Ok, so as i understand it…
Language is just a bunch of arbitrary sensory cues (unless you use telepathy, i guess) that people have given meaning to. And not just meaning, but RULES.
Like moving your head up and down to signify consent, approval, or affirmation. Or like making the sound you make when you read the word “word” to mean… well, word. All just because.
And if enough people consciously, or unconsciously start agreeing on these meanings and rules, than you got language.
Now, the thing that makes human language awesome (and the focus of this update) is that it is infinitely productive (meaning you can understand anything i say, no matter how i say it, as long as it follows our agreed upon grammatical rules, or something like that). And this is because of grammatical signals!
For example: If i say to you, “It hurts when I walk!”
You understand that I am expressing my feeling of pain and discomfort when I walk.
And if I say, “It hurt when I walked”, you (Amazing English speaking/reading person, you) will understand that the pain I am communicating about happened in the past without me having to tell you every single time, “I am speaking to you of a past reality in which it hurts when I walk.”
Now a more fun one!
The word “text”, for the longest time, was a noun meaning the symbols we wrote on a book.
But, nowadays, I can say without hesitation “Did you text Jose about the time change?” without having to explain “I will now speak of this noun we use to mean written symbols that we read, and i will speak of it as a VERB instead.”
Because it follows the rules of our grammar!
We have agreed that “ed” is a Grammatical Signal of verbs dealing with the past, and we have agreed that our word order follows some basic rules:
I (subject) Text (Verb) You (Object)!
And of course, you are thinking, but that’s because times are changing and this is a very common form the word. Of course! but it wasn’t always, it started somewhere, and we do it with many words, ALL THE TIME!!
An example? If I looked at you and engaged you in an environment in which people had gotten together to enjoy a football game, eat hamburgers, and drink beer, and i said the following words: “Hey, bro, beer me!”
Would you understand the message I’m trying to express?
I hope so.
Now let me give you some vocab words that pretty much describe all human grammar:
Morphology and Syntax (Horribly academic, but simple to understand)
Morphology deals with the actual word, and its formation.
Like in English, we agreed that once you add “ed” to a verb to make it signify a past tense.
Or that adding an ” ‘s ” at the end of a Subject implies possession.
You know, all the things that your teachers yelled to you about.
But these rules also let you make awesome jewels like “the charity I give to also funds anti-gay campaigns, and conversion therapy! They Chic-Fil-A’ed me!”
Now Syntax deals with the order in which we agreed to put our words.
And these serve as Grammatical Signals, too!
LIke, If you hear me say, “Should we eat”, You know there should be a question mark at the end, because the word order signals a question!
Whereas if I say, “We should eat”, you know a period ends the phrase as a statement.
And just like the examples above, It helps people understand what you mean by “Beer me!”.