Language types

Language is a system made up of signs that serves to transmit information.

The signs that make up language can be sound (such as the sounds that make up words), gestural (body language), written (letters or symbols) or iconic (images). Depending on the type of signs used, there are different types of languages: verbal, non-verbal, natural and artificial. Each of them has its own subcategories.

When human beings communicate, they use these signs to create a message, which will then be interpreted by another person or group of people.

1. Verbal language

It is a type of language that requires the use of words to establish communication. Depending on the type of signs used, verbal language can be of two types: oral or written.

1.1 Oral language

It requires the use of sound signs, which are the sounds we make to form words. It is characterized because it is learned naturally, by being in contact with speakers of the same language.

An example of spoken language is when we send a voice memo.

1.2 Written language

It is a system made up of alphabetic (letters) and numeric graphic signs. This system is characterized by having rules that must be learned in order to use the signs correctly and create messages.

An example of written language is when we write an email.

2. Non-verbal language

It is a type of language that uses resources such as images, facial expressions, or body postures to create a message. It completely dispenses with the use of oral or written words and is considered of vital importance in the communication process because it can be a valuable complement to verbal language, although it can function without it.

Non-verbal language is classified as:

2.1 Iconic language

They are all non-verbal signs made up of images (icons). For the communicative process to take place, this type of language must be consistent, that is, the icons must have specific characteristics that can be understood by as many people as possible.

An example of iconic language is traffic signs, which can be understood by any driver almost anywhere in the world, even if they do not speak the local language.

2.2 Facial language

It refers to the set of expressions that we make with our faces, intentionally or not, to communicate a message. Although each person can have their own expressions, there are certain facial gestures that are universal and therefore facilitate the communication process.

For example, when we are happy we usually smile and squint in such a way that small wrinkles form around the eyes. On the other hand, when we feel fear we tend to open our eyes a lot because it is a response of the nervous system to help us widen our visual field and detect danger.

2.3 Body language

Also called kinesic, they are the movements or body postures that communicate a specific message. These expressions can vary according to the culture and the interpretation of the recipient of the message, however, there are gestural signs that are shared almost everywhere in the world.

For example, the movement we make with our head as a way of saying yes, or squinting our fist showing the thumb to express that we agree with something or that everything is fine.

2.4 Tactile language (haptic)

Haptic is a non-verbal language modality based on the stimuli that we perceive through touch (sensations, textures, temperature, movement, pressure, etc).

For example, in many cultures, especially in the West, a tap on the interlocutor’s shoulder expresses a degree of trust. Braille for the visually impaired is another example of tactile language.

2.5 Proxemics

Proxemics is a type of non-verbal language referring to the use of our personal space. It is expressed in a system of gestures, postures or movements with which we manage the distance between our body space and that of our interlocutor.

Proxemics is influenced by personal beliefs, social and cultural factors, for this reason, it not only depends on the sender of the message, but on the interpretation made by the interlocutor and the value or meaning that this gesture has in that culture.

For example, in many Latin American countries it is common for the distance between the sender and the receiver to be very short. But in other cultures this gesture can be interpreted as an invasive and even aggressive attitude.

2.6 Paralanguage

It is a type of non-verbal language that takes into account the quality of the voice. It is made up of tone, volume, accent, pauses, onomatopoeia, silences, and interjections.

Paralanguage does not have to do with what is said, but with the way in which the message is communicated. Therefore, it is a complement to oral verbal language.

For example, when we wait for an affirmative answer from our interlocutor and he answers yes but in a very low tone, it can be interpreted as indecision.

3. Natural language

It is the communication system that we learn innately, initially from the family environment and then as a result of social interaction. Natural language, in other words, is our mother tongue and includes both verbal and non-verbal expressions.

An example of natural language are the words “mom” and “dad”, which in many cases are the first oral expressions of babies, as a result of their mother tongue learning process.

4. Artificial language

Also called formal languages, they are communication systems created by humans to accurately express ideas from specific areas of knowledge, so they usually have their own signs and rules. Some types of artificial language are:

4.1 Mathematical language

It is the communication system designed to express concepts of mathematics. It is made up of alphanumeric signs (letters and numbers), as well as a series of symbols created to represent mathematical operations (+, -, x,%, =, etc.).

For example, the equation 3 (x + 4) – 2 (2 + 2x) = 3 (x – 6x + 12 + 2) is a mathematical language expression.

4.2 Programming language

It is the system that allows creating the instructions that regulate the operation of the physical and logical components of a computer.

The instructions or sequences, called algorithms, are expressed with binary code, a system that requires the use of the values ​​one (1) and zero (0).

Examples of programming language would be Javascript, C ++ or Perl.

4.3 Musical language

It is a type of artificial language designed to compose, read and interpret musical compositions. It has its own signs and rules for reading and writing.

An example of the expression of musical language is sheet music, where you can see the signs used to graphically represent the duration of a note.

5. Animal language

It refers to the system of signals that animals use to communicate. Although it is usually known as “animal language”, the name is incorrect, since language is a communication system exclusive to human beings. The correct term is animal communication system.

This includes visual (skin, coat, or plumage color), sound (characteristic sounds), or olfactory (smells) signals.

An example of animal communication systems are the different types of sounds of whales (colloquially called “songs”), which are used to communicate in different events, such as mating or migration.

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