Which came first? Language or thought?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Magical Realist, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,883
    Words express thought. They shape it. Solidify it. Define it's categories. And allow it to become a communicable and empathized experience between us. But words also presuppose reference to conceptualized meanings. Meanings which in turn are only expressible to ourselves and to others thru other pre-worded definitions and descriptions. And so round and round we go. Language structuring thinking. And thinking in turn using language to manifest itself into convictions, facts, questions, speculations, observations, and novel insights. A dynamic reciprocation between word and idea, proposition and logic, description and quale--a mysterious alchemy swirling itself forth into ever new and originary forms of creative realization. Can either really exist without the other?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!



    OTOH, there's this:

    http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/07.22/21-think.html
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2013
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,806
    Since she can read / write and speak / listen to others, I find it difficult to believe that this assistant professor completely lacks linguistic thoughts, since at the late stage her visual substitutes would have to be converted into the former (and vice versa). Aphasic people have managed to express somewhat similar or related claims (after either recovery or via mediating agents), but their difficulties or full deficiencies in regard to such abilities accordingly makes them ring more credibly. But Grandin does provide animals with other "modes" or possible "vehicles" for carrying their less complex thoughts (what such "is like" introspectively to them as opposed to just the neural correlate appearances / measurements for an extrospective brain researcher).

    Temple Grandin: "As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's. [...] I have no language-based thoughts at all. My thoughts are in pictures, like videotapes in my mind. When I recall something from my memory, I see only pictures. I used to think that everybody thought this way until I started talking to people on how they thought. I learned that there is a whole continuum of thinking styles, from totally visual thinkers like me, to the totally verbal thinkers. Artists, engineers, and good animal trainers are often highly visual thinkers, and accountants, bankers, and people who trade in the futures market tend to be highly verbal thinkers with few pictures in their minds.

    Most people use a combination of both verbal and visual skills. Several years ago I devised a little test to find out what style of thinking people use [...] A radio station person I talked to once said that she had no pictures at all in her mind. She thought in emotions and words. I have observed that highly verbal people in abstract professions, such as in trading stocks or in sales, often have difficulty understanding animals. Since they only think in words, it is difficult for them to imagine that an animal can think. I have found that really good animal trainers will see more detailed steeple pictures. It is clear to me that visual thinking skills are essential to horse training, but often the visual thinkers do not have the ability to verbalize and explain to other people what it is they "see."

    A horse trainer once said to me, Animals don't think, they just make associations." I responded to that by saying, "If making associations is not thinking, then I would have to conclude that I do not think." People with autism and animals both think by making visual associations. These associations are like snapshots of events and tend to be very specific. For example, a horse might fear bearded men when it sees one in the barn, but bearded men might be tolerated in the riding arena. In this situation the horse may only fear bearded men in the barn because he may have had a bad past experience in the barn with a bearded man. --Thinking the Way Animals Do

    Also: Do Animals Think Like Autistic Savants?
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,364
    Helen Keller comes to mind as someone who employed thought first, long before she knew how to effectively express it to others.
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. arauca Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,564
    My dog wants me to take him for a walk . he expresses his want by pulling the leash , his language is pulling the leash , therefore the thought come first and speech come after ?
     
  8. dumbest man on earth Real Eyes Realize Real Lies Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,856
    "Which came first? Language or thought?"

    Although there are numerous...people...who seem to prefer to exercise their ability to use "language", prior to, or even without using any "thought(s)" of their own or others - I, personally, do not believe that that should be taken as a genuine model for aspired behavior, nor that it should be used as conclusive "proof" that "language" originated before "thought"!

    The "thought" expressed by the Latin phrase : "cogito, ergo sum." or "I think, therefore I am.", in the English "language", was, and probably still is, one of the first conscious "thought(s)" of any sentient being(s). That "thought" has no "language", in and of itself, and therefore, indeed, would not have to be any "language" in existence at all for it to occur.
    Conversely, the need for and occurrence of any "language" at all, of any kind, could not and would not in any way have occurred prior to the inception of the cognitive "thought" process of said sentient being(s).

    Of course, I Post under the moniker : "dumbest man on earth", and many, many Posters on this and other Forums are quick to point out how I am rarely, if ever, anything other than wrong!
    So, in the interest of full disclosure, I should hasten to mention that I, dmoe, did utilize my cognitive "thought" processing, as wrong as that process may be(!), prior to my use of "language" in this Posting.

    As always, though...Your Mileage May Vary...or...Mileage Your Vary May...or...Yileage Mary Vay Mour...or...
     
  9. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,445
    Can animals other than humans think? If they can (I suspect they can), then thought came first.
     
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,883
    "As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's. [...] I have no language-based thoughts at all. My thoughts are in pictures, like videotapes in my mind."--Temple Grandin

    I find that hard to believe. This very paragraph of well-articulated thought about the nature of her thinking is a perfect example of verbally-based thinking. If nowhere else we are all having verbally-based thought when we write or speak. Not that we don't have image-based thought as well. But this more aesthetically-felt connectivity based on imagery occurs more at an intuitive level. Many times I'll have an unspoken intuition of something needing to be thought out--a paradox or implication--that only comes to full fruition when I started typing it. I think imagistic, or more broadly sensualist thought, combines with verbalization to create new concepts and ideas. Poetry and imagistic prose is the ultimate expression of this kind of creative thinking.
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Look at the many species of animals who perform complex tasks. A crow was seen waiting patiently for a traffic light to change, then quickly running out and depositing nuts in the street. When the light changed back, cars ran over them, cracking the shells. Then when it changed again, he ran out and harvested his lunch. Does anybody want to argue that he wasn't thinking?

    For that manner, all human thoughts are not formed in words. Musicians, painters, athletes and members of many other professions have non-verbal thoughts. In fact, people who learn these skills later in life, and therefore actually do translate every thought into words, have a hard time becoming masters of the art/craft. It slows them down.

    Around 70KYA, anthropologists and archeologists see a spectacular explosion of complex, sophisticated activities that obviously require intricate coordination. They suspect that this marks the invention of the technology of spoken language. These tasks could not possibly have been performed by people who were using their hands to communicate with signals at the same time.

    But considering the activities and artifacts humans had developed and invented for millions of years before that, our ancestors were obviously thinking before they had words.
     
  12. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,862
    You must form thoughts before you can form words.
     
  13. dumbest man on earth Real Eyes Realize Real Lies Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,856
    That is my belief and the chronological sequence that I personally employ - however, it would seem that not every human being fully understands nor consistently applies that particularly necessary cognitive step of thought prior to speaking or typing(Posting)!

    Some people even openly admit their failure to consistently follow the ascribed sequence - while others boast and brag of their esteemed prowess of rarely, if ever, employing any such nonsensical sequence!
     
  14. rr6 Banned Banned

    Messages:
    635
    Number Language Came First

    Fuller states that number language preceded written language by thousands of years.

    See numerical sets/groups of this, that or other things does not require as much thinking as the written language. imho.

    Fuller states that the first words spoken by humans were probably out of dire circumstances.

    My example is; 'hey, dude! can you pull me out of this quicksand'

    Are thoughts concepts? Are concepts more complex than simpler thoughts?

    Understand( simple ) vs comprehend( more complex )?

    r6
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Who's Fuller? Got a link?
     
  16. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,738
    @CC
    "When I recall something from my memory, I see only pictures. I used to think that everybody thought this way until I started talking to people on how they thought. I learned that there is a whole continuum of thinking styles, from totally visual thinkers like me, to the totally verbal thinkers. Artists, engineers, and good animal trainers are often highly visual thinkers, and accountants, bankers, and people who trade in the futures market tend to be highly verbal thinkers with few pictures in their minds."

    That's ironic.
    The first time I heard that people thought in pictures, I found that difficult to understand.
    Personally, I think only in words, except if I am reading some description which is very visual in content.
     
  17. rr6 Banned Banned

    Messages:
    635
    Functioning Idiot Savant Sees numbers like clouds/silouhettes

    See the 60 minutes piece on the british idiot savant who can actually communicate what is going on in his head. The tested his mathematical abilities to make sure he was not just memorizing stuff. The conclusion he truly does see numbers as the 2D cloud-like pictures and one of their tests was to have him shape play-doh into those cloud-like shapes.

    The brought him to US to do all kinds of testing and he got to hang-out with the real rain-man. Way cool! watching them together

    Then they took him to iceland and learned one of the hardest languages on Earth after 3 days and went on talk show to see how well he could communicate in icelandic. All were impressed.

    r6
     
  18. rr6 Banned Banned

    Messages:
    635
  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Messages:
    5,160
    Thoughts came before language. How could someone invent language without thinking? Blank minds invent nothing. Language was a tool that was invented to make it much easier to transfer thoughts to others in greater detail.

    An interesting example is charades. We can take people from many languages who don't know the language of each other, and they can still communicate with charades. Charades is based on visual cues and the cause and effect of visual reality. No words need to be spoken since that will break the rules. Charades is actually a universal language since it does not depend on any particular culture but rather on visual things that we all can see and associate.

    Say you went into the rain forest and discovered something nobody ever saw before, including yourself. There is no word, yet you can still see it and know it is real and never been seen before. If you were an artist, you could transfer the visual to others of all languages without a single word spoken. Spoken language makes this easier. Language is like a lever for transferring information

    Dreams are connected to the universal language which is more 3-D instead 2-D. Spoken and written language is processed by the left brain while dreams and the 3-D language is more right brained. When someone speaks we hear the words and the meaning with the left brain, but also we process the tones, inflections, body language with the right brain.

    How can you invent new words and meaning without thinking ? They could pop up in the mind through unconscious processes which make use of the 3-D language.
     
  20. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,738

    I don't think it was one person, but two.
    Could be wrong, but generally these people have one special talent only.
    The man who does calculations with shapes is very interesting.
    He has a different shape for every number, and he can do fantastic calculations by making them interact.
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Same here. I'm not visually oriented at all; I'm sound-oriented. The only visual stimuli that really get my attention are signs; I automatically read every one. I unconsciously slow down to catch the ones in foreign languages.

    The world has to be brightly colored with lots of crazy things going on before it catches my interest.

    Mrs. Fraggle says that if I ever go blind it will take me three days to notice.
     
  22. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Messages:
    5,160
    If we look at nature, there is a cause and effect relationship between phenomena. This data of content, character, position and vector motion, enters the eyes and inputs visual data into memory. We can do memory recall of the visual input and even manipulate the scenario in the imagination. You really don't need words when you have the raw visual data to work with. It does not need a name to be recalled.

    Pictures a group of hunters in the woods looking for game, that is very sensitive to the presence of predators. They may have to use hand gestures that will take advantage of visual memory recall; experience. The leader visualizes the future cause and effect of the animal and reorganizes this imagery in his mind and then uses hand gestures, which transfer his intent to others; no words are needed. This could be very complex calculations but no numbers are used.

    This might only work with fellow hunters, with similar visual input experience. The layman who never hunted, can't visualize data that was never inputted directly in this head. Language was a tool that allowed even the layman a way to understand the visualization of experience.

    Charades uses common human visual experiences and attempts to trigger the visualization. But if you played charades before, this is very slow data transfer with a simple thought taking minutes. Language was an innovation that made the transfer process faster and more accurate. It allows those who have no direct input experience to gain a similar visualization. But there is still an imagination barrier; misunderstanding, if the direct sensory data is not there.
     
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Oh sure. In the USA we call him Buckminster Fuller, not R.B. The buckminsterfullerene molecule is named after him; one of the largest objects with wave-particle duality.

    Well obviously. Written language was not invented until the Bronze Age. It is simply an elaboration of the primitive accounting symbols merchants and tradesmen developed to keep track of debts and trades in a more complicated economy with time-delayed transaction chains among total strangers.

    It started out as hash marks (e.g., the still-common four vertical strokes with a diagonal slash for "five") and the hash marks slowly changed into curved symbols that could be read and written more quickly.

    Except the Romans of course, they kept the hash marks! X for ten is just two Vs stacked together. Eventually they had to use C for centum and M for mille. Don't ask me where L for 50 or D for 500 came from.

    People had obviously been thinking in numbers, and had developed arithmetic, long before it became necessary to keep records. Before long they needed symbols for the various types of tasks and commodities for which people were paying: written words.

    So it was actually businessmen who invented writing, not priests, scholars or rulers.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     

Share This Page