The Language portal
A mural in Teotihuacan
, Mexico (c. 2nd
century) depicting a person emitting a speech scroll
from his mouth, symbolizing speech
A language is a structured system of communication. Language, in a broader sense, is the method of communication that involves the use of – particularly human – languages.
The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Questions concerning the philosophy of language, such as whether words can represent experience, have been debated at least since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greece. Thinkers such as Rousseau have argued that language originated from emotions while others like Kant have held that it originated from rational and logical thought. 20th-century philosophers such as Wittgenstein argued that philosophy is really the study of language. Major figures in linguistics include Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky.
Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. However, any precise estimate depends on the arbitrary distinction (dichotomy) between languages and dialect. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in writing, whistling, signing, or braille. This is because human language is modality-independent. Depending on philosophical perspectives regarding the definition of language and meaning, when used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs to particular meanings. Oral, manual and tactile languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances.
Human language has the properties of productivity and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure affords a much wider range of expressions than any known system of animal communication. Language is thought to have originated when early hominins started gradually changing their primate communication systems, acquiring the ability to form a theory of other minds and a shared intentionality. This development is sometimes thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume, and many linguists see the structures of language as having evolved to serve specific communicative and social functions. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca's and Wernicke's areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently by approximately three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as social grooming and entertainment.
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Did you know -
- ...that most of the 8,000 speakers of the Niuean language live outside the borders of Niue?
- ...that hundreds of words still in use today, including accident, cinnamon, desk, scissors, vacation, and Valentine, first appear in manuscripts written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s?
- ...that the Jru' language, an indigenous language of Laos, was once written in a secret script?
- ...that during the filming of The Linguists in the Andes, the cast coped with altitude sickness by drinking coca leaf tea?
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19 February 2020 –
- The United Kingdom's Home Secretary Priti Patel announces a reform of the UK's immigration system. The changes includes the end of freedom of movement, a minimum requirement of migrants to speak English, a minimum salary of between £20,480 and £25,600, while priority will be given to skilled workers over non-skilled migrants. The changes are effective from January 1, 2021. (BBC)
9 February 2020 –
92nd Academy Awards
- At this year's Oscars, South Korean film Parasite wins the most awards, including Best Picture and Best International Film. It becomes the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. (The Hollywood Reporter)
10 October 2019 –
- The Swedish Academy awards the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature to Olga Tokarczuk, "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life", and the 2019 prize to Peter Handke, "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience". The 2018 prize is awarded only now because last year it was postponed due to a scandal. (The Guardian)
25 April 2019 –
- The parliament of Ukraine passes a language law in a vote of 278 to 38 that will secure the use of Ukrainian as the country's only official language. (RFE/RL)
9 April 2019 –
- Alcon has completed a 100% spin-off from Novartis.
- Language news from Wikinews...
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Languages of the world
Languages of Africa:Arabic, Chadic, Cushitic, Kanuri, Maasai, Setswana, Swahili, Turkana, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zulu, more...
Languages of the Americas:Aleut, Carib, Cherokee, Inuktitut, Iroquois, Kootenai, Mayan, Nahuatl, Navajo, Quechuan, Salish, American Sign Language, more...
Languages of Asia:Arabic, Assamese, Balochi, Bengali, Chinese, Japanese, Hajong, Hebrew, Hindustani, Kannada, Kokborok, Marathi, Khasi, Korean, Kurdish, Malayalam, Manipuri, Meithei, Mongolian, Persian, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Sanskrit, Sylheti, Tamil, Tanchangya, Tulu, Telugu, Tibetan, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, Khowar, more...
Languages of Austronesia:Austric, Fijian, Hawaiian, Javanese, Malagasy, Malay, Maori, Marshallese, Samoan, Tahitian, Tagalog, Tongan, Auslan, more...
Languages of Europe:Basque, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (book), French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Leonese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian more...
Constructed languages:Esperanto, Ido, Volapük, more...
Agglutinative language, Analytic language, Constructed language, Creole, Context-free language, Extinct language, Dialect, Fusional language, Inflectional language, International language, Isolating language, Language isolate, National language, Natural language, Pidgin, Pluricentric language, Polysynthetic language, Proto-language, Sign language, Spoken language, Synthetic language, Variety (linguistics)
Linguistics (Outline, Portal, Book)
Applied linguistics, Cognitive linguistics, Accent (dialect), Computational linguistics, Descriptive linguistics, Eurolinguistics, Generative linguistics, Historical linguistics, Lexicology, Lexical semantics, Morphology, Onomasiology, Phonetics, Phonology, Pragmatics, Prescription, Prototype semantics, Psycholinguistics, Semantics, Stylistics, Sociolinguistics, Syntax
List of linguists
Alphabets:Arabic alphabet, Bengali alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Latin alphabet, more...
Other writing systems:Abjad, Abugida, Braille, Hieroglyphics, Logogram, Syllabary, SignWriting, more..
See also:History of the alphabet, Script
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