chapter  2
14 Pages

The condemnation

Language: what exactly do we mean by this word? Etymologically derived from the Latin word lingua (tongue), language is not a tongue-not a mother tongue, not a lazy dialect, not, as the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure puts it, an abstract entity denoting “la somme des images verbales emmagasinées chez tous les individus” (the sum of the verbal images stored in all individuals) (Robert 1979: s.v. langue), and clearly not the organ of speech. Although language need not be verbal (body language, iconography, ideograms), verbal language is conditioned by a tongue and vocalized through speech. It is, thus, the “speaking of a tongue.” In this sense, the etymological derivation of language from lingua relays a necessary semantic dependence of language on lingua; language relates to the condition or to the act of being lingual. It transgresses and transcends the distinction between words and ideas, naming and identifying, speaking and thinking, sound and sense.