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Title: Ehe und Sprache
Author(s): PAUS, Ansgar
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 3    Issue: 1   Date: Spring 1997   
Pages: 8-23
DOI: 10.2143/INT.3.1.2014808

Abstract :
Language is a typical human and at the same time social reality. It makes interpersonal communication possible. In relation to marriage, linguistic activity raises a problem that is still widely ignored. Since marriage is to be understood not only as partnership in love, but also as a social institution going beyond the individual, in which personal and moral creative powers – either extra-linguistic or in the medium of language – must be operative, big demands will be made on the communicative competence of the marriage partners as to their handling of language.
In linguistic theory language may be regarded (1) in the premarital framework of dialogical communication, (2) in the wedding vow, (3) in the sphere of continuing marital communication.
(1) The existentially non-binding word forms the elementary component of language as instrument of communication. It effects dialogical transcendence, which possesses its critical means in the truth and falsehood of the judgements and sentences of language. In respect of the personal words which are possible through language, the use of language remains basically non-binding (i.e. in unbound freedom) prior to the conclusion of the marriage. The term “non-binding” is used here in a relative sense. Language is an instrument that can and must be employed by two partners willing for marriage in order to show their readiness for partnership in love. The linguistic dialogue in the prematrimonial relationship can help demonstrate the possibility of their definitive marital coexistence.
(2) Language becomes real as an action in the wedding vow. The concrete (situational) speech event of the celebration of the wedding vow makes the spoken word understandable as a means of binding, whereby the nonbinding dialogue character of speech before marriage is replaced and overridden by communicative boundness. In the performative speech act of persons willing for marriage in the framework of the sacrament of marriage, language is taken out of its personal neutrality. Where personal words are concerned it becomes a binding means of communication, in the willingly-bound freedom of the marriage partners. These are the binding words that found the new reality of marriage. In sum: in the marriage vow language is used in such a way that through the linguistic interaction of two baptised Christians the lasting intersubjective personal relation of marriage as an institution is called into being, so that from the moment of the wedding onwards the marital conversation takes on the particular form of a reciprocal communicative transcendence which causes the marriage partners to discharge their duties.
(3) Through the sacrament of Christian marriage the speech happening becomes binding in principle for the duration of the marriage. The will to the word in marriage embraces all the concrete dimensions of experience and life. It ensures the creation of a lasting meaningful and comprehensible life script. It will be treated as unbreakably binding. It can therefore be read over and over again and enabled by the removal of misunderstanding and the overcoming of failures to understand the binding words of the one to the other in personal love. In the context of the concluded and continuing marriage, language thus forms that medium of understanding which, interwoven with the personal value of Christian love, can constantly construct marriage as a social identity.

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