Monday 14 April 2014

L... is for Language

One of the modules I'm required to take is called Aspects of Language. It deals with what language is, why it came into being, and what is it used for. Though we all may know the answers to these questions, it is very interesting to analyze them properly. For instance, I had to study about the similarities and differences between animal and human language and I want to share it with you here, because it is interesting to know.
The most traditional way of understanding human language is by comparing and contrasting it with animal language, if at all it may be termed so.

Sound signals – both humans and animals use sound signals to convey emotions. But humans have developed a way to transfer language onto other mediums like written and seen.
Arbitrariness – when animals communicate an emotion, they generally assume a pose or attitude to go with it. Attackers spit and growl, the prey makes helpless noises. When humans communicate, there is usually no correlation between the emotion and the word being used to describe it. When one proclaims joy, one doesn’t need to jump around! The symbols used are thus arbitrary. This is also the reason why there are multiple words for the same thing, ie, synonyms.
Learning – while birds that aren’t taught will sing, babies that aren’t taught language will babble unintelligently. If a fawn is threatened by a predator, it will instantly cry out the sound for help, but a threatened child will not be able to should ‘Help!’ However, a child that has been taught the symbolism will. Thus, while both humans and animals CAN learn, humans can only learn when taught. Animals seem to be born with knowledge of their language.
Displacement – Humans can describe things which are not around them, by means of language, this is displacement. We can talk of danger as an experience, but animals will only cry danger when there is danger in their vicinity. Thus the ability to converse through the boundaries of time and space is an important distinguishing characteristic.
Creativity and breadth – Human language is vast! While animals are endowed with the most basic vocabulary to survive, humans have limitless options with language. It is this that sets them apart in the animal kingdom, the ability to use language as luxury.
Duality – Animals use sounds in isolation or simple combinations. Humans have a more complicated way. Sounds and words are on one level but how they are struck together to form meaningful sentences is another level. This depends on grammar and structure of different languages.
Structure – Because of the framework of grammar, words can be rearranged to form sentences with the same meaning. A chunk of words can be rearranged differently, and this is unique to human languages.

This is the twelfth post for the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2014.
Previously, Archaism, British literature, Critical Analysis, Drama, Edinburgh, Faust, Gothic Fiction, Humour, Interpretation, Journalling, Keats


T. Powell Coltrin said...

Language is amazing, spoken, written and nonverbal.

Great choice for L.

Thanks for visiting the Ruralhood.

susan e. schwartz, ph.d., Jungian analyst said...

It is true that language separates us from animals but they do have their own language...
Garden of Eden Blog

Tony Laplume said...

It's interesting that so many varieties exist. That's probably what I would investigate given the time.