Language – Critical Analysis

Language is the systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings. [1] (salereo definitions) Language allows us to express ourselves in such a way that other people can understand us. However, there are many limitations on how far it can actually be used in order for us to be able to communicate our thoughts and emotions to other people exactly as we understand or feel it. For this reason Language can be considered one of the most important “tools” of communication in the world.

In this essay, I shall make a critical analysis about the statement above, discussing its claims and alternative perspectives. Firstly I will define language using two opposing perspectives, I will continue by analyzing these definitions in conjunction with the question. Looking at language as a means of expression and secondly the power of thought verses the act of communication. Finally I will examine the functions of language and how live in. To understand the claim “no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension” we must first understand what language is.

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Language is considered largely, to be a system of communicating with other people using sounds, symbols and words in expressing thought. Human Language however, could be defined as a combination of factors (environment, blending cultures, media) that results in the development of a style of communication unique to that place. Human language varies from country to country – For example, Although Australia, England and The United States all speak English we all use very different mannerisms, words and accents.

It is true that language is an important method of communication, however it is not the only method – we can also use gestures, touch, facial expressions, etc which are not language. Despite the considerable difference between the concepts of communication and language, it is still fair to say that the main purpose of language is to communicate. We can still think without language, but John Hall Wheelock states that “A child, when it begins to speak, learns what it is that it knows. ” This brings up the debate: Can we only vocalize a thought if we have a true understanding of it?

We still have our instincts and experience to help us but there are some emotions, sensations or feelings that can count as thoughts and yet are inexpressible in language. The death of someone close to you for example can bring on copious feelings of mixed emotions that have been deemed by many as inexpressible. This is a proof that our language does not measure our world. We know what our feelings were, but often we cannot express it by language. We also should consider the fact that there are several problems concerning language, these include: ambiguity and body language.

Emotive words such as love and hate, encoded messages (a comment may mean something different depending on the hearer knowledge of the speaker) and interaction between the speaker, hearer and the environment. These problems convert language into an unreliable method of communication. To solve these problems, we have to rely on our other communication means. Although these problems may affect us in many aspects, they help us to prove the fact that we are not completely dependant on language to “express all forms human comprehension”. Our surroundings reflect our language.

That is why, the statement “The Limits of my language are the limits of my world” is partially true. A lot of our understanding and communication has a connection with our background – Our world can be represented by our language. People speak differently (accents, various word meanings and vocabularies) depending on their culture, occupation and surrounding. i. e. Different cultures place importance on various parts of language that are essential to survival and necessary to understand one’s surroundings. The eskimo’s have a hundred words for snow, each one defining a slightly different variety.

Such diversity in definition is not necessary on a large dessert island, such as Australia. I can fairly claim that if I was to enter the inuit world I would struggle to grasp the concept of hundreds of different types of snow. This is because my exposure to Australian culture has left me with a single definition of snow (and many adjectives to describe it). Does this mean I could not communicate with the inuit people? No, I could communicate but I would be forced to focus on other forms of language to convey my point in detail.

One might argue that the language gap is too great and until I had a sound understanding of the inuit people’s culture I could not truly understand their concept of snow and would continue to use the word in my own Western Context. Thus proving that Language is vital for us to be able to acquire cultural knowledge. A simpler example of this ‘language gap’ is love. A culturally diverse word, used in almost all cultures for various reasons. On personal level the word ‘love’ and its definition can create boundaries not unlike that between cultures.

We all express love differently, just as many cultures speak different languages. Some people express love through gifts, others through gestures and acts of service. Gary Chapman argues that there are 5 languages of love (eg; there are 5 different ways people love, and wish to be loved). Here’s the tricky part – we all wish to be loved in a similar way to how we ourselves express love, but we all love differently. Just as language attempts to convey similar concepts (regarding word definition) the purest definition is still subjective to the individual culture.

Brian Wilder quotes “just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have. ” Perhaps this provides insight that despite the difference in accent or concept, we can learn to accept foreign definitions for words as ‘similar’ while realizing they will never be ‘identicle’ to our own definitions or concepts. In conclusion it is impossible to imagine a rational being, or a civilized society, without implying the use of language.

Even within the business management area, managers are discovering that an absence of effective communication between employers and staff lead to trouble and lack of confidence. “No society can plan ahead to gather food, to undertake public words, or to prepare for an afterlife without the capacity for expressing a future tense. Nor can it prohibit or encourage behavior which it is unable to name. Who is permitted to marry whom in any society is determined by blood relationships or by membership in various clans and castes – rules which can only be transmitted by language. ”

Therefore, the statement “the limits of my language are the limits of my world” is only partially true. Actually, the correct statement should read, “the limits of my language are affected by the limits of my world. ” This would agree with all points presented in this essay, being much more reasonable. In any case, regardless of the conclusions taken, the importance of language can also be highlighted by taking into account what language makes possible. The capacity to communicate knowledge, to have it questioned, corrected and shared by others, seems to be a peculiarly human capacity that can broaden all of our horizons.