A language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means of communication of humans, and can be conveyed through speech, sign, or writing. Many languages, including the most widely-spoken ones, have writing systems that enable sounds or signs to be recorded for later reactivation. Human language is not dependent on a single mode of transmission (sight, sound, etc.) and is highly variable between cultures and across time.
Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. Precise estimates depend on an arbitrary distinction (dichotomy) being established between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken, signed, or both; however, any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, writing, whistling, signing, or braille. In other words, human language is modality-independent, but written or signed language is the way to inscribe or encode the natural human speech or gestures.
Depending on philosophical perspectives regarding the definition of language and meaning, when used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs to particular meanings. Oral, manual and tactile languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances. (Full article...)
The official languages of Canada are English and French, which "have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada," according to Canada's constitution. "Official bilingualism" is the term used in Canada to collectively describe the policies, constitutional provisions, and laws that ensure legal equality of English and French in the Parliament and courts of Canada, protect the linguistic rights of English- and French-speaking minorities in different provinces, and ensure a level of government services in both languages across Canada.
In addition to the symbolic designation of English and French as official languages, official bilingualism is generally understood to include any law or other measure that:
mandates that the federal government conduct its business in both official languages and provide government services in both languages;
encourages or mandates lower tiers of government (most notably the provinces and territories, but also some municipalities) to conduct themselves in both official languages and to provide services in both English and French rather than in just one or the other;
places obligations on private actors in Canadian society to provide access to goods or services in both official languages (such as the requirement that food products be labelled in both English and French);
provides support to non-government actors to encourage or promote the use or the status of one or the other of the two official languages. This includes grants and contributions to groups representing the English-speaking minority in Quebec and the French-speaking minorities in the other provinces to assist with the establishment of an infrastructure of cultural supports and services. (Full article...)