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The study of language

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Introduction

Language has such a vital role in our being that it is impossible to imagine a world without it. The study of language must take into account the intricate physical, psychological and social aspects if it is to succeed in offering even the most basic explanation of such a complex human achievement. Language is arguable the one feature that sets the human being apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. This essay will attempt to explain how an interdisciplinary approach has assisted in the understanding of human language. It will discuss the contribution of both psychology and sociology whilst debating the value of applying more than one branch of knowledge. The anatomy and physiology of speech will be discussed in terms of the physical attributes required for language to take place and the neurolinguistic processes. The theories, which have developed as a result of language research, will be appraised in respect of their value and ethical practices. Language has a cultural, social and personal role to play; it expresses a person's individuality and social identity and as such requires both psychological and sociological explanations. Hayes (2000) argues that language, in many ways, is the most important of all our human abilities. ...read more.

Middle

Hayes (1991) Power is often demonstrated through language and language is often used to serve the interests of the dominant social group. Political correctness in the 1980's brought with it language reform and terms such as 'disabled' replaced offensive descriptions such as handicapped, lame, spastic, and cripple. Language can affect our perception and so by using a negative term such as handicapped it can make a person, quite unfairly, appear incapable. Thomas and Wareing (1999) question the success of language reform arguing that it can be seen as 'a lot of fuss about nothing' and does nothing change more deep rooted prejudice. Experimental studies have shown that language can influence the cognitive processes such as memory, perception and problem solving. The implication is that the form of language we adopt can direct our thinking in certain ways, thus failing to notice possible alternatives. Hayes (1991) suggests that this is the case with racist and sexist language where the range of vocabulary in a language influences how we perceive reality. An example of which might be, the very few positive words in English for a strong woman, compared to the many found to describe men. ...read more.

Conclusion

She had received no linguistic stimulation between the age of two and puberty, so evidence of her language learning ability would bear directly on the Lenneberg hypothesis. Crystal (1987) concluded that analysis of the way Genie developed her linguistic skills seemed to support Lenneberg although she was able to acquire some vocabulary. The ethical issues involved in the study of such a vulnerable case as Genie were not given sufficient consideration. Rymer (1994) comments on how her highly publicised discovery led to a kind of feeding frenzy for researchers interested not only in language development but her social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. It is hard to see how any informed consent and right to withdraw could have been achieved, let alone any benefit to her in such a fragile state. Rymer (1994) explains how she offered so many avenues for study that her well being was in danger of being overlooked. Conclusion To study language in isolation, in other words simply from a psychological perspective excluding social or societal aspects would mean that vital influences may be missed and judgements would be incomplete. In the study of language many psychological aspects are affected by sociology and vice versa, as a result the interdisciplinary approach serves to draw as full a picture as possible. ...read more.

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