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Language vs. Tongue: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 29, 2023
Language refers to a system of communication using words and grammar, while tongue can be a synonym for language, often emphasizing cultural or ethnic identity.

Key Differences

Language is a structured system of communication, using words and grammar, recognized by a community. Tongue, while often synonymous with language, can carry a cultural or ethnic connotation, emphasizing the speaker's identity.
Language encompasses written, spoken, and sometimes sign forms, serving as a broad term for communication methods. Tongue, in its synonymous use with language, tends to refer specifically to the spoken aspect and is deeply rooted in cultural identity.
Language can refer to both natural and artificial languages, including programming languages, highlighting its diverse applications. Tongue, when used in place of language, rarely extends to such broad interpretations and remains focused on natural, spoken forms.
The study of language, linguistics, encompasses a wide range of aspects like syntax, semantics, and phonetics. Tongue, as a synonym for spoken language, is often considered in discussions of dialects and oral traditions within specific cultural contexts.
Language, in a broader sense, can also refer to methods of expression beyond spoken words, like body language. Tongue, in its figurative use as language, does not typically extend to these non-verbal forms of communication.

Comparison Chart


Broad, includes spoken, written, and sign forms
Often limited to spoken form


Neutral, academic
Cultural, ethnic identity


Includes natural, artificial, programming
Primarily natural languages

Associated Studies

Linguistics in a broad sense
Focus on oral traditions, dialects

Non-verbal Communication

Can include body language, etc.
Typically does not extend to non-verbal forms


More formal and technical
Less formal, more colloquial

Cultural Emphasis

Strong cultural emphasis

Usage in Literature

Broad usage across genres
Often used to denote cultural context


Can symbolize communication itself
Symbolizes cultural or ethnic roots

Linguistic Diversity

Encompasses global linguistic diversity
Focus on specific linguistic communities

Language and Tongue Definitions


A nonverbal method of expression or communication.
Body language can convey emotions effectively.


A term often used to refer to one's native language.
She taught her children her native tongue.


The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of words in a structured way.
She is studying the Japanese language.


A language regarded in terms of its distinctive or characteristic qualities.
The poet had a mastery over the lyrical qualities of her tongue.


A system of communication using words in a structured and conventional way.
The English language is known for its vast vocabulary.


The spoken language or dialect spoken by the people of a particular region or ethnicity.
His mother tongue is Spanish.


A system of symbols and rules for writing programs or algorithms.
Python is a popular programming language.


A manner or style of speaking.
He had a sharp tongue, known for his witty remarks.


The style or types of words used by a person or group.
The poet was celebrated for her beautiful use of language.


The physical organ in the mouth, used for tasting, swallowing, and speaking.
The taste buds are located on the tongue.


Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.


The fleshy, movable, muscular organ, attached in most vertebrates to the floor of the mouth, that is the principal organ of taste, an aid in chewing and swallowing, and, in humans, an important organ of speech.


Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.


An analogous organ or part in invertebrate animals, as in certain insects or mollusks.


Can language include body language?

Yes, language can broadly include forms of non-verbal communication like body language.

Are language and tongue always interchangeable?

Not always; while tongue can mean language, it often carries additional cultural or ethnic connotations.

Can tongue refer to a programming language?

No, tongue typically refers to natural, spoken languages, not programming languages.

Does tongue have a narrower scope than language?

Yes, tongue typically has a narrower, more specific scope focusing on spoken forms.

Is tongue used more colloquially than language?

Yes, tongue is generally less formal and more colloquial than language.

Can language refer to styles of expression?

Yes, language can refer to specific styles or types of expression.

Does language have a broader application in literature?

Yes, language is used more broadly in literary contexts than tongue.

Is language limited to spoken forms?

No, language includes spoken, written, and sometimes sign forms.

Does tongue emphasize cultural identity more than language?

Yes, tongue often emphasizes cultural or ethnic identity more strongly than language.

Is tongue ever used in a technical or scientific context?

Rarely, as it usually refers to spoken, natural languages within cultural contexts.

Is language more likely to be studied academically?

Yes, language is the term more commonly used in academic studies of communication.

Does language play a role in identity formation?

Yes, language plays a significant role in cultural and personal identity.

Can both terms be used in academic contexts?

Language is more common in academic contexts, while tongue is less formal.

Is the tongue an organ related to language?

Yes, the tongue is a physical organ essential for speech in many languages.

Can tongue symbolize a person's heritage?

Yes, tongue often symbolizes a person's cultural or ethnic heritage.

Can tongue refer to dialects?

Yes, tongue can refer to specific dialects or regional languages.

Is tongue used metaphorically in different contexts?

Yes, tongue can be used metaphorically, often referring to ways of speaking or characteristic qualities.

Do both terms have the same etymological roots?

Not exactly; they have different origins but have developed overlapping meanings.

Can language encompass artificial languages?

Yes, language includes artificial and constructed languages.

Can language influence thought patterns?

Yes, language can influence how individuals think and perceive the world.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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