Words are not first to little children, but sound. They are thrust, in media res, into a world of sounds. But those sounds they hear spoken by men and women are actually words, though the child does not experience them as such. Yet the cause and reason a child is hearing sound is that adults are speaking, and what they speak are words.
Therefore, though word is not the first thing known as such by a child, word is in a very real way first even in time. Word is both the cause, the source, the structure, and the telos of what they hear when they hear human speech.
We experience all life in this manner, journeying as Aristotle says, from that which is first known to us to that which is more truly knowable in itself. We can move from a confused and jumbled up experience and come to understand the real wholes, purposes, and parts which order and make up our world.
This is the power of classical science or philosophy. On the other hand, the weakness of empirical science, for all that it can accomplish, is that it can never arrive at an understanding or knowledge of such wholes. Modern science is always left saying something about the elements and atoms, the material composition of things.
It is as if we were to say that the chief communication is the science of sounds.
One might ask, what are these words? What is their meaning? The empirical scientist, if he is faithful to his methodology, can say nothing. That is, unless we think a satisfactory answer is that words are nothing but sounds.
If you are thinking about the implications of this, you have already moved far beyond sounds and syllables, and are thinking about words and the wholes which they signify.