Language plays one of the central roles in human cognition. People perceive information with the help of language (both oral and written). In the era of information, language has become even more important. It is necessary to note that researchers started looking into the matter in the late 19th century. At present, there are loads of works on language and its role. The present paper dwells upon the role language plays in cognition as well as cognitive psychology.
In the first place, it is necessary to define the concept. Language can be defined in a variety of ways. Remarkably, the definition depends on the approach employed. For instance, language can be regarded as a system of certain signs shared by a group (or groups) of people (Holtgraves, 2013). Holtgraves (2013) adds that language can also be seen as the human ability to perceive, store, and share certain information. In terms of the cognitive theory, it is important to add that language is characterized by certain features. Thus, language is a communicative, structured, arbitrary, dynamic, and, finally, a generative system that helps people to perceive certain information and communicate (Willingham, 2007).
It is important to add that lexicon is an important part of the language. Feller (2011) provides a brief definition of the concept. The researcher notes that lexicon is a “semantic container which lists lexical entries of single words” (Feller, 2011, p. 129). In a nutshell, dictionary is a set of words that an individual knows. Importantly, lexicon encompasses morphological, semantic, grammatical features of each word stored. Lexicon helps individuals to communicate.
As has been mentioned above, language is characterized by some features. It is important to evaluate the features as it will help to understand what language is. The first feature to be discussed is communicative. This is one of the most important and suggestive features. Language helps people to communicate and perceive the world around them.
Apart from being a communicative tool, language is characterized by structure. Thus, language is a structured system with a variety of rules and laws. This structured form helps people to use language and develop the necessary lexicon to be able to communicate with others (Willingham, 2007). It is possible to illustrate this characteristic feature with the help of phonetics. Thus, words consist of small parts called phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest meaningful part of the word within the phonetics. Hence, people tend to combine small units into more complex ones (using phonemes people form words and sentences).
As has been mentioned above, language is also arbitrary. This means that many signs used in language do not have a meaningful relationship with their “referent” (Carroll, 2008, p. 280). This is also true for sign language. Remarkably, researchers have found that children at the age of 18 months often use symbols which are arbitrary rather than iconic (Carroll, 2008). This is one of the examples that emphasize the arbitrary nature of language.
Admittedly, language is a dynamic system which is constantly changing and developing. Language can be regarded as a reflection of society. These two systems develop simultaneously. Language reflects the changes which occur in society. Finally, language is a generative system. This feature is closely connected with the previous characteristic. Language is capable of production of “an infinite number of messages” (Carroll, 2008, p. 381). Therefore, it is clear that language is a system used by people for communication. This system is constantly developing and changing, though it remains structured.
These features can help to understand the four levels of language structure and processing. The four levels of language structure and processing are phonemes, words, sentences, and texts. The smallest meaningful part of the word is a phoneme (a set of sounds). Phonemes convey certain meaning and constitute. Words convey various meanings and constitute sentences. Sentences reveal a complete idea which is rendered with the help of words. Texts include different ideas and consist of sentences.
Thus, people perceive information which is structured. People use phonemes, words, sentences, and texts. Admittedly, people are unable to perceive unstructured pieces of information (Willingham, 2007). Thus, if words are not combined into sentences (with certain rules), people are unlikely to understand the message properly. People can process information which is structured.
Remarkably, language is dynamic, and this also contributes to the proper processing of information. New concepts and things appear, and people find new ways to communicate about these novelties. More so, it is possible to note that generative and dynamic features of the language are also characteristic features of humans who also develop and change constantly.
Cognitive psychology focuses on lots of concepts, and information processing is one of the topics considered. It is necessary to note that language processing plays an important role in cognitive psychology. In the first place, language processing can be traced, measured, and evaluated rather easily. Researchers observe the way children learn the language, and this helps to understand the processes which take place while processing information. Admittedly, numerous experiments involving adults also help to identify peculiarities of information processing, storage, and sharing.
This knowledge, in its turn, helps to understand the way people process information, and the way they think, behave, and learn. Cognitive psychologists try to understand this to better understand the ways people perceive the world around them. It is necessary to note that findings in the field of cognitive psychology have contributed to the development of various strategies to address certain mental disorders, or at least, understand the causes of the disease.
Importantly, cognitive psychology considers such process as language processing, memory, attention, thinking, perception, and problem-solving. It is needless to say that all the spheres are interconnected. Thus, advances in understanding language processing contribute to the understanding of other fields, especially, thinking, perception, memory. At present, psychologists also tend to tie language processing with emotions. Notably, people try to understand the way people process information and interact with each other. Findings in this sphere help people to develop new strategies in the sphere of education, leadership, workplace, etc.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that language is a complex concept that can be seen differently. There are different approaches to the concept. However, the researchers agree that there are significant features of the language, i.e., communicative, structured, arbitrary, dynamic, and, finally, generative. Importantly, language is constantly developing and changing, along with humans and societies. It is also necessary to add that language processing is one of the central processes considered by cognitive psychologists. The researchers try to define peculiarities of this process to understand the way people perceive, store, and share information. This can help researchers to understand a lot about humans and their cognitive capacity.
Carroll, D.W. (2008). Psychology of language. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. Web.
Feller, S. (2011). Language use and the lexicon. Language and Dialogue, 1(1), 129-145. Web.
Holtgraves, T.M. (2013). Language as social action: Social psychology and language use. Mahwah, NJ: Psychology Press. Web.
Willingham, D.T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Web.