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In linguistics, the term double articulation, first introduced by the French linguist André Martinet, or duality of patterning refers to the way in which the stream of speech can be divided into meaningful signs, which can be further subdivided into meaningless elements. So for example, the meaningful English word "cat" is composed of the sounds [k], [æ], and [t], which are meaningless as separate individual sounds (and which can also be combined to form the separate words "tack" and "act", with distinct meanings). These sounds, called phonemes, represent the lowest level in the hierarchy of the organization of speech. Higher levels of organization (including morphology, syntax, and semantics) govern the combination of these individually meaningless phonemes into meaningful elements. According to Charles F. Hockett and other linguists, this duality (a finite number of components combining to produce an infinite arrangement of novel utterances) is an important property of human languages, since it allows for the expression of a potentially infinite number of meaningful language sequences. For further discussion, see figurae.
Sign languages may have less double articulation because more gestures are possible than sound and able to convey more meaning without double articulation.
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