private language

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English[edit]

Wikipedia

Noun[edit]

private language (plural private languages)

  1. Used other than as an idiom: see private,‎ language.
    • 1917, Edith Wharton, Summer, ch. 9:
      [T]hey could not say much because of his presence. But it did not greatly matter, for their past was now rich enough to have given them a private language.
    • 1984 July 1, Donal Henahan, "On Language: The Words of Music," New York Times (retrieved 29 Apr 2014):
      Every calling has its private language, clear and precise to insiders but pure babble to others.
    • 1993 March 14, Lynn Barber, "Books: Daphne's dilemma" (book review of Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster), The Independent (UK) (retrieved 29 Apr 2014):
      They were an affluent, unstuffy, slightly bohemian family, keen on holidays and socialising, with their own Mitfordian private language.
    • 2010 Aug. 13, Mark Brown, "Linguist on mission to save Inuit 'fossil language' disappearing with the ice," Guardian (UK) (retrieved 29 Apr 2014):
      In daily life, the Kallawaya use Spanish or Aymara, but when discussing the medicinal plants central to their role as healers, the men speak their own private language.
  2. (philosophy) A language which expresses one's inner thoughts, feelings, or experiences but which cannot be used for communication, since it is known to and understandable by only one person—the existence of which was famously argued by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) to be impossible.
    • 1986, James E. Tomberlin (editor), Héctor-Neri Castañeda (author), Profiles: Héctor-Neri Castañeda, ISBN 9789027720733, p. 85 (Google preview):
      A private language was not merely a language contingently spoken by one person. . . . A private language was meant to be be semantically and necessarily private: one whose symbols could by definition be "understood only by the speaker".
    • 1995 Oct. 6, Pepe Karmel, "Art in Review," New York Times (retrieved 29 Apr 2014):
      Back in the 1960's, art-world philosophers liked to cite Wittgenstein's contention that there can be no such thing as a private language, because the meaning of words is determined by their shared public usage.
    • 1996 May 4, Peter Mullen, "'I' is a tyrant. You are what you eat," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 29 Apr 2014):
      But a private language—one that is spoken and understood by only one person—is a contradiction in terms. The concept of meaning is a public concept. And language is a public phenomenon.

Derived terms[edit]