Best 147 quotes in «linguistics quotes» category

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    You cannot say something about something without revealing something about yourself.

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    According to scholars of linguistics, the relation between a word and its meaning is arbitrary.

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    You will criticize me, reader, for writing in a style six hundred years removed from the events I describe, but you came to me for explanation of those days of transformation which left your world the world it is, and since it was the philosophy of the Eighteenth Century, heavy with optimism and ambition, whose abrupt revival birthed the recent revolution, so it is only in the language of the Enlightenment, rich with opinion and sentiment, that those days can be described. You must forgive me my ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and ‘he’s and ‘she’s, my lack of modern words and modern objectivity. It will be hard at first, but whether you are my contemporary still awed by the new order, or an historian gazing back at my Twenty-Fifth Century as remotely as I gaze back on the Eighteenth, you will find yourself more fluent in the language of the past than you imagined; we all are.

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    My linguistics is pretty theoretical.

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    As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being

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    I have my own vocabulary. I love linguistics. That surprises people.

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    As far as the language instinct is concerned, the correlation between genes and languages is a coincidence. People store genes in their gonads and pass them to their children through their genitals; they store grammars in their brains and pass them to their children through their mouths. Gonads and brains are attached to each other in bodies, so when bodies move, genes and grammars move together. That is the only reason that geneticists find any correlation between the two.

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    A fist is not a thing but a particular state of a particular thing.

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    All Indo-European languages have the capacity to form compounds. Indeed, German and Dutch do it, one might say, to excess. But English does it more neatly than most other languages, eschewing the choking word chains that bedevil other Germanic languages and employing the nifty refinement of making the elements reversible, so that we can distinguish between a houseboat and a boathouse, between basketwork and a workbasket, between a casebook and a bookcase. Other languages lack this facility.

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    A metaphor is not merely a linguistic expression (a form of words) used for artistic or rhetorical purposes; instead, it is a process of human understanding by which we achieve meaningful experience that we can make sense of. A metaphor, in this "experiential" sense, is a process by which we understand and structure one domain of experience in terms of another domain of a different kind.

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    As long as human beings speak different languages, the need for translation will continue.

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    5.6.2. Egocentricity "The linguistic phenomenon of evidentiality reflects a strong awareness of the self in Japanese language usage, however primordial and simplistic such a notion may be. In order to use the language appropriately, the speaker needs to be aware of the distinction between self and all others. This fact runs counter to many researchers in anthropology, linguistics, and sociology who contend that the Japanese people lack the concept of the individualistic self akin to the Western notion of self. Some even insist that Japan is a "selfless" society. Actual observation of Japanese society clearly demonstrates these notions to be myths. Quite the contrary, Japanese is a highly egocentric language, in which the presence of "I" as the speaker is so obvious as to not have to be expressed overtly.

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    A material thing is first of all “the only bridge of communication between two minds.” The bridge is a passage, but it is also distance maintained. The materiality of the book keeps two minds at an equal distance, whereas explication is the annihilation of one mind by another.

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    And another thing: because she and my father were very ideological people, always doing things from the body of principle and dogma of the Communist Party, there was a time when I thought that italic writing was Communist. It’s not.

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    And at the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney on Sixty Minutes, have you ever wondered why we say fiddle-faddle and not faddle- fiddle? Why is it ping-pong and pitter-patter rather than pong-ping and patter-pitter? Why dribs and drabs, rather than vice versa? Why can't a kitchen be span and spic? Whence riff-raff, mish-mash, flim-flam, chit-chat, tit for tat, knick-knack, zig-zag, sing-song, ding-dong, King Kong, criss-cross, shilly-shally, see-saw, hee-haw, flip-flop, hippity-hop, tick-tock, tic-tac-toe, eeny-meeny-miney-moe, bric-a-brac, clickety-clack, hickory-dickory-dock, kit and kaboodle, and bibbity-bobbity-boo? The answer is that the vowels for which the tongue is high and in the front always come before the vowels for which the tongue is low and in the back.

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    A universe of classical particles is devoid of knowledge because the universe can only be itself and not a representation of something else. If the universe was only composed of classical particles, then there would only be physical properties but no meanings. The idea that we can have information about an object without becoming that object is central to all knowledge.

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    As you are reading these words, you are taking part in one of the wonders of the natural world. For you and I belong to a species with a remarkable ability: we can shape events in each other's brains with exquisite precision.

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    A theory of reality must not only explain reality, but also knowledge about that reality because knowing reality is part of reality.

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    But Spanish and English aren't different languages, only extreme dialects of Latin. It's almost possible to translate word for word. Translation from a language unrelated to English is nothing to do with equivalent words. Whenever I'd tried to do that in Chinese I'd come out with unbroken nonsense. I had to forget the English, hang the meaning up in a well-lit gallery, stare at it hard, then describe it afresh.

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    Because everyone uses language to talk, everyone thinks they can talk about language.

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    BUNAHAN When the last speaker of Boro falls silent, who will notice the first-grown feather of a bird’s wing? (gansuthi) or feel how far pretending to love (onsay) is from loving for the last time (onsra)? Quiet and uneasy, in an unfamiliar place (asusu) no one sees her, or listens; there is less of her than there was. The last speaker feels Boro’s world fall apart, knowledge unravels: healing plants go unseen; the bodies of animals are unreadable. With a last thought, onguboy (to love it all, from the heart), she leaves fragments of the world she held in place. We touch their husks, about to speak and about not to speak (bunhan, bunahan); awash in loss, incomplete. Note: The italicized words are from Boro, an endangered language still spoken in parts of northern India. For more on this story, see Mark Abley’s Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages.

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    Barthes me lisait, donc on s’est rencontrés.

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    By claiming that our words are too hard to understand, the media perpetuates the idea that WE are too hard to understand, and suggests that there’s no point in trying.

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    Don't you find it odd that two of the foremost symptoms of insanity are the hearing voices and talking to oneself? Is it any wonder that language is an area of such interest in psychology? (attrib: F.L. Vanderson)

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    Chomsky's writings are 'classics' in Mark Twain's sense: something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

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    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously three old owls on a chest of drawers were screwing the daughter of the doctor. But then the mother called them, colorless green ideas slepp furiously.

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    Das mine!' protested Ava, Bennie's daughter, affirming Alex's recent theory that language acquisition involved a phase of speaking German. She snatched a plastic skillet away from his own daughter, Cara-Ann, who lurched after it, roaring, 'Mine pot! Mine pot!

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    Does it distress you, reader, how I remind you of their sexes in each sentence? ‘Hers’ and ‘his’? Does it make you see them naked in each other’s arms, and fill even this plain scene with wanton sensuality? Linguists will tell you the ancients were less sensitive to gendered language than we are, that we react to it because it’s rare, but that in ages that heard ‘he’ and ‘she’ in every sentence they grew stale, as the glimpse of an ankle holds no sensuality when skirts grow short. I don’t believe it. I think gendered language was every bit as sensual to our predecessors as it is to us, but they admitted the place of sex in every thought and gesture, while our prudish era, hiding behind the neutered ‘they,’ pretends that we do not assume any two people who lock eyes may have fornicated in their minds if not their flesh. You protest: My mind is not as dirty as thine, Mycroft. My distress is at the strangeness of applying ‘he’ and ‘she’ to thy 2450s, where they have no place. Would that you were right, good reader. Would that ‘he’ and ‘she’ and their electric power were unknown in my day. Alas, it is from these very words that the transformation came which I am commanded to describe, so I must use them to describe it. I am sorry, reader. I cannot offer wine without the poison of the alcohol within.

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    Die älteste Sprache, sagt man, sei das Indogermanische, Indo-europäische, das Sanskrit. Aber es ist so gut wie gewiß, daß das ein "Ur" ist, so vorschnell wie manches andere, und daß es eine wieder ältere Muttersprache gegeben hat, welche die Wurzeln der arischen sowohl wie auch der semitischen und chamitischen Mundarten in sich beschloß. Wahrscheinlich ist sie auf Atlantis gesprochen worden, dessen Silhouette die letzte im Fernendunst undeutlich noch sichtbare Vorbirgskulisse der Vergangenheit bildet, das aber selbst wohl kaum die Ur-Heimat des sprechenden Menschen ist.

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    Do you know the German word, sehnsucht," he asked. "Yes," I answered. "The idea of an inconsolable longing for what we don't understand. You believe that longing is for God. Or heaven. And that we can confuse it with longing for someone or something else.

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    Duam të flasim e të shkruajmë një shqipe të qëruar; në e trazofshim me greqisht, turqisht, italisht e me të tjera gjuhë evgjitësh, më mirë ta lëmë fare shqipen.

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    Duke marrë si bazë të alfabetit përfundimtar shkronjat latine dhe duke patur parasysh faktin se nuk ekziston një dialekt toskë dhe një gegë, por një gjuhë shqipe, ndërtesa jonë do të jetë e fortë dhe do t’i qëndrojë kohës.

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    Emojis are by no means taking away from our written language but rather accentuating it by providing a tone that words on their own often cannot. They are, in a sense, the most evolved form of punctuation we have at our disposal.

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    E ashpër dhe e sertë ashtu si populli trim që e flet, plot shije dhe e bekuar, ashtu si frutat dhe lulet e maleve ku ajo flitet, gjuha shqipe, megjithëse e mbetur e varfër nga mospërpunimi shumë shekullor, është e aftë për të shprehur nuancat më të holla të shpirtit njerëzor, vibrimet më të pakapshme, në krahasim me dialektet serbe, bullgare e greke, mundësia e të cilave për të arritur thelbin përfundon shpesh në përafrime trashanike.

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    Every page should explode, either because of its staggering absurdity, the enthusiasm of its principles, or its typography.

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    English, like any other natural language, has two major communicative functions. The first is an ideational function: to get an idea across, as when I say, It’s raining, or I love you. It also has an interactive-interpersonal function: to influence the attitudes and behaviours of others, and, in a myriad ways, change an aspect of the world’s states of affairs in the process

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    Even when something looks incoherent to an outsider, even when it's intended as incoherent for an insider, we as humans are still practically incapable of doing things without patterns.

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    God could have launched this new era of history [the birth of Christianity] in an infinite number of ways, but God chose a linguistic miracle.

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    For the study of language to remain solely the business of a handful of specialists would be a quite unacceptable state of affairs. In practice, the study of language is in some degree or other the concern of everyone. But a paradoxical consequence of this general interest is that no other subject has fostered more absurd notions, more prejudices, more illusions, or more fantasies. From a psychological point of view, these errors are of interest in themselves. But it is the primary task of the linguist to denounce them, and to eradicate them as completely as possible.

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    Finally, I would like to point out that now in the age of English, choosing a language policy is not the exclusive concern of non-English-speaking nations. It is also a concern for English-speaking nations, where, to realize the world’s diversity and gain the humility that is proper to any human being, people need to learn a foreign language as a matter of course. Acquiring a foreign language should be a universal requirement of compulsory education. Furthermore, English expressions used in international conferences should be regulated and standardized to some extent. Native English speakers need to know that to foreigners, Latinate vocabulary is easier to understand than what to the native speakers is easy, child-friendly language. At international conferences, telling jokes that none but native speakers can comprehend is inappropriate, even if fun. If native speakers of English – those who enjoy the privilege of having their mother tongue as the universal language – would not wait for others to protest but would take steps to regulate themselves, what respect they would earn from the rest of the world! If that is too much to ask, the rest of the world would appreciate it if they would at least be aware of their privileged position – and more important, be aware that the privilege is unwarranted. In this age of global communication, some language or other was bound to be come a universal language used in every corner of the world English became that language not because it is intrinsically more universal than other languages, but because through a series of historical coincidences it came to circulate ever more widely until it reached the tipping point. That’s all there is to it. English is an accidental universal language. If more English native speakers walked through the doors of other languages, they would discover undreamed-of landscapes. Perhaps some of them might then begin to think that the truly blessed are not they themselves, but those who are eternally condemned to reflect on language, eternally condemned to marvel at the richness of the world.

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    How is it that you can read this book? An obvious answer is because you know English. An equally obvious answer is because the light is on. These two explanations for an apparently trivial ability can illuminate a fundamental dichotomy: the difference between our knowledge of language and our use of that knowledge; between our competence and our performance. Your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary of English, your competence as a speaker of English, is prerequisite to your understanding this sentence; the exercise of this competence is made possible by the fact, among many others, that the light is on.

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    Had art indeed depended on experience as much as the critical profession wants us to believe, we'd have far more – and far better – art on our hands than we do. A poet is always the product of his – that is, his nation's – language, to which living experiences are what logs are to fire

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    Ho ho ho, tell me why you are not at home' is something Santa Claus could ask you if you stayed in a hotel over Christmas. It is most certainly not the reason why it is called 'hotel', but it will hopefully help you remember that the stress is actually on the second syllable.

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    Home means always here...

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    How many Lojbanists does it take to change a broken light-bulb?” goes the old Lojban joke. “Two: one to decide what to change it into and one to decide what kind of bulb emits broken light.

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    I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than that I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds.

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    If there's any interaction between genes and languages, it is often languages that influence genes, since linguistic differences between populations lessen the chance of genetic exchange between them.

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    If the Mentalese story about the content of thought is true, then there couldn't be a private language argument. Good. That explains why there isn't one. (In Critical Condition, p. 68)

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    If we should be worrying about anything to do with the future of English, it should not be that the various strands will drift apart but that they will grow indistinguishable. And what a sad, sad loss that would be.

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    I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedle-dum, “But it ain’t so, nohow.” “Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.