Continental Philosophy of Language

Cristina Lafont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Continental philosophy of language is a tradition of reflexion on language initiated in the eighteenth century by authors such as J. G. Hamann and J. G. Herder, and later developed by W. von Humboldt. Through the work of M. Heidegger it has extended its influence to contemporary hermeneutic philosophy (H.-G. Gadamer, K.-O. Apel, J. Habermas). All the authors of this tradition are primarily interested in the world-disclosing function of language, that is, in the question of how language shapes our experience of the world through the net of concepts that it entails. Thus, they oppose the traditional view of language as a mere tool for the designation of entities given independently of language or the expression of prelinguistic thoughts. In contradistinction to this view, they consider language as constitutive of our experience of the world. But given the plurality of natural languages, this view seems immediately confronted by the problem of linguistic relativism: if speakers of different languages experience the world in genuinely different ways, how can they communicate with each other or reach shared knowledge of the world? Due to this difficulty, one of the main concerns in this tradition is to explain how understanding across different languages is possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015


  • Apel, K.-O.
  • Communicative rationality
  • Constitutive conception of language
  • Designative function of language
  • Formal pragmatics
  • Gadamer, H.-G.
  • Habermas, J.
  • Hamann, J. G.
  • Herder, J. G.
  • Instrumental conception of language
  • Linguistic idealism
  • Linguistic relativism
  • W. von Humboldt
  • World-disclosing function of language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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