Heidegger was quoted as saying that

The German language speaks being, while all other languages merely speak of being.

This question may be slightly opinionated, but, if possible, would one be able to say what morphological/semantic reasons there are that Heidegger may have said that? And if so, what are they? I hope this question isn't too opinionated or asking of a list, which I know isn't allowed, but if it is possible to back up whatever reasons are given to one's best ability, the answers this question wants will hopefully stray from pure opinion.

Thank you!

  • 2
    Could you maybe add the quote in German as well?
    – Gerhard
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 23:17
  • 4
    Welcome to German SE! Interesting question, but it might be better suited for our sister site philosophy.stackexchange.com . Anyway, it would help if you could provide the source for this quote. Did Heidegger say/write this in English, or is there a German original?
    – Matthias
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 23:31
  • I currently am looking for the quote in german, however I am having a hard time. I'll get back to you if I do find it. Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 23:32
  • 4
    This isn't a direct Heidegger quote, but a quote from "An Appetite for Poetry" by Frank Kermode: For example, when Heidegger says that the German language alone "speaks Being" while all the others merely "speak of Being," a person of my formation is likely to feel, if not say, that on this occasion at least Heidegger is being silly.
    – nwellnhof
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 0:04
  • 1
    Possibly related to the use of "Sein", "Werden", and "Wesen" that's popular in philosophy.
    – dirkt
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 9:24

1 Answer 1


As you said and as it is often the case with any of Heidegger's statements, I can only guess, and maybe the answer is just as simple as:

Heidegger's creative and, must often puzzling or sometimes even totally weird use of language to express his thoughts (very often extremely hard to follow or even outright incomprehensible, even for a native speaker - neologisms, mis-use of words, re-definition of notation, connotation rather than meaning,...) requires an extremely good command of the language. Heidegger definitvely had that in his native language. It must have been a nightmare trying to translate his thoughts into any other language. Obviosly, any attempt to translate such heavy stuff will always loose details and slight (dis)harmonics. Maybe his command of other languages just wasn't good enough to get it?

I have the impression that was just his special way of saying the tools he had at hand to express his thinking in any other language just weren't fit for purpose without admitting it was actually (maybe) his own fault.

  • So, am I understanding this correctly; you're saying that as in any languages the quote refers to a poet or artists intent to convey esoteric concepts on existence and living often has a bewildering habit of providing and simultaneously missing the intended nuance in a reader's understanding so to result in confusion or over mis-interpretation to a reader rather than bringing an intended clarity.and that his reference to the use of German being more compliant in that aspect was probably some subtle poke duplicating this muddled confusion with humor and fawning seriousness. (In fewer words) ;-)
    – Cyberchipz
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 0:01
  • 1
    Erm, maybe yes?
    – tofro
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 6:50

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