This article first appeared in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, edited by Colin Brown (3 vols, Exeter: Paternoster and Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan) vol. 3, 1978, pp.1123–46, although with several omissions for purposes of abbreviating the length of the article. This is not primarily a research contribution, and in this respect it belongs with Essays 1 and 2 of this volume rather than with the other thirty-eight research essays. I include it because philosophy of language and many of the issues discussed remain fundamental to biblical, philosophical, theological and literary hermeneutics. Some modern and postmodern theories are formulated as if this groundwork had never been laid. This article therefore forms a basic introduction to the other essays in this Part VI. As a reflection of my own approach, it will also be apparent how heavily I have drawn on the later Wittgenstein for insights that apply in a number of directions. In my retrospective evaluation I identify one or two points where these also resonate with parallel insights in Gadamer and Ricoeur. Finally, this sets basic issues about the nature of language in the setting of the three main streams of twentieth-century thought prior to the impact of postmodern perspectives, namely analytical philosophy, phenomenology and general linguistics. I reserve my explorations of postmodern approaches to language for the remaining seven essays of this Part VI.