Glossematics is a structuralist linguistic methodology of the twentieth century proposed by Louis Hjelmslev. It defines the glosseme as the most basic unit or component of language. The glosseme is defined as the smallest irreducible unit of both the content and expression planes of language; in the expression plane, the glosseme is said to be identical or nearly identical to the phoneme, whereas it is stressed that traditional analyses have not adequately revealed the basic units of the content plane of languages.
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The term was coined by Louis Hjelmslev and Hans Jørgen Uldall. The term glosseme derives from the Greek word glossa (meaning here "language") and the -eme suffix; it was also used by Leonard Bloomfield in describing his system of basic linguistic units (see Tagmeme). The ultimate goal of the linguist who studies glossemes is the same as that of a physicist who studies atoms, to with a more perfect understanding of the whole through a thorough study of the structure of the constituent parts. To the greatest extent possible, glossematics seeks to show a tabula rasa approach, constructing an internally consistent framework of axioms and principles with minimal reliance on external terms. It is an abstracting form of structuralism, concerned with how "functives" describe relationships among "terminals" rather than with words themselves. This system, constructed without recourse to any particular language or constructivist modality, seeks to establish a universal standard defining the necessary and sufficient conditions of language.
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