What is language?

Quick answer:

Language is how humans communicate with each other. It can be spoken, written, or employed by using specific movements. There is a structure to language that allows a limited number of words to be used to communicate an unlimited amount of ideas.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Language refers to the ways that human beings communicate with other human beings. Language gives us the ability to use combinations of a limited number of sounds or symbols to convey and an infinite number of ideas to another person. Every human culture uses language to communicate. Indeed, it is a fundamental part of the human condition. However, defining language is not always as straightforward as this.

Speaking and listening is the most common form of language. It is how most people communicate, and it is the oldest form of human communication. However, it is not a necessary feature of language, since sign language does not employ this, nor does the written word. Even gestures, facial expressions, and intonation can be a part of language.

Language must have the ability to impart information concerning something that exists outside of the current space or time. We use language to convey abstract ideas or simply to describe events and things that cannot be observed by our senses at the moment.

Also, language must also be generative. While language has a limited number of phonemes and words, their combination is unlimited. As a result, there is an infinite number of sentences that any language can produce.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial