chapter  Chapter Seven
30 Pages

The Ways of Language

WithLinda E. Chown

A radical change in twentieth century thinking about language and literature owes much to Ferdinand de Saussure whose trenchant study, Course in General Linguistics, systematically organized a generally unheard of understanding of the nature of linguistic structures. In the course of time, philosophers and literary critics come to consider, then, language as symbol, pointer to an external world. There are two salient approaches to language. The first, the practical, includes the kind of thinking displayed by Wittgenstein, John Searle and other speech act people, Sally McConnell-Ginet and other socially focused linguists. A second approach identifies language as an enveloping context and works to explain how that system is “represented.” Martin Heidegger bypasses familiar lamentations about word and thing, questing intensely for a convincing way to unite thought and language. Language activity in tongue centers both Memoirs and The Back Room, two experiments in positionality, combining multiple contexts, public and private, inner and outer, dream and reality.