Language is a structured system of communication that consists of grammar and vocabulary. It is the primary means by which humans convey meaning, both in spoken and written forms, and may also be conveyed through sign languages. The vast majority of human languages have developed writing systems that allow for the recording and preservation of the sounds or signs of language. Human language is characterized by its cultural and historical diversity, with significant variations observed between cultures and across time. Human languages possess the properties of productivity and displacement, which enable the creation of an infinite number of sentences, and the ability to refer to objects, events, and ideas that are not immediately present in the discourse. The use of human language relies on social convention and is acquired through learning.
Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. Precise estimates depend on an arbitrary distinction (dichotomy) established between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken, signed, or both; however, any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, 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.
The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Critical examinations of languages, such as philosophy of language, the relationships between language and thought, how words represent experience, etc., have been debated at least since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greek civilization. Thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) have argued that language originated from emotions, while others like Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) have argued that languages originated from rational and logical thought. Twentieth century philosophers such as Ludwig 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. (Full article...)
Selected language -
Czech (/tʃɛk/; Czech čeština [ˈtʃɛʃcɪna]), historically also Bohemian (/boʊˈhiːmiən, bə-/; lingua Bohemica in Latin), is a West Slavic language of the Czech–Slovak group, written in Latin script. Spoken by over 10 million people, it serves as the official language of the Czech Republic. Czech is closely related to Slovak, to the point of high mutual intelligibility, as well as to Polish to a lesser degree. Czech is a fusional language with a rich system of morphology and relatively flexible word order. Its vocabulary has been extensively influenced by Latin and German.The Czech–Slovak group developed within West Slavic in the high medieval period, and the standardization of Czech and Slovak within the Czech–Slovak dialect continuum emerged in the early modern period. In the later 18th to mid-19th century, the modern written standard became codified in the context of the Czech National Revival. The main non-standard variety, known as Common Czech, is based on the vernacular of Prague, but is now spoken as an interdialect throughout most of the Czech Republic. The Moravian dialects spoken in the eastern part of the country are also classified as Czech, although some of their eastern variants are closer to Slovak. (Full article...)
Did you know (auto-generated)
- ... that the name of the International Institute of Modern Letters has been criticised by its founder Bill Manhire for being "almost at odds with the fine use of language"?
- ... that Indigenous Australian elder Ivaritji was the last speaker of the Kaurna language before its revival in the 1990s?
- ... that in 1908, Louisa Wilkins went to Damascus without local language skills, wearing long skirts and riding side saddle?
- ... that Arithmetic was the first mathematics text book written in the Russian language?
- ... that Ebba Atterbom was the first person to translate the work of Irish novelist James Joyce into Swedish?
- ... that KEVT, the first Spanish-language radio station in Tucson, offered English lessons from a University of Arizona professor?
More did you know -
- ...that Otomi grammar, the grammar of the indigenous Otomi language of Mexico has traits of active/stative alignment, but has no adjectives?
- ...that Albert White Hat, translator for the movie Dances With Wolves, taught the Lakota language at Sinte Gleska University?
- ...that in 1998, the Hopi Dictionary: Hopìikwa Lavàytutuveni, the first comprehensive Hopi language dictionary, was almost prevented from being published for fear of having non-Hopis learning the language?
- ...that the Native American Languages Act of 1990 was the first time Congress gave official status to Native American languages for the purpose of conducting tribal business?
Linguistics: Computational linguistics • Grammar • Historical linguistics • Morphology • Phonetics • Phonology • Pragmatics • Reading • Semantics • Sociolinguistics • Syntax • Writing
Languages: Language families • Pidgins and creoles • Sign languages
Linguists: By nationality • Historical linguists • Morphologists • Phoneticians • Phonologists • Sociolinguists • Syntacticians • Translators
Stubs: Constructed languages • Languages • Linguists • Pidgins and creoles • Typography • Vocabulary and usage • Writing systems
Full Language category tree
Select [►] to view subcategories
Selected topic -
Selected picture -
Maryada Patral letter of conduct written by Acharya Bhiksu (first head of Jain Swetamber Terapanth sect) written in Rajasthani language
- 16 March 2023 –
- The Moldovan parliament approves a law that formally declares the country's official language as Romanian. (Reuters)
- 14 March 2023 – Timeline of artificial intelligence
- OpenAI launches GPT-4, the next generation large language model for artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT. The new model can respond to images, and has the ability to process up to 25,000 words. (BBC News)
- 17 February 2023 – Russia–South Africa relations, China–South Africa relations
- The South African Navy hosts a ten-day joint military exercise in the Indian Ocean with Russia and China. The exercise is named "Mosi II" after the Tswana word for "smoke". (BBC News) (DW)
Languages of Africa: Arabic, Chadic, Cushitic, Kanuri, Maasai, Setswana, Swahili, Turkana, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zulu, more...
Languages of the Americas: Aleut, Carib, Cherokee, Inuktitut, Iroquois, Kootenai, Mayan, Nahuatl, Navajo, Quechuan, Salish, American Sign Language, more...
Languages of Asia: Arabic, Assamese, Balochi, Bengali, Chinese, Japanese, Hajong, Hebrew, Hindustani, Kannada, Kokborok, Marathi, Khasi, Korean, Kurdish, Malayalam, Manipuri, Meithei, Mongolian, Persian, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Sanskrit, Sylheti, Tamil, Tanchangya, Tulu, Telugu, Tibetan, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, Khowar, more...
Languages of Austronesia: Austric, Fijian, Hawaiian, Javanese, Malagasy, Malay, Maori, Marshallese, Samoan, Tahitian, Tagalog, Tongan, Auslan, more...
Languages of Europe: Basque, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (book), French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Leonese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian more...
Constructed languages: Esperanto, Ido, Volapük, more...
Agglutinative language, Analytic language, Constructed language, Creole, Context-free language, Extinct language, Dialect, Fusional language, Inflectional language, International language, Isolating language, Language isolate, National language, Natural language, Pidgin, Pluricentric language, Polysynthetic language, Proto-language, Sign language, Spoken language, Synthetic language, Variety (linguistics)
Applied linguistics, Cognitive linguistics, Accent (dialect), Computational linguistics, Descriptive linguistics, Eurolinguistics, Generative linguistics, Historical linguistics, Lexicology, Lexical semantics, Morphology, Onomasiology, Phonetics, Phonology, Pragmatics, Prescription, Prototype semantics, Psycholinguistics, Semantics, Stylistics, Sociolinguistics, Syntax
See also: List of linguists
Alphabets: Arabic alphabet, Bengali alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Latin alphabet, more...
Other writing systems: Abjad, Abugida, Braille, Hieroglyphics, Logogram, Syllabary, SignWriting, more..
See also: History of the alphabet, Script
The following Wikimedia Foundation sister projects provide more on this subject:
Free media repository
Free textbooks and manuals
Free knowledge base
Collection of quotations
Free learning tools
Dictionary and thesaurus
Find a language
|Enter an ISO 639 code to find the corresponding language article|