Language is the backbone of a society, civilized or uncivilized. And there is a language all around us. It allows people to share complicated thoughts, negotiates agreements, makes communal arrangements, and many other activities. The way we learn, the way we grow, the way we fight, the way we resolve disputes, all revolve around language. It is the main medium of communication and one that is quite extensive. In fact, language can be thought out as a technology. This is because human being manipulates their bodies to produce sounds, gestures, and encode the messages using conventional systems.
In the movie “Jumanji II,” one of the characters who is a zoologist also has linguistic skills. In one scene, he can communicate with camels. This may not be the real subject for linguists, but it suggests that even animals have their own system of language through which they communicate. And when we talk about a system, we are saying language does not have to verbal. There are many gestures and sounds that can be translated as some form of language.
Hence the question remains whether the technology of language works. It may seem like an easy question, but answering it requires a more in-depth approach than you may think, especially since our language skills are automatic, hence hard to reflect upon. Nevertheless, over the centuries, different scholars have studies, especially human language, but there seem to more frontiers within the subject. And linguistics in the field of scholarship that attempts to answer, “how does language work.”
As you may have already discovered, language is science. This means answering questions about language requires the in-depth observance of the behavior or language users. There are considerable telescopes in astronomy, supercolliders in particle physics, expensive apparatus in chemistry and biology, all aimed at teaching differing facets of the universe and beyond. Modern linguists use the source as their major point of reference; they observe language users in a particular setting, focusing on the action. Of the significant charms of linguistics is that information is all around, all you need is patience and keen ear covered with an intuitive mind. Luckily, you don’t need to start from scratch today; there are other linguists from the past who have already laid the ground for you. Throughout history, some men and women have been the speech, writing, and intuitions of language learners all around.
There are many other ways to learn a language too. For instance, one could focus on respect authorities. But then they would have to answer the question, “how did the authorities learn what they know.” authoritative appeal would work quite well if a language was invented by ancient sage. We would them go to, say the Founding
Sage of Danish writing, and extract intent, just like the American judges use the constitution. But this is not how languages have been created. There are plenty of ancient authorities in data, but they all submit to the same language approaches; they merely seemed to codify the practices and beliefs of people who seemed most skillful in the use of a particular language. Hence, the authorities were themselves researchers of language.
The “tradition of language instructions” is common in literate societies. In the formal classes, learners are introduced to reading and writing. More, the teacher explains to the student the rules applied in language use. This is called a prescriptive tradition, whereby the learner is told what to do. It is the same approach used in arithmetic learning or how to knit a sweater. And formal language instructions normally take a normative approach of “should and shouldn’t,” which is an understanding or wrong and right behavior.
Contrastingly, linguist uses a descriptive approach. The objective is to observe what people really and form theories to explain what has been observed. Right or wrong use of language is only considered based on whether it seems ordinary and natural in speech. And since you are a member of the literate culture, you have probably come across a certain amount of instructions in your traditional language. Hence, chances are, you will experience some discomfort as you observe language behaviors that you have been taught seem wrong. It might even be confusing as you are faced with decisions such as ‘ this behavior is wrong,’ “I am no good in observation,” the person I am observing is a wrong source of information.
It is vital to keep in mind that basic language instructions and linguistics do not have the same goals and methods. Instructions through traditional languages are intended to teach students on the use of standard language, whereby these guidelines exist to ensure possible communication between distant regions, generations, and social classes, on which modern civilization depends. The rules must be constant in an extensive area, over a long period and across socio-economic classes. And this is where contradictions arise:
- In formal regulations, the standard language is almost arbitrary. The detail is not important, as long as every party conforms to them and follows whenever the need for formal communication arise.
- Traditional language instructions are compelled to imbue these mostly-arbitrary regulations, putting in mind the sense of rightness, to instill a moral sense in students as a way of perseveration of the standard language.
As a result, students often emerge with the understanding that some language behaviors, as observed through traditions, language instructions is just wrong. It is a common moral sense among the literate society about languages. But then, it is important to agree with different viewpoints and treat all languages used as correct when doing objective science.
In other words, students must learn to respect other people’s language behavior and describe it with objectivity. Language carries more than the culture of a particular group of people; hence it is critical to respect differences in culture.
As a language student, you will be exposed to different layers of linguistics, as the subject is a multifaceted entity. There are phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantic, pragmatics, and theoretical linguistics, with further subdivisions within. The branches of linguistics include; computation, anthropological, neurologic; sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, and language acquisition.
May 15, 2020