Introduction

A mural in Teotihuacan, Mexico (c. 2nd century) depicting a person emitting a speech scroll from his mouth, symbolizing speech
A mural in Teotihuacan, Mexico (c. 2nd century) depicting a person emitting a speech scroll from his mouth, symbolizing speech
Braille writing, a tactile variant of a writing system
Braille writing, a tactile variant of a writing system
Cuneiform is the first known form of written language, but spoken language predates writing by at least tens of thousands of years.
Cuneiform is the first known form of written language, but spoken language predates writing by at least tens of thousands of years.
Two girls learning American Sign Language
Two girls learning American Sign Language

A language is a structured system of communication used by humans. Languages can be based on speech and gesture (spoken language), sign, or writing. The structure of language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Many languages, including the most widely-spoken ones, have writing systems that enable sounds or signs to be recorded for later reactivation. Human language is unique among the known systems of animal communication in that it is not dependent on a single mode of transmission (sight, sound, etc.), is highly variable between cultures and across time, and affords a much wider range of expression than other systems.

Human languages have the properties of productivity and displacement, and rely on social convention and learning.

Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. Precise estimates depend on an arbitrary distinction (dichotomy) being established between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken, signed, or both; however, any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, writing, whistling, signing, or braille. In other words, human language is modality-independent, but written or signed language is the way to inscribe or encode the natural human speech or gestures.

Depending on philosophical perspectives regarding the definition of language and meaning, when used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs to particular meanings. Oral, manual and tactile languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances. (Full article...)

Outline of linguistics • Index of language articles
Refresh with new selections below (purge)

Selected language - show another

Pidgin Delaware (also Delaware Jargon or Trader's Jargon) was a pidgin language that developed between speakers of Unami Delaware and Dutch traders and settlers on the Delaware River in the 1620s. The fur trade in the Middle Atlantic region led Europeans to interact with local native groups, and hence provided an impetus for the development of Pidgin Delaware. The Dutch were active in the fur trade beginning early in the seventeenth century, establishing trading posts in New Netherland, the name for the Dutch territory of the Middle Atlantic and exchanging trade goods for furs.

Pidgin languages characteristically arise from interactions between speakers of two or more languages who are not bilingual in the other group's language. Pidgin languages typically have greatly simplified syntax, a limited vocabulary, and are not learned as a first language by its speakers. Words typically have very general meanings but do not carry more than one meaning concept, and do not have the type of structural complexity commonly found in many languages. (Full article...)

Did you know (auto-generated)

More did you know - show different entries

More Did you know

Categories

Linguistics: Computational linguisticsGrammarHistorical linguisticsMorphologyPhoneticsPhonologyPragmaticsReadingSemanticsSociolinguisticsSyntaxWriting

Languages: Language familiesPidgins and creolesSign languages

Linguists: By nationalityHistorical linguistsMorphologistsPhoneticiansPhonologistsSociolinguistsSyntacticiansTranslators

Stubs: Constructed languagesLanguagesLinguistsPidgins and creolesTypographyVocabulary and usageWriting systems

Full Language category tree
Select [►] to view subcategories

Related portals

Selected topic - show another

Otomi (/ˌtəˈm/; Spanish: Otomí [otoˈmi]) is an Oto-Pamean language family spoken by approximately 240,000 indigenous Otomi people in the central altiplano region of Mexico. Otomi consists of several closely related languages, many of which are not mutually intelligible. The word Hñähñu [hɲɑ̃hɲṹ] has been proposed as an endonym, but since it represents the usage of a single dialect, it has not gained wide currency. Linguists have classified the modern dialects into three dialect areas: the Northwestern dialects are spoken in Querétaro, Hidalgo and Guanajuato; the Southwestern dialects are spoken in the State of Mexico; and the Eastern dialects are spoken in the highlands of Veracruz, Puebla, and eastern Hidalgo and villages in Tlaxcala and Mexico states.

Like all other Oto-Manguean languages, Otomi is a tonal language, and most varieties distinguish three tones. Nouns are marked only for possessor; the plural number is marked with a definite article and a verbal suffix, and some dialects keep dual number marking. There is no case marking. Verb morphology is either fusional or agglutinating depending on the analysis. In verb inflection, infixation, consonant mutation, and apocope are prominent processes. The number of irregular verbs is large. A class of morphemes cross-references the grammatical subject in a sentence. These morphemes can be analysed as either proclitics or prefixes and marks for tense, aspect and mood. Verbs are inflected for either direct object or dative object (but not for both simultaneously) by suffixes. Grammar also distinguishes between inclusive 'we' and exclusive 'we'. (Full article...)
List of selected topics

Selected picture - show another

Credit: Luca

The Phoenician alphabet was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, where it evolved and was assimilated by many other cultures. The Aramaic alphabet, a modified form of Phoenician, was the ancestor of modern Arabic script, while Hebrew script is a stylistic variant of the Aramaic script. The Greek alphabet (and by extension its descendants such as the Latin, the Cyrillic and the Coptic), was a direct successor of Phoenician, though certain letter values were changed to represent vowels.

More selected pictures More...

Language News

8 November 2021 –
Ukraine's oldest English language newspaper the Kyiv Post suspends publication after 26 years in print following a dispute between its owner and journalists. All of the newspaper's journalists have been fired with immediate effect. (The Guardian)
29 September 2021 – COVID-19 misinformation
Russia threatens to ban YouTube if it does not reinstate two German-language channels backed by the Russian state that were deleted for violating COVID-19 misinformation guidelines. (BBC News)
Language news from Wikinews...

Topics

Languages of the world

Languages of Africa: Arabic, Chadic, Cushitic, Kanuri, Maasai, Setswana, Swahili, Turkana, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zulu, more...

Languages of the Americas: Aleut, Carib, Cherokee, Inuktitut, Iroquois, Kootenai, Mayan, Nahuatl, Navajo, Quechuan, Salish, American Sign Language, more...

Languages of Asia: Arabic, Assamese, Balochi, Bengali, Chinese, Japanese, Hajong, Hebrew, Hindustani, Kannada, Kokborok, Marathi, Khasi, Korean, Kurdish, Malayalam, Manipuri, Meithei, Mongolian, Persian, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Sanskrit, Sylheti, Tamil, Tanchangya, Tulu, Telugu, Tibetan, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, Khowar, more...

Languages of Austronesia: Austric, Fijian, Hawaiian, Javanese, Malagasy, Malay, Maori, Marshallese, Samoan, Tahitian, Tagalog, Tongan, Auslan, more...

Languages of Europe: Basque, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (book), French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Leonese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian more...

Constructed languages: Esperanto, Ido, Volapük, more...


Language types

Agglutinative language, Analytic language, Constructed language, Creole, Context-free language, Extinct language, Dialect, Fusional language, Inflectional language, International language, Isolating language, Language isolate, National language, Natural language, Pidgin, Pluricentric language, Polysynthetic language, Proto-language, Sign language, Spoken language, Synthetic language, Variety (linguistics)


Applied linguistics, Cognitive linguistics, Accent (dialect), Computational linguistics, Descriptive linguistics, Eurolinguistics, Generative linguistics, Historical linguistics, Lexicology, Lexical semantics, Morphology, Onomasiology, Phonetics, Phonology, Pragmatics, Prescription, Prototype semantics, Psycholinguistics, Semantics, Stylistics, Sociolinguistics, Syntax

See also: List of linguists


Alphabets: Arabic alphabet, Bengali alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Latin alphabet, more...

Other writing systems: Abjad, Abugida, Braille, Hieroglyphics, Logogram, Syllabary, SignWriting, more..

See also: History of the alphabet, Script

Associated Wikimedia

The following Wikimedia Foundation sister projects provide more on this subject:

Wikibooks
Books

Commons
Media

Wikinews 
News

Wikiquote 
Quotations

Wikisource 
Texts

Wikiversity
Learning resources

Wiktionary 
Definitions

Wikidata 
Database

Find a language

Enter an ISO 639 code to find the corresponding language article

Portals

Purge server cache