Theodor W. Adorno did not produce an explicit philosophy of language but was interested in theoretical and practical problems of language during his entire life. Situating Adorno's language conception within twentieth-century language philosophy and theory, this article reconstructs four suppositions that are constitutive for his way of philosophy: his repudiation of prima philosophia; his plea for a relational, differential construction of concepts; his postulate of radical secularization; and his demand that there should be consequences for the form of representation. The article then clarifies how Adorno positions himself in regard to the conception and critique of language, where he stakes out the position from which he observes, and how he links the critique of society and language, driven by his initial intuition to formulate “philosophy in an authoritative sense, without either systems or ontology.” After presenting fundamental aspects of Adorno's theory of language (use of foreign words, tautology, paradox, equivocation), followed by his concepts of constellation, representation (Darstellung), and truth, the article concludes by showing how Adorno's conception of language is linked to that of freedom and how the conception of language, the presumption of freedom, and assumptions about the theory of time are interwoven.

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