Understanding Language and Literature

Understanding Language and Literature

Prof. (Dr.) Asghar Ali

Ansari School of Languages,

Literature & Society,

Jaipur National University,

Jaipur, India

In our daily speech we generally take language and literature as a same thing. For us both of them have the same meaning. If you ask any teacher of English, "what do you teach?", he would say "language and literature". When he says this, he does not make any difference between language and literature. He takes them as one thing as a compound word. In fact we use language and literature as a single compound word having the one meaning. But it is not so in reality. If we go deep into the meaning of the words, language and literature, we find a great difference between them. We also find that language is primary and literature is secondary. The Free Encyclopedia defines language as "the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communications." (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

In fact the word, language, has been originally derived from Latin word, 'Lingua' which means 'tongue'. When we use language in general, it refers to the cognitive faculty which enables us to learn and use systems of complex communication.

Language originated when early men, having different cultures, started co-operating with one another and needed a common language to convey their thoughts and ideas to others. So they invented a sign language which soon became very common. But, as the human being's nature is, they were not satisfied with the sign language. They wanted to convert their thoughts into words and wanted to hear the thoughts. So they started finding words which may produce sound. Ultimately they succeeded and the language with sound came into existence.

Since the people had different cultures and regions, different languages came into existence. After the invention of language they learnt the art of writing and as a result, started expressing themselves in writing. Whatever they wrote was preserved and thus in this way literature came into existence. Thus we see that literature is the product of language and so it depends on language.

If a language is dead, automatically, its literature is also dead.

Since many languages (nearly 3000—6000 are spoken all over the world, so many different literature came into existence. Every language has its own literature.

The literature of a language is rich because of the correct use of the language by the writers of that language. A group of language that descended from a common ancestor is known as a language family.

Followings are the language families that are most spoken in the world today:

• Indo-European family---This family includes English, Russian, Spanish and Hindi languages.

• The Sino-Tibetan family---This family includes Mandarin, Chinese, Cantonese and many other languages. • Semitic family---This include Arabic, Amharic and Hebrew languages.

• Bantu family---This includes Swahili, Zulu, Shona and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa.

Forty percent of the world's languages are endangered and likely to become extinct. (Claire Soarse, in www.Independant.co.uk). With the extinction of those forty percent languages, their literature, too, will became extinct and, as a result, we will lose a huge wealth of literature. So it is the duty of every writer to study those rare literatures and write about them so that we may preserve those valuable literature in our writings.

Differences between language and literature:

• Language is a set of words to express our ideas to others. This is a means through which we express our thoughts. Without means we cannot express our thoughts.

• On the other hand, literature is the thought which is expressed with the help of language.

• Thus it is clear that without language there is no existence of literature because without language we cannot express our thoughts.

• Language is the fundamental unit of literature. It can be said that language makes literature.

• Literature is produced by the creation of works in a particular language by the writer of the language. On the other hand, language is a mode of expression of thoughts by means of articulate sound. There can be as many literatures as there are languages.

• A language comprises of sounds, words and sentences. While literature is made up of the thoughts expressed in any given language.

• Thus it can be said that literature has several forms which are called literary forms like prose, poetry, drama, novel, epic, short stories etc. All these literary forms are laden with language in which it is written. In short it can be said that the entire literature is constructed by the language in which it is written.

• Language is the method of expression whereas literature is the collection of such expression in the said forms mentioned above. Any literature can be said to be rich or poor depending upon the correctness of the language in which it is created.

Languages and Literature is the main focus of the school of Languages, Literature & Society of Jaipur National University. If you like this blog , please share and forward to your friends.