Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system. The scientific study of language is called linguistics. It is impossible to know precisely how many languages there are in the world, and the number depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects. However, estimates vary between around 6,000 and 7,000 languages in number. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual or tactile stimuli, for example in graphic writing, braille, or whistling. This is because human language is modality-independent. When used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules.
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Famous quotes containing the word language:
“The great pines stand at a considerable distance from each other. Each tree grows alone, murmurs alone, thinks alone. They do not intrude upon each other. The Navajos are not much in the habit of giving or of asking help. Their language is not a communicative one, and they never attempt an interchange of personality in speech. Over their forests there is the same inexorable reserve. Each tree has its exalted power to bear.”
—Willa Cather (18731947)
“In a language known to us, we have substituted the opacity of the sounds with the transparence of the ideas. But a language we do not know is a closed place in which the one we love can deceive us, making us, locked outside and convulsed in our impotence, incapable of seeing or preventing anything.”
—Marcel Proust (18711922)
“While you are divided from us by geographical lines, which are imaginary, and by a language which is not the same, you have not come to an alien people or land. In the realm of the heart, in the domain of the mind, there are no geographical lines dividing the nations.”
—Anna Howard Shaw (18471919)