§5 [101–103]

same as the question of the human essence, and furthermore, whether precisely in this whole constellation of questions the question about the essence of language must not play a preeminent role.

From an external standpoint the answer is not immediately clear, above all not as long as we persist in the usual notions and opinions about language. On this subject we will now make only the most provisional remarks.

b) The logical-grammatical conception of language

The dominant approach to individual languages and to language in general is passed on to us through what we call grammar. By this we understand the theory of the elements, structures, and rules for structures in a language; separate groups of sentences, individual sentences, and sentence types; analyzed into groups of words, individual words; words into syllables and letters, γράμμα. Hence the name.

The grammatical conception of language is taken for granted in the customary notion of language, especially in linguistics and in the so-called philosophy of language. Moreover, this view has taken hold in a centuries-long tradition and can claim for itself a certain semblance of naturalness. For what is more accessible and tangible than just this analysis and ordering of the otherwise completely unmanageable amalgam of a living language in sounds, letters, syllables, words, word-constructs, and sentence structures?

But it is important to recognize the provenance of this reigning grammatical representation of language. It derives from the Greeks; it developed in the age of Greek sophistry and rhetoric and found its authoritative form in Plato and Aristotle. At the basis of this is the experience that speaking, discourse, is speaking with one another, public transaction, advising, assemblage of the people, judicial proceedings; speaking of this kind is having a public opinion and consulting, deliberating, and thinking. And in connection with the question of what thinking and opining and understanding and knowing are, contemplation arrives at discourse, speaking, as what is immediately accessible and in reach of the senses. Discourse is given and is, just as are many other things; it “is” as the Greeks understood the Being of beings: the available, stamped, durable presence of something. Language is something present at hand, and as such gets taken apart and put together in determinate parts and structures. Accordingly, the emphasis is on exhibiting what is at all times the most constant and the most simple and enduring fundamental structure, in the sense of the Greek conception of Being.

As such a fundamental structure of discourse, after long and difficult consideration, there finally emerges in Aristotle the notion of the simple sentence that has the character of discourse: “The stone is hard,” and the like. Discourse is therefore that in which something

Being and Truth (GA 36/37) by Martin Heidegger