Any language starts its existence when a child learns to speak it. The abilities of children are really great; they can remember new words and their meanings, they find the necessary ways to use proper words and structures, and they comprehend all the necessary information properly.
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Language has been already studied for plenty of years. Lots of different perspectives were chosen and analyzed thoroughly: language was considered as a social phenomenon, language was studied as an abstract object, language was analyzed as behavior, and, finally, language was introduced as a mental organ.
It was not very easy to define language and present one explanation only, because such points as features and levels of language, its connection to lexicon, and it processing play a considerable role and have to be analyzed thoroughly. The role of language and its processing in cognitive psychology is one of the most burning problems, which should be analyzed in this work.
Definition of Language and Lexicon
Linguistics aims at investigating language from any of the above-mentioned perspectives, discovering all the mechanisms of language, and giving a clear definition to it. Without any doubts, language is considered to be the major means of sharing information.
Communication is one of the most known purposes any language should perform. (Medina, 2005) Without language, communication is impossible; without communication, information cannot be perceived by people; without information people cannot learn and develop; and development is the sense of human’s life.
“Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols. These symbols are, in first instance, auditory and they are pronounced by the so-called ‘organs of speech’” (Sapir, 2004)
The lexicon is a kind of bridge that unites any language and knowledge, presented by means of the language. In any language, the lexicon should provide the necessary links, which help to transmit the message from one person to another. Because of such functions, it can be said that the lexicon is both dependent and independent variable of the language.
The demands, inherent to the lexicon, usually vary because of the type of application. With the help of the lexicon, it is possible to learn more about the meanings of words in languages, their relations and use, and define the categories of these words and meaningful phrases.
The Key Features of Language
Charles Hockett was one of the most known linguists, who made an attempt to introduce the features of language and explain each of them for the first time. With the help of these features, language got one more opportunity to be isolated from any other communication system. (Hauser, 1997) There are more than 10 features of language, and some of them, the key ones, will be discussed below.
Vocal-auditory channel is the feature that proves that language is a vocal type of communication, where information is transmitted by means of telling and hearing it. Displacement is another feature that refers to human ability to speak about the things from different times: past, present, or future. Arbitrariness underlines the ability not to connect the form of a signal and the thing, a speaker refers to.
There is one more feature of language that provides a speaker with a chance to create novels, tales, and other stories by means of uniting some discrete elements within one new sentence. This very feature is called productivity, it is also known as creativity or open-endedness. Semanticity underlines the possibility to unite specific signals with specific meanings. All these and some other features define the functions of language and help people choose the proper ways of its use.
Levels of Language Structure and Processing
There are four major levels of language structure and processing: phonemic, lexemic, proposemic, and dictemic. The very first level is the level of phonemes, the smallest distinctive units of sound, which have no sense. However, even if the phonemes do not have meaning, they perform one important function – distinguishing one. The lexemic level is all about words and their role in language.
A word is the smallest language free form that may consist of one morpheme (a root and some affixes). With the help of words, people get a chance to communicate and express their feelings and emotions. However, proper communication is still impossible on this level. This is why the following level, the proposemic one that deals with sentences, turns out to be more appropriate.
This level of language structure and processing studies sentences, which may express predication. In other words, on this level, people learn how to relate the denoted event to reality. The last level is called dictemic and deals with texts. A combination of sentences, the texts, is the way of how people communicate between each other and transmit all the necessary information in order to grow, develop, and teach the other to develop as well.
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Each of the above-mentioned levels plays a considerable role in any language and defines communication as reasonable activity between people.
The Role of Language Processing in Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology is one of the branches of psychology, which study different internal mental processes like problem solving, memory, and, of course, language. Due to such a definition, the role of language processing in cognitive psychology is rather evident. (Semino & Culpeper, 2002) The relations between cognition and language were rather captivating topics for evaluation. Lots of scholars want to clear up how exactly language may influence cognitive psychology and what are the reasons.
One of the primary purposes of cognitive psychology is to provide an insight into the person’s mind and intelligence. Without language, it is not that easy to comprehend the actions of a person, his/her intentions, and aims. People should be able to share their problems, tell about the grounds of these problems, and gather enough information to analyze everything. Language is the major device that helps to share the information, study it, and present proper conclusions in order to improve the situation.
Language is one of the powerful abilities any person has. Without language, it turns out to be very difficult to find out and comprehend information. In cognitive psychology, the role of language is quite significant as it helps to grasp the ideas and analyze them. To be able to support any conversation, it is necessary to know some facts about levels of language processing and language features.
This information gives a clear picture of how and why the conversation should happen this very way. People should comprehend what they are talking about and be ready to any consequences, this is why such themes as language and cognition will never be extra or properly studied.
Hauser, M. D. (1997). The Evolution of Communication. MIT Press.
Medina, J. (2005). Language. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Sapir, E. (2004). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. Courier Dover Publications.
Semino, E. & Culpeper, J. (2002). Cognitive Stylistics: Language and Cognition in Text Analysis. John Benjamins Publishing Company.