Is language required for thought?

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Is language required for thought?

Post by Hikikomori on Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:40 pm

This was an old topic in my ap writing class back when I was still in high school.

So the question is; Is language required for thought?
Please note there is no right nor wrong answer here.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Tomoyo's Angel on Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:43 pm

that..... that is... how do people who don't know a language think? that's confusing as hell!

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Shogun13 on Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:46 pm

Of the most basic kind yes. Granted I would argue that everything that communicates uses language. So almost all creatures higher than most reptiles (at least).

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Dcmac on Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:55 pm

Language is just a means of expressing your emotions and thoughts. Helen Keller was blind and deaf, and went years without any form of language. She didn't magically start thinking after learning brail and sign language.

You can think in a form of imagery too, and that doesn't require any language at all.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Severus on Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:34 pm

what happens is, that your brain actually subconsciously converts your thoughts to language so that you are able to say immediately what you are thinking (this is why it appears you think in a language). If it didn't do this, you would have to constantly do the translating by yourself (what babies do, there brains just start to learn how to do it themselves).

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Metazoxan on Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:06 pm

Severus wrote:what happens is, that your brain actually subconsciously converts your thoughts to language so that you are able to say immediately what you are thinking (this is why it appears you think in a language). If it didn't do this, you would have to constantly do the translating by yourself (what babies do, there brains just start to learn how to do it themselves).

So that is how it works? So if you were to learn telepathy could you theoretically speak to someone without the actual use of language? What forms do thoughts take without language?

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by L3GION on Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:27 pm

When you think about it, Language is just symbols we gather together and give meaning. So in retrospect you have to have thought without language to create language.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by sayWut on Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:18 pm

I would say no, however conveying your thoughts into the real world and in order to communicate effectively then you do need that language aspect don't you ... but if your just gonna be thinking to yourself then nope. [code]

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Kusanagi on Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:21 pm

If we couldn't think without language, then we wouldn't have been able to create language in the first place. Creating a complex system like language would require thinking.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by SkepticalDragon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:59 am

"Homo sapien sapien" brains developed in such a way that allowed their brains to be more proficient in language and communication than their evolutionary ancestors. Human cognitive process and communication seems to be highly influenced by language, hints the whole academic and scientific study of linguistics. Keeping in mind I am not qualified to answer this question... I suspect the answer might vary depending on what one might define "thought" as, but being a skeptic I am going to answer with inconclusive till better evidence presents itself to me.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Hatless on Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:12 am

i have come to believe that thoughts do not require language because i have many thoughts that i cannot express in any language i know, such as desires for particular tastes that cannot be described and yet are different from the common sour, sweet etc.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Pando on Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:48 pm

What about deaf and blind people.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by L3GION on Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:20 pm

Language couldn't exist without thought. Though we had thoughts before we had language. If we were to revert to our more primal instincts language could be lost again, with continued though. This is my feelings on the subject.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by BK-201 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:55 pm

Language and communication are not inter-changeable terms, language is a form of communication that is as far as we know exclusive to human beings. Many animals communicate but can't use language to do so. Yet animals are able to think e.g. To solving problems. Therefore, language is not required to think.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Hatless on Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:51 am

animals communicate a lot more through body language. in fact so did some indigenous communities on some pacific islands. so unless you consider body language a language then i guess the answer is no language is not required to think

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by MiniSiets on Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:39 am

Hasn't anyone ever thought in imagery before? I do it all the time. Just one example, when I'm doing creative writing and imagining an action scene, I usually picture it in my mind first playing out cinematically before trying to figure out how to best describe it in words on paper.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by -Wolf- on Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:22 am

I think that without language, thought becomes alot more like instinct. you would know when you were hungry and would know that means you need to eat, but i dont think it would go much futher than that.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by SkepticalDragon on Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:12 am

Hatless wrote:animals communicate a lot more through body language. in fact so did some indigenous communities on some pacific islands. so unless you consider body language a language then i guess the answer is no language is not required to think
Language can and does include non-verbal communication. In fact one of the languages I learned through high school and subsequently college was "Sign Language" which is considered a language if of itself. Because of the origins and development of modern Sign Language it is very similar globally despite some differences.

When I was in college one of my friends was showing around a foreign exchange student from China who's English was regretfully only minimally satisfactory... my friend an Egyptian was having a terrible time communicating with them. They joked with me that they really wished I knew Chinese, I signed back in American Sign Language that I don't know Chinese but I know sign, then I apologized. She rolled her eyes but to my surprise the Chinese exchange student signed back to me that he knew sign language too. Despite some differences in gestures it was very similar and we communicated much better in Sign than in English, so I was drafted to translate...

Although if you take Sign Language in my experience the instructors are very clear to say that this kind of experience should NOT be expected as they are in fact different, and it was... but it was still much better.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Kaleb_K on Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:15 pm

I do not think so. In my Human Growth and Development class from my first semester of college, we had a discussion on human though, and the origin of most of our thought process is actually just feeling and mental images. Thought is an inner impulse that humans have, language is just a means of communicating our thoughts. The only use we have for language is communication, and someone who was never taught to speak, would still have a thought process.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by LunarLexal on Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:34 pm

I think that thought is more emotions and imagery and less words. It's only when your trying to formulate those emotions into words when you think of words.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by SkepticalDragon on Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:44 pm

Kaleb_K wrote:I do not think so. In my Human Growth and Development class from my first semester of college, we had a discussion on human though, and the origin of most of our thought process is actually just feeling and mental images. Thought is an inner impulse that humans have, language is just a means of communicating our thoughts. The only use we have for language is communication, and someone who was never taught to speak, would still have a thought process.
How would you define thought in the case of someone who was never taught to speak? How would you explain circumstances of feral children/humans who are discovered after being abandoned, isolated, abused, and/or neglected for a very long period of time... most of all children who from a very young age who were isolated? From the cases of people left to these circumstances can become extremely mentally/emotionally troubled (even psychosis), have little to no language/communication skills, and exhibit nonhuman like behavior... for all of the cases I have read it was a struggle for all of them to be readjusted back to society at large.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Kaleb_K on Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:19 am

SkepticalDragon wrote:How would you define thought in the case of someone who was never taught to speak? How would you explain circumstances of feral children/humans who are discovered after being abandoned, isolated, abused, and/or neglected for a very long period of time... most of all children who from a very young age who were isolated? From the cases of people left to these circumstances can become extremely mentally/emotionally troubled (even psychosis), have little to no language/communication skills, and exhibit nonhuman like behavior... for all of the cases I have read it was a struggle for all of them to be readjusted back to society at large.


That has no impact on what I have said. Thought is only the process of impulse and imagery in our brains. It is the reception of our senses signals, our memories, and the way we determine what action to take next. Whether feral or not, all people and animals have thoughts. This applies to any mental state, and even to children with under developed social skills, and non existent impulse control like you have stated. The fact that they have impulses and take action because of those is proof in itself that there is thought. They might not be able to conceive the thoughts of philosophy, right, wrong, religions, or anything else that takes a developed frontal lobe, but that means in no way that they are not thinking. It only means that they were never taught discipline, or reason like a person who has grown up outside of isolation, and with a functioning family.

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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by MrYoSo901 on Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:35 am

Hikikomori wrote:This was an old topic in my ap writing class back when I was still in high school.

So the question is; Is language required for thought?
Please note there is no right nor wrong answer here.


thought is just another form of imagination for me. If there is no language available then one can just have a "thought" with a series of images instead of language. Like if i'm thinking of something like "I wanna watch pron" but can't express it in any language then i could just imagine a bunch of pretty girls slowly taking off their clothes.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by SkepticalDragon on Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:11 am

Kaleb_K wrote:That has no impact on what I have said. Thought is only the process of impulse and imagery in our brains. It is the reception of our senses signals, our memories, and the way we determine what action to take next. Whether feral or not, all people and animals have thoughts. This applies to any mental state, and even to children with under developed social skills, and non existent impulse control like you have stated. The fact that they have impulses and take action because of those is proof in itself that there is thought. They might not be able to conceive the thoughts of philosophy, right, wrong, religions, or anything else that takes a developed frontal lobe, but that means in no way that they are not thinking. It only means that they were never taught discipline, or reason like a person who has grown up outside of isolation, and with a functioning family.
It seems you are defining thought as a very loose and low threshold for cognitive activity, in which I suspect your assessment would be accurate and perhaps a bit banal.

Since you mentioned you had a college level course on the subject I was hopeful for perhaps a bit of your insight into how the nature versus nurture argument and the critical period hypothesis integrated into your opinion of the development of human thought. Which my questions about feral children/persons is really in the metaphorical neighborhood of the language deprivation experiments... because known cases of feral children generally tend not to learn even minimal language, communication, behavioral, and other skills even when great effort is exerted to adjust them back to society.

I suppose this requires a bit higher threshold or definition of what constitutes thought. Not that I have an opinion on the matter, as I mentioned previously my answer is inconclusive... Thank you for your reply.
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Re: Is language required for thought?

Post by Enigma on Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:26 am

Thought is wordless. In reality, when you think, even with the ability to speak a language, or languages, your first true thought is the base feeling or emotion, followed by the imagery and words which we use to better organize and recognize what it is that is taking place in our brains. Also, that was one hell of a sentence. I'd elaborate more on my opinion in this matter, but I'm about to go to sleep.

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