chapter  7
40 Pages

What Is a Language?

WithCharles E. Osgood

If anything is to be called "a language," it must satisfy the following criteria: It must (1) involve identifiably different and nonrandomly recurrent physical forms in some communication channel, (2) these forms being producible by the same organisms that receive them, their use (3) resulting in nonrandom dependencies between the forms and the behaviors of the organisms that employ them, (4) following nonrandom rules of reference to events in other channels and (5) nonrandom rules of combination with other forms in the same channel, with (6) the users capable of producing indefinitely long and potentially infinite numbers of novel combinations that satisfy the first five criteria.' Now, with our Octopian visitors (from the planetary system of the nearest star, Arcturus, as was later discovered) particularly in mind, I will elaborate a bit on these criteria for something being "a language" in general.