What isLanguage?University of the Punjab , Departmentof English Language & Literature.Lahore, Pakistan
LANGUAGEA Skill• Something we do– He speaks well butwrites badly.KNOWLEDGE• Something we know– I don’t know muchItalian.
LANGUAGEA Possession• Something wehave/possess– I haven’t much French.A Tool• Something we use– What words can I use todescribe her?
LANGUAGEAn Event• Something whichhappens– I was in the office whenthe conversation tookplace.A Group Identity• Something whichtransmits culture– It is only through ourlanguage that we cantruly express our identity.
LANGUAGEAn Object• Something which wecan describe– This language has acomplex structure.A Living Organism• Something which isborn, lives and dies– Gradually a newlanguage was born.– The 18th century saw aflowering of thelanguage.– That’s a dead language
LANGUAGE• The most valuablepossession of man• Difficult to think of asociety withoutLanguage
Robins• Language is A SYMBOL SYSTEM– Based on Arbitrary conventions• Infinitely EXTENDABLE & MODIFIABLE– To changing needs and conditions of the speaker
Sapir• Language isA purely human & non-instinctive– Method of communication• Humans ---- species-specific, species-uniform• Non-instinctive --- A child has to learnLanguage of his society
Chomsky• A Language is a– SET OF SENTENCES– Finite or infinite• Each finite in length– Constructed out of a finite set of elements.
Common CodeIdeasEmotionsDesireFeelingsBeliefsShared by:common code
Others Means of Communication• Gesture• Nods• Winks• Flags• Smiles• Horns• Short-hand• Dancing
Others Means of Communication• Braille Alphabet• Mathematical Symbols• Morse Code• Sirens• Sketches• Maps• Acting• Miming
Other System Vs. Language• Extremely Limited• Not Flexible• Not Comprehensive• Not Perfect• Not Extensive
Language A Carrier• It conveys/carries»Human thoughts»Philosophy»Culture»Civilization• Shapes»people’s thought• Guides/control»activities
Language is Ubiquitous• Presenteverywhere– in allactivities• As important asthe air webreathe
Species-specific• Only Humans areblessed withlanguage• Specific property ofhumans• Humans are calledtalking animals
Language is Arbitrary• No inherent/basicrelation betweenthe words of languageand their meanings
No reason why a female called:• WomanEnglish• IstreeHindi• AuratUrdu• ZenPersian• FemineFrench• Selection of these words inthe language is purelyarbitrary, an accident ofhistory
Advantages of Language Arbitrariness• Variety of Languages• There would havebeen only onelanguage• Permits change• Its conventionalitygives it stability
Onomatopoeia• Words that imitate thesounds they stand for:– Bang– Buzz– Splash etc• Such words do have somerelation with the meanings/ideas they stand for• Not completely intrinsicrelationship– Kokla doo dle do
• Made up of vocal sounds• Produced by Physiological articulatory mechanism
Speech Primary, Writing Secondary• A child learns to speak first– Writing comes much later• A man speaks much more– than he writes• Writing– Graphic representation of vocal sounds– Letters K , Q /k/• Total quantum of speech is > T.Q. writtenmaterial
Advantage of writing• Pen is mightierthan the sword• It could bepreserved inbooks or record
Primacy of Speech over Writing• Spoken words arepowerful• Can be preserved:– audio cassettes– Tape recorders
An organized combination of elements• Small number ofmeaningless elements(sounds/words) incombination produce alarge number ofmeaningful elements• These systems operate attwo levels:– Phonological– Syntactical
Phonological Level• To form meaningful units/ words• Sounds are arranged in certain establishedsystematic orderCat /k t/Act / k t/Pat /p t/Tap /t p/Pack / p k/
Syntactical Level• To frame acceptable meaningful sentences– Words are arranged in particular system– (grammatical/ structural rules)‘(The hunter) (shot) (the tiger) (with a gun)’.‘The tiger shot a gun with hunter the’.
A Form of social Behaviour• A child picks up thelanguage of the socialset-up• And learns to speakcommunity language• A Chinese infant ifplaced in an Indianfamily– Will easily learn to speakan Indian language
A Symbol• A concrete event,object or mark• Stands for somethingrelatively abstract
• Word are symbols– stand for object• Table– wooden/glass board supported by4/3 legs
7. The Uniqueness of HumanLanguageHuman Language Vs.Animal Communication
1. Displacement• To talk about things, places• To create fiction• To yoke future, past, present( far away in space and time )
2. Infinite Communication System• Humans can– Store knowledge– Transfer it to nextgeneration– Yoke the present,past and future• Animals have smallnumber of messages:»Hunger»Fear»Anger
3. Open-endedness• Use language to say anything– Produce new utterances• A bee by its dance can convey– Distance/ the direction ofnectar• It cannot convey how good orbad honey is
4. Language is Flexible/OPEN-ENDED– It is modifiable, Extendable• It changes , grow– New words’ addition• Downloading, software, laser etc• Animal communication system is closedsystem– A bee’s dance– cock’s crow– AS the same as that were 200 years ago