set of objects, ideas, or phenomena. Speaking the same language as someone else, then, meanssharing a certain number of conventions.On the other hand, the meaning of a sentence is not necessarily the addition of the meaning of eachword that forms it. Moreover the same word can have more than one meaning, that is, it can be polysemic. For example, the word ‘leaf’ in English means either ‘the leaf of a tree/plant or the page in a book. The context in which the sentence has been produced is necessary to any ambiguitywhich would arise in avoiding such cases. Language seen as a mental faculty allowing oralcommunication is innate while the code allowing its realization is learned.JUST A MYTH, A LANGUAGE MYTH
The land that time forgot
Somewhere, runs the story, in the Ozarks, or in the Appalachians, or in Derbyshire in England,there’s a village where the locals still speak perfect Elizabethan English, untouched by the vastchanges which have transformed English everywhere else. No, there isn’t: this is pure fantasy.There is no such thing as a living language which doesn’t change. This myth crops up because people occasionally notice that the local English in some corner of the world preserves one or twoold forms which have disappeared elsewhere. (For example, Appalachian English preserves the
form, as in “I was a’
’ at some squirrels”; this was once universal in English but has been lost everywhere else.) But every variety of English preserves a few forms lost in other varieties, and every variety also exhibits a few innovations not found elsewhere. (For example,Appalachian English has undergone a change in its vowels such that Appalachian
sounds tothe rest of us rather like
.)Similar myths have been maintained by speakers of other languages. Until the eighteenth century,even some linguists believed that the ancestral language of all humankind was still spoken, in its pristine state, in some favoured corner of the world; much ink was spilt over deciding which corner this might be. (For example, one such linguist argued for the Netherlands, and claimed that Dutchwas the uncorrupted ancestral tongue of all humans. He was Dutch, of course.) But all languagesthat are spoken change, and no language anywhere is closer than any other to the remote origins of human speech.There’s a moral here: don’t believe everything you read. Many journalists, authors of popular books, and especially website writers are ignorant of the facts.
Further reading: Crystal 1997; Pullum 1991.