by / Friday, 16 May 2014 / Published in Blog

Have you ever wondered how you speak? Do you think it comes so easily any time you utter a word? I guess you’d say yes. That is what I expect you to say. However, do you know that this might not have been possible if some vocal symbols are not put in place to perform this onerous task?  The bleating of sheep, the barking of dog, the crowing of cocks, etc. are all sounds, but they are far from being a language because they are not systematic and for their lack of meaning. Man is the only being in the world that speaks what we call ‘Language’. Therefore, the focus of this article will be on the characteristics of language as it relates to man.

Firstly, language is an arbitrary use of the vocal symbols. Man, within a minute, can utter an infinite number of words which can be analyzed and understood. This happens through specialized vocal symbols which are jammed together to produce meaningful sounds. It has been experimented and observed that man is the only being who is able to make use of these internalized vocal apparatus to produce meaningful sounds. Even the apes which have closest resemblance to man could not manipulate their vocal organs to produce meaningful sounds just because their own vocal systems are not adapted for language.

Secondly, the systematic nature of language makes it easier for man – who happens to be a social animal in the animal hierarchy – to learn language faster and with ease because of how his vocal symbols are systematically arranged for speech production. The animals can only make unsystematic sounds such as waowaowao, baabaaabaa,  meeeeeees, etc. These sounds are far from being a language. But man has an innate ability to make a distinct sound such as go, come, run, jump, dance, etc. All these are meaningful sounds which are systematically structured.

Thirdly, language is human in the sense that it is only man, among other creatures, who has the ability to speak. In fact, language is what makes man human. This goes to explain the reason why a baby is regarded as ‘It’ until he or she is able to speak. If a baby is taken to a jungle where nobody speaks to him/her, such baby would remain dumb for the rest of his/her life.

The dynamic nature of language, with the special manner in which the brain of man is configured, makes language specific to man. Language is characterized by the set rules and innovations which only human brain can accommodate at a glance. The most intelligent animals cannot reproduce words in different ways with meaning. This gives us a pointer to the fact that language is comfortable to man than any of the animals because of the dynamic nature of his brain vis-à-vis the dynamic nature of language.

Also, language is a means through which the culture of people is transmitted. Man as we know is an agent of socialization. In a society, man makes use of language to pass cultural tenets from one generation to another. This shows how powerful language is in the hand of man to transmit culture. Although one cannot certainly say whether this occurs in the animal kingdom or not; to a large extent, this is not possible except it is fable.

In conclusion, one can unequivocally say that language is designed for man who is endowed with versatile brain, coupled with internalized vocal symbols which make it easier for him to acquire and speak language. Although there are other ways by which man expresses his feelings which other animals also have in common, none of these ways is as powerful as language because they are subject at times to misinterpretations and misrepresentations. The day you see animal speak a language, save Balaam and donkey in the scripture, you better run for your dear life.