Mankind has always used spoken word to communicate. Without language, great inventions, historical civilizations, religions, stories, events and much more would be lost – or worse, nonexistent! Language is necessary to mankind, and it’s even more necessary to understand how it works. There are two key components that contribute to our general understanding of language: phonology and semantics. Together, these two linguistic ideas work together to formulate working languages.
Phonology is essential to language development. Essentially, the study of phonology describes how mankind organizes certain sounds within a language. For example, the English sound for the letter a is the sound heard in ‘apple.’ Other languages may not even use the ‘a’ sound; in fact, some languages are composed entirely of clicking noises! How languages place different sounds together in a systematic manner is the basic study of phonology. Every language has a different way of pairing sounds; this is a huge part of what sets Chinese apart from English and French apart from Afrikaans.
Semantics, on the other hand, focuses primarily on meaning. In every language, words, sentences and other spoken sounds carry a certain meaning. These meanings are always paired with a series of sounds (the phonological aspect). Semantics are essential because the help mankind describe events, feelings, sights, sounds, ideas and anything else that needs expressing. Many cultures and languages use semantics to describe specific concepts. For example, the Scottish verb ‘tartle’ has no English equivalent; neither does the Georgian noun, ‘zeg.’ Sound pairings in different languages have developed different meanings, all of which are independent and unique.
Phonology and semantics are two halves of the same coin; they must work together to produce a functioning language. With the fusion of sound organization and meaning formation, language can blossom. Through these two interrelated studies, mankind can spin stories, relate emotions, describe the world around them and so much more.