Ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - YL: FEATURE - TRUDI MOR­RI­SON REID Con­trib­u­tor

LAST WEEK, we ex­plored the Func­tions of Non-Ver­bal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This week, we will be­gin our look at Ver­bal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Lan­guage.

VER­BAL COM­MU­NI­CA­TION

Ver­bal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in its broad­est sense, is the way we use words (via speech and writ­ing) to com­mu­ni­cate our ideas, thoughts, opin­ions, be­liefs, etcetera. These words are an es­sen­tial part of what hu­mans call lan­guage. Did you know that there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween lan­guage and a lan­guage?

LAN­GUAGE VS A LAN­GUAGE

Ac­cord­ing to McDer­mott 2008, ‘Lan­guage is an in­born po­ten­tial to use a lin­guis­tic sys­tem of signs and sounds (called a code) for the pur­pose of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that is shared by all other hu­man be­ings. A lan­guage refers to a spe­cific use of a par­tic­u­lar code within a lan­guage com­mu­nity (for ex­am­ple, Span­ish, French, English, or Cre­ole) at a given time place’. CAPE Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Stud­ies p.16. What then are the char­ac­ter­is­tics of this thing we call lan­guage?

CHAR­AC­TER­IS­TICS OF LAN­GUAGE 1. LAN­GUAGE IS HU­MAN

Lan­guage is a uniquely hu­man ac­tiv­ity, in that only hu­mans use lan­guage to com­mu­ni­cate. This en­ables hu­mans to com­mu­ni­cate at and above all other species. Sure, an­i­mals com­mu­ni­cate with each other. How­ever, they lack the so­phis­ti­ca­tion and com­plex­ity that are in­volved in hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion. They can­not re­flect and share with each other about the re­flec­tion, they can­not de­scribe to their friends about the rough day they had try­ing to escape the hunter, nor can they meet in the al­ley and com­pare notes about how their own­ers treat them!

2. LAN­GUAGE IS VER­BAL

The word verb is de­rived from the Latin word ver­bum, which means word. This tells us that lan­guage is es­sen­tially made up of words. These words can be ei­ther writ­ten or spo­ken.

3. LAN­GUAGE IS SYM­BOLIC

A sym­bol is some­thing that stands for or rep­re­sents some­thing else. Writ­ten or spo­ken words sim­ply rep­re­sent the things they rep­re­sent. So, for ex­am­ple, the word ‘pen’ rep­re­sents an in­stru­ment which uses ink for writ­ing and draw­ing. P-e-n (the word) is not a pen. It is the code for the thing we use for writ­ing, us­ing ink.

Words can, there­fore, ei­ther de­note or con­note mean­ing. The de­no­ta­tive mean­ing of words is the lit­eral (dic­tio­nary) mean­ing of words. The con­no­ta­tive mean­ing refers to spe­cific as­so­ci­a­tions or re­ac­tions to words. Con­sider the de­no­ta­tive and con­no­ta­tive mean­ing of the word man this sen­tence: He is a man.

De­no­ta­tive: He is an adult hu­man male. Con­no­ta­tive: He is strong and coura­geous (stereo­typ­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of men)

4. LAN­GUAGE IS MATURATIONAL

As per­sons ma­ture and grow older, their word bank in­creases, as does their abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late words. As well, as time passes, words be­come ‘out­dated’ or ar­chaic and are sel­dom used (if at all).

5. LAN­GUAGE IS NON-INSTINCTIVE

An­i­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be de­scribed as instinctive. They learn calls and signs in­stinc­tively and do not have to be taught, the way hu­mans do. Hu­mans are, how­ever, born with the nat­u­ral abil­ity to learn a lan­guage, any lan­guage to which we have suf­fi­cient ex­po­sure. So if you were born in a Span­ish-speak­ing or French-speak­ing coun­try, your pro­fi­ciency in that lan­guage would per­haps be equal to your pro­fi­ciency in your use of English! Some lin­guists be­lieve that hu­mans are born with a built-in lan­guage ac­qui­si­tion de­vice. Linguist Noam Chom­sky be­lieved that there was a hy­po­thet­i­cal tool in the brain en­abling chil­dren to learn and use lan­guage.

6. LAN­GUAGE IS DY­NAMIC

Lan­guage is ever-chang­ing. It is not static. As it evolves, new words are added, some words be­come ar­chaic and some words even adopt new mean­ings and are used in new ways! Con­sider the mean­ings of the words chill, surf, mouse, Baby­lon, and bill.

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