Psy 360 Language Essay

Topics: Linguistics, Psychology, Cognition Pages: 4 (1420 words) Published: May 28, 2012
Language Essay
Ryan Butler
Psychology 360
August 29, 2011
Professor Newlin

Have you ever wondered how we speak? How about why our communication is considered a language and other animal’s communication is not considered language? A wide range of beliefs exist on what defines language. Thus, by exploring the definition of language and lexicon, evaluating language’s key features, the four levels of language structure and processing, and the role of language in Cognitive Psychology, an understanding of what language is becomes clear. Let us begin by defining language and a term named lexicon. LANGUAGE AND LEXICON DEFINITION

One big question, when the subject of language comes up, is exactly what language is. What constitutes something as a language? By explaining one definition of a language, and a term associated with language, called a lexicon, a definition of language transpires. Thus, the Willingham (2007) text mentions four certain characteristics communication must possess to, officially, be considered a language.  One of these characteristics is that language must be communicative, and thus be communication between individuals in some form or another.  Secondly, the symbols standing for words must be arbitrary, and thus have no reason for representing a word.  Third, a language must be structured, and not arbitrary.  For example, if I say a dog was walking on a sidewalk I cannot say a sidewalk was walking on a dog. etc.  Fourth, a language must be generative, and the basic units of a language, words for us, may have infinite meanings.  Lastly, the language must be changed constantly and have new words being created.  For example, the O'Neil (2006) website mentions that the word nice used to mean foolish, and wicked, but has evolved from the fifteenth century to mean kind, generous, etc. (O'Neil, 2006). Speaking of meanings of words, now that a definition of language has appeared, let us define lexicon. The Merriam Webster Inc....

References: Harris, C. L. (n.d.). Language and Acquisition. Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Retrieved from
Holmes, O. W. (2009). Language Quotes. Retrieved from
Merriam-Webster, Inc.. (2011). lexicon. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-
O 'Neil, D. (2006). What is Language?. Retrieved from
Willingham, D. (2007). Cognition: The Thinking Animal, Third Edition. Retrieved from etaId=8f910ed7-2ae4-47ff-9aaf-155f3b2e03d2&assetDataId=224dbcdd-4289-4e48-b127- 4b55da55170b.
Yerkes, D. (2011). Lexicology and Lexicography. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 30, 2011, from Grolier Online
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