reverse process whereby a listener's brain converts the acoustic phenomena into concepts and ideas, thus establishing a two-way process of communication.
We know very little about the nature of relations between the word and the referent (i. e. object, phenomenon, quality, action, etc. denoted by the word). If we assume that there is a direct relation between the word and the referent — which seems logical — it gives rise to another question: how should we explain the fact that the same referent is designated by quite different sound groups in different languages.
We do know by now — though with vague uncertainty — that there is nothing accidental about the vocabulary of the language;1 that each word is a small unit within a vast, efficient and perfectly balanced system. But we do not know why it possesses these qualities, nor do we know much about the processes by which it has acquired them.
The list of unknowns could be extended, but it is probably high time to look at the brighter side and register some of the things we do know about the nature of the word.
First, we do know that the word is a unit of speech which, as such, serves the purposes of human communication. Thus, the word can be defined as a unit of communication.
Secondly, the word can be perceived as the total of the sounds which comprise it.
Third, the word, viewed structurally, possesses several characteristics.
The modern approach to word studies is based on distinguishing between the external and the internal structures of the word.
1 By the vocabulary of a language is understood the total sum of its words. Another term for the same is the stock of words.