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Difference between 言語 and 言葉?
What is the difference between the words 言語and 言葉 to mean 'language'? I always thought that 言語 meant 'language' and 言葉 meant 'word'. But recently I've been talking to Japanese people and they use the word 言葉 to mean language. Is 言語 less common or something?
May 8, 2020 11:38 AM
Comments · 3
I agree that 言語 and 言葉 share the same meaning in many cases.
I feel that the difference between them is 言語 has a formal and academic connotation whereas 言葉 is an everyday word that anyone can use casually.
For example, a Japanese word that means linguistics is 言語学(げんごがく).
But we don't call linguistics 言葉学.
Similarly a Japanese word that means a scholar that specializes in linguistics is 言語学者(げんごがくしゃ).
But we don't call the scholar 言葉学者.
I think 言語 is a language system whereas 言葉 is each word that constitutes the system.
If 言語 is a whole tree, 言葉 are the leaves.
葉 is kanji that means leaf or leaves.
May 9, 2020
Let me advise.

Those words have similar meanings.
But not same.

In the some situation, you can use both.
For example.

アイルランドの言葉を話す。(Mean:Speak Irish words (=>Speak Irish))
アイルランドの言語を話す。(Mean:Speak Irish language (=>Speak Irish))

In the some situation, the meanings are different.
丁寧な言葉を使う。(Mean:Use polite words. Note, You can not say "丁寧な言語を使う")

May 8, 2020
I agree with Mariko and she explained great enough.
For sure Japanese people use 言葉 as a language meaning.
It's all because 言語 is kinda not familiar to normal citizen since 言語 is an academic word which is used by people who study about 言葉 words. (linguists) 
So that frequency of times to hear the word 言語 is much less than 言葉 in regular conversation unless you are doing some work related to 言語学 linguistics.
In daily use, we use 言葉 for multiple meanings. (such as words=単語 phrases=成句 a remark=発言. They are replaced 言葉 oftentimes.
That's what you came to be curious about I suppose.
I guess you might have heard Sho's example sentence like usage from them.
May 9, 2020
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), English, French, Japanese, Swahili
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), French, Japanese