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  • 5/5/2006

Thinking and Language (1)


We think thus we have language or opposite?”

“First. Was thinking then came language or opposite?”


The following theses about the relationship between language and thought can be found in both linguistically studies and analytical philosophy.

The common view of modern philosophy tends to identify thinking and language.

 The structure of language is said to be the inherent structure of our mind, of the way we think. That these assumptions are not only logically mendacious and inconsistent is discussed in the following refutation. There are mental domains in our mind that transcend the limitation of language. Higher forms of thinking do not apply linguistic structures but holistic patterns of thought that call ‘Hologemes.’ Common linguistic and analytical theses.

A. we can think only what we can express in language (by saying it)

B. Language = limitation for thinking

C. Thinking is bound to language

D. It is not possible to think without using language

E. Language = domain of truth


A. we can think only what we can express in language (by saying it)

This statement is based on wrong assumption: there was first language, and then thinking evolved. How could this hypothesis justify the genesis of language?

Why should language at all have come into existence, if there was nothing before it which could be used as incentive for expression? Men always had some vague ideas or inner feelings, which they wanted to communicate to their kin.

Language is only one mode of expression among many others, like gestures, body postures, emotions, etc.

These modes of expression are only instrumental to an inner process in man, namely, thinking or feeling. Although man did not possess from the very beginning clear concepts or ideas at all, he nevertheless had certain representations given to him through perception, which he processed with a yet crude tool (primitive mind). Spinoza, by a stroke of genius, described the evolution of the ratio as an evolution of acquiring and developing a more and more sophisticated tool, that is, our mind, by using and refining it. Therefore thesis A is wrong, because we can think everything we want, even though it may not be expressible in language. Sometimes we have clear ideas and an adequate understanding of something, but when told to explain it to others, we often fail to do so, because we’re not able to find the "right words", that is, we fail to adapt our ideas to the inherent limitations of the language. A good example is the experience of the mystics. Although they have an absolutely clear experience and knowledge in their mind, the language is inadequate and too restricted to become a vessel of expression of their most intimate and comprehensive experience or thinking. Ideas are much more complex than the simple components of a language. Although our vocabulary expands continuously, the single words are linked to a precise meaning or several different but yet clear meanings. Poets try to exploit the farthest edges of our language and to express what seems inexpressible. This kind of language is open to a vast degree of interpretation and could hardly be used to communicate in everyday life. It is an artistic expression of inner moments of personal experience. It is possible, through the intimations given in poetic language, to transcend the narrow boundaries of language and to reach the original experience or idea, the poet or philosopher or mystic tried to express through the available means of a language.

Ideas are the private good of everyone, but language is a public good that must be available to everyone, otherwise language would be useless.

 As the primary good of language lies in communication, it must obviously be limited to a certain range of concepts that are clearly defined by tradition and by a tacit contract amongst social beings.

Other links:

International Mother Language Day

What Language Does God Speak?

Language and Space


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