Language, Mental faculty, organ or instinct

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Summary

Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system. The scientific study of language is called linguistics.

Details

One definition sees language primarily as the mental faculty that allows humans to undertake linguistic behaviour: to learn languages and to produce and understand utterances. This definition stresses the universality of language to all humans and it emphasizes the biological basis for the human capacity for language as a unique development of the human brain. Proponents of the view that the drive to language acquisition is innate in humans often argue that this is supported by the fact that all cognitively normal children raised in an environment where language is accessible will acquire language without formal instruction. Languages may even spontaneously develop in environments where people live or grow up together without a common language, for example, creole languages and spontaneously developed sign languages such as Nicaraguan Sign Language. This view, which can be traced back to Kant and Descartes, often understands language to be largely innate, for example, in Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar, or American philosopher Jerry Fodor's extreme innatist theory. These kinds of definitions are often applied by studies of language within a cognitive science framework and in neurolinguistics.

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External Links

  • WikipediaWorld Atlas of Language Structures: a large database of structural (phonological, grammatical, lexical) properties of languagesEthnologue: Languages of the WorldThe Linguistic Diversity of the Planet

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