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Paper on Language - Essay Example

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Communication in human beings is facilitated through the use of specific languages that in contrast to animals are learned and not biologically inherited. Language is defined as the primary way whereby individuals communicate. According to Edward Sapir (1921), "language is pure human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols." This definition highlights that the user of the language voluntarily communicate with his recipient…
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Download file to see previous pages Another more recent definition of language is given by Michael Holiday. According to him:
"Language is a range of possibilities, an open-ended set of options in behavior that are available to the individual in his existence as social man. The context of culture is the environment of any particular selection that is made from within them ... The context of culture defines the potential, the range of possibilities that are open. The actual choice among these possibilities takes place within a given context of situation."
This definition is much more encompassing as it highlights that language is not just through the use of vocal or oral symbols but a range of possibilities. Man communicates through speech, writing, and still other means are introduced in this digital age. A human also engage in non-verbal communication through his actions and entire behavior. Holiday also asserts that language can only fully understood in the context of the culture of the speaker or his lexicon.
Lexicon is defined as the "knowledge of that the speaker has about a language." This includes information about the form and meaning of the words and phrases, lexical categorization, the appropriate usage of words, relationship between words and phrases, and categories of words and phrases.
b. Evaluate the key features of language.
The understanding of language can be acquired by evaluating its key features (Design features of Language 2007).
1. Duality of patterning is a basic principle in human language. This feature of language provides an economic way for human beings to create an infinite set of linguistic units. It should be noted that the individual sounds comprising language is meaningless in themselves. Yet, these sounds can be combined together in other to become produce an infinite number of "meaningful utterances."
2. Displacement refers to the unique sense of time in human beings. As opposed to animals, humans have the ability to separate the past from the future and can talk about these time spheres.
3. Open-endedness describes the ability of humans to add new words to the current set of words. This is illustrated by the words which are coined according to our new experiences and innovations which augment, enhance, and even modify our language.
4. Arbitrariness refers to the lack of "natural or essential relationship" between to the words and the objects they refer to. This also highlights that the meaning of the words are constructed through social conventions.
5. Vocal-auditory channel is the feature of human language which sets it apart from animals. Human's communication is through the ears and the mouth and not through other channels like nose or eyes.
c. Describe the four levels of language structure and processing.
There are four levels of language structure and processing namely, grammar, logic, semantics, and general semantics. Grammar relations refer to the words to words relationship within a sentence without considering the relation of each sentence to another. Logic takes a step further by looking at the statement to statement relationships by evaluating subjects and predicates in an ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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