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What is a Language - Essay Example

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Summary
Trevor Pateman has authored a book by the name of “Language in Mind and Language in Society” and the essay on ‘What is a Language’. This essay seeks to address the language in terms of its real definitions and not only for knowing the verbal definitions…
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What is a Language

Download file to see previous pages... The author has tried to explain various principles and concepts of a language, while considering the involvement of a speaker of the language, within the scope of such discussions. As the author identifies five responses to ’what is a language’, the essay makes reference to a text book, named “Chomskyan Linguistics”, written by Smith and Wilson in 1979, in which the two renowned linguists connect the language with rules that make the grammar of any language. They have further opined that, for example, in the English language, different speakers possess different levels of grammar and, thus, English would have not one but many grammars, as the same will be different for various individual speakers. Responding to the question ’what is a language’, the author has considered five answers. They include ‘NATURALISM’, meaning language is a natural kind; PLATONISM, which treats language as an abstract object; NOMINALISM, meaning that any set of objects would define the name of a language; SOCIOLOGISM, which places the language in the category of social facts and DUALISM, which agrees to the language being a social fact, while disagreeing with the argument that the particular social fact could also be the linguistic fact. While discussing all answers, with arguments for and against five positions, the author has staked its claim to last option, saying that linguistic facts cannot be, necessarily, social facts also, thus, negating SOCIOLOGISM. Author further states that the option of NATURALISM is partially compatible with the last answer, DUALISM. (Pateman) Languages as natural kinds The author has dismissed the claim that languages belong to natural kinds, by saying that other natural facts in this world cannot be counted in the same group, although all of them may belong to natural kinds only. The fact is exemplified by different natural products like tigers and lemons, both of which are from nature, but are entirely different. Further, diversifying on the discussion, the author has stressed that definition of language has the relation to the environment that surrounds the speaker. Pateman has given an example of Creoles, who find no use of their native language in the new environment; like the ‘plantation workers’. Languages as abstract objects The author has referred to the theory put forward by Chomsky, which treats linguistics as a science, like neurology and psychology. Further, there are references to arguments put forward by Katz, which treat languages and sentences as mathematical abstract objects, while employing ‘general scientific methodology’ to support this claim. Pateman has countered Katz’s argument by relating the properties of sentences and language with grammar, in abstraction, which can be viewed as mathematical grammarian abstract objects, while having no reality. (Pateman) Languages as names Many sociolinguists have related languages with the spoken dialects and social facts of the speakers. Accordingly, the author of this article refers to Smith and Wilson, informing in their text book that dialect and language correspond to each other, when the speakers having similar grammar, for any language, are grouped together. However, Pateman counters this argument by saying that there is no relation of language with an individual, as its name is taken from the dialect, which speakers can formulate for construction of a language. Languages as social and linguistic facts The author describes about relationship between the groups of a social class and the language spoken by them. For example, members of a church belong to the same social group and may speak the same dialect or language. Hence, the idea of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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