Linguistic turn

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The linguistic turn (Engl. Linguistic turn ) - also spoke critical turning point, said analytical turn of or turn to language called - referred efforts especially since the beginning of the 20th century in philosophy , literature and linguistics to investigate linguistic forms of communication more closely. This research focus was adopted by numerous representatives of these disciplines, but the effects also affected most of the other humanities and social sciences . The expression "linguistic turn" was coined by Gustav Bergmann and known from an anthology of the same name published in 1967 by Richard Rorty .

The term linguistic turn describes a number of very different developments in occidental thought of the 20th century, all of which are based on a fundamental skepticism towards the idea that language is a "transparent medium" to grasp or convey reality. Instead of this point of view comes the view that language is an “inevitable condition of thinking”. Accordingly, "all human knowledge is structured by language"; the reality beyond language is seen as “nonexistent” or “at least unattainable”. The reflection of thought, above all philosophy, thus becomes language criticism; a reflection of linguistic forms - also in literature - can only take place under the conditions of the reflected object, namely language.

Historical development

The first signs of a critical change in language can already be found in various anti-scholastic rhetoricians of the Italian Renaissance , for example Lorenzo Valla , later several times in various authors such as Giambattista Vico , Johann Georg Hamann or Carl Leonhard Reinhold , and in the 19th century in Nietzsche's philosophical world of thought , the z. B. problematizes the "prison of language". There are also clear echoes of a turn to language in Stéphane Mallarmé's poetry .

At the beginning of the 20th century, the problem of the intransparency of language is paradigmatically thematized by Ludwig Wittgenstein in two contrastive attempts at explanation. Wittgenstein's early work on the Tractatus combines in a very influential way with approaches from analytical philosophy around Gottlob Frege , George Edward Moore , Bertrand Russell and later the Vienna Circle in an effort to “remove recognized distortions or blurring of language with the means of logic or to avoid ".

Above all, Wittgenstein revised the statics of an image theory of language previously assumed or assumed in philosophy or epistemology in his later writings on the idea of ​​independent " language games ", the rules of which are understood only through socially mediated experience, but not through reduction to a logical essence could.

The ordinary language philosophy , which was primarily shaped by John Langshaw Austin , turns in a similar way from the consideration of logical ideals of language to the investigation of the modes of expression of everyday language as an expression of human activity and social practice. In general, according to this view, a text loses its “unilinear correlation with a certain meaning”; rather, this is negotiated in the socially determined processes of production, reproduction and reception and remains ambiguous or “multivalent”.

Problems and questions arising from this approach are also addressed in the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and the reception aesthetics of the Konstanz school .

The individualizing approach to these conceptions contrasts with the systematic approach of the French approach to language, which, following Ferdinand de Saussure's semiotics in structuralist and poststructuralist approaches and theories, understands language as a system of rules of signs to which the individual text is subject, without ever fully realizing it. According to the structuralists, this linguistic paradigm is always applicable when a phenomenon can be represented as a system of signs.

Philosophical foundations

In philosophy, a “language-related turn” refers to a development mainly of the 20th century , which began with an increased focus on language , i. H. the use and meaning of linguistic utterances. Many proponents of the linguistic turn had the research program of no longer examining “ things in themselves ”, but rather analyzing the linguistic conditions of how things are spoken of. One can claim a parallel to that of Kant for this turning point: Kant's “ Copernican turning point ” was associated with no longer describing things in oneself, but rather conditions for recognizing them that lie in the structure of reason. In the place of metaphysics as the first philosophy, there are structures of the mind (Latin: mens ), which is why some authors speak of a “mentalistic paradigm ”, for representatives of the linguistic turn of a “linguistic paradigm”.

The metaethics of George Edward Moore, analyzing ethical questions, is a vivid example of the turn to language . The nature of the good is not discussed here, but rather that of the linguistic expression “good”: Does this word count among the words which recommend or prescribe actions (so-called prescriptive expressions)? Or is it descriptive (" descriptive ")? Does “helping people in need is good” express a duty or an action assessment? Or perhaps a description: Emergency aid has useful effects? Moore differentiates between the two ways of speaking in such a way that a conclusion to prescriptive statements is never permitted from descriptive statements (“ naturalistic fallacy ”).

Occasionally you put the u. a. von Moore's research program as “conceptual analytical” from two others, which also methodically focus on language: the “language analytical ” or normal language , as pursued by Ryle or Austin, and the “formalistic”, which Frege, Russell and the early Wittgenstein pursue pursued. All three research programs are usually described as partial currents of so-called analytical philosophy that are important in phases .

Bergmann himself had his speech about a linguistic turn v. a. related to Moore and Wittgenstein and in this sense linguistic turn was always a term in analytical philosophy. In retrospect, the history of philosophy also found this world of ideas in completely different contexts. In the field of French philosophy, for example, Roland Barthes or Paul Ricœur brought the idea of ​​a semiotic turn , and in German intellectual history to the great linguistic-philosophical tradition of Johann Georg Hamann , Wilhelm von Humboldt , Johann Gottfried Herder , Wilhelm Dilthey , the as "Hermeneutics" was administered by Gadamer. In any case, other currents of modern philosophy also emphasize the importance of linguistic communication, including, for example, the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty , the philosophical anthropology of Ernst Cassirer or the philosophy of Martin Heidegger .

The impact on the humanities

The linguistic turn in the narrower sense can be seen as a continuation and application of the linguistic turn in the field of culture and the humanities in general. The focus is on the insight that all knowledge must always follow the logic of language and thus the linguistic structure forms both the prerequisite and the limit of the knowable. Language is no longer viewed as a neutral medium of communication, but as a discourse that obeys certain rules and within which statements of any kind are possible in the first place. Ultimately, according to the radical proponents of the linguistic turn , even those phenomena that are not linguistic in the narrower sense are structured according to the discursive rules of language and can be deciphered as text .

In order to investigate the logic of language, linguistics and the newly established discipline of semiotics (character theory) in particular were used. The results of this research were then transferred to other areas such as literary studies or ethnology . The work that emerged from structuralism and poststructuralism was primarily responsible for the breakthrough of the linguistic turn in the humanities . Well-known representatives include Claude Lévi-Strauss , Michel Foucault , Judith Butler , Jacques Lacan , Luce Irigaray , Julia Kristeva , Roland Barthes , Umberto Eco and Jacques Derrida .

The view of the linguistic turn towards the phenomenon of language by no means corresponds to “common sense” - and also not to what the philosophers believed they knew about language for a long time. According to conventional belief, words work like labels: first there is the real “chair”, then the image “chair” (the signified ), then the word “chair” (the signifier ).

In contrast, as early as 1915, the Geneva linguist Ferdinand de Saussure was able to show that the signifiers are not “ images ” of the signified, but that meaning is based on an internal differentiation between the signifiers themselves. Language tends to be an autonomous system that is only arbitrarily ( arbitrarily ) linked to what it designates . Saussure is considered both the most influential founder of modern linguistics and a pioneer of structuralism, semiotics and thus of the linguistic turn.

The impact on the social sciences

By the 1980s at the latest, the paradigm shift of the linguistic turnaround also spread to social sciences such as history and sociology . Under the influence of postmodernism and poststructuralism , there was a shift away from the claim to discover historical truths and hard "facts". Instead, they turned to discourse , within which truths and facts are first articulated socially. Michel Foucault and the history theorist Hayden White can be seen as pioneers of this approach . As a result, many new questions and methods emerged. B. New cultural history , historical anthropology , microhistory and women's and gender history in the context of gender studies .

The literary scholar Hayden White analyzes the problem of narration in modern history theory and describes how narrative structures guide and thus manipulate the understanding of any reconstruction of history. According to White, any representation of historical contexts is subject to poetological categories. Historiography, he says, is necessarily narrative , even where it pretends not to be. Elfriede Müller and Alexander Ruoff summarize the result of his analysis as follows: "If you tell history, you necessarily interpret it through the way in which you structure your individual data."

See also


German reception in humanities and cultural studies
  • Georg G. Iggers: The cultural and linguistic turn. In: History of the 20th Century. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-36149-8 .
  • Doris Bachmann-Medick : Cultural Turns. New orientations in cultural studies. 3rd, revised edition, Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg 2009.
  • Elfriede Müller and Alexander Ruoff: interpreters of horror. History and crime in the French roman noir : In: jour fixe initiative berlin. (Ed.): History after Auschwitz. Münster 2002, ISBN 3-89771-409-4 .
  • Peter Schöttler : Who is afraid of the “linguistic turn”? In: History and Society. 23/1997 (1), pp. 134-151.
  • Peter Schöttler: After fear. History before and after the “linguistic turn” . Westphalian steam boat, Münster 2018, ISBN 978-3-89691-293-0 .
  • Hayden White: The Problem of Narration in Modern History. In: Pietro Rossi (ed.): Theory of modern historiography. Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  • Daniel Tröhler and Stephanie Fox (2019): The 'linguistic turn' and historical educational research . In: Andreas Hoffman-Ocon and Eva Matthes (eds.): Enzyklopädie Erziehungswissenschaft Online; ISSN 2191-8325.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rorty 1967, p. 9 the reference to Bergmann.
  2. ^ Klaus Stierstorfer: Linguistic turn. In: Ansgar Nünning (ed.): Basic concepts of literary theory. Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart / Weimar 2004, ISBN 3-476-10347-1 , p. 147f.
  3. a b c d Klaus Stierstorfer: Linguistic turn. In: Ansgar Nünning (ed.): Basic concepts of literary theory. Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart / Weimar 2004, ISBN 3-476-10347-1 , p. 147.
  4. The scheme is u. a. used by Herbert Schnädelbach ; for job references and criticism of them cf. z. B. Claus Zittel: Theatrum philosophicum: Descartes and the role of aesthetic forms in science, knowledge culture and social change 22, Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 3-05-004050-5 , p. 29ff et passim.
  5. E.g. in Anton Hügli , Poul Lübcke: Art. Philosophy of Language. In: Philosophielexikon. Rowohlt, Reinbek (near Hamburg) 1991.
  6. So z. B. Jürgen Habermas : Hermeneutic versus analytical philosophy. Two varieties of the linguistic turn, in: Ders .: Truth and Justification. Philosophical essays, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1999 and 2 A. 2004. With reference to z. B. Richard J. Bernstein: The Pragmatic Turn, Polity, Cambridge 2010, ISBN 0-7456-4908-4 , p. 151.