The Power Of Language Essay

1983 words - 8 pages

Language is the method in which all human beings communicate. It is what separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, while the languages of the world share similarities, the differences cause problems in understanding. These problems stem from the differences in culture, language, and how people in those cultures thing. Cross-cultural interpretation causes cognate and emotive meaning to be lost due to cultural differences.
What is language? Language is the primary means of communication for human beings. Language is based on arbitrary, learned associations between words and the things for which they stand. Like culture in general, of which language is a part, ...view middle of the document...

All humans have the capacity for language. However, each linguistic community has it’s own language. This language is culturally transmitted.
This history of language is interesting. The written word is about six thousand years old. The spoken word is tens of thousands of years older. However, anthropologists disagree on precisely when humans began to speak. Researchers do agree that language did not appear at a certain point in history. It developed over hundreds of thousands of years. The animal call systems of our ancestors eventually evolved from a genetically transmitted system of communication to a taught and learned language.
The human method of communication is used in a variety of different ways. Language permits information to be stored and disseminated by human society. This makes language an extremely effective vehicle for learning. Because we can speak of things that we have never experienced, we can anticipate responses before we encounter the stimuli.
As an example, a college student may take a difficult mathematics class. His experience in the class can be described and transmitted to his fellow students. His colleagues can use this information to formulate a course of action to take when they encounter this circumstance themselves.
Linguist Noam Chomsky has argued that human beings have a limited set of rules for organizing language, so that all languages have a common structural basis. Chomsky calls this set of rules “universal grammar”. The fact that people can learn more than one language and that concepts can be translated from one culture to another tends to support Chomky’s theory. Further support can be found in the fact that all humans have similar linguistic abilities.
Building on Chomsky’s ideas of univeral grammar, linguist and author Rudy Tenenbaum has identified common methods people acquire language. While his research is focused on adult learners of foreign languages, it seems to apply to students of any age. One of the methods most familiar to people is the method of assimilation. A good example of assimilation is to look at how children acquire language.
Children successfully master their native tongue without ever consciously trying to remember the words or grasp the complexities of its grammar. As a child grows to maturity, the need to communicate grows beyond crying for food, sleep, or a diaper changing. This need is filled by imitating the sounds, eventually words and syntax, of the parent. Children make the words their own. Soon , they begin to creatively construct new words and expressions. This builds on itself, snowballing into a full blown language in just a few years.
Other linguists take a different approach to the relation between language and thought. Rather than seeking universal liguistic structures and processes, they believe that different languages produce different ways of thinking. This position is sometimes known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis...

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