Language - World



Language is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; and a language is any specific example of such a system.

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 a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in whistling, signed, 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.

Languages evolve and diversify over time, and the history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages to determine which traits their ancestral languages must have had in order for the later developmental stages to occur. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor is known as a language family. The Indo-European family is the most widely spoken and includes languages as diverse as English, Russian and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan family includes Mandarin, Bodo and the other Chinese languages, and Tibetan; the Afro-Asiatic family includes Arabic, Somali, and Hebrew; the Bantu languages include Swahili, and Zulu, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa; and the Malayo-Polynesian languages include Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout the Pacific. The languages of the Dravidian family, spoken mostly in Southern India, include Tamil Telugu and Kannada. Academic consensus holds that between 50% and 90% of languages spoken at the beginning of the 21st century will probably have become extinct by the year 2100.

The English word language derives ultimately from Proto-Indo-European "tongue, speech, language" through Latin lingua, "language; tongue", and Old French language. The word is sometimes used to refer to codes, ciphers, and other kinds of artificially constructed communication systems such as formally defined computer languages used for computer programming. Unlike conventional human languages, a formal language in this sense is a system of signs for encoding and decoding information. This article specifically concerns the properties of natural human language as it is studied in the discipline of linguistics.

As an object of linguistic study, "language" has two primary meanings: an abstract concept, and a specific linguistic system, e.g. "French". The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who defined the modern discipline of linguistics, first explicitly formulated the distinction using the French word langage for language as a concept, langue as a specific instance of a language system, and parole for the concrete usage of speech in a particular language.

When speaking of language as a general concept, definitions can be used which stress different aspects of the phenomenon. These definitions also entail different approaches and understandings of language, and they also inform different and often incompatible schools of linguistic theory. Debates about the nature and origin of language go back to the ancient world. Greek philosophers such as Gorgias and Plato debated the relation between words, concepts and reality. Gorgias argued that language could represent neither the objective experience nor human experience, and that communication and truth were therefore impossible. Plato maintained that communication is possible because language represents ideas and concepts that exist independently of, and prior to, language.

During the Enlightenment and its debates about human origins, it became fashionable to speculate about the origin of language. Thinkers such as Rousseau and Herder argued that language had originated in the instinctive expression of emotions, and that it was originally closer to music and poetry than to the logical expression of rational thought. Rationalist philosophers such as Kant and Descartes held the opposite view. Around the turn of the 20th century, thinkers began to wonder about the role of language in shaping our experiences of the world – asking whether language simply reflects the objective structure of the world, or whether it creates concepts that it in turn imposes on our experience of the objective world. This led to the question of whether philosophical problems are really firstly linguistic problems. The resurgence of the view that language plays a significant role in the creation and circulation of concepts, and that the study of philosophy is essentially the study of language, is associated with what has been called the linguistic turn and philosophers such as Wittgenstein in 20th-century philosophy. These debates about language in relation to meaning and reference, cognition and consciousness remain active today.

ISO Language
ab   Abkhazian language
aa   Afar language
af   Afrikaans language
ak   Akan language
sq   Albanian language
am   Amharic language
ar   Arabic language
an   Aragonese language
hy   Armenian language
as   Assamese language
av   Avar language
ay   Aymara language
az   Azerbaijani language
bm   Bambara language
ba   Bashkir language
eu   Basque language
be   Belarusian language
bn   Bengali language
bh   Bihari languages
bi   Bislama language
bs   Bosnian language
br   Breton language
bg   Bulgarian language
my   Burmese language
ca   Catalan language
km   Central Khmer language
ch   Chamorro language
ce   Chechen language
ny   Chichewa language
zh   Chinese language
cu   Church Slavonic language
cv   Chuvash language
kw   Cornish language
co   Corsican language
cr   Cree language
hr   Croatian language
cs   Czech language
da   Danish language
dv   Dhivehi language
nl   Dutch language
dz   Dzongkha language
en   English language
eo   Esperanto
et   Estonian language
ee   Ewe language
fo   Faroese language
fj   Fijian language
fi   Finnish language
fr   French language
gd   Gaelic language
gl   Galician language
lg   Ganda language
ka   Georgian language
de   German language
ki   Gikuyu language
el   Greek language
kl   Greenlandic language
gn   Guarani language
gu   Gujarati language
ht   Haitian Creole language
ha   Hausa language
he   Hebrew language
hz   Herero language
hi   Hindi
ho   Hiri Motu language
hu   Hungarian language
is   Icelandic language
ig   Igbo language
id   Indonesian language
ia   Interlingua
ie   Interlingue
iu   Inuktitut
ik   Inupiaq language
ga   Irish language
it   Italian language
ja   Japanese language
jv   Javanese language
kn   Kannada language
kr   Kanuri language
ks   Kashmiri language
kk   Kazakh language
rw   Kinyarwanda
ky   Kirghiz language
kv   Komi language
kg   Kongo language
ko   Korean language
kj   Kuanyama language
ku   Kurdish language
lo   Lao language
la   Latin
lv   Latvian language
li   Limburgan language
ln   Lingala language
lt   Lithuanian language
lb   Luxembourgish language
mk   Macedonian language
mg   Malagasy language
ms   Malay language
ml   Malayalam language
mt   Maltese language
gv   Manx language
mr   Marathi language
mh   Marshallese language
mn   Mongolian language
na   Nauru language
nv   Navajo language
ng   Ndonga
ne   Nepali language
se   Northern Sami
no   Norwegian language
nn   Nynorsk
oc   Occitan language
or   Oriya language
om   Oromo language
os   Ossetian language
pi   Pali language
pa   Panjabi language
ps   Pashto language
fa   Persian language
pl   Polish language
pt   Portuguese language
qu   Quechua language
ro   Romanian language
rm   Romansh language
rn   Rundi language
ru   Russian language
sm   Samoan language
sg   Sango language
sa   Sanskrit
sc   Sardinian language
sr   Serbian language
sn   Shona language
ii   Sichuan Yi language
sd   Sindhi language
si   Sinhala language
sk   Slovak language
sl   Slovene language
so   Somali language
st   Sotho language
es   Spanish language
bo   Standard Tibetan
su   Sundanese language
sw   Swahili language
ss   Swati language
sv   Swedish language
tl   Tagalog language
ty   Tahitian language
tg   Tajik language
ta   Tamil language
tt   Tatar language
te   Telugu language
th   Thai language
ti   Tigrinya language
to   Tongan language
ts   Tsonga language
tn   Tswana language
tr   Turkish language
tk   Turkmen language
tw   Twi
ug   Uighur language
uk   Ukrainian language
ur   Urdu
uz   Uzbek language
ve   Venda language
vi   Vietnamese language
wa   Walloon language
cy   Welsh language
fy   West Frisian language
wo   Wolof language
xh   Xhosa language
yi   Yiddish language
yo   Yoruba language
za   Zhuang language
zu   Zulu language


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