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What is Language


All human beings use arbitrary indicators like speechsounds, facial expressions, gestures, eye gazes or written symbols etc to communicate with each other and these mediums of communication are simply known as language. It can be transmitted by oral, kinetic and graphical form.

Language is a fundamental source of interaction with the people around us, both spoken and written, which consists of the use of signs, symbols and words in a structural and standard way. It is a means of conveying ideas and expressing thoughts and feelings, that is, an oral and aural system for encoding and decoding message or information.

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Etymology of word Language

The origin of the word ‘language’ is a Latin Word ‘lingua’ (tongue) and it is a Middle English word that has been derived from the Old French Word ‘langage’ formed on Latin Word ‘lingua’.

Definition of Language

To define language is a very complex and diverse task as it can be called a ‘systemized noise’ used by the people of a particular country.

Some definitions of language by great Linguists are stated under:

  • Language is a primarily human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols.

    _Edward Sapir, Language, 1921

  • A Language is device that establishes sound-meaning correlation, pairing meaning with signals to enable people to exchange ideas through observable sequences of sounds.

    _Ronald W. Longacker, Language and Its Structure, 1967

  • A language is a symbol system, based on pure or arbitrary convention, infinitely extendable and modifiable according to changing needs and conditions of the speakers.

    _R.H. Robins, General Linguistics

Characteristics or Properties of Language

Linguistshave specifiedsome special properties or characteristics of all human languages to make human languages different from animal cry systems.

These properties of language and their brief details are described below:

  • Arbitrariness
    In human language, there is no logical connection or similarity between the linguistic form and the meaning it is associated with. That is language is completely random there is no direct relation between the nature of things and the given feature of language.
  • Duality
    This is one of the economical features of human language in which a large number of words are produced having distinct meanings by using a limited set of discrete sounds. Duality means that language is based on elements which have no meaning in themselves but when they are combined in certain form they have meaning.
  • Displacement
    Human language shows to the past, present and future time; and other location. It also makes the language users to talk about abstract and imaginary things.
  • Productivity
    Human language is full of creativity where words are combined to form phrases and phrases are combined to form sentences. It is an ability to produce new expressions by manipulating linguistic resources.
  • Cultural transmission
    This property relates to the point that language is learned by other speakers not only from parental genes. All communicative signals are not produced instinctively but the influence of culture reflects and passes down from one generation to another.
  • Discreteness
    The sounds in human language are entirely different from each other. Each sound in the system of language is discrete and has special specification.
  • Modularity
    Human language consists of modular system, that is, it has production and interpretation of speech sounds.
  • Reliance on context
    In human language, the meaning of the sentence refers to its context. It means arrangement of sounds may have organized in such way that in which they have more than one meaning.