noun \ˈlaŋ-gwij, -wij\

: the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other

: any one of the systems of human language that are used and understood by a particular group of people

: words of a particular kind

Full Definition of LANGUAGE

a :  the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
b (1) :  audible, articulate, meaningful sound as produced by the action of the vocal organs
(2) :  a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings (3) :  the suggestion by objects, actions, or conditions of associated ideas or feelings <language in their very gesture — Shakespeare> (4) :  the means by which animals communicate (5) :  a formal system of signs and symbols (as FORTRAN or a calculus in logic) including rules for the formation and transformation of admissible expressions (6) :  machine language 1
a :  form or manner of verbal expression; specifically :  style
b :  the vocabulary and phraseology belonging to an art or a department of knowledge
c :  profanity
:  the study of language especially as a school subject
:  specific words especially in a law or regulation
language table

Examples of LANGUAGE

  1. How many languages do you speak?
  2. French is her first language.
  3. The book has been translated into several languages.
  4. He's learning English as a second language.
  5. a new word that has recently entered the language
  6. the formal language of the report
  7. the beauty of Shakespeare's language
  8. She expressed her ideas using simple and clear language.
  9. He is always careful in his use of language.

Origin of LANGUAGE

Middle English, from Anglo-French langage, from lange, langue tongue, language, from Latin lingua — more at tongue
First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile

Rhymes with LANGUAGE


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

System of conventional spoken or written symbols used by people in a shared culture to communicate with each other. A language both reflects and affects a culture's way of thinking, and changes in a culture influence the development of its language. Related languages become more differentiated when their speakers are isolated from each other. When speech communities come into contact (e.g., through trade or conquest), their languages influence each other. Most existing languages are grouped with other languages descended “genetically” from a common ancestral language (see historical linguistics). The broadest grouping of languages is the language family. For example, all the Romance languages are derived from Latin, which in turn belongs to the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family, descended from the ancient parent language, Proto-Indo-European. Other major families include, in Asia, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, Dravidian, Altaic, and Austroasiatic; in Africa, Niger-Congo, Afro-Asiatic, and Nilo-Saharan; and in the Americas, Uto-Aztecan, Maya, Otomanguean, and Tupian. Relationships between languages are traced by comparing grammar and syntax and especially by looking for cognates (related words) in different languages. Language has a complex structure that can be analyzed and systematically presented (see linguistics). All languages begin as speech, and many go on to develop writing systems. All can employ different sentence structures to convey mood. They use their resources differently for this but seem to be equally flexible structurally. The principal resources are word order, word form, syntactic structure, and, in speech, intonation. Different languages keep indicators of number, person, gender, tense, mood, and other categories separate from the root word or attach them to it. The innate human capacity to learn language fades with age, and languages learned after about age 10 are usually not spoken as well as those learned earlier. See also dialect.


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