Components of Language

There are three major components of language. These components are form, content, and use. Form involves three sub-components of syntax, morphology, and phonology. Content is also known as semantics and use is also known as pragmatics. In this post, we will look at the sub-components of form which are…

  • Syntax
  • Morphology
  • Phonology


Syntax is the rules for the structure of a sentence. Syntax deals with such details such as sentence organization, the order of clauses, relationships between words, elements of a sentence, etc. Syntax also determines which word combinations are acceptable. For example, if I say “He went to town.” it is acceptable, however, if I say, “town to went he” it does not work because of the syntax of English.

There are certain common rules of syntax. A sentence must contain a noun phrase and a verb phrase. Using our previous example “He went to town” contains a noun phrase “He” and a verb phrase “went to town.” Another example would be the “The big dog ran to the house.” The noun phrase for this example is “The big dog” and the verb phrase is “ran to the house.”


Morphology is focused on the organization of words. Morphemes are the smallest grammatical units possible. Examples of morphemes would be any letter or vowel of the English alphabet.

There are two types of morphemes free and bound. Free morphemes can stand only. Examples include many words such as boy, small, and sad. These morphemes do not need any help to make sense. Bound morphemes must be connected to a larger word to make sense. Examples include prefixes and suffixes such as un-, non-, -ly, -s.


Phonology looks at the sound of speech and the shaping of syllables. The sound for /p/ is different depending on its placement in a word and the vowels near it. For example, /p/ can vary in sound in such words as pea, poor, and soup. Each word contains /p/ but the sound is slightly different.

Sequencing also changes the of words the -ed sound is different in “jogged” than it is in “walked” the first has a /d/ sound while the second has a /t/ sound.


There is much more to be said about language form. The understanding of syntax, morphology, and phonology helps in better understanding language acquisition. Therefore, ESL teachers need an exposure to the basics of this in order to be able to provide better support for their students.

4 thoughts on “Components of Language

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