Naming God: Christian Philosophy of Language, Wierzbicka’s Natural Semantic Metalanguage and Intercultural Dialogue


  • Piotr Popiołek The Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow


Słowa kluczowe:

philosophy of language, theolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, Cappadocians, accommodation


Who is He, to Whom we address words God, Theos, Deus, etc.? How far goes possibility for adaptation of religious and philosophical language from other (non-Western) cultures? Do people, by using certain words and terms, denote being of God, or are they just conventional names? Those questions were raised quite early in theological debates in early stages of Christianity, and answers were given by such prominent Church Fathers as Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great. The problem resurfaced millennium later, when Western missionaries encountered nations and people whose religious and philosophical concepts were far different from their own. Should they accommodate local terms to fit the Christian concept of God, or should they introduce Western terminology? This translational and linguistic problem leads to the question: are there universal concepts which (despite of cultural affiliation, based on the common human experience) could communicate the Christian idea of God? Findings of Wierzbicka, and her own claim is: yes – there are semantic primes, through which we can translate our ideas (with minor imperfections). But this last question goes beyond the reach of mere secular linguistics, and enters the domain of theology. For it is theological claim that in our human nature we are capable of addressing Triune God.


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