What is a language - Essay Example

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In life, people use language for communication. However, many people do not recognize the meaning and functions of language. According to Neil Smith and Diedre Wilson, language is a rule - governed system, thus can be expressed in form of a grammar…
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What is language? In life, people use language for communication. However, many people do not recognize the meaning and functions of language. According to Neil Smith and Diedre Wilson, language is a rule - governed system, thus can be expressed in form of a grammar (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 12). Grammar entails the descriptions of the rules governing a given language. Human beings have to learn such rules in order to facilitate effective communication. The rules differentiate grammatical and ungrammatical sentences while at the same time providing vivid descriptions of grammatical sentences, together with their pronunciation and meanings (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 12). Despite presence of grammatical variations, grammar posses similarities due to genetic constraints on the type of grammars, and hence languages learnt by human beings. Language has varied features, which are very important and typical. It is defined with regard to a variety of rules. Such rules ensure that speakers correct mistakes they make while speaking (Carston 3). Presence of the rules informs the speaker of the need to correct grammatical mistakes made while speaking. Moreover, the rules assist man in identifying mistakes made by other people even though in not able to rectify them. Such people do not only realize that they have made mistake, but also the type of mistake made. Identification of mistakes differs with regard to dialects. For instance, when people of different English dialects meet, both are likely to realize mistakes each make during communication. However, correction of such mistakes may depend on one’s politeness. Moreover, people with nonstandard dialects might not correct mistakes from a person with standard dialect (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 15). Despite having the capacity to identify mistakes due to the existence of grammatical rules, the rules vary, thus the need for correction from people of different dialects. The ability to correct mistakes indicates that a person adheres to a set of linguistic principles, habits or customs which he detest disrupting (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 17). Apart from providing the means of recognizing and correcting mistakes, grammar also helps in constructing sentences with no mistakes. Thus, grammar provides a means of linking every sentence with its proper pronunciation as well as meaning (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 17). Conventions form part of social constructs established and operated by two people. Conversely, an individual constructs and operates the rule systems. However, linguistic rules do vary between individuals, for instance, adults and children have different grammatical rules. The variations in the rule systems are not geographical, and this proves that languages are not just social constructs possessed by everyone and in a similar level in the society (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 18). Thus, it is possible for a person to possess individual rules that he uses alone in a society. This form of adult idiosyncrasy is displayed in speech among people who have suffered from stroke or experienced brain damage thereby, leading to aphasia or speech loss (Carston 5). Therefore, the best means to describe language is by using grammar. Consequently, one cannot describe language through custom or habit. Moreover, nobody can explain language in form of social agreement or convention since every speaker has specific methods of constructing as well as understanding, which is unique to him alone (Carston 7). However, the language system of a speaker might be governed by some rules that might be shared partially with other speakers. Such a person constructs the rules for use by himself (Carston 14). Learning a language is associated with learning the grammar while knowing a language is associated with understanding its grammar (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 21). Thus, differences in grammar are used to analyze the variations in language. Speakers have a linguistic knowledge that is unconscious, thus a linguist has a role to formulate clear grammatical rules known and understood by speakers. Philosopher Locke dislikes the notion of unconscious knowledge since he cannot explain the means by which speakers produce, understand, as well as form judgments concerning utterances which they have never recognized earlier on (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 23). Consequently, the unconscious knowledge exists in linguistic as well as in nonlinguistic behavior. There are some problems encountered in writing grammars. One such problem entails the ability to develop a vivid idea on the extent of data, which would have an effect on the generation of linguistic rules (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 23). Due to that, the rules of grammar prove psychologically real. Noam Chomsky asserts that man is destined to learn specific types of language, and thus kids need to learn the languages. This is because the languages used by man contain remarkable qualities and that kids use similar methods to learn the languages taught (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 27). In case of presence of linguistic universals, the amount of data to be considered when formulating language rules increases. Thus, grammars are psychological realities whereby every individual posses a unique grammar which changes with time (Smith, Noam & Deirdre 35). The changes might make it differ from other people using the same language. Despite of the changes with time, all grammars have certain similarities due to genetic restrictions on human capacity to study language. Works Cited Carston, Robyn. Thoughts and Utterances: The Pragmatics of Explicit Communication. Oxford, U.K: Blackwell Pub, 2002. Print. Smith, Neil, Noam Chomsky, and Deirdre Wilson. Modern Linguistics: The Results of Chomsky's Revolution. Harmondsworth : Penguin Books, 1986. Print. Read More
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