The 17 types of language (and characteristics)

Language is the basis not only of communication, but of human relationships. And depending on its characteristics, it can be classified into different types. Let’s see them.

From the moment the word develops, the human personality appears.”

Language is the mainstay of our species . Humans are the only animals capable of expressing ideas, thoughts, desires, wills and emotions through the emission of sounds. But is language just generating words?

No. Human communication goes much further. And it is that as we already know, living beings fulfill three vital functions: nutrition, relationship and reproduction. And when it comes to relationship, there are many forms of language that we can use to make ourselves understood.

The messages we generate can take very different natures. And this is precisely what we will see in today’s article, as we will analyze the different ways in which we can classify human language and we will study the types that are within each one.

How do we classify language?

Human language can be classified according to different criteria . Depending on its level of naturalness, depending on the nature of the message, depending on the meaning that the information captures and depending on whether or not there is a recipient. Let’s see them one by one.

  1. Depending on your level of naturalness

The level of naturalness refers to whether this form of language is innate to our nature (or we learn it when we are very young) or if it must be worked throughout life to master it. In this sense, we have natural and artificial language.

1.1. Natural language

By natural language we understand any form of communication between people whose realization is innate or is learned unconsciously when we are young. In this sense we have everything related to non-verbal communication (how we gesture facial expressions to show rejection, for example) and our mother tongue, respectively.

1.2. Literary artificial language

By artificial language we understand any form of communication between people whose realization implies an act of learning, since it is not an innate language nor do we develop it unconsciously in childhood. They are languages ​​that meet specific objectives and are usually more complex.

In the specific case of the literary, it is that form of language in which the ideas of the person who transmits the message must seek to create beauty and / or develop complex plots. It is the form of communication typical of books, stories, poetry, film scripts …

1.3. Artificial programming language

Artificial programming language is one in which the “language of computers” is spoken. Obviously, their learning does not occur naturally, but must go through an academic training that allows generating messages that are understood not by us humans, but by computers.

1.4. Scientific-technical artificial language

Scientific-technical artificial language is one in which words are used that, in general, are not used in natural communication. Be that as it may, they are languages ​​that seek to convey ideas to train students, make advances in science, find applications to discoveries, etc. In other words, it is the language used in biology, physics, chemistry, engineering classes …

1.5. Informal artificial language

Informal artificial language arises from an alteration of the natural one, in the sense that the forms of communication are altered in order to promote closeness and spontaneity. It is the type of language in which colloquialisms are used, no attention is paid to the syntactic construction of sentences, it is improvised and it is common in areas of friendship, family, couple …

1.6. Formal artificial language

Formal artificial language continues to be a form of natural language, but in this case the objective is to achieve an atmosphere of seriousness and respect. It is the type of language that runs away from colloquialisms (and obviously from bad words), it is about “you”, much importance is given to the syntactic construction of sentences and it is common in work, academic and, basically, with people with whom we do not have much confidence or with whom we must demonstrate a high degree of professionalism.

  1. Depending on the nature of the message

Another of the most common forms of classification is according to the nature of the message , that is, how ideas are transmitted. In this sense, we basically have verbal language (words are generated) or non-verbal (words are not generated). But within each there are different types. Let’s see them.

2.1. Oral verbal language

As we have said, verbal language is any form of communication in which information is transmitted through words. In the case of oral, it is the type of verbal language in which we speak and produce structured and organized sounds, that is, words. Therefore, this form of communication based on the emission and reception of sounds is what we know as oral communication.

2.2. Written verbal language

Written verbal language is one that continues to use words to transmit information, but in this case these are not generated by us through sounds, but are captured on a surface and captured by the sense of sight. It is the type of language that occurs in books, stories, newspapers, web pages …

2.3. Iconic non-verbal language

We now enter the forms of communication that do not use words. Iconic language is one in which we use signs, symbols and images to convey information. No need to use words to get the message to the recipient. When we are driving and we see a “yield” sign, even though nothing is written, as we are able to understand the symbols, we get the message quickly.

2.4. Non-verbal body language

Body language includes all the information that we transmit through the voluntary and involuntary movements of our body. Communication experts argue that when people speak face to face, only 35% of the information we actually transmit is verbal. The other 65% are gestures and everything related to non-verbal language. When we cross our arms to indicate discomfort, we are resorting to body language. The body says more about us than words.

2.5. Nonverbal facial language

Facial language is a branch of the body and refers to all the information that we transmit without the need to generate words, but simply with the gestures of facial faces. Smiling, frowning, closing eyes, yawning… This is all facial language.

  1. Depending on the sense that the information captures

Another way of classifying language is according to the sense of our body that captures the information, that is, where the message enters . In this sense, we have visual, sound, tactile and even, despite surprising, olfactory language.

3.1. Visual language

By visual language we understand any form of communication, regardless of whether it is natural or artificial, whether it is verbal or non-verbal, but which has the characteristic that the message is captured through the sense of sight, that is, “it enters through the eyes ”. Here we have body communication, writing, iconic language, etc.

  • We recommend reading: “How do our senses work?”

3.2. Sound language

By sound language we understand any form of communication in which we capture the message through the sense of hearing. Here we have, obviously, oral language, since a person makes sounds and we capture it through hearing.

3.3. Tactile language

Tactile language is one in which we capture information through the sense of touch. The clearest example of this form of communication is Braille, a reading system based on the sense of touch and designed for people with visual disabilities.

3.4. Olfactory language

And although it may surprise you, there is also olfactory language. And is that smells can give us a lot of information, including in human relationships. Depending on how, although it may sound bad, a person smells, they will be giving us concrete information about what they are like.

Pheromones are also included here, that is, molecules that we emit in the air and that are taken up by other individuals. These pheromones, although we are not aware of it, are powerful forms of communication, especially related to sexual attraction.

  1. Depending on whether or not there is a recipient

There are times when we utter words with the goal of simply talking to ourselves, while other times we just want to communicate with other people. In this sense, language can be classified as egocentric or social , respectively.

4.1. Egocentric language

Egocentric language, very common in children, is that way of verbalizing thoughts that, in adulthood, is replaced by the “inner voice”. In other words, by egocentric language we understand those forms of communication in which thoughts are only emitted in order to organize our activities, but without the intention of relating to other people.

4.2. Social language

Social language is the opposite of the previous one in the sense that, in this case, the messages that we send abroad do have the purpose of reaching another person. That is to say, here there is communication as such, since the objective of language is to relate to other people. Natural or artificial language, verbal or non-verbal, oral or written, visual or sound… They are all forms of social communication.


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