Language, Meaning, and Understanding: Derrida's Analysis

Hazard, Melissa

Viterbo University

Major: Biopsychology


 This article examines Derrida’s deconstruction of Austin and Condillac in his text Signature, Event, Context. In his analyses, Derrida overturns traditional views holding that oral or written language can be reliable and stable methods of relaying meaning. He asserts that words cannot be designated with specific, uniform meaning because of their continual reliance on other words in their definition. He also shows that the ambiguity in meaning cannot be mitigated by knowledge of context or intended meaning. If his theory holds true, then thorough, mutual understanding cannot be achieved. This article explores the validity of Derrida’s claims, and also questions his broader implications that language is fundamentally flawed as a result of its inability to produce complete clarity.