Language is the act of using sounds to communicate. It is not limited to sounds alone as people can also communicate in the absence of sounds using conventional symbols. Language exists in two forms; in spoken form as well as in signed form. These forms of communication are unique to human beings. Language is further described as a system of symbolic communication. The language that people use in the process of communication ought to be standard in the entire text. Language is a cognitive process as described in the study of psycholinguistics.

The tern lexicon in linguistics signifies the link that exists between languages and the knowledge that a particular language expresses. Different languages have different vocabularies but each of them has a grammatical mechanism that it uses to combine a variety of words aimed at expressing several concepts that are open-ended. Each language has its own distinct grammar and words as well as the concepts which they express. Different languages have different grammar, words as well as the concepts which they express. Most of the differences are accidental as a result of indiscriminate choice and use of sounds, for example ‘body’ in English and ‘corps’ in French. The choice of sounds is purely arbitgrary and a specific meaning is assigned among the speakers of a certain language. Man in English means the male of a human being and it also has the general meaning of human beings whereby women are included.

In terms of grammar, a certain system with a set of rules is used to determine how the structures of the language are used in a linear formation as words in a given sentence. The word order in the grammar of different languages is different. Some languages start their sentences with the subject and others start with the object or the verb. The order is the one which determines the meaning to be assigned to the sentence as a change in the sentence structure may change the meaning of the sentence. Culture determines the lexical structures of language. Some words in a certain language can not be translated into another since the meaning is unique to the particular language depending on its cultural characteristics. This implies lack of equivalence because something or an idea that does not exist in the culture of a certain language does not have a word to describe it. The lexicon enables communication from a speaker to the listener by providing a link between the two. This means that it is the lexicon which enables the processor of a language to pass the message to the receiver. The effectiveness of a language in communicating depends on the speaker’s and the listener’s understanding of syntax, semantics as well as pragmatics. Lexicon is somehow independent and somehow dependent on language owing to its purpose which is purely that of a link. It is partly dependent on domain and application.

Language has some key features which are unique as they distinguish it from other systems of communication. Language has the vocal- aduditorial channel as language occurs when people make sounds through the mouth. The ears facilitate communication as the recipient of the message hears the sound and gets the message of that sound through cognition. Most languages occur through the vocal-auditory channel which is the basic means of expression. It is worthy noting that some forms of communication are exceptional, for example sign language and the written language which do not use sound.  These two forms are based on the understanding of the signs used and the meaning they are assigned which should be widely recognized.

Direction reception and broadcast transmission means that human beings sent out the signal of human language in different directions but the direction of perception is limited. The sound comes out in a waveform and it expands from the mouth in different directions. This explains why a person can speak while standing at one point but the voice travels in many directions and everyone who is within hearing distance gets to hear and understand it.  The person hearing the sound perceives it as coming from a particular direction.  In most cases, people hear and listen to sounds that come from in front them better than the ones coming from behind.

Language has the feature of interchangeability whereby the speaker is capable of receiving and transmitting the signal at the same time. A person is able to say that he is a boy and the same time say that he is a girl. This shows the interchangeability of human language. Rapid fading or transitoriness implies that the signal of the human sound is incapable of persistence. Human voice fades away after some time and is not audible after fading. A sound fades a few seconds after it is spoken and can not be heard a minute later as it will have already faded, neither can it be retrieved.

Language has specialization whereby the organs and features that people use for producing speech have special adaptations to that purpose. The tongue, the lips, the throat and teeth are all specialized for the production of speech besides other functions like eating which humans share with animals, but animals can not produce speech because their organs lack specialization. Animals, unlike human beings, do not have vocal cords for producing sound.

Total feedback in human speech means that the speaker is to hearing what they speak and as such they are able to monitor their speech as they continue. Animals are not capable of this and it explains why they are not able to make well structured sounds that signify anything with consistency. Human language has semanticity. Specific signs and sounds are matched with a particular meaning. This is the most fundamental aspect in all languages as it enables them to bear meaning. Every sound, word or utterances in a particular language have meaning.

Language is highly arbitrary in the sense that there is no relation or connection between the signifier and the signified. A word is not related in any way to the thing it signifies. The name for one object differs a lot from one language to another but the meaning is the same, for example ‘cow’ in English and ‘vache’ in French. This does not include onomatopoeic sounds as they are imitations of the sounds produced by particular animals or objects.

Language has the aspect of displacement. A speaker is able to talk about something that is not present, whether spatial or temporary. This is the characteristic that enables people to talk about the future, the present as well as the past. They can also speak about things that are inexistent. Language is discreet and speakers of a particular language perceive distinct sounds and not a sound which is in between the two, for example sounds [s] or [z]. Language is traditionally transmitted. Human beings are not born with a particular language but rather they acquire it from the immediate environment and adopt it as their native language through the process of cognition (Grumman, 2010). Language also has the aspect of productivity and as such new words are created as need arises. Language is not static and it evolves to suit the immediate environment. A person is capable of making an utterance that has never been heard before and the hearers attribute meaning to the utterance.

The four structures of language comprise of sound, word, sentence and utterances. Sound is the basic unit of language whose basis is phonetics and phonemes. These two are the basic factors that define sounds in communication as they guide pronunciation. Semantics forms the basis for meaning in a word. Semantics signifies that every word has an assigned meaning that is distinct from others. Sentences comprise of grammatical morphemes. These morphemes are grammatical units that create meaning by way of showing relations between several elements in a sentence, for example –ng, -s, by, -ed, etc. Utterances are sounds that are produced combining words into structured sentences that are attributed to a particular meaning.

Human beings are able to acquire and sustain a particular language using the cognitive faculty of their brain. They repeat a particular word or sound until it is transferred from the short-term memory to the long term memory where it is stored. They later retrieve the sound or word to form sentences so as to communicate (Baars, 2010). Language acquisition is purely a cognitive process whereby a child learns new sounds and words through imitation and eventually learns simple sentence structures. (Redlawsk,  Civettini, &  Emmerson, 2010).  The memory of a person learning a language must be in good function because in the cognition process, learned words must be transferred to and from the long-term memory via the short-term memory (Thomson, D, Milliken, B, & Smilek, D. 2010). With time the child learns the language and also learns to assign the right meaning to words.  It is purely through cognition that words are assigned a particular meaning. There is no connection between a word and what it means. Language acquisition and processing depends largely on the person’s aural and visual capacities. This is the arbitrary relationship between the signifier, which is the word, and the signified, which is the object targeted at by the word. The image of the object or thing that the sound or word signifies exists in the mind of the speaker and the listener in a process of cognition. This is also evident in the way language can be used interchangeably. It is the bearer of the meaning, the signifier, which determines the action the hearer will take as the message is conceived in the brain. Cognition is the basic thing in the linguistic process.

Human beings process language naturally in a sequential manner using a range of computational techniques. They achieve this mainly through phonology and morphology. It is in phonology that human beings interpret speech sounds, within words and across words using phonemic rules as well as prosodic rules. Morphology deals with the smallest unit which has meaning for example the suffix, the root and the suffix. The human brain goes through a process of repetitive thinking to ensure that the new thing that has been taught is memorized (Willingham, 2007). Long-term conceptual implicit memory is very necessary for language and processing.


























Willingham, D, (2007). Cognition: The Thinking Man. Pearson, University of Virginia.

Grumman, C, (2010). Literacy Begins at Birth. The American Prospect, 21(6), A5-A8.  Retrieved September 24, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global.

Baars, B, (2010). Spontaneous Repetitive Thoughts Can Be Adaptive: Postscript on “Mind Wandering”. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 208.  Retrieved September 24, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global.

Mill B, TKCken, Smulak, & MITB & Smilek, D. (2010). Long-term conceptual implicit memory: A decade of evidence. Memory & Cognition, 38(1), 42-6.  Retrieved September 24, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global.

Redlawsk, D,   Civettini, A, &  Emmerson, K. (2010). The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever “Get It?” OxfordUniversity Presss, Oxford.