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Language definition | Definition of language by different scholars

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Language definition

What is language? Most probably, everybody is capable of attempting this question and answering it somehow or other. Nonetheless, we not yet found a single definition of language that has completely explained the phenomenon in question, satisfied all of us and stopped scholars and linguists from defining and redefining the term.
Definition of language by different scholars

Let us now go through some definitions of language postulated by different linguists, scholars and reference books.

Definition of language by different scholars


Speech is the representation of the experience of the mind. That is according to Aristotle, language stands for speech that humans produce for exchanging their experience resulting in ideas and emotions.

Saussure (1916)

Language is an arbitrary system of signs constituted of the signifier and signified. In other words, language is first a system based on no logic or reason; secondly, the system covers both objects and expressions used for objects; and thirdly objects and expressions are arbitrarily linked; and finally, expressions include sounds and graphemes used by humans for generating speech and writing respectively for the purpose of communication.

Sapir (1921)

Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced sounds. This definition reveals that language is concerned with only human beings, and constituted a system of sounds produced by them for communication.

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Bloomfield (1933)

The totality of the utterances that can be made in a speech community is the language of that speech community. Bloomfield's definition of language focuses on the utterances produced by all the people of a community, and hence overlooks writing. Besides, he stresses form, not meaning, as the basis of language.

Bloch and Trager (1942)

A language is a system of arbitrary vocal sounds by means of a social group cooperates. Their definition of language encompasses an arbitrary system, vocal sounds, human beings, communication, and collectivity.

Chomsky (1957)

A language is a set of (finite or infinite) sentences, each finite length and constructed out of a finite set of elements. This definition of language considers sentences as the basis of a language. Sentences may be limited or unlimited in number, and are made up of only limited components.


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