Properties of human language
The study of the properties of human language is due, in its first development, to the work of the linguists Charles F. Hockett and André Martinet, each one on his own, of course. Talking is what makes us human and what differentiates us from other species. However, of all the properties found in human language, only three of them are exclusive to our language faculty. We are going to study what these properties are, also taking into consideration what is the function of silence in our ability to speak. To do this, we start with the Hockett study. Properties of human language with characteristics
The properties of human language, for Charles F. Hockett, are the following:
1) Vocal -auditory channel :
Auditory vocal character is one of the defining properties of human language. It is the spoken language, and not the written one, the natural and basic modality of language, which is based on the emission and reception of articulated sounds. The exception to this characterization is the sign languages that are based on the gestural-visual modality to establish communication, however, these languages have been precisely created to facilitate the expression of language in those people who have deficiencies in the vocal channel- auditory. In this way, we can affirm that silence is included within the properties of human language insofar as it supposes the total absence of auditory sensation and as such, it is an element of the auditory vocal channel. However, let there be no sound,
2) Radiated transmission and directional reception:
The linguistic signals inherent to the vocal-auditory canal are transmitted through the air medium in the waveform, as well as a consequence of the physics of sound, these waves expand radially from the point of origin, which allows the emitted signal to be able to be picked up by any individual who is within the appropriate radius based on their hearing abilities. In turn, the receiver perceives the signal coming from a certain direction thanks to our binaural hearing, which allows us to associate and locate the exact point from which the sound comes. As this property also refers to the physical transmission and reception of sound, silence is included at this point in sensory non-perception or non-transmission of sound. Properties of human language with characteristics
3) Evanescence (or transience):
Although the technical advances of today’s society allow us to overcome the Spatio-temporal limitations in the emission of vocal signals and despite the fact that writing helps us to preserve certain linguistic messages, the human language in its natural capacity imposes the simultaneous presence in the space-time of the communicating individuals. Thus, the voice signals emitted are destined not to persist in said coordinates. The signal that is not captured is irretrievably lost. Otherwise, the transmission channel would be blocked by overlapping signals. That is why silence prevails over voice signals since otherwise, the constant noise that their accumulation would entail would make any communication extremely difficult.
4) Discreet character:
Within the variety of sounds capable of being emitted by the human speech system, the interpretation that the speakers make of it is based on a distinction of different and differentiated categories, that is, on the linguistic plane we distinguish the sounds in units —The phonemes— that oppose each other clearly, discreetly and not gradually. Each language selects a subset of sounds within the sound plane and establishes the categorical differences between them, establishing its inventory of discrete units. The sounds that are outside the phonic inventory of each language, although they are perceived by the senses, are silenced as a categorical element, that is, we hear them but they do not transmit information to us. Properties of human language with characteristics
It refers to the relationship established between a sign and the content represented by that sign. The link between the two must be fixed, systematic, and constant, although there are variations. In human language, signs evoke the mental representation of the entities or events to which they refer. All concepts without semantic expression belong to verbal silence, that is, we do not have the conceptual capacity to refer to them through words. Properties of human language with characteristics
6) Arbitrariness (or conventional character):
There is no relationship or natural connection between the mental representation of a sign and its acoustic or graphic image, in this way we can affirm that the signals used by human languages to communicate are categorized into symbols.
As we will see later, silence can perform the functions of signifier and signify.
7) Double joint:
Within each language there is a limited number of meaningless basic units —the phonemes— that can be joined by infinite combinations, giving rise to larger meaningful units. Consequently, the first articulation occurs in the phonemes, and the second articulation in the possible combinations that these produce. That is, with a limited number of discrete sound units we can create a potentially infinite number of expressions. Silence is the unmarked element of language. What is not phonetically articulated enters into verbal silence. Properties of human language with characteristics
The grammatical repertoire of each language allows for the potentially infinite construction of linguistic structures of varying length and complexity. Likewise, languages allow the construction and derivation of new semantic structures, which will become part of the lexical catalog of that language. In other words, the productive capacity of languages through a limited grammatical inventory is infinite. Silence in its unproductiveness can in turn be a non-productive way of producing, that is, silence can be used as a significant element of non-productivity.
The organs used in the verbal production of language, although they perform other functions, are specialized for linguistic performance, both in the production and reception of signals. As we have stated in point 7) silence does not need to be produced since it is the medium in which communication occurs and therefore there is no specialized body in its production.
With language we are able to refer to distant concepts and events in the space-time planes, consequently, we can communicate about elements that are present neither temporally nor spatially. Silence implies a here and now, so there can be no space-time displacement in it.
11) Role exchange:
Users of a language can be either senders or receivers of linguistic signs. Thus, in the same user, these roles are reversible and interchangeable. Silence serves in this case as a facilitator and organizer of broadcasting and receiving shifts.
12) Total feedback:
Each sender is in turn a receiver of its own emission. Consequently, the issuer controls what it issues at all times. Silence is manifested in this sense in the form of a pause, which allows the issuer to modify or correct the meaning of its emission.
13) Cultural transmission:
The development of language, in addition to being made possible by some physiological conditions that are transmitted through our genetic code, requires that it be materialized in a community socio-cultural environment. In other words, language only develops if the individual from childhood is exposed to the use of a language since the symbolic nature of language forces them to learn the relationship between the signals and their meanings. If this learning is not done during the natural stage of language acquisition, the language will hardly develop. Silence as a linguistic sign has a cultural component since not all societies interpret it with the same meanings. Properties of human language with characteristics