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The Way to Language

phrases. The transformation touches on our relation to language. That relation is determined in accordance with the sending that determines whether and in what way we are embraced in propriation by the essence of language, which is the original pronouncement of propriation. For propriation—owning, holding, keeping to itself—is the relation of all relations. For this reason, our saying, as answering, constantly remains relational. The relation [Das Verhältnis, literally, our "being held"] is here thought always and everywhere in terms of propriation, and is no longer represented in the form of a mere relationship. Our relation to language is defined by the mode according to which we belong to propriation, we who are needed and used by it.

Perhaps we can in some slight measure prepare for the transformation in our kinship with language. The following experience might awaken: Every thinking that is on the trail of something is a poetizing, and all poetry a thinking. Each coheres with the other, on the basis of the saying that has already pledged itself to the unsaid, the saying whose thinking is a thanking.

That the possibility of an appropriate transformation of language emerged in the complex of Wilhelm von Humboldt's thought receives eloquent testimony in his treatise, On the Diversity of the Structure of Human Language. Wilhelm von Humboldt worked on this treatise, as his brother writes in the Preface, "in solitude, in nearness to a grave," until his death. Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose deeply dark insight into the essence of language should never cease to astonish us, says:


The application of already available phonetic forms to the inner purposes of the language . . . may be considered a possibility during the central periods of language formation. A people could through inner illumination and propitious external circumstances devise such a different farm for the language it has inherited that it would thereby become a wholly different language, a new language.

(Section 10, p. 84)


Martin Heidegger (GA 12) The Way to Language - Basic Writings (1993)