The Nature?—of Language? With the addition of the questions marks, all of the title's presumptuousness and triteness vanish. At the same time, one question calls forth the others. The following two questions arise at once:
How are we to put questions to language when our relation to it is muddled, in any case undefined? How can we inquire about its nature, when it may immediately become a matter of dispute what nature means?
No matter how many ways we may devise to get our inquiry into language and the investigation of its nature started, all our efforts will be in vain as long as we close our minds in one very important respect which by no means concerns only the questions here touched upon.
If we put questions to language, questions about its nature, its being, then clearly language itself must already have been granted to us. Similarly, if we want to inquire into the being of language, then that which is called nature or being must also be already granted to us. Inquiry and investigation here and everywhere require the prior grant of whatever it is they approach and pursue with their queries. Every posing of every question takes place within the very grant of what is put in question.
What do we discover when we give sufficient thought to the matter? This, that the authentic attitude of thinking is not a putting of questions—rather, it is a listening to the grant, the promise of what is to be put in question. But in the history of our thinking, asking questions has since the early days been regarded as the characteristic procedure of thinking, and not without good cause. Thinking is more thoughtful in proportion as it takes a more radical stance, as it goes to the radix, the root of all that is. The quest of thinking always remains the search for the first and ultimate grounds. Why? Because this, that something is and what it is, the persistent presence of being, has from of old been determined to be the ground and foundation. As all nature has the character of a ground, a search for it is the founding and grounding of the ground or foundation. A thinking that thinks in the direction of nature