Portal:Language

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The Language portal

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
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

A language is a structured system of communication. Language, in a broader sense, is the method of communication that involves the use of – particularly human – languages.

The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Questions concerning the philosophy of language, such as whether words can represent experience, have been debated at least since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greece. Thinkers such as Rousseau have argued that language originated from emotions while others like Kant have held that it originated from rational and logical thought. Twentieth century philosophers such as Wittgenstein argued that philosophy is really the study of language. Major figures in linguistics include Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky.

Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. However, any precise estimate depends on the arbitrary distinction (dichotomy) between languages and dialect. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in writing, whistling, signing, or braille. This is because human language is modality-independent. 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.

Human language has the properties of productivity and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure affords a much wider range of expressions than any known system of animal communication. Language is thought to have originated when early hominins started gradually changing their primate communication systems, acquiring the ability to form a theory of other minds and a shared intentionality. This development is sometimes thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume, and many linguists see the structures of language as having evolved to serve specific communicative and social functions. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca's and Wernicke's areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently by approximately three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as social grooming and entertainment.

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Portion of the Temple Scroll, one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran

Hebrew (עִבְרִית‎, Ivrit, IPA: [ivˈʁit] or [ʕivˈɾit]) is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel. In 2013, Modern Hebrew was spoken by over nine million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name "Hebrew" in the Tanakh itself. The Mishnah Megillah refers to the Hebrew language as Ashurit meaning Assyrian, which is a metonym derived from the name of the alphabet. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date to the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the Northwest Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family, and is the only Canaanite language still spoken and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language, and one of only two Northwest Semitic languages still spoken, the other being Aramaic, which is spoken primarily by Christian Assyrians and Syriac-Arameans, the Gnostic Mandeans as well as some Near Eastern Jews.

Hebrew ceased to be an everyday spoken language somewhere between 200 and 400 CE, declining since the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba revolt. Aramaic and, to a lesser extent, Greek were already in use as international languages, especially among elites and immigrants. Hebrew survived into the medieval period as the language of Jewish liturgy, rabbinic literature, intra-Jewish commerce and poetry. With the rise of national consciousness among Jews in the 19th century, it was revived as a spoken and literary language, becoming the main language of the Yishuv and subsequently of the State of Israel. According to Ethnologue, in 1998, Hebrew was the language of five million people worldwide. After Israel, the United States has the second largest Hebrew-speaking population, with about 220,000 fluent speakers, mostly from Israel. Read more...

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Linguistics: Computational linguisticsGrammarHistorical linguisticsMorphologyPhoneticsPhonologyPragmaticsReadingSemanticsSociolinguisticsSyntaxWriting

Languages: Language familiesPidgins and creolesSign languages

Linguists: By nationalityGrammariansHistorical linguistsMorphologistsPhoneticiansPhonologistsSociolinguistsSyntacticiansTranslators

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Stubs: Constructed languagesLanguagesLinguistsPidgins and creolesTypographyVocabulary and usageWriting systems

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The grammar of the Sanskrit language has a complex verbal system, rich nominal declension, and extensive use of compound nouns. It was studied and codified by Sanskrit grammarians from the later Vedic period (roughly 8th century BCE), culminating in the Pāṇinian grammar of the 6th century BCE. Read more...
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The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum
Credit: © Hans Hillewaert

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek.

Language News

1 September 2020 – Russian interference in the 2020 United States elections
Facebook says it has discovered a Russian influence campaign based in Saint Petersburg called Peace Data on the site which targeted left-wing voters in the United States and United Kingdom, by recruiting freelance journalists to write English-language articles concerning domestic politics, racial and political tensions, and criticism of President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. Twitter says it has suspended five accounts related to the Russian campaign. (Reuters)
3 August 2020 – Internet censorship in Thailand
Thailand's digital minister threatens action against Facebook for not complying with the government request to restrict content that is illegal in the country, including insults of King Vajiralongkorn. Facebook responded by disabling English-to-Thai automatic translations. (Reuters)
25 March 2020 – Libyan Civil War
Forces loyal to the GNA assault the Okba Ibn Nafa Air Base, west of Tripoli, while the Libyan National Army captures several towns near the Berber city of Zuwarah, including Zaltan, Jumayl and Ras Ajdir. (Reuters)
19 February 2020 –
The United Kingdom's Home Secretary Priti Patel announces a reform of the UK's immigration system. The changes includes the end of freedom of movement, a minimum requirement of migrants to speak English, a minimum salary of between £20,480 and £25,600, while priority will be given to skilled workers over non-skilled migrants. The changes are effective from January 1, 2021. (BBC)
9 February 2020 – 92nd Academy Awards
At this year's Oscars, South Korean film Parasite wins the most awards, including Best Picture and Best International Film. It becomes the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. (The Hollywood Reporter)
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Languages of the world
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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)


Linguistics (Outline, Portal, Book)
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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


Writing systems
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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

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