Natural language

Natural language

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Natural language'
Start a new discussion about 'Natural language'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
In the philosophy of language
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. As a topic, the philosophy of language for analytic philosophers is concerned with four central problems: the nature of meaning, language use, language cognition, and the relationship between language...

, a natural language (or ordinary language) is any language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 which arises in an unpremeditated fashion as the result of the innate facility for language possessed by the human intellect. A natural language is typically used for communication, and may be spoken, signed
Sign language
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's...

, or written
Writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

. Natural language is distinguished from constructed language
Constructed language
A planned or constructed language—known colloquially as a conlang—is a language whose phonology, grammar, and/or vocabulary has been consciously devised by an individual or group, instead of having evolved naturally...

s and formal language
Formal language
A formal language is a set of words—that is, finite strings of letters, symbols, or tokens that are defined in the language. The set from which these letters are taken is the alphabet over which the language is defined. A formal language is often defined by means of a formal grammar...

s such as computer-programming languages
Programming language
A programming language is an artificial language designed to communicate instructions to a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that control the behavior of a machine and/or to express algorithms precisely....

 or the "languages" used in the study of formal logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

, especially mathematical logic
Mathematical logic
Mathematical logic is a subfield of mathematics with close connections to foundations of mathematics, theoretical computer science and philosophical logic. The field includes both the mathematical study of logic and the applications of formal logic to other areas of mathematics...

.

Defining natural language


Though the exact definition varies between scholars, natural language can broadly be defined in contrast on the one hand to artificial or constructed languages, such as computer programming languages like Python
Python (programming language)
Python is a general-purpose, high-level programming language whose design philosophy emphasizes code readability. Python claims to "[combine] remarkable power with very clear syntax", and its standard library is large and comprehensive...

 and international auxiliary language
International auxiliary language
An international auxiliary language or interlanguage is a language meant for communication between people from different nations who do not share a common native language...

s like Esperanto
Esperanto
is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

, and on the other hand to other communication systems in nature, such as the waggle dance
Waggle dance
Waggle dance is a term used in beekeeping and ethology for a particular figure-eight dance of the honey bee. By performing this dance, successful foragers can share with their hive mates information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water...

 of bees. Although there are a variety of natural languages, any cognitively normal
Neurotypical
Neurotypical is a term that was coined in the autistic community as a label for people who are not on the autism spectrum: specifically, neurotypical people have neurological development and states that are consistent with what most people would perceive as normal, particularly with respect to...

 human infant is able to learn any natural language. By comparing the different natural languages, scholars hope to learn something about the nature of human intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

 and the innate biases and constraints that shape natural language, which are sometimes called universal grammar
Universal grammar
Universal grammar is a theory in linguistics that suggests that there are properties that all possible natural human languages have.Usually credited to Noam Chomsky, the theory suggests that some rules of grammar are hard-wired into the brain, and manifest themselves without being taught...

.

Linguists have an incomplete understanding of all aspects of the rules underlying natural languages, and these rules are therefore objects of study. The understanding of natural languages reveals much about not only how language works (in terms of syntax
Syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

, semantics
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

, phonetics
Phonetics
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

, phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, etc.), but also about how the human mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 and the human brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

 process language. In linguistic terms, natural language only applies to a language that has developed naturally, and the study of natural language primarily involves native (first language) speakers.

While grammarians, writers of dictionaries, and language policy-makers all have a certain influence on the evolution of language, their ability to influence what people think they ought to say is distinct from what people actually say. The term natural language refers to actual linguistic behavior, and is aligned with descriptive linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
In the study of language, description, or descriptive linguistics, is the work of objectively analyzing and describing how language is spoken by a group of people in a speech community...

 rather than linguistic prescription
Linguistic prescription
In linguistics, prescription denotes normative practices on such aspects of language use as spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and syntax. It includes judgments on what usages are socially proper and politically correct...

. Thus non-standard language varieties (such as African American Vernacular English
African American Vernacular English
African American Vernacular English —also called African American English; less precisely Black English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular , or Black Vernacular English —is an African American variety of American English...

) are considered to be natural while standard language varieties (such as Standard American English) which are more prescribed can be considered to be at least somewhat artificial or constructed.

Native language learning



The learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

 of one's own native language, typically that of one's parent
Parent
A parent is a caretaker of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is of a child . Children can have one or more parents, but they must have two biological parents. Biological parents consist of the male who sired the child and the female who gave birth to the child...

s, normally occurs spontaneously in early human childhood
Childhood
Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence. In developmental psychology, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood , early childhood , middle childhood , and adolescence .- Age ranges of childhood :The term childhood is non-specific and can imply a...

 and is biologically
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 driven. A crucial role of this process is the ability of human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s from an early age to engage in speech repetition
Speech repetition
thumb|250px|right|[[Children]] copy with their own [[mouth]]s the words spoken by the mouths of those around them. This enables them to learn the [[pronunciation]] of words not already in their [[vocabulary]]....

 and so quickly acquire a spoken vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

 from the pronunciation
Pronunciation
Pronunciation refers to the way a word or a language is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. If one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect....

 of words spoken around them. This together with other aspects of speech involves the neural
Nervous system
The nervous system is an organ system containing a network of specialized cells called neurons that coordinate the actions of an animal and transmit signals between different parts of its body. In most animals the nervous system consists of two parts, central and peripheral. The central nervous...

 activity of parts of the human brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

 such as the Wernicke's
Wernicke's area
Wernicke's area is one of the two parts of the cerebral cortex linked since the late nineteenth century to speech . It is involved in the understanding of written and spoken language...

 and Broca's area
Broca's area
Broca's area is a region of the hominid brain with functions linked to speech production.The production of language has been linked to the Broca’s area since Pierre Paul Broca reported impairments in two patients. They had lost the ability to speak after injury to the posterior inferior frontal...

s.

There are approximately 7,000 current human languages, and many, if not most seem to share certain properties, leading to the belief in the existence of Universal Grammar
Universal grammar
Universal grammar is a theory in linguistics that suggests that there are properties that all possible natural human languages have.Usually credited to Noam Chomsky, the theory suggests that some rules of grammar are hard-wired into the brain, and manifest themselves without being taught...

, as shown by generative grammar
Generative grammar
In theoretical linguistics, generative grammar refers to a particular approach to the study of syntax. A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences...

 studies pioneered by the work of Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

. Recently, it has been demonstrated that a dedicated network in the human brain (crucially involving Broca's area
Broca's area
Broca's area is a region of the hominid brain with functions linked to speech production.The production of language has been linked to the Broca’s area since Pierre Paul Broca reported impairments in two patients. They had lost the ability to speak after injury to the posterior inferior frontal...

, a portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus), is selectively activated by complex verbal structures (but not simple ones) of those languages that meet the Universal Grammar requirements.

Origins of natural language


There is disagreement among anthropologists on when language was first used by humans (or their ancestors). Estimates range from about two million (2,000,000) years ago, during the time of Homo habilis
Homo habilis
Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis Homo...

, to as recently as forty thousand (40,000) years ago, during the time of Cro-Magnon
Cro-Magnon
The Cro-Magnon were the first early modern humans of the European Upper Paleolithic. The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnon-like humans are radiometrically dated to 35,000 years before present....

 man. However recent evidence suggests modern human language was invented or evolved in Africa prior to the dispersal of humans from Africa around 50,000 years ago. Since all people including the most isolated indigenous groups such as the Andamanese
Andamanese
The Andamanese people are the various aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, which is the northern district of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory of India, located in the southeastern part of the Bay of Bengal. They include the Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge, Sentinelese, and...

 or the Tasmanian aboriginals possess language, then it was presumedly present in the ancestral populations in Africa before the human population split into various groups to inhabit the rest of the world.

Linguistic diversity


As of 2009, SIL Ethnologue catalogued 6909 living human languages. A "living language" is simply one which is in wide use as a primary form of communication by a specific group of living people. The exact number of known living languages will vary from 5,000 to 10,000, depending generally on the precision of one's definition of "language", and in particular on how one classifies dialects. There are also many dead
Language death
In linguistics, language death is a process that affects speech communities where the level of linguistic competence that speakers possess of a given language variety is decreased, eventually resulting in no native and/or fluent speakers of the variety...

 and, distinct from dead, extinct language
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

s.

There is no clear distinction between a language and a dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

, notwithstanding a famous aphorism
Aphorism
An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form.The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates...

 attributed to linguist Max Weinreich
Max Weinreich
Max Weinreich was a linguist, specializing in the Yiddish language, and the father of the linguist Uriel Weinreich, who edited the Modern Yiddish-English English-Yiddish Dictionary.- Biography :Max Weinreich began his studies in a German school in Kuldiga,...

 that "a language is a dialect with an army and navy
A language is a dialect with an army and navy
"A language is a dialect with an army and navy" is a description of the distinction between dialect and language. It points out the influence that political conditions can have over a community's perception of the status of a language or dialect...

". In other words, the distinction may hinge on political considerations as much as on cultural differences, distinctive writing system
Writing system
A writing system is a symbolic system used to represent elements or statements expressible in language.-General properties:Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that the reader must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to...

s, or degree of mutual intelligibility
Mutual intelligibility
In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is recognized as a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related languages can readily understand each other without intentional study or extraordinary effort...

.

It is probably impossible to accurately enumerate the living languages because our worldwide knowledge is incomplete, and it is a "moving target", as explained in greater detail by the Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

's Introduction, p. 7 - 8. With the 15th edition, the 103 newly added languages are not new but reclassified due to refinements in the definition of language.

Although widely considered an encyclopedia
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

, the Ethnologue actually presents itself as an incomplete catalog, including only named languages that its editors are able to document. With each edition, the number of catalogued languages has grown.

Beginning with the 14th edition (2000), an attempt was made to include all known living languages. SIL
SIL International
SIL International is a U.S.-based, worldwide, Christian non-profit organization, whose main purpose is to study, develop and document languages, especially those that are lesser-known, in order to expand linguistic knowledge, promote literacy, translate the Christian Bible into local languages,...

 used an internal 3-letter code fashioned after airport code
Airport code
An airport code is a short code used to identify a specific airport. There are two international systems used:*IATA airport code, a three-letter code which is more commonly known to the public...

s to identify languages. This was the precursor to the modern ISO 639-3
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-3:2007, Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages, is an international standard for language codes in the ISO 639 series. The standard describes three‐letter codes for identifying languages. It extends the ISO 639-2...

 standard, to which SIL contributed. The standard allows for over 14,000 languages. In turn, the 15th edition was revised to conform to the pending ISO 639-3 standard.

Of the catalogued languages, 497 have been flagged as "nearly extinct" due to trends in their usage. Per the 15th edition, 6,912 living languages are shared by over 5.7 billion speakers. (p. 15)

Some major limitations in the accuracy of Ethnologue's speaker population data should however be noted.

Taxonomy


The classification of natural languages can be performed on the basis of different underlying principles (different closeness notions, respecting different properties and relations between languages); important directions of present classifications are:
  • paying attention to the historical evolution of languages results in a genetic classification of languages—which is based on genetic relatedness of languages,
  • paying attention to the internal structure of languages (grammar
    Grammar
    In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

    ) results in a typological classification of languages—which is based on similarity of one or more components of the language's grammar across languages,
  • and respecting geographical closeness and contacts between language-speaking communities results in areal groupings of languages.


The different classifications do not match each other and are not expected to, but the correlation between them is an important point for many linguistic
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 research works. (There is a parallel to the classification of species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 in biological phylogenetics
Phylogenetics
In biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms , which is discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices...

 here: consider monophyletic vs. polyphyletic groups of species).

The task of genetic classification belongs to the field of historical-comparative linguistics, of typological—to linguistic typology
Linguistic typology
Linguistic typology is a subfield of linguistics that studies and classifies languages according to their structural features. Its aim is to describe and explain the common properties and the structural diversity of the world's languages...

.

See also Taxonomy
Taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

, and Taxonomic classification for the general idea of classification and taxonomies.

Genetic classification


The world's languages have been grouped into families of languages that are believed to have common ancestors. Some of the major families are the Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

, the Afro-Asiatic languages
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

, the Austronesian languages
Austronesian languages
The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia that are spoken by about 386 million people. It is on par with Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic and Uralic as one of the...

, and the Sino-Tibetan languages
Sino-Tibetan languages
The Sino-Tibetan languages are a language family comprising, at least, the Chinese and the Tibeto-Burman languages, including some 250 languages of East Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia. They are second only to the Indo-European languages in terms of the number of native speakers...

.

The shared features of languages from one family can be due to shared ancestry. (Compare with homology
Homology (biology)
Homology forms the basis of organization for comparative biology. In 1843, Richard Owen defined homology as "the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function". Organs as different as a bat's wing, a seal's flipper, a cat's paw and a human hand have a common underlying...

 in biology).

Typological classification


An example of a typological classification is the classification of languages on the basis of the basic order of the verb
Verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

, the subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 and the object
Object (grammar)
An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

 in a sentence
Sentence (linguistics)
In the field of linguistics, a sentence is an expression in natural language, and often defined to indicate a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it...

 into several types: SVO, SOV, VSO, and so on, languages. (English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, for instance, belongs to the SVO language type).

The shared features of languages of one type (= from one typological class) may have arisen completely independently. (Compare with analogy
Analogy (biology)
An analogy is a trait or an organ that appears similar in two unrelated organisms. The cladistic term for the same phenomenon is homoplasy, from Greek for same form. Biological anologies are often the result of convergent evolution....

 in biology.) Their cooccurence might be due to the universal laws governing the structure of natural languages—language universals.

Areal classification



The following language groupings can serve as some linguistically significant examples of areal linguistic units, or sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

s
: Balkan linguistic union
Balkan linguistic union
The Balkan sprachbund or linguistic area is the ensemble of areal features—similarity in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology—among the languages of the Balkans. Several features are found across these languages though not all need apply to every single language...

, or the bigger group of European languages; Caucasian languages; East Asian languages
East Asian languages
East Asian languages describe two notional groupings of languages in East and Southeast Asia:* Languages which have been greatly influenced by Classical Chinese and the Chinese writing system, in particular Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese .* The larger grouping of languages includes the...

. Although the members of each group are not closely genetically related, there is a reason for them to share similar features, namely: their speakers have been in contact for a long time within a common community and the languages converged in the course of the history. These are called "areal feature
Areal feature (linguistics)
In linguistics, an areal feature is any feature shared by languages within the same geographical area as a consequence of linguistic diffusion....

s".

One should be careful about the underlying classification principle for groups of languages which have apparently a geographical name: besides areal linguistic units, the taxa of the genetic classification (language families
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

) are often given names which themselves or parts of which refer to geographical areas.

Controlled languages


Controlled natural languages are subsets of natural languages whose grammars and dictionaries have been restricted in order to reduce or eliminate both ambiguity and complexity (for instance, by cutting down on rarely used superlative or adverbial forms or irregular verbs). The purpose behind the development and implementation of a controlled natural language typically is to aid non-native speakers of a natural language in understanding it, or to ease computer processing of a natural language. An example of a widely used controlled natural language is Simplified English
Simplified English
Simplified English is the original name of a controlled language historically developed for aerospace industry maintenance manuals. It offers a carefully limited and standardized subset of English. It is now officially known under its trademarked name as Simplified Technical English...

, which was originally developed for aerospace
Aerospace
Aerospace comprises the atmosphere of Earth and surrounding space. Typically the term is used to refer to the industry that researches, designs, manufactures, operates, and maintains vehicles moving through air and space...

 industry maintenance manuals.

Constructed languages and international auxiliary languages


Constructed international auxiliary language
International auxiliary language
An international auxiliary language or interlanguage is a language meant for communication between people from different nations who do not share a common native language...

s such as Esperanto
Esperanto
is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

 and Interlingua
Interlingua
Interlingua is an international auxiliary language , developed between 1937 and 1951 by the International Auxiliary Language Association...

 (even those that have native speaker
Native Speaker
Native Speaker is Chang-Rae Lee’s first novel. In Native Speaker, he creates a man named Henry Park who tries to assimilate into American society and become a “native speaker.”-Plot summary:...

s) are not generally considered natural languages. The problem is that other languages have been used to communicate and evolve in a natural way, while Esperanto was selectively designed by L.L. Zamenhof from natural languages, not grown from the natural fluctuations in vocabulary and syntax. Some natural languages have become naturally "standardized" by children's natural tendency to correct for illogical grammar structures in their parents' language, which can be seen in the development of pidgin
Pidgin
A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the...

 languages into creole language
Creole language
A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages; creoles differ from pidgins in that they have been nativized by children as their primary language, making them have features of natural languages that are normally missing from...

s (as explained by Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct
The Language Instinct
The Language Instinct is a book by Steven Pinker for a general audience, published in 1994. In it, Pinker argues that humans are born with an innate capacity for language. In addition, he deals sympathetically with Noam Chomsky's claim that all human language shows evidence of a universal grammar...

), but this is not the case in many languages, including constructed languages such as Esperanto, where strict rules are in place as an attempt to consciously remove such irregularities. The possible exception to this are true native speakers of such languages. More substantive basis for this designation is that the vocabulary, grammar, and orthography of Interlingua are natural; they have been standardized and presented by a linguistic research body
International Auxiliary Language Association
The International Auxiliary Language Association was founded in 1924 to "promote widespread study, discussion and publicity of all questions involved in the establishment of an auxiliary language, together with research and experiment that may hasten such establishment in an intelligent manner and...

, but they predated it and are not themselves considered a product of human invention. Most experts, however, consider Interlingua to be naturalistic rather than natural. Latino Sine Flexione
Latino sine Flexione
Latino sine flexione , or Peano’s Interlingua , is an international auxiliary language invented by the Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano in 1903. It is a simplified version of Latin, and retains its vocabulary...

, a second naturalistic auxiliary language, is also naturalistic in content but is no longer widely spoken.

Sign languages


A sign language
Sign language
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's...

 is a language which conveys meaning through visual rather than acoustic patterns—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express a speaker's thoughts. Sign languages are natural languages which have developed in Deaf communities, which can include interpreters and friends and families of deaf people as well as people who are deaf or hard of hearing themselves.

In contrast, a manually coded language
Manually Coded Language
Manually coded languages are representations of spoken languages in a gestural-visual form; that is, "sign language" versions of spoken languages...

 (or signed spoken language) is a constructed sign system combining elements of a sign language and a spoken language. For example, Signed Exact English (SEE) did not develop naturally in any population, but was "created by a committee of individuals".

Written languages


In a sense, written language should be distinguished from natural language. Until recently in the developed world, it was common for many people to be fluent in spoken
Spoken language
Spoken language is a form of human communication in which words derived from a large vocabulary together with a diverse variety of names are uttered through or with the mouth. All words are made up from a limited set of vowels and consonants. The spoken words they make are stringed into...

 or signed languages
Sign language
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's...

 and yet remain illiterate; this is still the case in poor countries today. Furthermore, natural language acquisition
Language acquisition
Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive, produce and use words to understand and communicate. This capacity involves the picking up of diverse capacities including syntax, phonetics, and an extensive vocabulary. This language might be vocal as with...

 during childhood is largely spontaneous, while literacy
Literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 must usually be intentionally acquired.

See also

  • Language
    Language
    Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

  • Natural language processing
    Natural language processing
    Natural language processing is a field of computer science and linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human languages; it began as a branch of artificial intelligence....

     (NLP)
  • Universal grammar
    Universal grammar
    Universal grammar is a theory in linguistics that suggests that there are properties that all possible natural human languages have.Usually credited to Noam Chomsky, the theory suggests that some rules of grammar are hard-wired into the brain, and manifest themselves without being taught...

  • LGML
    LGML
    Linguistics Markup Language is an XML-based framework for describing the syntax and semantics of natural languages.- Features :* LGML uses many tag sets to annotate one piece of text for compatibility with different applications....

     Linguistics Markup Language
  • Controlled vocabulary
    Controlled vocabulary
    Controlled vocabularies provide a way to organize knowledge for subsequent retrieval. They are used in subject indexing schemes, subject headings, thesauri, taxonomies and other form of knowledge organization systems...