On the Grammar and Etymology of “Being” • 61

So we must turn an eye to the grammatical forms in question (verb, substantive, substantivization of the verb, infinitive, participle).

We can easily see that in the formation of the word “Being,” the decisive precursor is the infinitive “to be.” This form of the verb is transformed into a substantive. The character of our word “Being,” as a word, is determined, accordingly, by three grammatical forms: verb, infinitive, and substantive. Thus, our first task is to understand the meaning of these grammatical forms. [43|59] Of the three we have named, verb and substantive are among those that were first recognized at the start of Western grammar, and that even today are taken as the fundamental forms of words and of language in general. And so, with the question about the essence of the substantive and of the verb, we find ourselves in the midst of the question about the essence of language. For the question of whether the primordial form of the word is the noun (substantive) or the verb coincides with the question of the original character of speech and speaking. In turn, this question entails the question of the origin of language. We cannot start by immediately going into this question. We are forced onto a detour. We will restrict ourselves in what follows to that grammatical form which provides the transitional phase in the development of the verbal substantive: the infinitive (to go, to come, to fall, to sing, to hope, to be, etc.).

What does “infinitive” mean? This term is an abbreviation of the complete one: modus infinitivus, the mode of unboundedness, of indeterminateness, regarding the manner in which a verb exercises and indicates the function and direction of its meaning.

This Latin term, like all other grammatical terms, stems from the work of the Greek grammarians. Here again we run up against the process of translation that we mentioned in the course of our discussion of the word φύσις.

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