Language and lexicon. Key features of a language. Four levels of language structure and processing. Role of language processing in cognitive psychology. Real meaning of language. The identifiable words that are used in verbal communication are.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
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By the term language, people typically think of various languages like English, French or Spanish. Often people do not think of the real meaning of language. Many linguists as well as authors have over time said that studying a language is not easy. Language is essential for the communication as well as construction of meaning. Hence, to cognitive scientists, as well as linguists, language remains to be commonly taken as the mind's window.

Language and lexicon

communication language lexicon cognitive

According to Willingham (2007), the basic purpose of any language is to provide a means of communication between species. Language is the way humans are able to verbally express their desires, feelings, needs, questions, complaints, and so on. Language has gained recognition as a transmission of an individual's feelings as well as thoughts through a combination of signals. Usually people are able to communicate with each other in various languages, while some are not. People who are deaf and dumb depend on sign language while people who are blind rely on other means of communication.

The identifiable words that are used in verbal communication are automatically stored in the mental dictionary known as lexicon. When people communicate, the words heard are recognized in a part of the memory called lexicon. It stores all the elements related to word structure like; spelling, pronunciation, sound and other related parts of speech. The function of recognizing the words and how they are spelled is all performed by lexicon, but the meaning of words is not stored in the lexicon (Willingham, 2007).

Key features of a language

According to Boeckx (2009), over time linguists have come up with several distinct features of language which in one way or the other can be taken to be occurring in a variety of languages. Below are the common features of a language.

The foremost feature of a language is displacement. This feature denotes the ability to use language to talk of not only the current happening or the current situation but also a wide range of other happenings in the past, present as well as future. All the happenings can be real, imagined or otherwise. For example, while engaged in a game of chess, one can talk about not only the game but other things related or unrelated to the game. OR for instance, a woman while cooking can talk to the other person on entirely different subject.

Another feature called Arbitrariness, according to this feature of language; there is nothing that connects a sound or word with its actual meaning or in a real world situation. What this essentially means is that by just looking at a word, one cannot come up with its meaning. For example, there is nothing to tell an individual that the word `handball' in English has the same meaning as `handyspiele' in German. Hence for one to derive meaning from words that can be considered to be arbitrary, knowledge of the language in question is essential. However, there exist some exceptions to this feature as according to Jarvis et al. (2008), there are some exceptions to the same as there are some symbols that are iconic and whose meaning can be understood without the prerequisite knowledge of the language in question.

The third key feature of language is `cultural transmission'. According to this feature of language, the fact that we are all brought forth into this world with the same vocal tracts does not dictate which language we are going to speak. What this essentially means is that if a child is born in America and taken to china as a toddler, he or she will speak Chinese, but it will still sound American.

The fourth feature of language is Learnability. It means, in spite of being born and acquiring the mother tongue, we can substantially learn any other language. A person can learn a wide variety of languages and speak very fluently. Basically, unlike animals, human beings have no genetic limitation as to which language they can learn and speak.

Four levels of language structure and processing

The language structure, as well as processing, can be divided in to four levels namely syntax, meaning, sound and lastly pragmatics. According to Boeckx (2009), below is the description of the four levels.

Syntax is primarily concerned with bringing out the meaning of the structure of sentences that are considered acceptable grammatically. According to linguists, native speakers of a given language though unaware of it have well defined knowledge as well as competence of the structure as well as processing of a given language.

With regard to meaning, a given language must pass on the proper meaning. An entire sentence must be constructed in a way that passes on the intended meaning. That is to say that the structure of the sentence must be relevant to the demonstrate meaning. The words in the sentence must in one way or the other interrelated at the sentence level.

When it comes to sound, there are two areas to look into i.e. production and perception. In this regard, sounds should be combined in sequences that are not only seen to be permissible but also are indeed permissible. Phonological rules come in handy in the spoken output segmentation.

Pragmatics is concerned with the various rules of social language. Pragmatic rules help in or enhance giving of organized stories, procession of a wide variety of language use as well as the utterances of things which can be taken to be related to one way or the other.

Role of language processing in cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology investigates the human cognition. Cognition can be taken to be a grouping of all the mental abilities of an individual. This may include understanding, reasoning, thinking, remembering, learning as well as perceiving. Boeckx (2009) argues that cognitive psychology is basically concerned with the way we acquire as well as utilize information and/or knowledge.

Language processing is the basis on which cognitive psychology is anchored. This is because, without the ability of an individual to process language, he or she cannot utilize the information gained if it will be acquired at all. It has a biasing effect on some cognitive elements, such as identifying the color's name and memory representations. Psychologists say that area of study where names of the colors are identified, it has been found that language plays a pivotal role in determining the types of color mismatches that people of different languages will make. With the help, of language, the ambiguity in identifying the different color shades is avoided. Sometimes colors are very similar to each other, which may confuse a person in recognizing, but due to their names one can easily differentiate them. It is now clear that language works as a filter, categorizes our perceptions and thoughts (Fritz & Fritz, 1985).

If the language focuses on the material by which the thing is made of over the shape of that thing, then people might define a tree that it is made of wood instead of saying that it is tall (Sevinc & Turner, 1976).


When the language is divided in to four levels, each level is deeply analyzed. After analyzing, it is now obvious that language is very complex to understand. Language is considered to be the heart of communication. It is important to note that while cognition can be said to be concerned mainly with the generation of meaning, language is concerned mainly with the determination of the generated meaning. Hence both language and cognition can be said to be related in more than one way.


Boeckx, C. (2009) “Language in Cognition: Uncovering Mental Structures and the Rules behind Them”, John Wiley and Sons

Fritz, J. & Fritz, C. (1985) “Linguistic structure and economic method”, Journal of Economic Issues, 19(1), Pp.85-101

Jarvis, S. & Pavlenco, A. (2008) “Cross-linguistic influence in language and cognition”, Routledge

Sevinc, M. & Turner, C. (1976) “Language and the latent structure of cognitive development” International Journal of Psychology, 11(4), Pp. 231

Willingham, D. (2007) “Cognition: The thinking animal”, New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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