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The only thing in life is language. Not love. Not anything else.
The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms.
In language, the ignorant have prescribed laws to the learned.
Language is the picture and counterpart of thought.
Verbing weirds language.
Thou whoreson Zed! thou unnecessary letter!
Evolution teaches us the original purpose of language was to ritualize men's threats and curses, his spells to compel the gods; communication came later.

Language is the term commonly used for any distinctive means of communication. There are several types of language, including , written language, and oral/aural language (spoken). The study of language is commonly called Linguistics.

CONTENT: A-D, E-H, I-L, M-P, Q-T, U-Z, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia, See alo, External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - D[edit]

  • It does not seem likely [...] that there is any direct relation between the culture of a tribe and the language they speak, except in so far as the form of the language will be moulded by the state of the culture, but not in so far as a certain state of the culture is conditioned by the morphological traits of the language
    • Franz Boas (1911), Handbook of American Indian languages (Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 40. Washington: Government Print Office (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology
  • The language denotes the man. A coarse or refined character finds its expression naturally in a coarse or refined phraseology.
  • The only thing in life is language. Not love. Not anything else.
    • Richard Burton as quoted by Melvyn Bragg in Richard Burton: A Life (1988)
  • We think only through the medium of words.—Languages are true analytical methods.—Algebra, which is adapted to its purpose in every species of expression, in the most simple, most exact, and best manner possible, is at the same time a language and an analytical method.—The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged.
  • The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms.

E - H[edit]

  • Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.
  • Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
  • The Devil: Okay, boys...tonight's homework. Algebra. Xn + Yn = Zn. You're never gonna use that, are you? Imperialism and the First World War. What was done is done. No point thinking about it now. German, French, Spanish. Ja, ja, oui, oui, s, s. It's nonsense. Everyone speaks English anyway. And if they don't, they ought to. So, no homework tonight. But I want you to watch a lot of TV, don't neglect your video games...and I'll see you in the morning. Shall we say 10:00, 10:30? No point in getting up too early.
  • Every time that the language question appears, in one mode or another, it signifies that a series of other problems are beginning to impose themselves: the formation and growth of the ruling class, the need to stabilize the most intimate and secure links between that ruling group and the popular national masses, that is, to reorganize cultural hegemony.
    • Antonio Gramsci in Quaderni dal Carcere, 1935, as quoted in The Social History of Language by P. Burke and R. Porter (1987).
  • Not only the entire ability to think rests on language... but language is also the crux of the misunderstanding of reason with itself.
  • The people from Prague and other Czechs should be whipped who speak half Czech and half German (...) And who could enumerate how the Czech language has already been corrupted, so that the true Czech hears they speak, but he does not understand them. And from that arises envy, anger, conflict, strife and Czech humiliation.
    • Jan Hus in Výklad viery, desatera a páteře (Interpretation of the Faith, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer) as quoted in A Companion to Jan Hus (2015) by František Šmahel (ed.), pp. 190-191.
  • Language is the picture and counterpart of thought.
    • Mark Hopkins, Address, Dedication of Williston Seminary, Dec. 1, 1841.

I - L[edit]

  • I first said "No; that is the white man's God, and the white man's religion; and that God would not have anything to do with the Indians." …I thought that God could only understand English... I then met with Peter Jones, who was converted a few months before me, and, to my surprise, I hear him return thanks, at meal, in Ojibway. This was quite enough for me. I now saw that God could understand me in my Ojibway, and therefor went far into the woods and prayed, in the Ojibway tongue.
  • Language is the dress of thought.
    • Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets (1781), "The Life of Cowley".
  • There was a silence; then, clearing his throat, "Once upon a time," the Director began, "while our Ford was still on earth, there was a little boy called Reuben Rabinovitch. Reuben was the child of Polish-speaking parents."
The Director interrupted himself. "You know what Polish is, I suppose?"
"A dead language."
"Like French and German," added another student, officiously showing off his learning.

M - P[edit]

  • Men learned to speak in order to understand one another. Cultural languages have lost the ability to help men to advance beyond the most rudimentary level and attain understanding. It seems that the time has come to learn to be silent once again.
    • Fritz Mauthner, Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache, 1923, I, p. 56; as quoted in [1]

Q - T[edit]

  • Ebbinghaus: Language is a system of conventional signs that can be voluntarily produced at any time.
Croce: Language is articulated, limited sound organized for the purpose of expression.
Dittrich: Language is the totality of expressive abilities of individual human beings and animals capable of being understood by at least one other individual.
Eisler: Language is any expression of experiences by a creature with a soul.
B. Erdmann: Language is not a kind of communication of ideas but a kind of thinking: stated or formulated thinking. Language is a tool, and in fact a tool or organ of thinking that is unique to us as human beings.
Forbes: Language is an ordered sequence of words by which a speaker expresses his thoughts with the intention of making them known to a hearer.
J. Harris: Words are the symbols of ideas both general and particular: of the general, primarily, essentially and immediately; of the particular, only secondarily, accidentally and mediately.
Hegel: Language is the act of theoretical intelligence in its true sense, for it is its outward expression.
Jespersen: Language is human activity which has the aim of communicating ideas and emotions.
Jodl: Verbal language is the ability of man to fashion, by means of combined tones and sounds based on a limited numbers of elements, the total stock of his perceptions and conceptions in this natural tone material in such a way that this psychological process is clear and comprehensible to others to its least detail.
Kainz: Language is a structure of signs, with the help of which the representation of ideas and facts may be effected, so that things that are not present, even things that are completely imperceptible to the senses, may be represented.
De Laguna: Speech is the great medium through which human co-operation is brought about.
Marty: Language is any intentional utterance of sounds as a sign of a psychic state.
Pillsbury-Meader: Language is a means or instrument for the communication of thought, including ideas and emotions.
De Saussure: Language is a system of signs expressive of ideas.
Schuchardt. The essence of language lies in communication.
Sapir: Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols.
  • Geza Revesz, The Origins and Prehistory of Language, London 1956. Footnote at pp. 126-127
  • Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached … We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
    • Edward Sapir, The Status Of Linguistics As A Science (1929)
  • A clever Toronto lawyer was deep into a technical argument before the Supreme Court. His position was dependent upon a close reading of the legal text and turned on the letter of the law. Suddenly the chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, leaned forward and asked the counsel if his argument also worked in French. After all, the law is the law in both languages and a loophole in one tends to evaporate in the other. Only an argument of substance stands up. The lawyer had no idea what to reply.
  • Thou whoreson Zed! thou unnecessary letter!
    • William Shakespeare, King Lear (1608), Act II, scene 2, line 66.
  • You taught me language; and my profit on't
    Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
    For learning me your language!
    • William Shakespeare, The Tempest (c. 1610-1612), Act I, scene 2, line 363.
  • Fie, fie upon her!
    There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
    Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
    At every joint and motive of her body.
  • Mutual understanding would be immensely facilitated by the use of one universal tongue. But which shall it be, is the great question. At present it looks as if the English might be adopted as such, though it must be admitted that it is not the most suitable. Each language, of course, excels in some feature.... A practical answer to that momentous question must perforce be found in times to come, for it is manifest that by adopting one common language the onward march of man would be prodigiously quickened. I do not believe that an artificial concoction, like Volapuk, will ever find universal acceptance, however time-saving it might be. That would be contrary to human nature. Languages have grown into our hearts.
  • Anyone who invents a language,” he said, “finds that it requires a suitable habitation and a history in which it can develop. A real language is never invented, of course. It is a natural thing. It is wrong to call the language you grow up speaking your native language. It is not. It is your first learnt language. It is a by-product of the total make-up of the animal.

V - Z[edit]

  • Verbing weirds language.
    • Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection (1994), p. 53.
  • Language itself inevitably introduced an element of permanence into the world. For, although speech itself is transitory, the conventionalized sound symbols of language transcended time. ...To obtain a greater degree of permanence the time symbols of oral speech had to be converted into the space symbols of written speech. ...The crucial stage in the evolution of writing occurred when ideographs became phonograms...
  • Speech is the best show a man puts on.
  • There is no mode of action, no form of emotion, that we do not share with the lower animals. It is only by language that we rise above them, or above each other — by language, which is the parent, and not the child, of thought.
  • Evolution teaches us the original purpose of language was to ritualize men's threats and curses, his spells to compel the gods; communication came later.
    • Gene Wolfe, "The Death of Doctor Island", Universe 3 (1973), ed. Terry Carr; reprinted in The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009).
  • Jede Zeit sagt, daß derzeit die Sprache so gefährdet und von Zersetzung bedroht sei wie nie zuvor. In unserer Zeit aber ist die Sprache tatsächlich so gefährdet und von Zersetzung bedroht wie nie zuvor.
    • Every age claims that its language is more endangered and threatened by decay than ever before. In our time, however, language is really endangered and threatened by decay as never before.
    • Hans Weigel, Die Leiden der jungen Wörter / The Sorrows of Young Words (1974), quoted by Rudi Keller Is the German Language Going to the Dogs? en, de
  • Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.
  • The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
  • For remember that in general we don't use language according to strict rules — it hasn't been taught us by means of strict rules, either. p. 25
  • An entire mythology is stored within our language.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 (1993) Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 133

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 426.

  • Well languag'd Danyel.
  • And who in time knows whither we may vent
    The treasure of our tongue? To what strange shores
    This gain of our best glory shall be sent,
    T' enrich unknowing nations with our stores?
    What worlds in th' yet unformed Occident
    May come refin'd with th' accents that are ours?
  • Who climbs the grammar-tree, distinctly knows
    Where noun, and verb, and participle grows.
  • “A language, like a species, when extinct, never… reappears.”
  • And don't confound the language of the nation
    With long-tailed words in osity and ation.
  • Language is the only instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas.
  • We do not realize what tremendous power the structure of an habitual language has. It is not an exaggeration to say that it enslaves us through the mechanism of s[emantic] r[eactions] and that the structure which a language exhibits, and impresses upon us unconsciously, is automatically projected upon the world around us.
    • Alfred Korzybski,Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (Lancaster, Pa.: International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Co., 1933) p. 90
  • L'accent du pays où l'on est né demeure dans l'esprit et dans le cœur comme dans le langage.
  • La grammaire, qui sait régenter jusqu'aux rois,
    Et les fait, la main haute, obéir à ses lois.
    • Grammar, which knows how to lord it over kings, and with high hands makes them obey its laws.
    • Molière, Les Femmes Savantes (1672), II. 6.
  • Une louange en grec est d'une merveilleuse efficace à la tête d'un livre.
    • A laudation in Greek is of marvellous efficacy on the title-page of a book.
    • Molière, Preface. Les Précieuses Ridicules.
  • L'accent est l'âme du discours, il lui donne le sentiment et la vérité.
    • Accent is the soul of a language; it gives the feeling and truth to it.
    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, I.
  • No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached
    • Sapir, Edward (1929), "The status of linguistics as a science", Language 5 (4): 207, doi:10.2307/409588
  • It is easy to show that language and culture are not intrinsically associated. Totally unrelated languages share in one culture; closely related languages—even a single language—belong to distinct culture spheres. There are many excellent examples in Aboriginal America. The Athabaskan languages form as clearly unified, as structurally specialized, a group as any that I know of. The speakers of these languages belong to four distinct culture areas... The cultural adaptability of the Athabaskan-speaking peoples is in the strangest contrast to the inaccessibility to foreign influences of the languages themselves.
    • Sapir, Edward (1921), Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech, Harcourt, Brace
  • Syllables govern the world.
  • Ego sum rex Romanus, et supra grammaticam.
    • I am the King of Rome, and above grammar.
    • Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, at the Council of Constance (1414), to a prelate who objected to his grammar.
  • Don Chaucer, well of English undefyled
    On Fame's eternall beadroll worthie to be fyled.
  • "We worked with a guy called Dr. Stuart Smith from UCLA and he’s an Egyptologist He put all this stuff on tape for us and it’s kind of the closest we can come to what we think the actual language sounded like. It’s like ancient Latin. When we speak Latin now we think it’s what it sounded like, but we’re not really sure. The problem with a lot of this Egyptian stuff is words like ‘look out’ become like 10 lines. Steve would go, ‘No, no, no. Lose the first four words. Say that word and then say the last word.’ So basically, I’d end up making the stuff up.
  • Language is the expression of ideas, and if the people of one country cannot preserve an identity of ideas they cannot retain an identity of language.
  • From purest wells of English undefiled
    None deeper drank than he, the New World's Child,
    Who in the language of their farm field spoke
    The wit and wisdom of New England folk.
  • We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscope flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems of our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language [...] all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated.
    • Whorf, Benjamin (1956), John B. Carroll (ed.), ed., Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, MIT Press pp. 212–214
  • Oft on the dappled turf at ease
    I sit, and play with similes,
    Loose type of things through all degrees.

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