What language is for

November 21st, 2007 | by Will |

Great quote from Geoff Pullum at Language Log:

You know, just between you and me, I sometimes worry that there is a naive view loose out there — most students come to linguistics believing it, and there appear to be some professional linguists who regard it as central and explanatory — that language has something to do with purposes of efficiently conveying information from a speaker to a hearer. What a load of nonsense. I’m sorry, I don’t want to sound cynical and jaded, but language is not for informing. Language is for accusing, adumbrating, attacking, attracting, blustering, bossing, bullying, burbling, challenging, concealing, confusing, deceiving, defending, defocusing, deluding, denying, detracting, discomfiting, discouraging, dissembling, distracting, embarassing, embellishing, encouraging, enticing, evading, flattering, hinting, humiliating, insulting, interrogating, intimidating, inveigling, muddling, musing, needling, obfuscating, obscuring, persuading, protecting, rebutting, retorting, ridiculing, scaring, seducing, stroking, wondering, … Oh, you fools who think languages are vehicles for permitting a person who is aware of some fact to convey it clearly and accurately to some other person. You simply have no idea.

  1. 2 Responses to “What language is for”

  2. By Natalia on Dec 1, 2007 | Reply

    See also: Wittgenstein.

  3. By Tim Converse on Dec 16, 2007 | Reply

    I find this list frustratingly incomplete. I can’t fully complete it myself, but I will note that language is _also_ for japing, jeering, judging, kibitzing, quibbling, quizzing, teasing, titillating, undermining, urging, and venting.

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