Heidegger asserts in Letter on Humanism that:

language is the house of being. In its home human brings live.

Is there a specific word in German, or Greek (considering Heidegger was a classicist) that signals this? Or failing this other Indo-European Languages?

I ask this simply, and perhaps too simply, as Bengali, which is an Indo-European language, has the word Bhalobasha; which when broken in two parts is Bhalo (good) and Basha (home/language); and as a whole means love, but in the sense not of eros but philia, a word used in Aristotles Ethics, and standing for virtuous love, that between friends or lovers.

This to me has an intriguing relationship with Heideggers assertion; but how does it bear within the full spectrum of this language family?

(And, casting further and wider, in the other main language families: semetic and sinitic say, or the Austronesian?)

1 Answer 1


Language here is Sprache. Heidegger relates this elsewhere in his writing to German versprechen, which means promise, and Anspruch, which means claim. He sees it's Greek root as logos, which he derives from legein, meaning to gather.

You might be interested to look at On the Way to Language, especially "A Dialogue on Language" where Heidegger poses a question much like the one you're posing to a Japanese interlocutor, and "The Nature of Language" where the Anspruch of language is explored - the claim which ties the human being to language before any particular language or its individual use.

  • On the face of it, and not being a linguist, I don't see an easy connection between sprach and legein; are you able to explain a little more on this connection? Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 16:28
  • Heidegger doesn't draw an etymological connection between the two. He simply views German as the modern inheritor of ancient Greek culture and conceptuality. He would say that this is because German is not beholden to Latin as romance languages are, and because Roman culture corrupted Greek thought. He often asserts the superiority of German without defending the view - I believe What is Called Thinking contains assertions to this effect. On the other hand, Derrida convincingly ties this combination to the idea of radical finitude which is fundamental to Heidegger's thought... Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:37
  • ...Because of radical finitude we always see the world from within the particularity of a place, time, culture, etc. We do not have access to an infinite perspective which transcends these differences, or perhaps, our access to that perspective is through our finitude (these distinctions become very tenuous when it is a matter of discussing authenticity - i.e. everywhere). So, Derrida would say it is not the case that German has a privileged relationship to to Greek language, but that everyone must approach a cultural tradition starting from their own position... Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:40
  • ...whereas Heidegger would claim German provides an access to the fundamental truth of the Greek tradition known as philosophy, Derrida would say that even that Greek tradition has roots which are lost to us, and everyone is equally dependent on a natural language in attempting to approach or reappropriate it. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:43
  • Well, I would suggest that speech draws together; is this the sense that Derrida leans on? Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:45

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