is there a meta-language behind all speech?
A bit provocative title, perhaps, but I wonder if all speech is based on some inaccessible (to us) meta-language that forms the foundation of the language we speak?
One reason I wonder is that I have bilingual friends that grew up speaking two languages; one at home and then english in public. If they are talking with friends in their non-english language and then you ask them "what did you just say" then can immediately give an english equivalent. It doesn't seem like they have to replay the sentence in their head and translate, it seems as if they have some internal representation of what they are saying in a meta-language that is neither spoken language that they can then say in either language. Or maybe they're just really good at saying it in either language?
The 2nd reason is that when I hear people who speak multiple languages fluently talking with their friends they will occasionally throw in an english word or phrase. And not just nouns, which would seem explainable if they are just looking for a label for something they don't know in their other language, but sometimes I hear verbs or entire phrases. And we're not talking just about languages related to english to some extent like spanish, but I've heard people do this in chinese which I think has a very different sentence structure than english. If it immediately makes sense to both parties, doesn't this seem like a sign that there is some underlying language beneath their awareness neither english or chinese.