Language and Hermeneutical Experience

Richard E. Palmer (2005) based Hans-George Gadamer’s thinking that language has an intrinsically speculative structure. Language is not standardized and dogmatically certain, because language is always in the process as an event of disclosure. It is constantly moving, changing, and ending to bring something to understanding.

As a case study, in the language of poetry or what Gadamer calls “poetic”, poetic words have the same quality as the act of saying something that happens in everyday life between people who understand each other. More explicitly, Gadamer says that poetic statements that are further speculative are reflected in the linguistic events of the poetic facts on the side which express the relationship, particularly with the things that are (Palmer, 2005).

Poetic language is a medium for conveying certain events with their respective objectifications. Although Palmer still refers to Gadamer who reveals that the poet is a person with speculative experience par excellence through his own openness to the being, he reveals new possibilities in existence. In other words, Gadamer wants to say that no matter how objective the poet’s claim is in expressing events in language, he remains a world of personalization and subjectivity of the poet himself.

The poet interprets certain phenomena, so the poet’s reader reads the results of the poet’s interpretation. Poetic statements are speculative. In this way, insofar as it does not copy the world that exists today, it does not simply show a view of something in an existing form, but rather presents us with a new view of a new world in the imaginative mediation of poetic discovery (Gadamer in Palmer, 2005).

The issue that is emphasized in this context is how to write poetry outside the question of language selection. The poet’s hermeneutical experience is determined by his point of view or world view in determining the object of certain events, before he speculatively translates it through poetic language. The term “speculative” does not mean without consideration or “intentions”, but the process of transitioning from an objective-empirical world to a world of language. Therefore, it is the interpreter himself who must pour out his thoughts in something that is open to the possibilities possessed by the poet (Gadamer, 2004).

It is in this context that Gadamer’s dialogical-dialectical rules function dynamically, apart from the application of horizon or horizon fusion. Palmer (2005) says:

“In this way, speculativity encompasses all the movements, suspensions, and attitudes of openness which desire the flow of possible new relationships in existence that are spoken of to us and lead to us. For poets, this is an openness to the existence that will be presented in the language. For the interpreter, this is an openness to place one’s horizon in balance and the desire to modify the subject, in the light of a new understanding of existence that can emerge from an encounter with the meaning of the text. ”


Language has a central function in creating situations for both poets and interpreters. This has been revealed by Goenawan Mohamad through his book Di Around Sajak (2011) He began by quoting a Subagio Sastrowardoyo poem.

The origin is the word

The universe is made up of words

Behind it is only a word

Empty room and morning breeze


According to Goenawan, a poet – but not only a poet – will know the inevitability of words: practical, only through language can capture the world. In fact, the ” empty space and morning wind ” that lies behind the universe ” composed of words ” is not only recognized by us, because our senses interact with that state or situation. We recognize ” empty space and morning wind ” because that name has been given to call this or that feeling. With that word or rather the word as a marker, we can distinguish empty space from gaps, wind from storms, and morning from afternoon. From that distinction, we give and get meaning.

Language is a predicate universe. The names that have been convicted at the level of human culture are generally known through the sounds of the language. The issue of linguistic innovation and creativity in order to bring up new situations and names in the world is a linguistic task that is assigned to poets and interpreters with their respective historical horizons. However, especially for the interpreter, the main modality is the literary text, not the poet’s thoughts or discourse. If the interpreter clarifies the poet’s intention (poetic will) for his poetry, there will be no production of new meanings or understandings.

Language is not an instrument of subjectivity, nor is it a language which fulfills itself in self-contemplation of unlimited intellectual power. On the other hand, language is limited and historical, is the center and storehouse of experience being present in language in the past. Language must direct a person in understanding the text. According to Gadamer, the task of hermeneutics then is to seriously base on the linguistics of language and experience and to develop truly historical hermeneutics (Palmer, 2005).

This clearly confirms the nature of Gadamerian understanding which emphasizes the issues of linguisticity, historicity, and dialectical dialogue. The essence of hermeneutics is the phenomenology of understanding, as was the concept of its predecessor, namely Husserl. In Truth and Method, Gadamer (2006) says:

“Literature (poetry) is not a continuation of the death of an alien being born from the experience of a later period. Literature is a function of intellectual and traditional preservation and, therefore, brings out its hidden history to every age. ”


Something related to world literature has its place in all consciousness. It is related to ‘his world’. Today, the world that considers works related to world literature is perhaps very far from the original world in which they were born. However, it is no longer the same ‘world’. In fact, the normative feelings contained in world literature are still impressive, even though the ‘world’ they speak of is very different (Gadamer, 2006).

Therefore, according to Gadamer, the process of understanding literary texts (poetry) is like a magical art. Why is that? Because of space and time that bridges between authors (in Gadamer’s terms, pengada ), poetry and interpreters are postponed or suspended. Thus, the interpreter’s cognitive ability and experience horizon in understanding a text will reveal the mysteries of space and time that surround the poetry text, both in the past and contextualization in the future.

The structure of poetry, which thus becomes language, ensures that the process of the soul and the world addresses each other as something limited. (Gadamer, 2004). This limitation is representative, because the structure of the interpreter’s understanding with the author’s historicity horizon is separated by time or period. Therefore, when the poetry text is understood, the meaning that emerges is the result of the interpreter’s mental and intellectual struggles with the concepts or keywords contained in the poetry. Like the Quran and hadith, poetry will be understood in a futuristic manner.

Representation has been mentioned by Aristotle (2017). According to Aristotle, the process of reading and understanding poetry in Poetry creates representations (mimetic, objective and fictional). According to Aristotle, mimetic representations are able to change the spirit and cause a shock effect on objective events ( kadhib ). Objective representation is the opposite of mimetic. For Aristotle, the objective is no longer surprising and will be a tiring topic, while fictional representations are in the context of both, often appearing outside the objective world (imagination).

Thus, the essence of language as a medium of understanding in poetry becomes a way to create a representative world. This world is lived by interpreters with all horizons of history and culture ( bildung ). The representation produced by the interpreter depends on how he perceives and positions himself between the horizons of knowledge.


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