Linguistically language refers to a conventional system of arbitrary vocal symbols used by human beings for communication.

So here the word language is generic i.e. so general observing the general universal characteristics of language

But a language refers to a specific language used by certain people e.g. Pare, Kurya, English etc.


The question of when and how language emerged has been debatable but at least there are some  theories given by linguists to suggest the origin of language.

Among the theories are:

The Bow- Wow Theory

This suggests that language began by people imitation of sounds of animals and nature around

This led to emergence of onomatopoeic words like moo, mew, roar etc. as evidence.

  • The weakness here is that not all words are onomatopoeia (i.e. result from sound imitation)

The Pooh Pooh Theory

This argues that language developed from cries of pain, rages etc. as expression of strong feelings

  • This theory does not explain how the complex organization of language developed.

The Yo-he-ho Theory

This explains that the language arose as outcome of noises which people made while doing their physical labour.

For instance when lifting a big log they produced sounds calling for the effort and gradually true words like up, let’s go, lift, emerged.

What is convincing here is that language resulted from the need to organize society and communication. So that might have been the early forms (the noises).

The Ding Dong Theory

This argues that early man’s mental makeup was such that a sound representation was registered whenever mental process encountered any experience.

So what was registered in the minds of the early people was coded into sounds.

This theory fails to explain how the complex organised language developed.

The Gestural Theory (The Ta-ta Theory)

This suggests gesture to be the origin of language. That in the beginning man used gestures (eg hands) to communicate but later on when man started to use tools. His hands were unfree for  communication and so speech unconsciously replaced those gestures.


Knowing a language means that one posses linguistic knowledge of it.

This includes:

  • Knowing its sound system (phonology)

One should able to speak correctly and also understand the sounds produced  by other members using that language.

  • Knowing its vocabulary (lexicons)

People speak in sequence of sounds in acceptable combinations that are meaningful. So one has to know the words used in a language and their meanings.

  • Knowing how to organize words to form sentences

A sentence is not formed by putting words anyhow. The words are organised in rules that are acceptable and one should know them.

  1. You are an excellent teacher.
  2. An teacher you excellent are.
  • Here the second sentence is incorrect.
  • Knowing language therefore involves knowing its sounds (phonemes), the rules of forming words and their meanings and the rules of forming sentences.
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