Introduction  I  Structure  I  Use  I  Development  I  References  I  Comments


PI 25: Commanding, questioning, storytelling, chatting are as much a part of our natural history as walking, eating, drinking, playing.

“[We are] the species that reads, records, and goes beyond what went before, and directs our attention to what is important to preserve.” (Wolf, 2008, p 4)

Language as Structure (back to top)

The linguistic structures that an individual acquires are:

  • Phonological development: a child’s evolving ability to hear, discriminate, segment and manipulate phonemes in words.
  • Orthographic development: a child learns that his or her writing system represents oral language - and also how (new) words are spelled.
  • Semantic development: a child’s growth in vocabulary contributes to an every increasing understanding of the meaning of words, which fuels the engine of all language growth.
  • Syntactic development: a child’s growth in acquiring and using the grammatical relationships within language paves the way to understanding the growing complexity of sentences in the language of books.
  • Morphological development: contributes to an understanding of how words are formed from smaller, meaningful roots and units of meaning (i.e. morphemes). This helps the child grasp the kinds of words and grammatical uses of words found in sentences and stories.
  • Pragmatic development: a child’s ability to perceive and use the sociocultural ‘rules’ of language in its natural contexts.

"Multiple linguistic systems are essential to understand the many dimensions contained within a spoken or written word: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, with orthography necessary for written words. Each system activates discrete areas of the brain when we read ... Everything the child knows about oral language contributes to the development of written language." (Wolf, Gottwald, & Orkin, 2009, pg. 21)

“The learning of language, particularly when we pair that interest with [Wittgenstein’s] interest [in] aspect seeing is, like imagining, subject to the will. (PI, 213)” (Day, 2010, pg 208) 

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Language as Use (back to top)

“If Wittgenstein and Saussure agree in using ‘grammar’ descriptively, they disagree about ... other matters. One is that Wittgenstein’s grammar has to do with uses of language (discourse conditions and discourse continuation) rather than forms and their combinations (morphology and syntax) ... Considering uses rather than forms is a deep rather than a superficial departure from classical linguistic methodology ... Studying uses of language makes context prominent, whereas the study of forms lends itself naturally to analysis. There are no such things as the ‘structural components’ of a use of language or of a language-game, whereas morphological or syntactic analysis proceeds in terms of precisely such components.” (Garver, 1996, pg 151) 

“The sheer volume of writing and the flowering of literary genres contributed hugely to the knowledge base of the second millennium BCE. The titles of works tell their own story - from touching didactic texts like Advice of a Father to His Son and legends like Enlil and Nilil. The impulse to codify led to what is probably the first encyclopedia, modestly titled All Things Known about the Universe. Similarly, the Code of Hammurabi in 1800 BCE gave the world a brilliant codification of the laws of society under this great ruler, and the Treatise of Medical Diagnostics and Prognostics classified all known medical writings. The level of conceptual development and organisation, abstraction, and creativity in Akkadian writing inevitably shifts any previous focus on what is cognitively required by an individual writing system to what aspects of cognitive development are being advanced.” (Wolf, 2008, p 41)

“Those who ‘agree in the language they use.’ To agree in language is to share in [a] form of life.” (Minar, 2010, pg 200)  

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Language as (Personal) Development (back to top)

“Although it took our species roughly 2,000 years to make the cognitive breakthrough necessary to learn to read with an alphabet, today our children have to reach the same insights about print in roughly 2,000 days.” (Wolf, 2008, p 19)

TLP 4.002  Man possesses the ability to construct languages capable of expressing every sense, without having any idea how each word has meaning or what its meaning is--just as people speak without knowing how the individual sounds are produced. Everyday language is a part of the human organism and is no less complicated than it. It is not humanly possible to gather immediately from it what the logic of language is. Language disguises thought. So much so, that from the outward form of the clothing it is impossible to infer the form of the thought beneath it, because the outward form of the clothing is not designed to reveal the form of the body, but for entirely different purposes. The tacit conventions on which the understanding of everyday language depends are enormously complicated. 

OC 473 Just as in writing we learn a particular basic form of letters and then vary it later, so we learn first the stability of things as the norm, which is then subject to alteration. 

C&V A script you can read fluently works on you differently from one that you can write; but not decipher easily. You lock up your thought up in this as though in a casket.

OC 472 When a child learns language, it learns at the same time what is to be investigated and what not.

OC 211: Now [language] gives our way of looking at things, and our researchers, their form. Perhaps it was once disputed. But perhaps, for unthinkable ages, it has belonged to the scaffolding  of our thoughts. 

  • A user's repertoire of language practices can be correlated to the user's participation in the collective intentional activities of a community of practice, which includes both verbal and non-verbal activities.

“More generally, one of the main themes of the Philosophical Investigations as a whole is that explicit linguistic acts such as giving an ostensive definition, providing a verbal explanation of a word’s meaning, or interpreting a rule take place on the background of a great deal of practical ability, and that their significance depends both on the particular circumstances in which they take place, and the broader context provided by the ‘weave of life’ (PI II.i, 174/148).” (Stern, 2004, pg 177)

OC 229 Our talk get its meaning from the rest of our proceedings. 

“Forms of life consist of a plurality of language games, ‘a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing.’ (PI, 66) ... It resembles a medley-like mixture or garland of practices somehow supporting or complementing each other.” (Kober, 1996, pg. 418)

“As Wittgenstein insists in a number of places, the use of expressions in our language depends on the existence of broad stabilities and continuities that we take for granted -- and it is important that we do take them for granted. Without the stabilities and continuities in ourselves and in the world, certain language-games would, in fact, not arise.” (Fogelin, 2009, pg 170 - 171)

“The pupil must want to go on alone in taking language to the world, and that what is said must be worth saying, have a point (warning, informing, amusing, promising, questioning, chastising, counting, insisting, beseeching, specifying the location of pain, and so on), then is there some question left as to whether the pupil has to find warning, informing, amusing, promising, counting, beseeching, chastising, and so on themselves worth doing? If it is part of teaching to undertake to validate these measures of interest, then it would be quite as if teaching must, as it were, undertake to show a reason for speaking at all.” (Cavell, 2005, pg 115)

“Without an affective investment and commitment, our words become unintelligible and empty; with that commitment words begin to show other manners of signification beyond the realm of literal meaning and correspondence.” (Krebs, 2010, pg 138)

References  (back to top)

    • Cavell, S. (2005). Philosophy the day after tomorrow. In S. Cavell, Philosophy the day after tomorrow. (pp. 111 - 131). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
    • Day, W. (2010). Wanting to say something: aspect-blindness and language. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 204 - 224). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Fogelin, R. (2009). Taking Wittgenstein at his word: a textual study. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
    • Garver, N. (1996). Philosophy as grammar. In H. Sluga, H. and D. Stern (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Wittgenstein. (pp. 139 - 170) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Kober, M. (1996). Certainties of a world-picture: the epistemological investigations of On Certainty In H. Sluga, H. and D. Stern (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Wittgenstein. (pp. 411 - 441) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Krebs, V. (2010). The bodily root: seeing aspects and inner experience. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 120 - 139). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Minar, E. (2010). The philosophical significance of meaning-blindness. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 183 - 203). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Stern, D. (2004). Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Wittgenstein, L. (2001). Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness. London: Routledge.
    • _____________ (2001). Philosophical Investigations. 3rd Edition. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
    • _____________   (1980). Culture and value. Translated by Peter Winch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    • _____________ (1969). On Certainty. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Translated by D. Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
    • Wolf, M. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.
    • Wolf, M., Gottwald, S., & Orkin, M. (2009). Serious word play: how multiple linguistic emphases in RAVE-O instruction improve multiple reading skills. In Perspectives on Language and Literacy, Fall 2009, pg 21 - 24.