What we call ‘understanding a sentence’ has, in many cases, a much greater similarity to understanding a musical theme than we might be inclined to think. But I don’t mean that understanding a musical theme is more like the picture which one tends to make oneself of understanding a sentence; but rather that this picture is wrong, and that understanding a sentence is much more like what really happens when we understand a tune than at first sight appears. (BB, p. 167)
In our discussions of sense-impressions and of thinking, we have criticised the idea that psychological concepts describe inner events; making this point, however, raises fundamental questions about how language operates in relation to the Inner. The idea that utterances such ‘I am in pain’ function as signals is already a major break with the traditional approach to concepts of the Inner, but it only forms the beginning of the radically new approach Wittgenstein advocates. To appreciate his argument, however, we must first recognise the very real problem from which it proceeds. The fact that we continually use language to express our experiences, emotions, feelings, etc. blinds us to the question as to how this is possible, and yet it is far from clear how we manage to put the Inner into language. How do we connect words with our experiences? How do we cast what is most personal into a generally accessible form? Wittgenstein’s notion of an utterance only partially answers these questions, for many of the utterances we use are not learnt but spontaneous, and it is therefore rather mysterious how we come to use them in the first place.