58 • On the Grammar and Etymology of “Being”

The words: he goes, we went, they have gone, go!, going, to go—these are inflections of the same word according to definite directions of meaning. We are familiar with these from the terminology of linguistics: present indicative, imperfect, perfect, imperative, participle, infinitive. But for a long time these terms have just been technical instruments that we use mechanically to dissect language and establish rules. Wherever a more original connection to language still stirs, one feels how dead these grammatical forms are as mere mechanisms. Language and the study of language have gotten stuck in these rigid forms as if in a net of steel. Beginning with [41|57] the spiritless and barren language instruction in the schoolroom, these formal concepts and grammar-book labels become empty shells for us, understood and understandable by no one.

It is certainly correct that, instead of this, students should learn something from their teachers about the prehistory and early history of the Germans. But all of this will just as quickly deteriorate into the same barren wasteland if we do not succeed in reconstructing the spiritual world of the school from within and from the ground up, which means furnishing the school with a spiritual, not a scientific, atmosphere. And for this, the first thing we need is a real revolution in our relation to language. But for this we have to revolutionize the teachers, and for this the university first has to transform itself and come to grips with its task, instead of puffing itself up with irrelevancies. It simply no longer occurs to us that everything that we have all known for so long, and all too well, could be otherwise—that these grammatical forms have not dissected and regulated language as such since eternity like an absolute, that instead, they grew out of a very definite interpretation of the Greek and Latin languages. This was all based on the assumption that language, too, is something in being, something that, like other beings, can be made accessible and circumscribed in a definite manner.

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