J. G. v. Herder and W. v. Humboldt: Reflections upon the Origin of Language A Comparative Essay, with a Commentary on Recent Developments in the Philosophy of Language

Karl-Friedrich Kiesow

Abstract


 In my essay I try to explore a parallel between Herder and Humboldt and some modern investigations into the origin of language. Herder favors a pan-psychistic account of nature, and he proposes a theory maintaining that only language can do the business to mediate between the abstract reasoning of man and the content delivered to him by his senses. Humboldt, in his turn, prefers a Kantian transcendental analysis of the form of language, the form being dependent on man’s mental activity and therefore dynamical in character. We may summarize this result in the thesis that Herder is speculating on the origin of language whereas Humboldt attempts to give a theory of the origination of language by synthetic acts. Problems connected with a narrative style of theorizing can also be demonstrated by contrasting two modern authors, namely R. G. Millikan and M. Tomasello.


Keywords


Philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, origin of language, origination of language

https://doi.org/10.5817/pf15-2-1032

Full Text:

PDF

References

Show references Hide references

CHOMSKY, Noam, Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the History of Rationalistic Thought, New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

FORSTER, Michael N., “Introduction”, in: J. G. v. Herder, Philosophical Writings, ed. by M. N. Forster, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. vii – xxxv.

GADAMER, Hans-Georg, “Wort und Bild - ˃so wahr, so seiend˂”, in: Ästhetik und Poetik I, ( = Gesammelte Werke 8), Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1993.

HERDER, Johann Gottfried v., Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Sprache (1772), in: Frühe Schriften 1764 – 1772 ( = Werke, I), ed. by U. Gaier, Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1985, pp. 695 – 810.

HERDER, Johann Gottfried v., Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772), in: Philosophical Writings, ed. by M. N. Forster, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 65 – 164.

HUMBOLDT, Wilhelm v., “Ueber das vergleichende Sprachstudium in Beziehung auf die verschiedenen Epochen der Sprachentwicklung”, in: Wilhelm v. Humboldt: Über die Sprache. Reden vor der Akademie, hg. v. J. Trabant, 11 – 32. Tübingen / Basel: Francke, 1994, pp. 11 – 32.

HUMBOLDT, Wilhelm v., Ueber die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues und ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts (1830 – 1835), in: Schriften zur Sprachphilosophie ( = Werke, V), ed. by A. Flitner and K. Giel, Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta’sche Buchhandlung, 1963, pp. 368 – 756.

HUMBOLDT, Wilhelm v., On Language. On the Diversity of Human Language Construction and its Influence on the Mental Development of the Human Species, ed. by M. Losonsky, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

KENNY, A. J. P., and J. R. Lucas, H. C. Longuet-Higgins, C. H. Waddington (eds.), The Development of Mind, New Brunswick (USA) / London: Aldine Transaction, 1973.

KIESOW, Karl-Friedrich, “Zeichenkonzeptionen in der Sprachphilosophie vom 19. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart“, in: R. Posner et. al., Semiotik. Ein Handbuch zu den zeichentheoretischen Grundlagen von Natur und Kultur / Semiotics. A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture, Berlin / New York: W. de Gruyter, 1998, pp. 1512 – 1553.

LANGER, Susanne K., Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, Vol. II, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972.

LOVEJOY, Arthur O., The Great Chain of Being. A Study of the History of an Idea, Cambridge (Mass.) / London (England): Harvard University Press, 1936.

LOSONSKY, Michael, “Introduction”, in: W. v. Humboldt, On Language. On the Diversity of Human Language Construction and Its Influence on the Mental Development of the Human Species, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. vii. – xxxiv.

MERLAN, P., Monopsychism, Mysticism, Metaconsciousness. Problems of the Soul in the Neoaristotelian and Neoplatonic Tradition, The Hague (Netherlands): M. Nijhoff, 1963.

MILLIKAN, Ruth G., Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories. New Foundations for Realism, Cambridge (Mass.) / London (England): The MIT Press, 1984.

MILLIKAN, Ruth G., Language. A Biological Model, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

PINKER, Steven, The Language Instinct. How the Mind Creates Language, New York: Morrow, 1994.

TOMASELLO, Michael, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, Cambridge (Mass.) / London (England): Harvard University Press, 1999.

TOMASELLO, Michael, Origins of Human Communication, Cambridge (Mass.) / London (England), The MIT Press, 2008.

TOMASELLO, Michael, A Natural History of Human Thinking, Cambridge (Mass.) / London (England), 2014.

The motto is from Wallace Stevens, “Adagia”, in: Opus Posthumous. Poems, Plays, Prose, ed. by Milton J. Bates, New York: Vintage Books, 1990, p. 200.





Published by the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.
ISSN: 1212-9097