Thinking in a language

Cecil,
I read with interest your response about the language of the deaf. As a language acquisition specialist, I would like to point out that “thinking in a language” is a common misperception about language and thought. Thought is so fast that would be slowed down if it depended upon a language “modem.” In so far as I have understood many brain research studies, the origin of thought is more like an “image” that turns into, if indeed it does, a volition to do something about it, such as asking someone to get out of your way. There are many possibilities in or out of language that will accomplish this. So, when one determines (thinking out the situation) to use language, it is only then that language begins to match the thought. So, we appear to be “thinking” in the language but the thought (getting that person out of the way) has already taken place before you are aware of it! Then, you can take care of the situation with language, physical effort, or what floats your boat!
Thanks for listening.
HehpyF1pct:)

HehpyF1pct, there is more than one kind of thinking. Lots of “thought” occurs in the non-conscious areas of the brain. This is where the volitional thinking you mention is occurring. There’s also the sensory processing and the emotional response categories that don’t rely on language in order to occur.

However, some elements of thought do rely on language. These are the contemplative elements of thought: thinking about how a pretty work of art affects you and what you like about it; reflecting on a story and how the plot elements tie together and provide a theme or a moral; planning out what you would like to do tomorrow; etc. These kinds of thinking are conceptual in nature and not just reactionary to the environment, but contemplative. It is difficult to conceive of how these kinds of thought could occur without language.

Oh yeah, link.

Sometimes I think directly in words (for example when I’m composing a document, such as now), sometimes in images. When I think in images, explaining those thoughts to other people will involve the use of standard symbolism (which may or may not be words) - I can perform this “trans-semiotic” step into several different languages and other symbolic systems.

There are languages in which I can compose a document directly and be reasonably sure it will be understandable; there are others in which I can compose a document directly and be reasonably sure it will break grammar and spelling rules in several dozen places; there are others where my linguistic ability doesn’t allow me to think a single complete sentence (I’m excluding fixed expressions such as “good morning” and “thank you” from the definition of “complete sentence”).

Same in the comprehension part: some languages I understand straightaway, some need thought, some need translation. How does all that not involve “thinking in a language”?