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The possession of language, perhaps more than any other attribute,
distinguishes humans from other animals. To understand our humanity, one must
understand the nature of language that makes us human. According to the
philosophy expressed in the myths and religions of many peoples, language is the
source of human life and power. To some people of Africa, a newborn child is a
kintu, a “thing,” not yet a muntu, a “person.” Only by the act of learning language
does the child become a human being. According to this tradition, we all
become “human” because we all know at least one language. But what does it
mean to “know” a language?

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