Course Content
BA Arabic
About Lesson

Unit 3
Role of Language in Communication

Learning Outcomes

 Upon completion of the unit, the learner will be able to:

  • identify the role of language in communication.
  • describe the nature and uses of language in communication.
  • get insights into the techniques of effective communication.


Let us begin with a story. Have you heard of the ‘Tower of Babel’? It is a part of a story from The Bible. After the Great flood, all people in the world spoke the same language. They planned to build a tower that would reach heaven and started working on it. God was not very happy with it, and in order to disrupt their unity, he made their language chaotic. People began to speak different languages from then on. They could not communicate with one other and the idea of the tower failed. Yes, language is the most important element in communication.

Key words

Nature of language, Uses of language, Techniques


There are many theories and approaches to the origin of language, but none of it is considered the true account due to lack of empirical evidence. Whatever be the cause of origin, we know that language is something that connects human beings together. Let us now look at the nature of language in detail.

Human language can take the form of speech, writing or gestures. You might have heard of ‘sign language’, haven’t you? Speech is the most important part of communication. People also employ gestures as part of non-verbal communication. Writing is more formal than speaking. All the basic skills in communication, namely reading, writing, listening and speaking, require language.

Language is created and modified by people according to their needs. For instance, due to the emergence of social media and networking, a lot of changes occurred in language. Language is a system that always evolves. It is open-ended. There is always the possibility of omissions, modifications and creations. New words are formed according to our needs and some words that lose their relevance become obsolete. We now have internet lingo which shortens words. You might be using it to chat with your friends online.

Language is a set of symbols. A sound in language is transcribed as a letter, a string of which is known as the alphabet which forms the basis of written language.

Note: Many students wrongly use the word ‘alphabets’ to denote letters. English has only one alphabet (or string of letters) which has 26 letters in it.

Let us look at the symbolic nature of language in detail. Take the word ‘tree’. Why is a tree known by that name? Is there anything inherent in a tree to be called so? No, the relationship between the symbol and meaning is arbitrary.. The object (tree) is denoted by the word ‘tree’. It brings to the listener’s mind an image of a tree.

There are two important terms that you should know in relation to language- denotation and connotation. Denotation means the literal meaning of a word while connotation implies the cultural, emotional and metaphorical aspects associated with it. For instance, the word ‘home’ literally means a building where you live. It is the same as a house. The connotations behind the word ‘home’ make people connected to it as something deeper, like a place of comfort, love and warmth.

Let us now look at the role of language in communication. Some important uses of language are:

Definition: Language is used to define something by describing its characteristics. It helps in expressing the different characteristics of a person or thing and thereby defining it on its basis. Let us look at an example. Who is a student? How is a student different from a teacher? When you try to answer these questions, you will realise that there are many characteristics associated with each role which help in defining it.

Labelling: To label is to describe someone or something in a word or a phrase. For example, why do you call a teacher ‘strict’? He/she may not be very jovial, talks in a formal way, is very particular about deadlines, gives punishments, etc. When you hear the word ‘strict’, all these characteristics come to your mind. It is only because of language that all those characteristics could be expressed in a single term.

Expression: Language is used to express one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions and culture. The discussions on language should not be confined to its spoken form. Its expressions can happen in other forms too, like writing, sign language, etc.

Reception and Transmission of Information: Language helps in the sharing of information. It is very important in areas like journalism which thrive on the sharing of information.

Fulfillment of Needs: Language aids in fulfilling the physical and psychological needs of human beings by clearly expressing them. If you are sad, you can express it to someone using language and get consoled by them.

Development as well as Maintenance of Relationships: Language helps in the sharing of ideas which in turn creates relationships between human beings. Can you imagine being friends with your classmates if there is no language?

Evaluation: Language supports decision-making by helping to evaluate options.

Persuasion: Language helps to persuade others into our way of thinking. Persuasion is an art and the art of persuasive speech is known as rhetoric. Have you heard of the great orator Mark Antony who persuaded and changed the minds of a crowd of people with his oratory skill? In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the Roman General named Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) gives a speech at the funeral of Julius Caesar and it turns the crowd against his murderers by seemingly praising the latter (The full text of the speech is provided in the Suggested Reading).

Entertainment: Language helps in creative productions that entertain us. For instance, you might like listening to stories. The capability to produce and recite stories is a result of the faculty of language in human beings.

As you have learned the different uses of language, let us look at some tips to improve your language skills as it aids in communication. As we mentioned earlier, the four basic language skills are reading, writing, speaking and listening. Try to develop all the skills.


  • Arbitrary – based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system
  • Gesture – a movement of a part of the body, especially a hand or the head, to express an idea or meaning
  • Idiom – a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words
  • Lingo – the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people
  • Rhetoric – the art of persuasion
  • Symbol – a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract
  • Vocabulary – the body of words known to an individual person


  • Many theories on the origin of language – none of it has empirical evidence
  • Human language in the form of speech, writing and gestures
  • Writing is more formal than speaking.
  • Language is a system that always evolves.
  • Language is a set of symbols.
  • Two terms in relation to language are ‘denotation’ and ‘connotation’.
  • Some uses of a language – labelling, expression of thoughts, transmission of information, Maintenance of Relationships, Evaluation, Persuasion, Entertainment

Objective Questions

  1. What are the basic language skills?
  2. What is rhetoric?
  3. How many alphabets does English have?
  4. What is connotation?
  5. What is denotation?
  6. What is lingo?
  7. In what form of communication is gesture a part of?
  8. What is the body of words known to an individual person known as?


  1. Reading, writing, speaking, listening
  2. Art of persuasion
  3. One
  4. Symbolic meaning
  5. Literal meaning
  6. The vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people
  7. Non-verbal communication
  8. Vocabulary


  1. What is the difference between denotation and connotation?
  2. Define language
  3. What are some of the important uses of language?
  4. What is meant by labelling
  5. Prepare conversations by applying ten idioms in them.

Suggested Reading

  1. Allison, Rob and Brian Chanen, English A: Language and Literature, OU Press, 2013.
  2. Campbell, Janice. Excellence in Literature, 2022, https://www.excellence-in-lit-erature. com/.
  3. Koneru, Aruna. English Language Skills, McGraw Hill Education, 2011.
  4. Umstatter, Jack. English Brainstormers!: Ready-to-Use Games & Activities That Make Language Skills Fun to Learn, Jossey Bass, 2002.