The language system is the set of linguistic units and rules that make up any language and are the prerequisite for being able to express and communicate in this language. A distinction must therefore be made between the language system on the one hand ( langue ) and the use of this system ( parole ), on the other hand for any type of linguistic communication. Roughly one can say that the language system consists of the vocabulary of a language, its sound system and its grammar . The use of language (or more rarely the use of language ) is seen as the opposite of the language system .
A sentence like: “Language is a rather complex structure” can only be formed as a speaker and only understood as a listener if both interlocutors share large parts of the vocabulary and the phonetic and grammatical rules, i.e. H. when the language system they use largely matches. The language system is thus a treasure trove of linguistic knowledge that the communication partners activate when they want to make themselves understood. However, this knowledge is mostly unconscious; few are able to tell what rules to follow when using a sentence like this. It is not directly observable; one can only indirectly deduce from the utterances of the language participants which rules they might have followed and then consider how best to describe them.
Structure of the language system
The idea of how the language system is constructed depends on which language or grammar theory one is following. The following assumptions can certainly be made about the components of the language system:
- There are linguistic units that are organized hierarchically and range from the smallest units, the sounds , to the phonemes , morphemes , words , clauses , sub-clauses, to the texts and possibly to the discourses .
- In this hierarchy, the units have a grammatical or lexical meaning in addition to their form, starting with the morphemes.
- At every level of the hierarchy there are rules that determine which positions and combinations of units are allowed and which are not. This applies to both the linguistic forms and their meanings.
Change in the language system
Every language used by a language community is in constant flux . This change is most noticeable in the area of vocabulary , in which words are constantly being lost or new words are being added, either rarely through new creation or often through word formation or borrowings from other languages. The changes in grammatical or phonetic rules are less noticeable, but they also take place constantly. For the change in vocabulary one can currently point out the strong expansion of technical terms in the field of computer science since the middle of the 20th century; for changing the grammatical rules, for example, that the cases that are dependent on prepositions change, e.g. B. with because , which for a long time can no longer be connected only with the genitive , but also with the dative .
Problems with the concept of the language system
The change in language means that old rules or units compete with new phenomena for a while, i.e. are used simultaneously. In such cases one has a choice between older and newer forms of expression. This can give the impression that languages are not strictly organized systems. That is why there is sometimes talk of a system- like structure of languages, of language as a systemoid .
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