Language and Learning: Philosophy of Language in the Hellenistic Age
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Hellenistic philosophers and scholars laid the foundations upon which Western tradition developed analytical grammar, linguistics, philosophy of language and other disciplines. Building on the pioneering work of Plato, Aristotle and earlier thinkers, they developed a wide range of theories about the nature and origin of language. Ten essays explore the ancient theories, their philosophical adequacy, and their impact on later thinkers from Augustine through the Middle Ages.
incidental in the extreme. Consider once again the case of ‘crux’ and ‘crura’. The same is true of words formed by the different varieties of vicinitas and by sequential applications of them and similarity in re. Almost any point of similarity or any association will do. Yet the examples of etymology with which we began are full of interest, and the Stoics’ motive for pursuing etymology was, as we noted, to recover the primitive wisdom that is preserved in them. The problem is only apparent,
partially adduced already in previous studies. (1) As is mentioned in Ep. Hdt. 75, the first sounds were provoked not only by pqh, ‘affections’, but also by fantsmata, ‘representations’, and that implies the relevance of the objects themselves to the utterance of specific combinations of sounds.25 (2) Epicurus explains the differences 21 22 23 24 25 In Diodorus the first sounds are represented as unarticulated and meaningless, and the further stage as their articulation and assignment to
detailed analysis and judicious appraisal. Its defects, as much as its merits, will, I believe, prove illuminating: and that is because many of them point precisely to the difficulties faced by today’s versions of the kind of naturalistic glossogenesis which Epicurus and Lucretius championed so brilliantly. It is the coupling of our capacities for vocalisation and for using signs for objects in such a way as to yield a viable Epicurean theory of the origins of language that poses the first of the
formed both from the psychological states which affected
objects. What is evoked in the noise-making community by a∗ cannot be, as it is in the case of externally caused vocalisations, a sensation of an A, e.g. that of a tiger, since it does not have the right causal history. Epicurus seems to think that in contemporary users the response to a name is the coming to mind of an ‘outline’ (tÅpov) of the object in accordance with a preconception (D.L. 10.33), and, implausible as that claim may be on empirical grounds, it is surely right that names cannot