phrase(redirected from an turn of phrase)
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the basic unit of speech. Corresponding to the sentence as a basic unit of language, the phrase is a syntactic and phonetic entity with syntactic structure, semantic completeness, and intonational markers. Phrase boundaries are indicated by pauses and by specific intonational features that indicate the end of the phrase. For example, in Russian there is a lowering of tone on the final syllable of a phrase. Phrases are divided into syntagms, which in turn consist of phonetic words and syllables. The laws of the phrase’s sandhi, that is, of the phonetic boundaries of the phrase’s components, function within the phrase. An example is liaison in French—a type of consonant alternation.
The concept of the phrase is sometimes synonymous with that of the sentence. The term “phrase” is occasionally used to designate any phonetic and syntactic entity between two pauses.