lan ‧ guage S1 W1 /ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒ/ BrE AmE noun
[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: langue 'tongue, language' , from Latin lingua ]
1 . ENGLISH/FRENCH/ARABIC ETC [uncountable and countable] a system of communication by written or spoken words, which is used by the people of a particular country or area:
How many languages do you speak?
one of the best-known poems in the English language
2 . COMMUNICATION [uncountable] the use of written or spoken words to communicate:
the origins of language
3 . STYLE/TYPE OF WORDS [uncountable] a particular style or type of words
legal/medical/technical etc language
The letter was written in complicated legal language.
The expression is mainly used in written language.
He is able to explain complicated ideas in simple everyday language.
The plays are full of old-fashioned poetic language.
the language of science
4 . SWEARING [uncountable] informal words that most people think are offensive
mind/watch your language spoken (=stop swearing)
5 . strong language
a) angry words used to tell people exactly what you mean
b) words that most people think are offensive SYN swearing
6 . COMPUTERS [uncountable and countable] technical a system of instructions for operating a computer:
a programming language for the web
7 . SIGNS/ACTIONS/SOUNDS [uncountable and countable] signs, movements, or sounds that express ideas or feelings
the language of bees
the language of dolphins
⇨ ↑ body language , ↑ sign language , ⇨ speak the same language at ↑ speak (11)
• • •
▪ speak a language
Can you speak a foreign language?
▪ use a language
The children use their native language at home.
▪ learn a language
Immigrants are expected to learn the language of their new country.
▪ master a language (=succeed in learning a language well)
She had had a long struggle to master the Russian language.
▪ know a language
He had lived in Japan, but did not know the language.
■ ADJECTIVES/NOUN + language
▪ a foreign language
He found learning a foreign language extremely difficult.
▪ the English/Japanese/Spanish etc language
She had some knowledge of the Spanish language.
▪ sb’s first/native language (=the language someone first learned as a child)
His first language was Polish.
▪ a second language (=a language you speak that is not your first language)
Most of the students learned English as their second language.
▪ modern languages (=languages that are spoken now)
The school has a good modern languages department.
▪ a dead language (=a language that is no longer spoken)
She didn’t see the point of learning a dead language.
▪ an official language (=the language used for official business in a country)
Canada has two official languages: English and French.
▪ a common language (=a language that more than one person or group speaks, so that they can understand each other)
Most of the countries of South America share a common language: Spanish.
■ language + NOUN
▪ the language barrier (=the problem of communicating with someone when you do not speak the same language)
Because of the language barrier, it was hard for doctors to give good advice to patients.
▪ a language student/learner
Language learners often have problems with tenses.
▪ a language teacher
a book for language teachers
▪ language teaching
recent developments in language teaching
▪ sb’s command of a language (=someone’s ability to speak a language)
Does he have a good command of the language?
• • •
■ different kinds of language
▪ dialect a form of a language that is spoken in one area of a country, with different words, grammar, or pronunciation from other areas:
Cantonese is only one of many Chinese dialects.
the local dialect
▪ accent the way that someone pronounces words, because of where they were born or live, or their social class:
Karen has a strong New Jersey accent.
an upper class accent
▪ slang very informal spoken language, used especially by people who belong to a particular group, for example young people or criminals:
Teenage slang changes all the time.
‘Dosh’ is slang for ‘money’.
▪ terminology formal the technical words or expressions that are used in a particular subject:
Patients are often unfamiliar with medical terminology.
▪ jargon especially disapproving words and phrases used in a particular profession or subject and which are difficult for other people to understand:
The instructions were written in complicated technical jargon.
‘Outsourcing’ is business jargon for sending work to people outside a company to do.
The letter was full of legal jargon.
■ techniques used in language
▪ metaphor a way of describing something by referring to it as something different and suggesting that it has similar qualities to that thing:
The beehive is a metaphor for human society.
▪ simile an expression that describes something by comparing it with something else, using the words as or like , for example ‘as white as snow’:
The poet uses the simile ‘soft like clay’.
▪ irony the use of words that are the opposite of what you really mean, often in order to be amusing:
‘I’m so happy to hear that,’ he said, with more than a trace of irony in his voice.
▪ bathos a sudden change from a subject that is beautiful, moral, or serious to something that is ordinary, silly, or not important:
The play is too sentimental and full of bathos.
▪ hyperbole a way of describing something by saying that it is much bigger, smaller, worse etc than it actually is – used especially to excite people’s feelings:
In his speeches, he used a lot of hyperbole.
▪ alliteration the use of several words together that all begin with the same sound, in order to make a special effect, especially in poetry:
the alliteration of the ‘s’ sound in ‘sweet birds sang softly’
▪ imagery the use of words to describe ideas or actions in a way that makes the reader connect the ideas with pictures in their mind:
the use of water imagery in Fitzgerald’s novel ‘The Great Gatsby’
She uses the imagery of a bird’s song to represent eternal hope.
▪ rhetorical question a question that you ask as a way of making a statement, without expecting an answer:
When he said ‘how can these attitudes still exist in a civilized society?’, he was asking a rhetorical question.