At the end of the nineteenth century, the dominance of language, so typical of Western culture since the Renaissance, was increasingly challenged. As early as 1876, Nietzsche wrote on Richard Wagner in Thoughts Out of Season:
He was the first to recognize an evil which is as widespread as civilization itself among men; language is everywhere diseased, and the burden of this terrible disease weighs heavily upon the whole of man's development. Inasmuch as language has retreated ever more and more from its true province— the expression of strong feelings, which it was once able to convey in all their simplicity—and has always had to strain after the practically impossible achievement of communicating the reverse of feeling, that is to say, thought, its strength has become so exhausted by this excessive confusion of its duties during the comparatively short period of modern civilization, that it is no longer able to perform even that function which justifies its existence, to wit, the assisting of those who suffer in communicating with each other concerning the sorrows of existence. Man can no longer make this misery known unto others by means of language; hence he cannot really express himself any longer. And under these conditions, which are only vaguely felt at present, language has gradually become a force in itself which with spectral arms coerces and drives humanity where it least wants to go.
The disease of language which Nietzsche here diagnoses, can be described as a degeneration of language from the state of being a polyfunctional, ambiguous, flexible semiotic system that allows people to express their feelings, constitute their selves and communicate with each other, into a restrictive technical language.