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Language is the technology of meaning. Through ordered sounds, linguistic structures and semantic systems, humans are able to encode and decode ideas, concepts, factual arguments and imaginations. Needs and desires are expressed, behavior is regulated, knowledge is constructed and human relationships are formed, maintained and dissolved.
When we study language, we investigate the distinguishing characteristic of the human being, the ability to develop complex symbols which constitute the basis of communication. We learn how to work and play with others. We expand our understanding of the potential of human experience.
The study of languages starts with the most fundamental questions about experience, knowledge and interpretation. Can any idea be translated from one language to another? Or, does language itself shape and inform the idea? The languages of the world become a point of view, poetic potential, and instrument of power and control.
At Arizona State University, reflexive studies of languages occur in the School of International Letters and Cultures, Department of English, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Focused studies of particular languages and their impacts occur in the Confucius Institute, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Center for Asian Research, Melikian Center and Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, research units of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.