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Journal Article

Zwei Leitgedanken zu "Sprache und Erkenntnis"


Klein,  Wolfgang
Language Acquisition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Klein, W. (2007). Zwei Leitgedanken zu "Sprache und Erkenntnis". Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik, 145, 9-43.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-1E8C-4
In a way, the entire history of linguistic thought from the Antiquity to present days is a series of variations on two key themes: 1. In a certain sense, language and cognition are the same, and 2. In a certain sense, all languages are the same. What varies is the way in which “in a certain sense” is spelled out. Interpretations oscillate between radical positions such as the idea that thinking without speaking is impossible to the idea that it is just language which vexes our cognition and hence makes it rather impossible, and similarly between the idea that all differences between natural languages are nothing but irrelevant variations in the “vox”, the “external form” to the idea that it our thought is massively shaped by the particular structural features of the language we happen to speak. It is remarkable how little agreement has been reached on these issues after more than 2500 years of discussion. This, it is argued, has mainly two reasons: (a) The entire argument is largely confined to a few lexical and morphological properties of human languages, and (b) the discussion is rarely based on empirical research on “language at work” - how do we manage to solve those many little tasks for which human languages are designed in the first place.