by Maria Rotger

Why language matters

Language matters.

It is an unsung hero that subtly permeates every aspect of our daily lives since language matters greatly, sometimes unnoticed.

why language matters - Signewords

Aristotle postulated that the capacity to reason, which distinguishes humans from animals, depends on language.

The language was the very element that gave our prehistoric ancestors a competitive edge over other hominid species,

thus, allowing them to survive and flourish over the centuries through the establishment of communities.

Indeed, language is a unique trait that lies at the very core of the human experience.

Functions of language in communication

Deep down, we know language is essential in our lives, even when we take it for granted.

There is no question about it.

But we may have trouble pinpointing exactly why language matters so much.

Edward Sapir argued that it is difficult to identify the functions of language because it is so inextricably entrenched in the character of human behavior.

According to Noam Chomsky, we are hard-wired to acquire language.

Language is second nature to us, just part of how we navigate life.

Language can be considered comparable to the five senses; we:

language communication Signewords

without necessarily realizing we’re doing it — until something threatens to take those senses away:

The same goes for language.

We use it subconsciously until its loss.

Maybe a trip abroad shines a spotlight on its importance.

While acknowledging how difficult it is to pinpoint language functions, Sapir suggested that there is little in our behavior that does not hinge on language.

language MATTERS in the transmission of information

At the very surface, language is how we communicate information.

This claim goes without saying.

In our modern-day world, information constantly bombards us.

language information - Signewords

And in all of these instances, we would be hard-pressed to find a situation in which the acquisition of information didn’t involve using words:

Even when we are not actively seeking information, we receive it through linguistic cues.

language in society - Signewords

Maybe you’re riding on the bus and overhear two ladies talking about their vacations:

Isolated verbal interactions build-up, creating an intricate database of information we store in our minds and revisit as necessary.

Without the written or spoken word, the transmission of any information would suffer much.

language MATTERS in emotional expression

As we peel back the layers of linguistic function, we find that language is central to emotional expression.

emotional expression - Signewords

Even though language falls short in situations like this, it provides a crucial framework.

It can be easy to underestimate the importance of emotional expression, but the truth is that it lies at the very core of the human experience.

This human condition is precisely why art forms such as poetry have been so pervasive.

We have the intrinsic need to cathartically express our emotions, often using words as an outlet.

language for emotions - Signewords

Besides, it is only through a mutual revealing of thoughts and feelings that we:

– meaning,

– comfort,

– and safety.

Without the bonds that emotional expression creates, society would disintegrate.

After all, there would be no reason to live in the community if we didn’t find support in those who surround us.

language MATTERS in culture

When we zoom out and get a bird’s-eye view of the society, we can see that language often serves as an expression of social identity,

acting as a reflection of the culture that created it, the reality that gave birth to it, preserving that culture over time.

Many of us are familiar with the feeling of kinship we get when running into a person who speaks our language while traveling abroad:

language in culture - Signewords

– appeals to our understanding of identity

– and gives us a sense of belonging.

For centuries, the spoken word was the means through which primitive societies could ensure they would pass their culture on to future generations.

Orally transmitted stories handed down from parents to children to grandchildren preserved cultural identity.

People found a sort of map, hidden within that language, guiding how they were to live their lives within that society, defining traditions and norms.

Language is a social product that a particular group’s needs, values, and priorities mold, mainly carrying its DNA.

language for united nations - Signewords

It’s no wonder that UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity asserts that people have the right to express themselves in the language of their choice and to obtain an education that respects their cultural identity.

A sense of cultural belonging is an integral part of the human experience.

Sadly, indigenous languages are becoming extinct every day.

languages in Canada - Signewords

For instance, around 70 different languages are still spoken today in Canada, but only two are expected to survive throughout the next few generations: English and French.

However, recognizing the in-depth cultural content and sense of identity rooted in language, people are starting to revive these indigenous languages, reclaiming a rich, nearly-lost legacy.

The importance of language runs deep.
As a transmitter of information, a vehicle for emotions, and a carrier of culture, language enriches the human experience and, to a large extent, defines it.

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