10 Main Characteristics of language
1. Language is verbal, vocal: Language is sound
Language is an organization of sounds, of vocal symbols – the sounds produced from the mouth with the help of various organs of speech to convey some meaningful message. It also means that speech is primary to writing. There are several languages because they are spoken. Music and singing also employ vocal sounds, but they are not languages. Language is systematic verbal symbolism; it makes use of verbal elements such as sound, words. and phrases, which are arranged in certain ways to make sentences. Language is vocal in as much as it is made up of sounds which can be produced by the organs of speech.
2. Language is a means of communication
Language is the most powerful, convenient and permanent means and form of communication. Non-linguistics symbols such as expressive gestures signals of various kinds, traffic lights, road-signs, flags, emblems and many more such things as well as shorthand, mores and other codes, the deaf and dumb and braille alphabets, the symbols of mathematics and logic, etc. are also means of communication, yet they are not so flexible, comprehensive, perfect and extensive as language is. Language is the best means of self-expression. It is though the language that humans express their thoughts, desires, emotions and feelings; it is through it that they store knowledge, transmit messages, knowledge and experience from one person to another, from one generation to another. most of the activities in the world are carried on through or by it. It is through it that humans interact. It is language again that yokes the present, the past and the future together.
3. Language is a social phenomenon
Language is a set of conventional communicative signals used by humans for communication in a community. Language in this sense is a possession of a social group, comprising an indispensable set of rules which permits its members to relate to each other; it is a social institution. Language exists in society; it is a means of nourishing and developing culture and establishing human relations. It is a member of society that a human being acquires a language. We learn not born with an instinct to learn a particular language– English, Hindi, Russian, Bengali, Chinese, Tamil, or French. We learn a language as members of the society using that language, or because we want to understand that society or, to be understood by that speech-community. If a language is not used in any society it dies out.
Language is thus a social event. It can be described only if we know all about the people who are involved in it, their personalities, their beliefs, attitudes, knowledge of the world, relationship to each other, their social status, what activity they are engaged in what they are talking about, what has gone before linguistically and non-linguistically, what happens after, what they are and host of other facts about them and the situation they are placed in.
4. Language is arbitrary
By the arbitrariness of language, we mean that there is no inherent or logical relation or similarity between any given feature of language and its meaning. That is entirely arbitrary, that there is no direct, necessary connection between the nature of things or ideas the language deals with, and the linguistics unites are combinations by which these things or ideas are expressed. There is no reason why the four-legged domestic animals should be called Dog in English, Kutta in Hindi, Kukkur in Sanskrit, Kutta in Telugu, Kukur in Bengali, Chien in French, hund in German, Kalb in Arabic and so on. That those particular words that imitate the sounds of there referents, for example- buzz, hiss, hum, bang in English and Kal-Kal in Hindi, may seem to invalidate this statement, but such words are comparatively few in different languages, and the accuracy of the limitation depends on the sounds available in the language. Furthermore, these are a variation in different languages of the world and have no uniformity.
5. Language is non-instinctive, conventional
no language was created in a day out of a mutually agreed-upon formula by a group of humans. Language is the outcome of evolution and convention. Each generation transmits this convention on to the next, Like all human institutions languages also change and die, grow and expand. Every language then is a conventional community, It is non-instinctive because it is acquired by human beings. Nobody gets a language an innate ability to acquire language. Animals inherit their system of communication by heredity, humans do not.
6. Language is symbolic
The symbolism of language is a necessary consequence of the feature of arbitrariness discussed above. A symbol stands for something else; it is something that serves as a substitute. Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols. For concepts, things ideas, objects etc. we have sounds and words as symbols. the language uses words essentially as symbols and not as signs (e.g in Mats.) for the concepts represented by them.
7. Language is systematic
Although the language is symbolic, yet its symbols are arranged in a particular system. All languages have their system of arrangements. Though symbols in each human language are finite, they can be arranged infinity; that is to say, we can produce an infinite set of sentences by a finite set of symbols.
Every language is a system of systems. All languages have a phonological and grammatical system we have morphological and syntactic systems, and within these two sub-systems, we have several other systems such as those of plural, of mood, of aspect, of tense, etc.
By “systematic” we also mean the following: the speakers of language use only certain combinations. Thus although the sounds b and z occur in English. There is no word in English which begins with bz. Similarly, we can say that the beautiful girl chased the brown dog is a sentence of English, but the edfulauti girl chased the brown dog is not. Thus we conclude that all languages, though linear in their visual manifestation, have a dual system of sound and meaning. In other words, Language is systematic composition or arrangement of linguistic which correlate word and meaning. Each language, therefore, can be described as a special system, suitable for conveying the message within its own framework of structure and meaning and having very little direct physical relation to the meanings or acts which it involves. it should also be remembered that language is meaningful.
8. Language is unique, creative, complex and modifiable
Language is a unique phenomenon of the earth. Other planets do not seem to have any language, although this fact may be invalidated if we happen to discover a talking generation on any other planet. but so far there is no evidence of the presence of language on the moon. Each language is unique in its own sense. By this, we do not mean that language do not have any similarities or universals. Despite there common features and language universals, each language has its peculiarities and distinct features.
language has creativity and productivity. The structural elements of human language can be combined to produce new utterances, which neither the speaker nor his hearers may ever have made or heard before any listener, yet which both sides understand without difficulty, language changes according to the needs of society. Old English is different from modern English.
9. Language is human and structurally complex
No species other than humans has been endowed with language. Animals cannot acquire human language because of its complex structure and their physical inadequacies. Animals do not have the type of brain which the human beings possess and their articulatory organs are also very much different from those of human beings. Furthermore, any system of animals communication does not make use of the quality of features, that is, of concurrent systems of sound and meaning. Human language is open-ended, extendable and modifiable whereas the animal language is not.