Horst Steinke, Vico’s Ring. Notes on the“Scienza nuova”, its Structure, and the Hermeneutics of Homer’s Works
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  145 / 298 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 145 / 298 Next Page
Page Background

Vico’s Ring


tions of pronouns, particles, nouns, and verbs (§§ 450-453), as

well as on morpholinguistic aspects of vowels, consonants, and

singing (§§ 461-462). The contrast between this material and the


use of languages is not only one of different levels in a

hierarchy of competence, but also of ontological status. In the

case of rhetorical language, its position is that of source or foun-

tainhead of civilization


, that is, “origin-ary”, the suffix alluding

to its causative role. On the other hand, in the case of the mor-

phological/lexical parts of language, they are described as results

or effects rather than as causes; instead of being


, they


. And from the standpoint of Vico’s development of his

theory of the “poetic” beginnings of human societies, these

speculations, if they are only taken at their strictly “linguistic”

face value, actually would not appear to be particularly pertinent.

This evident incongruity


, and resultant tension, calls for an

explanation, or, at least, further comment. A suggested, and sug-

gestive, explanation can be glimpsed in Vico’s recurrent theme of

“childhood” in “Poetic Logic”. This trope appears both in its lit-

eral as well as metaphorical guises, and by this twofold function-

ing brings the two widely distanced levels of language under one

umbrella. So, concerning child psychology, he speaks of «the

simplicity of children, who are truthful by nature» (§ 408), «that

children […] apprehend and name all the men, women and

things that bear any resemblance or relation to the first [those

they have seen first]» (§ 412), «the nature of children» (§ 413),

«the crying of children» (§ 449), «children expressing nouns and

particles but leaving the verbs to be understood» (§ 453), «chil-

dren […] begin with monosyllables» (§ 454), «children […] pro-

nounce consonants only with the greatest difficulty» (§ 462),

«children learned the Law of the Twelve Tables by singing it»

(§ 469), «children are extraordinarily gifted in imitation»

(§ 498)


. Also relevant to the question of the “production” of

language as a system of communication are the statements about

non-verbal means of communication, employed both by young