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Does thought determine language (yes) or does language determine thought (no)?

Asked by: Listentome
  • Language can influence later thoughts but there must be other thoughts first

    The only reason to have words is to represent thoughts so if there were no thoughts in the first place how would we have a language?

    Also I've experienced having ideas I couldn't quite put into words right away. Sometimes coming up with the idea in the first place is the easier part and explaining it is difficult.

  • Language Determined by Thought

    Thought came long before language, which means that language is determined by thought. Each culture needed to think about language in order to convey thoughts. However, thoughts have always existed as long as humans have been roaming the Earth. There's no reason to think that language actually determines thought today.

  • Thought Determines Language, but Language Affects How You Think

    What people think a word means is what it means, translating to thought determines language. An example of this is that if I was taught that the word happy was the word for apple, I would at this moment in time be craving a happy to eat rather than an apple to eat. However, I can understand that most people might believe that language determines thought as we tend to think in whatever language we originally had in our voice, but if we had no language we would be thinking in emotions and colors and pictures, which is a quite strange thought.

  • Without thinking how could you learn language?

    If you are to speak or to learn a language, it is necessary to use your brain and think. People say "think before you speak" for a reason. The brain must process information before formulating language. The brain interprets what it is surrounded by and using that information you are able to develop language. I do not know how your thoughts are processed in your brain before you know language, however, I know that you have thoughts. Think of a baby, before the baby learns to speak, they learn to make noises, grab toys, cry, and crawl. If language came before thought then we would never be able to think because without thought no language could be formed.

  • Thoughts Precede language, as Thoughts are Chemical

    As Black_Cap said, emotions like hunger are innate chemical reactions, and more complex thoughts are just made of these emotions like building blocks. One only experiences thinking in a specific language if that is their conscious thought, as strange as that is. As thoughts are only chemical reactions taking place, and language is an abstraction created by those chemical reactions taking place, one must conclude that the thoughts precede language. That is, you are not actually thinking in language if you are not trying to. Personally, I can think in Spanish if I concentrate enough, or English with lesser concentration, but when not putting mental effort into this action, cannot discern the language of my thoughts. This is messing with my head right now, but I see no flaw in my hypothesis. Someone please tell me if there is anything wrong with my thinking.

  • Thoughts come first

    Whatever you want to express, you know what that might be, regardless if you have actual words for it yet. I think it's easiest to support my opinion with examples though. So when you're hungry, you know you're hungry, you don't have to think of the words in your head to know that fact. Then there's babies who don't know any language. They are obviously capable of thought without language. Animals are the same. Another example is people who have been deaf their whole lives. I don't know how their internal voice works, but I doubt it's in a language like we know it. So language is just a way to structure those thoughts in a way that works most efficiently for us.

  • Neither 'determines' the other

    This question presents a false dichotomy. Thought in an abstract sense can exist before an individual learns a language. Without languiage, though, it cannot be expressed or shared with others. Without language, I'm not sure if an individual can fully understand his or her thought.

    By the same token, language by its nature limits thought. Although languages do develop to accomodate new concepts, inventions and so forth, there is always a gap before any language catches up with new things. There are almost certainly concepts that can not be expressed in any language now in existence.

  • Animals and Multilingualism

    While I think that the question being posed gives only incorrect possibilities, I can think of several examples of language altering thought. The first would be animals, who can think but do not have language. So is language a necessary precursor to thought? Obviously not. Still, in the Eskimo language, there are over 20 different terms for seal, and so to learn their language you must think of the seal in a different way. The same can be said of almost any language since different languages largely arose in different cultures, and to learn a language fluently, you must learn to think as the native speakers think.

  • Not dating your thinking is vague, just the term THOUGHT

    Usually, when we talk about thinning, we are talking about language. We usually don't say I was thinking I was hungry and then I expressed that thought. We FEEL hungry, then, in the case of (many) humans we think and expired that feeling with the thought. I'm hungry.
    If you want to call all those other feelings etc thoughts then you may. That however expands thoughts to include the notion a protozoa has to move away from the acidic water

  • I can't think of it the other way round!

    Well, i don't know how we'd think if we didn't know language. What i fail to understand is that you need to be thinking in a language, right? I don't know. This whole thing is so confusing. SO, PLEASE HELP.
    Vote and express your opinion, and help me form mine, too.


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