Category Archives: linguistics

Social Networks and Language Habits

In this post, we will look at how relationships that people have can play a role in how they communicate with those around them. Understanding this can help people to comprehend differences in communication style.

In sociolinguistics, social networks  can refer to the pattern of informal relationships that people have and experience on a consistent basis. There are two dimensions that can be used to describe a persons social network. These two terms are density and plexity.


The density of a social network refers to how well people in your network know each other. In other words, density is ow well your friends know each other. We all have friends, we have friends who know each other, and we have friends who do not know each other.

If many of your friends know each other then the density is high. If your friends do not know each other the density is low. An example of a high density network would be the typical family. Everybody knows each other. An example of a low density network would be employees at a large company. In such a situation it would not be hard to find a friend of a friend that you do not know.


Plexity is a  measure of the various types of interactions that you are involved in with other people. Plexity can be uniplex, which involves one type of interaction with a person or multiplex, which involves many types of interactions with a person.

An example of a uniplex interaction may be a worker with their boss. They only interact at work. A multiplex interaction would again be with members of one’s family. When dealing with family interactions could include school, work, recreation, shopping, etc. In all these examples it is the same people interacting in a multitude of settings.

Language Use in Social Networks

A person’s speech almost always reflects the network that they belong too. If the group is homogeneous we will almost always speak the way everyone else does assuming we want to be a part of the group. For example, a group of local construction workers will more than likely use similar language patterns due to the homogeneous nature of the group while a group of ESL bankers would not as they come from many different countries.

When a person belongs to more than one social network they will almost always unconsciously change the way they communicate based on the context. For example, anybody who has moved away from home communicates differently where they live then when they communicate with family and friends back home. This is true even when moving from one place to another in the same province or state in your country.


The language that people employ is affected by the dynamics of the social network. We naturally will adjust our communication to accommodate who we are talking too.


Sociolinguistic Insights into Female Communication

In general, women tend to prefer to use the most standard or prestige form of a language regardless of cultural background or geography. Linguist have proposed several potential reasons for this. This post will share some of the most common ideas on why women often used the standard form of their language.

Social Status

There is a belief among many linguist that women use the most prestigious forms of their language because they are more status-conscious than men. By using the standard version of their language a women is able to claim a higher status.

The implication of this is that women have a lower status in society and try to elevate themselves through their use of language. However, this conclusion has been refuted as women who work outside the home use more of the standard form of their language then women who work in their home.

If the social status hypothesis was correct women who work at home, and thus have the lowest status, should use more of the standard form then women who work. Currently, this is not the case.

Women as Protector of Society’s Values

The women as protector of values view see social pressure as a constraint on how women communicate. Simply, women use more standard forms of their language then men because women are expected to behave better. It is thrust upon women to serve as an example for their community and especially for their children.

This answer is considered correct but depends highly on context. For example, this idea falls a part most frequently when women communicate with their children. The informal and intimate setting often leads to most women using the vernacular aspects of their language.

Women as Subordinate Group

A third suggestion is that women, who are often a subordinate group, use the more standard version of their language to show deference to those over them. In other words, women use the most polite forms of their language to avoid offending men.

However, this suggestion also fails because it equates politeness with the standard form of a language. People can be polite using vernacular and they can be rude using the most prestigious form of their language possible.

Vernacular as Masculine

A final common hypothesis on women’s use of standard forms is the perception that the use of the vernacular is masculine and tough. Women choose the standard form as a way of demonstrating behaviors traditionally associated with gender in their culture. Men on the other hand, use vernacular forms to show traits that are traditionally associated with male behaviors.

The problem with this belief is the informal settings. As mentioned previously, women and men use more vernacular forms of their language in informal settings. As such, it seems that context is one of the strongest factors in how language is used and not necessarily gender.

First and Target Language Conflict and Compromise

In an interesting contradiction of language acquisition it is a given fact that the greatest challenge and blessing in learning a second language is the first language. For many people they wonder how the first language can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time.

In order to understand this mystery of second language acquisition we will look at interference, facilitating, as well as suggestion for teachers tot help students to deal with the challenges of the first language in second language acquisition.

Interference and Facilitating

A person’s first language can be a problem through what is called interfering. Interference is the assumptions a person brings from their first language to the second language.

Each language has distinct rules that governs in use in the form of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonology, etc. When a person learns a new language they bring these rules with them to the new language. Therefore, they are breaking the rules of the target language do to their obedience to the rules of their native language.

Below is an example of a native English speaker trying to speak Spanish

English Sentence: I want the red car
Spanish with English rules: Yo quiero el rojo coche
Correct Spanish Version: Yo quiero el coche rojo

In the simple example above, the native English speaker said “rojo coche” (red car) instead of “coche rojo” (car red) in Spanish. In other words, the English speaker  put the adjective before the noun instead of the noun before the adjective. This is a minor problem but it does sound strange to a native Spanish speaker.

It needs to be noted that the first language can also help in communicating in the second and this is called facilitating. In the example above, the majority of what the English speaker said is correct. The subject verb object order was correct as an example. This is because when the rules of the language are the same the facilitate the person’s learning of the target language and when the rules are different they interfere.

Helping with Interference and Facilitating

The goal of a teacher is to help a student to discard interference and hold on to facilitating. To do this a teacher needs to listen to the errors a student makes to understand what the problems are. Often it is good to explain the error the student is making and what native language rule they are clinging to that is causing the problem.

Another goal is to encourage direct thinking in the target language. This prevents translation and all of the errors that come with that.

Lastly, recognizing the benefits of facilitating by showing how the two languages are similar can help students. Generally, teachers focus on interference rather than facilitating but an occasional acknowledge of facilitation is beneficial.


A teacher needs to understand that the first language  of their students is not always an enemy. The first language provides a foundation for the development of the target language. Through working with what the students already know the teacher can help to develop strong language skills in the target.

Language Ego

Imagine that you are working as an ESL teacher at a university. Specifically, you are working with international students who are trying to complete their English language  proficiency in order to study for their PhD.

These students are without a doubt intelligent. They all have a master degrees. However, despite their talent and abilities, they are still babies when it comes to fluency in English. The students become exceedingly frustrated as they have to be reduce to such an elementary experience of drills and skits in order to be prepared for graduate studies. In order to achieve their dream they must develop an identity in the English language.

To make an even stronger example, imagine  you are an English teacher in your country where English is a Foreign Language and have been teaching English for years. You decide to go for a PhD in an English speaking country. You take the TOEFL or IELTS and the results indicate that you need to take ESL courses before you can study. Here you are, an experienced English teacher back home, sitting through intermediate/advanced ESL courses. This is a serious but common wake up call for many non-native ESL teachers with advanced degree aspirations.

This experience frustration and fragility  as one learns a new language is called language ego. This post will define language ego as well as strategies for making this experience more tolerably for students.

Defining Language Ego

Language ego is a sense of inferiority as one tries to learn a new language. People are excellent at communicating in their own language and communicate boldly in it. This confidence in one’s native language makes one highly resilient in one’s mother tongue. This why native speaker’s often ignore comments on how to communicate in the target language when these comments come from non-native speakers and even from native-speakers. We all know our own language and care little for feedback from others

However, this confidence, stubbornness, and resilience disappears when learning another language. Now, it is common for people to become defensive and sensitive as they try to communicate with limited tools.

This experience only becomes worst as one gets older. Children already have limited cognitive ability compared to adults so when they communicate in a new language they have much lower expectations in terms of talking and communicating. For adults, who often have complex, abstract ideas to share, it is frustrating to have to be reduce to speaking about mundane topics in a second language.

Helping Student with Language Ego

In order to support students during this experience it is important to remember the following points.

  • Task should be  challenging but not overwhelming.  This is a general concept in education but much more important in language teaching. Excessive failure will destroy the fragile ego of many ESL students.
  • Different students will struggle in different ways. This means a teacher should be strategic in terms of who they call on, correct publicly, the level of toughness, etc. as all of these decisions will affect students in different ways.
  • Acknowledging the frustration as the students learn the language can also help with coping.


Learning a language involves changes to one’s self. This means that the ego is often threaten when acquiring a language. The intensity of this is only increase when one learns a language a an adult when compared to a child. As such, teachers need to support adults and children during this experience.

Lexical Approach

The Lexical Approach is a unique approach in TESOL methods. This approach starts from the position that language learning is not about the individual word but rather multi-word chunks. As such, a student should focus learning various combinations of word chunks.

This post will share the assumptions and curriculum of the Lexical Approach


The Lexical Approach states clearly that language acquisition happens through acquiring the chunks or collocations of a language. Learning a language is not about rules but rather about acquiring enough examples from which the learner can make generalizations. For example, I child will eventually learn that “good morning” is a greeting for  a  specific time of day.

Chunks are learned through one or more of the following strategies

  • Exposure-You see it over and over again and make a generalization
  • Comparison-You compare the target language chunk with a chunk for another language
  • Noticing-You notice a combination for the first time

Lexical approach is primarily an approach for autonomous learning. Therefore, the teacher’s role is to provide an environment in which the student can manage their own learning.

The student’s responsibility is in using what is called a concordancer. A concordancer is an online resource that provides examples of how a word is used in real literature. Each concordancer has one or more corpus from which examples of the word being used come from.


The Lexical Approach is not a comprehensive method and as such does not include any objectives. There are several common activities used in this approach.

  • Awareness activities help students to notice chunks and include. The teacher might provide several examples of sentences using the word “prediction” to allow students to try and determine the meaning of this word
  • Identifying  chunks involves having the students search for chunks in a text. The results are then compared during a discussion.
  • Retelling involves having a student make their own sentences while reusing a chunk that they have just learned. For example, if the students learn the chunk (don’t put all your eggs in one basket) they would have to use this chunk in their own unique sentence.


The Lexical approach is a useful approach for those with a more analytical way of learning a language. Digesting a language through memorizing and applying various collocations can be beneficial to many language learners.


The background to audiolingualism was discussed in a previous post. This post will look at the characteristics of audiolingualism in greater detail. In particular, we will look at the theories and design of audiolingualism


Audiolingualism is heavily influenced by a structural view of language. This view sees langauage rule-governed and systems within systems. Furthermore, language should be broken down into its smallest units. For a structuralist, things like phonemes and morphemes are highly important because these are the smallest units of a certain language structures.

Language is oral in nature for a structuralist. This is one reason for audiolingualism’s focus on speech.

Behaviorism is another influential theory in audiolingualism. People learn a language through stimulus and response. Drills and more drills with feedback is how they improve. It doesn’t matter if the student understands as long as they can execute. Analysis is not important. Instead, context is how students learn vocabulary.

Curriculum Development

An audiolingual curriculum will focus on the structure of the language. It will also include lots of repetition and memorization. This focus on repetition leads to the use of technology such as CDs which allow students to practice. The medium of instruction will primarily be oral and verbal with reading and writing be secondary.

The primary goal would be mastery in a behavioral manner. This means execution of the language in various context.  Objectives will further support this by providing measurable behaviors that show competence.

Student-Teacher Interaction

The teacher plays a critical role in this method. the learning is centered around the teacher and the students willingness to imitate. Such activities as choral responses are a part of the learning.

The student is dependent on the teacher for language acquisition. They are expected to imitate even when they do not understand what they are saying. This emphasis of action over understanding is a key characteristic.

The End of Adudiolingualism

After having time to use the method, many teachers became disappointed in the results in their students when employing audiolingualism. In other words, audiolingualism never live up to the hype in a practical sense.

Furthermore, the behavioral focus of audiolingualism was being attack by cognitivist leaning linguists such as Noam Chomsky.There was a shift from imitation to competence in language circles that undid audiolingualism.


The audiolingual method was a highly influential method for its time. Its focus on repetition and behavioral aspects of language was a major strength that became a weakness.

Even though this method is mostly gone. Its impact is still felt every time a student tries to imitate the speaking style of a native.

Th Birth of the Audiolingual Method

In this post, we will examine the background to the Audiolingual method. Audiolingualism is considered by many to be the first American approach to ESL.


During the Great Depression, and influential study called the “Coleman Report” recommended that foreign language should be taught through the use of a reading approach. This led to many teachers teaching language using a combination of Direct Method and Oral Approach.

A major change came with the start of WWII, the US now needed people who were fluent in the languages of the enemy and those conquered by them. For many of these exotic languages, there was no textbook available. This lead the army to a creative solution called the informant method.

The informant method was simple. A native speaker of the target language teamed with a student and a linguist and they would spend time together. The native speaker would  say phrases and vocabulary for the student to learn through imitation. The linguist would provide structure for what the student was learning.

The informant method required students to study 10 hours a day six days a week for 12-18 weeks. By the end of such an intense experience, excellent languages skills were developed.

After WWII, there was a shift among many linguist towards a structural function of language combined with behavioral approaches to learning. There was also a focus on aural training  with support in developing pronunciation skills. Later did the student learn about speaking, reading, and writing. This way of teaching language became know as the Aural-Oral Approach.

Enter Audiolingualism

Audiolingualism came out of the background of the intense language experience of the informant method and the structural/behavioral emphasis of the Aural-Oral Approach. This method, with its focus on “drill, drill, drill”, was used in ESL teaching at universities throughout America at one point and is stilled used in many parts of the world today.

Audiolingualism was touted as taking language teaching from art to science. It was considered systematic and efficient in providing results. For teachers, it meant often being the center of instruction and speaking to allow the students to imitate and to correct them when they were wrong. For students, it meant parroting what was said without always knowing what it means.

For its time, there is no question as to the influence of audiolingualism. It was based on prior study and was one of the first major contribution of American linguists to ESL teaching. In a future post, we will examine in detail the audiolingual method.

Reform Movement in Language Teaching

By the late 19th century, there was a general push for making strong changes to how language was taught. There was a resurgence in linguistics and phonetics that serve as major influences on language teaching. This post will share some of the major reform factors of this time period.

International Phonetic Association

In the 1880’s, the International Phonetic Association was founded. Not only did this organization developed the International Phonetic Alphabet. They also laid down several influential principles of language teaching. For example, the IPA believed that the focus of learning a language should be on the spoken language. This is another indication of the shift away from reading and writing.

The focus on spoken language also led to recommending the use of proper pronunciation and the use of conversation in the classroom. There was still a prescriptive emphasis in developing “proper” speaking skills as though there is one standard for how to talk. This emphasis on verbal accuracy may have come from the stress of accuracy in the Grammar-Translation Method.

The IPA a also encouraged the teaching of grammar inductively. This means to teach grammatical concepts through the use of examples or applications of the rules. From these examples, students would extract the rule for themselves. This is a much more engaging way to teach details such as rules in comparison to the standard deductive approach in which the rule is given followed by applications of it.

Other Reform Principles

There are several other significant reforms. One key idea was the need to teach language in a matter that was simple to complex in design. One has to wonder how language could have been taught with teaching from simple to more complex content. However, this principle may have been simply stating something that had been taken for granted.

Another reform idea was a focus on reading the language before seeing it in writing. This is in contrast to the focus on text by the Grammar-Translation method. Lastly, learning should happen in context. A focus on context became a major topic of controversy in education in general in the 20th century.

One last major reform that brought an end to the Grammar-Translation Method was the belief that translation should be avoided. Translation was at the heart of language teaching up until this point. Such a stance as this may have been highly shocking for its time as it was a pushing against a tradition that dated back to the 16th century.


Change is a part of life. The reforms brought about in language teaching at the end of the 19th century were for the purpose of improving language teaching. The primary desire was not to throw away what had been done before. Rather, the goal was to further help in the improvement of language teaching.

Grammar Translation Method

The grammar-translation was developed through the teaching of Latin. This post will explain some of the traits of the grammar-translation model as well as reactions towards it.


The goal in grammar-translation is to learn read and write another language for the sake of developing mental discipline. This is consistent with the pernnialist worldview of education at the time. Learning a language is focused on grammar rules used in manipulating the meaning of text.

As such, listening and speaking are not a focus. This leads to the students’ native language being use as the mode of instruction and the foreign language is strictly for other purposes. A typical lesson involves copious amounts of translating with a goal of high accuracy.

Grammar was taught deductively which means that the teacher always explained the rules for the students who would then apply them. This is contrast to discovery learning which relies on students learning principles of a lesson themselves.


Grammar-translation was essential the first formalized way of teaching a language. Even today, this approached is used for the teaching of English as well as many “dead” languages such as Latin, Koine Greek, and Classical Hebrew.

The result of this approach to learning a language was an endless amount of vocabulary without context combined with an emphasis on memorizing.  Many a pastor and theologian bemoan their days of taking biblical languages. This was partial due to how the language was taught. Many programs require memorizing an extensive list of word and declensions even though there are dictionaries, lexicons, and concordances readily available.

There are some advantages to this approach. For learning to communicate on an academic level via writing this method is supreme. This makes since as the student does not have to develop speaking and listening skills. In addition, understanding the rules of a language provides insights into how and why of using it.

The grammar-translation method was easy to administer for teachers while boring for students. For teachers who lack verbal ability it allows them to provide some sort of understanding of the language to their students. This method is also beneficial of large class were it is difficult to monitor behavior.

With time, language teaching was becoming more and more important. Combine this with the dissatisfaction that was arising from the grammar-translation and there arises a shift and push back against the grammar-translation.

The Influences of Latin in TESOL

There are probably many TESOL teachers who are perhaps unaware of the role Latin has played in shaping the world of TESOL today. Latin has had a tremendous influence in how language teaching has been shaped as Latin was one of the first languages that was systematically taught on a large scale. As such, Latin provided the foundation for how language was taught for several hundred years.

Latin at its Role in Language Teaching

Speaking several languages was the norm for most of known history in most parts of the world such as Europe. However, with the dawn of empires such as the Greek and Romans, there came a need to have a dominating language over local languages.

The language of Rome was primarily Latin. As such, this led Latin to the spreading of Latin throughout the Western world. What was unique was how long the Roman Empire lasted. After over 1000 years, Latin was the language of education, business, and government. It was embedded in tradition and not just an outside language imposed on locals.

With the decline of the Roman empire came a growth in the use of other languages in Europe such as English, French, Italian, etc. This contributed to Latin being taught as a subject because of the prominence it use to have. Change is difficult and abandoning a language that was so ingrained in Western civilization was not easy for scholars.

Another reason that Latin was still taught after its decline was for purposes of strengthening the mind. Educators believed that study of Latin would improve intellectual prowess of students because of the challenge of learning it.

The Teaching of Latin

Latin was taught to young people through  a focus on grammar rules, declension, and conjugation of verbs. Students also translated passages to and from Latin to developing writing skills.

A deductive approach was used in developing a knowledge of the grammar. Students were taught the rules of the grammar first and then provide with opportunities to apply them. There was no discovery or inductive approaches to learning.

Furthermore, students only learned to read and write Latin. This is partly due to the fact that Latin had died as a verbal language. Therefore, there was no development of conversational skills or practical application.

Latin and Modern Language Teaching

The approach of Latin with its focus on grammar and translation was how other languages were first taught by the 19th century. Since there was no other example for how to approach language teaching it only made sense to copy how Latin was taught. Everybody was focused on text but never on context.

People learned to communicate in through text even though they were studying living languages.  Every language was taught as a mental exercise rather than as a skill for practical use.


The teaching of Latin led directly to the development of the grammar-translation method. This method laid the foundation for reactionary methods that are a part of the field of TESOL.

National and Official Language

Many countries in the world have a national and an official language. The origins of these two distinction is wrap in politics, history, and culture.

A national language is the language with a political, cultural, and social unit connected with it. An official language is the language used by the government of a country. However, both of these terms are used for politic means in many countries.

A national language is often used to unite the people. Examples of this include Japanese in Japan, French in France, and even English in Great Britain. Each country has a complex history behind its selection of a national language.

The process of developing a national language involves four steps which are…

  • Selection
  • Codification
  • Elaboration
  • Acceptance


Selecting a language to serve as the national language is a political process. Picking the wrong language could rip a nation a part. Different countries have approach this in different ways. Indonesia selected a Malay pidgin as its national language to unite its country. The Philippines choose Tagalog or Filipino as their national language, which was met by great resistance.


Codification involves standardizing the language. This involves the development of grammar rules and dictionaries. American English was heavily influenced by Noah Webster and his work in developing dictionaries. Webster specifically wanted to develop a American dialect of English in order to unify the new country.


Elaboration is the process of extending the language into new domains such as academics,  medicine, or some other field. Many languages, pidgins, and or creoles, do not have ways of communicating highly abstract terms. In order to serve as an official language terms need to be developed to handle any form of communication.


After developing a language in order for it to become the national language, steps must be taken to convince the people to use it. This is often done through a combination of propaganda and follow the leader. When government officials use the language locals often begin to follow.


The use of a language by a nation has a complex process that involves several steps. Every country has some story behind the development of its language. This rarely does not happen by chance.

Pidgins and Creoles

Pidgin and Creole are two common terms used in linguistics to describe a language. This post will define and explain some of the characteristics of these two linguistic terms


A pidgin is a language that does not have any native speakers. In other words, it is a younger language that is developed as a means of communicating between two groups who do not speak the same language.

Pidgins are frequently developed for business and trading. Buying and selling and other transactions are reasons for the development of a pidgin. Pidgins are not used as a form of group identification but rather for practical communication.

A pidgin is also the combination of two different languages. The language that provides the majority of the vocabulary is called the superstrate and the minority language is called the substrate.

Pidgins are highly simplified in their grammar and syntax. For example, pidgins are often missing affixes, inflections, and a smaller vocabulary compared to other languages.

A pidgin usually sounds ridiculous to a speaker of either of the two languages it is derived from. As such, they are often difficult to learn for a speaker of either the superstrate or substrate language to learn as they do not follow the normal rules of grammar as found in the superstrate or substrate language.

There are many pidgins in the world today. Many came as a result of slavery in the western hemisphere. Slaves came from different parts of Africa and often could not communicate without developing a pidgin.

In Asia, most countries have or had some form of pidgin English such as Thailand “Tinglish”, Japan has “Japanese Bamboo English.” Over time, many pidgins mature into what we call creoles.


A creole is a pidgin that now has native speakers. Children grow speaking a creole as their first language. There are also other differences between a pidgin and creole.

Since it is the first language of a group, creoles are used in many more areas of life and have a much richer  structure. Furthermore, a creole has a much more standardized grammar rules.

People’s attitudes towards a creole is often different as well. Since it is the first language of many people, there is a sense of pride over using the language. A creole can also be used to identify members of a group. This was not possible with a pidgin as pidgins serve as a way of communicating between two groups while creoles are for communicating both between groups and within a group.

Examples of creoles includes “Manglish” (Malaysian English), “Singlish” (Singaporean English) and “Taglish” (Tagalog English).


Pidgins and creoles serve the purpose of communicating among people groups who have different languages. With time a pidgin may become a creole if native speakers of a pidgin develop.


Diglossia literally means “two tongues.” This definition gives the impression that diglossia and bilingualism are the same thing. However, diglossia is a distinct form of bilingualism in that the use of the two languages are determined by the function.

A diglossia consists of a high and low language. The high language is used for specific purpose such as business transactions, ceremonies, and religious rites. The low language is used for everyday conversation. You would never hear a person use the low language for normal conversation.

The context in which the high and low languages are used are called domains. There are many different domains such as family, work, school, church, etc. Each of these domains calls for either the high or low language. For example, the high language may be used when speaking of politics while the low language may be used for speaking about sports.

There are several examples of diglossia in the world. In America, African Americans often have their own distinct form of English which functions as a low language. Regular or standard English would be the high language in this situation. At home, African American English is spoken and in public a switch to standard English is often made.

There is often an interaction between diglossia and bilingualism in language. In general, there are four ways in which diglossia and bilingualism can interact in a community.

  1. The community has diglossia and bilingualism
  2. The community has diglossia but not bilingualism
  3. The community has bilingualism but disglossia
  4. The community does not have disglossia or bilingualism

Below are examples of each

Diglossia and Bilingualism 

An example of this is an African American community where the people can speak standard English (high language), African American English (low language) while also being fluent in another language like Spanish (second language).

Diglossia but not Bilingualism

Same as above, the African American community knows standard Enlgish as well as African American English but the community does not speak Spanish or any other language.

Bilingualism but no Diglossia

The African American community speaks standard English and also speaks another language, such as Spanish, but does not use African American English.

Neither Diglossia or Bilingualism

The African American community only speaks standard English and does not speak African American English or any other language such as Spanish.


Communities vary in there perception of their high and low languages. Some look down on the low language while using it while others are proud of the low language while feeling forced to learn the high. The points is that with diglossia, the use of a second language is connected to a particular social setting.

Speech, Language, and Communication

There are three terms that people commonly use interchangeably when describing how people interact verbally with each other. The terms are speech, language, and communication. Although these terms are similar they are not synonyms for each other. This post will explain the difference between these three terms.


Speech is specifically a verbal means of communicating. This distinguishes it from non-verbal forms of communicating such as written communication or body language. Speech involves the vocalizing of specific sounds called phonemes. Every language has specific phonemes that make of sounds for that language. For example, Spanish involves the rolling of the “r” often.

Speech is not limited to phonemes. Other aspects of speech include the voice quality, intonation, and rate. Voice quality is the phonetic characteristics of a person’s voice. Our example of the r sound in Spanish relates to voice quality. Intonation is related to the pitch of the voice. Sometimes a language uses different pitches depending on the context. For example, if a question is asked in English the pitch rises at the end. Lastly, rate is how fast the people talk in the language.


Language code for conveying concepts through the use of symbols. For example, almost all languages have some sort of word for “dog.” In English, the word for this animal is “dog.” In Spanish the word is “perro.” In French, the word for dog is “chien.” Regardless of the language, when people hear one of these words for dog in their language they connect this word with the concept of a four-legged creature that often barks. The term “dog” is a symbol for an animal. This is thinking in a highly abstract way.

Languages can be expressed verbally through speech and also through writing. In order for each side to understand the other, they most know each other’s language in order to convey and share ideas. An obvious reason that people from different countries do not understand each other is because they speak different languages.


Communication is process of exchanging ideas and needs. This processes involves encoding, transmitting, and decoding. Encoding is the process of taking a concept identifying a word that is associated with it. If a person has in their mind a barking animal they may think of the word “dog.” Transmitting is sharing the concept through the use language. This is when the person says “dog” verbally.

Decoding is this process in reverse and is done by the receiver. The receiver hears the word “dog” and he translates this into a barking animal in his mind. All of this happens in a split second everyday in many peoples lives.

Communication can happen in many was beyond verbal. As mention earlier, people can communicate ideas in writing or through the use of body language. Even art can communicate information through the use of music, painting, or more.


Speech, language, and communication are distinct aspects of understanding how people convey information. Understanding these differences can help people to know how they are trying to share information.