Properties of Human Language

2044 Words May 18th, 2012 9 Pages
What properties differentiate human language from all other forms of signaling and what properties make it a unique type of communication system?
There have been a number of attempts to determine the defining properties of human language and different lists of features can be found.
The following is a slightly modified list of features proposed by the linguist Charles Hockett:
1. Arbitrariness.
It is generally the case that there is no 'natural' connection between a linguistic form and its meaning. For the majority of animal signals, however, there appears to be a clear connection between the conveyed message and the signal used to convey it.
Arbitrariness of the symbols. Any symbol can be mapped onto any concept (or even
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1. A Mode of Communication (vocal-auditory, visual, tactile or even chemical)
2. Semanticity.
The signals in any communication system have meaning.
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3. Pragmatic function. واقعي
All systems of communication serve some useful purpose, from helping the species to stay alive to influencing others' behavior.
4. Interchangeability. قابل للتبادل
The ability of individuals to both send and receive messages. Study Questions:
1. What is the property, which relates to the fact that a language must be acquired or learned by each new generation? 2. Can you briefly explain what the term
"arbitrariness" means as it is used to describe a property of human language?
3. Which term is used to describe the ability of human language-users to discuss topics, which are remote in space and time?
4. What is the term used to describe the fact that, in a language, we can have different meanings for the three words "tack", "act" and "cat", yet, in each case, use the same basic set of sounds?
5. A distinction is made between 'communicative' and
'informative' signals. No mention is made of the phenomenon known as 'body language'. Would 'body language', or other aspects of non-verbal signaling, be considered 'communicative' or 'informative'?
6. Hockett (1963) proposed that 'prevarication' could be treated as a property of language. In discussing this