouns when it comes to nouns).
    – Stuart F
    Nov 28 at 10:19

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