Language is a highly elaborated signaling system. We call the aspects that are peculiar to it the design features of language. Some of these we find only with the language of human beings, others we have in common with animals. Another aspect of human language is that we express thoughts with words.
Talking, shouting, whispering, lying, swearing, telling jokes or tales, in short: communication of all sorts by means of articulate sound is something we are so familiar with that we hardly ever come to think about it as something unique. However, no other creature on this planet shows the ability to communicate verbally in the way we do. Take a minute to think about the immense impact spoken and written language has on your everyday life! You could not possibly do without it in situations where you meet other people, like in school, university, or at the breakfast table. The examples are innumerous. In this course, we will take a look at the unique features of human language. As you will see when we proceed, the human curiosity concerning language is no modern phenomenon. Language has been examined by linguists and philosophers for several millennia. Therefore, we can look back on a respectable stock of literature on the topic originating from the times of Ancient Greece until the present day. The result is a compendium of linguistic disciplines that are interwoven with the domains of, among others, philosophy, psychology, neurology, and even computer science: a vast and fascinating network of knowledge. To keep you fascinated (which I hope you are) and to keep you from becoming intimidated (which I hope you are not), we will start right away with the very principles that make human language so special.