African Studies, Essays, Publications

The social and philosophical function of language

 A distinguishing characteristic of man is his ability to communicate through the use of language. This means that language has no counterpart in the animal worldview.

As the name goes, language is described as organized system of symbols that is used to express and receive meanings (Cropper, 2003).  Unique to Homo sapiens, language appears inseparable to human nature and a feature of human intelligence. Contrary to the above is the acquisition, comprehension, or expression of spoken or written language by man. Adopting Darwinian perspective, language offers a bold synthesis of human and natural sciences. This is the more reason why Philosophers, Psychologists, Counselors, social workers, medical practitioners, scientists, researchers, administrators, CEO’s and clerical workers all perform their task through the power of the word. The power of the word classically called “phonetic competence” reflects a social pressure for vocal imitation, learning, and other forms of social interaction and transmission.The American Speech and Hearing Association uses five subsystems for language: Phonology (sound), Morphology (word forms), Syntax (word order and sentence structure), Semantics (word and sentence meaning) and finally Pragmatics (social use of language). Phonology is the sound system of language and the linguistic rules that governs sound combination. The ability of a child to have phonological awareness of likeness and differences in sounds is necessary for the development of speech patterns. This may be related to later reading and writing skills. Morphology is the linguistic system that governs the structure of words and the construction of word forms from the basic element of meaning. Children with problems in this area will experience difficulty in understanding or producing morphological inflections. The power and function of language is rooted in the understanding and use of suffixes and prefixes. Both can be described as major form of oral and written communication. Also Syntax is a philosophical and linguistic rule system governing the order and combination of words to form sentence (Cropper, 2003). On one hand Semantics is the psycholinguistic system that patterns the content of an utterance, intent, and meaning of words. The philosophy underplaying semantics require an individual who speaks to understand what has been said, to comprehend the meaning of what has been said, and express their intended meaning. Finally, Pragmatics is a sociolinguistic system that patterns the use of language in communication, which maybe expressed motorically, vocally or verbally (Copper, 2003).  It is basically the use of social situations or settings which express one’s intention. In most instances when a person has difficulty with one subsystem, other subsystems may be affected. When children have a language disorder, generally one of the subsystems is substantially affected. A language disorder is the impairment or deviant development of comprehension and/or other symbol system.

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