It is something we use every single day. In what we speak, how we speak, in what we write, in what we read. It is a large part of how humans communicate with one another. Although all species have their own ways of communicating, humans are the only ones that have mastered cognitive language communication. Language allows us to share our ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others. Language is important in how humans socialize, and in how we learn. While there are numerous languages spoken today, about 7,000 languages worldwide. Although there is a lot in commonality amongst some languages, each one is unique in its structure and the way it reflects the culture of the people who speak it. There are also a huge number of languages that are no longer spoken and have become lost, many examples include North American Indigenous Languages as it had no known written system and the people were colonized to be kept from their languages and traditions. Using the language, we have today, many of the languages still spoken can be preserved. Language is an important part of society and culture, planetwide, or nation-specific.
In addition to language functions, there are also different types of language and ways to understand language overall. Being able to differentiate these can help you understand other reasons why language is so important.
Oral Vs. Written Language
In general, oral communication is spoken language meant for conversing with others. Written language is about expressing ideas through writing words down. Oral communication is usually more informal and faster, while written language is more formal and slower.
Denotative Meaning Vs. Connotative Meaning
Words have a lot of meaning to them, and the meaning depends on the context surrounding the word. It can be noted that there is the denotative meaning and connotative meaning. Denotative meaning is the literal definition/intention of the word, whereas connotative meaning is when words carry positive or negative meanings/connotations. An example of this could be “home” versus “house.” “House” is denotative, being the literal term for this type of structure where someone may live, whereas “home” is connotative and represents a shelter, family, security, etc. Understanding the difference can help you understand the intention of language.
There are six elements of language:
- Clarity: Use language to be sure that your audience is clear on what you are trying to convey.
- Economy: Being ‘economic’ about how you are speaking means avoiding any unnecessary language. This means using only the necessary and appropriate words to express yourself while avoiding using language your audience won’t understand. Essentially, this means avoiding fluff or complicated vocabulary. Though there are exceptions to this.
- Obscenity: This refers to ‘indecent language’, including, but not limited to, curse words and hateful remarks.
- Obscure Language/Jargon: This is a very specific language that your audience will not understand because they are not familiar with what you are talking about. This could be when you need your computer fixed and trying to explain the issue over the phone when you are not an expert in technology.
- Power: This is when someone uses language to exert power over someone to manipulate them, command them, or to get them to do something they want. It could also be to demonstrate yourself as an authority in the room.
- Variety: This is a speaker’s ability to use a combination of all the different types of language to get ideas across successfully and creatively.
Language has so many benefits to humans, but it can also be problematic if language is used ineffectively. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of how you are using language in any situation. There are three different aspects of language to be aware of.
1. Use Appropriate Language
Using appropriate language does not just mean avoiding obscene language, though there may be times when that is appropriate for the situation. It simply means using language that is appropriate for your audience. Use language that they can understand, relate to, and engage with.
2. Use Vivid Language
Using vivid language could mean using gestures and emotions to convey your meaning. It can also mean using more complex vocabulary and using various colourful metaphors.
3. Use Inclusive Language
Inclusive language means using language that does not exclude any person. For instance, instead of using “he or she” to address an audience, the correct term is “they” to include people who may not identify with a particular gender. It also means avoiding any language that is racist, sexist, misogynist, hateful, presumptuous, prejudiced, etc.
Language is always changing. It’s the same with culture. When discussing topics like inclusive language, it’s easy to recognize that language today is changing alongside culture. With technology comes trends or different ways of speaking, like how teenagers or other young people use slang when they speak, which differs from one generation to the next. When societies become more open-minded and progressive, we start accepting that there are many other ways of speaking a language. Verbal and written have their own values in each language and culture. While there are many languages around the world, there is a lot of meaning in how language is used. Sometimes there is the need to be careful with your language. The utilization of language, and preserving it is an excellent way to try and make sure that it will not be lost is important personally and culturally.