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Introduction to Language. By: Waleska J. Rodríguez Bonilla Course: Language and Culture ENG 604 Profa . Evelyn Lugo University of EL Este. “Language is more than just a means of communication”. It influences our culture and even out thought processes. From: Language and Thought Processes.

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introduction to language

Introduction to Language

By: Waleska J. Rodríguez Bonilla

Course: Language and Culture

ENG 604

Profa. Evelyn Lugo

University of EL Este

language is more than just a means of communication

“Language is more than just a means of communication”

It influences our culture and even out thought processes.

From: Language and Thought Processes

definitions of language
Definitions of Language
  • Language is a system of arbitrary conventionalized vocal, written, or gestural symbols that enables members of a given community to communicate intelligibly with one another.
  • Language is a system of symbols, with several levels of organization, at least phonetics (the sounds), syntax (the grammar), and semantics (the meanings). (Dr. C. George Boeree /The Origins of language)

Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child spontaneously, without conscious effort or formal instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying logic, is qualitatively the same in every individual, and is distinct from more general abilities to process information. (Pinker, Language Instinct (1994).

characteristics of language
Characteristics of language
  • Language is systematic
  • Language is a set of arbitrary symbols
  • Those symbols are primarily vocals, but may also be visual.
  • The symbols have conventionalized meanings to which they refer.
  • Language is used for communication.
  • Language operates in a speech community or culture.
  • Language is essentially human, although possibly not limited to humans.
  • Language is acquired by all people in much the same way.


(1972) Language is the most distinctive feature by which human beings are differentiated from animals.



“Human language appears to be a unique phenomenon”

origins of language

Origins of Language

Concerning the origin of the first language, there are two main hypotheses, or beliefs.  Neither can be proven or disproved given present knowledge.

hypotheses or beliefs e dward vadja the origin of language
Hypotheses or beliefsEdward Vadja / The origin of language
  • 1) Belief in divine creation-Many societies throughout history believed that language is the gift of the gods to humans.  The most familiar is found in Genesis 2:20, which tells us that Adam gave names to all living creatures.  This belief predicates that humans were created from the start with an innate capacity to use language. (Chomsky/LAD)

2) Natural evolution hypothesis – at some point in their evolutionary development humans acquired a more sophisticated brain which made language invention and learning possible.

Invention Hypothesis:

theories about the origin of language
Theories about the origin of language
  • The mama theory- language began with the easiest syllables attached to the most significant objects.
  • The ta- ta theory-vocal imitation of body movements (gestures)
  • The bow-bow theory- imitation of natural sounds (Dog: bow-wow, Chinesse; wu –wu, Japanese; wan-man, Russian; gaf –gaf)
  • The pooh-pooh theory –language began with interjections, instinctive emotive cries such OH! For surprise and Ouch!
  • Ding dong theory- sound symbolism (the small, sharp, high things tend to have words with high fronts vowels in many languages.
other theories about language

Other theories about language

Yo-he-ho theory

Sing - song theory

Hey- you theory

Hocus pocus theory

Eureka theory

the most common spoken languages in the world
The Most Common Spoken Languages in the World
  • There are about 5,000 to 6,000 different languages spoken in the world today.
  • There are about 200 languages that have a million or more native speakers.
  • Mandarin Chinesse is the most common, being spoken by around 874,000,000 people as a native language.
  • English is an official language in 52 countries as well as many small colonies and territories.
  • ¼ and 1/3 of the people of the world understand and speak English to some degree.
facts about languages
Facts about Languages
  • There are no primitives languages.
  • All languages have a system of sounds, words and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture.
  • Cultures that have more complex, diverse economies and advanced technologies have larger vocabulary. (English has 615,000 of non technical words, German has about 185,000, French may have 100,000 and Spanish even fewer.
  • Every language can create new words to describe new situations and objects.
  • The Salmon
  • The salmon would have been a plentiful and nourishing source of food for the Indo-Europeans. At this time the fish would have swum in from the North Atlantic along rivers connected to the Baltic and would be quite easy to catch as they leapt up stream to their spawning grounds.
  • The fish still lives in Russia, around Scandinavia and the Baltic and in all these places it is known as some form of "laks-".
  • In Celtic languages, however, "laks" is not used. This can be explained by the fact that the Celts, migrating westwards, found a different variety of salmon on the river Rhine and gave it another name, replacing the original.
  • The English word salmon derives from Latin, probably from the word meaning to leap. In this way the Italic languages have Spanish "salmon' and Portuguese "salmao". The word "lax" or "leax" does appear before 1300 in Old English and in 1488 we read of "salmondlaxistakinvp" (OED). It seems our joint origins in Celtic and Germanic language are demonstrated here.
  • In Greek and the Italic languages where there were no salmon the word fell out of use. In some other languages the word has changed its meaning such as in Tocharian, spoken in eastern Turkestan, where the word means fish in general.
  • Origins of Language by Edward Vajda
  • Origins of Language by Dr. C. George Boeree
  • Language in use