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Good article Language has been listed as one of the Language and literature good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive Article milestones
Date Process Result
September 10, 2012 Peer review Reviewed
November 20, 2013 Articles for deletion Speedily kept
September 19, 2014 Good article nominee Listed
Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive This article was on the Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive for the week of November 14, 2007.
Current status: Good article

Peer Review[edit]


This peer review discussion has been closed.
I've listed this article for peer review becaus I've recently expanded it drastically, and would like some outside imput before deciding whether to nominate for GA. Given that the topic is so huge I am sure I've left out something important, but at this point I am blind to it myself. Also it would be good with a second pair of eyes to scout out any erroneous or dubious statements I may have introduced unwittingly.

Thanks, ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:26, 26 August 2012 (UTC)

Review by Peter Isotalo

First off, I think this is a great undertaking. You barely ever come across such a general article topic that is this well-written. In my view, this is prime FA material that seems appropriately complete in terms of contents. The concerns I have is mostly a matter of improving prose and straightening out a few unclear statements. So here we go:

  • I don't like the Babel image sitting on top of the article. It's a well-known language myth, but language myths don't really have much to do with linguistics. I think it should be moved down to "Language endangerement" where the Babel myth is actually mentioned. Otherwise, I'd look at it as unnecessary undue weight of a Biblical perspective through graphics.Green tick.png
  • Consider explaining "suprasegmental" at least once. An important term, but bound to seem obscure to non-linguists.Green tick.png it was already explained in both of the cases where it appeared.
  • I think it would be good to explain "formant" in just a few words. It's a fairly technical phonetic term.
  • Much of what comes after the first sentence of "Grammatical categories" is quite difficult to follow without thorough knowledge of linguistic terminology. Could it be lightened up somehow?
  • Concerning the Yupik example, it seems as if the number of translations doesn't quite match the apparent number of Yupik morphemes. Is ksaite by any chance "say-negation"?Green tick.png (it was just a dash instead of a period making it seem as if there was a morpheme to few, -uq is third.person.singular.indicative)
  • "For example in the Australian language Dyirbal a married man must use a special set of lexical items when speaking in the presence of his mother in-law." – "Lexical items" is a bit jargon-ish. Would "vocabulary" or maybe just "words" suffice?Green tick.png
  • "(corresponding to German fater - fiʃ, and Nordic faðerfisk)" – Why "ʃ"? What exactly is the spelling based on? Because clearly this is not modern German, or it would be Vater and Fisch. And the "Nordic" words seems more like Old Norse judging by the "ð". Clarification would be good.Green tick.png
  • "gradual petrification of idioms" – Is it possible to find a slightly less obscure word for "petrification"?
  • In "Language contact", the use of "adstratum", "substratrum" and "superstratum" comes without much explanation. Could more common terms be used, or could they perhaps be explained somehow?Green tick.png
  • Why are "Chinese languages" in the Ethnologue table counted the same way as languages that are generally considered mutually intelligible? As far as I know, Wu, Hakka and Yue are about as similar to Chinese as German is to English. Are there no figures for just Mandarin Chinese (the dialects, that is, not the standard language)?Green tick.png
  • The last two sections seem somewhat weaker prose-wise than the rest of the article. I think they could use a working-over. Lightening up repetitions and getting the sentence to flow a bit better would be a nice improvement.
  • The article touches upon relevant examples of how language matters to humans. Is it possible, though, to somehow stress the importance that language has for human culture(s)? For example, something really quick about how nationalism and language has gone hand in hand in the modern period, and how ethnicity is often extremely tightly bound to language.
  • There are a few paragraphs without notes at the end. I'm personally not that bothered by this since much of the information is very general in nature and not particularly contentious. But it might be good to cover your bases anyhew. After all, there are plenty of sticklers for referencing out there... Also, some of the longer paragraphs with just one note could be looked over. Unless it amounts to pure reference repetition, an additional note might sooth the nerves of at least some of the most ardent note-hunters out there.

Peter Isotalo 17:16, 9 September 2012 (UTC)

Btw, feel free to cross out or put a check mark next to any concern you feel you have remedied.
Peter Isotalo 11:57, 10 September 2012 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Philosophy of Language[edit]

Can somebody write an in depth piece on the Philosophy of Language including Philosophers, such as Wittgenstein, who dealt with it? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:192:101:D470:1951:3A43:CF50:6979 (talk) 05:17, 19 July 2016 (UTC)

See Philosophy of language. Cnilep (talk) 06:42, 19 July 2016 (UTC)

Image captions[edit]

User:Backthrow changed the caption of the image of girls speaking ASL, adding description of the language. User:Seba5tien and then I both un-did the two sets of edits. Backthrow's edit summaries suggest that the longer caption contributes "consistency of elaboration". Consistency is probably desirable. MOS:IMAGES also suggests that captions should be succinct and normally not complete sentences, among other recommendations. With that in mind, we might want to make all the captions succinct enough to describe the images without excessive elaboration.

Do other editors have suggestions or preferences regarding the captions of these or other images on the page? Cnilep (talk) 04:33, 1 August 2016 (UTC)

I think that the existing captions are appropriate as the images they describe present the major forms and implications of language, and the captions describe the significance that they hold to the history of language and the article itself. Backthrow (talk) 19:23, 2 August 2016 (UTC)


Besides FOXP2, the are now more genes implicated in genetic Language disorders. For example, SETBP1, TM4SF20 and FMR1, CNTNAP2 AND others — Preceding unsigned comment added by Gcastellanos (talkcontribs) 15:49, 27 November 2016 (UTC)

If you could link to some recent review articles on the topic that would be great and make it easier to integrate the information.--Maunus (talkcontribs) 16:31, 27 November 2016‎ (UTC)
Thank you. Recent reviews include: [1] and [2].Gcastellanos (talk) 20:37, 27 November 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Barnett, C. P.; van Bon, B. W. M. (2015-11-01). "Monogenic and chromosomal causes of isolated speech and language impairment". Journal of Medical Genetics. 52 (11): 719–729. doi:10.1136/jmedgenet-2015-103161. ISSN 1468-6244. PMID 26139234. 
  2. ^ Graham, Sarah A.; Fisher, Simon E. (2015-01-01). "Understanding Language from a Genomic Perspective". Annual Review of Genetics. 49: 131–160. doi:10.1146/annurev-genet-120213-092236. ISSN 1545-2948. PMID 26442845. 

Language or communication?? There's a huge difference[edit]

The whole article has mistaken "language" with "communication". Language is NOT communication. In fact, Chomsky asserts that communication could be a tertiery function of human language. (And of course many, many more linguists for that matter). How can the article then boldly claim that language is simply communication? That's just inconsistant with virtually all linguistics books I have read Linguist91 (talk) 20:52, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

Chomsky does not decide what language is and isnt. This article doesnt provide one single definition of the topic because there are many. The Chomskyan definition is described as are the others. And this is how it should be. The article never claims that language is simply communication, I dont know where you have this idea from.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 13:50, 4 February 2017 (UTC)

First sentence in lede section[edit]

Recently, I changed the first sentence from

Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so, and a language is any specific example of such a system.


Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, especially among humans.

Afterwards, Maunus changed it back [1], suggesting that my change was contrary to the source-code message to leave "human" in the sentence: "Do not remove the qualifier "human" without first reading the article or consulting the discussions about this issue.". Of course, I left "human" in the sentence, but Maunus also suggests that we need consensus for the change I made. Note that I was seeking some shorting of what seems like an awkward sentence. I am here enquiring about this issue with the community of Wikipedia editors. Thank you. BangkokBeauty (talk) 18:36, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

Your suggested change is unacceptable because it removes half the definition - specifically the necessary distinction that "a language" is used about specific systems - i.e. the word has two closely related by distinct meanings both of which are covered in the article. If you want to suggest a "less awkward" phrasing, then it will still need to convey the same information and establish the same relevant distinctions - i.e. the distinciton between the language faculty and individual language systems (since linguists may study one without studying the other, and many linguists study both).·maunus · snunɐɯ· 18:41, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
Okay, let us see what others say too. Thank you and have a good day. BangkokBeauty (talk) 18:50, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
Let's keep the other half of the definition in the introduction. Just plain Bill (talk) 19:11, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

Hi Bill, perhaps something like this:

Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, especially among humans; a language is any specific example of such a system.

Thank you, BangkokBeauty (talk) 19:13, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

That seems like it would work, as long as the appropriate bold text is kept:
Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, especially among humans; a language is any specific example of such a system.
Is OK? Just plain Bill (talk) 19:20, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
Okay, thank you and have a nice day. BangkokBeauty (talk) 20:49, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
No, because it is not especially among humans, but specifically among humans. Also "a language" is not merely "an example" of a language system, it is one. It seems to me that either of these proposal makes the definition less clear and more waffly. I think we need to be conservative in changing the definition because eveyr other week someone comes by with an example they think is clearer or better or more accurate etc, but the pre-existing version had been the result of repeated discussion among multiple editors. I think @Just plain Bill: should revert to the longstanding definition and try to get wider input before changing (for example through an RfC).·maunus · snunɐɯ· 14:47, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Done. If someone thinks this is worth an RfC, then they are free to start one. Just plain Bill (talk) 16:33, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

"Language" and "a language" refer to two entirely different things, a difference which should underlie the structure of this article.[edit]

A human being can invent "a language", but no-one could have invented "Language".

It's my opinion, one which I could not find reproduced anywhere, so cannot be included in the article: language is the thirteenth organ system of the human body. Language has come about due to major evolutionary changes in the brain, the oral cavity and the larynx, producing something entirely unique to human beings. Thus it seems to fit the definition of an organ system.

It's not hard to see how such changes could have arisen gradually, as early members of the genus Homo developed increasingly effective methods of communication and so became better adapted to deal with the problem of survival.

Dictionaries differ on the definition of linguistics: sometimes it is the study of language, sometimes the study of languages. The true definition must be the latter, since linguistics generally shows little interest in human physiology. The study of Language should be a branch of physiology, and that is certainly what linguistics is not.

In fact, most linguists show very little interest even in phonetics, which is the most obvious area where language and physiology intersect. Linguistics sometimes draws certain conclusions, or at least hypotheses, about the nature of language in general, but these are based on the study of languages.

All human communities have Language, but the bewildering variety of languages has confused us all. This seems to be another case of the Two Cultures, as defined by British philosopher CP Snow: that people go into the study of science or of the humanities, and are almost incapable of discussing any topic together.

I believe that this article needs to be restructured, or at least needs a new introduction. Luo Shanlian (talk) 04:45, 7 May 2017 (UTC)

"Unique status of human language"[edit]

I made some edits to this section which is full of bold claims from either outdated or poorly cited sources (e.g. whole books without page numbers) I added in some articles which challenge the supposed 'uniqueness' of human language, but ideally I think this article should be stripped down much further. There's not much left of the supposed uniqueness of human language except for the fact that it can be written down. The statement on human language being the only language which is modality independent is nonsense, suggesting that animals don't use non-verbal gestures or tactility for communication.

The article heading should be changed to "Differences and similarities between human and non-human languages" or something to that effect. It would be a better launching point for a more thorough and up-to-date article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Alyx1985 (talkcontribs) 23:52, 17 August 2017 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 13 January 2018[edit]

In the section Social contexts of use and transmission, please change "These types of acts are called speech acts, although they can of course also be carried out through writing or hand signing." to "These types of acts are called speech acts, although they can also be carried out through writing or hand signing." per Manual of Style#Instructional and presumptuous language. 2A01:388:289:150:0:0:1:137 (talk) 20:28, 13 January 2018 (UTC)

Sure.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 21:19, 13 January 2018 (UTC)