Charles Francis Hockett (1916-2000) was an Americal linguist who developed many influential ideas in Linguistics. “Design Features Of language” (1960) is one of his major contributions to Linguistics. Initially, he enlisted 13 characteristics of human languages and in a subsequent article, he expanded his list with more features. That is, he has a total of 16 features.
Charles Hockett’s “Design Features Of Language”
1) Vocal-Auditory Channel
Much of human language is performed by using vocal tract and auditory channels.
Hockett viewed this as an advantage for human species because the use of the vocal tract and the auditory channel helps the production, transmission, and perception of sounds to have easily occurred.
2) Broadcast, transmission and directional reception
All human languages can be heard if it is produced within the range of the listener’s auditory channel. Additionally, a listener has the ability to determine the source of a sound by binaural (affecting two ears) direction-finding mechanism.
3) Rapid Fading or Transitoriness
Waveforms of human language dissipate over time and do not persist. A hearer can only receive a specific sound at the time it is spoken because it diminishes after being released.
A person has the ability to both speak and hear the same signal (message). Anything that a person hears, s/he can speak about the same message.
5) Total Feedback
A speaker has the ability to hear and monitor his/her own speech production and the speaker can internalize his/her own sounds.
Human beings use language for special purposes. The human speaks to transmit information not chiefly for other functions like heuristic, interactional, imaginative or poetic purposes.
Every linguistic production of human beings conveys a specific message which refers to specific meaning.
The is no direct or logical connection between a signal and its meaning (Or, between the signifier and the signified object or idea). Such as there is no logical relationship between the word ‘tree’ and the object tree. There is no reason why it should be called ‘a tree’, not anything else. The name of something is chosen arbitrarily.
Each unit of communication is distinct from another unit. The change of one unit will change the entire utterance. Such as the /p/ and /b/ sounds are distinct from one another.
|pin /pin/ means ‘a small device with sharp point’|
|bin /bin/ means ‘a container’|
Here the change of /p/ sound into ‘b’ has changed the word ‘pin’ to ‘bin’ and the words have entirely different meanings.
Humans have the ability to talk across time and place. That is, they can speak about their past, future plans, and even their imaginations. Animals can only share their present feelings or needs.
Humans have the ability to use language creatively by combining already-existing sings.
Language is used to describe or analyze language itself.
Speakers of one language can learn to speak another language. But a dog can never produce the sound of a cat or a bird.
Humans have the ability to make false statements (to lie). That is, we can make purposeful manipulation of particular information.
15) Duality of patterning
Meaningful signs (words) are made of meaningless parts (sounds and letters). A finite number of meaningless parts are combined to make infinite numbers of meaningful utterances.