Language and Linguistics

Design Features of Language by Hockett with explanation

Design Features of Language by Hockett

Hockett’s design features are a set of features that characterize human language and distinguish it from communication with animals. They were identified by linguistic anthropologist Charles F. Hockett in the 1960s. He called these characteristics the design features of the language. Hockett originally believed there were 13 design features. While primate communication uses the first 9 functions, the last 4 functions ( bias, productivity, cultural transmission, and duality) are reserved for humans. Later, Hockett added exclusively human qualities to this list: evasiveness, reflexivity and learning. He argued that even the simplest human languages ​​have these 16 characteristics. in this article, we will describe the Design Features of Language by Hockett

Charles Hockett

Charles Hockett was an American linguist and anthropologist who lived from 1916 to 2000. Hockett graduated from Yale University in 1939 and later taught at Cornell and Rice. Hockett made significant contributions to structural linguistics, as well as the study of the languages ​​of the Native American, Chinese and Fijian languages. His work focused mainly on detailed linguistic analysis, especially morphology and phonologyas well as concepts and tools that have facilitated such analysis. Until the 1950s, language was mainly seen as a socio-behavioral phenomenon. Noam Chomsky challenged Hockett in this belief, suggesting that language has a biological basis and is learned from birth. Chomsky believed that humans share a universal grammar that ties all languages ​​together. Hockett strongly opposed this Chomskyan concept of the nature of language. However, Hockett is best known for defining what he called language design features that demonstrated his beliefs about the commonality of human languages.

Design Features of Language by Hockett

1-Voice-auditory channel 

This refers to the idea that speech/hearing is the way people speak. When Hockett first identified this feature, he did not take into account sign language, which reflects the prevailing ideology of spoken language at the time(see, for example, Anne-Marie Christine’s argument, 1995). This feature has since been modified to include other language channels such as tactile-visual

2- Broadcast and Directed Reception 

 When people speak, sounds are transmitted in all directions; however, listeners perceive the direction the sounds are coming from. Likewise, signers broadcast to potentially anyone within line of sight, while those who watch can see who is signing. This is typical for most forms of communication between humans and animals –

3- Fleetingness

Transience, also called rapid extinction, refers to the idea of ​​a temporary quality of language. Language sounds exist only for a short period of time, after which they cease to be perceived. Sound waves quickly disappear when the speaker stops speaking. The same is true for signs. In contrast, other forms of communication such as writing and Inca kipus (tying knots) are more permanent. –

4- Interchangeability

This refers to the idea that humans can transmit and receive identical linguistic signals; people are not limited in the types of messages they can say/hear. You can say “I’m a boy” even if it’s a girl. This should not be confused with lying (evasion). The important thing is that the speaker can physically create any messages regardless of their veracity or relationship to the speaker. In other words, whatever can be heard can also be said.

Not all species have this feature. For example, to communicate their status, queen ants produce chemical odours that other ants cannot

5- Full feedback

Native speakers can hear their own speech and can control and change what they say when they say it. Likewise, signers see, feel, and control their signature.

6- Specialization

The purpose of language signals is communication and not any other biological function. When people speak or sign, it is usually done on purpose. An example of non-specialized communication is a dog breathing heavily. When a dog is gasping for breath, it often informs its owner that it is hot or thirsty; however, the dog suffocates to cool off. This is a biological function, and communication is secondary.

7- Semantics

 Specific audio signals are directly related to specific meanings

8- Free

languages ​​usually consist of arbitrary and signed characters. In spoken languages, iconicity takes the form of onomatopoeia (for example, in English “murmur”, in Mandarin “mao” (cat), in ASL “cup”, “I” “up / down”, etc.). For most other symbols, there is no internal or logical connection between the sound form (signal) and what it refers to. Thus, almost all the names that human language ascribes to an object are arbitrary: the word “car” does not look like a real car. The words spoken do not really resemble the objects they represent. This is further supported by the fact that different languages ​​give the same object very different names

9- Discreteness

Linguistic representations can be broken down into small discrete units that are combined with each other according to rules. Perceived categorically, not constantly. For example, in English, a number is denoted by the plural morpheme / s /, which can be added to the end of any noun. The plural morpheme is perceived categorically, not continuously: we cannot express smaller or larger quantities by varying how loudly we pronounce / s /.

10- Bias

This refers to the idea that people can talk about things that are physically absent or don’t even exist. Speakers can talk about the past and future, express hopes and dreams. Human speech is not limited to the here and now. Displacement is one of the features that separate human language from other forms of primate communication.

11- Productivity

This refers to the idea that language users can create and understand new utterances. People can make an unlimited number of statements. Also related to performance is the concept of grammar templates, which makes the language easier to use and understand. The language does not stand still, but is constantly changing. New idioms are created all the time, and the meaning of the signals can vary depending on the context and situation.

12- Traditional transmission

 Also known as cultural transmission. Traditional transmission is the idea that although people are born with innate language abilities, language is better absorbed after birth in a social environment. It differs sharply from the idea of Chomsky’s Universal Grammar and rather implies the concept that people learn to speak by interacting with experienced users of the language. Remarkably, language and culture are intertwined in this construct, functioning as a concept of language acquisition.

13- The duality of patterning

Significant messages are composed of separate smaller meaningful units (words and morphemes), which themselves are composed of separate smaller meaningless units (phonemes).

14- Prevarication

 Prevarication is the ability to lie or cheat. Using language, people can make false or meaningless statements. This is an important difference between human communication, i.e. language versus communication with animals. While communication with animals may reflect several other designs, features proposed by Hockett, communication with animals is incapable of lying or inventing things that do not exist or have no referent.

15- Reflexivity

People can use language to talk about language. Reflexivity is also a hallmark of human language, a trait that is not present in communication with animals. At its core, reflexivity means that people can describe what language is, talk about the structure of a language, discuss the idea of ​​language among others using language.

16- Learnability

The language can be taught and learned. Just as a speaker learns his first language, the speaker can learn other languages. It should be noted that young children learn the language easily and competently; however, language acquisition is constrained by a critical period, which makes it more difficult for a child to reach a certain age. Desi


gn Features of Language by Hockett

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