Language: ENG 116

Language is the exclusive property of humans

1. It’s a symbol system based on pure or arbitrary conventions… Infinitely extendable and modifiable according to the changing needs and conditions of the speakers (Robins 1985)

2. Language is purely human and non instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols (Edward Sapin, 1921).

3. It is the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with one another by means of habitually used oral-auditory symbols (Hail, 1969).

4. A language is a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length and constructed out of q finite set of elements (Noah Chomsky, 1957).

5. It’s a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication. (Wardough, 1972)

6. It is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates (Bloch and Trager 1942).

7. It is undoubtedly a kind of means of communication among human beings. It consists primarily of vocal sounds. It is articulatory, systematic, symbolic and arbitrary (Derbyshire 1967)

8. A system of conventional spoken or written symbols by means of which human beings as members of a social group and participants in its culture communicate (Encyclopedia Britannica).

9. They are the principal system of communication used by particular group of human beings within a particular linguistics community of which they are members (Lyons 1970)

10. It’s a tool for the explication of meaning by at least two people which may occur either as spoken or written and that which function in context of situations and culture. (Daramola 2006)

11. It’s a phenomenon by which people concretise meaningfulness in the created world as they conceptualize the material and immaterial world (Daramola 2007)

12. It may be defined as the unique human attributes, not only for the construction of meaning but also for the construction and reconstruction of human realities in order to consolidate their human essence (Daramola 2007)

It is a mark of identity and means of transmission of cultural heritage.
Its dynamism and fluidity are exemplified in politics, conflict resolution, education, governance, religion and many other areas of human endeavour. Essentially, we can use language to do just about anything because it is pivotal to man’s existence and without it, the old cosmos will grind to a halt. The properties of language are as follows:

1. Displacement: This is a characteristic of language that enables human beings to refer to past, present and future– that is, to refer to time and location. It enables human beings to talk about things that are not present in the immediate environment.

2. Arbitrariness: This presupposes that there is no natural connection between a linguist form and its meaning. The linguistic form has no iconic relationship with what it represents. Words do not in any way, fit objects they denote

3. Productivity: All languages feature novel utterances– that is, forming, creating and producing utterances that were not heard before. Language users manipulate their linguistic resources to produce new expressions and new sentences that fit into situations. It is termed creativity or open-endedness. The potential number of utterances in any human language is infinite

4. Cultural Transmission: Language is not inherited. It is acquired in a culture with other speakers. The process by which a language is passed on from one generation to the next is described as cultural transmission. Cultural transmission of a specific language is crucial in the human acquisition process.

5. Discreetness: This means that the sounds used in language are meaningfully distinct. The occurrence in a sound /b/ rather than /p/ is significantly meaningful. Each sound in the language therefore is treated as discreet.

6. Duality: Language is organized at two levels or layers simultaneously. This is called duality of double articulation. This refers to physical level in which we produce discreet sounds Eg. Kin. The second level is the level of meaning when we vary the combination of the sound to obtain a different meaning Eg. Ink.
Other properties of language which are shared by other creatures are: use of vocal auditory channel, reciprocity, specialisation, it is non directional, rapid fade of language

1. Explain Arbitrariness as a property of human language

2. Explain explicitly the term that is used to describe the ability of human language speakers to discuss topics that are remote in space and time.

3. Are linguistic signals truly unique properties of the human language?

4. In a language, we are able to have different meanings for reordered basic sets of sounds. Explain.

5. Give evidence to support the assertion that language is culturally transmitted.

6. Can you regard animal communication as a form of language?

*In sum, language is a means of communication, it is a system of systems. It is primarily vocal. It is human specific. It differs from animal communication in divers ways. It is a form of social behavior. It is a symbol system. It is an inseparable part of human society.*


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