Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication. The scientific study of language in any of its senses is called linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....


The approximately 3000–6000 languages that are spoken by humans today are the most salient examples, but natural language
Natural language
In the philosophy of language, a natural language is any language which arises in an unpremeditated fashion as the result of the innate facility for language possessed by the human intellect. A natural language is typically used for communication, and may be spoken, signed, or written...

s can also be based on visual rather than auditory stimuli
Stimulus (physiology)
In physiology, a stimulus is a detectable change in the internal or external environment. The ability of an organism or organ to respond to external stimuli is called sensitivity....

, for example in sign language
Sign language
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's...

s and written language
Written language
A written language is the representation of a language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will instinctively learn or create spoken or gestural languages....


There is no mode of action, no form of emotion, that we do not share with the lower animals. It is only by language that we rise above them, or above each other---by language, which is the parent, and not the Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist (1891), Part I.

Verbing weirds language.

Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection (1994), p. 53.

Speech is the best show a man puts on.

Benjamin Lee Whorf, Language, thought and reality (1956), pg. 249.

In language, the ignorant have prescribed laws to the learned.

Richard Duppa (1768-1831), writer and draughtsman. Maxims No. 252 (1830)