A mural in Teotihuacan
, Mexico (c. 2nd
century) depicting a person emitting a speech scroll
from his mouth, symbolizing speech
A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), sign, or often writing. The structure of language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Many languages, including the most widely-spoken ones, have writing systems that enable sounds or signs to be recorded for later reactivation.
The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Critical examinations of languages, such as philosophy of language, the relationships between language and thought, etc, such as how words represent experience, have been debated at least since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greek civilization. Thinkers such as Rousseau (1712 – 1778) have debated that language originated from emotions, while others like Kant (1724 –1804), have held that languages originated from rational and logical thought. Twentieth century philosophers such as Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) argued that philosophy is really the study of language itself. Major figures in contemporary linguistics of these times 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 the arbitrary distinction (dichotomy) between languages and dialect. Natural languages are spoken or signed (or both), but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in writing, whistling, signing, or braille. In other words, human language is modality-independent, but written or signed language is the way to inscribe or encode the natural human speech or gestures. 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 is unique among known systems of animal communication in that it is not dependent on a single mode of transmission (sight, sound etc.), it is highly variable between cultures and across time, and affords a much wider range of expression than other systems. It has the properties of productivity and displacement, and relies on social convention and learning. Language is thought to have gradually diverged from earlier primate communication systems when early hominins acquired the ability to form a theory of mind and 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. Language and culture are codependent. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language has social uses such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as use for social grooming and entertainment. (Full article...)
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(220–250 AD) from El Djem
, Tunisia (Roman Africa), with the Latin caption "Silence! Let the bulls sleep" (Silentiu[m] dormiant tauri)
and the convivial banter of five banqueters (possibly gladiators
) represented as if in speech balloons
- "We're going to be naked" ([N]os nudi [f]iemus)
- "We're here to drink" (Bibere venimus)
- "you're all talking a lot" (Ia[m] multu[m] loquimini)
- "We may get called away" (Avocemur)
- "We're having three [glasses]." (Nos tres tenemus)
The scene may convey a proverbial expression equivalent to both "Let sleeping dogs lie
" and "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die"
Latin and Greek were the official languages of the Roman Empire, but other languages were important regionally. Latin was the original language of the Romans and remained the language of imperial administration, legislation, and the military throughout the classical period. In the West, it became the lingua franca and came to be used for even local administration of the cities including the law courts. After all freeborn male inhabitants of the Empire were universally enfranchised in 212 AD, a great number of Roman citizens would have lacked Latin, though they were expected to acquire at least a token knowledge, and Latin remained a marker of "Romanness".
had become a shared language
around the eastern Mediterranean and diplomatic communications in the East, even beyond the borders of the Empire. The international use of Greek was one condition that enabled the spread of Christianity
, as indicated for example by the choice of Greek as the language of the New Testament in the Bible and its use for the ecumenical councils
of the Christian Roman Empire rather than Latin. With the dissolution of the Empire
in the West, Greek became the dominant language of the Roman Empire in the East
, modernly referred to as the Byzantine Empire
. (Full article...
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Otomi (; Spanish: Otomí [otoˈmi]) is an Oto-Pamean language family spoken by approximately 240,000 indigenous Otomi people in the central altiplano region of Mexico. Otomi consists of several closely related languages, many of which are not mutually intelligible. The word Hñähñu [hɲɑ̃hɲṹ] has been proposed as an endonym, but since it represents the usage of a single dialect, it has not gained wide currency. Linguists have classified the modern dialects into three dialect areas: the Northwestern dialects are spoken in Querétaro, Hidalgo and Guanajuato; the Southwestern dialects are spoken in the State of Mexico; and the Eastern dialects are spoken in the highlands of Veracruz, Puebla, and eastern Hidalgo and villages in Tlaxcala and Mexico states.
Like all other Oto-Manguean languages
, Otomi is a tonal language
, and most varieties distinguish three tones. Nouns are marked only for possessor; the plural number is marked with a definite article and a verbal suffix, and some dialects keep dual number marking. There is no case marking. Verb morphology is either fusional or agglutinating
depending on the analysis. In verb inflection, infixation, consonant mutation, and apocope are prominent processes. The number of irregular verbs is large. A class of morphemes
cross-references the grammatical subject
in a sentence. These morphemes can be analysed as either proclitics
and marks for tense
. Verbs are inflected for either direct object or dative object (but not for both simultaneously) by suffixes. Grammar also distinguishes between inclusive 'we' and exclusive 'we'
. (Full article...
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Geographical distribution of the preferential use of the terms castellano (Castilian), in red, vs. español (Spanish), in blue, to refer to the Spanish language
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