The folk model of language

Günter Radden

The notion of ‘language’ is not a primary concept but tends to be derived from more basic notions within the language frame. This paper looks at the ways notions of articulation are metonymically used in different languages to stand for ‘speaking’ and ‘language.’ It is assumed that these unidirectional metonymic shifts and their metaphoric elaborations reflect a naive view of language, which may be seen as revealing a ”folk model of language.” In this simplified model, our understanding of speaking and language is reduced to articulation and a small set of speech organs. Thus, the throat and voice are associated with meaningful speech, the tongue is commonly seen as the generator of a word’s sounds and meaning and, as the most salient articulator, tends to be associated with the notion of ‘language,’ the mouth as the second most important articulator may also contribute to a word’s meaning, and the teeth and the lips may, as the final articulators in the production of speech, distort a word’s meaning.

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