What are the essential characteristics of language?

There are many essential characteristics of language. To name seven, languages are systematic, vocalic, social, symbolic, non-instinctive, arbitrary, and productive.

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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.

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