Language is the tool by which human beings communicate. It brings sanity in the way things are done and make intercultural interactions possible. Language is an abstract system of words meanings and symbols for all aspects of culture. It is also the ability of an individual to obtain and use multifaceted systems of communication. The study of language is called linguistics and is an interesting concept to get insight on since it is an essential tool for every individual in society. There are different types of languages in use in the world today. They have spoken a language that is the speech, written language including numerals and drawings, gestures and sign language as well as facial expressions of non-verbal communication. There have been philosophical concerns on language such as whether words can represent an experience; this has resulted in a debate that has brought controversy since Gorgias, and Plato during the Ancient Greece times (Bett, 569). Rousseau and other thinkers have argued that; language can trace its origins from emotions whereas there are others such as Kant that asserted that language originated from logical and rational thought (Bett, 569-570). There are an estimated 5000 to 7000 languages globally. The actual number and estimate are difficult to ascertain due to the presence of various dialects. Natural languages are either spoken or signed. Moreover, because it is modality-independent, human language can be encoded in secondary media such as auditory, tactile, and visual stimuli such as the use of Braille, graphic writing, and whistling. Below is more analysis on the concept of language and the uses of language.
Language is thought to have evolved when the early Hominins gradually started to change their communication systems. The development advanced further with the development of the human brain further and the creation of structures and rules that control language (Kottak, 58). It led to the development of characteristics that set the human language apart from other forms of animal communication. The properties of language among human beings are:
· Productivity. A speaker can use particular grammatical processes especially during word formation to the degree. The tests of productivity on language concerns the grammatical forms that may be used with newly coined words and are converted to other forms by the use of productive processes (Kottak, 59).
· Recursivity. It is the process and the ability of language to repeating items in a self-similar way. It is a property of language whereby a structure such a phrase, or clause may for a larger structure of the same kind. It allows for a potentially infinite variety of constructions (Kottak, 61).
· Displacement. It is the ability of language to communicate regarding things that are not present immediately. It can communicate spatially or temporarily that is on things that are not here or that are not present now. Charles F. Hocket proposed it in 1960 as one of the 13 design features of language that separate the human language from any animal communication systems (Kottak, 60).
The functions of language to human beings and their interaction cannot be overlooked. They include:
Language plays a vital role in communication. Communication being the process of passing ideas from one person to another is a major importance of language. In our society, most of our social understanding, conflict resolutions, and social guidance is done and enhanced through communication with a common language. The Early man adopted another language of communication through the use of signs and that greatly enhanced trade. Different people from communities would exchange items without the use of spoken words in barter trade (Hebert, 100).
Language can give a strong sense of belonging or can cause exclusion. Our language is what gives us a sense of identity and remains an absolute tool that aids our quest towards the attainment of self-realization. All over the world, people of different tribes invest huge resources in promoting their language (Hebert, 102). The naming process and individual having distinct names are fundamental to people’s identity. It is what distinguishes us from other people since different languages have different naming practices.
Language also makes possible the exchange of abstract and highly complex thoughts, which play a crucial role in the maintenance of the many social relationships within human societies. Without language, it would be impossible to socialize children into the intricate workings of their cultures, past traditions, rituals, myths, and religious beliefs that instill a sense of group identity and maintain social order within human societies.
Language also provides the basis upon which our perceptions of the world are organized. It establishes categories by which things considered similar can be distinguished from those, which are considered different. The categories of one language will never be identical to those of another. The classic expression of this position is known as ‘Sapir-Whorf hypotheses’ named in honor of Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941). According to the Sapir –Whorf hypothesis, the language a person speaks determines his or her worldview (Hellen, 99).
The role of Language to social stratification is also significant. It is a concept involving the classification of people into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions, a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political, and ideological dimensions (Hellen, 99). It is when differences lead to greater status, power, or privileges for some groups over the other. It is experienced in developed societies where hierarchy may be necessary to stabilize the social structure. Achieved by the levels of classes created by the different use of languages hence making people depend on each other hence stabilizing the economy in a society.
Moreover, it plays a significant role in entertainment. It develops an understanding of the audience and advances communication from one party to another creating unity among the audience, which they can share fun and leisure. Entertainment uses language as a source of education through plays, poems, songs and other sources. Thus, language is used to enable people understand the fun and joke and also learn from the entertainment (Hebert, 103).
In conclusion, the origin of language is not certain but it has faced evolution over the course of time. Its properties of displacement, productivity, and recursivity have also set the human language aside from the usual forms of animal communication. The properties have also played a role in leaving room for the growth and evolution of the human language through the following of the structures that control language development and production. It has also played a fundamental role. It is not only a tool for using to communicate thoughts and ideas but also, a means to forge friendships, cultural ties, and economic relationships. Language, of course, is knowledge, and in our world today, knowledge is one of the key factors in competitiveness. Brains and knowledge are creating the prosperity and growth we tend to take for granted. In an advanced industrial society in an increasingly interdependent world, the knowledge of other languages becomes indispensable. Over the past years, millions of people across the world who share common interests can communicate with each other and exchange ideas not only are they able to do this due to the technological advances, but because they share a common language.