While there are too many characteristics of language to list and define, we’ll cover some of the most essential characteristics of common languages below.
Systematic: Each language follows a particular agreed-upon system. These systems can include rules related to sentence structure, grammar, pronunciation, syntax, arrangement, and tense.
Vocalic: Languages are generally made up of vocal sounds. While language can be written or signed, these symbols are usually representative of sounds initially produced through vocalization.
Social: Languages are intended to create connections and community, to build relationships, to enable interactions, and to reflect and develop culture.
Symbolic: Languages are made up of symbolic sounds (syllables) and images (letters) to represent the meaning of an object or idea.
Non-Instinctive: We are not born knowing how to speak any particular language, and we learn it over time as a way to communicate with other human beings.
Arbitrary: There is no particular reason a word is assigned to a particular object or concept. Although the selection process is arbitrary, once a word is assigned, it will gain meaning and generally remain.
Productive: Language evolves over time as our cultures and communities change. New words, phrases, terms, and memes can be created, and they will be generally be understood, adopted, and spread quickly.