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I'm just having a hard time understanding in which context can double articulation be important and useful. I understood that the first articulation means morphemes and second one means phonemes, and that the definition is therefore : property of speech which allows creation of potentially infinite number of meaningful language sequences out of a limited number of meaningless elements called phonemes.

But still, I don't understand the usefulness of this concept and its main argument. If somebody can explain, would help a lot.

Best regards, Marcello

  • "Double articulation" is not an important concept in the study of linguistics. The notion of a hierarchy of concepts is important to linguistics, but also to any other scientific discipline, or to life in general. – user6726 Nov 7 at 15:27
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The core idea of double articulation is that the description of languages needs at least two basic objects:
The first one is of phonetic and articulatory nature, namely phones or phonemes, which do not have an intrinsic meaning, though it can be argued that phones have phonostylistic properties, but these properties are more connotations rather than true meanings. A phone(me) like vowel ah [a] has no meaning per se.
The other one is of semantic nature, namely morphemes, which (normally) do have an intrinsic meaning and are uttered thanks to phonemes.
In other words, phonemes and morphemes are not the same kind of linguistic units. Phonemes are purely phonetic or phonemic, morphemes combine sound and meaning.
Besides, if you want to criticize the double articulation principle, it can be noted that morphemes belong to different classes: nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. In addition, morphemes are normally assembled in clauses.
So it is quite clear that you need more than just phonemes and morphemes to adequately describe a language.

  • big thanks for the answer, but I already understood the meaning of double articulation. I just cannot figure in which domain of science will we pracrically use it to explain what ? – anonymous Nov 6 at 7:39
  • If you write a descriptive grammar of a language, logically, you should have at least two major parts: one for phonemes, the next for morphemes. – Arnaud Fournet Nov 6 at 8:33
  • so would you say it is THE condition sine qua none for defining a human language from other systems ? And therefore is it what makes it so important ? I mean, what is so new in this theory that people didn't know before ? In my eyes it still doesn't make sense, one could write a descriptive grammar by talking about phonemes and morphemes without referring specifically to the name "double articulation", what makes this theory particular ? – anonymous Nov 6 at 14:47
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    Maybe not the condition but is a condition, as far as we know, for all human languages. It explains the tremendous combinatorial power that language has: a tiny handful of phonemes (as small as ~15 for some languages) can combine to make hundreds of thousands of meaning-units, which can in turn combine themselves. The structure is like a Lego set where the pieces are themselves made of smaller pieces; this allows the larger pieces to represent thousands of things, while only needing a tiny diversity of unique small pieces. It's just a neat description of this structural makeup of lang. – melissa_boiko Nov 7 at 9:04
  • @melissa_boiko, thanks for the great answer, it does make more sense said like that, but could you say me what makes this theory so authentic ? I mean, for example if we take the the Grimm's law it's clear for me to see how it helped the understanding of languages and that the theory was an answer to many questions. But for the double articulation I still can't figure the authenticity and the practical use of it. Maybe you can explain me more. – anonymous Nov 7 at 12:57
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Phonetic feature values are assembled into sound segments; sound segments assembled into morphemes; morphemes into words; words into idioms; idioms into sentences; sentences into paragraphs; paragraphs into stories; and so on. What is going on here? Obviously, "double articulation" misses it. So I see no value in concentrating on that notion.

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