Monday, April 19, 2010

The Properties of Language

Language is a particular kind of system for encoding and decoding information. It is used to communicate or spreading information. In order to understand a certain language better, we need to identify the properties and the characteristics of language. There are several properties of language that have identified, that is divided into six sub-categories, which is displacement, arbitrariness, productivity, cultural transmission, discreteness and duality.
Displacement is defined as human language that users can refer to past and future time and to other locations which allows us to talk about things and events not present in the immediate environment such as to talk about things and places whose existence we cannot be sure of. Animal communication is almost exclusively designed for this moment, here and now. Yet, human language allows the users of a language to talk about the past, present and future, things that do not exist in real life.
Arbitrariness means there is no natural connection between a linguistic form and its meaning. There is no natural relation between the word and what the word designates. However, in animal’s communication, there is a connection between the message and the signal used to convey the message. Their communication consists of a set of fixed and limited sets of vocals and gastrula forms. Example is a dog barking and salivating.
Productivity is when humans were capable of creating new expressions for new objects. It is an aspect of a language which is linked to the fact that the potential number of utterances in any human language is infinite. Yet, on human signalling, it appears to have little flexibility. They have a limited set of signals to choose from a fixed reference.
Cultural transmission is when humans inherit physical features from their parents but not language. Language is passed on from one generation to the next, acquiring the language from other speakers and not from parental genes. Animals’ communicative signals are produced instinctively and not learned.
Discreteness means sounds that are meaningfully distinct. For example, the pronunciation of pack and back leads to distinction of meaning and that is only due to the difference between p and b sounds in English. In speech production that is the spoken language, two distinct levels are recognised which is a level of distinct sounds and a level of distinct meaning.
Duality means language that is organised at two levels simultaneously. This property is called duality or double articulation. We have a physical level at which we can produce individual sounds like n, b and i. When we produce these sounds in a particular combination as in bin, we have another level producing a meaning which is different from the combination in nib. Therefore, at one level, we have distinct sounds and different meanings in another level we have this is economical features while animal’s communicative signals are fixed and cannot be broken into parts such as meow is not m+e+o+w.
Other properties includes the vocal-auditory channel, which is the speech sounds used in human communication are produced by the vocal organs and perceived via the ears, reciprocity, which involves a speaker and a listener for the communication to occur, specialisation, where linguistics signals are only for language-communication, non-directionality, that once produced, linguistic signals spread out in all directions, and rapid fade where linguistic signals are produced and disappear quickly.
It is suffice to say that this list is not exhaustive in its entirety but might be good to study the details of what is behind every language. These properties make up the language and therefore are the key to the progress of human communication.


  1. When i have read your article,it is comprehensible and it helps me a lot. thanks!i have learned something very beneficial. keep the good work.!:))

  2. hi, thanks for your work,I have question if it is ok for me to use your content in my exam ?,I mean tomorrow I will take an exam in linguistics ,because I am student ,I am studying an English degree at university .I mean if it is ok and it is not plagiarism or copyright infringement ?