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Relevant Paper


Committee on Language

About this Document

The following definition, drafted by the Committee on Language, was adopted as an official statement of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association by its Legislative Council in November 1982 (LC 20-82). Members of the Committee during development of the definition were: Phil Connell: Priscilla Davis; Charles Diggs (ex officio): Audrey Holland: Judith Johnston: James Kemp (Chair): Vernon Larson: Paul Miller: James Nation: Judith Pratt: Mary Ann Romski; Kristine Strand; and Larry Terango.

WHEREAS, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) does not have a recognized definition of language, and

WHEREAS, the necessity for having such a definition for use in professional, legal, governmental, and public relation contexts has been recognized, and

WHEREAS, the Committee on Language has been charged with developing a definition of language, and

WHEREAS, the Committee on Language completed that charge and submitted the definition to the ASHA membership for reaction, and

WHEREAS, the definition has been revised according to the responses received; therefore

RESOLVED, that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association adopt and disseminate the following definition of language as the recognized definition of the Association.

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Definition of Language

Language is a complex and dynamic system of conventional symbols that is used in various modes for thought and communication.

Contemporary views of human language hold that:

  • language evolves within specific historical, social, and cultural contexts;

  • language, as rule-governed behavior, is described by at least five parameters—phonologic, morphologic, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic;

  • language learning and use are determined by the interaction of biological, cognitive, psychosocial, and environmental factors;

  • effective use of language for communication requires a broad understanding of human interaction including such associated factors as nonverbal cues, motivation, and sociocultural roles.

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Index terms: language

Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1982). Language [Relevant Paper]. Available from

© Copyright 1982 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.


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