chapter  1
Language and language study
Pages 6

Man has been described as 'the talking animal', and language is one of the most pervasive elements in human life. Whether thought is possible without language is a question best left to philosophers and psychologists; but it is clear that in general our thoughts and feelings are given a measure of objectivity and permanence by being expressed in words. Social life, too, from the simplest personal contacts to the complex activities of nations, is unthinkable without language as a means of communication; indeed society could not have begun to develop at all if men had not been able, by means of language, to share their thoughts, to influence their neighbours' behaviour, and to transmit the heritage of experience. We no longer believe, as our remote ancestors did, that language in itself has magic properties; but anyone who has been moved by a great poet or novelist or stirred by a skilful actor or orator or preacher .will need no further proof that language is a powerful instrument for good or ill in human affairs. The student of language can hardly be in doubt about either the interest or the value of his subject; at every turn he is involved in all the variety and complexity of human life and history.