Questioning and Intentionality in Language

  • Michel Meyer


People speak because they have a problem in mind to which they answer by resorting to language. This is the main thrust of the so-called problematological conception of language. Very few philosophers or linguists would deny, nowadays, that linguistic activity is only one particular type of human action, which, as such, should be envisaged within the general framework of human action, and that the latter should be conceptualized as problem solving. Nonetheless many of them — in spite of Collingwood — have, so far, been reluctant to draw conclusions, and they have failed to realize that recourse to language is a questioning process, to the extent that in any discourse held, spoken or written, there is a question at stake. Their attitude can be attributed to several factors. The first one to be mentioned could be named assertoric obnubilation, on the ground that assertoric discourse is to a great extent autonomous. The study of language is directed upon a phenomenon sui generis, and because of that, the theoretician is tempted to see in language an autonomized (or autonomizable) reality. Hence the old privilege granted in the analysis of language to written discourse and declarative sentences which both assert what they mean to say (Lyons, 1968).


Main Thrust Interrogative Sentence Declarative Sentence Rhetorical Question Careful Distinction 
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  1. Grice H.P., 1975, “Logic and Conversation”, Syntax and Semantics, P. Cole and J. Morgan, eds., vol. 3, Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Lyons J., 1968, Theoretical Linguistics 01.24, φ 1.2–8; Cambridge Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  3. Meyer M., 1981, “The Hermeneutics of Questions and the Questions of Hermeneutics” in: Rationality in Science and Politics, G. Andersson, ed. (forthcoming).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel Meyer
    • 1
  1. 1.F.N.R.S. and University of MonsMonsBelgium

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