The Nature of Language: Three Muslim Thinkersʼ Perspectives

Hassan Azizi,

Farhad Mazlum


One of the key issues attracting thinkers throughout the history of science was to set and define criteria for studying language – whether that of man or God – and to study its relation to the mind on the one hand and to the external world on the other. The purpose of this paper is to investigate three Muslim thinkers’ views about the nature and ‘whatness’ of language by focusing on their works. The rationale to choose these three thinkers is the fact that their views and ideas cover the issues inherent in the purpose of this study extensively. The issues addressed in paper include:
1. What are the constituent elements of language?
2. How does it affect mind and thought?
3. What is its semantic function?
Our findings indicate that the ‘whatness’ and nature of language of both God and men are the same. The elements are written and spoken, gestures and entity that serve to communicate meaning. As for the second question, language elements act like signs which evoke meaning and assist communication. As far as the semantic functions of language elements are concerned, when the communication of meaning is undertaken, the truth of kalam (speech, word) is different from the ‘whatness’ of meaning and the mutakallim (the one who makes wordsn and speech). As a result of this discrepancy, language communicates something (i.e. meaning) different from the mutakallimʼs inner world. Although the constituent elements of language and how they affect mind and thought have been thoroughly investigated in Western philosophy (e.g. Wittgenstein), there has been little attention to such issues in Eastern philosophy. This paper is believed to be one of the few investigations that adopt a new perspective in attempting to provide a definition for language based on three Muslim thinkersʼ dialectics and logics. The paper contributes to the field by defining language in a way that all its functions, particularly the religious function – that explains the relation between man and God – are taken into account.

Słowa kluczowe: language, word, islamic philosophy

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