Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What is a word and what is then what ?

  1. May 27, 2007 #1
    What is a "word" and what is then "what" ?

    When I went to school the teacher told me that there were sentences and there were words and that these items were used to express some "meaning".

    But he never explained me really what a sentence is, except to be a sequence of words, and he never told me what a word is, just how they were used.

    As an example, lets take this small little word "what" and ask "what is what" ?

    How can this word be explained as what it is ? How can the term "word" be explained as a general term, not as used for only one function.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2007 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    A word is a sequence of letters, which is then given a meaning in the certain language that one is creating.
  4. May 27, 2007 #3
    they are sounds that help two entities communicate or relate or describe things to each other such as

    objects/ actions/characteristics/behaviours/properties
  5. May 27, 2007 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    You don't know what words and sentences are?
  6. May 27, 2007 #5
    Words (and sentences) only have demonstrable meaning according to their function in a given context. They are abstract symbols (written, verbal, or sign language) for existent things.

    In other words, the word "what" has no demonstrable meaning outside of its use in a specific context. For example if I said, "that music is bad!" I could mean it is great or terrible depending upon the emotional inflextion I use in any given instance.
    Last edited: May 27, 2007
  7. May 27, 2007 #6
    Words are written/spoken symbols or representations.
    Sentences are a written/spoken series of symbols that have meaning as a unit.

    See also: linguistics, semiotics
  8. May 27, 2007 #7
    Am I the only one who finds these types of posts to just be practical jokes?
  9. May 28, 2007 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Langbein, what kind of answer are you looking for? You are getting linguistics-type answers, though linguistics can give much more detailed answers backed by developed scientific theories, but then this discussion should move to https://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=85" [Broken].

    Do you instead want an answer from the philosophy of language? I'm not sure how much it would have to say about the words and sentences themselves. I think it might be more concerned with meaning, its nature, how it relates to speakers and their beliefs, how it relates to the world, and so on.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  10. May 28, 2007 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Can you think of an example where a fair number of people would be genuinely confused as to whether some given thing was a word or not? Can you think of an example where a fair number of people would be genuinely confused as to whether some given thing was a sentence or not? Can you think of an example where someone uses the word "what" in a sentence, and a fair number of people can't grasp the meaning of the sentence because they're confused by the word "what"? Probably not, at least not an interesting example. We know what words and sentences are, and we know what "what" means. You seem to want an explicit description/definition for these things. But this isn't philosophically interesting, I think it barely passes for being philosophical. The questions you're asking seem to be the kind I'd ask my little sister when I'm trying to bug her. trajan22, you could be right.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook