What is language?

“Why was language created?”
“To communicate”
“No! To woo women!”

Over the break I went interstate to see my Pop after a surgery. Since my dad, (AKA my chauffeur) decided to stay until Monday, I found myself on a 4 hour train ride back to the city on the last Sunday of mid-semester break. To kill the time, I paid homage to the late Robin Williams by watching the movie quoted above. That conversation, and one of the themes of the film got me thinking about language and it’s purposes. Obviously the student was correct in saying that languages primary function is to communicate. So then why are there so many variations of language? Even within the English language there are dialects, accents, and variations that are difficult to keep up with. As an American living in Australia, I struggle sometimes to know what people are talking about, (luckily I have friends who can usually keep me in the loop). But why is English considered the most powerful or predominant language? It’s certainly not the easiest to speak or learn. That has more to do with the wealth and power of the English speaking nations than anyone else.
Photo courtesy of Touchstone Pictures
A thought I had was that there are class associations with language as well. Someone who uses proper grammar and spelling is considered to be better educated than someone who doesn’t, and therefore more intelligent, or even better off financially, just on that basis. Why is it important to spell things correctly, or to have a wide vocabulary? Obviously if people have a higher perception of you, you may be afforded more opportunities in life, but just in everyday interactions and your value as a person, why is language and the way you use it so important?
Photo courtesy of Touchstone Pictures
For me, that answer is more abstract. We use language to connect with people. By saying or writing something with meaning and fluidity, I can connect with someone on an emotional or even spiritual level. You can let someone know that they aren’t the only one experiencing something, or you can relay an experience you’ve had to bring them the sensation of new experiences. Ideas can be conveyed, love pronounced, and dreams explored. Language is everything, it’s the core of our lives. I’ve seen someone lose the physical ability to communicate and it was devastating. She’s slowly getting that back and that is making her recovery from her injuries that much easier, but it’s taken away part of her independence, part of her heart. Language and communication is something we all take for granted, but something I think we should all think about, at least once.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *