What is language?
In linguistics, language refers to a complex system of signs and rules that serve as a means of communication for a language community. Communication takes place with symbolic signs to which a meaning is assigned. Language is a peculiarity of humans and stands out from animal sounds. It is subject to constant change.
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FAQ: More questions about language
Linguists estimate that there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 spoken languages on Earth.
It is assumed that all languages that exist today originated from an original language. According to this theory, animal sound systems were first refined by Homo erectus and their use intensified. A lot of time passed before a polished language was developed. Scientists locate the first complex language around 100,000 years ago.
The language of the deaf is sign language. People who are deaf from birth primarily think in images and gestures.
The oldest language still spoken today is Aramaic, which has been spoken for around 3,000 years in Iraq, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. The Aramaic languages are a sub-group of the Semitic languages.
Language is the most important means of being able to communicate with other people. Language serves as the foundation of our complex social systems. With it, people can express emotions, feelings and rational processes.
The ability to acquire a language is innate. Even in the womb, children perceive movements and sounds in their environment. Language acquisition thus arises in the exchange between parents and children.
Many parts of the brain are involved in the production and reception of language. When we speak, around 100 muscles are controlled by the brain, which move not only the tongue and larynx but also the lips, palate, throat and more. During comprehension, the brain analyses the sentences according to spatial and temporal features and compares it with stored word forms, grammar rules and meanings.
It is assumed that today’s languages have evolved from original languages. Over the millennia, they have gradually diverged. Above all, geographical distances play a role.
Every human community has a language and thus also an intonation system. Languages are learned, not inherited, and are subject to constant change. In addition, all languages have at least two vowels, interrogatives and negatives.
Currently, English is the most important language on Earth. It is the official language in many countries and has replaced French in many places. Over the course of globalisation, English became even more popular than it already was.
A person can learn several languages over the course of a lifetime. The average European speaks two languages. Fluency in three or five languages is rather unusual. While children can learn languages faster, even as an adult you can still develop your language skills.