Words are the building blocks of language, and their meanings are the indispensable elements of linguistic communication. Linguists in history have never ever stopped exploring the nature of words, their meanings and the semantic relationship between and among words. However, words and their meanings are just like the black hole in universe. They seem to be approachable, but never obtainable. Their complexities and delicacies have baffled generations of linguists.
In the past century, words and their meanings have been studied from angles of referentialism, ideationalism, behaviorism, contexualism, structuralism, formalism or logical form, but these approaches turn out to be not wholly successful. Recently, researchers have developed a strong and an increasing awareness that the investigation of words and their meanings purely from these perspectives cannot completely reveal the nature of words, their lexical meanings and their semantic interrelationships. Therefore, they have started to shift their research focus to the relationship between words and mind with a view to bringing out the mental representations and organizations of words, the processes of the lexical search for words stored in mind and the mental interconnection of words. What they have observed is that there is a mental lexicon in human brain. To put it in another way, words that are stored in mind are somewhat like those in a dictionary. They are systematically organized. Once activated, they become retrievable. The organization of words in mind and their properties encompass words, their forms, their meanings, their phonology and their semantic interrelationships. The mental organization and property of words also include the mechanisms for identifying, producing and retrieving words from memory.
By concentrating on the Mental Lexicon Theory, this paper aims to discuss the word knowledge, the organization of mental lexicon, the hierarchical network model, the spreading activation model, the processes of the lexical access, t
Modern Foreign Languages