From Teflpedia

Meta-language, also written metalanguage, has two similar, but for practical purposes, different meanings.

  • On the one hand, it is the language linguists and language teachers use to talk about language.
  • On a more general level, it also refers to the everyday words, expressions and even culturally agreed-upon sounds that people use to monitor conversations, their understanding of the direction of a topic, clarifying and as a way of eliciting and providing feedabck.

Natural language is complex and often ambiguous and any conversation can produce instances of uncertainty in the people participating. These doubts can "solved" by using, among other "tactics", feedback words, sounds and phrases such as uh-huh, okay, and all right.

A study carried out by the University of Maryland examined 138,017 sentences from the British National Corpus (BNC), of which 15,832 sentences, that is 11.47% contained metalanguage.[1]


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