In a recent paper B. Mandelbrot has showm that it is impossible to account for the high resistance to noise of speech on the basis of a continuous view. If linguistic messages (utterances) be thought of as continuous, the correction of erros in the reception cannot begin until the entire message is received, which would make correction well nigh impossible, certainly infinitely more difficult than it actually is. On the other hand, if a discrete view be adopted, correction of errors can begin upon receipt of each discrete unit (quantum), since the discrete units in the language are just a small fraction of all possible things that the ear can receive.
Mandelbrot investigated in detail the consequences of the discrete character of language only on one level, that of words. The necessity for discrete units on the other levels is implicit in his argument. The words themselves are thus viewed as being composed of discrete components, usually known as morphemes, which in turn consist of other discrete units, the phonemes.