Write note on language as a system of systems.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Language is considered as a system primarily because it is made of linguistic units that are interdependent of each other. Since they are smaller units working within a whole system, by default, language becomes a system of systems. The basic premise of this concept is that the diversity of features that are found in language formation and production prevents it from being described in a diluted or generalized way. Instead, language study has to be pulled apart and studied by each of its multifunctional sub-systems. 

The idea of language being a system of systems comes primarily from an article written by Mulder and Hervey (1975) and publishedLa Linguistique(11,(2)). Mulder and Hervey's definition of language follows a functionalist perspective in which language is defined as a "genus" and, as such, it should be subdivided into a smaller sub-parts, or systems. 

Five sub-systems of language are identified as 

  1. Semantics- Rules of language content. It has a sub-system of its own based on vocabulary and word localization. 
  2. Pragmatics- Rules of language usage (function and appropriateness)
  3. Syntax- Rules for word order and arrangements
  4. Morphology- Rules for word formation. Also has its own sub-system of morphemes. 
  5. Phonology- Rules for how the language sounds, or should sound. 

Therefore, the complexity of language and the fact that it is a composite of various functional parts are the conditions that deem it, quite correctly, as a system of systems.