Basic Features of LanguageBasic Properties of Language by English Course
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Introduction to Properties of Human Language

Language is human and Structurally-Complex, Unique, and Modifiable. It is Vocal, Verbal, and Sound-based. Language is used as means of communication, an arbitrary system of systems. It is primarily formal communication. It is even difficult to think of a society without language. Because language takes shape according to people’s thoughts. It guides and controls their activity. Only it is because of language that humans are the talking animals or ‘homo Lu-kens’.

Table of Properties of Language

1.Arbitrarinessthere is no inherited (logical) relation between a sound form and an object
2.Language Systemlanguage is a system of communication that uses a set of symbols, signs, or sounds to convey meaning
3.Displacementhumans can talk about the past, the present, and the future, and can express hopes and dreams
4.Productivity (Creativity)to produce new words and unlimited sentences, and convey new thoughts, ideas, information, and unseen situations
5.Cultural Transmission (Sociability)language is culturally transmitted and passes from one generation to the next is called cultural transmission
6.Vocal and Verbal it means that it is a system of communication that uses sounds produced by the voice (vocal) and words (verbal) to convey meaning
7.Reflexiveness it means that humans can explain the concepts of what language is and its basic structure
8.Dualityit means the order of Human Language is at two levels—sound and meaning simultaneously
9.Prevaricationit refers to the deliberate use of false, or evasive statements in order to deceive or mislead others
10.Learnabilitylanguage is both teachable and learnable for humans
Table. 1 – List of Language Properties

Arbitrariness of Language

Arbitrariness means there is no intrinsic or logically proven connection between a sound form and a thing. For example, why do we name a four-legged wooden-frame object a chair, not by another name? Surely, we have no reason.  So, this relationship between form and meaning is of arbitrariness.

Often there is no “natural” connection between language and its meaning. The connection between linguistic symbols and their meanings is irrational. This aspect of the relationship between the symbols of language and the things in the world is arbitrariness.

Language is arbitrary because there’s no inherent relationship between the words of a language. Then means the choice of a word, selected to mean a particular thing or idea is purely arbitrary. But once a word is selected for a particular referent it comes to stay. As such as does the relationship between a word and its meaning is arbitrary.

Language as a System

Language is a system of communication that uses a set of symbols, signs, or sounds to convey meaning. These symbols, signs, or sounds are organized into a structured system of rules for their use, which can include grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

This system allows individuals to convey thoughts, ideas, and information to others. Language can be spoken, written, or signed, and can vary greatly across cultures and communities.

That’s why Language is called a system of systems, it is not disorganized. It is a combination of several linguistics systems or levels of which phonological (sounds) and syntactical (sentences) are primary languages. Because it is an orderly system of communication.

Displacement of Language

We, humans, can talk about things that are not physically available or do not even exist. People can refer to the past and the future. As we can also talk about the past, the present, and the future, and can express hopes and dreams. This innate ability is displacement.

For example, human language is able to produce messages like last night, in a park, and then go on to say. It also allows language users to talk about things and events that are not at hand.

Indeed, displacement permits us to talk about supernatural things and places (e.g., angels, fairy tales, Santa Claus, Superman, heaven, and hell). The things that we cannot even be sure of. However, animal communication often lacks this capability.

Productivity of Language

Productivity of language refers to the ability of a language system to generate an infinite number of novel sentences or utterances.

We language users can produce and understand new utterances. Because humans are capable to create an unlimited number of words and sounds. This is called productivity.

It is the capacity of language to create new sentences that are grammatically correct and convey new meaning. Productivity is what allows speakers of a language to express new thoughts and ideas, and to communicate effectively in a wide range of situations.

It’s a fundamental feature of human language and it allows us to convey new thoughts, ideas, and information to others, adapt to new situations, and express ourselves creatively.

People continue to create new expressions and expressions by changing their language resources to describe new things and situations.

This feature is unique in itself that the number of possible expressions in any human language is endless.

Cultural Transmission

The process by which language passes from one generation to the next is called cultural transmission. We learn the language in our social settings. It is transmittable by our cultural surroundings. Children inherit it from their society, not from genes by birth called cultural transmission.

They may inherit some physical traits such as brown eyes and black hair from their parents, except language. It benefits from the language and culture of others and not from our parents’ genes.

For example, a baby born to Korean parents in Korea, but adopted and raised from an English-speaking population in the United States, will have inherited traits from their natural parents but will speak English.

However, we are not born with the ability to produce speech in a language such as English. We learn our first language as children from a certain culture.

Vocal and Verbal System

Languages are primarily vocal because speeches are primary and writing is secondary. Languages build on vocal sounds only produced by physiological articulation mechanics. Many languages exist in spoken form only.

They do not have any written scripture. Also, the total quantum of speech is much more than that of writing. This is in contrast to other forms of communication that may not rely on sound or speech, such as sign language or written language.

Vocal and verbal language is a fundamental aspect of human communication, and it is what allows us to convey thoughts, ideas, and information to others through the use of words and speech sounds.

Reflexiveness of Language

Reflexiveness means that humans can explain the concepts of what language is. We can talk about the language structure. Besides, we can share the language with other humans using the ability of language called reflexiveness.

People are capable of thinking about language and its use called reflexivity. The property of reflexivity tells us that we can use language to think and speak the language itself.

So, we can make it one of the distinguishing features of human language. Indeed, without this common sense, we would not be able to demonstrate or identify any distinct features of human language.

Duality of Language

The order of Human Language is at two levels—sound and meaning at the same time. This structure is of duality (or “double articulation”). In speech production, we have a body level at which we can produce individual sounds, such as /m/, /i/, and /c/. Like each sound, none of these different forms has an internal meaning.

So, on one hand, we have different kinds of sounds, and, on the other hand, we have different kinds of meanings. These two levels are one of the most economical aspects of human language. Because, with a limited set of different sounds, we can produce a very large number of sound combinations (e.g., words) with different meanings.

Prevarication of Language

While using language, we humans may tell a lie or hoodwink someone. We may make false or meaningless statements too. It’s called prevarication.

It is a form of lying or deceit, where the speaker uses language in a way that is intended to conceal the truth or mislead the listener.

Examples of prevarication can include telling half-truths, using euphemisms, or avoiding giving a direct answer to a question.

This can be a form of manipulation and it can be used to avoid responsibility, to gain an advantage, or for other dishonest or unethical purposes. While animals cannot make false kinds of statements or predictions. They have limitations in the features of their language design.

Learnability of Language

It is one of the wonderful attributes of language that it is both teachable and learnable. As we learn our first language, we’re able to learn second or foreign languages. It is noteworthy that young children can acquire language with competence and ease. But language acquisition becomes difficult when children pass a certain age.

Learnability makes it easy for people to acquire and learn. These features can include things such as regularity and consistency in the sound-meaning relationships, or the presence of clear and consistent grammatical rules.

Other examples of learnability features can include the presence of a relatively small set of phonemes, the absence of arbitrary or complex grammatical rules, or the presence of a clear and consistent mapping between sound and meaning.

However, these features can vary across different languages and can have an impact on how easy or difficult it is for people to learn a particular language.

Branches of Language

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

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