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Language, Gender and Culture: Core Indicators of Social Role

The fact that language can be considered in a more complex sense is readily apparent inasmuch as competitive linguistic theories have emerged about the language-acquisition processes of children and the uses to which language may be put over the course of the life span (e.g., Mead, 1934; Piaget, 1965; Chomsky, 1969). Competing theorists tend to agree, however, that linguistic development is a feature of cognitive development more generally and that a critical phase of it kicks in at about age 2. No less significantly, language--however and at whatever cognitive point it is acquired and however it may be employed--is seen as a feature not only of individual but also of social experience. Indeed, the discourses of linguistic and sociological theory overlap and converge--in a manner now hostile, now congenial--on a more or less routine basis (e.g., Bergesen, 2004).

It has been said that "oral language is necessarily composed of arbitrary signs" (Englefield, 1977, p. 78). The same might have been said of any form of human communication. The rational capacity, which yields a capacity to engage in complex layers of meaningful coding, distinguishes human beings from other animals, whether such coding takes the form of written language, nonverbal, or or


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