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Every people in the world know at least one language, their mother tongue. With the help of language we can express ourselves, our thoughts and we can communicate with others. There are several rules about how to use a language or how to produce a sentence, dictionaries contain words from languages but knowing words does not mean that we know the language. Some questions arise from this. What is language? What is linguistics?
According to myths and religions, the language is the source of human power and that language makes us human. This is what distinguishes us from animals. If you know a language, you can talk to others and you can understand them. But language is not just the capacity of talking or making speeches. Deaf people also use their own languages and they understand each other without making sounds. These languages are fully developed languages in which they use hand, body and facial gestures and these languages are equal to spoken languages. The fact that deaf people can use languages is the evidence for the ability of language acquisition which have every people from their birth.
That ability is the property of human being. In most cases people use speech sounds to express meanings but this is not a necessary aspect of a language, for example: sign languages. If we look at the animals they also use sounds to express themselves, squeaking of dolphins or the chirping of birds is similar to human language but their communication system is not like human’s. We can think that the difference is the lack of speech but it is more than this. Parrots have the ability to imitate words or sentences what people said but that does not mean that the parrot knows the meaning of the expressions. It just has the ability to reproduce words and sentences but cannot relate meanings to them. Language is a system that relates sounds or gestures to meanings. Because of this, that ability is not equivalent of the ability to acquire the complex grammar of a human language which children have.
However, as it was said before, knowing the words and their meanings is not enough to know a language. You cannot create a sentence, without grammar, which is comprehensible for a native speaker. And the question arises, what is grammar? Grammar is a knowledge what people have about the rules of a language. The grammar and a mental dictionary together represent a human’s linguistic competence. The terms, grammatical or ungrammatical sentence mean that the sentence is fit or not to the rules of mental grammar. There is not a language or a variety which is superior to others in linguistic sense, every grammar is equally complex, logical, and capable of producing an infinite set of expressions for our thoughts.
There are several kinds of grammar. The descriptive grammars are the subconscious linguistic knowledge of the speaker, these do not teach the rules of the language it describes the rules that are already known. The prescriptive grammars attempt to legislate what your grammar should be. Teaching or pedagogical grammars are written and they used to teach foreign languages for people.
There was another question above, what is linguistics? Linguistics is the study of language in the sense of the system of human communication. We can list three broad categories of linguistics: language form, language meaning, and language in context. Language form examines the rules of a language (similar to grammar) and it includes morphology, syntax and phonology. Language meaning deals with the logical structures and real-world references which are used for to convey, process, and assign meaning. Also used for manage and resolve ambiguity (ability to express more than one interpretation), which means that one expression could have more than one meanings.
Language in context examines the facts what influenced a language. These factors can be political, cultural, social, and historical. That category includes some other studies like evolutionary linguistics (investigate questions related to the origins and growth of languages), historical linguistics (deals with language changes) sociolinguistics, (examines relation between linguistic variation and social structures) psycholinguistics, (deals with the representation and function of language in the mind) neurolinguistics, (examines language processing in the brain) language acquisition(investigate how children or adults acquire language) and discourse analysis (involves the structure of texts and conversation).
To summarise, language and linguistics are so broad studies, you can be sure about what you know and you cannot say that you know everything. New questions arise, new theories are made, there is always something knew what people want to investigate.
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