Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Language, like culture, is something that is easier to discuss than to define, and no unitary definition is offered here. Instead, what anthropologists and linguists mean by language is better understood by trying to be clear about what does and does not count as language. In some cases, this involves disentangling folk uses of the term language from scientific uses. In its folk sense, language is often used to mean any communication system—the “dance” of honeybees, the significance of type and color of flowers given to someone, computer codes, the posture and gestures included in “body language,” and so on. Although these are indeed communication systems, they are not examples of language because they lack specific properties of human language, including especially the following: Discreteness or discrete infinity . The elements of language (phonemes, words, and phrases) are perceptually discrete and can be combined and recombined without limit. Dual patterning ...