Language - Definitions

Definitions

The English word "language" derives ultimately from Indo-European dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s "tongue, speech, language" through Latin lingua, "language, tongue", and Old French langage "language". The word is sometimes used to refer to codes, ciphers and other kinds of artificially constructed communication systems such as those used for computer programming. A language in this sense is a system of signs for encoding and decoding information. This article is specifically about the properties of natural human language as it is studied in the discipline of linguistics.

As an object of linguistic study "language" has two primary meanings: language as an abstract concept, and "a language" (a specific linguistic system, e.g. "French"). The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who defined the modern discipline of linguistics, first explicitly formulated the distinction, using the French word langage for language as a concept, and langue as a specific instance of a language system, and parole for the concrete usage of speech in a particular language.

When speaking of language as a general concept, some different definitions can be used that stress different aspects of the phenomenon. These definitions also entail different approaches and understandings of language, and they inform different and often incompatible schools of linguistic theory.

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... precise terminology that cannot be confused with other words or definitions ... He gave emphasis on avoidance of words that have many definitions and compared the language of Scientology with the language of Math and other precise doctrines ... Scientology and Dianetics place a heavy emphasis on understanding word definitions ...
Theoretical Definition
... A theoretical (or conceptual) definition gives the meaning of a word in terms of the theories of a specific discipline ... This type of definition assumes both knowledge and acceptance of the theories that it depends on ... An example of a theoretical definition is that of "Heat" in physics, which actually puts forth an entire theory of heat (involving accelerating molecules, etc.) ...
Theoretical Definition - Examples
... Conceptual definition Operational definition Weight a measurement of gravitational force acting on an object a result of measurement of an object on a Newton ... The definitions of substances as various configurations of atoms are theoretical definitions, as are definitions of colors as specific wavelengths of reflected light ... In such cases one definition of a term is unlikely to contradict another definition based on a different theory ...
Language Of Mathematics - Alternative Views
... Some definitions of language, such as early versions of Charles Hockett's "design features" definition, emphasize the spoken nature of language ... Mathematics would not qualify as a language under these definitions, as it is primarily a written form of communication (to see why, try reading Maxwell's equations out loud) ... However, these definitions would also disqualify sign languages, which are now recognized as languages in their own right, independent of spoken language ...

Famous quotes containing the word definitions:

    The loosening, for some people, of rigid role definitions for men and women has shown that dads can be great at calming babies—if they take the time and make the effort to learn how. It’s that time and effort that not only teaches the dad how to calm the babies, but also turns him into a parent, just as the time and effort the mother puts into the babies turns her into a parent.
    Pamela Patrick Novotny (20th century)

    Lord Byron is an exceedingly interesting person, and as such is it not to be regretted that he is a slave to the vilest and most vulgar prejudices, and as mad as the winds?
    There have been many definitions of beauty in art. What is it? Beauty is what the untrained eyes consider abominable.
    Edmond De Goncourt (1822–1896)

    What I do not like about our definitions of genius is that there is in them nothing of the day of judgment, nothing of resounding through eternity and nothing of the footsteps of the Almighty.
    —G.C. (Georg Christoph)