Jump to content
The Corroboree
seanimus

What language do you think in?

Recommended Posts

G'day all I was on the thought bowl a wee time back and I got to tkinking what language do we think in?

As in if we mainly speak English do only think in English and if so do we restrict our capabilities of communication and limit our all round thinking abilities? Are we able to move beyond this and is this maybe the next stage of evolution or is just another man made limitation and we already have the ability to think and function with a broader range than just the language/s we think in?

Just something for you to ponder, but what language are you pondering it in?:scratchhead:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I'm getting you right, I hear the words in my head in English. Though everytime after watching a movie with continuous accents (eg Trainspotting) I'll be thinking in that accent for the next few days at least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

when i was at high school and had been learning german for three years i once had the bizarre experience of a dream in german where my thoughts and the conversation i was having were in german. it was a short dream and i woke up after still knowing what i had been taking about.

now my german is pretty crap and i cant remember much but it got me thinking any way.

a russian friend of ours also has told me about when he is speaking russian and thinking in russian he thinks of himself as a quite different person compared to when speaking and thinking in english.

Edited by bogfrog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I'm getting you right, I hear the words in my head in English. Though everytime after watching a movie with continuous accents (eg Trainspotting) I'll be thinking in that accent for the next few days at least.

maybe how accents start?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i am autistic, i do not think in any language

i just translate my thoughts into language when i need to

i think in waves, sort of, it is like a machine

senses go into it, stimulus etc, then it processes and references

if i have to explain, speak or write i do so in language, but my thoughts contain information like a whole paragraph at once and translating them into words is somewhat tedious

i find the concept of thinking with a spoken language to be strange and limiting

it is like using a super-computer to count or do simple math, or like trying to see the sky by only looking at a single star at a time

very odd

words are awkward and i am terrible with them

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually Archaea you're quite awesome with words, especially when explaining your thought processes on forum so don't be so hard on yourself.

If somebody as smart as you can make so much sense within your forum posts to someone as uneducated as myself then you must be doing something right.

I'm not trying to suck up to you, just stating the truth as I see/read it.

My nephew's autistic and is equally as impressive with his intelligent grasp of words and has also written a book.

(he's only 10)

p.s in answer to this most interesting question, I *think* in the language that I speak - English. But babies think too before they've learnt how to talk in any language so it'd be interesting to ever find out what language if any that they think in. Lol!

Interesting topic, thread starter. :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually Archaea you're quite awesome with words, especially when explaining your thought processes on forum

I agree. Actually I have a few good friend who are mildly autistic/aspergic, and more often that not, I feel like they are the only ones who really know what's going on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seanimus, I think in english and speak in english, I can speak some words/phrases in a few different languages but mostly my vocab is limited to swearing or counting to ten.

I have a friend who grew up with french language but learned english remarkably well in the few years she was here, she told me that she thinks in english mostly when she's in Australia and speaking english, but when back home she thinks in french because she is speaking french. Otherwise things get to confusing, so she says. I'll have to ask her what she mostly dreams in. I would guess french.

Edited by Alice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we think in something that is not language and then interpret those "thoughts" to ourselves in the language we are most comfortable with. The time delay is so small we don't notice... in a similar way that our brains/eyes/visual and sensory system "fill in" reality, we often have no idea what we are "really" thinking because an interpretation of our thoughts is overlaid on top of a more neutral instinctive way of apprehending our world. That being said in a conventional way I also think in English but I have found when studying spanish recently that cross-over occurs and it is fascinating the whole "language we think and dream in" question and the creation of language more generally.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Humans communicate with one another using a dazzling array of languages, each differing from the next in innumerable ways. Do the languages we speak shape the way we see the world, the way we think, and the way we live our lives? Do people who speak different languages think differently simply because they speak different languages? Does learning new languages change the way you think? Do polyglots think differently when speaking different languages?

These questions touch on nearly all of the major controversies in the study of mind. They have engaged scores of philosophers, anthropologists, linguists, and psychologists, and they have important implications for politics, law, and religion. Yet despite nearly constant attention and debate, very little empirical work was done on these questions until recently. For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.

I often start my undergraduate lectures by asking students the following question: which cognitive faculty would you most hate to lose? Most of them pick the sense of sight; a few pick hearing. Once in a while, a wisecracking student might pick her sense of humor or her fashion sense. Almost never do any of them spontaneously say that the faculty they'd most hate to lose is language. Yet if you lose (or are born without) your sight or hearing, you can still have a wonderfully rich social existence. You can have friends, you can get an education, you can hold a job, you can start a family. But what would your life be like if you had never learned a language? Could you still have friends, get an education, hold a job, start a family? Language is so fundamental to our experience, so deeply a part of being human, that it's hard to imagine life without it. But are languages merely tools for expressing our thoughts, or do they actually shape our thoughts?

Most questions of whether and how language shapes thought start with the simple observation that languages differ from one another. And a lot! Let's take a (very) hypothetical example. Suppose you want to say, "Bush read Chomsky's latest book." Let's focus on just the verb, "read." To say this sentence in English, we have to mark the verb for tense; in this case, we have to pronounce it like "red" and not like "reed." In Indonesian you need not (in fact, you can't) alter the verb to mark tense. In Russian you would have to alter the verb to indicate tense and gender. So if it was Laura Bush who did the reading, you'd use a different form of the verb than if it was George. In Russian you'd also have to include in the verb information about completion. If George read only part of the book, you'd use a different form of the verb than if he'd diligently plowed through the whole thing. In Turkish you'd have to include in the verb how you acquired this information: if you had witnessed this unlikely event with your own two eyes, you'd use one verb form, but if you had simply read or heard about it, or inferred it from something Bush said, you'd use a different verb form.

Clearly, languages require different things of their speakers. Does this mean that the speakers think differently about the world? Do English, Indonesian, Russian, and Turkish speakers end up attending to, partitioning, and remembering their experiences differently just because they speak different languages? For some scholars, the answer to these questions has been an obvious yes. Just look at the way people talk, they might say. Certainly, speakers of different languages must attend to and encode strikingly different aspects of the world just so they can use their language properly.

Scholars on the other side of the debate don't find the differences in how people talk convincing. All our linguistic utterances are sparse, encoding only a small part of the information we have available. Just because English speakers don't include the same information in their verbs that Russian and Turkish speakers do doesn't mean that English speakers aren't paying attention to the same things; all it means is that they're not talking about them. It's possible that everyone thinks the same way, notices the same things, but just talks differently.

Believers in cross-linguistic differences counter that everyone does not pay attention to the same things: if everyone did, one might think it would be easy to learn to speak other languages. Unfortunately, learning a new language (especially one not closely related to those you know) is never easy; it seems to require paying attention to a new set of distinctions. Whether it's distinguishing modes of being in Spanish, evidentiality in Turkish, or aspect in Russian, learning to speak these languages requires something more than just learning vocabulary: it requires paying attention to the right things in the world so that you have the correct information to include in what you say.

Such a priori arguments about whether or not language shapes thought have gone in circles for centuries, with some arguing that it's impossible for language to shape thought and others arguing that it's impossible for language not to shape thought. Recently my group and others have figured out ways to empirically test some of the key questions in this ancient debate, with fascinating results. So instead of arguing about what must be true or what can't be true, let's find out what is true.

Follow me to Pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal community on the western edge of Cape York, in northern Australia. I came here because of the way the locals, the Kuuk Thaayorre, talk about space. Instead of words like "right," "left," "forward," and "back," which, as commonly used in English, define space relative to an observer, the Kuuk Thaayorre, like many other Aboriginal groups, use cardinal-direction terms — north, south, east, and west — to define space.1 This is done at all scales, which means you have to say things like "There's an ant on your southeast leg" or "Move the cup to the north northwest a little bit." One obvious consequence of speaking such a language is that you have to stay oriented at all times, or else you cannot speak properly. The normal greeting in Kuuk Thaayorre is "Where are you going?" and the answer should be something like " Southsoutheast, in the middle distance." If you don't know which way you're facing, you can't even get past "Hello."

The result is a profound difference in navigational ability and spatial knowledge between speakers of languages that rely primarily on absolute reference frames (like Kuuk Thaayorre) and languages that rely on relative reference frames (like English).2 Simply put, speakers of languages like Kuuk Thaayorre are much better than English speakers at staying oriented and keeping track of where they are, even in unfamiliar landscapes or inside unfamiliar buildings. What enables them — in fact, forces them — to do this is their language. Having their attention trained in this way equips them to perform navigational feats once thought beyond human capabilities. Because space is such a fundamental domain of thought, differences in how people think about space don't end there. People rely on their spatial knowledge to build other, more complex, more abstract representations. Representations of such things as time, number, musical pitch, kinship relations, morality, and emotions have been shown to depend on how we think about space. So if the Kuuk Thaayorre think differently about space, do they also think differently about other things, like time? This is what my collaborator Alice Gaby and I came to Pormpuraaw to find out.

To test this idea, we gave people sets of pictures that showed some kind of temporal progression (e.g., pictures of a man aging, or a crocodile growing, or a banana being eaten). Their job was to arrange the shuffled photos on the ground to show the correct temporal order. We tested each person in two separate sittings, each time facing in a different cardinal direction. If you ask English speakers to do this, they'll arrange the cards so that time proceeds from left to right. Hebrew speakers will tend to lay out the cards from right to left, showing that writing direction in a language plays a role.3 So what about folks like the Kuuk Thaayorre, who don't use words like "left" and "right"? What will they do?

The Kuuk Thaayorre did not arrange the cards more often from left to right than from right to left, nor more toward or away from the body. But their arrangements were not random: there was a pattern, just a different one from that of English speakers. Instead of arranging time from left to right, they arranged it from east to west. That is, when they were seated facing south, the cards went left to right. When they faced north, the cards went from right to left. When they faced east, the cards came toward the body and so on. This was true even though we never told any of our subjects which direction they faced. The Kuuk Thaayorre not only knew that already (usually much better than I did), but they also spontaneously used this spatial orientation to construct their representations of time.

People's ideas of time differ across languages in other ways. For example, English speakers tend to talk about time using horizontal spatial metaphors (e.g., "The best is ahead of us," "The worst is behind us"), whereas Mandarin speakers have a vertical metaphor for time (e.g., the next month is the "down month" and the last month is the "up month"). Mandarin speakers talk about time vertically more often than English speakers do, so do Mandarin speakers think about time vertically more often than English speakers do? Imagine this simple experiment. I stand next to you, point to a spot in space directly in front of you, and tell you, "This spot, here, is today. Where would you put yesterday? And where would you put tomorrow?" When English speakers are asked to do this, they nearly always point horizontally. But Mandarin speakers often point vertically, about seven or eight times more often than do English speakers.4

Even basic aspects of time perception can be affected by language. For example, English speakers prefer to talk about duration in terms of length (e.g., "That was a short talk," "The meeting didn't take long"), while Spanish and Greek speakers prefer to talk about time in terms of amount, relying more on words like "much" "big", and "little" rather than "short" and "long" Our research into such basic cognitive abilities as estimating duration shows that speakers of different languages differ in ways predicted by the patterns of metaphors in their language. (For example, when asked to estimate duration, English speakers are more likely to be confused by distance information, estimating that a line of greater length remains on the test screen for a longer period of time, whereas Greek speakers are more likely to be confused by amount, estimating that a container that is fuller remains longer on the screen.)5

An important question at this point is: Are these differences caused by language per se or by some other aspect of culture? Of course, the lives of English, Mandarin, Greek, Spanish, and Kuuk Thaayorre speakers differ in a myriad of ways. How do we know that it is language itself that creates these differences in thought and not some other aspect of their respective cultures?

One way to answer this question is to teach people new ways of talking and see if that changes the way they think. In our lab, we've taught English speakers different ways of talking about time. In one such study, English speakers were taught to use size metaphors (as in Greek) to describe duration (e.g., a movie is larger than a sneeze), or vertical metaphors (as in Mandarin) to describe event order. Once the English speakers had learned to talk about time in these new ways, their cognitive performance began to resemble that of Greek or Mandarin speakers. This suggests that patterns in a language can indeed play a causal role in constructing how we think.6 In practical terms, it means that when you're learning a new language, you're not simply learning a new way of talking, you are also inadvertently learning a new way of thinking. Beyond abstract or complex domains of thought like space and time, languages also meddle in basic aspects of visual perception — our ability to distinguish colors, for example. Different languages divide up the color continuum differently: some make many more distinctions between colors than others, and the boundaries often don't line up across languages.

To test whether differences in color language lead to differences in color perception, we compared Russian and English speakers' ability to discriminate shades of blue. In Russian there is no single word that covers all the colors that English speakers call "blue." Russian makes an obligatory distinction between light blue (goluboy) and dark blue (siniy). Does this distinction mean that siniy blues look more different from goluboy blues to Russian speakers? Indeed, the data say yes. Russian speakers are quicker to distinguish two shades of blue that are called by the different names in Russian (i.e., one being siniy and the other being goluboy) than if the two fall into the same category.

For English speakers, all these shades are still designated by the same word, "blue," and there are no comparable differences in reaction time.

Further, the Russian advantage disappears when subjects are asked to perform a verbal interference task (reciting a string of digits) while making color judgments but not when they're asked to perform an equally difficult spatial interference task (keeping a novel visual pattern in memory). The disappearance of the advantage when performing a verbal task shows that language is normally involved in even surprisingly basic perceptual judgments — and that it is language per se that creates this difference in perception between Russian and English speakers.

When Russian speakers are blocked from their normal access to language by a verbal interference task, the differences between Russian and English speakers disappear.

Even what might be deemed frivolous aspects of language can have far-reaching subconscious effects on how we see the world. Take grammatical gender. In Spanish and other Romance languages, nouns are either masculine or feminine. In many other languages, nouns are divided into many more genders ("gender" in this context meaning class or kind). For example, some Australian Aboriginal languages have up to sixteen genders, including classes of hunting weapons, canines, things that are shiny, or, in the phrase made famous by cognitive linguist George Lakoff, "women, fire, and dangerous things."

What it means for a language to have grammatical gender is that words belonging to different genders get treated differently grammatically and words belonging to the same grammatical gender get treated the same grammatically. Languages can require speakers to change pronouns, adjective and verb endings, possessives, numerals, and so on, depending on the noun's gender. For example, to say something like "my chair was old" in Russian (moy stul bil' stariy), you'd need to make every word in the sentence agree in gender with "chair" (stul), which is masculine in Russian. So you'd use the masculine form of "my," "was," and "old." These are the same forms you'd use in speaking of a biological male, as in "my grandfather was old." If, instead of speaking of a chair, you were speaking of a bed (krovat'), which is feminine in Russian, or about your grandmother, you would use the feminine form of "my," "was," and "old."

Does treating chairs as masculine and beds as feminine in the grammar make Russian speakers think of chairs as being more like men and beds as more like women in some way? It turns out that it does. In one study, we asked German and Spanish speakers to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a "key" — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — the German speakers were more likely to use words like "hard," "heavy," "jagged," "metal," "serrated," and "useful," whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say "golden," "intricate," "little," "lovely," "shiny," and "tiny." To describe a "bridge," which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said "beautiful," "elegant," "fragile," "peaceful," "pretty," and "slender," and the Spanish speakers said "big," "dangerous," "long," "strong," "sturdy," and "towering." This was true even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender. The same pattern of results also emerged in entirely nonlinguistic tasks (e.g., rating similarity between pictures). And we can also show that it is aspects of language per se that shape how people think: teaching English speakers new grammatical gender systems influences mental representations of objects in the same way it does with German and Spanish speakers. Apparently even small flukes of grammar, like the seemingly arbitrary assignment of gender to a noun, can have an effect on people's ideas of concrete objects in the world.7

In fact, you don't even need to go into the lab to see these effects of language; you can see them with your own eyes in an art gallery. Look at some famous examples of personification in art — the ways in which abstract entities such as death, sin, victory, or time are given human form. How does an artist decide whether death, say, or time should be painted as a man or a woman? It turns out that in 85 percent of such personifications, whether a male or female figure is chosen is predicted by the grammatical gender of the word in the artist's native language. So, for example, German painters are more likely to paint death as a man, whereas Russian painters are more likely to paint death as a woman.

The fact that even quirks of grammar, such as grammatical gender, can affect our thinking is profound. Such quirks are pervasive in language; gender, for example, applies to all nouns, which means that it is affecting how people think about anything that can be designated by a noun. That's a lot of stuff!

I have described how languages shape the way we think about space, time, colors, and objects. Other studies have found effects of language on how people construe events, reason about causality, keep track of number, understand material substance, perceive and experience emotion, reason about other people's minds, choose to take risks, and even in the way they choose professions and spouses.8 Taken together, these results show that linguistic processes are pervasive in most fundamental domains of thought, unconsciously shaping us from the nuts and bolts of cognition and perception to our loftiest abstract notions and major life decisions. Language is central to our experience of being human, and the languages we speak profoundly shape the way we think, the way we see the world, the way we live our lives.

__

NOTES

1 S. C. Levinson and D. P. Wilkins, eds., Grammars of Space: Explorations in Cognitive Diversity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

2 Levinson, Space in Language and Cognition: Explorations in Cognitive Diversity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

3 B. Tversky et al., “ Cross-Cultural and Developmental Trends in Graphic Productions,” Cognitive Psychology 23(1991): 515–7; O. Fuhrman and L. Boroditsky, “Mental Time-Lines Follow Writing Direction: Comparing English and Hebrew Speakers.” Proceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (2007): 1007–10.

4 L. Boroditsky, "Do English and Mandarin Speakers Think Differently About Time?" Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society (2007): 34.

5 D. Casasanto et al., "How Deep Are Effects of Language on Thought? Time Estimation in Speakers of English, Indonesian Greek, and Spanish," Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (2004): 575–80.

6 Ibid., "How Deep Are Effects of Language on Thought? Time Estimation in Speakers of English and Greek" (in review); L. Boroditsky, "Does Language Shape Thought? English and Mandarin Speakers' Conceptions of Time." Cognitive Psychology 43, no. 1(2001): 1–22.

7 L. Boroditsky et al. "Sex, Syntax, and Semantics," in D. Gentner and S. Goldin-Meadow, eds., Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Cognition (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 61–79.

8 L. Boroditsky, "Linguistic Relativity," in L. Nadel ed., Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (London: MacMillan, 2003), 917–21; B. W. Pelham et al., "Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82, no. 4(2002): 469–86; A. Tversky & D. Kahneman, "The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice." Science 211(1981): 453–58; P. Pica et al., "Exact and Approximate Arithmetic in an Amazonian Indigene Group." Science 306(2004): 499–503; J. G. de Villiers and P. A. de Villiers, "Linguistic Determinism and False Belief," in P. Mitchell and K. Riggs, eds., Children's Reasoning and the Mind (Hove, UK: Psychology Press, in press); J. A. Lucy and S. Gaskins, "Interaction of Language Type and Referent Type in the Development of Nonverbal Classification Preferences," in Gentner and Goldin-Meadow, 465–92; L. F. Barrett et al., "Language as a Context for Emotion Perception," Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11(2007): 327–32.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/boroditsky09/boroditsky09_index.html

Edited by qualia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

fascinating just how intrinsically linked language and our perceptions are.

as far as how i think, it depends on what i'm thinking about. every day stuff yeah, english, it's the only language i speak, but if i'm working on some engineering problems or what have you actual language takes a back seat and i'll think in pictures, graphs, lines, numbers etc. when im listening to music mostly i envisage textures, colours etc. i think to actually conjure words mentally is fairly limiting, it takes a long time to form a sentence in your head and mentally verbalise it, quicker to form a picture, for me anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we think in something that is not language and then interpret those "thoughts" to ourselves in the language we are most comfortable with. The time delay is so small we don't notice... in a similar way that our brains/eyes/visual and sensory system "fill in" reality, we often have no idea what we are "really" thinking because an interpretation of our thoughts is overlaid on top of a more neutral instinctive way of apprehending our world.

micromegas hit the bulls-eye for me with his post. the bulk of the mind is above language and beneath it, and those deeper, wider thought process hint at their existence when you are dozing off or when you just think yourself into a thinking trance. from captured glimpses i have come to think that this elusive mode of the mind (when the underlying thoughts are experienced without a filter) is thoroughly integrated or holistic. i can almost believe it could single-handedly produce the experience of tripping.

i "think" in english, although often my mind is just replaying a song (quite accurately too, i wonder how much that varies since some people are clearly a bit deficit with rhythms and pitch). for a couple of months i had an infuriating meaningless language of ten or twenty words stuck in my thoughts. i'd just be going around thinking 'skaberpin lerp scabalerpin' like that, was severe, explain that for me.

i think i exhibit very mild autism, but although i am much more like a non-autist, that little bit of autism seems to cause an amazing cognitive boost. the further i go back into my childhood, the more pronounced it was, so i have adapted to be a more average person and in many ways my intelligence is diminished, but in other ways being average is also a cognitive boon. i clearly remember doing maths visually in my head using robust symbols, now, because i learned arithmetic that way (and i was good at it too), i can no longer work out simple maths problems in a systematic way, you could say i'm appalling at maths now. my mind just flounders towards the answer, relying on the withered scraps of former abilities. i could go on and on with other stories and examples but it must be quite boring to others.

i am amazed at how quickly and smoothly most people converse, expressing themselves vocally seems to be a straight-forward and instant process. this is apparent because i nearly always have to think before i speak, and often this almost seems to be beyond the comprehension of others, it's as though they think i don't intend to respond since my response didn't come shooting straight back at them. i read an article a few years back about some idea that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is exactly this. the extrovert (at least in conversation i guess) has a slim, efficient thought process, which must be handy. they must store jokes and amusing shit-talk with nice spaces between them in the best part of their brain where it's all a millisecond away. introverts have a slower, more thorough thought process. to me that's an insufficient explanation but it's part of one.

Edited by ThunderIdeal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I grew up speaking and thinking german. After 2 years in australia [18 months at boarding school where I was immersed in english 24/7] I started to frequently dream in english and that's also when I started to think mostly in english. Now I almost exclusively think in english. I even think in english when I speak german, which makes my german pretty crap. Weirdly enough I sometimes think in german and then also speak german - usually when I am suppsoed to be speaking english. It's usually the beginning of a conversation and I usually catch myself after the first couple of words, but it does happen about once a month.

I also for some reason prefer to count low numbers in german, but not 1,2 and 3. If it looks like I will be going beyond 10 I sometimes change to german at 4 or 5 and then usually catch myself at 12 and revert back to english by 13. I think it has something to do with eleven being a two syllable word in english and a single syllable word in german. Confuses the hell out of me when I have to go from silent count to counting out loud.

I spent 6 months in europe a while ago and assumed I'd be thinking in german again, but mostly didn't. Just occasionally. I also never dreamt in german again. It obviously takes more than 6 months to revert.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

eleven is a three syllable word, although when i'm counting quickly aloud to myself it tends to go something like "six sevn eight nine ten leven twelve thirn fourn fifn". it would be great if syllables were considered. change seven to sen, then go teen-one, teen-two, teen-three etc, from twenty on drop the ty and do something like two'n, three'n... from a hundred there is no need for and 'hund, hund one, hund two" :) you gotta wonder if all the small issues like this and other larger problems will be systematically ironed out for the super language of the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i "think" in english, although often my mind is just replaying a song (quite accurately too, i wonder how much that varies since some people are clearly a bit deficit with rhythms and pitch). for a couple of months i had an infuriating meaningless language of ten or twenty words stuck in my thoughts. i'd just be going around thinking 'skaberpin lerp scabalerpin' like that, was severe, explain that for me.

i think i exhibit very mild autism, but although i am much more like a non-autist, that little bit of autism seems to cause an amazing cognitive boost. the further i go back into my childhood, the more pronounced it was, so i have adapted to be a more average person and in many ways my intelligence is diminished, but in other ways being average is also a cognitive boon. i clearly remember doing maths visually in my head using robust symbols, now, because i learned arithmetic that way (and i was good at it too), i can no longer work out simple maths problems in a systematic way, you could say i'm appalling at maths now. my mind just flounders towards the answer, relying on the withered scraps of former abilities. i could go on and on with other stories and examples but it must be quite boring to others.

micromegas hit the bulls-eye for me with his post. the bulk of the mind is above language and beneath it, and those deeper, wider thought process hint at their existence when you are dozing off or when you just think yourself into a thinking trance. from captured glimpses i have come to think that this elusive mode of the mind (when the underlying thoughts are experienced without a filter) is thoroughly integrated or holistic. i can almost believe it could single-handedly produce the experience of tripping.

Great thread

This stuff permeates through my daily existance. I speak Macedonian,Greek,Russian and Engrish. Everytime i listen to an incoming engrish

comment my response (almost always) goes through a quick translation through the 4 languages. Having said that, my partner says i speak in a combo of the four - especially when under the influence:) My mind, when inebriated.........speaks most fluently in Greek.

"elusive mode of the mind - thunder"

is where it's at.

i hope this makes sense

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

eleven is a three syllable word

Lol, yes. that's probably why I have a problem with eleven, but not with seven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i have pondered this question a number of times with different people. When speaking to people who speak two or more languages i ask the question; can the same sentence mean different things in different language. That is, does the language we think in/speak change meaning. I would say yes. Language has a restrictive effect. As Orwell posited in Brave New World if we do not have a word for it we cannot think it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was having a read before and came across this

A WORLD MADE OF LANGUAGE

The evidence gathered from millennia of shamanic experience argues that the world is actually made of language in some fashion. Although at odds with the expectations of modern science, this radical proposition is in agreement with much of current linguistic thinking.

"The twentieth-century linguistic revolution," says Boston University anthropologist Misia Landau, "is the recognition that language is not merely a device for communicating ideas about the world, but rather a tool for bringing the world into existence in the first place. Reality is not simply `experienced' or `reflected' in language, but instead is actually produced by language. "4

From the point of view of the psychedelic shaman, the world appears to be more in the nature of an utterance or a tale than in any way related to the leptons and baryons or charge and spin that our high priests, the physicists, speak of. For the shaman, the cosmos is a tale that becomes true as it is told, and as it tells itself. This perspective implies that human imagination can seize the tiller of being in the world. Freedom, personal responsibility, and a humbling awareness of the true size and intelligence of the world combine in this point of view to make it a fitting basis for living an authentic neo-Archaic life. A reverence for and an immersion in the powers of language and communication are the basis of the shamanic path.

This is why the shaman is the remote ancestor of the poet and artist. Our need to feel part of the world seems to demand that we express ourselves through creative activity. The ultimate wellsprings of this creativity are hidden in the mystery of language. Shamanic ecstasy is an act of surrender that authenticates both the individual self and that which is surrendered to, the mystery of being. Because our maps of reality are determined by our present circumstances, we tend to lose awareness of the larger patterns of time and space. Only by gaining access to the Transcendent Other can those patterns of time and space and our role in them be glimpsed. Shamanism strives for this higher point of view, which is achieved through a feat of linguistic prowess. A shaman is one who has attained a vision of the beginnings and the endings of all things and who can communicate that vision. To the rational thinker, this is inconceivable, yet

the techniques of shamanism are directed toward this end and this is the source of their power. Preeminent among the shaman's techniques is the use of the plant hallucinogens, repositories of living vegetable gnosis that lie, now nearly forgotten, in our ancient past.

By entering the domain of plant intelligence, the shaman becomes, in a way, privileged to a higher dimensional perspective on experience. Common sense assumes that, though languages are always evolving, the raw stuff of what language expresses is relatively constant and common to all humans. Yet we also know that the Hopi language has no past or future tenses or concepts. How, then, can the Hopi world be like ours? And the Inuit have no first-person pronoun. How, then, can their world be like ours?

The grammars of languages-their internal rules-have been carefully studied. Yet too little attention has been devoted to examining how language creates and defines the limits of reality. Perhaps language is more properly understood when thought of as magic, for it is the implicit position of magic that the world is made of language.

If language is accepted as the primary datum of knowing, then we in the West have been sadly misled. Only shamanic approaches will be able to give us answers to the questions we find most interesting: who are we, where did we come from, and toward what fate do we move? These questions have never been more important than today, when evidence of the failure of science to nurture the soul of humanity is everywhere around us. Ours is not merely temporary ennui of the spirit; if we are not careful, ours is a terminal condition of the collective body and spirit.

The rational, mechanistic, antispiritual bias of our own culture has made it impossible for us to appreciate the mind-set of the shaman. We are culturally and linguistically blind to the world of forces and interconnections clearly visible to those who have retained the Archaic relationship to nature.

Of course, when I arrived in the Amazon twenty years ago, I knew nothing of the above. Like most Westerners, I believed that magic was a phenomenon of the naive and the primitive, that science could provide an explanation for the workings of the world. In that position of intellectual naivete, I encountered psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, at San Augustine in the Alto Magdalena of southern Colombia. Later and not far away, in Florencia, I also encountered and used visionary brews made from Banisteriopsis vines, the yage or ayahuasca of 1960s underground legend.'

The experiences that I had during those travels were personally transforming and, more important, they introduced me to a class of experiences that is vital to the restoration of balance in our social and environmental worlds.

I have shared the group mind that is generated in the vision sessions of the ayahuasqueros. I have seen the magical darts of red light that one shaman can send against another. But more revelatory than the paranormal feats of gifted magicians and spiritual healers were the inner riches that I discovered within my own mind at the apex of these experiences. I offer my account as a kind of witness, an Everyman; if these experiences happened to me, then they can be part of the general experience of men and women everywhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that thought is developed through association, either sensory or emotional, then words are applied to express these assosiations with others giving the individual further ability to manipulate apparent associations through complex communication and social interaction. If we had no one to talk to I suspect we would be thinking in sensory and emotional associations. For example you picture a tree and associate it with the image of an apple, associate apple with the image of a seed, seed with seedling and seedling with tree. Or a bear may trigger an emotional reaction of fear as you have a visual recollection of being stalked by a wolf and maybe smell fresh blood. Watch a young child develop language and you will notice that it is all about association. These are daddies shoes, this is mummies bag, my toothbrush goes in the toothbrush holder, ect. These associations are what thoughts are scaffolded off to form language and as meek a stated, happens well before language is mastered.

Edit - time is also an important association, (past, present, future) to further contextulize, sensory and emotional thoughts.

Edited by rahli

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it may seem i am ok with words, english etc, but i feel very awkward with them and have a difficult time expressing myself

to me language is redundant, abstract and problematic

it is a symbol, and as such it is a construct

in life and reality there is no symbol or language, rather things are themselves, not representations or symbols of or for, just are

sort of like self, it doesn't exist, there is no "I" in me

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

cool thread. great post rahli.

i think in greek. thinking in greek doesn't mean word necessarily, but structuring in greek. in fact you 're not actually thinking like writting a text, so, there's quite a difference.

I started thinking german when I was in germany for some time, during this period I was thinking in german at first then english as it was easier for me and lots of people knew better english anyway and towards the end ended up thinking in greek most of the time, as I hanged around a greek girl I met there.

But for me it was very interesting at first,I was in berlin, I knew noone. It was the most natural thing to think in german to get to feel the place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is crazy, Seanimus. I was just thinking about this the other day. I caught myself thinking a lot in english whats pretty awkward for me because im german. I think most of the stuff in german but about 30% in english. And then, I sometimes think stuff twice. At first in german and then in english. Sometimes the opposite. I can definately understand why people who move abroad forget their language. Mine is pretty messed up already and im still here. :lol: bye Eg

Edited by Evil Genius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Kind of thinking????

For problem solving;

Images mostly I tend to chew on entire concepts I am very good at seeing interactions of minute details in large processes images do this much better than words.When i have to solve a problem I grow a map in my mind thats not only a image but its also something i feel it has density and texture if i could call it any thing i would call it the mana. Mostly though i try not to think as the world will get boring I can hardly watch dramas as i can usually write the plot line And almost tell you what character will act out next. I actually guessed the usual suspects suprise ending. Its also probably why i have a hard time keeping a job as i get board. Wish I could find my nitch any know what somone who makes great mental maps of interacting forces can get a job doing.

Back on topic.

For every day thinking;

English like if some one cuts me off i will clearly think that guys a dick in english. Or oh shit i need Toilet paper and salad dressing. comes through in english.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i think it has something to do with culture, the more you are involved/invested in that culture the more you will gravitate to the language.

grew up in oz but traveled for 6-7 years spending a lot of my time in israel. learnt to speak, read and write and then started to dream in hebrew which was a bizarre feeling after only speaking english my whole life. now i'm back in australia i'm stuffed though as i now speak a mix of both, even in the same sentence. people ask me questions i'll start to reply in hebrew before realizing they have no idea what i'm saying.

some words just fit better for certain things. that's what i find i do now, whichever is the best word and feels right my brain associates with it irrespective of the language.

Edited by eLwAd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only know English, so little contest there in the cases that I think in words. That only happens when I'm really trying to think something (with some oomph!) otherwise I will think in images, either still or flicking through many in sequence (kinda like a flip-book), impulses of emotion. On occasion I will think in a nonsense language, some form of gibberish, that somehow conveys the thoughts that I intended. That is a strange feeling though, don't know why it happens or how I understand it. Perhaps just on a whim.

My girlfriend, right now, is speaking in a mesh of gibberish and English as she reads from a book on international organisations. Not really sure what to make of that...

When asked for some input she says that she thinks in a mix of Spanish, English, and gibberish. She sometimes thinks in a made up version of German too apparently. Just makes up words that she doesn't know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×