I would like to know about External and Internal language. Suppose I was talking about a person who was not either good or great. I was praising him in my speech as he was my superior though I felt that he did not deserve the praise.

Are the differences in my thought and the speech called Internal language and External language?

What do the terms "External" and "Internal" language refer to?

  • As the answers show, this is an obsolete term in modern linguistics. You are not the first person to wonder what the distinction was sposta be, and we've mostly quit talking about it now.
    – jlawler
    Jan 21, 2022 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


You are probably referring to the I-language vs. E-language distinction, terminology promulgated by Chomsky in 1986 Knowledge of language. I-language refers to the internal psychological state of an individual (w.r.t. language), and E-language is, he argues, not a coherent concept but would cover external realizations of that individual, internal state (a particular utterance), or Platonic abstractions such as "our collective grammar of English". "I" also stands for "intension" as contrasted with "E" for "extension" (the intension of my English is in my grammar, the extension of my English would be the sentences that I could produce or accept).

The distinction doesn't include the distinction between deep-seated feelings vs. what you actually express, though there could be an analogous concept "I-feelings" vs "E-feelings".


E-language is used to refer to the actual set of noise that people produce.

  • Hello and welcome to the site. Please edit this to add supporting evidence, quotes, and references.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 22, 2022 at 23:43

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