Unterwegs zur Sprache

On the Way to Language

First published by Neske in 1959, this work is the fourth major collection of essays published by Heidegger after the war. Not an object about which we can speak, language as experienced withdraws from us; indeed, our experience of it is mainly indirect, as when we are at a loss for words. We have to be underway to language (hence, the collection’s title) because language, while never possessed by us, is not outside us and, like us, it is underway, unfinished, and historical. The experience of language is one of thinking, taking place in a region shared with poetry, a common theme of these essays. Since poetry is the primordial language, the first two entries “Language” and “Language in the Poem” interpret Georg Trakl’s poetry, while the fourth and fifth entries (“The Essence of Language” and “The Word”) take up Stefan George’s poetic experience of language, expressed in the poem “The Word”—with its cryptic concluding verse “where words break off no thing may be.” Along with its reading of Trakl, the opening entry claims that language speaks and, in doing so, calls things into their own by calling them into their difference with the fourfold of the world. The third entry is a “Dialogue on Language” with Professor Tezuka of Tokyo, revisiting Heidegger’s early hermeneutics and connecting it with the twofold. The final entry, “The Way to Language,” attempts to come closer to language, not as a “work of the human spirit” (Humboldt), but rather precisely as language, via consideration of the saying that, residing in Ereignis, is essential to language.


Unterwegs zur Sprache (GA 12)

On the Way to Language