Properties of Human Language

2044 words 9 pages
What properties differentiate human language from all other forms of signaling and what properties make it a unique type of communication system?
There have been a number of attempts to determine the defining properties of human language and different lists of features can be found.
The following is a slightly modified list of features proposed by the linguist Charles Hockett:
1. Arbitrariness.
It is generally the case that there is no 'natural' connection between a linguistic form and its meaning. For the majority of animal signals, however, there appears to be a clear connection between the conveyed message and the signal used to convey it.
Arbitrariness of the symbols. Any symbol can be mapped onto any concept (or even onto one of the
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PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.pdffactory.comWhat properties differentiate human language from all other forms of signaling and what properties make it a unique type of communication system?
There have been a number of attempts to determine the defining properties of human language and different lists of features can be found.
The following is a slightly modified list of features proposed by the linguist Charles Hockett:
1. Arbitrariness.
It is generally the case that there is no 'natural' connection between a linguistic form and its meaning. For the majority of animal signals, however, there appears to be a clear connection between the conveyed message and the signal used to convey it.
Arbitrariness of the symbols. Any symbol can be mapped onto any concept (or even onto one of the rules of the grammar). For instance, there is nothing about the
Spanish word nada itself that forces Spanish speakers to use it to mean "nothing". That is the meaning all Spanish speakers have memorized for that sound pattern. But for
Croatian speakers nada means "hope".
2. Productivity.
This is the ability to produce and understand any number of messages that have never been expressed before and that may express novel ideas. In all animal communication systems, the number of signals is fixed. ( closed communication systems).
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