we are to extract, subtract only the sound and resonance from what is spoken, if our ears are to catch this abstraction by itself, purely acoustically. Sound, which in the conceptual field of this supposed "at first" is regarded as immediately given, is an abstract construct that is at no time perceived alone, by itself, nor ever at first, when we hear something spoken.

The supposedly purely sensual aspect of the word-sound, conceived as mere resonance, is an abstraction. The mere vibration is always picked out only by an intermediate step—by that almost unnatural disregard. Even when we hear speech in a language totally unknown to us, we never hear mere sounds as a noise present only to our senses-we hear unintelligible words. But between the unintelligible word, and the mere sound grasped in acoustic abstraction, lies an abyss of difference in essence.

Nor are mere terms given at first when we hear speech. As hearers, we abide in the sphere of what is spoken, where the voice of what is said rings without sound. From this sphere, whose essential nature we have barely caught sight of, much less thought about, the words disclose themselves which speak in what is spoken, and which simply do not stand out individually.

Words are not terms, and thus are not like buckets and kegs from which we scoop a content that is there. Words are wellsprings that are found and dug up in the telling, wellsprings that must be found and dug up again and again, that easily cave in, but that at times also well up when least expected. If we do not go to the spring again and again, the buckets and kegs stay empty, or their content stays stale.

To pay heed to what the words say is different in essence from what it first seems to be, a mere preoccupation with terms. Besides, to pay heed to what the words say is particularly difficult for us moderns, because we find it hard to detach ourselves from the "at first" of what is common; and if we succeed for once, we relapse all too easily.

Martin Heidegger (GA 8) What Is Called Thinking?