What is Language?

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 7th Edition, language has five meanings. First, language is the system of communication in speech and writing that is used by people of a particular country or area. The second meaning is related to communication term that is the use by humans of a system of sounds and words to communicate. In writing term, language means a particular style of speaking or writing. It is the third meaning. The fourth is connected to movements / symbols / sound that are a way of expressing ideas and feelings using movements, symbols and sound. The last, language is a system of symbols and rules that is used to operate a computer. It is a term of computing.

The first meaning means that it is what people speak or write in a particular area or country. The particular area can be the village, town, tribe, community, group, etc. Mostly nations have their own national language. England has English, France has French, Germany has German, Indonesia has Bahasa Indonesia, and so on. It can be called as mother tongue and its speakers are called as the native speakers. Every language has its own expressions called dialect that is used mainly in a particular region. The international language is the language that is used internationally like English, French, and Germany. It is called lingua franca meaning the united language.

Some special groups like the group of teenagers, gangsters, criminals, surfers, or clubbers have their own special language. It is called slang. Slang is used exclusively in the group among its members to communicate easily and also to disguise the true meaning of words or idioms so that the others outside the group will not understand it. It is very restricted to the group. Slang is not always rough and offensive.

The second meaning is the use by humans of a system of sounds and words to communicate. It means that language is the process of using a system of sounds and words that are used by humans to communicate each other. The system of sounds and words is divided into some fields that are phonology, semantics, morphology, syntax, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. In brief explanation, phonology studies about phonetic features for segmental phonemes like consonants and vowels, supra-segmental phonemes like stress, intonation, and juncture etc. Semantics is the study of meaning in English. Morphology explains the concept of morphemes and their allophones. Syntax is about analyzes of English structure such as principles, procedures, and processes of constructing phrases, clauses, and sentences, etc. Sociolinguistics talks about the relationship between language and society and psycholinguistics discusses about the mental processes which underlie the ability of human being to speak and understand language.

The third meaning is about the style of speaking or writing. Some examples of those styles are poetics language that is used in poems or drama, it is non-literal or used metaphorically. Formal language is a very stiff and frozen and formally used in serious or official language and would not be appropriate in normal everyday conversation. Its branch names gobbledygook or bureaucratic language. The opposite of formal language is informal language that is used in a conversation between friends or in a relaxed or unofficial situation etc. The others are slang that has been aforementioned and so on.

The fourth meaning is a way of expressing ideas and feelings using movements, symbols and sound. It can be a body language or sign language. We can see the example of body language on the languages of bees or dolphins that communicate to others by showing particular movements. Many predators or wild animals express their anger or anxiety by producing particular sounds aims to drive away the enemy or their own fear. People use the body language especially to stress or support something that is being explained, show or tell something in a long distance, or when both of those who cannot understand another native language try to communicate each other by moving their part of body like hand, head, eyes, etc. Sign language is a system of communicating with people who cannot hear, by using hand movements rather than spoken words

And the last, language also means as a system of symbols and rules that is used to operate a computer. It can be a programming language that has its own special terms and used for special purpose in computing.

The conclusion is that language has five meanings. Those are the system of communication in speech and writing that is used by people of a particular country or area, the use by humans of a system of sounds and words to communicate, a particular style of speaking or writing, a way of expressing ideas and feelings using movements, symbols and sound and a system of symbols and rules that is used to operate a computer.

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