Natural language

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In the philosophy of language, a natural language (or ordinary 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. Natural language is distinguished from constructed languages and formal languages such as computer-programming languages or the "languages" used in the study of formal logic, especially mathematical logic.


Defining natural language

Though the exact definition varies between scholars, natural language can broadly be defined in contrast on the one hand to artificial or constructed languages, such as computer programming languages like Python and international auxiliary languages like Esperanto, and on the other hand to other communication systems in nature, such as the waggle dance of bees. Although there are a variety of natural languages, any cognitively normal human infant is able to learn any natural language. By comparing the different natural languages, scholars hope to learn something about the nature of human intelligence and the innate biases and constraints that shape natural language.

Linguists have an incomplete understanding of all aspects of the rules underlying natural languages, and these rules are therefore objects of study. The understanding of natural languages reveals much about not only how language works (in terms of syntax, semantics, phonetics, phonology, etc.), but also about how the human mind and the human brain process language. In linguistic terms, natural language only applies to a language that has evolved naturally, and the study of natural language primarily involves native (first language) speakers.

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