I’ve read a good deal of Heidegger’s Being and Time, and along with that, I have read a number of intro books on Heidegger, and everytime I read him, it is like reading him for the first time.

Language appears to be an attempt at more poetic language (prose) than Heidgger’s earlier work, as it should be, since poetic language is what the essay is exploring. Like Being and Time, Heidegger is still analyzing preconceived notions of Being, but he is looking at Being in a different way here (moving away from Dasien)—through language; as the introduction informs: “language is the house of Being” (982). If Being is housed in language, then we must understand language.

The problem comes with trying to understand language within language. Humans can only know the world through language; so then how can we know language through language? Once we start to put things into language, we totalize the thing, categorize it, and as Heidegger points out,

“We do not wish to assault language in order to force it into the grip of ideas already fixed beforehand. We do not wish to reduce the concept of language to a concept, so that this concept may provide a generally useful view of language that will lay to rest all further notions about it” (986)


For Heidegger, language is not a fixed concept; rather, “Language speaks.” This speaking grants Being a home because speech is the activity of man; it is expression, and I see language here much like Dasein in that language and Dasein are both concerned with the movement, the gerund speaking (much like the being)—it is something that is always-already moving. Language is more than speaking. Heidegger will go on to show the problem with the old way of thinking about language (language speaks), but he does see a buried approach to this way of thinking about language.

All this explanation by Heidegger is his way into a discussion of language. He contends that while these observations and popular ideas about language might be correct, “…they never bring us to language as language” (988). For Heidegger, the real speaking of language is in poetic language.

In poetic language (and this is an idea Derrida furthers in Rams, his essays on Paul Celan), language speaks by calling object into existence through language that speaks, but this is a non-totalizing call that brings the absent object present while still remaining absent. It is non-totalizing because, “This naming does not hand out titles, it does not apply terms, but it calls in the word. The naming calls, Calling brings closer what it calls, However, this bringing closer does not fetch what is called only in order to set it down in closest proximity to what is present, to find a place for it there” (991). This language, rather, is open.

And then things get a little weird. I’m not sure what the fourfold: earth, sky, divinities, mortals, is, but I read somewhere that language has something to do with them. What I did grasp is:

If language is speaking and showing the world and things, it requires that we listen. It is not possible to hear something that has not been said; listening here is an active listening: “Mortals speak insofar as they listen” (997). Furthermore, we have to hear something so that we can say it. And we have to say something in order for it to be present: “…[speech] bids thing and world to come” and when that is done “purely” there is poetic language. If there is no word for hammer, then there are no preconceived notions of what “hammer” means, but once it is put into words, it bids things to come. There is something about gathering and dif-ference here, that if I understood better and had a larger word count I would go explore further…

I think some of these concepts can be seen in Beloved, where there is a binary set up between poetic/non-representational language—Heidegger’s “pure” language”—and representational/ totalizing language, which wants to categorize and name things. In all honesty, I haven’t finished reading the book yet (though I have read it in the past), and to be honest again, I know this binary is there because that is the way we looked at it in another class I had once, I just have a bad memory, so I am not going to attempt to get into more detail about it.