E-Language and I-Language
Chomsky originally developed the notion of competence, which is the system of knowledge that a native speaker possesses. This cognitive system or domain is reformulated, rather differently, as I-language: a state of the mind-brain. I-language is what a child acquires when it learns language: an instantiation of the initial state. It is highly abstract, remote from ordinary behaviour and mechanisms. By contrast, E-language means external, extensional, any concept of language that is not internal to the mind-brain. So, if one refers to “Irish” as the language they talk where it is dotted orange on a map of Ireland, that’s a case of E-language. It bears conceptual resemblance but no special relation to the earlier term performance – how language is actually used. E-language relates neither to competence nor performance, which are about organisms, nor to complicated socio-political constructs.