Unique Nature of Human Language Short Essay

Topics: Linguistics, Language, Noam Chomsky Pages: 2 (485 words) Published: August 29, 2013
Human language is a unique phenomenon. This is due to the arbitrariness, discreteness and creativity of human language, which enables us to clearly express ourselves. This essay will explore how human language as a system of communication is set apart from the communication systems of all other animal species.

Arbitrariness of human language refers to how human linguistic signs do not have any internal connection between its form (sounds) and meaning (concept). The arbitrariness nature of human language occurs when humans hear a speech sound, and then match it by association with the meaning (concept) of the signal. The signal is not inherently meaningful however; it is just related to the meaning by instinct. This is why it is particularly incomprehensible to identify words from other languages of the world, as most languages are arbitrary. For instance food is represented as nourriture in French, alimentos in Portuguese, maisto in Lithuanian, and essen in German. In addition this highlights the need to grasp the form (sounds) represented by letters which signify meaning (concept) when learning a language.

Additionally arbitrariness is also evidenced through sign language, used by deaf people. The exception of arbitrariness in human language however occurs in sound symbolism such as onomatopoeic words, where the pronunciation of words is demonstrated by its meaning. Bang, clap and ring are examples of onomatopoeic words.

Discreteness is another distinctive property of human language, referring to the unique nature of phonemes used in human languages. A set of different phonemes are used within languages across the world. Each phoneme is unique and can be combined to create new specific meanings. New meanings can be formed by combining and repeating phonemes. There are continuous and abrupt changes in meanings. For instance the meaning of cat does not gradually change into bat. Speech pitch and sounds however can be continuously changed without abrupt...
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