Stratificational Linguistics, or Cognitive Linguistics: a Theory
Sydney Lamb was the chief proponent of a theoretical approach called stratificational linguistics (also known as cognitive linguistics).
As the adjective "stratificational" would suggest, this theory proposes that, in Lamb's words, "A language may be regarded as a system of relationships. As such, it is not directly observable. The linguist can only observe the manifestations of linguistic structure, i.e., samples of speech and/or writing, and the situations in which they occur." The layers, or strata, of a language have their own rules of syntax and are all related to the other layers of language.
Behind Lamb's linguistic theory was the idea that linguistic data was not something directly observable, or explainable. It could only be understood as the outworkings of complex neurological relationships and layers that could not be directly observed.
Two processes that receive a lot of focus in this theory are the processes of encoding and decoding. These processes are essentially used to describe what happens in communication between two individuals. There are ideas in the brain of one individual, which he, the speaker, encodes into language (or verbal cues); these ideas are then decoded by the brain of the one who hears what is being spoken. Thus, through a process of encoding and decoding, communication is achieved.