Language and Communication
1. Nature and Development of Language
2. Structure of Language
3. Language and Culture
4. Nonverbal Communication
Nature and Development of Language
•Nature of Language-a symbolic system of
sounds that when put together a certain way
convey meaning.
•Some words have totally arbitrary meaning.
–*i.e. Cow-doesn't have anything to do with fourfooted animal that gives milk.
Diversity of Language
•Linguists estimate that approximately 6,000
discrete languages exist.
– Indo-European 150 languages.
–Amerind over 600 languages
CommunicationHuman vs. Non-human
•Open and Closed Systems
–Open system-humans can put different sounds
together to make new meanings. Infinite amount
of messages.
–Closed system-when an animal cannot combine
elements of two or more calls in order to develop
a new call.
–human characteristic to convey information
about a thing or event that is not immediately
Teaching non-human primates sign
• Chimpanzees
• Gorillas
• Also, bonobos (pygmy chimps) computer
communication skills.
Development of Language
•Early Hypotheses– Egyptian pharaoh reared two infants without letting them hear
any voices, figured they would speak original language.
–King James IV of Scotland tried the same thing and said thy
spoke hebrew-go along with biblical scholars.
–Swedish philospher of 17th century believed otherwise. In the
Garden of Eden-God spoke Swedish, Adam and Eve spke
Danish, and the serpent spoke French.
Development of Language
•Scientific hypotheses–Human language requires that the larynx be
farther down in the throat than other primates.
–Archaeologically this is hard to preserve, muscle
and cartilidge.
–Broca's area of the brain-sets speech aparatus in
Evolution of speech
•Very gradual, but probably came with H.
Erectus (ca. 1mya) for several reasons.
–position of larynx assoc with flexion at base of
skull, skull with flat base assoc with high larynx
as in primates.
•Australopithecus-flat base, H. habilis not
enough evidence, H. erectus some flexion,
Archaic H. sapiens full flexion.
Structure of Language
•Building blocks of language-phonology and
•Phonology-sounds of a language, individual sounds
are called phonemes.
•Grammar-rules unique to each language. Governed
by two aspects: Morphology and Syntax.
–Morphology-the combination of phonemes to form
meaningful units. These units are morphemes-the
smallest units of speech that convey meaning.
–Syntax-the principles guiding how these words are
arranged into phrases and sentences.
Language and Culture
•Culture influences language-particularly with
vocabularly, any language will emphasize important
•Language influences culture-or even determines a
culture, actually shapes our thoughts and perceptions.
–Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
–The study of how people speak to one another in any given
society. The relationship between language and social
Nonverbal Communication
•Hand Gestures-we use them everyday, gesturing
while we're talking or pointing. Some are crosscultural, others are not- such as OK symbol.
•Eye Contact-varies from culture to culture.
U.S./Japan/Arabic groups
•Touching-Some cultures are high-touch, while
others are low-touch. High-touch=E. Europeans,
Jews, and Arabs. Low-touch=N. Europeans such as
Germans and Scandinavians.
American Gestures
– Americans are a not touch (touch/not touch)oriented.
– In normal social situations, Americans generally stand
about 30 inches apart from one another, which is also
considered their personal "comfort zone."
– At sporting events or the theater, Americans usually
slide into a crowded aisle while facing forward
(forward/the people).
Handshake - Although generally adopted around the world. Southeast Asians press
together; Japanese bow; Middle Easterners and many Asians favor a gently grip.
DIRECT EYE CONTACT - Asians, Puerto Ricans, West Indians, African American,
Native Americans considered it to be rude, or disrespectful, or intimidating, or may
indicate sexual overtones.
WAVING - "No" to most Europeans. Europeans raise the arm and "Bob" the hand up
and down at the wrist."
BECKONING - Europeans and Asians raise the arm, palm facing down, and make a
scratching motion with fingers. In Australia and in Indonesia, curling the index finger is
used for beckoning animals.
"V" FOR VICTORY--In England, palm facing inward toward the face is an obscene
THE O.K GESTURE--In France it means zero. In Japan it means money or coins. In
Brazil, Germany, and the former USSR., it is obscene gesture.
THUMBS UP --Also used for hitch-hiking in American. In Nigeria a rude gesture. In
Australia, if pumped up and down is an obscene gesture. In Germany and Japan, the
signal for "one."
WHISTLING--Throughout Europe, whistling at public events is a signal of disapproval,
even derision.
NODDING AND SHAKING HEAD--Opposite meaning in Bulgaria, parts of Greece,
Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran, and Bengal.

Language and Communication