Language and Linguistics

What is speech and language elements and characteristics


Language is a system of linguistic signs, which are used by various communities to communicate among their members. These signs are part of a set of functional oppositions that are quite constant and below phonic materiality. In this article we will describes the characteristics of speech and language.

Language and speech hold certain elements together. One functions as the system formed by linguistic signs that allow the members of a community to maintain healthy and one-sided communication. The other, as its name implies, is the communicative act through which a person manages to convey his thoughts with the help of ordered and articulated sounds.

Furthermore, they are doubly articulated, which means that the construction and discovery of meaning takes place on two levels. The first deals with the signifying entities, that is, the morphemes and lexemes that constitute the utterances. The second builds the significant units of the phonemes.

Therefore, all languages ​​are structured into several categories; phonetic-phonological, syntactic-semantic, morphological-semantic and lexical-semantic. When we talk about how this communication develops, we can highlight that it can be carried out both in speeches and in texts and, in addition to being governed by rigid norms, it also adapts to the context in which it is carried out. in the language, the first three levels of linguistic description were established: phonology, linguistic morphology and syntax.


The characteristics of the language are distinguished from its classification, that is, oral and written. For this reason, we will develop them this way:

oral language

This is a type of language normally used in the colloquial and daily communication of the human being, in which the participants interact within the scope of the dialogue. Some of the functions and generalities that oral language has are:

  • It is closely related to the context, as the discourse is constructed from it. Furthermore, it is a language that fulfills the interrelation of a systematic type framed in the pragmatism of dialogue. In it the use of grammar is unlimited.
  • Oral language is quite ephemeral, because it doesn’t take shape anywhere, it doesn’t last in time. This happens in the moment, and the transmitted information is only stored in the receiver’s mind unless it is recorded. It is not lasting, on the contrary, it is fast, direct and, above all, spontaneous.
  • It is characterized by the use of paralinguistic elements, such as; gestures, tones of voice, etc. In addition, it uses a textual and auditory channel.
  • It is applied in various communicative situations. When they are carried out, three elements of great importance come into play: the sender, the message and the recipients. As we already mentioned in the first point, these components are defined depending on their purpose and context.

Written language

Unlike oral language, written language has a notation system within its particularities, which means that it presents a series of graphic signs and rules that must be respected. These signs, in turn, are divided into: alphabetic writing (letters and punctuation marks) and numbering system (numbers). Some of the characteristics of written language are:

  • Being embedded in a sheet, screen or any other object, written language works with the help of a visual channel. Both reader and writer must use their vision to convey and receive information. Both use the same sense to be able to communicate.
  • The communicative process is elaborated, as this type of language demands it. The reason is simple, so that the receiver can easily understand the message, the sender must prepare it correctly and adjust the grammatical and linguistic rules. Furthermore, in case an error occurs, the text can be modified several times without the receiver noticing.
  • Since the issuer writes his ideas in a specific place and time, also on a medium (paper, wood, digital formats, etc.), what he writes can be read much later or in just a few minutes. In neither case is communication instantaneous. The good thing about this kind of language is that, in one form or another, it endures over the years.
  • Non-verbal codes are generally not present in written language. These are used only in the type of support used and in the arrangement of the text contained therein.
  • Throughout the composition of the text, there is no interaction or at least it is almost null. Usually the author will not be able to know what the reader’s opinion is. There are some exceptions such as modern digital media where users can have their say and create healthy feedback.
  • The text is completely autonomous from the context. An example of this is writers with books from hundreds of years ago, they cannot know what the characteristics of the reader’s context will be, who picks up their book long after its publication.
  • It has two levels: formal and informal. The first is applied in the scientific, philosophical and literary fields. The second tends to be used in messages aimed at more informal recipients and with the objective of socialization. This message is full of colloquial and vulgar expressions.


The term speech comes from the Latin fābŭla, which means: rumor, talk, gossip. This does not directly refer to the act of speaking or the execution of a series of linguistic forms by a speaker. On the contrary, it functions as a realization of a language, or rather, the individual act with which a person takes advantage of a language to communicate. In it, a message is built on the basis of grammatical rules and conventions that are shared in a specific language community.

In fact, speech represents the oral means of human communication. Therefore, it implies the materialization of an individual’s ideas and thoughts and, therefore, a specific way in which each human being uses their language to express themselves and show who they really are. Despite the above, there is also a meaning that defines speech as the faculty, action and way of speaking of a subject, only less heard.


Speech is fundamentally composed of three elements so that it can be performed, they are: articulation, voice and fluency. Let’s develop each one a little for a better understanding.

  1. Articulation: this constitutes the materialization of the phonemes that make up a language, that is, the realization of their sounds. An example of this is the letter «ese», which should normally be taught to children, because during the first years they tend to make the «s» sound like a «t» (tol instead of sun). ) . In Spanish, the letter S has two different sounds: an obstruent, fricative and alveolar consonant and a dento-alveolar and voiceless consonant. The first is performed in regions where the phoneme /θ/ exists, the second where it does not exist.
  2. Voice:  it is the result of the vibration of our vocal cords and breathing. Being the human being’s way of producing sound, this mechanism must be very careful. In case it is overused or misused, it can cause temporary loss of voice.
  3. Fluency: fluency is the rhythm or speed of each person when developing their speech. There are problems that can seriously affect this element, such as dysrhythmia, better known as stuttering.


Speech, being an embodiment of language, has several characteristics that define and differentiate it from language itself and from language. Therefore, below we will explain the most outstanding features of it.

  • One of the most notable differences between speech and language is that it is entirely individual as it varies with each individual or community. It allows everyone to have their own way of communicating in relation to their skills, knowledge and experiences. It is usually influenced by the place, region or country where the person lives. This is formally known as sociolinguistics, a discipline that is responsible for studying language as a social and cultural phenomenon, not as an abstract system.
  • Because it is based on articulated sounds emitted by the air as it passes through our lungs and pharynx, speech is considered material, as the main function of the process is to make our vocal cords vibrate in different ways to transmit sounds. Sound waves function as a vehicle to carry the encoded message to the receiver’s ears. This particularity means that speech can be recorded and later reproduced, unlike language, which is abstract.
  • It focuses on encoded meanings that travel through sound waves from sender to receiver. Therefore, it is ephemeral, once the waves stop being emitted, speech disappears. As a consequence, its duration is limited, each of the emitted words has an established lifetime. The expressed ideas remain present only in the memory of those who perceived them.
  • Regarding the mentioned point, speech is composed of a series of sounds that must be emitted and perceived in a linear way so that they have consistency. The order of sounds is extremely important here, as saying “house” is not the same as saying “asac”, everything that is spoken has a beginning and an end, it works like a line.
  • Finally, we find that it is changeable and varied, as a person never speaks in the same way all the time, much less uses the same words, terms or intonations. Speech is a complete communicative event, it can be adapted to various contexts, audiences, moods and topics with great ease. In other words, it can be modified based on what the sender wants to convey.

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