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.
related in just this way. iii Let us turn to the Cratylus for illumination about what a natural standard of correctness might be. We should then be in a better position to understand what part such a standard might have played in Stoic accounts of the origin of language. My suggestions about those views will be developed in part through a comparison with better attested Epicurean views. Then as promised, I shall conclude by comparing the Stoic view with the positions explored in the Cratylus. Up
their significates. Some kind of affinity or proximity or even direct contrariety are principles, natural principles, in the formation or usage of certain words: e.g. piscina signifying a bath that actually contains no fish (pisces) or bellum (war) in contrariety to bellus (beautiful). By looking to synaesthetic relationships between word and significate, rather than the direct mirroring of properties, the Stoics offer a looser but a less problematic explanation of the connection between primary
diversity of the interest in questions of language (and, where applicable, grammar) during Hellenistic times, the deplorable scarcity of sources makes it particularly hard to reconstruct an overall picture. For we are not dealing with the remains of one ancient road whose course might easily be discerned from a bird’s eye view. Instead, we are confronted with a host of scattered pieces that belonged to quite different roads, that lead in confusingly different directions, and whose intersections
characterised by animal-like sounds, which were gradually articulated and assigned to things. This idea is represented in explicit form in the Protagorean theory of Plato’s Protagoras (322a). Man ‘quickly articulated voice and names with skill’ (fwnn kaª ½n»mata tacÆdihrqrÛsatot¦ tcnh).3 The emergence of human language is mentioned in Sophocles’ Antigone (staged in the 440s): ‘[man] has taught himself speech, thought swift as the wind and practices designed to protect the state’ (kaª fqgma
lifestyle as a ‘studied attempt to construct a life that would breed just the kind of anecdotal tradition D.L. records’ (ibid.), see below, section 4. Communicating Cynicism 153 the contents of Cynicism perfectly.54 Interestingly, Cynic use of language was felt to be characteristic enough to deserve the label kunik¼v tr»pov (Dem. On Style 259–61), and Demetrius links it in one breath with the style of comedy (ibid. 259). Throughout, the apparent unconventionality of the Cynics’ beliefs also