(Sektion 207: Philosophische Untersuchungen von Ludwig Wittgenstein).

Wittgenstein considers the possible of a bizarre language (alien language), setting the stage for later philosophy of language, particularly that of Quine and Davidson on the subject of radical translation. Wittgenstein is trying to set the conditions for determining what counts as a language, and to what extent we (as humans, but also as anthropologists) are willing to consider certain activities linguistic. In Philosophische Untersuchungen 207 (see also section 206), Wittgenstein challenges our normal expectations of language -- he describes a country in which acoustic articulations are apparently chaotic and made without regular connections, but that nonetheless seem necessary for the smooth operation of other activities and behavioral evidence. Should we call this a "language"? The question is one of the connection between what we call "languages" and the regularity of their patterns and usage.

207. Imagine the people in that country performing the usual human activities and apparently using them with an articulate language. One who watches their doings finds them understandable, they seem 'logical'. But we try to learn their language and find that it is impossible to do so. It exists without regular connections between the things said, the sounds, and the actions; but still these sounds are not superfluous; we, for example, gag one of these people and it has the same consequences as with us: without the sounds their actions fall into confusion--as I want to express it.

Should we say these people have a language; orders, reports, and so on?

It lacks the regularity of what we call "language".