Interchangeability means that any human being can be both a producer and a receiver of messages. We can say, and on other occasions can receive and understand, for example, “Please do something to make me happy.” Though some people (including me) suggest that there is sex differentiation in the actual language use, in other words, men and women may say different things, yet in principle there is no sound, or word or sentence that a man can utter and a woman cannot, or vice versa. On the other hand, a person can be the speaker while the other person is the listener and as the turn moves on to the listener, he can be the speaker and the first speaker is to listen. It is turn-taking that makes social communication possible and acceptable.
Some male birds, however, utter some calls which females do not (or cannot?) , and certain kinds of fish have similar haps mentionable. When a dog barks, all the neighbouring dogs bark. Then people around can hardly tell which dog (dogs) is (are0 “speaking” and which listening.
1.9.Why do linguists say language is human specific?
First of all, human language has six “design features” which animal communication systems do not have, at least not in the true sense of them(see I .2-8). Let’s borrow C. F. Hocket’s Chart that compares human language with some animals’systems, from Wang Gang(1998,p.8).
Secondly, linguists have done a lot trying to teach animals such as chimpanzees to speak a human language but have achieved nothing inspiring. Washoe, a female chimpanzee, was brought up like a human child by Beatnice and Alan Gardner. She was taught “American sign Language”, and learned a little that made the teachers happy but did mot make the linguistics circle happy, for few believed in teaching chimpanzees.
Thirdly, a human child reared among animals cannot speak a human language, not even when he is taken back and taught to lo to so (see the “Wolf Child”in I.7)
1.10.What functions does language have?
Language has at least seven functions: phatic, directive, Informative, interrogative, expressive, evocative and performative. According to Wang Gang (1988,p.11), language has three main functions: a tool of communication, a tool whereby people learn about the world, and a tool by which people learn about the world, and a tool by which people create art . M .A. K.Halliday, representative of the London school, recognizes three “Macro-Functions”: ideational, interpersonal and textual(see !.11-17;see HU Zhuanglin et al.,pp10-13,pp394-396).
1.11What is the phatic function?
The “phatic function” refers to language being used for setting up a certain atmosphere or maintaining social contacts(rather than for exchanging information or ideas). Greetings, farewells, and comments on the weather in English and on clothing in Chinese all serve this function. Much of the phatic language (e.g. “How are you?” “Fine, thanks.”) is insincere if taken literally, but it is important. If you don‘t say “Hello” to a friend you meet, or if you don’t answer his “Hi”, you ruin your friendship.