What is a Language?
Language is simply two entities utilizing their range of expressive behavior to communicate with each other. Normally, these entities are people, but in a restricted sense, an individual can apply language in order to be in touch with their computer or pet, for example. However, person-to-person language is exceptional that it is imaginatively diverse, with an endless number of methods that can convey an infinite number of ideas. Language is fascinating, and the study of a language even more so.
For example, one person is talking and the other is paying attention. The speaker has several concepts in his mind that he desires to express to the other individual. He subconsciously translates this thought to a message that he believes will be comprehended by his peer. In linguistics, you call this process “encoding”. He forwards this message to his peer, who acquires it and is hopefully able to translate it back into the concept that his peer wants to express, a procedure known as “decoding”. Encoding happens during writing and speaking, while decoding happens during reading and hearing.
The message from the speaker to the hearer is in fact made up of three portions, the three main constituents of language. These are the sound system, grammar and dictionary. The dictionary, also termed as lexicon when in reference to an individual’s vocabulary, is the storehouse of words (lexemes) that an individual has in their brain. In fact, it is more than just a list of simple words as a lexicon contains meanings, grammatical functions, cultural applications and a lot more. The term “encyclopedia” could be used synonymously as well.
Grammar pertains to the arrangement that the words arrive in (syntax), the origins of the components of the word, suffixes (morphology) and prefixes, and also the method that the paragraphs and sentences are combined to structure longer passages (dialogue analysis). The sound system (phonology) in a language consists of the physical symbolization and visibility of terms and sentences that journey from the lips of the speaker towards the ear of the listener. In reading and writing, the sound system is frequently symbolized by some type of alphabet.
Two individuals who speak the same language have, fundamentally, the same dictionary, sound system and grammar in their brains, allowing a fair and even encoding and decoding. This is to the point that these constituents vary, for instance, an English speaker coming from South East portion of the US and an English speaker all the way from New Zealand. Their communication process will be more complicated and will necessitate some effort on the part of both the speaker and listener. At times the listener may need to request for clarification and sometimes the speaker will need to modify their speech to be able to become more comprehensible.
This goes for the speakers of two different languages, as well. If they speak languages which are associated with each other (as in the same language group) such as Spanish and French, then they deal with some common characteristics in their mental sound systems, grammars and dictionaries. However, this is insufficient for them to totally communicate with one another. But, due to the commonality between these languages, one can study a language that is association to his mother tongue much quicker and conveniently than a person who will learn a completely foreign language with no historical involvement with their own. For instance, Arabic and Korean share nearly nothing in their words of the dictionary and almost nothing in regards to grammar, and they have greatly dissimilar sound systems. So for a Korean who attempts to learn Arabic, it is more difficult.
The entire prospect of learning a completely foreign language is not lost, but due to the entire languages having great similarities, these things are what the linguists describe as language universals. Linguists argue whether these language universals are things that are natural to human intellect (you might be familiar with Noam Chomsky’s argument for this) or whether these are an outcome of our similar existences and familiarities in the world. Any person who has studied a first language during his childhood has the ability to understand a second language whether you are a child or an adult, although aging seems to reduce a person’s capability for total fluency in another language.
This setting starts to clarify what it means to study another language. To study the sound system, grammar and dictionary of a language, and to be able to appropriately encode and decode points, are of infinite import in becoming truly fluent in a language, whether that language is your first or tenth.