Units of Language. Language Levels

Language levels. The grammatical system of the English language, like of other Indo-European languages, is very complicated. It consists of smaller subdivisions, which are called systems too. In grammar they are morphological and syntactic ones.

In syntax we discriminate between the systems of simple and composite sentences, etc. Prof. V. V. Plotkin suggests the terms ‘morosystem’ implying the grammatical system of the language as a whole and ‘subsystem’ and ‘microsystem’ with reference to minor system.

Thus, the systemic character of grammar is beyond doubt. The phonological structure of language is also systemic. The question of the systemic character of vocabulary (word-stock) remains open. But of all lingual aspects grammar is, no doubt, most systemic since it is responsible for the very organization of the informative content of utterance.

Language in general and grammar in particular are materialized in structure. Language structure is represented by a level stratification of its units. This structure is of hierarchical character. Graphically the level stratification of language can be depicted by following table (scheme):


Text, texteme, dicteme

The highest communicative unit

Promosemic (the level of major syntax)

Proposeme (sentence)

Communicative unit

Phrasemic (the level of minor syntax)

Phraseme (word-group)

Polynominative unit

Word level (lexemic)

Lexeme (word)

Monominative unit

Morphological (morphemic)


The smallest meaning full unit

Phonological (phonemic)


Distinctive unit


Language unit

The nature of the unrepresenting level

Units of language. Units of language are divided into meaningless and meaningful. Examples of the first kind: phonemes, syllable Meaningful are morpheme, word and others. The latter are called  — language signs. They have both planes: that of content and that of expression. They are signemes.

As to the way of expressing lingual units are divided into segmental and supra-segmental. Segmental units consists of phonemes and form phonetic strings of various status  (morphemes, syllables). Supra-segmental units do not exist by themselves, they are realized together with segmental units and express different modificational meanings which are reflected on the strings of segmental units. Supra-segmental units are intonation contours, streets, pauses and the like.

Segmental units form a hierarchy of levels. The lowest level is phonemic. It is formed by phonemes, which are not language signs, because they are purely differential (distinctive) units.Units of all the higher levels are meaningful. They are language signs (signemes) .

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