The invaluable human treasure of Language [Archives:2005/804/Education]

January 6 2005

By Dr. Bushra M. Sadoon
Associate Professor and Head, Department of English, Faculty of Education, Mahweet

Language is a means of communication among human beings. It is characterized by the use of arbitrary spoken or written symbols that make sense. More broadly, language may be defined as an invaluable tool for the acquisition of understanding in general. It is regarded by many linguists as a form of knowledge, thought or cognition.

There are about 3000 languages and dialects in the world. It is an undeniable fact that one cannot imagine any society without language. In other words, language is so important that no society can live without language. This is so because language is an instrument of communication among the members of the same culture. It is best suited to convey the meanings current in the particular culture. This also means that no development can be achieved by any society without language. On the other side, the development that takes place in any society inevitably influences the development of language itself.

Many linguists believe that the main function of language is to express thoughts, ideas and emotions of a community. They also assume that it is an instrument of social communication.

The more prominent advocates of the socio-linguistic school are the American Scientist Starterant, the British linguist Cardiner and the linguist Manlinowski. It is worth mentioning that the Arab linguists recognized from the beginning the social function of a language, and Ibn Jini, Ibn Faris and others who lived in the fourth Hijri Century had defined language as sounds through which each group can express their objectives.

In addition to the social school, some other scientists view language related to other fields such as philosophy, logic and psychology. They describe the linguistic facts based on the basic principles of such fields.

Language, as viewed by such people, is no more than a means of transfer of certain information. Some advocates of such school have specified three functions for a language: expression, communication and influence, i.e., to express the feelings and thoughts and communicate them to other people and then affect them. The advocates of such a school are Hermanpall, Steven Ulman, Sweet and Sapir. They regard language as the first element to formulate the non-material culture.

Some other scientists look at language from a behaviorist view point which explains their belief that language is a process of stimuli and responses. This viewpoint is influenced by the theory which says that for every stimulus there is a response.

The most outstanding linguist of the Behaviorist School is the American Linguist Bloomfield. Even though those schools have different opinion towards explaining and defining language and its functions, yet they maintain that communication is the primary role of language for every individual.

Communication is the basis for cultivating interpersonal relationship. It is a small wonder that language difference remains one of the main factors which prevents a person from communicating with the others, despite the efforts of human beings to solve the problem of communication. Therefore, a person should interact with his neighbors and share their thoughts, experiences enthusiastically. He must have something in common with such neighbors; he must communicate with them. Such a communication is vital for promoting greater understanding. Inability to understand the neighbors mind and the absence of such understanding is the reason for conflict between them instead of forging mutual understanding.

On the other hand, foreign languages are also necessary for any society to develop. This is signaled by the fact that any advanced or developing society lays a lot of emphasis to have its members learn a living foreign language.

The study of foreign languages and knowing them is a vital process to develop the necessary trends and skills for human communication. Besides, study of a foreign language not only develops the efficiency in a foreign language but extends the member's understanding of his/her national language too, and enriches the recognition of linguistic principles in general. Moreover, it provides the person with a background of cultural knowledge which goes a long way to serve him in his work and his role as a citizen.