Language characterizes humans (2022)

Language characterizes humans (1)

The ability to produce and understand language makes humans unique. Not just humans but also monkeys and dogs can learn words. What is the key difference to our human language? And how does this medium in which we speak, write, think and write poetry actually develop?

It is language that characterizes humans. Some people may counter at this point by pointing out that other species also communicate with one another. That's true. In fact, a wide range of species can exchange information with one another in many ways. They can even learn individual symbols or words as designations for different things and objects. Dogs and great apes, above all, demonstrate impressive capabilities in this respect. But what they learn is an association between a particular abstract symbol or an acoustic word form and an object – for example, the word 'car' and a real vehicle. They therefore learn each 'word' through associations individually.

The ability to learn words is not what constitutes human language. So what is it then? It is the faculty to combine words according to specific rules. Loosely strung together words do not produce language. They only convey a meaning when they are put together according to a defined set of rules. In contrast, great apes are not able to learn grammatical rules corresponding to those of a language.

Let us take a list of words as an example. Sleep, green, colourless, furious, idea. Combined according to the rules of English grammar, we could form the sentence "colourless green idea sleeping furiously". This sentence is grammatically correct and can be processed because it follows the rules of the language, but it does not make sense. It is not just the order in which we string words together, how we interpret them is also a decisive factor. Sentence construction, the syntax, is therefore just one aspect of language. Equally important is the meaning of the individual words, the semantics. We can give this sentence a meaning by making a few small changes: "Some colourless green ideas are sleeping furiously in my head," for example. How each person now interprets this sentence is dependent upon their individual knowledge about the meaning of words, which they have stored in their brain's mental lexicon.

(Video) Characteristics of Human Language - By Language & Linguistics

From babbling to complex sentences

Despite these apparent limitations imposed upon our language by this set of rules, the range of possibilities for conjuring up language from words is inexhaustible. However, as impressive as such infinite scope might be, the journey that our linguistic system in the brain undertakes before reaching full maturity is a long one. As thrilled as parents are when their little ones utter their first words – be it 'ma-ma' or 'pa-pa' – it also becomes patently clear in that moment what quantum leaps they have to take in order to later understand and interpret complex sentences. Some of these steps are taken in no time at all, while others take years.

Even three-year-olds possess such extensive vocabulary that they can easily understand simple sentences. "Der Fuchs jagt den Igel" (The fox hunts the hedgehog), for example. Young children nevertheless face a real obstacle when the sentence deviates from its most basic structure. If you wish to emphasise that it is a hedgehog and not a bird, for example, that the fox is hunting, the German sentence is inverted accordingly: "Den Igel jagt der Fuchs". Misunderstandings are then inevitable. The young speakers still rely subconsciously on the assumption that the subject, the hunting fox, should appear before the object, the hunted hedgehog, in the sentence. On the other hand, children already subconsciously register that the article "den" somehow does not match the subject and does not belong at the start of the sentence. Only the developed brain is able to easily process the changed order of the sentence components.

Why is that? Why are we able, on one hand, to distinguish between vowels while still in the womb but unable to understand more grammatically complex sentences until the age of seven at the earliest, even if they are made up of simple words?

The brain also has to develop

(Video) ✔️Characteristics of language, characteristics of human language between human language & animal lan

In short: good things take time. The brain and its individual cerebral areas responsible for language develop at different speeds. Some areas only gradually develop their network to other areas so that information can then be exchanged with increasing speed and effectiveness.

One area that abounds with activity from the start, even before birth, is Wernicke's area in the left temporal lobe of the cerebrum, which matures at an early stage in development. Not only does this cerebral area help us to distinguish between sounds like "ma" and "pa" at high speeds of 0.2 to 0.5 seconds very early on, it also decides for us whether a string of syllables constitutes a word and is therefore worth continuing to focus on. Simple sentences made up of a few words can also already be processed here. Wernicke's area is the epicentre of our language until around the age of three.

Only from this age does a second central language area gradually come into play – Broca's area in the front area of our cerebrum, which primarily focuses on the processing of complex language. It receives pre-sorted information from the temporal lobe and gives an overall meaning to the words individually put together. Meaningful sentences are thus constructed from separate raw information. As the neurons are increasingly connected here, even more complex formulations become easy as we get older.

We are increasingly able to make ground with the increased level of difficulty of complex sentences as our Broca's area is activated more intensively than with simple sentences. But this is not the only reason. The pathway between the two main players in language processing – Wernicke's area and Broca's area – plays a major role. This bundle of nerve fibres, the arcuate fasciculus, takes a particularly long time before becoming fully functional. This is because it slowly forms a thick myelin layer around each of its fibres. It takes many years, but is ultimately more effective. In a similar way to plastic around the copper wire of a power cable, myelin ensures that the electrical signals are transmitted with the least possible loss and at high speed. The latest studies have shown the thicker the myelin layer is around this high-speed cable, the quicker complex sentences are processed. It therefore takes until around the end of puberty before more complicated formulations can be processed just as quickly as simple ones – irrespective of whether the hedgehog, as the object, is placed in the first or last position in the sentence.

Watching the brain during speech

We owe these findings to one thing in particular to a large extent – the new technical innovations of recent years, especially functional magnetic resonance tomography (fMRT). This enables us to practically watch the brain during speech. As the procedure makes use of the different magnetic properties of blood low and rich in oxygen, it shows us activated brain areas through which oxygen is flowing. This represented a major step forward, up to this point, conclusions on how the brain functions were mainly drawn from the example of patients with specific malfunctions and the examination of the brain after their death.

And even after the development of these new methods, they were almost exclusively restricted to studies on adults until recently. The key factor in producing meaningful results is that the probands do not move their heads during the language tests in the tomograph, something well known to be especially difficult for children. At the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, we have nevertheless succeeded in developing methods that provide us with a view into the child's brain – even that of three-year-olds – while they are processing language. Our idea: to combine pleasure with benefit. We practice keeping still with little ones, for example, by showing them a cartoon beforehand which they can watch without interruption if they keep their head still. If the cartoon is exciting, this method works.

(Video) characteristics of Human Language

Language development – a universal programme

The universality of this biological programme – from the crying and babbling stages to the acquisition of the first words and syntactic rules to the processing of complex sentence structures – can be marvelled at in children in particular: each child can effortlessly learn any language of the world in the culture they are born into. After birth, they are initially receptive to any language but then specialize according to their respective linguistic environment. In the first months of life, all children worldwide still recognize sound differences in the same way regardless of whether they are of significance in their mother tongue or not. Later they can only distinguish between those that are relevant in their mother tongue. A well-known example is the difference between the speech sounds 'r' and 'l', which is important in German to separate 'Rast' from 'Last', but not in Japanese. The Japanese therefore lose the ability to differentiate between these speech sounds. In other languages, other sounds are insignificant and are also lost.

The medium in which we speak, read and write, think and write poetry, e-mail and tweet is ultimately a specific human natural and cultural product of a neuron bundle interconnected in a complex way. A bundle that develops according to a predefined biological programme, but which clearly emerges under the influence of the cultural environment in which we grow up and live. Only by exploring both aspects – the natural and human science aspects – can a deeper understanding of language be achieved.

Understanding speech not just a matter of believing one's ears

(Video) The Characteristics of "Human Language" and "Animal Language Communication" | MEG 04 | Block01|PYQ

More information:M. A. Skeide et al. Brain Functional and Structural Predictors of Language Performance, Cerebral Cortex (2015). DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhv042

Journal information:Cerebral Cortex

Provided byMax Planck Society

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(Video) What is language?? Characteristics of language, difference between animal and human language meg-4,

FAQs

What is human language characterized by? ›

Language can have scores of characteristics but the following are the most important ones: language is arbitrary, productive, creative, systematic, vocalic, social, non-instinctive and conventional. These characteristics of language set human language apart from animal communication.

Is language solely a human characteristic? ›

Researchers from Durham University explain that the uniquely expressive power of human language requires humans to create and use signals in a flexible way. They claim that his was only made possible by the evolution of particular psychological abilities, and thus explain why language is unique to humans.

Why is language important for humans please explain and give some examples? ›

Language is a vital part of human connection. Although all species have their ways of communicating, humans are the only ones that have mastered cognitive language communication. Language allows us to share our ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others. It has the power to build societies, but also tear them down.

What is language why it is so important for human being explain its major features characteristics? ›

Language means system of sounds, words, patterns used by humans to communicate their thoughts and feelings. So language is the source of expression of thought by means of speech sounds. Language is the most powerful, convenient and permanent means and form of communication.

Does language define human? ›

The ability to produce and understand language makes humans unique. Not just humans but also monkeys and dogs can learn words. What is the key difference to our human language?

What is the role of language in human communication? ›

Language is a medium of communication that helps us expressing and conveying our thoughts, feelings, and emotions of two individuals. Moreover, Language depends on verbal or non-verbal codes. In other words, Language is considered the prime tool of communication.

Why do humans use language? ›

Every day, we use language to communicate, argue, learn, negotiate, document, legislate, and celebrate.

What is language write an essay on its characteristics? ›

Language has three major dimensions such as:

(1) Content, which refers to the meaning of any written or spoken language. (2) Form, which is the particular symbol used to represent the Content, the sound the word and the grammar. (3) Use-which is referred to the social inter-change or exchange between two people.

What is the relationship between human and language? ›

Humanity has been linked to language because human beings have a more complex way of communicating with one another. The complex relationship between words cannot be found in any other species. Language in human beings is not only used for communication, but also for bonding.

How does language influence human Behaviour? ›

Human behavior cannot be understood if we separate language and social practice. Language without social practice and social practice without language are senseless. From this perspective, language, as an essential component of social practice, contextualizes every human psychological phenomenon.

Who said language is one of the most important and characteristics forms of human Behaviour? ›

Gleason said that "Language is one of the most important and characteristics forms of human behavior." Beginning to talk, acquiring language, is one of the most ordinary and remarkable things human beings do. He emphasizes that language shows human behavior.

What are some of the important properties and characteristics of human language? ›

These six properties of displacement arbitrariness, productivity, cultural transmission, discreteness and duality may by taken as the core features of human language.

What is the nature and characteristics of language? ›

1.4.2 Nature of 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.

What are the four main characteristics of language? ›

4.4: Features of Language
  • Duality of patterning: associates sounds with meaning. ...
  • Productivity: Symbols and rules can be combined for infinite messages. ...
  • Interchangeability: Speakers are able to send and receive messages.
  • Arbitrariness: No association with words, and its meaning except for the sounds.
26 Jun 2021

What is language short answer? ›

A language is a system of communication which consists of a set of sounds and written symbols which are used by the people of a particular country or region for talking or writing.

What are the characteristics of effective language use? ›

Effective language is: (1) concrete and specific, not vague and abstract; (2) concise, not verbose; (3) familiar, not obscure; (4) precise and clear, not inaccurate or ambiguous; (5) constructive, not destructive; and (6) appropriately formal.

What is the first human language? ›

The Proto-Human language (also Proto-Sapiens, Proto-World) is the hypothetical direct genetic predecessor of all the world's spoken languages. It would not be ancestral to sign languages.

When did language develop in humans? ›

Researchers have long debated when humans starting talking to each other. Estimates range wildly, from as late as 50,000 years ago to as early as the beginning of the human genus more than 2 million years ago.

Why language is a means of communication? ›

Language is a means of communication that is used to transfer information, ideas, and feelings from one person to another. Language is also a system of communication based upon words and the combination of words into sentences. By using language, people can develop their knowledge and know about something.

Why is language important in an essay? ›

Learning different language is important because it gives an ability to communicate in various environment. Having a knowledge about a language can tell many aspects about an individual's culture.

Why is language a powerful tool of communication? ›

There are many ways to communicate - with facial expressions, gestures, and words and sentences. A key factor in successful communication is having language. Language gives us the words and ways to share our own thoughts and ideas, desires, and wishes.

How does language shape our identity? ›

Language exposes many facets of a person's identity, it determines how we interact with other people. Ethnic and social identity assumes an important part in which language controls how we perceive the world, no matter what the mother tongue is.

How do we use language in our everyday life? ›

Speaking, writing and reading are integral to everyday life, where language is the primary tool for expression and communication. Studying how people use language – what words and phrases they unconsciously choose and combine – can help us better understand ourselves and why we behave the way we do.

What characteristics or properties of communication are common to all humans of the world? ›

6 Main Characteristics of Communications
  • (1) Two or More Persons:
  • (2) Exchange of Ideas:
  • (3) Mutual Understanding:
  • (4) Direct and Indirect Communication:
  • (5) Continuous Process:
  • (6) Use of Words as well as Symbols:

Did language play a role in human development? ›

Language is a very important part of the development of children. Not only are extremely important cognitive skills developed; language also is key in the social development of children. Social and linguistic development begin long before humans are mentally developed enough to speak.

How does language affect the social nature of human beings? ›

The relationship between language and social life is thus a mutually constitutive one. Without language there could be no social life, at least as we human beings live it. Conversely, without social life there would be no need of language, since it is communication that lies at the heart of language.

How is language useful to human lives and society? ›

It is through language that we communicate with the world, define our identity, express our history and culture, learn, defend our human rights and participate in all aspects of society, to name but a few.

How is language a social human behavior? ›

Abstract. Language has been considered as a social behavioural phenomenon and an indicator of the structure of cognitive processes dealing with functions such as communicating, imagining, learning and perceiving.

How does language reflect attitude? ›

Language reflects our own attitudes through power, affiliation of convergence or divergence, attraction and interest, and responsibility. Responsibility is accepted or rejected with "it" versus "I" statements, "you" versus "I" statements, "but" statements, or by asking a question rather than making a declaration.

What do you think is the importance of language in understanding human behavior and mental processes? ›

Scientists and linguists have conducted various studies and researches on how language shapes the way people think and behave. Language is part of culture and culture has an effect on the way a person thinks, which initiates behaviors.

What is the most important aspect of style in a language? ›

Punctuation is the most important aspect of style in a language.

Which of the following is not characteristic of language? ›

Hence, it is clear that 'Language is static' is NOT a characteristic of a language.

What are the three properties of human language? ›

Vocal-auditory channel: Human language is produced orally and is received through the ear. Reciprocity: Human beings communicate by sending and receiving signals. Specialization: Linguistic signals have only one purpose—of communication.

What are the 4 characteristics of human language? ›

Characteristics of Language

Let us know the characteristics of the language in brief: language is arbitrary, productive, creative, symbolic, systematic, vocalic, social, non-instinctive, and conventional; language is a system of communication, and language is human structurally complex, and modifiable.

What are the characteristics properties of human language? ›

These six properties of displacement arbitrariness, productivity, cultural transmission, discreteness and duality may by taken as the core features of human language.

What are the 5 main properties of human language? ›

Human languages differ from animal languages in many ways. Some of the major features of human languages are 1) displacement, 2) arbitrariness, 3) productivity, 4) cultural transmission, 5) discreteness, and 6) duality.

Why language is a means of communication? ›

Language is a means of communication that is used to transfer information, ideas, and feelings from one person to another. Language is also a system of communication based upon words and the combination of words into sentences. By using language, people can develop their knowledge and know about something.

What is language write an essay on its characteristics? ›

Language has three major dimensions such as:

(1) Content, which refers to the meaning of any written or spoken language. (2) Form, which is the particular symbol used to represent the Content, the sound the word and the grammar. (3) Use-which is referred to the social inter-change or exchange between two people.

What are the characteristics of language development? ›

It mainly evaluates the language development of children from four aspects: basic learning ability, comprehension ability, expression ability, and communication attitude.

What is the characteristics of language used in research? ›

There are six main characteristics of effective language. Effective language is: (1) concrete and specific, not vague and abstract; (2) concise, not verbose; (3) familiar, not obscure; (4) precise and clear, not inaccurate or ambiguous; (5) constructive, not destructive; and (6) appropriately formal.

What characteristics or properties of communication are common to all humans of the world? ›

6 Main Characteristics of Communications
  • (1) Two or More Persons:
  • (2) Exchange of Ideas:
  • (3) Mutual Understanding:
  • (4) Direct and Indirect Communication:
  • (5) Continuous Process:
  • (6) Use of Words as well as Symbols:

How many basic features does the human language have? ›

Hockett later added prevarication, reflexiveness, and learnability to the list as uniquely human characteristics. He asserted that even the most basic human languages possess these 16 features.

Which of the following is not characteristic of language? ›

Hence, it is clear that 'Language is static' is NOT a characteristic of a language.

What are two properties of human language that allow people to create new and unique sentences quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (203) To understand how words create the meaning of a sentence, we first need to distinguish between two properties of sentences: semantics and syntax. A system of communication using sounds or symbols that enables us to express our feelings, thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Which of these human characteristics evolved first? ›

One of the earliest defining human traits, bipedalism -- the ability to walk on two legs -- evolved over 4 million years ago.

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