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What are the defining qualities of a 'language'?

asked 2018-03-29 02:14:52 -0500

A S Sundar gravatar image

How do we identify a language?What essential qualities of any language confirm that it's a language?

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answered 2018-03-30 02:55:13 -0500

A S Sundar gravatar image

updated 2018-03-30 02:56:27 -0500

We linguists talk about LANGUAGE all the time.What exactly is a LANGUAGE?What are the defining qualities of a LANGUAGE?Suppose something is claimed to be a language,how does one confirm it? Let us see. Any language ,by nature,MUST have the following ESSENTIAL QUALITIES.

1.LANGUAGE Should have a definite PEOPLE linked to it.E.g.English linked to English people;Chinese to Chinese people etc.That is THERE CANNOT BE A LANGUAGE EXISTING WITHOUT ANY PEOPLE LINKED TO IT. 2. LANGUAGE should be used for COMMUNICATION between people in a community. 3. LANGUAGE must be SPOKEN.If anything is NOT SPOKEN,IT IS NOT A LANGUAGE.However LANGUAGE need not have its own writing script. 4. LANGUAGE need not have words.E.g.Sign language,pictorial languages. 5. LANGUAGE is not RESTRICTED FOR A SPECIFIED PURPOSE generally.

Is Morse Code a LANGUAGE? Is JAVA a LANGUAGE? Is Sanskrit a LANGUAGE? We can just apply the fore going check-list and find out easily. If Morse Code is not a LANGUAGE,then what is it? It's a *Cryptic Code used for a specified purpose and not a LANGUAGE.Similarly JAVA,Sanskrit are Cryptic Codes as they do not fulfill the conditions listed.

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...huh? Point 3 is obviously wrong, because it rejects sign languages. Point 4 doesn't make sense, at least not as explained. It also contradicts point 3 (how would a "pictorial language" be "spoken"?). Re: point 5, are liturgical languages not languages? And since when is Sanskrit not a language?

jpstaten gravatar imagejpstaten ( 2018-04-06 09:16:46 -0500 )edit

Point 1 is also wrong, see e.g. Esperanto or Creole languages. It leads to the question: What is a 'definite people'?

ruma gravatar imageruma ( 2018-04-14 03:17:17 -0500 )edit

Thank you for your comments.Point 3 says' LANGUAGE must be SPOKEN.If anything is NOT SPOKEN,IT IS NOT A LANGUAGE.' In a sign language ,it is SPOKEN through hands instead of tongue. 'Liturgical languages'which are not understood by all in the community are CODES ONLY.

A S Sundar gravatar imageA S Sundar ( 2018-04-28 06:54:47 -0500 )edit

Where did you get these wonky definitions? A liturgical language is not a code. A code is a system of symbols that (typically) maps to a language. A liturgical language is a language, even if it's rarely spoken. Are dead languages codes since "all in the community" can't understand them anymore?

jpstaten gravatar imagejpstaten ( 2018-05-01 18:26:35 -0500 )edit

The difference between a 'code' and a 'language' is THAT CODE IS UNDERSTOOD BY SELECTED PEOPLE BUT LANGUAGE IS UNDERSTOOD BY ALL IN THE COMMUNITY. E.g. Sanskrit IS NOT UNDERSTOOD BY ALL BUT SELECT PEOPLE.A 'dead language' is 'one that was spoken once' and NOT A NEVER SPOKEN LANGUAGE.Hope this helps.

A S Sundar gravatar imageA S Sundar ( 2018-05-26 09:09:17 -0500 )edit
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Asked: 2018-03-29 02:14:52 -0500

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Last updated: Mar 30 '18