quotations about language
High thoughts must have high language.
ARISTOPHANES, The Frogs
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.
GEORGE ORWELL, The Lion and the Unicorn
The magic of the tongue is the most dangerous of all spells.
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON, Eugene Aram
We live at the level of our language. Whatever we can articulate we can imagine or understand or explore.
ELLEN GILCHRIST, Falling Through Space
The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, Essays
The unaffected language of real feeling and benevolence is easily understood, and is never ridiculous.
MARIA EDGEWORTH, Angelina
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus
I don't speak ... I operate a machine called language. It creaks and groans, but is mine own.
FRANK HERBERT, Dune Messiah
It by no means follows, that because two men utter the same words, they have precisely the same idea which they mean to express: language is inadequate to the variety of ideas which are conceived by different minds, and which, could they be expressed, would produce a new variety of characteristic differences between man and man.
FULKE GREVILLE, Maxims, Characters, and Reflections
For language is to so great an extent the condition and limit of thought, men are so little accustomed, indeed so little able, to meditate on things, except through the intervention, and by the machinery, of words, that nothing short of this would bring them to a sense of the actual existence of any such wants. And it is, I may observe, one of the advantages of acquaintance with another language besides our own, and of the institution which will follow, if we have learned that other to any purpose, of these comparisons, that we thus come to be aware that names are not, and least of all the names which any single language possesses, coextensive with things ... that a multitude of things exist which, tho capable of being resumed in a word, are yet without one, unnamed and unregistered; so that, vast as is the world of names, the world of realities is even vaster still.
RICHARD CHENEVIX TRENCH, On the Study of Words
A language, like a species, when extinct, never ... reappears.
CHARLES DARWIN, The Origin of Species
Learning a language is the making of shared semantic agreements with others.
PHIL BAINES & ANDREW HASLAM, Type and Typography
Language, which is the uniting bond and very medium of communion between men, is at the same time by the great variety of tongues, the means of severing and estranging nations more than anything else.
HORACE SMITH, The Tin Trumpet: Or, Heads and Tails, for the Wise and Waggish
To possess another language is to possess another soul.
JOHN LE CARRÉ, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
I think we can learn a lot about a person in the very moment that language fails them. In the very moment they have to be more creative than they would have imagined in order to communicate.
ANNA DEAVERE SMITH, Talk to Me
He that travelleth into a country before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel.
FRANCIS BACON, Essays
I am adding another language to the spoken language, and I am trying to restore to the language of speech its old magic, its essential spellbinding power, for its mysterious possibilities have been forgotten.
ANTONIN ARTAUD, letter to J.P., Sep. 28, 1932
By stretching language we'll distort it sufficiently to wrap ourselves in it and hide.
JEAN GENET, The Blacks
Language is called the garment of thought: however, it should rather be, language is the flesh-garment, the body, of thought.
THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus
Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.
TONI MORRISON, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 7, 1993