Language: Definition, Architecture, Structure and Social Contexts

Language is a cognition that makes us human and is one of the most distinctive features of the human species; there are good reasons to believe it is a unique human capacity that no other body has. Unlike other species, we learn linguistic rules without voluntary, conscious effort during the first few years.

As our vocabulary grows, we can analyze sentence structure, the role and meaning of words, and how sentences and comments can be used for social and practical purposes. We learn, for example, that the very phrase “this is good” can be a compliment, an honest statement, or a joke, depending on the context and intonation of the speaker’s voice. Social behaviors increase in complexity due to language; rational abilities also increase with language since language allows us to make our thoughts explicit. Furthermore, language makes possible the practice of openly asking for reasons and justifications, a basis for gaining knowledge.

What is language?

It is a set of symbols used mainly for communication; the characters can be spoken or written. Language is an aspect of human behavior; it is a long-term record of knowledge from one generation to another in written form. In oral form, it is a means of communication. Language is a crucial aspect of human intelligence.

The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Thinkers like Rousseau have argued that language originated from emotions, while others like Kant have argued that it originated from rational and logical thinking; 20th-century philosophers like Wittgenstein argued that philosophy is the study of language. The most influential figures in linguistics include Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky.

The word is sometimes used to refer to codes, ciphers, and other types of artificially constructed communication systems, such as the formally defined programming languages ​​used for computer programming. Unlike conventional human languages, a formal language is a system of signs to encode and decode information; this article refers specifically to the properties of natural human language, as it is studied in the discipline of linguistics.


The physiological and neural architecture of language and speech

Speaking is the default modality for language in all cultures; spoken language production relies on sophisticated abilities to control the lips, tongue, and other components of the vocal apparatus, acoustically decode speech sounds, and the required neurological device. To acquire and produce language. The study of the genetic bases for human language is at an early stage: the only gene that has been involved in the production of language is FOXP2, which can cause a type of congenital language disorder if affected by mutations.


It is the coordinating center for all linguistic activities; it controls both the production of linguistic cognition and its meaning and the mechanics of speech production. However, our knowledge of the neurological bases for language is quite limited, although it has advanced considerably with modern imaging techniques. The discipline of linguistics dedicated to studying the neurological aspects of language is called neurolinguistics.

Early work in neurolinguistics included studying language in people with brain injuries and seeing how injuries in specific areas affect language and speech. In this way, neuroscientists in the 19th century discovered that two brain areas were crucially involved in language processing.

Speech anatomy

Spoken language depends on the human’s ability to produce sound, a longitudinal wave that propagates through the air at a frequency capable of vibrating the eardrum. This ability depends on the physiology of the human speech organs; these organs consist of the lungs, the voice box (larynx), and the upper vocal tract: the throat, mouth, and nose. By controlling the different parts of the speech apparatus, the air stream can be manipulated to produce different speech sounds.

The sound of speech can be analyzed by combining segmental and suprasegmental elements; the elements occur in sequences, which are generally represented by different letters, such as in Roman writing. There are no clear boundaries between one segment and the next in the free-flowing speech, nor are there any audible pauses between words. Therefore, the segments are distinguished by their distinctive sounds resulting from their different articulations and can be vowels or consonants. Suprasegmental phenomena encompass elements such as stress, phonation type, voice timbre, and prosody or intonation, all of which can affect multiple segments.

The consonants and vowel segments combine to form syllables, which connect to form sentences; these can be distinguished phonetically as the space between two inhalations.

The vowels are those sounds that do not have audible friction caused by the narrowing or obstruction of some part of the upper vocal tract; they vary in quality according to the degree of opening of the lip and the placement of the tongue within the oral cavity.

Language structure

When described as a symbolic communication system, language is traditionally seen as having three parts: signs, meanings, and a code that connects characters to their senses. Posters can be made up of sounds, gestures, letters, or symbols, depending on how they speak, sing, or write, and can be combined into complex characters, such as words and phrases; when used in communication, a sender encodes and transmits a sign through a channel to a receiver that decodes it.

The rules by which signs can be combined to form words and phrases are syntax or grammar. The meaning connected to individual characters, morphemes, words, phrases, and texts is called semantics. The division of language into separate but connected systems of signs and meanings dates back to early linguistic studies and is now used in almost all branches of linguistics.


Languages ​​express meaning by relating a signed form to a meaning or its content; sign forms must be something that can be perceived, for example, in sounds, images, or gestures, and then be related to a specific meaning by social convention. Since the primary meaning relationship for most linguistic signs is based on social patterns, linguistic signs can be considered arbitrary, in the sense that the way is established socially and historically, rather than by a genuine relationship between one form of speech: specific sign and its meaning.

All languages ​​contain the semantic structure of predication: a structure that predicates a property, state, or action. Traditionally, semantics has been understood as the study of how speakers and interpreters assign truth values ​​to sentences. Meaning is understood to be the process by which a predicate can be said to be true or false about a statement. Entity. Recently, this semantics model has been complemented with more dynamic meaning models that incorporate shared knowledge about the context in which a sign is interpreted in the production of meaning; such meaning models are explored in pragmatics.

Sounds and symbols.

Depending on the modality, the structure of the language can be based on sound systems (speech), gestures (sign languages), or graphic or tactile symbols (writing). How languages ​​use sounds or signs to construct meanings is studied in phonology, the study of how humans produce and perceive vowel sounds is called phonetics. In spoken language, sense occurs when sounds become part of a system in which some can help express meaning and others cannot. Only a limited number of the many sounds that the human vocal apparatus can create contribute to building purpose in any given language.

Sounds as part of a linguistic system are called phonemes. These are abstract units of sound, defined as the minor units in a language that can distinguish between the meaning of a minimally different pair of words, a so-called minimal pair.


It is the study of how significant elements called morphemes within a language can be combined into sentences. Morphemes can be free or tied, if they can move within a sentence, they are generally called words, and if they are attached to other words or morphemes, they are called affixes. How significant elements can be combined within a language is governed by rules for the internal structure of words called morphology. Those for the internal structure of phrases and sentences are called syntax.

Typology and universals

Languages ​​can be classified on their grammatical types. However, languages ​​that belong to different families often have characteristics in common, and these shared characteristics tend to correlate. For example, languages ​​can be classified based on their basic word order, the relative order of the verb, and its constituents in an average indicative sentence. All languages ​​structure sentences into Subject, Verb, and Object, but languages ​​differ in how they classify relationships between actors and actions.

Social contexts of use and transmission of language

Everyone can learn any language; they only do it if they grow up in an environment where the language exists and is used by others. Thus, terminology depends on speaking communities in which children learn from their elders and peers, and they pass the language on to their children. It can be seen that language is passed between generations and within communities; it changes perpetually, diversifying into new languages ​​or converging due to contact with the language.


All healthy and developing human beings typically learn to use language; children acquire the language or languages ​​they use around them – those that receive sufficient exposure during childhood. Development is essentially the same for children who develop oral signs or languages; this learning process is known as first language acquisition. Unlike many other types of learning, it does not require direct teaching or specialized study.

First language acquisition continues in a fairly regular sequence, although there is a wide variation in the timing of particular stages among typically developing infants. From birth, newborns respond more efficiently to human speech than to other sounds; around one month of age, babies seem to be able to distinguish between different speech sounds; at about six months, a child will begin to babble, producing the sounds of speech or the manual forms of the languages ​​that are used around it.

Words appear around the age of 12 to 18 months; the average vocabulary of an eighteen-month-old is around 50 words, several months after a child begins producing words, it will make two-word verbal utterances, and within Within a few months, it will start to deliver a telegraphic speech, or short sentences that are less grammatically complex than adult speech but do show regular syntax structure. From about the age of three to five, a child’s ability to speak or sign is refined to the point that it resembles adult language.


Languages understood as the particular set of speech norms of a specific community are also part of the broader culture of the community that speaks to them. Languages ​​differ not only in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar but also across different ‘speaking cultures.’ Human beings use language to signal identity with a cultural group and difference from others; even among speakers of a language, there are several different ways of using language, and each is used to signal affiliation with particular subgroups within a larger culture.

Linguists use the term “varieties” to refer to the different ways of speaking a language. This term includes geographically or socioculturally defined dialects, as well as slang or styles of subcultures. Linguistic anthropologists and language sociologists define communicative style as to how language is used and understood within a particular culture.

Writing, literacy, and technology

The use of writing has made language even more helpful to humans. It allows large amounts of information to be stored outside the human body and retrieved again, and it enables communication over distances that would otherwise be impossible. Many languages ​​conventionally employ different genres, styles, and registers in the written and spoken language, and in some communities, the writing traditionally takes place in a completely different language than the one said; there is some evidence that the use of paper also has effects on the cognitive development of humans, perhaps because acquiring literacy generally requires formal and explicit education.


Language change occurs at all levels, from the phonological level to the stories of vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and speech; it is often initially negatively evaluated by speakers of the language, who often consider the changes as “impairment” or a sign of sliding of the norms of use of the language, is natural and inevitable.

The changes can affect specific sounds or the entire phonological system; it can consist of the substitution of one voice sound or phonetic characteristic for another, the complete loss of the affected sound, or even the introduction of a new sound in a place where there was none, they can be conditioned, in which case a sound is changed only if it occurs near certain other sounds.

Sound change is generally assumed to be regular. It is expected to be mechanically applied as long as its structural conditions are met, regardless of non-phonological factors. On the other hand, sound changes can sometimes be sporadic, affecting only a particular word or a few words with no apparent regularity.


A significant source of language change is contact and the resulting diffusion of linguistic traits between languages; linguistic communication occurs when speakers of two or more languages ​​or varieties interact regularly. Multilingualism is likely to have been the norm throughout human history, and most people in the modern world are multilingual; before the emergence of the concept of the ethnic-national state, monolingualism was mainly characteristic of

populations that inhabited small islands, but with the ideology that made a people, a state and a language the most desirable political arrangement, it began to spread throughout the world.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.