Communication: Cerebral Cortex and Human Language

Throughout the time, humanity has developed one ability more than anything; the ability to communicate, verbally in particular.

Language is an evolving concept for sure, because without the great vocabulary, humans would not be any different than monkeys. The ability to exchange information is shared by every communication systems, and a number of non-human systems share several features of human language.The primary difference between human and non-human communication is that animals are believed to act in response impulsively, in a stereotyped and expected way. Mostly, human behaviour is under the intentional control, and human language is original and unpredictable. It is generally thought that just humans have language.

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In nature we can see plentiful kinds of communication systems, many of which appear to be specific to their possessors, and one of them is the language of the human species.Basically, the point of communication is the protection, expansion and improvement of the species (Smith and Miller 1968:265). Besides the language, people has always found a way to communicate, even in extraordinary conditions calling for help through lighting fire, generating smoke or using Mors alphabet using the light.

There have been many tools and symbols through the history which has several roles in transferring information.In that sense, even mathematics, music, certain moves of a human body may also be considered as conveyors of information and even more such fields like maths, music not only transfers interpersonal information but also helps one’s intellectual enlightment. However, those samples, not being a direct tool of communication, cannot be categorized as languages. In order to compare human language with animal communication, the linguist Charles Hockett (1967:574-580) developed a commonly accepted check list for language, a set of design properties that each human languages seize.

His seven key features are: duality of pattern (the combination of a phonological system and a grammatical system), productivity (the ability to create and understand new utterances), arbitrariness (when signs/words do not resemble the things they represent), interchangeability (the ability to transmit and to receive messages by exchanging roles), specialization (when the only function of speech is communication and the speaker does not act out his message), displacement (the ability to refer to the past and to things not present), and cultural transmission (the ability to teach/learn from other individuals, e. g. by imitation).

According to Hockett’s framework, communication stands for interchangeability. For that reason, we can claim language takes more than transferring information through lighting fire or generating smoke or understanding each other through several symbols. From a neurological perspective, the brains of all higher animals are divided into two cerebral hemispheres, and research has shown hemispheric lateralization in humans and other species, too: The control of song is strongly lateralized in the left hemispheres of many birds, and the production and recognition of calls and squeaks is somewhat lateralized in monkeys, dolphins, and mice. Pinker 1995:306). In the left hemisphere of the human brain two areas of the cerebral cortex have been identified as important for language (Nathan 1982:226-230). Neurologists have observed that people with damage to these parts of the brain show specific language difficulties. Language is the tool where you can express and argue your opinions through a continously variable dialogue.

Language and speech are not the same thing.Speech is a broad term simply referring to patterned verbal behavior. In contrast, a language is a set of rules for generating speech. Language informs, persuades, queries, expresses emotions, allows transmission of complex ideas and data, and its usage is often artful. Language is not only a communication tool but also the most powerful tool human has created ever as the word says “the pen is mightier than the sword”.



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