22nd Mar 2010Posted in: Linguistics, Philosophy, Research 3
The Relationship between Language and Thought


The connection between language and thought is profound. The majority of our everyday life involves the use of language. We tell our ideas to others with language, we “read” their responses and understand their meanings with language, and very often, we “speak” internally to ourselves when we process this information and make logical conclusions. It seems that rational thinking unavoidably involves certain degree of the use of language. This connection seems so tight that, some linguists like Sapir and Whorf had to propose that thought is indeed utterly determined by language.

On the other hand, some linguists hold that language and thought are two separate and independent entities. The differences in the syntactic structure and the lexicons available in different languages, for example, cannot possibly determine the way these people think. Thus we have thought in the very first place, and then language came in as a tool for expressing our thought.

Still some others, not feeling contented with either version, proposed a third possibility, that language and thought are interdependent. “Language is a regular part of the process of thinking… It is not a question of one notion taking precedence over the other, but of both notions being essential.”

While the conclusion on this issue is not a simple this-or-that answer and cannot be easily drawn, this paper will nevertheless try to provide adequate evidences in linguistic and psycholinguistic studies and seek for a reasonable conclusion.

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3 Responses

  1. John Doe says:

    It is interesting to note that this very topic was addressed (in passing) in the Jewish Chassidc classic, “The Tanya”, published (in Hebrew) a little more than 200 years ago:

    “But the ten attributes — Chochmah, Binah, Daat, and so on, are the root and source of thought and, before being clothed in the garment of thought, they as yet lack the element of letters”.

    The letters are formed only when one applies his thoughts to a particular idea or a feeling, as explained further.

    Since the intellectual and emotional soul-powers are so subtle and amorphous that they cannot be defined even in terms of the spiritual thought-letters, they are obviously of an altogether different, more spiritual, order than thought, and the spoken word is surely without value in comparison to them. What follows is a description of the process whereby the letters of thought are formed.

  2. Musab Ali says:

    The very strong connection between language & thought appears when we dream for instance our dream would come in a form of language ,the language that is most dominant in order to express our thought

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