Language and Its Characteristics

Language is a means of forming and storing ideas as reflections of reality and exchanging them in the process of human intercourse. Language is social by nature; it is inseparably connected with the people who are its creators and users; it grows and develops together with the development of society. Language incorporates the three constituent parts (“sides”), each being inherent in it by virtue of it’s social nature. These parts are the phonological system, the lexical system, the grammatical system.

Only the unity of these three elements forms a language; without any one of them there is no human language in the above sense. The phonological system is the subfoundation of language; it determines the material (phonetical) appearance of its significant units. The lexical system is the whole set of naming means of language, that is, words and stable word-groups. The grammatical system is the whole set of regularities determining the combination of naming means in the formation of utterances as the embodiment of thinking process.

Each of three constituent parts of language is studied by particular linguistic discipline. These disciplines presenting a series of approaches to their particular objects of analysis , give the corresponding “descriptions” of language consisting in ordered expositions of the constituent parts in question. Thus, the phonological description of language is effected by the science of phonology ; the lexical description of language is effected by the science of lexicology; the grammatical description of language is effected by the science of grammar.

Now we are going to have a good look at each of these three disciplines.

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[Blokh,6] The first one is Phonology. The study of speech sounds is partitioned between two distinct but related disciplines, phonetic and phonology. Both terms come from the Greek word meaning ‘sound’, and there is a fair degree of overlap in what concerns the two subjects . Thus, the boundaries between phonetics and phonology are very difficult to draw, and there is a good deal of controversy amongst linguists as to exactly where they should lie.

Despite the differences, it is clear that each of these subdisciplines relies on the other to a large extent , in the sense that phonological analyses have to be grounded in phonetic facts, and phonetic research has to be geared towards those capacities of the human vocal tract which subserve language specifically. Phonetics is essentially the study of the physical aspects of speech. This means the acoustic bases of speech (linked most closely with speech production).

Thus, phonetic research might investigate the collection of frequencies of sound observed in the production of particular types of vowel, or it might examine the precise movements of the tongue in producing the sound ‘s’. Phonology is connected with the linguistic patterning of sounds in human languages Grammar . In earlier periods of the development of linguistic knowledge, grammatical scholars believed that the only purpose of grammar was to give strict rules of writing and speaking correctly.

The rigid regulations for the correct ways of expression, for want of the profound understanding of the social nature of language, were often based on purely subjective and arbitrary judgements of individual grammar compilers. The result of this “prescriptive” approach was, that alongside of quite essential and useful information, non-existent “rules” were formulated that stood in sheer contradiction with the existing language usage, i. e. lingual reality.

Traces of this arbitrary prescriptive approach to the grammatical teaching may easily be found even in to-date’s school practice. The said traditional view of the purpose of grammar has lately been restated by some modern trends in linguistics. In particular, scholars belonging to these trends pay much attention to artificially constructing and analysing incorrect utterances with the aim of a better formulation of the rules for” the construction of correct ones.

The nature of grammar as a constituent part of language is better understood in the light of explicitly discriminating the two planes of language, namely, the plane of content and the plane of expression. . Modern linguistics lays a special stress on the systemic character of language and all its constituent parts. It accentuates the idea that language is a system of signs (meaningful units) which are closely interconnected and interdependent. Units of immediate interdependencies (such as classes and subclasses of words, various subtypes of syntactic constructions, etc. form different microsystems (subsystems) within the framework of the global macrosystem (supersystem) of the whole of language. Each system is a structured set of elements related to one another by a common function. The common function of all the lingual signs is to give expression to human thoughts. The systemic nature of grammar is probably more evident than that of any other sphere of language, since grammar is responsible for the very organisation of the informative content of utterances [Блох, 4, 11 и сл. . Due to this fact, even the earliest grammatical treatises, within the cognitive limits of their times, disclosed some systemic features of the described material. But the scientifically sustained and consistent principles of systemic approach to language and its grammar were essentially developed in the linguistics of the twentieth century, namely, after the publication of the works by the Russian scholar Beaudoin de Courtenay and the Swiss scholar Ferdinand de Saussure.

These two great men demonstrated the difference between lingual synchrony (coexistence of lingual elements) and diachrony (different time-periods in the development of lingual elements, as well as language as a whole) and defined language as a synchronic system of meaningful elements at any stage of its historical can be strictly defined, which is of crucial importance for the identification of the object of linguistic science. Language in the narrow sense of the word is a system of means of expression, while speech in the same narrow sense should be understood as the manifestation of the system of language in the process of intercourse.

The system of language includes, on the one hand, the body of material units — sounds, morphemes, words, word-groups; on the other hand, the regularities or “rules” of the use of these units. Speech comprises both the act of producing utterances, and the utterances themselves, i. e. the text. Language and speech are inseparable, they form together an organic unity. As for grammar (the grammatical system), being an integral part of the lingual macrosystem it dynamically connects language with speech, because it categorially determines the lingual process of utterance production.

Thus, we have the broad philosophical concept of language which is analysed by linguistics into two different aspects — the system of signs (language proper) and the use of signs (speech proper). The generalising term “language” is also preserved in linguistics, showing the unity of these two aspects [Блох, 16]. The sign (meaningful unit) in the system of language has only a potential meaning. In speech, the potential meaning of the lingual sign is “actualised”, i. e. made situationally significant as part of the grammatically organised text.

Lingual units stand to one another in two fundamental types of relations: syntagmatic and paradigmatic. Syntagmatic relations are immediate linear relations between units in a segmental sequence (string). E. g. : The spaceship was launched without the help of a booster rocket. In this sentence syntagmatically connected are the words and word-groups “the spaceship”, “was launched”, “the spaceship was launched”, “was launched without the help”, “the help of a rocket”, “a booster rocket”. . On the basis of discriminating synchrony and diachrony, the difference between language proper and speech proper

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Language and Its Characteristics. (2017, Feb 20). Retrieved from

Language and Its Characteristics
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