Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Volume 4 (1977) pp. 181-184.


Copyright 1977 by the Authors; used by permission of the NAS


Habermas'view of language has been widely discussed in Europe and, to some extent, by rhetoricians and philosophers in the United States. Here we will present the linguistic point of view.

Habermas' theory is heavily influenced by concepts taken from hermeneutics and Habermas' own sociological views. For instance, Habermas uses his concept of "systematic distortion" (i.e. ideological distortion in a specific sense) and introduces it into the theory of communicative competence.

Habermas calls his view of language a "theory of communicative competence"; but even though he derives "competence" from Chomsky's "linguistic competence," the former's concept of competence is not to be understood entirely in the sense of transformational grammar.

In the theory of communicative competence, Habermas operates with the concept of a pragmatic truth-the "consensus theory of truth," as he calls it-and what he calls "pragmatic universals." He outlines the ideal speech situation which is the one to bring about "true" consensus and which is free of external and internal coercion. An ideal speech situation is characterized, among other things, by the fact that the "roles" of the speakers are interchangeable, that there is no systematic distortion, and so on.