The Nature of Language: The Nature, Functions, and Specialties of Language as a Human Communication Tool

The Nature of Language – Sinaumed’s must have known that the existence of language in everyday life is the most important thing because it acts as a means of communication and interaction with other humans. Even though in this world, the number of languages ​​is very large and varied, even in a certain area it can contain hundreds to thousands of languages ​​that are often used by many people.

As science develops, scientific disciplines that study language internally and externally will also develop. The study of science that examines language internally is called linguistics which discusses the structure of the language itself, both in terms of phonological structure, morphological structure, to syntactic structure. If externally, the study of science that examines language is called sociolinguistics, discussing matters related to the use of language by speakers (humans) in a social group in society.

Then, what is the nature or meaning of that language? How can the existence of language in a society work until it finally becomes a communication tool that is understood by the members of the community?

So, so that Sinaumed’s isn’t confused about this, let’s look at the following review!

The nature of language

Basically, language is a system, meaning that language is formed by a number of components with a fixed pattern and can have several rules in it. Based on the statement that language is a system that has a certain pattern, it is clear that in a language there will be subsystems in it. This subsystem includes phonology, morphology, and syntax.

According to Keraf (2001) language is a means of communication between members of society in the form of sound symbols produced by human speech organs. Returning to the concept of individuals who live in society as social beings, then of course it requires the ability to communicate in language with fellow individuals so that social characteristics can be realized. Then, according to Chaer (2009), argues that language is a verbal tool used to communicate , while language is the process of conveying information in communication. Several other linguists also state that language “runs” as a symbol system that is arbitrary.

Based on the explanation above, it can be concluded about the nature of language, which is a verbal communication tool that humans use in daily life and has a system with a certain pattern. 

Language Properties

Previously, it was mentioned that language is arbitrary. When in fact, there is a language that has other characteristics besides these arbitrary properties. It is these properties that build language into a patterned system. Well, here is an explanation of the existing language properties.

1. Language as a System

Sinaumed’s must have understood that ‘system’ means an ordered, patterned arrangement that forms a meaningful or functioning whole. Likewise with language, which has a certain system in it. The components contained in a language system must be arranged in an orderly manner so that speakers and opponents can understand them.

In Indonesian, these components are Subject (S), Predicate (P), Object (O), and Description (K). To learn about the components that govern a language can be found in the discipline of morphology.

2. Language is a symbol

As it has been written that language is a system, in this nature it is in the form of sound symbols. That is, these symbols are in the form of sounds which are usually referred to as language sounds. Each symbol of language can symbolize something which will later be called a meaning or concept.

For example, you read the word [goat], surely you imagine a meaning or concept about ‘a kind of four-legged animal that has a bleating voice and is often used as food for satay’.

All sound symbols that have or express a meaning or concept can be referred to as speech symbols. So it can be concluded that in Indonesian, sound units such as [cable], [mirror], and [cotton] are real manifestations of speech symbols because they have meaning. Meanwhile, sound units such as [akud], [ea], and [ajem] are not speech symbols because they do not have a definite meaning.

3. Language is Arbitrary

Language is arbitrary meaning ‘whichever it likes’, so it can be concluded that the relationship between the sound symbol and the one symbolized is not mandatory, it can change at any time, and it cannot be explained why the sound symbol can “conceive” a certain meaning.

For example, the sound symbol [buffalo] is usually used for the concept or meaning of ‘a kind of four-legged animal that has horns and is used for plowing fields], but it cannot be explained concretely. If you want to call it [kebo], [buffalo], or [bull] that’s fine. This can be seen in the number of sound symbols that have equivalent words for the same meaning or concept.

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4. Language is Conventional

In this case, every speaker of a language (human) must comply with the relationship between the symbol and the concept it symbolizes. If the speaker of a language does not understand this relationship, it is likely that the communication he is currently developing will be hampered.

For example, to say ‘clear glass that casts a shadow’ you could use the sound symbol [mirror]. If there is someone who arbitrarily changes the sound symbol to [mincer], [nimrec], or [recnim], of course it will hinder communication with other individuals.

5. Language is Productive

Does Sinaumed’s realize that language is so productive that it can develop an unlimited number of times. Yep, in line with the dynamic nature of language, the speech units of that language have an almost unlimited number. For example, the General Indonesian Dictionary alone contains approximately 23,000 words, which can also be made into an unlimited number of sentences.

6. Language is Dynamic

In this case, the meaning is that the language will not be separated from the possibility of changes that occur at any time. Moreover, the language develops following the development of the culture of the times, which of course these two things will not just stop and be steady, but will develop continuously. These changes can occur at all levels of language, starting from phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, to the lexicon.

The language level with the most obvious dynamics is the lexicon. At any given time, new vocabulary will appear, then old vocabulary will sink and not be used anymore, or even vice versa. An example is the words “perigi”, “felt”, and “tick-swimmer” in fact nowadays they are no longer used by speakers of the language. While words such as “research”, “conclusion”, and “pandemic” which were not well known before, are now commonly used.

7. Languages ​​Are Diverse

In this case, even though the language has the same rules or patterns, if it is delivered by heterogeneous speakers who have different social backgrounds and habits, the language can become diverse. This diversity can be seen at the phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexicon levels.

For example, Javanese basically has the same rules or patterns, but if it is spoken by the people in Surabaya and in Pekalongan, of course it will “look” different.

8. Language is Humane

In the case of humane language, this means that language is a verbal communication tool that is only owned and spoken by humans, while animals and plants cannot do it. Even though animals can communicate, they don’t necessarily use this human language, but instead use sounds or gestures towards fellow animals.

Language Functions

In the discipline of sociolinguistics, these language functions refer to the point of view of speakers, listeners, topics, codes, and messages of speech.

Viewed from the point of view of the speaker, language can function as a personal or personal. The point is that the speaker can express an attitude depending on what utterance he wants to say. The speaker not only expresses his emotions through language, but also shows these emotions when conveying his speech. In this case, the other party or the listener can guess whether the speaker is in sad, angry, or happy emotions based on what he says.

Viewed from the point of view of the listener or interlocutor , language can function as a directive, that is, to regulate the behavior of the listener. That is, the language can make the listener willing to do something or activity according to the will of the speaker. This can be done by the speaker by using a sentence that states an order, appeal, request, or seduction.

Viewed from the point of view of contact between speakers and listeners , language has a fatigue or interactional function. That is, this function establishes relationships, maintains, shows friendly feelings, or social solidarity between speakers and listeners. Expressions commonly used in this case are when meeting, saying goodbye, talking about the weather, or asking how other family members are.

In terms of the topic of speech , language is referential or informative. That is, language functions as a tool to talk about objects or events that are happening around speakers or that exist in culture in general.

In terms of the code used , the language functions metalingual or metalinguistic. That is, the language is used to talk about the language itself. It’s a bit strange, Sinaumed’s , but in fact language can be used to talk about various areas of problems that exist in human life, from politics, economics, social, law, to agriculture.

From the point of view of the mandate , language functions imaginatively. That is, language can be used to convey thoughts, ideas, and feelings, both actual and imaginary. This imaginative function is usually in the form of literary works, for example poetry, stories, fairy tales, jokes, rhymes, and others.

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The Specialties of Human Language

In the properties of language, it is stated that language is humane, which is only used by humans, while animals are not. There are at least three linguists who discuss this matter, namely Hockett, McNeill, and Chomsky. Here are some of the advantages or features of language as a means of human communication compared to means of communication in the animal kingdom.

  • The language uses the auditory vowel pathway . In this case, although many animals use sound communication systems, such as crickets, frogs or animals. However, in using language as a communication system, these animals do not have fifteen other characteristics that are not like humans.
  • Language can be broadcast in all directions, but its reception is directional. That is, the sound of the language spoken by the speaker can be heard in all directions because basically the sound propagates through the sound, but only the recipient can know exactly the sound of the language in a clear context.
  • The sound symbol in the form of a sound quickly disappears after being spoken. This is different from other signs or symbols which have marks, for example animal footprints or heroic statues. Therefore, since ancient times until now, many humans have “recorded” it in written or audio form.
  • Participants in language communication can communicate with each other. That is, a speaker can be a symbol sender and vice versa. In contrast to animals, especially crickets where only male crickets can make sounds, while female crickets can only hear and understand these sounds.
  • Language symbols can be complete feedback . That is, speakers can hear the symbols of the spoken language themselves. In contrast to communication in the animal world, especially bees that use bee dances to communicate, but the sender of information cannot see the important parts of the dance.
  • Language communication has specialization. That is, humans can speak without having to issue physical movements that support the communication process. In fact, humans can also talk while carrying out an activity that is completely unrelated to the topic of conversation.
  • Sound symbols in language communication are meaningful or refer to certain things . For example, if there is a sentence Kirino kicks a ball , then this sentence means that there is a human named Kirino who is doing the act of kicking a round object called a ball.
  • The relationship between language symbols and their meanings is not determined by the existence of a bond between the two, but is determined by an agreement among speakers of a language (society). This is related to the nature of language, which is arbitrary or whichever one likes.
  • Language as a communication tool can be separated into certain units, namely phonemes, morphemes, words, sentences, and so on. In contrast to the means of communication in other creatures (plants and animals) which cannot be separated.
  • The reference or context that is being discussed in that language does not always have to be in the current place and time. Humans as speakers can also use language to talk about something that was past, in the future, that is happening, or even in a distant place.
  • Language is open. The point is that symbols of new speech can be made according to human needs. Unlike the means of communication in the animal world, especially chimpanzees. Chimpanzees communicate with screams that are closed, because what is shouted by the chimpanzee is certain and cannot be added to variations.
  • The intelligence and skills to master the rules and habits of human language are only obtained through the learning process , not through genes that are innate. In contrast to animal communication tools, which are mostly innate.
  • Language can be used to state what is right, what is wrong, or what is not logically meaningful . In other words, language as a means of human communication can also be used to lie, while animals and plants obviously cannot.
  • Language has two subsystems, namely the sound subsystem and the meaning subsystem, which allows the language to have an economical function. This is due to the existence of various sound units.
  • Language can be used to talk about language itself. While the means of communication from animals cannot be used to talk about the communication of the animals themselves.

Well, that’s the commentary on the nature of language and the special features of a language as a human communication tool in its efforts to become a social being in community life.