Only in the individual does language receive its ultimate determinacy. Nobody means by a word precisely and exactly what his neighbor does, and the difference, be it ever so small, vibrates, like a ripple in water, throughout the entire language. Thus all understanding is always at the same time a not-understanding, all concurrence in thought and feeling at the same time a divergence (Humboldt, On Language, Cambridge U. Press, 1988 , 63)
Here we see one of the most penetrating of post-Renaissance thinkers about language struggling against the traditional assumptions of the Western Language myth (NOTE: one would need to read Harris here to do justice to his understanding of this myth). The passage I have quoted deserves in itself a chapter of explication and probably a whole book, to say nothing of the work from which it comes, which is the Introduction to Humboldt’s posthumously published Uber die Kawi-Spache auf der Insel Jawa....(185, 186)
...the question... arises for Humboldt as to whether history is the same for any two individuals whose understanding of the past is based on the readings of texts... An integrationist would go further. The determinacy, if there is any, has to be sought at the level of the particular communication situation. (186)
Thoughts about this?