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Aldous Huxley’s Concern for Language. An

Analysis of Words and their Meanings in the
Light of Eugenio Coseriu’s Philos....

Chapter · January 2011


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Jesús Gerardo Martínez del Castillo

Universidad de Almería


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Jesús Martínez del Castillo
(University of Almería)



1. Linguistic Knowledge and the Knowledge of Linguists

1.1. Linguistics is a science built on the knowledge of speakers. Speakers
manifest their competence (linguistic knowledge) in the use of language.
Linguistic knowledge is a know-how knowledge, that is, a technical knowledge, a
kind of primarily justified knowledge,1 intuitively acquired. When in use, it
is continuously being evaluated. Speakers at the same time as they create
speech evaluate their speech and the speech of their co-speakers2 in
accordance with the following sets of rules: rules of internal logic
(congruency) and the internal unity of texts (cohesion and coherence),3
rules at work in the respective tradition4 (correction),5 rules affecting real
objects being spoken of (adequacy),6 rules in accordance with the listener
(appropriateness) and the circumstances in which speech is performed
(opportunity). They all constitute the general rule of congruency and tolerance:
speakers take it for granted that the speech of others is true and because
of this they will do their best in finding out a sense to their speech (see
Coseriu 1992, 273–74). On the other hand, speaking is both speaking and
understanding, that is, mental activity involving the apprehension of
things and the interpretation of the things referred to in speech. In this
sense language is content, that is, thought, logos.7
1.2. In contrast with the intuitive and technical knowledge of speakers
you can see the knowledge of linguists, a kind of knowledge fully justified
which eventually may end in science. The knowledge of linguists,
linguistics, is based on the verbal behaviour of speakers as the material
asset of it. Because of this, a linguist will look for the ultimate reason in
the interpretation of it.8 Linguistics is not a positive science but
hermeneutics,9 that is, interpretation.
1.3.1. At the same time as speakers have an intuitive and technical
knowledge of how their language works and functions they have beliefs
about what language is, how it manifests itself, what it consists in, and
what aspects are involved in it. If linguistic knowledge is the base for the

1 I want to express my frank and deep gratitude the the editors of these papers for their

kind indications and patience with me.


study of language, thus constituting the science of language, the

knowledge of linguists has nothing to do with language in its functioning.
Linguistic knowledge is reliable: speakers can speak and understand and
even primarily justify their speech based on tradition and the meaning
conveyed. On the contrary, the knowledge of linguists cannot be but
descriptive and adequate. For a linguist to study language means
interpreting linguistic knowledge, thus creating a theory and justifying it in
terms of the theory created. But the line separating a speaker’s linguistic
knowledge and a linguist’s justification of it—linguists are necessarily
speakers of a particular language—sometimes is difficult to draw. Besides,
as I have said, speakers have ideas—beliefs—about their activity of
speaking, thus making this difficulty even stronger. A linguist may
sometimes defend his own beliefs as if they were the reality he tries to
The philosophy of this article Because of this, the first task a linguist must do is to ask about
the reality of the expressions he, as a speaker, refers to as language, a
particular or historical language, thought, meaning, reality, speech act, etc.
Does language exist? Does a language have concrete existence? Is thought
anything independent in itself? Is language anything natural? What is
language? Language is nothing existing in itself: it cannot be verified. The
only thing you can verify is innumerable linguistic acts. What you refer to
as language manifests itself as speaking, the activity of speaking. Language is
thus something performed by speakers. And here lies the mystery of
language: language is something in speakers, that is, in human beings. The
character and nature of it is something that must be deduced from the
character and nature of its speakers. Speakers, that is, human beings, are
creative and free and thus absolute. Language in this sense is something
absolute, that is, creation, poivhsi".10 Its aim is infinite, since it is an
activity-to-be-performed, that is, an activity never achieved in full, but
something to be improved and perfected when performed. At the same
time and on the contrary, human beings are limited, that is, contingent,
thus creating their own history. Language thus is historical, that is,
something made in history, manifesting the historicity of its creators. In this
sense you cannot speak of language but languages, historical objects.
Languages are being made whenever they are spoken. A language is
something continuously being made by its speakers. Language as a
historical object manifests the creativity and limitation of its speakers, who
are historical subjects.
JESÚS MARTÍNEZ DEL CASTILLO 3 The activity of speaking is not a simple one: it is always and at

the same time speaking, saying and knowing. Human subjects speak because
they have something to say. Saying something means the definition of
human subjects before the things surrounding, affecting and conditioning
them. And this definition is possible because of the peculiarities of human
knowledge. Because human subjects know, they want to say and speak.
Knowing makes possible saying. Saying determines speaking, and
speaking conditions saying, and in a secondary step, knowing. Saying goes
beyond speaking. Human knowledge is the creative activity performed by human
beings in the circumstances they are involved in. Human beings will
apprehend something sensitively, but they will change what initially is
sensitive and concrete into something abstract and virtual. They thus create
‘things’ and the ‘world’ made up of ‘things.’ Human knowledge is the
expression of human freedom. Knowledge is aimed at dominating and manipulating the things
created in it. In the act of knowing cognizant subjects manifest four
a) they separate themselves from the sensitive and concrete,
b) performing an internal activity,
c) looking at things surrounding them,
d) creating something.
Because of these dimensions, the things created in the act of knowledge are
the following:
1. human conscience:11 speakers create their own ‘I’,
2. virtual things (contents of conscience = meanings),
3. things and the world (reality), and
4. language, manifesting itself at three levels:
a. the creation of meanings and thought (language)
b. particular languages, and
c. individual acts of speaking, saying and knowing (speech).
The activity of speaking, saying and knowing is the execution of language
in speech acts. To study speech acts, then, is interpretation, that is,
hermeneutics. Linguistics of saying12 studies language in its birth, thus
constituting the hermeneutics of speech acts.
1.4. The type of knowledge we are going to analyse in this article,
Huxley’s concern for language, is a particular theory of a speaker whose
concern is social morality, something to be expressed in words belonging
to a language, thus based on the creativeness, meaningfulness, historicity,
alterity and materialness of language.13 In this sense his ideas have nothing

to do with linguistic knowledge but constitute a theory conceived of by

him as a speaker who thinks over his linguistic knowledge.

2. The Starting Point of Aldous Huxley’s Concept of Language

Aldous Huxley starts from the concept that ‘words,’ that is, language,
mould the minds of its users. This point of view poses the problem of
language as cognizant activity (lógos). Previous to this, it is the fact that
language exists. Indeed, language is the act of apprehending things, that is,
knowledge, something very complex.
If you accept that language is knowledge, you implicitly accept that
there is a subject who performs the act of apprehending things, the
cognizant subject, on the one hand, and there is something that can be
apprehended, the object known, on the other. In this sense language is the
activity of apprehending things and transforming them into meanings and
words. Since apprehending things is activity, language is the factor that
moulds the minds of speakers: “words have power to mould men’s
thinking, to canalize their feeling, to direct their willing and acting.”14
The influence of words encompasses not only linguistic acts but the
behaviour of speakers:
Conduct and character are largely determined by the nature of
the words we currently use to discuss ourselves and the world
around us. (Words, 9)
The fact that language moulds the minds of its speakers connects
Huxley with the great thinkers on the problem of language and thought:
Humboldt,15 Whorf,16 Coseriu.17 But in Huxley’s conception language
appears as something independent from its users.
Huxley’s attitude towards language is presented in contrast to the
general conception of people. For many thinkers, Huxley believes,
language is considered something magical. He accepts this characteristic
of language specifying that the magician who considers language and, in
particular, words in this way objectifies psychological states and projects
them, thus objectified, into the external world. The result of this attitude
is “deplorable” (Words, 9)—black magic and most crimes and lunacies
committed in the name of religion, patriotism, political and economic
ideologies are due to this conception:
In the age-long process by which men have consistently
stultified all their finest aspirations, words have played a major
part. (Words, 9)
Huxley’s concept of language in this aspect accepts that, in the process of
the production of speech, starting, as we have said, from the act of knowing,

there are psychological states and those psychological states are objectified.
However, Huxley omits the explanation of the origin and formation of those
objectified psychological states.

3. Objectification and the Use of Language

According to Huxley, the belief that language objectifies psychological
states and projects them once objectified has been used by the founders
and leaders of the two great world religions, Christianity and Buddhism.
In the Christian Gospels this belief is manifest:
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by
thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be
condemned.” (Words, 10)
For Huxley, these words are to be interpreted in terms of a magical
theory of the significance of language, or as he has interpreted it, as the
psychological power of words with its subsequent objectification.
Something similar can be said of the intention of the Buddha to warn
men against such psychological magic. For Buddhism, right speech is one of
the branches of the Buddhist’s Eightfold Path. The importance of restraint
in the use of words for intellectual purposes is constantly stressed in all those
passages in the Pali Scriptures. Gotama warns his followers against entangl-
ing themselves in the chains of metaphysical argument.
The idea of psychological states being objectified is the basis for the
concept of language as magic. As said before, speakers accept the words and
meanings they currently use as something having an almost miraculous
effect on human behaviour, thus having power over the tendencies in their
mind. On the other hand, objectification consists in accepting this influence
as something deeply rooted in human nature and projecting those
psychological states into the external world. So words have power over
internal and external things.

4. Objectification and the Universes of Discourse

4.1. But objectification of psychological states and its subsequent projection
on the external world is due, according to Huxley, to the many different
universes of discourse human beings live in:
They [human beings] are able to move at will from the world,
say, of atomic physics to the world of art, from the universe of
discourse called ‘chemistry’ to the universe of discourse called
‘ethics.’ (Words, 11)

Although Huxley does not define what a universe of discourse is it is

clear that every universe of discourse is connected with a branch of
knowledge. These universes of discourse, since they all are related to
knowledge, can be connected with one another, but this task has not been
done yet: “Between these various universes philosophy and science have not
as yet succeeded in constructing any bridges” (Words, 11).
For Huxley, the unity of sciences and philosophy is desirable. Since all
branches of science and philosophy belong to human knowledge, science
and philosophy depend on the living brain. Thus the support of knowledge
ultimately refers to human nature and human beings to nature:
We have no idea how thought and feeling are related to physical
events in a living brain and only the very vaguest notions about
the way in which a brain is related to the charges of electrical
energy which appear to be its ultimate components. (Words, 11)
4.2.1. To put an order on the sets of things (that is, the world, kosmos18)
created by language,19 Huxley subsumes the different universes of discourse
under “two super-universes”: the universe of “direct experience” and the
“universe of words” (Words, 11–12). This distinction is based, as can be
seen, on the distinction between perception (experience) and imagination
(words). With this Huxley turns back to the two sources of knowledge
established by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason, namely sensibility
and intellect. For Kant, knowledge is performed as the synthesis of both
faculties, that is, as a unification of the multiple forms of sensibility by means
of the intellect through forms a priori. For Kant, the synthesis of sensibility,
that is, receptivity, and intellect, that is, spontaneity, is possible because of
imagination. Imagination, moreover, is not a third faculty to be considered at
equal status as the other two, but rather a creative force present in the base
of both receptivity and spontaneity. In so far as both receptivity and spontaneity
come from the same base (imagination), their character is not unique:
receptivity is spontaneous as well as spontaneity is receptive. In the synthesis of
knowledge made by imagination, both faculties converge whenever they act
to produce knowledge (see Di Cesare, 35–36).
4.2.2. The separation of those super-universes, which for Huxley means
separating ordinary or common speech from the different specialized
speeches in a linguistic community, is based on the two sources of
knowledge said above. With this Huxley stresses the fact that language
depends on knowledge. He illustrates this separation with the following
When I look at this paper in my hand I have a direct sensuous
experience. If I choose to, I can keep my mouth shut and say

nothing about this experience. Alternatively, I may open my

mouth and, making use of a certain system of signs, called the
English language, I may impart the information that my
experience consisted of whiteness mitigated by rows of black
marks which I recognize as belonging to the alphabetical system
by means of which spoken language can be rendered in terms of
a visible equivalent. (Words, 12)
In this paragraph you can see the separation of “a direct sensuous
experience,” something in no need of language, and the fact of making
use of a system of signs (a language). But the use of that system of signs
involves the transformation of the speaker’s initial experience into words.
If the sensuous experience is direct, the use of language is not direct. Both
forms, the sensuous experience and the use of language, constitute
knowledge since both refer to me (the subject). As a consequence the
super-universes can be confronted as two different and opposite realities:
experience versus the transformation of it in words. They both have a
common root: they are forms of knowledge. Because of this they can be
used at will to refer to the same reality: the thing known.
4.2.3. The separation by Huxley of types of speech into two super-
universes of discourse is, to a certain extent, similar to the distinction by
Coseriu of four universes of knowledge,20 namely, the universes of common
experience, science, art and imagination, and faith. These universes of
discourse by Coseriu have to do with a theory of knowledge and make
possible for us to look for truth in expressions. Thus the sentence ‘the sun
rises in the East and sets in the West’ involves that the sun goes round the
earth. In spite of this, it is true in the universe of common experience
because it represents the means of knowing reality. On the contrary, to say
that ‘the earth goes round the sun’ is true in the universe of science. To say,
as Shakespeare did, “Madam, an hour before the worshipp’d sun / Peer’d
forth the golden window of the east,21 is true in the universe of art and
imagination. And finally to say that ‘God created heavens and the earth’ is
true in the universe of faith.
4.3. For Huxley, the only connection between the different universes of
discourse is “talking,” that is, language: “we are able to talk about all of them
and in some of them to have direct intuitions and sensuous experiences”
(Words, 11). With this you can guess that knowledge, for Huxley, is the result
of both perception and imagination: perception, through the senses, as the
starting point, and imagination as the agent of apprehending things, thus
transforming the thing apprehended into words. Now then, the various
universes of discourse we live in are connected with one another because of
our capability to know and talk. This means that knowledge in humans is the

foundation of speech, that is, that language and knowledge constitute the
same reality. As a consequence, if you want to analyse what language is you
have to start with knowledge.
4.4. When Huxley speaks of the two super-universes of discourse we live
in, he poses the problem of knowledge as the all-encompassing theory of
human reality. A theory of knowledge, that is, a philosophy, explains the reality
of things in so far as things are created by the fact of being known by an
intelligent subject. So, the most important thing in the process of knowledge
is the subject who knows. Since the subject knows, the things known are
businesses of life, that is, facts or pragmata,22 that is, things that must be
referred to with the only means the subject has: words. As a consequence,
things exist because they are known, and language, that is, words, is possible
because of the necessity of human subjects to create, manipulate and give
names to what surrounds them, thus creating gadgets useful to them.
Things, then, do not exist before or apart from the act of knowing, the act
of apprehending and organizing what surrounds the subject.
4.5. In the same way, the most important thing in the process of speaking
is the subject who speaks. Since, as we have seen, the fact of speaking is
based on the fact of knowing, the speaking subject is the creator of things by
means of language.

5. Language and Objectification

5.1.1. For Huxley, objectification is something very important in language,
but, is it really so? Has objectification anything to do with language? What is
the real role of objectification? Objectification is a procedure carried out in
language since speaking is the performance of the act of knowing.
Objectification is born in the need of transforming what comes to you
through your senses into a reality created and considered as if it was
something objective with concrete existence. The examples given by Huxley
can illustrate this idea. ‘Nations’ represent a concept objectified, even
personalized with thoughts, feelings, a will and even a sex (see Words, 18). A
similar concept is the word ‘society’ (see Words, 18–20). Considering the
process of the intellection of things, the formation of these words is nothing
extraordinary. It is the same process encountered with say, the word ‘table’
or ‘brown,’ which, for Huxley, both are “easily recognizable,” the former as
an object and the latter as a quality (see Words, 16). Now let us examine and
reconstruct one of these examples. Take the second one.
‘Brown’ is something that cannot be given unless it is in something else: it
will always be on a surface. So when you see the colour brown you do not,
as a matter of fact, see that quality but a surface of an object appearing to

you with a particular external quality. So to speak of a colour it is necessary

to abstract that ‘quality’ (colour) from the surface where it is given, that is, it
is necessary to ‘extract’ the colour from the surface in question. This act of
extracting as a matter of fact is an act of creation, since ‘brown’ is never to
be found off a surface. It is an entirely mental operation, a creation made by
the knowing subject.
But this operation is not enough to form the concept ‘brown.’ You need
other mental operations. When you say ‘brown’ you refer to something, not
in the particular surface you extracted it from, but something taken from
different surfaces, and as such, something with different shades of colour
more or less similar to the one you first extracted. When you extract a quality
from an object, something done mentally, you attribute infinite designation
to the mental extract you have created. So, then, when you say ‘brown’ you
do not refer to the colour in a particular surface but to all possible colours
similar to the one you extracted. With this you have made another operation
of abstraction, the one necessary to create a new concept based on the
peculiarities of the sample you extracted. That is, based on analogy of the
sample you know you conceive of a new one, thus neglecting the many
possible samples you can attribute the colour ‘brown’ to and unifying all of
them in an abstract new one.
But you still need another mental operation of abstraction. When you
extracted ‘brown’ in the way stated, you considered it as something that
could be used in language, in the required way in accordance with the use of
the language in question. With this mental act you consider the thing
extracted (‘brown’) as something independent and objective so that you can
manipulate it mentally.
In the process of creating ‘brown’ you have made the following
operations, considering ‘brown’ as:
1. a particular colour on a particular surface;
2. a larger or shorter list of colours extracted from different surfaces, thus
something not belonging to any surface in particular but created on analogy
with the example you know;
3. a particular shade of colour which may be on many surfaces and on none in
particular, that is, a shade of colour representing all possible refractions of light
on surfaces called ‘brown’;
4. something independent and thus objective. This kind of abstraction is an act
of unification of the thing abstracted, and finally,
5. something that can be defined grammatically in two opposite directions:
a. as something that can support a predication on it, for example, ‘brown is a
beautiful colour,’ and

b. as something able to be applied to something else, for example, ‘brown

trousers,’ ‘this jacket is brown.’
This process of abstraction eventually ends in objectification. Objecti-
fication is in fact the action of considering the mental creation you have
made through abstraction as something existing in itself and thus objective.
In other words: it means the application of the concept of substantive
being23 to the mental consideration you create on analogy. In this sense,
objectification is something that will always occur in the human mind, since
it is an a priori instrument of knowledge. There is no word (or meaning) in
the formation of which there is no objectification, at least in the context of
Western Indo-European languages.
5.1.2. As a consequence, you can say that ‘brown’ is an easily recognizable
quality, but it is a complex creation made mentally. It is easily recognizable
because it has repeatedly been created in innumerable acts of speech by
many speakers before us. Today ‘brown’ represents both a traditional
meaning and a traditional procedure of conceiving the world around us.
‘Brown’ belongs to the use of language, and so it is a procedure of
knowledge that has been inserted in the tradition24 of speaking.
5.1.3. Now you can compare this ‘easily recognizable quality’ with other
words existing as well in the tradition. Is there any difference in the
objectification of ‘brown’ and ‘table’ in comparison with the objectification
and even ‘personalization’ of ‘nation’ and ‘society’? Not at all. Objectification
has to do with the way human beings know, that is, with the way they create
things out of what surrounds them. Objectification is an a priori instrument
of knowledge and thus universal in all acts of knowing, especially in all acts
of knowing with words.25
5.2. Knowledge is the first foundation of language. But at the same time,
language is necessary to execute the process of intellection or the process of
knowing. Since objectification is a procedure executed daily by speakers, the
senses of the meanings of words represent, as well, an act of abstraction and
unification. Words in a language are good for many senses and shades of
meaning. It is the speakers who use words in this or that sense. Meaning,
however, since it is abstract, virtual and common in a linguistic community,
is always the same. It represents the application of a class of things26 (a
category, something mental and thus abstract) to something. In the act of
applying meaning to things you specify things, thus giving them a particular
sense created in the linguistic act.
5.3. As a conclusion, you can say that objectification is necessary in the
creation of meanings. Human beings relate what surrounds them to the
mental images they have created—either by creating a new form or

accepting or modifying the traditional forms, common in the linguistic

community. In this sense objectification is the last procedure in the creation
of contents of conscience, that is, meanings.
5.4. Objectification plays an important role in the act of knowing. What
comes up to speakers through their senses is concrete and cannot be
manipulated. Because of this, speakers will overcome this difficulty by
establishing relationships between what is external to them and what they
create mentally. That is, what comes up to speakers is sensation or percept
and is transformed into something mental. This is done,
a. in accordance with the speakers’ needs of expression;
b. as an entirely free act. Knowledge as the activity of a free subject is free, non-
compulsory. In the act of knowing the only thing compulsory is the initial
sensation or initial intuition or aísthesis27;
c. to understand sensation, thus creating something new considered to exist
liable to be understood;
d. to communicate with others. A human conscience cannot communicate with
another one unless it is through a material object words are both material
(sounds) and abstract (meanings);
e. to store or retrieve. Knowledge is cumulative: what is learnt today is taken as
a background for further use, thus constituting experience.
With this the object known manifests itself having been made by a free
and creative subject, who can manipulate the elements in the world by
means of the act of knowing.
5.5. Objectification has effects, not only in language, but also in
behaviour and science. Together with language speakers learn ideas and
especially beliefs they live in accordance with taken from their linguistic
communities. But these beliefs constitute nothing that has to do with
language. Language is good for anything. It is meaningful in itself, lógos
semantikós, but it can be determined in a further sense. Language only
manifests itself in use. In this sense language, which is meaningful in itself,
that is, content or thought, lógos, can, at the same time, be poetic, pragmatic,
logical or scientific, thus constituting lógos apophantikós.28 These
determinations occur in speech.
5.6. As anything linguistic, objectification can be analysed from the three
points of view of linguistic determination. Objectification is universal since it
is an a priori instrument of knowledge: it is necessary to recompose what
comes to you through your senses and make it into a piece of knowledge.
At the same time, objectification belongs to the historical level: it must be
analysed in every language in particular and even in a particular group of
languages having a common cultural substratum. For example, the concept

of being in the West is strongly influenced by the Greek conception of what

an entity or being is. The first thinker to formulate what ‘being’ was,
Parmenides (5th century BC), said that you could not say anything about
what being was; the only thing you can say of it is that being is and not-being
is not. This concept of being is usually known as substantive being.29 With this
radical conception about what is, something opposed to what is not,
Parmenides created a new concept in the history of the West, the concept of
nothingness or nought. The most immediate consequence of this
conception is that concepts and ideas are considered as autonomous in
themselves and thus objective just because they are opposed to nought.
With this, thought is something that is there and thus objective, the same as
happiness, justice, science, society, beauty, goodness, spirit, personality (examples given
by Aldous Huxley, either if they designate psychological states or not. This
objectification or tendency to objectify all aspects distinguished in something
considered to be real has had important and decisive effects in the Western
civilization. The invention of science, for example, and especially technology
is based on the conception of substantive being. Science is possible because
some concepts, merely concepts, are conceived of as if they were something
with concrete existence and dealt with as if they really existed. Technology,
on its part, is nothing but the application of science to real things, something
thought to be true.
And finally objectification belongs to the individual level: it is the
individual speaker who creates objectification.
The conclusion you can draw from this fact is that the objectification
conceived of by Huxley as proper to language is something previous to
language. It is something made in the act of knowing manifesting itself, as
anything human, in language.

6. The Mystery of Language

6.1. For Huxley, knowledge and speech are basically the same thing. In the
distinction between experience and the transformation of it into words (see
5.4.) lie the mystery of language and the possibilities he can see in language.
Huxley does not explain how experience can be transformed into words.
The two super-universes he speaks of consist merely in the separation of the
aspects implicit in the act of knowledge.
6.2. The lack of an explanation of the transformation occurring in the
linguistic act has to do with his concept of language. Huxley does not
separate what belongs to language as a faculty, the creation of meanings
(universal level of linguistic determination), and what belongs to a particular
language (the historical level of linguistic determination), that is, he does not

distinguish what is universal, something necessary because it has to do with

human beings who speak and is thus internal to them, and what belongs to a
language, something contingent, something to be found in the social group
speaking a particular language (linguistic community) and thus external to
the speaking subjects. And you can make a further distinction: what belongs
to the individual subject in the very act of knowing, saying and speaking (an
act necessarily individual). What belongs to the universal level is to be
defined in terms of the creation of meanings. What belongs to a particular
language has to do with the means of expression at work in a particular
linguistic community (a language). And what belongs to the individual level
has to do with the individual speaker and the contextual circumstances he is
involved in (see Coseriu 1992, 293–306). The explanation given by Huxley
of speech acts mismatches the universal level with the particular or historical
one. In this sense he attributes to a particular language what belongs to the
very essence of the speaking subjects. In the example referred to above,
Huxley directly passes from what he calls “sensuous experiences” to the
“system of signs, called the English language” (Words, 11–12). Between that
sensuous experience, something necessarily individual, and a system of signs,
something belonging to a language, there is the creation of meanings,
something universal. The sensuous experience in itself is unique and, by
definition, concrete. Because of this it cannot be said in words. So Huxley
ignores the creation of meanings, something necessary and previous to the
use of a system of signs. If you accepted this distinction as two steps in the
formation of language, you would presume that the sensuous experience is
identical to the expression of it in the particular language. When a subject
decides to use a system of signs he has already re-structured his thought and
consequently his initial sensuous experience, in order to express what he has
created and translated from “the language of being” to “the clarifying
language of knowledge.”30 As a consequence, what exists, exists because it is
thought of and has been modelled by means of language. The three levels
sketched here constitute a fact acknowledged even by speakers who would
sometimes say: ‘I can’t find words to express what I’m feeling.’ That is, ‘I
can’t find words’ (historical level) ‘to express’ (create meanings: universal
level) ‘my sensuous experience’ (individual level)’.

7. Language Variation
7.1. On the other hand, under the perspective of the two super-
universes of discourse, Huxley tries to explain the relationship between
“the world of immediate human experience” and “the various languages
of mankind” (Words, 12). That is, considering that he does not separate

what belongs to language as distinct from what belongs to a language,

Huxley poses the problem of the arbitrariness of signs: why do linguistic
signs mean? This is the most important and fundamental problem in
language study. Huxley declares that he feels incompetent to solve it but
reaffirms the general idea of arbitrariness:
It is enough, in this context, to point out that, between the world
of immediate experience and the world of language, between
things and words, between events and speech, certain relations
have in fact been established; and that these relations are
governed by rules that are in part purely arbitrary, in part
dictated by the nature of our common experiences. (Words, 12)
These statements do not solve the problem of the arbitrariness of
signs, merely re-state it. Even more, Huxley connects the arbitrariness
with the variety of languages, meaning with this expression the unity of
language (language and languages) before human experience, thus
accepting the idea that all languages have been made just in the same way.
This fact leads Huxley to state that “the significant fact is that all human
societies use some kind of language and have done so from the remotest
antiquity” (Words, 12–13).
7.2. But from the point of view of language as the activity of speaking,
language is nothing existing in itself but something born daily in the
speech of speakers, who are able to know, say and speak. It is individuals
who develop language in their daily relation with what surrounds them,
something structured in terms of their needs of expression. The language
of a particular ‘society’ (linguistic community) is something being created
when spoken and put to common use by the members of that ‘society.’ A
speaking subject, that is, a free and historical human being, has a double
dimension, one absolute, that is, he is creative because human subjects are
free, and another one contingent, that is, limited and depending on the
forms put to common use in a linguistic community.31 The second
dimension makes human beings historical. This dimension is based on the
peculiar condition of human beings, who are-together-with-another (the
listener, the other partner of the speech act [I and you]); with this, humans
acknowledge themselves in others. Human subjects create, put to
common use and accept forms existing in their linguistic community. This
human condition is called alterity.32 In this sense, language, as a creation by
humans, has the same two dimensions as humans do: language is both
creative and historical. It is creative, that is, absolute, not having an end or
limit: it changes and will ever change. And it is historical, that is, made in
history and thus contingent: a language is as it is but could have been
different or not be at all.33 As a consequence, it is impossible that there

should be a society without a language, since language is the manifestation

of human freedom and intelligence.

8. The Speech Community

8.1. For Huxley, “human behaviour […] became possible only with the
establishment of relatively stable systems of relationships between things and
events on the one hand and words on the other” (Words, 13). This statement
poses the problem of the origin of language with the following sets of
1. there was a time when human behaviour and thus human societies had no
2. then a set of systems of relationships between things and words, that is,
language, was established in human societies. In this sense, language is previous
to speakers, or at least, external to speakers and the activity of speaking and thus
to human kind;
3. human society existed before the establishment of language; and
4. human nature, and thus human society, changed when language was
As a corollary, language is something already made and finished, that is,
language is a product (érgon), not something to be done or executed when
spoken (enérgeia), but something fixed and unalterable (érgon).
8.2. The fact is that language changes when it is spoken, that is, language
changes every day in every act of speech. It does not have concrete existence
but virtual existence as a mode, a sketch or a draft to speak, that is,
knowledge (dýnamis). Language is something born in the activity of speaking
in every linguistic act. It is the creation of forms, contents, rules, procedures,
beliefs and attitudes created by intelligent human subjects, cognizant activity
executed by its creators. Language thus defines human beings as speaking
subjects. Human subjects create language because they know, and as far as
they know they establish an order on the things known defining themselves
before the order created.34 In this sense cognizant subjects have something
to say. Because of this, they create the means of expressing what they want
to. Language is nothing independent from speakers. Speakers are human
because they create both their intention to say and the means of expressing
it. At the same time language is defined by its speakers. It is impossible that
there should have been a languageless human society because the foundation
of human society is language based on the human condition of alterity (see
7.2). Human beings are social because they speak to one another.

9. Language and Behaviour


9.1. For Huxley, language determines human behaviour: “The existence of

language permits human beings to behave with a degree of purposefulness,
perseverance and consistency” (Words, 13). This has to do with the starting
point that language moulds the mind of its speakers. The determination by
language of human behaviour has to do both with good and evil.
9.2. For Huxley, words may be divided into three main classes (see Words,
a. words designating definite and easily recognizable objects or qualities, for
example, ‘table’ and ‘brown.’ “Such words are unambiguous”;
b. “words which designate entities and qualities less definite and less easily
recognizable. Some of these are highly abstract words, generalizing certain
features of many highly complex situations.” For example, ‘justice,’ ‘science,’
‘society’ as well as those words designating psychological states, such as
‘beauty,’ ‘goodness,’ ‘spirit.’ These words are “typical vehicles for
objectification. They are the cause of endless intellectual confusion,
emotional distress and misdirections of voluntary effort”; and
c. “words […] supposed to refer to objects in the outer world or to
psychological states, but which in fact, since observation fails to reveal the
existence of such objects or states, refer only to figments of the imagination.
Examples of such words are the ‘dragon’ of the Chinese or the ‘death
instinct’ of Freudian psychologists.”
This classification of words poses the problem of meaning, to be
formulated as: what is meaning? Why do words mean? Apart from the
problem of the arbitrariness of signs, already discussed, the problem of
meaning has a different approach. It consists in determining the degree of
reality of the different meanings. This depends on the three levels of
linguistic determination. From the point of view of the universal level of
linguistic determination, for a speaking subject meaning is contents of
conscience (see Coseriu 1985, 40, 47), that is, something created, not with
words primarily, but as a psychic state affecting him deep in his conscience
or thought. Once the subject has created something in his conscience or
thought, the speaking subject looks for words and means of expression in a
language to express the meaning he has created (particular or historical level
of linguistic determination). In this sense, meaning is the systematization of
facts of experience made by a particular language (see Coseriu 1982, 85;
Coseriu 1992, 96). And finally, when the speaking subject has something to
say he will apply the meanings created internally using historical meanings to
the particular contexts and circumstances he is involved in (the individual
level of linguistic determination).
9.3. The three levels of linguistic determination manifest themselves in
any expression: any expression or meaning says something about things in

the world (designation); is the configuration of facts of experience made by a

particular language (meaning, something belonging to a language); and
represents the use of designation and meaning to convey shades of meaning
that apply only to the particular context the subject is involved in (sense).
9.4. From this point of view, Huxley’s statements that the meaning of
some words may or not be easily recognizable, the meanings of some words
can express entities or qualities or psychological states, and the meanings of
some words may or not be abstract, are irrelevant to the problem of
meaning. All meanings are abstract, since they are creations by speakers and
represent contents of conscience, nothing real but something made real by
the fact of being designated and applied to a situation. In language anything
is abstract, that is, anything is creation made internally by speakers. When
you say that a particular expression, say, ‘table,’ is concrete you refer to the
thing designated, not to the meaning of the word. Designation is the
relationship established between linguistic expressions (words) and things in
the world. Even objects in the world are creations or fabrications of human
subjects. A table exists because someone conceived of the idea that a plank
(of wood or something else) supported by four poles could be a useful
instrument.35 The real creation of this instrument came when it was given a
name (‘table’). At the same time, a table is created as something existing and
thus objective when you determine the expression (a table). In a similar way
a natural object, say a mountain or a river, exists because it is conventional to
name the higher and steeping levels in the ground a mountain, or name a
course of flowing (rain) water a river. Creations are, first, mental; then once
conceived of, are applied to the units, also mental, you sculpted out of
something in your surroundings thus creating real things. When creations are
put to common use, they become virtual. In this sense, the meaning ‘table’
can be applied to many and different objects in the world. So both the word,
the content of it and the thing designated are pure fabrications by humans.
9.5. As a consequence, you can say that humans speak in categories: we
apply the mental image, content of conscience, traditional meaning, or
category to the material world and create as many tables as we need in any
possible situation (imagine the innumerable items of tables that there can
be!). One thing, however, is to be stressed: the real object (a table) is
concrete but its meaning is abstract. All meanings are abstract, that is,
contents of conscience experienced (“suffered”, in terms by Aristotle,
paqhmavta)36 by speakers. As a consequence, a word is both concrete and
abstract. It is concrete since it is expressed in sounds and abstract since it
means something. On the other hand, psychological states are concrete since
they are something affecting a particular individual. The problem arises

when you want to express those concrete states in words: you must
necessarily express them in abstract words. You have, first, to interpret, that
is, modify and transform your own affection (aísthesis or initial intuition) and
then translate it into words, with a peculiarity: these words are not yours—
they belong to the linguistic community, that is, to the particular language in
9.6. On the other hand, the meanings of a particular language have been
formed out of an intuition of speakers and the subsequent objectification of
it. For example, the meaning of the adjectives ‘young’ and ‘new’ represent
two different systematizations of similar facts of experience. They both
mean ‘of short age’ when applied directly to an object, for example, ‘a young
man,’ ‘a young cat,’ ‘a young apple-tree’ or ‘a new house,’ ‘a new machine,’ ‘a
new table.’ ‘Young’ is to be applied to ‘human beings’ and by extension to
‘animals’ and even to ‘trees.’ That is, it is applied to ‘living,’ something in
contrast to ‘non-living.’ ‘New,’ on the contrary, is to be applied to ‘non-
living,’ that is, to nouns denoting inert things. These meanings are
considered by speakers as something already defined because they are
traditional.37 That is, the initial intuition, something in principle individual
and concrete (aísthesis, sensation), was changed into words and objectified as
something existing in itself. In this sense you can speak of three steps in the
process of objectification: first it was executed on my initial intuition to
create a meaning, then when that created meaning was made to be
represented by a traditional concept (a category or traditional meaning) and
some sounds, and finally when the thing created (the concept plus the
sounds used) was applied to a particular object (that is, when it was given a

10. The Language Actually Spoken, the Functional Language

10.1. The configuration of speaking: the architecture of the language
10.1.1. As we have seen above, for Huxley, there are two super-universes
of discourse, the super-universe of direct experience and the super-universe
of words. To the former all matters of human behaviour belong, and to the
latter ordinary speech. This distinction has a direct implication: behaviour is
something that goes apart from the great majority of speeches, and these, on
the other hand, must be true. The first aspect of this conclusion has to do
with the language actually spoken, that is, with the different functional
languages spoken in a particular linguistic community; the second, with
morality and in the end with truth. Huxley says:
Words do have a magical effect—but not in the way that the
magicians supposed, and not on the objects they were trying to

influence. Words are magical in the way they affect the minds of
those who use them. “A mere matter of words,” we say con-
temptuously, forgetting that words have power to mould men’s
thinking, to canalize their feeling, to direct their willing and act-
ing. Conduct and character are largely determined by the nature
of the words we currently use to discuss ourselves and the world
around us. The magician is a man who observes that words have
an almost miraculous effect on human behaviour and who
thinks that they must therefore be able to exercise an equal
power over inanimate nature. This tendency to objectify
psychological states and to project them, thus objectified, into
the external world is deeply rooted in the human mind. Men
have made this mistake in the past, men are making it now; and
the results are invariably deplorable. We owe to it not only the
tragic fooleries of black magic, but also (and this is even more
disastrous) most of the crimes and lunacies committed in the
name of religion, in the name of patriotism, in the name of
political and economic ideologies. In the age-long process by
which men have consistently stultified all their finest aspirations,
words have played a major part. It was, I believe, the realization
of this fact that prompted the founders of the two great world
religions to insist upon the importance of words. (Words, 8–10)
That is, words affect the minds of those who use them. This means that
those using words are free but affected by them in some way, sometimes in
the wrong way. Words have power to mould men’s thinking, thus
objectifying psychological states. As a result many crimes and lunacies have
been committed. Because of this the founders of the two great world
religions insisted upon the importance of words. With these thoughts
Huxley is posing the problem of morality in language (see 10.3.) and in the
end the obligation of speakers to be truthful when they use language (the
problem of truth in language).
The combination of both problems, morality and truth, has to do, first
with the previous problem of the configuration of speaking. Language is the
creation of meanings, and a language a technique for any kind of speech. In
the technique of speaking you can find homogeneity and the contrary,
variety, which constitute the state of the language. At the same time, in a
language, you can see different states of the language or different traditional
techniques in the activity of speaking.38 A state of the language is the language
actually spoken in a linguistic community in a particular period of time,
that is, a set of systems of isoglosses at work in a historical language. For
example, the language spoken today in the speech community that we call
the English language39 constitutes a state of the language different from the
one spoken in, say, the sixteenth or fourteenth centuries. The state of the
language involves a particular configuration of the activity of speaking

since in it several systems coexist. For example, the use of /r/ and the
absence of it constitute two different systems in the in English today. The
state of the language constitutes what linguists call synchrony. In synchrony
all linguistic forms are analogous, not homogeneous. The problem, then,
is to specify under what conditions a language functions, because, as has
been said above, a language is a technique for any kind of speech and
therefore it must accommodate to the reality of the object spoken about.
10.1.2. In a state of the language there is an ‘architecture,’ and in every
part of that architecture there is a ‘structure.’ In the architecture of the
language you can find variety; in the structure of the language,
homogeneity and thus solidarity.
10.1.3. The architecture of the language represents the external equili-
brium of linguistic knowledge. It is the manifestation of variation in the
activity of speaking. The forms in the architecture of the language are
analogous. This variation constitutes sets of differences determined by
1. the different places where the language is spoken, called diatopic differences;
2. the levels of speech, that is, differences in the speech of social strata
determined by the topics proper to those social strata, called diastratic
differences; and
3. the styles of speech, called diaphasic differences.
In synchrony, that is, in a state of the language all linguistic forms are
partly the same and partly different. When a language is homogeneous
under these three sets of differences, you can speak of a syntopic, synstratic
and symphasic language, that is, a syntopically, synstratically and
symphasically homogeneous language. This type of a language is called a
functional language. A functional language is the only language actually
spoken and the one that can be performed. Every speaker knows several
functional languages. That is, speakers use different functional languages
in their daily speech. For example, when they speak formally they will use
words and expressions in accordance with the occasion; when they are at
home or with friends they will use words and expressions they would not
use in formal circumstances; when they speak to children, the elderly, or
their doctors, they will use as well a functional language appropriate to
their listeners.
10.1.4. A functional language, for example, Cockney, the language of
the working classes in London, especially in the East End, spoken by an
estimate of some seven million people in the Greater London area, is a
functional language defined syntopically. Another type of a functional
language are the different languages of guild corporations, say, for
example, the language of doctors, architects, lawyers, computer engineers,

and so on. These functional languages are defined by synstratic differences

and are usually referred to as levels of speech. And another type of a
functional language is constituted by styles of speech: those usually
referred to as poetic, literary, formal, vulgar, informal languages, or even familiar
language. These functional languages are defined by symphasic differences.
10.1.5. In a functional language, linguistic forms are not analogous but
homogeneous. In this sense a functional language as a technique in the
activity of speaking opposes a state of the language which is to be defined
as analogous.
10.1.6. Functional languages can be many and, as has been said, every
speaker knows several of them. Within the frame of all functional
languages in a particular language, speakers refer their speech to the so-
called common language, also called, especially in English contexts, standard
language, the functional language underlying all other functional languages.
Standard language is thought to be common to all speakers of a speech
community. Speakers usually know the peculiarities of both their
functional language and standard language, so that when they are to speak
to people they do not know they will use standard language.
10.1.7. These facts constitute the architecture of the language. In every
part of the architecture of the language there is a structure. The structure
of the language is to be found in the functional language because all the
elements in it keep relationships of solidarity with one another since they
are homogeneous. This means that language is structured knowledge. The
structure of the language constitutes the internal equilibrium of the
activity of speaking.

10.2. Huxley and the Configuration of the Activity of Speaking

10.2.1. Huxley attributes to language the fact that humans “behave with a
degree of purposefulness, perseverance and consistency” (Words, 13). But,
on the other hand, he says that the “colloquial usages of language” in
contrast to the fact that language is in fact specialised in “technical
languages’’ (Words, 8, 23) (different levels of speech) constitute a limitation
of language and the cause of many social abuses in society. Huxley, who
has separated two types of uses, those belonging to the super-universe of
direct experience and those belonging to the super-universe of words,
stresses the difference between them, appreciating the world of “direct
experience”, that is, the technical languages given in science, and
depreciating the “universe of words.” For Huxley,
the colloquial usages of everyday speech, the literary and
philosophical dialects in which men do their thinking about the

problems of morals, politics, religion and psychology—these

have been strangely neglected. (Words, 8)
By separating the different technical languages and everyday speech
language, represented by and because of “the colloquial usages of
everyday speech,” appears as something imperfect. With this Huxley
poses the separation of the language spoken by speakers and the one used
in technical languages, the different functional languages spoken by
scientists. For him, technical languages show some degree of perfection,
something that should be achieved as well in “colloquial usages.” That is,
Huxley identifies the different functional languages in a particular
language, but does not identify the reason of their functioning in the
language, attributing to the object they treat of a particular degree of
perfection or truth. So because “everyday speech” has been neglected its
degree of truth should be perfected in a way similar to technical languages.
Everyday speech forms, as has already been explained, standard
language. This functional language is the most genuine of all, since it
underlies all other functional languages. Besides, it is structured by
exclusive linguistic criteria. On the contrary, technical languages are not
structured linguistic knowledge. The structure of a technical language is
something belonging to the science in question, not to language. In a
technical language meaning is identified with designation. Because of this,
technical languages cannot be altered or modified at all.
10.2.2. On the other hand, Huxley attributes to language what belongs
only to particular speeches:
The tendency to objectify and personify abstractions is found
not only among politicians and newspaper men, but also among
those who belong to the, intellectually speaking, more respec-
table classes of the community. (Words, 20)
We have already said that language is concrete in so far as it is performed
in sounds, and abstract in the contents it bears. Language is lógos, that is, it is
basically content or thought but can become a proposition, that is,
something logical, pragmatic or poetic. Language is good for anything and
cannot be restricted to the different speeches that can be created in the use
of it. On the other hand, speech once produced constitutes a text and can
convey many things not having any connection with language. The text of
Clerk Maxwell commented upon by Huxley (see Words, 20–24) has nothing
to do with language. It is a text determined by the intention of its creator,
that is, it is is not merely meaningful, lógos semantikós, but determined in a
particular way, lógos apophantikós. Language is good as well for using words in
an “entirely illegitimate way” (Words, 22), as Huxley puts it.
JESÚS MARTÍNEZ DEL CASTILLO 23 Huxley is conscious of the variation of language in different

functional languages, but he reduces the number of functional languages to
technical languages. He says that “non-technical language is picked up”
“without question or analysis” by its speakers “in infancy,” but “technical
languages are learned at a later period in life” (Words, 23). As a matter of
fact, it is like this. The problem with technical languages is that the jargon
defining them, the lexicon, is not structured linguistically but represents a
scientific classification of objects existing because they belong to a particular
science. This means that in scientific or technical classifications there is no
distinction between meaning and designation: they both coincide. In this
sense scientific and technical classifications do not belong to language or to
the lexical systematizations of language in the same way as ordinary words.
They constitute the use of language for different and sometimes
autonomous classifications of a branch of reality. In this sense a technical
language (a functional language belonging to a particular branch of
knowledge) serves that particular branch of knowledge (see Coseriu 1981,
96). As a consequence, scientific and technical classifications go beyond
language. For example, if I say that the heart is
a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a
circulatory system (including all vertebrates), that is responsible
for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated,
rhythmic contractions. The term cardiac (as in cardiology) means
‘related to the heart’ and comes from the Greek καρδια, kardia, for
The vertebrate heart is composed of cardiac muscle, which is an
involuntary striated muscle tissue found only in this organ, and
connective tissue. The average human heart, beating at 72 beats
per minute, will beat approximately 2.5 billion times during an
average 66 year lifespan, and weighs approximately 250 to 300
grams (9 to 11 oz) in females and 300 to 350 grams (11 to 12 oz)
in males,40
I am just using the (technical) language of biology. In this paragraph you can
find technical words (myogenic, muscular, circulatory system, vertebrates, blood vessels,
rhythmic contractions, cardiac, striated muscle tissue, connective tissue, etc.) which do
not belong to standard English. They are to be defined in terms of the thing
designated so that the thing designated is defined as well by the word in
question. That is, the thing designated and the word are not merely
complimentary to each other but identical. As a consequence, the vocabulary
of a technical language is proper not to language but to the branch of
knowledge it belongs to. A technical language is good only for the purposes
it has been created for, but common usage is good for anything. In this

sense, the observation by Huxley that “technical languages are learned at a

later period of life” (Words, 23) is true. And we can add: technical languages
are learnt only by a few speakers and, as a consequence, they do not belong
to language, but to the use of language, serving in this case those specific
purposes only. Technical languages can be many. They depend upon the
development of science and the cultural level of speakers.
10.2.4. In the same sense, the problems implicit in the word God (see
Words, 24–25) have nothing to do with language. Huxley wants to solve the
problem of polisemy in the word God and the “relations subsisting between
that word and the external world of things and events,” together with the
problem of the relationships “between that word and the inner world of
psychological states” (Words, 24–25). These problems do not belong to
language. They are to be studied in accordance with the reality designated by
the word God, that is, they belong to the science of religion and as such they
must be analysed in terms of the reality designated by the word.

10.3. Language and Morality in Aldous Huxley

10.3.1. Lastly, Huxley poses the problem of morality in the use of
language with a general principle: “Those who teach, teach not only the
science of signs, but also a universally useful art and a most important moral
discipline” (Words, 27). For him, the “proper use of language” is a moral
discipline. The reason for this is the basic obligation of speakers to accept
the language in a linguistic community:
The proper use of language is an important moral discipline, for
the good reason that, in this field as in all others, most mistakes
have a voluntary origin. (Words, 27)
For Huxley, as we have seen earlier (see 9.1.), language is responsible
for good and evil.
As we impose order and meaning upon immediate experience, it
is just as easy for us to impose bad order and bad meaning as it
is to impose good order and good meaning. […] But […] we
have made an awful mess of the experience and created a
symbol pattern which leads us into endless trouble. (HS, 176)
To illustrate this, he comments on the human attitude toward eclipses
considered to be signs of future disasters, and the belief of the Aztecs in
the sun, who felt the necessity of providing the sun with a continual
supply of human blood (see HS, 176-78).
But the use of language is something different from the things said by
means of language and different from the language used. With this Huxley
attributes human freedom and thus human intelligence to the use of

language. As a matter of fact the use of language means free activity—

language is enevrgeia (see Humboldt, 63 and 65; Coseriu 1985, 21; 1982,
308; 1992, 23), that is, the activity performed by free subjects (see Coseriu
1988, 46). The use of language manifests the human condition of being
free but this condition is something previous to language. Even more:
language is possible in humans because they are free when they know. As
a consequence, the particularities of human conduct and behaviour
constitute nothing that defines language. Language, as we have seen, is
good for anything. It makes humans intelligent but previous to language
there is the fact that humans know and are free. Language is only
meaningful and constitutes a system of meaning with elements being
created in the act of speech based on previous models existing in the
tradition of speaking. So language is made in history.
10.3.2. On the other hand, Huxley justifies human reality in language:
“words make us the human beings we actually are” (Words, 15). It is our
condition of being free subjects that makes us good or evil, not the use of
language. Language is merely the means used by humans to perform their
10.3.3. On the other hand, those uses labelled as “mistakes,” especially
those said by Huxley to have “a voluntary origin” (Words, 27), are not
mistakes proper. Language is something being made when spoken.
Speakers adapt the performance of language to their needs of expression.
They, in accordance with their linguistic knowledge, will look for the
expression which best suits their needs of expression. Voluntary mistakes
are not mistakes. They are linguistic innovations that eventually may
constitute linguistic changes. Linguistic changes mean the adaptation of
language to the new circumstances speakers are involved in (see Coseriu
1988, 119). Language is nothing but the activity of speaking (see Coseriu
1988, 31). It is made and re-made because it is spoken. In language every
state of the language is a reconstitution of the previous one (see Coseriu
1988, 27–28). As a result of this, the language spoken today in English is a
bit different from the language spoken, say, in the eighteenth century, and
substantially different from the language spoken in the Late Middle
English period. Language and morality are, then, two different things.
Moreover, language is part of morality as well. In the use of language, not
in language, you can distinguish two types of speeches: information
speeches and literary speeches. Both types have different moral
dimensions. The morality of information is giving real and truthful
information. In information the purpose is objectivity to such an extent

that if what is presented as information is fictitious, the information given

is not literary speech but misinformation or false information (see Coseriu
2006, 97–99). In literary speech, on the other hand, morality is something
very complex, because it is the morality of an empirical subject who must
manifest himself as a universal subject. Because of this that subject has the
obligation to manifest literary authenticity. This means that the author of a
literary work cannot yield to any temptation coming from a possible
reader or connection with the things he speaks of or even from a
connection with him himself as an empirical subject. He must manifest
himself as a universal subject and cannot succumb to the weaknesses of
an empirical subject, which in another sense he himself is. In this sense it
is immoral that the author of a literary work should present his own
particular and individual passions as if they were universal passions of the
human subject (see Coseriu 2006, 97–99).
10.4. In accordance with the peculiar human condition of being-
together-with-another41 a human being is a subject creating himself in
participation with the listener within a linguistic community. From this
point of view they will speak as people speak in their speech community,
they will conceive of things in the way things are conceived of in their
language, they will think like their co-speakers, and they will say what is
said and in the same way as it is said in their language. But in this there is
no imposition, but free acceptance on the part of the subject. Language is
accepted freely. This condition of language is expressed with the Latin
word obligatio, meaning “an obligation freely accepted” (Coseriu 1992,
10.5.1. On the other hand, the concept of morality in the sense given
by Huxley cannot be applied to variation in language. The language
spoken in a particular place, say, London, is not homogeneous but
analogous, constituted by the different functional languages spoken in the
place. Linguistic variation is not corruption, but adaptation of language to
the different circumstances speakers are involved in. The different
adaptations of language eventually become lesser traditions in the use of
language. In language variation coexists with homogeneity. The evolution
of language is brought about with linguistic change. Linguistic change is
originated in dialogue (see Coseriu 1988, 71), that is, in the interchange of
modes of speaking between speaker and listener.
Two aspects, or steps, can be distinguished in linguistic change:

1. innovation, that is, anything that in the individual speaker’s chunk of speech
is different, as a mode of speech, from the existing models in the
language; and
2. adoption, acceptation by the other speakers of an innovation as a model for
subsequent expressions (see Coseriu 1988, 79–80).
10.5.2. The problem of linguistic change, then, consists in explaining
adoption, that is, in explaining the voluntary act of selecting new forms in
order to make oneself understood in a more precise way—in the speaker’s
opinion—and explaining how those forms have been introduced in the

11. Final remarks

As a conclusion you can say that Aldous Huxley’s concern for words is the
study of language by a speaker. For Huxley, to study language means
looking for human problems in language. In this sense, he poses the most
important problems of language study:
1) language and thought,
2) knowledge as it manifests itself in language,
3) objectification as it manifests itself in language,
4) the separation of texts in two universes of discourse,
5) language and morality,
6) language and truth,
7) the arbitrariness of linguistic signs,
8) language variety and
9) the origin of language.
All these problems are focused on Man, especially on the problem of
knowledge. In this sense Huxley’s contribution to linguistics has to do with
the very foundation, not only of linguistics, but of human studies, a theory
of knowledge. Huxley’s theory of words in Words and Their Meanings is a
philosophy of Man and his words.
Because of this Huxley is a real scientist: he can guess where the essence
of language lies and poses the problems which are to be solved in the
science of linguistics.

1 Linguistic knowledge is a primarily justified knowledge in the sense that

speakers justify it by referring their speech to tradition: “in English you
should say this in this or that way,” or referring to meaning: “this means this
or that” (Eugenio Coseriu, Competencia lingüística: elementos de la teoría del hablar
[Madrid, 1992; ¹1988], 218; hereafter, Coseriu 1992).
2 See Eugenio Coseriu, Sincronía, diacronía e historia: el problema del cambio
lingüístico (Madrid, 1988; ¹1957), 83: “El hablar no es sólo hablar de algo, sino

también hablar sobre lo hablado, explicación y aclaración de lo dicho y, a

menudo, justificación del modo de decirlo.” Hereafter, Coseriu 1988.
3 See Coseriu 1992, 123: “Suponemos siempre que lo dicho tiene un sentido y
que de alguna manera es congruente con las cosas. Si la congruencia no es la
habitual, suponemos otra congruencia. Si lo que se dice no se puede querer
decir, entonces se tiene que querer decir otra cosa. Que se diga una cosa y se
quiera decir otra puede incluso convertirse en tradición, de manera que
automáticamente no se suponga lo dicho de forma directa.”
4 Tradition is to be understood as the relationships of solidarity with the
listener (horizontal axis of solidarity) and with the past (vertical axis of
5 See Coseriu 1992, 67: “La corrección no es otra cosa que una relación entre
lo realizado y lo que hay que realizar, i.e. el saber lingüístico. Esa relación es
una correspondencia. Está dada cuando el hablar corresponde efectivamente
al sistema de la lengua, cuando lo que se dice corresponde a aquello que está
contenido en [la tradición de la lengua particular]. No es la competencia
misma la que es correcta, sino precisamente la realización de esa
competencia. […]. Es la correspondencia efectiva entre el hablar y la lengua.”
6 See Coseriu 1992, 115: “La interpretación se realiza […] sobre la base de un
conocimiento general de las cosas que se presupone al hablar.”
7 See Eugenio Coseriu, El hombre y su lenguaje: estudios de teoría y metodología
lingüística (Madrid, 1985; ¹1977), 32: “El lenguaje es aprehensión del ser, pero
no por parte de un sujeto absoluto, ni del individuo empírico, sino por parte
del hombre histórico que, precisamente, por ello, es al mismo tiempo un ente
social. […] Por una parte es logos, aprehensión del ser; por otra es logos
intersubjetivo, forma y expresión de la historicidad del hombre.” Hereafter,
Coseriu 1985.
8 See Coseriu 1992, 229: “La tarea de los lingüistas consiste precisamente en
hacer de un saber de los hablantes no justificado, no científico, un saber
reflexivo, científico.”
9 See D. Di Cesare, Wilhelm von Humboldt y el estudio filosófico de las lenguas, trans.
Ana Agud (Madrid, 1999), 3–5. Coseriu defines hermeneutics as “founded
and systematic revelation of a particular content” (Eugenio Coseriu y Ó.
Loureda, Lenguaje y discurso [Pamplona, 2006], 58; hereafter, Coseriu 2006).
Ortega y Gasset on his part defines hermeneutics as the science of
interpretation dealing with determining to what whole the part is to be
assigned (see Obras completas, IX [Madrid, 2008], 36).
10 See Wilhelm von Humboldt, Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprach-
baues und ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwickelung des Menschengeschlechts (Berlin,
1836) [‘On the Diversity of Structure of Human Language and Its Influence
on the Development of Mankind’], trans. Ana Agud, Sobre la diversidad de la
estructura del lenguaje humano y su influencia sobre el desarrollo espiritual de la
humanidad (Madrid, 1990), 62–72. Hereafter, Humboldt.
11 The philosophical concept of conscience is the set of ideas, beliefs and
contents in general constituting the ‘self’ of a human being, something

different from the psychological concept of consciousness, a state in which you

are aware and realize what you do.
12 See J. G. Martínez del Castillo, La lingüística del decir: el logos semántico y el logos
apofántico, Serie Arjé kaí lógos (Granada, 2004). Hereafter, Martínez del
Castillo 2004.
13 The five universal features of language (not of ‘a language’ or languages)
are: language is creative; language is meaningful; language is for others, for
the listeners; language is to be performed in a language—whenever you speak
you speak a language— and language is material, to be performed in material
symbols. See Coseriu 2006, 44–45.
14 Aldous Huxley, Words and Their Meanings (Los Angeles, 1940), 9. Hereafter,
15 See Humboldt, 83: “Por el mismo acto por el que el hombre hila desde su
interior la lengua, se hace él mismo hebra de aquélla, y cada lengua traza en
torno al pueblo al que pertenece un círculo del que no se puede salir si no es
entrando al mismo tiempo en el círculo de otra.”
16 See B. L. Whorf, Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee
Whorf, ed. J. B. Carrol (Cambridge, MA, 1956), 221: “Users of markedly
different grammars are pointed by their grammars toward different types of
observations and different evaluations of externally similar acts of obser-
vation, and hence are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at
somewhat different views of the world.”
17 See Coseriu 1985, 72: “El lenguaje es esencialmente actividad cognoscitiva:
una actividad cognoscitiva que se realiza mediante símbolos (o signos
simbólicos). Es forma de conocimiento. Y, esto, no sólo en el momento en
que un signo simbólico se produce por primera vez en la historia (momento
que implica el reconocimiento de una ‘clase’ como tal y su diferenciación,
mediante el nombre, de las demás ‘clases’ que se distinguen en la realidad),
sino en todos sus momentos.”
18 Remember that the Greek word kosmo" means order and refers to the
19 For Huxley, it is human beings who “impose order and meaning upon
immediate experience” (The Human Situation, ed. Piero Ferrucci [London,
1978], 176). Hereafter, HS.
20 In “Determinación y entorno: dos problemas de una lingüística del hablar”,

Romanisches Jahbusch, VII, 1955-56, 29-54, reprinted in 1975 “Determinierung

und Umfeld”, Sprachtheorie, 253-290, and 1962, Teoría del lenguaje y lingüística
general: cinco estudios (Madrid, 1982; ¹1962), 282-323 —hereafter, Coseriu
1982—, he calls these concepts devised by Huxley ‘universes of discourse’,
but in 2006 he called them ‘universes of knowledge’, because they
“corresponden a los modos fundamentales del conocer humano” (see
Coseriu 2006, 72–76, particularly 73).
21 Benvolio to Lady Montague in Romeo and Juliet, I, i.

22 See José Ortega y Gasset, “En torno al ‘Coloquio de Darmstadt’” (1931)

Meditación de la técnica (Madrid, 2002), 131–32: “Nuestra vida no es más que un
hacer inexorable con las cosas. Por eso en la vida propiamente no hay ‘cosas.’
Sólo en la abstracción científica existen cosas, es decir, realidades que no
tienen qué hacer con nosotros, sino estar ahí, por sí, independientes de
nosotros. Pero para nosotros toda cosa es algo con lo que tenemos que tener
algún trato u ocupación y con lo cual tenemos que ocuparnos más pronto o
más tarde. Son ‘asuntos,’ algo que se ha de hacer, un faciendum. Por eso la
palabra griega para las cosas era prágmata (asuntos)—de práttein, hacer,
23 The concept of substantive being will be explained below, see § 5.6.
24 Aldous Huxley acknowleges the role of tradition in language. He says:
“This continuity [language is a device for permitting human beings to go on
doing good and evil in cold blood] is illustrated not merely in the life of
individual human beings; it is also illustrated very forcibly in the life of entire
societies, where language may be described as a device for connecting the
present with the past and future. […] The acquisitions of our ancestors are
handed down to us through written and spoken language, and we do
therefore enjoy the possibility of inheriting acquired characteristics, not
through the germ plasm but through tradition” (HS, 172).
25 I usually distinguish two types of knowledge in humans: the sensitive
knowledge by virtue of which we can do something, for example, play the
piano or drive a car—in this type of knowledge you do not need language;
and the knowledge with words, which means the transformation of the initial
sensation given by the senses into contents of conscience (meanings or
ideas). See Martínez del Castillo 2004, ch. 2.
26 Coseriu explains this by saying that language does not create things by
attributing them to a particular class of objects, but recognizes and delimits
modes of being in things. Because of this language is a delimiter of species.
For example, a ‘sparrow’ is known and delimited as something (that is, as an
individual of that kind of birds) but at the same time it is known as a mode of
being (that is, an individual belonging to the class or species of ‘sparrows’),
thus delimiting it as a species and as a species different from other species (a
‘robin,’ for example). In this way a sparrow and a robin are two different
things. See Coseriu 2006, 72–74.
27 This concept devised by Aristotle (see José Ortega y Gasset, La idea de
principio en Leibniz [Madrid, 1992; ¹1958], 130) represents the initial move in
the act of knowing (see Martínez del Castillo 2004, 13–32). Huxley admits the
state represented by the senses or the world of “immediate experience.”
However, he attributes this ‘state’ to animals and small children (see HS,
173–74). On the other hand, Huxley accepts the process of abstraction from
the initial state I call aísthesis. He defines this state, quoting William James
(Some Problems of Philosophy [New York, 1948], 48), as “blooming, buzzing
confusion” (HS, 175–76).
28 See Coseriu 1982: 246–47 and 1985: 24.

29 In philosophy the concept of substance is applied to existing things: “Per

substantiam nihil aliud intelligere possumus quam rem quae ita existit, ut
nulla alia re indigeat ad existendum” (Descartes, Principia Mathematica, I, 51).
30 José Ortega y Gasset, Origen y epílogo de la filosofía (Madrid, 1989; ¹1981),
31 See Coseriu 1985, 32–33: “El hombre vive en un mundo lingüístico, que
crea él mismo como ser histórico. Éstas son las dos dimensiones esenciales
del lenguaje: la dimensión sujeto-objeto y la dimensión sujeto-sujeto. Como
lenguaje en general, el lenguaje corresponde a la primera dimensión, a la
relación del hombre con el ser. Como lengua, corresponde al mismo tiempo a
la relación con los demás hombres, a los cuales, precisamente mediante el
lenguaje mismo se les atribuye la ‘humanidad’: la capacidad de preguntarse
por el ser e interpretarlo.”
32 See Coseriu 2006, 44: “[El hombre es] ser-con-otro, […] dimensión
esencial del ser del hombre. Este ‘ser-con-otro’—el reconocerse a sí mismo
en otros, el reconocer en el ‘tú’ a otro yo—es precisamente lo que se llama la
dimensión social (político-social) del hombre y coincide con la intersubjeti-
vidad originaria de la conciencia: con el hecho de que la conciencia humana
es conciencia abierta hacia otras conciencias con las que establece comunica-
ción, es decir, les reconoce las mismas facultades de sentir, pensar, juzgar,
significar e interpretar.”
33 See Coseriu 1988, 47–48: “Todo acto de hablar, siendo al mismo tiempo
histórico y libre, tiene una extremidad anclada en su ‘necesidad’ histórica, en
su condición históricamente necesaria—que es la lengua—, y otra extremidad
que apunta a una finalidad significativa inédita y que, por lo tanto, va más allá
de la lengua ya establecida.”
34 Remember that kosmos in Greek means order, hence, the world.
35 This interpretation of the meaning of ‘table’ would perhaps have been
different if the analyst had thought in another language. In Spanish the
corresponding word ‘mesa’ is related to ‘meseta’, which is a geographical
accident. Because of this the meaning of ‘mesa’ is not related to a plank with
four poles but to the similarity (metaphorical similarity) between a plain a
elevated on the ground and the surface of a plank. Consider that ‘meseta’ is a
derivation of ‘mesa’. In this conception the existence of four poles is not
essential to have a ‘mesa’, but merely the fact of having an elevated flat
36 See Aristotle De Int. 16a, 3-4., apud Eugenio Coseriu, Tradición y novedad en
la ciencia del lenguaje: estudios de historia de la lingüística, Editorial Gredos, 1977,
23: esti de ta ejn th/' fwnh'/ tw'n ejn th'/ yuch'/ paqhmavtwn suvmbola.
37 Apart from these uses, ‘new’ can be applied to living beings, but in this
case ‘new’ introduces new shades of meaning which do not directly affect the
object denoted by the noun. For example, ‘a new man’: the man in question
cannot be said to be young, that is, the adjective ‘new’ does not directly apply
to ‘man.’

38 A technique in the activity of speaking is a language or a state of the

language considered as a set of knowledge, forms, contents, rules, procedures
and attitudes, by virtue of which the activity of speaking is performed.
39 The English language, as any historical language, is made up of different
states of the language: Old English, Early Middle English, Late Middle
English, Early Modern English and Modern English. The criterion to
establish a state of the language is the degree of commonness of linguistic
forms (isoglosses). Speakers of a particular state of the language can
understand one another, although they can check the variety proper involved
in the speech of others. The state of the language is analogous, that is, it is
made up of linguistic forms which are partly the same and partly different
(isoglosses). The language of Americans is partly the same and partly
different from the language of the British.
40 Wikipedia, - cite_note-0 (checked,
16 July 2012).
41 This is referred to by Coseriu as alterity (see Coseriu 1992, 216).

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