The most important phenomenon on earth is language. All of our behaviours are governed by language, from birth to death. Language is used to store and communicate human knowledge and culture. Only through language is it possible to think. We make use of language in our dreams. Every area of human life is dominated by language. It is, in reality, a criterion by which we can be distinguished from other beings. Language is a tool for exchanging information. Language allows us to communicate our thoughts and feelings to others. Society would be impossible without language.
A language consists of words, idioms and syntax. It is through language that we think, feel, judge and express. Hence language is one of the most important and characteristic form of human behaviour we use words and idioms as tool to perform and share experience among a people possible.
Nature of Language
- Language is speech – Language is speech and is distinct from the signs, gestures and sounds produced by animals or pets to convey a particular feeling or emotion. It is distinct from the sign language even amongst the humans at any point of social and biological evolution. It restricts itself to recognised expression and communication to or from human beings by means of speech and hearing. This communication, therefore, has to be from man to man, from a person to another person by means of speech, and hearing. Speech, therefore, is language.
- Living Language – As seen earlier, a language undergoes a continuous and unnoticed change for its refinement and depth. It responds to the demands and requirements of the group that it represents. As the human utterances became complex and varied, a language to be living must move with the group, must grow with the group, should be alive to their needs and aspirations. In this process of change and growth, language acquires new shape, new approach, new significance and new application.
- Language and Society – “Language is one of the most important and characteristic forms of human behaviour”. With widening range and horizon of human thought and action, the language has to keep in step with its social calling. As “language is activity, a purposeful activity”, it must help man to express himself in a variety of new and different kinds of situations. It is the society, that in its turn, bestows meaning towards and idioms by conventionalising them to mean what they mean today to a group or a community, in a variety of complex contexts.
- Operation of Language – As language has relevance only in social context, it is necessary for its operation, that a social necessity or scenario exists. There should be a corresponding situation for the language to operate upon. It is a conventional arrangement between the speaker and the listener.
- Sounds and Signals – Sounds produced by human beings differ from the ‘signal-like’ sounds and actions of the animals. A lot of research is going on to establish if the animals also have similar conventionalised arrangement in their expression. According to Bloomfield, “In human speech, different sounds have different meanings. To study this coordination of certain sounds with certain meanings is to study language”. In other words, a study of a language consists in giving meaning to a meaning. The meaning already exists, we have to give it a meaning to be intelligible to us as a language.