The question reaches into the uttermost of the possible essential origins of language. For, like the letting-lie-before that gathers, saying receives its essential form from the unconcealment of that which lies together before us. But the unconcealing of the concealed into unconcealment is the very presencing of what is present. We call this the Being of beings. Thus, the essential speaking of language, λέγειν as laying, is determined neither by vocalization (φωνή) nor by signifying (σημαίνειν). Expression and signification have long been accepted as manifestations which indubitably betray some characteristics of language. But they do not genuinely reach into the realm of the primordial, essential determination of language, nor are they at all capable of determining this realm in its primary characteristics. That saying as laying ruled unnoticed and from early on, and—as if nothing at all had occurred there—that speaking accordingly appeared as λέγειν, produced a curious state of affairs. Human thought was never astonished by this event, nor did it discern in it a mystery which concealed an essential dispensation of Being to men, a dispensation perhaps reserved for that historical moment which would not only devastate man from top to bottom but send his very essence reeling.

To say is λέγειν. This sentence, if well thought, now sloughs off everything facile, trite, and vacuous. It names the inexhaustible mystery that the speaking of language comes to pass from the unconcealment of what is present, and is determined according to the lying-before of what is present as the letting-lie-together-before. Will thinking finally learn to catch a glimpse of what it means that Aristotle could characterize λέγειν as ἀποφαίνεσθαι? The λόγος by itself brings that which appears and comes forward in its lying before us to appearance—to its luminous self-showing (cf. Being and Time, § 7b).

Saying is a letting-lie-together-before which gathers and is gathered. If such is the essence of speaking, then what is hearing? As λέγειν, speaking is not characterized as a reverberation which expresses meaning. If saying is not characterized by vocalization, then neither can the hearing which corresponds to it occur as a reverberation meeting the ear and getting picked up, as sounds troubling the auditory sense and being transmitted. Were our hearing primarily and always only this picking up and transmitting of sounds, conjoined by several other processes, the result would be that the reverberation would go in one ear and out the other.


Martin Heidegger (GA 7) Logos (Heraclitus, Fragment B 50)