More than any other thing, the use of language sets humankind
apart from the remainder of the animal kingdom. There is some
debate as to where the actual boundary between language and
communication should be drawn, however there seems to be no
debate as to the nature of Language, which is to communicate, using
abstract symbols, the workings of one mind to one or more others
with a relatively high degree of accuracy. It could perhaps be said
that we are all capable of expressing or representing our thoughts
in a manner that is only meaningful to ourselves. Wittgenstein says
that "..a wheel that can be turned though nothing else moves with
it is not part of the mechanism."1 The idea of a uniquely personal
language is not relevant here and so will not be discussed further.
Language is a system of symbols which represent thoughts,
perceptions and a multitude of other mental events.
meaning of a given word or expression is by no means fixed, there is
a sufficiently high degree of consensus in most cases to ensure that
our thoughts are to a great extent communicable. This essay will
concentrate on two aspects of language. Firstly that it gives our own
thoughts and those of others a certain degree of portability and
secondly that because it has a firm (though not rigid) set of rules
governing the relationships between symbols it allows what would
otherwise be internal concepts that could not be generalised, to be
made explicit, examined in detail and compared.
If we did not have language we would be able to surmise very little
about other humans around us. Non-verbal communication has
evolved to instantaneously communicate ones' emotional state, and
generally succeeds in this, however although it can reveal what a
person may be...