What Is The True Relationship Between Language And Thought

Relationship Between Language And Thought will reveal that language is influencing thought or thought influencing the language .The language we speak affects the personality and shapes the brain.The ability to communicate through a spoken and written language, is the most human language. language is able to “shape” our brains, beliefs and attitudes by changing the way we think and act.

Thought is indispensable in language, since without thought on the part of speaker and hearer alike it is impossible to formulate sounds or combinations of sounds intended by the one to convey certain meanings and recognised by the other as bearing those connotations. There is a further dichotomy within the individual himself; as the simplest conversation shows, every person is sometimes a speaker and sometimes a hearer, so that language combines motor and sensory)’ aspects, being, from this point of view, essentially a correspondence of the motor and sensory systems of the brain.

Language is, therefore, inseparably connected with psychology as well as with anatomy; but among the countless problems of psychology hotly debated by its various schools, the linguist must restrict himself to a single question: What is the relation between language and thought? Even here, in the present state of knowledge, it seems doubtful whether more than tentative conclusions can be reached; and it would appear that the linguist will be wise in taking thought, as well as language  for granted. As yet, he can scarcely hope to find the origin either of the one or of the other.

In the brain, the areas especially concerned with language, i.e., the centres governing audition, phonation, and vision, were formerly localised very precisely, though it now seems probable that no exact boundaries can be drawn, since in minor lesions the functions of these areas may be taken over by neighbouring portions of the cortex. Although we can now safely speak only of general regions for audition, etc., the older theory still retains some value if liberally construed; and the approximate general regions in question are shown in the accompanying with its explanatory’ caption.

Relationship Between Language And Thought, Facts You Must Know

The role played by the language-areas of the brain receives negative illustration in various forms of aphasia, which may arise from many causes, such as cerebral lesions, traumatic neuroses, toxic conditions, prolonged worry or fatigue, and the like. Lesion of the motor-arca produces motor-aphasia (Broca’s aphasia). Here the patient understands word heard or read, but cannot repeat them and does not speak voluntarily, although he can writ* from dictation and can copy.

Lesion of the graphic centre causes agraphia, in which the patient understands words heard or read; he can speak intelligibly and can repeat what he has heard or read, but. cannot copy or write at dictation. Lesion of the associational centre results in associational aphasia, marked by inability to cn-ordinate sounds or characters as normally uttered, written, and understood. Clinically pure cases of any of these type are extremely rare, if they ever occur; practically all show every grade of complication of two or more of them.

All grave cases of aphasia involve general lowering of the mental level; the power of symbolism, which underlies all language , decays: and the patient is subject to progressive weakening of memory. Different types and stages present phenomena of much linguistic interest. The patient may be unable to pronounce a given word, but may lie able to indicate the number of its syllables he may forget his vocabulary in a definite order, as when he loses first his memory for proper names, then for specific and concrete terms, next for common nouns, and, last of all, fur other parts of speech.

Like statements seem to apply to languages supposed to be invented by children: in every case where accurate data arc available, they arc found to be more or less drastic deformations of the vernaculars spoken around them.From the strictly linguistic point of view, far more study would seem to be desirable in the fields of aphasia, insane languages, and the languages of children. Here the psychologist and the alienist should work in close co-operation with the linguist; and wherever pathological conditions exit, accurate case-histories arc a prime requisite. The results of such investigations would, in all probability, be of much value for a knowledge of the underlying principles of language.

It is not, however, on the pathological side alone that such research should be made, but on the normal side as well; and we shall scarcely go far wrong if we say that one of the most urgent needs of the science of language to-day is a thorough treatment of linguistic psychology. This is a task much easier to set than to perform, for it demands an equally intensive training in psychology and in linguistics, not merely in two or three important languages or in one or two of the great linguistic families, but in the entire realm of language. Such a task probably transcends the powers of any one man, so that collaboration seems the only method possible.

Many attempts have been made to write psychologies of language, but almost exclusively either by linguists inadequately trained in psychology or by psychologists with insufficient knowledge of linguistics, and only too often in both camps to refute or to defend some preconceived theory. Practically the only exception to this rather sweeping statement known to the writer is Henri Delacroix’s masterly Le Langage et la pensie (second edition, Paris, 1930), but even this, its author would doubtless have been the first to say, by no means exhausts the possibilities of its theme.

In considering the relation between language and thought, we may roughly define thought as a purposive mental adjustment of means to ends, and in all but the most rudimentary modes of thought we may restrict this adjustment to non-immediate ends. This seems to be the cardinal distinction between the thought of man anti of non-human living beings, although in certain cases, as in long migrations of birds over the same course during long series of years, the test of non-immediacy seems scarcely valid. Here we come into contact with instinct, which we may perhaps define as elementary thought which, through constant repetition under given circumstances, has become subconscious and quasi automatic.

This seems implied by the instinctive aspect of vocabulary as contrasted with its intellective aspect, sincc, under stress, certain types of aphasia can pronounce words which they arc ordinarily unable to utter; and since observation of aphasia in general shows that the higher and voluntary aspects of a function suffer more than those which are lower and automatic.Whether thought precedes speech, or whether speech or the capacity of speech  a prerequisite of thought, is still a moot problem; but the bulk of evidence seems to be in favour of the priority of thought.

This appears to be borne out by observation of the process of learning to speak ft language. Language has thus passed, like thought itself, from immediate to non-immediate adaptation of means to ends; but the problem is gravely hampered in its initial stages by the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of entering, in any adequate measure, into the thought of the child, and by the facts that the adult has forgotten the mental development through which he has passed in infancy and childhood, and that the child, in learning to speak, is guided, checked, and stimulated by the adults around him. For the most part, facility in learning cither a single language or several languages simultaneously is greatest in the formative stages of the individual, when a language extremely difficult for an adult to acquire is mastered without apparent effort by the child, who may also speak with ease a number of languages of wholly different structure and vocabulary if in contact with those to whom such languages are vernacular.

The process of acquisition of a new language by an individual who has readied maturer years is also instructive in this regard. Exact, observation is complicated here by the fact that the individual in question has already been affected by learning one language, however little he may remember of the processes whereby he gained that knowledge.

Nevertheless, if one who has consciously and deliberately acquired a speaking command of at least one language in addition to his original speech carefully examines the stages through which lie has passed, he will normally find the process to have been somewhat as follows. He first, learns the names of simple objects and activities, and, along with this, he finds that, he must avoid certain sounds present in his own language and must fount to make others hitherto unknown to him. He endeavours to imitate those speaking the language he is learning; and they correct any of his noticeable divergences from their own speech.

Gradually, the new language census to be felt as new; the use of the proper sounds und inflexions becomes more and more automatic; he is no longer obliged first to formulate in his native’ language what he wishes to say, or to translate back into it what is said to him. Very frequently, the acquired language so becomes part and parcel of him that he involuntarily thinks in it and finds it affecting his original speech; he may even come to speak his native language with difficulty or may forget it entirely, although in the latter case, since it is retained subconsciously, it can be regained with comparative ease.

The influence of speech on thought is very great; and it seems safe to say that any novel idea remains more or less vague in the thinker’s mind until it has been expressed, whether to himself or to others, in speech either uttered or internal. If one can pursue a complicated train of reasoning without conscious speech, or if an idea suddenly flashes on the mind in finished form apparently with no previous thought on the matter, this must be because both the subject of that reasoning and the methods of ratiocination are so familiar that they have become automatic and quasi-instinctive to the thinker. If, on the other hand, the matter is really new to the thinker, he may feel obliged to formulate it in speech. either mental or oral, even though he have no auditor.

If this be true of all complex and highly abstract ratiocination, as any close observer may see from considering his own mental and linguistic processes, even the simplest phrases, now become quasi-automatic, must once have been preceded first by a general concept, and then by a careful verbal formulation. Many words and phrases constantly used may become so conventional that they automatically evoke conventional responses, sometimes with awkward results if the circumstances are not equally conventional.

If reflective thought is conditioned by language, and is largely dependent upon it, do we think in speech ? Scarcely at first. The initial form of a thought seems to be vague and nebulous; it is then mentally phrased in somewhat indefinite shape; only as it becomes necessary so to clarify the thought that its content shall be unmistakable does speech itself come into play. It is for this reason that in oral formulation of a complex thought a speaker will frequently hesitate for ‘ just the right word ’. The same conditions are seen very clearly in translating from one language into another; the concept common to both languages involved is grasped, and then the phraseology peculiar to the one is completely transformed into that characteristic of the other, a process which, with sufficient practice, becomes quasi-automatic. In sum, the more complicated the thought, the greater the need of exact expression in speech.

There are two broad types of language, one vocal and audible fexophasic), and the other non-vocal and inaudible (endophagic). Endophagic speech, in turn, is of two kinds: conscious, when one silently formulates words and phrases in one’s mind; and subconscious, when such formulation is quasi-automatic. Observation both of the child and of an adult learning a new language strongly suggests that endophasia, at first conscious and then subconscious, precedes cxophasia, as is shown by unexpected utterances of words and phrases which a casual observer would suppose unnoticed or forgotten by the speaker, or even unknown to him.

It would likewise seem that subconscious endophasia is closely connected with linguistic memory, i.e., the great mass of one’s vocabulary is stored up in memory, whence the words and phrases required arc evoked by the stimulus of concept and translated either into conscious endophasia or, at least apparently, directly into exophase. Conscious endophasia seems strictly necessary solely when the matter requiring formulation is really new to the thinker. That reading involves endophasia is clear from the fact that those who read with difficulty often move their vocal organs to form the words read, but without utterance, i.e., without exophasia; in the case of those who read with ease, endophasia doubtless also exists, though with them it is subconscious.

The development of thought and the evolution of concepts as reflected in language are vividly illustrated by the changing meanings of many words of high value for the history of civilisation (cf. pp. 10-11). As example* of this we may take two sets of terms in the Indo-European languages, one denoting a spiritual concept of supreme importance, and the other a material object of absolute necessity. If one speaks or reads French or consults a French dictionary, one finds that the word for ‘ God ‘ is Die it, and that the one for ‘ house ’ is maison. So far as the linguistic consciousness of the speaker of either French or English is concerned, this is perfectly correct; but the question arises whether, by examining the history of the various terms for ‘ God ’ and ‘ house ’ throughout Indo-European, we can determine their original meanings and thus know what ideas they primarily conveyed to those who spoke and heard them.

by Abdullah Sam
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