Language and Learning: Philosophy of Language in the Hellenistic Age The sophistication and diversity of Hellenistic traditions addressing problems of language will make the study of those linguistic theories an intriguing subject to all students of the history of language theory in general. A novice in Hellenistic philosophy will also find that the study of the different schools’ concern with language and linguistic phenomena provides an excellent introduction to the doctrines of the various schools, since it sheds light on their epistemology as well as on their logical, ethical and physical presuppositions.
There are three main centres of interest that received special attention from all schools in the Hellenistic age and its aftermath.
(1) There is the question of the origin of language or languages. Though the notion of a ‘wise inventor’ of language was generally treated with disfavour, the problem of the etymology of linguistic expressions and their reference to reality posed a challenge to all philosophical schools.
(2) Special attention was also given to the question of the interdependence between language and thought in general, particularly in view of the importance attributed to rhetoric and other forms of self-expression.
(3) Last, but not least, is the concern with the question in what sense ‘language’ can be treated as a technical subject with rules of its own, so that grammar is not merely a matter of empirical research and linguistic observation.