Le radici naturali del linguaggio secondo G.W. Leibniz

  • Stefano Gensini «Sapienza», Università di Roma


The Leibnizian doctrine of the origins of language is one of the cornerstones of 18th-century linguistic theories. Although some of its most interesting formulations have remained unpublished until recent times, it profoundly influenced not only the philosophy of language of the Enlightenment, but also the etymological research, and the early comparative studies. This essay follows the evolution of Leibnizian thought on the theme of origins through the first hints dating back to the 1680s, the erudite correspondence of the years 1690-1716, and the late writings in which the study of origins takes on a philosophical form, through dialogue with Plato, Aristotle, and other classics. All in all, Leibniz sought a balance between the linguistic arbitrariness of Locke and Hobbes and the naive forms of iconicism, arriving at a profoundly historical conception of languages according to spatial and temporal coordinates.