What is language? I think that language is one of conception that we take for granted. Although we use language to read, write and speak, we tend not to think what it might be. I believe, however it is important for us to examine what language might be. Therefore, in this paper, I will explore some of aspects of the usage of language: how we use language to make a meaning and how we understand language. I think that these issues are particularly important because examining them might help us to understand the concept of language with relating personal examples that we might have.
In Form and Function article, Tyler talks about Formalism and
Functionalism. The formalist perspective speculates that the function of
language is ultimately subjective (Tyler, 4). Tyler notes that:
“For the formalist, language is an idealized
object , not an empirical or material
and though it has material representation in
it is not itself speech, but rather the knowledge
rules that underlie speech and make it possible”
formalists do not consider language to be empirical or a material object, I
believe language is something, which we learn from the situation that we were
in. I did not know, for example, what the word empirical was until I read the
article by Tyler. I learned and came to understand the word empirical by reading
and translating it into Japanese. This experience leads me to believe that I
learned the word “empirical” with this learning process in that situation.
also agree with the idea that speech is not language. According to their
perspective, speaking represents unconscious knowledge of an abstract system of
conventional signs and rules with which to construct sentences and construe
meanings. (Tyler,5). I believe however, speaking is language itself. We think
and speak or we speak and think, either way we use language to express ourselves
and it is not secondary.
The functionalist perspective stresses that language is not only for representing ideas. It is a means of expressing feelings, thoughts, wishes and emotions. Language is also a way to get things done in the world, as well as, making statements about it. For example, in the wedding, with pastor’s announcement, two individuals are recognized as a couple. Functionalists also focus on the users of language. Language is a means of establishing relations, rather than as an object consisting of relations (Tyler, 7). I agree with this functionalist view, because I believe that with using language, we express ourselves such as ideas, feelings, thoughts and emotions.
agree with the functionalist perspective more than the formalist perspective. I
do not think that there are universal characters of language known to us before
we learn the language. For example, when I began learning English, I had no idea
what I was learning. I believe that I began to understand English because of
teacher’s instructions. I did not feel an “unfolding innate
structure”(Tyler, 15) helped me to understand the English language.
discusses the concept- signified and sound image-signifier and they exist
simultaneously. I agree with it because we can see how words are related and how
they function in the sentences. For example, we can see the word tree is related
with forest or house and car or road is not related.
I also agree that:
word can be exchanged for something dissimilar ,
an idea; besides, it can be compared with something
of the same nature, another word. Its value is therefore
not fixed so long as one simply states that it can be
“exchanged” for a given concept, i.e. that it has this
that signification: one must also compare it with similar values, with other words that stand in
to it. Its content is really fixed only by
concurrence of everything that exists outside it”.
illustrates this point with the example of sheep- mutton in English and mouton
in French. Although they have same signification, they have different values.
English users use mutton as a piece of meat that is ready to be served at the
table, but not to sheep. “The difference in value between sheep and mouton is
due to the fact that sheep has beside it a second terms while the French word
does not”. (Saussure, 116). I
remember that I used to be confused between sheep and mutton, because even
though it is same animal, I had to use the word separately depending on the
experience with the words cow and pig in the English and Japanese language is
similar. Within the Japanese language, cow or pig, it can be understood either
the animals or a piece of meat. In English; however, differentiate between the
animal and the meat. For example, cow or beef, pig or pork. Saussure, explains
“the value of just any terms is accordingly determined
by its environment; it is impossible to fix even the
value of the word signifying “sun” without first
considering its surroundings”(Saussure, 116).
I found that I could relate to the readings from Ludwig Wittgenstein more
so than the other three authors whom I have discussed. Wittgenstein’s
understandings of the word understand is similar to mine. It is hard to
determine the meanings of the word understand. I think however, Wittgenstein
explains the meaning of understanding well, in his article. When we say we
understand, it is the circumstances under which we had such an experience that
justify us in saying such a case, that we understand, that we know how to write,
speak, read and so on (Wittgenstein, 61).
personal example illustrating his idea of the meaning of understanding is the
comprehension of the meaning of the word “love” in English. Until I came to
Canada and learned how Canadian people use the word love, I had different
understanding of meaning of the word love. Japanese people do not use the word
love with friends, or family members, only for spouses, girl friends or boy
friends. I was very surprised when my female friend told me “I love you”. I
did not understand why she could say such a thing to a friend.
However, as I continue to study in Canada, I gain new experiences and
this has helped me to understand the meaning of the word of love. I believe that
the situations and the experiences helped me to understand the meaning of the
word love in English.
only the meaning of the word love, I believe that I learn language by watching
how people use and examining which situation the word is used. In addition, as I
make mistakes of the usage of the word, I learn from it and then come to
understand the word.
is language? How and why is language developed?
Can we communicate without language?
Did human beings develop language because of our physiological
characteristics allowing to verbal? or did we develop the ability to speak
because language was already present? I do not have answers for these questions,
but I believe that as we have to eat, drink or sleep in order for us to live, we
also have to communicate.
changes constantly. The language we use now may be very different from
yesterday, ten years ago or fifty years ago. We can see how language has changed
before and after the attack in USA. The media led many people to suddenly
started talking about Afghanistan, Talibaan, and Bin Laden. Before the attack
happened, many of us did not use or hear those words often.
So, how do I view language? I believe language is not something fixed,
but continuously changes like a living creature.