This article seeks to open up a re-examination of the relationship between thought and language by reference to two philosophers: John Austin and Jacques Derrida. While in traditional philosophical terms these thinkers stand far apart, recent work in the philosophy of education has highlighted the importance of Austin’s work in a way that has begun to bridge the philosophical divide. This article seeks to continue the renewed interest in Austin in educational research, yet also take it in new direction by exploring Austin’s wider philosophical concern within the William James Lectures with the nature of language. The significance of the philosophical turn to language has entered the agenda of a number of philosophers of education in recent years. The main aim of this article will be to present, as a starting point for further work, an account of language that does justice to the way language actually operates. The article will argue that Austin’s account of the performative opens up new possibilities in this regard and yet—for reasons that will be made clear—also fails in the final instance to carry these through. By illustrating the way Derrida’s philosophy works, contrastingly, to take these possibilities to their full conclusion, I will argue that Derrida succeeds in bringing a radically new conception of language to the fore. The article will end by pointing towards some of the implications of the initial exploration conducted here to be developed elsewhere—particularly for the ways we think about thinking.