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What is Language?

Language is a tool we have been using to understand and develop our thinking. We have been:
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Learning about the thinking of others by reading Expressing our own thinking through writing Exchanging ideas with others by speaking and listening

Thought and language can contribute to clear, effective thinking and communication. Language is a powerful tool: To Clarify Thinking For Social Communication To Influence People

The Uses of Language We use language in many different ways and for many different purposes. We write, speak, and sign it. We work with language, play with language, and earn our living with language. We court and seduce, buy and sell, insult and praise, all by means of language. Much of the material in subsequent chapters of this book will present techniques for simplifying language and its use. In doing so, it is important that we not forget the complexity behind what we are doing. Logic is one, but only one, approach to the study of language. One way, though not the only way, we use language is to reason. It is this use of language with which logic is primarily concerned. The purpose of logic is to improve our critical thinking. To think critically is to recognize, construct, analyze, and evaluate arguments. Doing these things requires that we be able to separate the argumentative uses of language from the other uses. Arguments, as understood by the logician, are not disputes or confrontations between people, though the logician's analysis of arguments may well have a bearing on such disputes. An argument in logic is a linguistic entity, an object having properties that can be discovered and described. These properties will be the subject of several chapters later in this book. FORMS AND FUNCTIONS OF LANGUAGE Often times, language form (the type of sentence) is confused with language function (the use of the sentence). By forms (of sentences) we mean the declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory structure of sentences, and by functions (of sentences) we mean the informative (assertion), questioning (question), directive (command), and expressive (exclamation) uses of language. We usually think that the declarative form of sentences automatically takes an assertive function, or an

interrogative sentence a questioning function. The forms of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory) do not necessarily take their conventional functions (assertion, question, command, and exclamation). This makes things more complicated. Unconsciously maybe, we know that an interrogative form of a sentence like Can you give me a glass of water? is not just a question asking for a yes or no answer. It implicitly commands someone to get a glass of water. Or the declarative sentence, I like this ring for our wedding, is not necessarily an assertion; the sentence already commands you to buy the ring of your beloved fiance. One of the primary aims of logic is to clarify language through the use of simple and clearly stated propositions. With this goal in mind, Aristotle developed his categorical syllogistic logic, which uses the simplest of sentence constructions i.e. simple declarative sentences functioning as assertions or propositions in constructing arguments. Language is a mystery. And this might find its origin from the very mystery of the human psyche itself. Logic aims at clarifying language, but because of the innate ambiguities and mysteries of human language, logic can do but little in its aim. As a tool for language clarification, logic can only evaluate language that functions informatively, i.e. language that gives statements with truth-value. Outside this function, language is already non-logical. B. Functions of Language (i.e., its purpose; what it does; its uses) 1. Informative language function: essentially, the communication of information. This function is found in assertions. a. The informative function affirms or denies propositions, as in science. b. This function is used to describe the world or reason about it (e.g.., whether a state of affairs is true or false). c. These sentences have a truth value; hence, they are important for logic. E.g. "The fifth of May is a Mexican holiday," or write to you that "Logic is the study of correct reasoning," 2. Expressive language function: reports feelings or attitudes of the writer (or speaker), or of the subject, or evokes feelings in the reader (or listener). This language use is found in exclamations. a. Poetry is one of the best examples, but much of, perhaps most of, ordinary language discourse is the expression of emotions, feelings or attitudes. b. Two main aspects are generally noted: (1) to evoke certain feelings and (2) to express feelings.

c. Expressive discourse, qua expressive discourse, is best regarded as neither true nor false. E.g., Shakespeares King Lears lament, Ripeness is all! Even so, the nature of fictional statements is an interesting area of inquiry. Dickens' "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness" Even so, the "logic" of "fictional statements" is an interesting area of inquiry. 3. Directive language function: language used for the purpose of causing (or preventing) overt actions. This language use is found in commands and requests. a. The directive function is most commonly found in commands and requests. b. Directive language is not normally considered true or false (although a logic of commands have been developed). c. Example: Close the windows. C. Several other uses of language 1. The ceremonialprobably something quite different from simply mixing the expressive and directive language functions. Hello, how are you? You look very good today. Hows life? Example: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together to witness the holy matrimony of ." 2. Performative utterances: language which performs the action it reports. For example, I do in the marriage ceremony and the use of performative verbs such as accept, apologize, congratulate, and promise. These words denote an action which is performed by using the verb in the first person. Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following: understand the logical connections between ideas identify, construct and evaluate arguments detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning solve problems systematically identify the relevance and importance of ideas

reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values

A. Much discourse serves all three functions--one cannot always identify the form with the function. Consider this chart for the following possibilities. But note that context often determines the purpose of an utterance. "The room is cool" might be used in different contexts as informative (an observation), expressive (how one feels at the moment), or directive (to turn on the heat).