Language vs. Speech

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Language and Speech is that the Language is a capacity to communicate using signs, such as words or gestures and Speech is a production of a spoken language.

  • Language

    Language is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; and a language is any specific example of such a system.

    The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Questions concerning the philosophy of language, such as whether words can represent experience, have been debated at least since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greece. Thinkers such as Rousseau have argued that language originated from emotions while others like Kant have held that it originated from rational and logical thought. 20th-century philosophers such as Wittgenstein argued that philosophy is really the study of language. Major figures in linguistics include Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky.

    Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. However, any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in whistling, signed, or braille. This is because human language is modality-independent. Depending on philosophical perspectives regarding the definition of language and meaning, when used as a general concept, “language” may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs to particular meanings. Oral, manual and tactile languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances.

    Human language has the properties of productivity and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure affords a much wider range of expressions than any known system of animal communication. Language is thought to have originated when early hominins started gradually changing their primate communication systems, acquiring the ability to form a theory of other minds and a shared intentionality. This development is sometimes thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume, and many linguists see the structures of language as having evolved to serve specific communicative and social functions. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently by approximately three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as social grooming and entertainment.

    Languages evolve and diversify over time, and the history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages to determine which traits their ancestral languages must have had in order for the later developmental stages to occur. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor is known as a language family. The Indo-European family is the most widely spoken and includes languages as diverse as English, Russian and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan family includes Mandarin, Bodo and the other Chinese languages, and Tibetan; the Afro-Asiatic family includes Arabic, Somali, and Hebrew; the Bantu languages include Swahili, and Zulu, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa; and the Malayo-Polynesian languages include Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout the Pacific. The languages of the Dravidian family, spoken mostly in Southern India, include Tamil Telugu and Kannada. Academic consensus holds that between 50% and 90% of languages spoken at the beginning of the 21st century will probably have become extinct by the year 2100.

  • Speech

    Speech is the vocalized form of communication used by humans and some animals, which is based upon the syntactic combination of items drawn from the lexicon. Each spoken word is created out of the phonetic combination of a limited set of vowel and consonant speech sound units (phonemes). These vocabularies, the syntax that structures them, and their sets of speech sound units differ, creating many thousands of different, and mutually unintelligible, human languages. The vocal abilities that enable humans to produce speech also enable them to sing.

    A gestural form of human communication exists for the deaf in the form of sign language. Speech in some cultures has become the basis of written language, often one that differs in its vocabulary, syntax and phonetics from its associated spoken one, a situation called diglossia. In addition to its use in communication, it is suggested by some psychologists such as Lev Vygotsky that speech is internally used in mental processes to enhance and organize cognition in the form of an interior monologue.

    Speech is researched in terms of the speech production and speech perception of the sounds used in vocal language. Other research topics concern speech repetition, the ability to map heard spoken words into the vocalizations needed to recreate them, which plays a key role in vocabulary expansion in children and speech errors. Several academic disciplines study these; including acoustics, psychology, speech pathology, linguistics, cognitive science, communication studies, otolaryngology and computer science. Another area of research is how the human brain in its different areas such as the Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area underlies speech.

    It is controversial how far human speech is unique; in that animals also communicate with vocalizations. While none in the wild have comparably large vocabularies, research upon the nonverbal abilities of language trained apes such as Washoe and Kanzi raises the possibility that they might have these capabilities. The evolutionary origins of speech are unknown and subject to much debate and speculation.

  • Language (noun)

    A body of words, and set of methods of combining them (called a grammar), understood by a community and used as a form of communication.

    “The English language and the German language are related.”

    “Deaf and mute people communicate using languages like ASL.”

  • Language (noun)

    The ability to communicate using words.

    “the gift of language”

  • Language (noun)

    The vocabulary and usage of a particular specialist field.

    “legal language;”

    “the language of chemistry”

  • Language (noun)

    The expression of thought (the communication of meaning) in a specified way.

    “body language;”

    “the language of the eyes”

  • Language (noun)

    A body of sounds, signs and/or signals by which animals communicate, and by which plants are sometimes also thought to communicate.

  • Language (noun)

    A computer language; a machine language.

  • Language (noun)

    Manner of expression.

  • Language (noun)

    The particular words used in a speech or a passage of text.

    “The language used in the law does not permit any other interpretation.”

    “The language he used to talk to me was obscene.”

  • Language (noun)


  • Language (noun)

    A languet, a flat plate in or below the flue pipe of an organ.

  • Language (verb)

    To communicate by language; to express in language.

  • Speech (noun)

    The faculty of uttering articulate sounds or words; the ability to speak or to use vocalizations to communicate.

    “It was hard to hear the sounds of his speech over the noise. He had a bad speech impediment.”

  • Speech (noun)

    A session of speaking; a long oral message given publicly usually by one person.

    “The candidate made some ambitious promises in his campaign speech.”

  • Speech (noun)

    A style of speaking.

    “Her speech was soft and lilting.”

  • Speech (noun)

    Speech reported in writing; see direct speech, reported speech

  • Speech (noun)

    A dialect or language.

  • Speech (noun)

    Talk; mention; rumour.

  • Speech (verb)

    To make a speech; to harangue.

  • Speech (noun)

    the expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds

    “he was born deaf and without the power of speech”

  • Speech (noun)

    a person’s style of speaking

    “she wouldn’t accept his correction of her speech”

  • Speech (noun)

    a formal address or discourse delivered to an audience

    “he gave a speech about the company”

  • Speech (noun)

    a sequence of lines written for one character in a play

    “Antony’s speech over Caesar’s body”

Oxford Dictionary

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