Does language affect thought? Essay
Does language affect thought?
Thinking is possible without language because expressing a thought is often limited by words. As the famous saying says “a picture is worth a thousand words” this may also mean an idea a though or a picture in your mind, is worth a thousand words. Many times, people would like to express something they are imagining in their minds but do not have or know the right words to do so. Languages can create perspectives and be a mean to express and receive thoughts; however, thinking does not always require language.
Language facilitates knowledge by not only giving us a way to express it but also providing us with a way of imagining something. It allows us to organize and simplify our ideas. For instance, it is easier to think in a table as the word “table” instead of imagining the entire three dimensional objects. A good example of this is a history book: through its words (language) it gives us a, sometimes clear, picture of a battle, a signing of a treaty or any historic event. Through its words the book is able to provide the reader with knowledge which is then transformed by the reader into an idea and a thought. The same can happen inversely, a though can be converted into language, as people do in everyday conversations. While this might be true, it does not mean that people cannot think, know, or have an idea without using language.
A good example that proves this is a newborn; a baby that is hungry and wants milk, even though he does not know the words to express it, must be thinking “I am hungry” or “I want milk”. Some may argue that a baby’s hunger is an instinct, not a though, but in some cases kids do not learn how to speak until they are much older, does this mean they have lived on only instincts and not thoughts until they learned to speak. But children learn words little by little, not all at once which may lead the questions, where is the boundary? How much language must someone know to be able to think? Or, Can people only think the words you know? Is a baby’s first though “mommy” or “daddy”? Even though babies have not learnt any form of communication, they laugh think something is funny.
Languages can extend knowledge and bring new perspectives together. To efficiently use 100% of language, you would have to know every single word of every single every language, but let’s keep it down to only English. English has an extensive vocabulary; the more English you know the more you expand your thoughts, since better use of language means thoughts can be expressed more accurately. Knowing the right words to put forth a thought is vital in order to let another person understand what you are thinking. This is evident when people struggle to say or write something because they cannot come up with the appropriate word or words to express their exact thoughts (as I have been doing while writing this paper).
This leads us to further evidence that thinking without language is possible; when people fail to find appropriate words for any thought, it proves they their not able to put their thought into language. The thought is not put into language by its owner because it is not fully expressible through the language he knows, and even though he does not know the words the express his thought, he is still thinking it. Also, often, as time passes, new words are constructed to express new thoughts meaning the existing vocabulary is inadequate to express the thoughts you have. This indicates that language is created by thoughts, and to extend language, thoughts must already exist before they can be put into a language.
As language is broadened by thoughts, people grow to become more restricted to language. Basically, once you know words, it is very difficult to think without using them; when you see the color white, you think “white”, when you see a ball, you think “ball”, when you see the sky, you think “air”, “blue”, “sun” and so on, all in the form of words. Language only restricts a thought to one way of thinking and limits it from expressing the thought to the full extent. While there is no limitation placed on thinking by language, because thinking does not necessarily require language.
Thinking does not always require language; people are capable of thinking without language. When most people think rationally, they require language. When people think or even talk within themselves they do it through language. But when people think visually they do not need language to give them information about the visual world. For example; someone can look at a person’s face and know what they are feeling. Language is a mean of receiving or expressing though, it is not the though itself, thus if you do not have to receive or express a though, you do not need language, which leads to the conclusion that it is possible to think without language.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 November 2017