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The Relationship Between Language and Thinking: Can Thoughts Exist Without Language?

Written by Dila Kurbanoglu


Language is so deeply ingrained in our daily lives that it is nearly impossible to fathom a world without it. As a result, we begin to wonder if we would still be able to think without language. Can language determine how we think? Understanding this multifaceted relationship between language and thinking and whether or not thought is dependent on language has been an important area of research for psychologists, philosophers, and linguists. In this essay, we will look into the intricate connection between the two in more detail, ascertaining the extent to which language affects our sentiments, thoughts, decisions, and perception of the world. (Okrent, 2013)


Even though we are able to experience sentiments like pain without language, understanding the concept of "pain" through the usage of language changes our thinking process. Language can form and affect how we view the world, including events, memories, and emotions, in this case, pain, by creating terminology and concepts based on these experiences. People who speak a language with words that can't be translated into other languages have distinct mental processes. (Li, 2022) The Portuguese word saudade, which cannot be translated into English, refers to the feeling of longing or yearning for something that has already passed or never existed. Although English speakers may experience this emotion, their perception of this circumstance may differ from Portuguese speakers as they lack a phrase for it. Or speakers of languages without separate words for the past, present, and future tenses may experience time differently than people who speak languages with these distinctions. These instances occur because the language we use can affect how we classify and arrange our experiences, emotions, and memories.

Furthermore, language also influences our decision-making process. The decisions we make and the way we weigh our options can be influenced by the words and phrases we use. People are more inclined to select a choice when it is phrased positively, like "improved," rather than negatively, like "reduced." This occurs because using positive words causes our brain's pleasure regions to fire, which might make a choice seem more tempting, altering our thoughts.


As stated previously, the relationship between language and thinking is a complex one. Although it is possible for thinking to exist in a nonlinguistic form, language plays a vital role in influencing our thoughts by allowing us to engage in critical thinking and discussion, increasing our knowledge and understanding, and changing our view of the world and conscience. If we have a greater knowledge of how language shapes our thoughts, we can become more aware of how it does and make more rational decisions.



References:
  1. Learning, L. (n.d.). Introduction to psychology. Lumen. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/waymaker-psychology/chapter/reading-language-and-thought/

  2. Okrent, A. (2013, May 23). Is it possible to think without language? Mental Floss. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/50684/it-possible-think-without-language

  3. Pryor, J. (2022, May 31). Can we think without language? MIT McGovern Institute. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://mcgovern.mit.edu/2019/05/02/ask-the-brain-can-we-think-without-language/

  4. Rescorla, M. (2019, May 28). The language of thought hypothesis. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/language-thought/

  5. Thompson, J. (2022, June 19). Can we think without using language? LiveScience. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://www.livescience.com/can-we-think-without-language

  6. University, K. (2020, May 5). The bases of the mind:the relationship of language and thought. Medium. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://medium.com/kocuniversity/the-bases-of-the-mind-the-relationship-of-language-and-thought-a0bf30375528

  7. Ziafar, Meisam & Namaziandost, Ehsan. (2019). Language and Thought, Which one comes First? Thought with or without Language. Saudi Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from 04. 10.36348/sjhss.2019.v04i12.005.

  8. Li, Jing. (2022). Relationship Between Language and Thought: Linguistic Determinism, Independence, or Interaction?. Journal of Contemporary Educational Research. 6. 32-37. Retrieved January 8, 2023, from 10.26689/jcer.v6i5.3926.


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