language

language 1 Language, dialect, tongue, speech, idiom are comparable when they denote a body or system of words and phrases used by a large community (as of a region) or by a people, a nation, or a group of nations.
Language may be used as a general term for a body of communicative symbols whether it is made up of words, or of sounds, gestures, and facial expressions, or of visual signals (as a code of lights, smoke, or flags), or of electrical impulses in a computer. However, in its ordinary and specific sense the term refers to a body of words that by long use by the population of a widespread territory has become the means whereby the ideas or feelings of the individual members of that population are communicated or expressed. The term suggests some degree of stability in behavior (as in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammatical- ity); it usually connotes the existence of a standard determined by the usage of educated writers and speakers
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English and French are languages, that is to say they are systems of habits of speech, exactly like Eskimo or Hottentot or any other language—R. A. Hall

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dead languages such as classical Latin and ancient Greek

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But language is also applied to a body of words and phrases that is peculiar to an art, a science, a profession, or a class and that, however well understood by others of the community, is not generally adopted by them
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in ecçnomic language the "marginal saver" determines the price— Hobson

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it took the three of us, representing economics, sociology, and political science, about six weeks to learn each other's languageKerwin

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Dialect (see also DIALECT 1) may denote a form of language which is clearly distinguishable from other forms by marked differences and an identity of its own. More often it refers to a variant of a recognized language, restricted to a limited area and not entirely unintelligible to speakers of the language of which it is a phase
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Venetian and Sicilian are equally dialects of Italian, although as far as mutual intelligibility is concerned these two might as well be called independent languages— Sapir

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the perennial controversy as to whether Scots is a language or a dialect

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Tongue and speech both call attention to the spoken rather than written communication.
Tongue differs from language chiefly in its being applicable to a dialect, a patois, an argot (for these terms, see DIALECT 1) as well as to the standard form of a language
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there is no poet in any tongue—not even in Latin or Greek— who stands so firmly as a model for all poets— T. S. Eliot

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translated the Bible into an Indian tongueSuckow

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he is a New England poet . . . true to its landscape, its climate, its history, its morality, its tongueMark Van Doren

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Speech, with rare exceptions, means spoken language, or (as in modern technical use) language as it is spoken
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people of a strange speechEzek 3:6

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there are at least two sounds in the Anglo-Saxon which are unknown in our present speechWhitney

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Idiom suggests reference to a country or sometimes to a province or section of a country with its own peculiar and distinctive tongue
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part of the difficulty lies in the English idiom which is unfamiliar to the American reader— Stead

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on the spot I read . . . the classics of the Tuscan idiomGibbony Idiom

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also may apply to private or peculiar language (as of a particular writer, class, literary school, or group)
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the eminently personal idiom of Swinburne— T. S. Eliot

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the medieval poetic idiom came after a while to seem a jargon— Lowes

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I have read very little Runyon, whose idiom I always suspected—wrongfully, I'm sure— of being more or less synthetic— Gibbs

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Analogous words: *dialect, vernacular, patois, lingo, jargon, cant, argot, slang
2 Language, vocabulary, phraseology, phrasing, diction, style are comparable rather than synonymous terms when they mean oral or written expression or a quality of such expression that is dependent on the variety, or arrangement, or expressiveness of words.
Language applies primarily to verbal expression with reference to the words employed. It may call attention to excellence or ineptness in the use of words, to their dignity or their vulgarity, to their fitness or lack of fitness, to their sonority or their stridency, or to any of the qualities which speech or writing may derive from the choice and arrangement of words
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he avoided harsh language in dealing with his children

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language, grave and majestic, but of vague and uncertain import— Macaulay

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when I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder that such trivial people should muse and thunder in such lovely language—D. H. Lawrence

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Vocabulary calls attention chiefly to the extent or variety of the writer's or speaker's stock of words or to the sources from which such a stock is derived
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the constant play and contrast in English poetry between the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon vocabulariesBottrall

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German, famous for its polysyllabic vocabulary—G. A. Miller

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even the vocabulary of renunciation, and its conventional gestures, were unfamiliar to him— Wharton

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Phraseolog or phrasing is sometimes used in place of vocabulary when the reader's attention is called especially to its idiomatic or peculiar character
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eccentricities of phraseology

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awkward phrasing

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the exquisite phrasing in which we feel that every word is in its place— Edmund Wilson

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but phraseology in particular stresses the grouping of words as much as their choice
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he can say in the phraseology of the sentimentalist that he "loves nature"

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the phraseology, rather than the vocabulary, of Donne offers difficulty to the inexperienced reader

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the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers— Wordsworth

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this cryptic and involved phraseology, obscure to the uninitiated, permeates all communist publications— Report of Special Committee on Communist Tactics

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Diction calls attention to the choice and arrangement of words with reference to their expression of ideas or emotions. The term is used commonly of considered language (as of poetry, literary prose, or oratory) and it usually, therefore, implies selection or arrangement with reference to such ends as impressiveness, elegance, and beauty of sound
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he was in a high fever while he was writing, and the blood-and- thunder magazine diction he adopted did not calm him— Kipling

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his choice of forceful picturesque diction in speech and writing— Lawrason Brown

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a poet cannot help being of his age, the diction and the idiom see to that— Gogarty

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Style denotes a mode or manner of expressing one's thoughts or emotions or imaginative conceptions in words, as distinct from or as distinguishable from the thoughts or emotions or conceptions expressed. It is sometimes thought of as a structure and diction peculiar to an age or a literary type and found in each representative work of that time and type
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the Renaissance epic style is based upon that of Vergil

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a poem written in the style of the ode

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but perhaps more often it is thought of as a manner of expression which in structure and diction involves artistry but is individual and characteristic of its author
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style ... is a peculiar recasting and heightening, under a certain condition of spiritual excitement, of what a man has to say, in such a manner as to add dignity and distinction to it— Arnold

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what he believed in was style: that is to say, a certain absolute and unique manner of expressing a thing, in all its intensity and color— Pater

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this then is Style. As technically manifested in literature it is the power to touch with ease, grace, precision, any note in the gamut of human thought or emotion— Quiller-Couch

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New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

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  • Language — Lan guage, n. [OE. langage, F. langage, fr. L. lingua the tongue, hence speech, language; akin to E. tongue. See {Tongue}, cf. {Lingual}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Any means of conveying or communicating ideas; specifically, human speech; the expression …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • language — [laŋ′gwij] n. [ME < OFr langage < langue, tongue < L lingua, tongue, language, altered (by assoc. with lingere, to lick) < OL dingua < IE * dṇg̑hwa > OE tunge, TONGUE] 1. a) human speech b) Archaic the ability to communicate by… …   English World dictionary

  • language — I noun communication, composition, dialect, expression, faculty of speech, folk speech, form of expression, formulation, idiom, jargon, lingua, linguistics, means of communication, oral, oratio, parlance, phrasing, phraseology, rhetoric, sermo,… …   Law dictionary

  • language — late 13c., langage words, what is said, conversation, talk, from O.Fr. langage (12c.), from V.L. *linguaticum, from L. lingua tongue, also speech, language (see LINGUAL (Cf. lingual)). The form with u developed in Anglo French. Meaning a language …   Etymology dictionary

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