Is there a word for "one word", like monosyllabic means "one syllable"?
December 12, 2013 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word for "one word", like monosyllabic means "one syllable"?
posted by mikeand1 to Writing & Language (13 answers total)
posted by Tanizaki at 3:29 PM on December 12, 2013

Technical analog to monosyllabic would be "monolexical."

But I can't think of a colloquial word for it and it's not an abstraction a linguist would normally use.

You can imagine a need for a term in the study of expressive aphasia (non-fluent aphasia), which can manifest as the ability to speak only in disconnected one-word utterances or in the most extreme case, the ability only to speak one word. But I can't find a term for it in a quick googling of the aphasia literature.
posted by spitbull at 3:35 PM on December 12, 2013

It doesn't have to be a colloquial word, but it has to be a "real word", meaning I can find it in a dictionary of the English language.

I don't see either monoverbal or monolexical in the OED, for example.
posted by mikeand1 at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2013

I don't think there is one. At least, like spitbull said, there is not one that linguists use. For example, young children who only speak in one-word utterances are said to... well, speak in one-word utterances. If it helps, "monomorphemic" means made up of one morpheme, or meaningful unit (root, affix, etc). That is a common linguistic term.
posted by karbonokapi at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2013

"Holophrastic" refers to the way toddlers use one-word "sentences" for everything.
posted by doop at 3:54 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Google "monolexical." It is a real term of art in linguistics.

I was wrong about linguists not needing the concept. There's a lot of literature.

Holophrasis is a developmental term, so it doesn't really describe discourse structure. But a great word!
posted by spitbull at 4:16 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did google it. As nearly as I can tell, linguists don't actually speak English. :)
posted by mikeand1 at 6:44 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

The noun form is "monolexicality," although it seems to name something like what my tradition of linguistics would call functional "lexicalization" and to be theorized either in terms of semantic focus or grammatical efficiency.

So it's still not a term that describes a discursive style or strategy of speaking in one-word sentences. More like "auxiliary verbs tend toward monolexicality" or "focal color terms tend to be monolexical."

Linguists don't have to speak English!
posted by spitbull at 7:03 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've seen both "monolexemic" and "monolexical" in linguistics contexts.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:09 PM on December 12, 2013

posted by flabdablet at 8:02 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Or if what you're actually after is a word for "one word" in the way that "monosyllabic" means "one syllable": eschew sesquipedalian grandiloquence altogether and hyphenate "one-word".
posted by flabdablet at 8:44 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I go along with flabdablet. Just as "monosyllable" has many syllables but means "one syllable," a (phrase) that would mean one word would have many words. The symmetry of language.
posted by mbarryf at 6:01 AM on December 13, 2013

May not be what you are looking for--but in biblical studies (and evidently computer science as well), a word that appears only once within a textual corpus is called a hapax legomenon, or "hapax" for short.
posted by apartment dweller at 6:05 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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