menyusuri lautan makna

April 18, 2007

arbitrariness of language

Filed under: ilmu — eka1 @ 10:07 am

1. The Arbitrariness of Language


Knowing a language means being able to speak and to be understood by other people who know that language. Language distinguishes us from other animals in what ways. It means knowing a language makes one a human. According to our definition that language is an arbitrary system of vocal symbols by means of which people of e certain community can cooperate an interact. In this case, knowing a language also means knowing what sounds are in that language and what sound are not.

Knowing the sounds and sounds patterns in one’s language constitutes just part of our linguistic knowledge. It means that knowing a language is knowing the certain sound or sound sequences signify or represent different concepts or meaning. When we do not know a language, the sounds spoken to us in this foreign tongue mean nothing. This happens because the relationship between speech sounds and the meanings represented is an arbitrary relationship (there is no relationship between the sounds and the meaning or in other words, we know that there is no logical and rational relationship between the two).


For example:    Ball (in English) and bola (Bahasa)          

For people who have already seen what a ball looks like, the icon of a ball does not have an arbitrary relation with its meaning ‘ball’. On the contrary, for people who have never seen what a ball looks like, the icon of a ball would have an arbitrary relation with its meaning ‘ball’. So, the basic principle of the arbitrariness of the sign in the example is there is no specific reason why a particular sign should be attached to a particular concept..

Linguists say that language is arbitrary in the sense that meaning emerges, not from anything logically inherent in words or their arrangement, but from the specific conventions and expectations shared by members of a given speech community, conventions and expectations that can and do change dramatically from time to time and place to place (Streeter, 2007:1).

Actually, every languages are arbitrary but it does not mean that the language is unpredictable, but it means that we cannot predict exactly which specific features that we can find in a language. There is impossible to predict exactly which sounds will occur. Each language has its own system that differentiates the sounds and the meaning.



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