What are the characteristics that you feel best describe language? Why?
Out of the six characteristics that describe language, I think one of the most fitting and appropriate characteristics is that it can be changed, extended and developed to account for new situations. This can be connected to the different languages that people around the world currently speak. As language was created by man to represent some sort of meaning, it is likely that it had to be modified over time to adapt to the current world and what needs to be expressed. The English that we use today is quite different to the English that was used in Shakespeare’s time, similar to how the Chinese of today, although the same characters are used, is different to the structure and terminology used during the time of Tang Poetry.
The second characteristic that I feel best describes language is the fact that it is meaningful – it expresses thoughts and wishes, it evokes ideas, it connects with the world. When thinking about language, I always believed that it was the conversion of thoughts and feelings into words. Language is a man-made form of communication that allows one to say what’s on their mind and say what they feel. Other than expressing themselves, one can exchange ideas and utilise various languages to communicate with people around the world.
What might be some of the weaknesses of language?
A possible weakness of language is the chance that perhaps not everything can be expressed through language. There could be things in our mind or feelings that arise that simply cannot be put into words. It is also possible that maybe there isn’t a right word for what one wants to say, because the vocabulary within the language itself is too finite. Another potential weakness is the fact that language is limited to those who have learned it and know it. The number of people within this community who know the language is not necessarily defined, but the community creates a barrier, excludes ‘outsiders’ and prevents anyone else from understanding.
Do you think that language changes the way you think and therefore perceive the world? Why and what are the implications of this idea?
I believe that language changes the way you think and therefore perceive the world. Each language has its own specialties and characteristics – the tone it is spoken in, the type of vocabulary that is used, the way sentences are phrased etc. As a result, differences in thought and perception could arise when switching between multiple languages. This opinion came to mind when I was thinking of my own situation – how I mostly think in English, but there are occasional times when other languages pop into my thoughts. Due to my experience and time spent with the English language, I am able to think freely with it and express what is on my mind as usual. When it comes to other secondary languages, the way the language was learned has an impact on the way it is used by the learner. The way the language was taught and the type of vocabulary learned will affect the way one thinks and perceives the world in that language (e.g. if the language is learned with a log of negative slang/phrases, the learner will most likely think and view the world with that same negativity when the language is used). This indicates that language comes with the way one was raised or taught, which could potentially cause conflicts between individuals and groups due to differences in upbringing.