But what about human spoken language? Two highly interrelated questions arise: The first one is, how was first human language made? The second one is, if a person (say, a baby) has no knowledge whatsoever of the conventions used in a certain language, how would he develop an understanding of it? As an answer to this second question we can say that the combination of our pattern recognition abilities and continuous observation enables us to acquire language. Still the question is worth further analysis.
One of the main influences of creation of language and consequently understanding of language are the environment and experiences. In one discussion about language acquisition (here), I argued about the inherent difficulty for humans to analyze extraterrestrial languages. My position can be summarized that: Language experts have long been in the analysis of prehistoric languages (say, ancient Egyptian languages), their job is relatively easy because they are analyzing human languages - made by humans just like us. The real challenge would be to analyze and understand languages of beings that share neither our environment nor experiences.
Many philosophers have recognized this limitation, one such recognition is Wittgenstein's quote:
"If a lion could talk, we could not understand him." (source)Other instances -say, the title "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus."- seem to suggest that even humans may be incapable of understanding eachother due to different physiological and psychological needs. All those instances seem to suggest that understanding of language is highly dependent on our familiarity of the concept being suggested.
A consequence to the "pattern recognition" method for acquiring language is ambiguity. Take two example nouns: "Knife" and "Love". The word "knife" can be easily recognized through observation, the concept is mainly unambiguous and not open for interpretations. On the other hand, the term "love" is highly ambiguous -each person has their own interpretations- since diverse patterns are attributed the same word "love".
An extreme view of the above two paragraphs, considering individualism and since every person has different experiences in life, then the meaning of words each individual perceives is different! We might say that no human really understands another, and we are merely deluded to think otherwise.
In this series:
Language Acquisition - Part 1: General Discussion
Language Acquisition - Part 2: The Influence Of Physiological Formation
Language Acquisition - Part 3: Deep Structure Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 4: Ambiguities
Language Acquisition - Part 5: The Problem Of Representation
Language Acquisition - Part 6: Linguistic Determinism Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 7: Possible Applications For The Investigation