At the risk of oversimplification let us ask a fundamental question: What is language "Language is a complicated business. In everyday talk, we use the word ‘language’ in many different ways. It isn’t clear how ‘language’ should be defined or what the person on the street thinks it actually is!" (Downes, 1998, p.1).
We tend to define language differently in different situations. We talk of the incoherent utterances of an infant, as a child’s language. When we refer to the melodious intonations of some languages we refer to language in terms of aesthetics. When we talk of language in standardized correctness, we talk of language as grammar. We also talk of language as a skill, a
We also tend to define language in terms of the use to which we put it. We talk of legal language. The language used by the legal profession tends to be quite different from our everyday language. We also talk of medical parlance. That is the language used by the medical fraternity. This is again different from the language we use in everyday life. Then you have computer language which is quite distinct from any of the other languages. In a way each specialized profession it seems has its own characteristic language.
Chomsky defines language as "a set of very specific universal principles which are intrinsic properties of the human mind and part of our species’ genetic endowment" (Chomsky. 1986: 15 ff. as cited in Downes, 1998, p.17). While that may indeed be the best definition of language, the definition of language needs to be examined from a sociolinguistic perspective.
What is Sociolinguistics
"The most obvious definition of sociolinguistics is that it is the study of language in society" (Schmitt, 2002, p. 150). Schmitt goes on to say that most sociolinguistic studies are basically descriptive, but focus on achieving "scientific objectivity", even when these studies involve intricate influences that society has on language. Sociolinguistic studies also take into consideration "social aspects of language" in a pragmatic way, explaining social influences as accurately as possible. (Schmitt, 2002, p.150)
Language Variety 3
A Sociolinguistic Definition of Language
Sociolinguistics tends to define language as what the members of a specific society speak. However they also take into consideration the fact that a society may have more than one language or many dialects of the same language, and therefore view language with the conviction that it is not something that is independent of society. (Wardhaugh, 2002, p. ix)
Purpose of Language
"The notion of discourse is the conceptual link between language and society, looking upwards on the one hand to social structures and cultural meanings and downwards to the nitty-gritty of words and grammar – lexicogrammar – on the other" (Bartlett, n.d, p.113 ). (Bartlett, n.d, p.113) argues that language is a "socially motivated construct" because of what it helps to do. Any language basically serves two purposes: it facilitates interaction and serves as a means of communication.
The Common Components of All Languages
All languages have three common