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NOV 24    8 PM

Language Creates Experience

Language serves as a communication system

Language Creates ExperienceAnil Thomas
00:00 / 01:38

Language serves as a communication system

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Join me next month for a new online lecture Language Creates Experience.

Language creates experience

Language serves as a communication system whereby individuals employ words and gestures to express their emotions, convictions, thoughts, and more. It forms the cornerstone of all human interaction. The acquisition of language is an innate process that commences during childhood. In infancy, our means of comprehending our parents and communicating with them is limited to crying, screaming, or even laughter, which also marks one of the earliest stages in the development of language.

How Language Develops

Language development is a gradual process that begins in infancy. Babies start by absorbing the sounds and rhythms of their native language, eventually progressing to babbling, and then forming their first words. Vocabulary expands as they grow, and they learn to use grammar and pragmatics effectively through interaction with caregivers and their environment. Reading and writing skills further enhance their language abilities, which continue to evolve throughout their lives.


Adults continue to develop their language skills throughout their lives, albeit at a slower pace compared to children. Language development in adulthood is influenced by various factors, including exposure to new experiences, formal education, and changes in social and professional environments. Adults constantly encounter new words in their daily lives, whether through reading, encountering specialized terminology in their professions, or engaging in discussions with a diverse range of people. They also refine their understanding of words they already know, deepening their grasp of nuances and connotations. In essence, adult language development is an ongoing process shaped by exposure, practice and the pursuit of improved linguistic competence.


The components of language work together harmoniously to facilitate human communication. This intricate system of language development allows individuals to express their thoughts, connect with others, and navigate the complexities of human interaction.

Components of Language:

1. Phonemes

 Phonemes are the smallest distinct units of sound in a language that can change the meaning of a word when substituted. They are the basic building blocks of spoken language. For example,

in English, the sounds /p/ and /b/ represent different phonemes because substituting one for the other can change the meaning of a word. For instance, "pat" and "bat" have different meanings due to the different initial phonemes.

2. Morphemes

 Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units of language. They can be words themselves or parts of words (prefixes, suffixes, roots) that carry meaning. For example, in this word, unhappiness, there are three morphemes: "un-" (a prefix meaning 'not'), "happy" (the root word), and "-ness" (a suffix that forms a noun). Each of these morphemes contributes to the overall meaning of the word.

 3. Lexemes

Lexemes are the basic, abstract units of meaning in a language. They represent a set of related words that share a common core meaning. Lexemes include base words and their inflected forms. For instance, the lexeme for "run" includes various forms like "run," "ran," "running," and "runner." These words all share a common core meaning related to the action of moving rapidly on foot.

4. Syntax

 Syntax refers to the rules and principles that govern how words are combined to form sentences in a language. It deals with the structure and order of words in sentences. For example, a basic syntactic rule is that sentences typically follow a subject-verb-object (SVO) order. For example, "The cat (subject) chased (verb) the mouse (object)" adheres to this syntactic structure.

5. Pragmatics

 Pragmatics is the study of how context influences the interpretation of language. It comprises the use of language in real-life situations and the understanding of implied meaning. For example, if someone says, "It's hot in here," the literal meaning is a statement about the temperature. However, in a pragmatic context, this statement could also be an indirect request to open a window or turn on the air conditioner, depending on the situation and the speaker's tone.


These linguistic concepts collectively contribute to our understanding of how language works, from the tiniest sound units (phonemes) to the way words are structured and combined in sentences (syntax) and how language is used in real-world communication (pragmatics). Linguistics and Psychologists, have attempted to understand the intricacies of language and the role it plays in human development, the following section will explore a few of the models:

Skinner’s Language Model

B.F. Skinner's Language Model, rooted in behaviourism, posits that language acquisition is primarily a result of imitation and reinforcement. According to this theory, children learn language by mimicking the speech of adults and receiving positive reinforcement when their utterances approximate correct language forms.  Skinner emphasizes the environmental factors at play in shaping linguistic behaviour, viewing language development as a series of stimulus-response associations. However, this model has been criticized for oversimplifying the intricate process of language acquisition and neglecting the role of innate cognitive structures, a perspective championed by nativist theories like Noam Chomsky's.

Chomsky’s Theory of Language

Noam Chomsky, a renowned linguist, advocated the nativist perspective on language, positing the existence of a language acquisition device within the human brain, which incorporates a universal grammar underlying all human languages. According to this viewpoint, the multitude of languages spoken worldwide (approximately 6,000 to 8,000) represent unique manifestations of the same inherent set of cognitive processes embedded in the human mind. Chomsky's theory suggests that children are innately equipped with an understanding of overarching syntactic rules governing sentence structure.


Chomsky distinguishes between the deep structure of an idea – its representation in the fundamental shared universal grammar among languages – and the surface structure of the idea, which pertains to its expression in a specific language. Generally, once we articulate or encounter a thought in its surface structure, the exact linguistic formulation tends to fade from memory. After attending a lecture, for instance, you may retain the essence of the lecture you attended (i.e., the ideas conveyed by the instructor) but might struggle to reproduce the precise wording used.


In conclusion, comprehending the mechanics of language and its potential influence on our daily communication is a subject worth delving into. Language constitutes a significant aspect of our existence. It would be inconceivable to communicate or articulate our thoughts without it in our daily existence. It serves as a framework that imparts both context and significance. This is a topic that will be addressed in the lecture. The lecture endeavours to fathom how language shapes our experiences. We will delve into the intricacies of language, investigate how each experience revolves around it, and examine how it intertwines with one's overall perception.

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