Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Volume 4 (1977).


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


During the last seventeen years of his life, Ludwig Wittgenstein, in several works, set out his remarkable concept of the "language-game" -a notion of understanding language that focused attention upon the ways in which we use language in actual situations as one might focus on the ways players move pieces in a game. I propose that this concept (with slight modifications) be included among the cognitive developmentalist's tools for analysis. It is useful in describing the growth of some important communicative abilities an individual develops from infancy to fluency in the uses of expressions of the language of his culture. A sketch of the salient features of the "language-game" is presented, along with examples of its application to some typical samples of data.

As an analytic instrument, the "language-game" concept possesses sufficient flexibility to deal realistically with the various conceptual patterns one meets in ordinary situations and allows enough clarity of description to make replicability of application readily possible. These are exactly the qualities the developmentalist needs in instruments with which he must make sense of data gathered within the dynamic surrounding of ordinary human communicative activities.