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What Is Language? The Levels of Language Defined

Updated on October 15, 2018
Rodric29 profile image

Rodric completed his bachelor of psychology through the University of Phoenix. His perspective provides guidance and education.

Explaining in the previous article, The Five Basic Elements of Language, that language can be defined as a form of communication that allows intercourse between multiple people, is arbitrary (in words individually), generative (in word placement), and constantly evolving, this article covers the levels of language.

Four (4) Levels of Language

Delving deeper into the core of what defines language exist several basic levels. Not only does it have five qualifying characteristics, but it has four levels structure: Phonemes, Words, Sentences and Text.

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Number one (1) Phonemes

Phonemes are the sounds that form the building blocks for the spoken word.

Phonemes are the short and long sounds of vowels and consonants. The language of the Xhosa people in South Africa, where the x, the c, and the q all make distinct clicking sounds, phonemes, differ from the phonemes of the English language

The X in Xhosa makes the sound of sucking air with the tongue at the roof of the mouth--a sound that horse jockeys may use to call a horse. The C makes the sound of sucking air with the teeth and tongue. The Q makes the sound sucking air with the tongue at the roof of the mouth pulling away forcefully from the said roof while sucking in air. These phonemes help to form the sounds for words for all Xhosa people to communicate.

Number Two (2) Words

Words are the next level of language. It would follow that phonemes build words, which represent a listing of sounds to describe items, situations, ideas, etc.... using nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

Phonemes and words are building blocks for language whether written and spoken or spoken only. It is important to remember that ALL language must have structure. Words may be short or long in length with a combination of phonemes in prescribed fashion as described in the heading above for Xhosa.

Source

Number Three (3) Sentences

Sentences are a number of words placed together to form a coherent thought. It is also the aspect of language that supports grammar rules. Each language determines the structural type of sentences and how words are interpreted by the hearers. Sentences provide a description of a thing or things usually containing a subject, verb, and predicate expressing a statement, question, instruction, or exclamation.

Sentences can be long or short, complex or simple. Sentences help to provide the dynamic nature of language. The sentence in this article show length differences. How boring would written language be without variation in the length and complexity of sentences? That is another topic for another article.

Number Four (4) is Text

Text in this usage does not refer to an activity millions do with their mobile devices; though, that would be an appropriate definition. Any number of sentences form text, another level of language consisting of one or more sentences. Text provides information mainly to communicate in written form.

Altogether, these elements phonemes, words, sentences. and text work within a framework called grammar, which is a set of rules constructed so that groupings of words do not form an incoherent word-jumble.

All Languages are not Created Equal But Equal Out

The phonemes, words, sentences, text and grammar of Latin differ from those of the English language, but the same end is reached: written and verbal communication.

The compelling thing about the Latin language is it died but is still used within the context of today's society. Such a feat is of intriguing significance when considering that each word may or may not have a corresponding word in other languages.

Levels of Language

Phonemes

Words

Sentences

Text

All humans start out the same way—babbling. Human young start making noises that develop naturally from hearing around them the sounds of speaking, whatever the language.

Of course, the language that a person speaks effects his or her view of the world and ultimately the way he or she thinks. Language, however, does not necessarily make a French speaker think better or worse than a Xhosa speak.

One language may have a larger lexicon than another language may; but when a person who speaks French sees a danger, he thinks the same as a person who speaks Xhosa, run!

The same neurons fire in all human brains that help all to communicate in the multiple languages that allow humanity to interact by paper, digital screen, and voice.

Language Elements

Communicative

Arbitrary

Structured

Generative

Dynamic

Language Test

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Source Material

Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:Pearson/Allyn4 Bacon.

© 2010 Rodric Anthony Johnson

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    • profile image

      Darusila Gamaliel 

      3 years ago

      Thankyou so much I found useful information.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      4 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      My pleasure thanks for reading. I am glad it helped

    • profile image

      hommocivyjoy@yahoo.com 

      4 years ago

      thanks to this article, it had helped much on my research

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      6 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Your advice has been infection to the point that I am revamping some other articles. The subject matter of this hub is so serious that some lighthearted pictures give it some comic relief. Language can truly be an interesting topic to read about because of the complexity of English alone.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      6 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Thanks for posting here Dmop and reading the hub. I would say that no translation is accurate. A translation is just an estimation of what the original language conveyed.

      Sometimes the original language does not provide adequate structure to convey the message that the writer wants. I recall speaking to some Xhosa speakers about translation. Several of these good people informed me that English is more versatile because its lexicon allowed more expression.

      I felt the same way when I spoke the language myself--not that the language was inferior, but that where one word described many things in Xhosa with a change of inflection and tense, in English I have ten words to convey the message making it more round. Sometimes translation is the best thing to happen to a work==especially if it is translated by the originator.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 

      6 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      This is a well written article, that covers a subject all writers might be interested in. I wonder how accurate translations really are, especially from older languages that few use or understand today. I enjoyed reading, and gave it a vote up and interesting.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      rodric - No problem at all and you are very welcome. :) You have done an excellent job on this article. Fascinating ideas and concepts about a subject so central to human society and civilization...LANGUAGE... You have covered some of the current thinking about language development in an interesting way. I am looking forward to reading more hubs. And oh, BTW, fun pictures and great graphics. :)

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      6 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Thank you Phdast so much for the feedback. I needed it and appreciate it. I went to work immediately on it as you have seen. For some reason I could not respond to your comment after reading it.

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