Language and Linguistics

Characteristics of language with basic concepts

Language and Communication Basic concepts, general theoretical aspects, characteristics, structure, nature and functions of language and communication.

Humans have developed throughout our existence numerous communication systems that allow us to operate in different circumstances, either by using natural faculties, or by applying technologies that act as an extension of them. Writing, telephone, internet are some devices that have allowed to overcome the spatial or temporal distance between individuals.

The natural ability of man to communicate involves the elaboration of language. This ability is shared by the animal kingdom and the fact has been extensively studied. As for man, his ability to communicate appears associated with his social nature and the language he has developed has a symbolic basis that implies the substitution that signs operate in the system.

The systems that man uses to communicate are quite numerous and are known by the name of languages. These systems, in many cases are transferable to what will be called articulated language , understood as a set of signs that can compose words or phrases. Articulated language operates with words for sounds that refer to concepts, operates with linguistic signs.

The linguistic sign has been defined by Ferdinand Saussure (1967) as a two-sided entity consisting of a signifier and a meaning. A sign is an instance that substitutes an idea or concept, but that does not have any necessary relationship with the evoked thing, in this sense it is said that the linguistic sign is arbitrary.

Language is only made concrete through linguistic acts , that is, in the realization of speech. Speech, or the ability to produce linguistic expressions, is the material and individual aspect of language and only indirectly and very slowly can affect the modification of the language. Language can be defined as “the set of common linguistic acts … of a community of speaking individuals.” Thus, human language uses symbolic substitution operations to fulfill its first purpose: to communicate states of internal and external reality to the individual. Thus, every linguistic expression works in two axes: syntagmatic axis and paradigmatic axis.

In the syntagmatic axis (corresponding to the spoken chain) the signs assume their material expression (words, sentences, phrases, spoken or written), whose elements are selected and combined according to rules determined in the paradigmatic axis of the language (here are located grammar, syntactic and semantic rules that allow constructing acceptable sentences).

It is considered a sign of a thing that replaces a concept making it perceptible. This establishes a relationship of substitution that we will recognize by conventions transmitted by tradition, so that there is no necessary relationship between the sign and the concept evoked by it.

A language can be studied as an autonomous system, as do some disciplines that consider it independently of historical or social factors. Likewise, any symbolic can be studied as a communication system, and in this way it has been considered, for example, by assuming symbolic procedures for communicative purposes behind every cultural process.

It is necessary to clarify first that the modifications arise from the conception of communication from which it is based: as transmission of information, as means of social communication, as an act of significance, as linguistic processes …
In a very general way it can be affirmed that communication is a process by which information is transmitted to a destination. We could then talk about communication as transferring information from one machine to another. Basis with which, from a source of information, a transmitter can emit a signal through a channel to a receiver that converts it into a decodable message for a recipient by means of a code.

Shannon’s proposal left its mark on communication studies. It was from the engineering of communications and is the founder of what to know as the mathematical theory of communication or information theory, a trend of deep significance for subsequent approaches. In this approach the central point is the effectiveness of the transmission of messages, the notion of communication from which it is based has been expelled by Warren Weaver (in Smith 1981: 20) as “the ways by which one mechanism affects another mechanism.”

This model, arises in the context of the first cybernetic inquiries, and has influenced, as will be seen, much of the later models in pointing out the basic elements and procedures of communication.

The elements of the model

· Source of information

A source of information is what generates the message by choosing, from a set of data, the one that you want to transmit. The source operates with information. Weaver understands as information “the measure of the free choice of a message.”
In linguistic terms a phoneme (minimum articulated sound unit) could be the equivalent of an information unit, since it is a minimal distinctive unit within the language system and by combining them, sentences can be structured.

· Message

The message in this theory is the data or set of data to be transmitted. The message arises from the selection of possibilities in a set of possible symbolic combinations. A traffic light, according to stipulated times, alternatively emits selected messages in each case. The message consists of a specific number of selected units of information.

· Transmitter

The transmitter is the one that encodes the message in a system of signals suitable to be transmitted by a certain channel.


The signal is considered a sign or symbol of a conventional coding system, such as the light of a traffic light.

· Source of noise

According to this model, it is the channel where there is a greater risk of a source of noise impacting. The noise is interference that may distort a signal modifying the shape of the message to be transmitted. To reduce the possibility of noise, the redundancy of the code is used, that is, the possibility of plague multiplying the number of signals for a single message.

· Receiver

It is the one that receives the signal and converts it to the original code of the message so that it is perceived by the destination.

· Destination

The destination is the entity to which the message is addressed.

· Code

It is the symbolic set of units limited in number and in terms of communication rules but which can produce infinite structures. A language is a code whose units, combined according to conventional specifications, can potentially produce infinite sentences.

· Channel

It is the means by which a signal transits from the transmitter to the receiver.

Psychological model of social communication by Gerhard Maletzke, 1963

He considers that studies of social communication are part of social psychology. According to this author, communication is a complex process that is consumed socially through relationships and influences of the elements that participate in it.

The concept of communication that serves as a basis for the model is that of social communication: “… a form of communication in which messages are transmitted publicly … by technical means of communication … indirectly … and unilaterally … to a dispersed public or collective” (Maletzke 1976: 43)

The model of language functions by Roman Jakobson, 1960

Jakobson presents the communication as a process determined by an issuer with intentions regarding the reception that he wants his message to have. The message involves the hierarchy of a bundle of functions according to the conformation that has been given by its producer. Therefore, in addition to the material elements present in the model, there is a set of immaterial elements that are generated in the recipient’s contact with the message: The Roman Jakobson model includes the proposal made by Karl Bühler in 1933, in which he proposed three functions of language in communication: expressive, conative and referential.

The primary, basic, and most important semiotic system is language: language is, in fact, the foundation of culture. In relation to language, the other sign systems do not go from being concomitant or derived. Language is the main information communication system. (1975: 16).

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