§27. "We name things and then we can talk about them: can refer to them in talk."—As if what we did next were given with the mere act of naming. As if there were only one thing called "talking about a thing". Whereas in fact we do the most various things with our sentences. Think of exclamations alone, with their completely different functions.







Are you inclined still to call these words "names of objects"?

In languages (2) and (8) there was no such thing as asking something's name. This, with its correlate, ostensive definition, is, we might say, a language-game on its own. That is really to say: we are brought up, trained, to ask: "What is that called?"—upon which the name is given. And there is also a language-game of inventing a name for something, and hence of saying, "This is...." and then using the new name. (Thus, for example, children give names to their dolls and then talk about them and to them. Think in this connexion how singular is the use of a person's name to call him!)


  1. His target is the view that there is in the development of language a key, primary, process called 'naming' which establishes a metaphysical link - a silken thread - between the word and the thing. This establishes the essential meaning of the word. The word can then be set to work, used by people, but this use is secondary. He is criticising the general, highly abstract, inhuman, logical, analysis of how language works - how it must work - that he presented in his Tractatus.
  2. We can see why he started, pedagogically, with his "Slab!" language (2). He wanted it to be a language-game in which there is no naming, just orders (uttering of sounds), hearing the sounds, and consequent actions.
  3. We can play various games with words, including at least two naming-games, if we want to. But we don't have to.