What is language?
The term Language can be defined in different ways as follows:
Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols and signs that are conventionally used for human communication
Language is the conventional system of arbitrary vocal symbols used by human beings for communication
KEY TERMS IN THE DEFINITION OF LANGUAGE
Language is a system
A system means a group of interrelated parts that function as a whole for a particular purpose
Any system has fixed rules that have to be followed. So language is a system because it is governed by some fixed rules for it to be used.
If the system is not followed, then we say the language is not correct.
(i) she has eaten some food.
(ii) Food she eaten has some.
The second sentence is not correct because the rule has not been followed.
Language is Arbitrary
Language is arbitrary because there is no direct relationship between words and what they mean. (Referent)
The whole process of forming a language is done haphazardly. Hence a person hearing an English word for the first time cannot understand the meaning of a word unless he / she is told by the English speaker
Language is vocal
Language is vocal because the ideas are mostly transmitted through speaking (orally). Even when the language is written down, letters or other graphics stand for sounds. Therefore language is primarily vocal.
Language is Human
Language is human because human beings are the only species in the world that use language in their communication.
Other organisms communicate but their communication is not language.
Language is symbol
A symbol is something that stands for something else. Language is made by symbols because it consists of words. These words represent objects, ideas, concepts and people
For example a word “man” represents an adult male or “mother” represents one’s female parent