What is Language?
Language is a critical component of culture and life itself. This explains why there are so many and is a reflection of just how different we are. While there are about 7,151 languages in the world, 500 of these are used in Nigeria. At this point, it is important to first understand what Language is.
Language is the collection of symbols, letters, or words with arbitrary meanings that are governed by rules and used to communicate (Pearson et al., 2013, p. 49). Language represents things without being those things. For instance, an automobile is a symbol of a vehicle, but the symbol “automobile” is not the vehicle itself. Language can also be defined as a system of communication consisting of sounds, words, and grammar, or the system of communication used by people in a particular country or type of work – Cambridge Dictionary. The Oxford dictionary says language is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way – Oxford Dictionary.
Why is language important?
- Being Human – It is a core part of what makes us human. It is how we communicate. Learning a language means understanding a complex system of sounds, words, signs, structure, and grammar. It is a sign of human development.
- Culture and society – Language helps preserve culture. Culture may be defined as all of the socially transmitted behavior patterns, beliefs, attitudes, and values of a particular period, class, community, or population. Culture and language are thus related as the transmission of culture occurs, in part, through language. A critical part of the role of language in culture and society is evidenced in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (Whorfianism. This theory suggests that our perception of reality is determined by our thought processes, our thought processes are limited by our language, and therefore language shapes our reality and our behaviours. Language is the principal way that we learn about ourselves, others, and our culture
- Business – Language helps build trust and relationships between partners. It also helps in the spread and growth of various business endeavours locally and internationally.
- Personal communication – Language as earlier explained is our vehicle for communicating with one another.
Functions of language
- Informative – to inform by stating facts clearly
- Expressive – to express ourselves by offering us how to convey our emotions and attitudes
- Directive – to issue instructions and actions
How to Use Language Effectively
- Use appropriate language
- Use vivid language
- Use inclusive language (avoiding language that is racist, sexist, misogynist, hateful, presumptuous, and/or prejudiced).
The words we use in our daily conversations change over time. This thought can be quite puzzling until we understand what makes a word real. Watch this viral video where Anne Curzan deep dives into the evolution of words.