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Which do you think comes first: language or thought?

Does language stem from thought? Or does it enable thought?
I've always been quite undecided about this one - convince me ;)



Thought, most suerelly... My dog most surelly does not speak and yet she thinks and even dream (she barks while sleeping sometimes). A thought can be formed by images. Anyways, we have to decide what you define as language. Do you mean spoken language? 

Anyways, a language is a mean through wich you can define and comunicate your thoughts and is primarily formed as a thought, so it is a subproduct.


Thought comes first, language is an expression of those thoughts.

I think they are two different things. Thought is how you view and how you feel about people and things, depending on your experience. And language is a tool for communication, to express your view and feeling. When I did bad presentation in our group, my supervisor always told me to improve my knowledge and understanding about my topic, but not my English. He believes that it is the thought, not the language, that decides the quality of a talk.

But of cause, language does restrict us, to some extent, in expressing our thoughts. I'm still in an itermediate phase of English studying. I often encounter a situation when I ask myself: "How to say it in English?". Then I could not 100% focus on the thought. So we do need to improve our language, so as not to slow down our thought.


When you're alone, you don't think in words. You only 'convert' your thoughts into speech when you need to communicate.

To me this raises the questions: Is perception the same as thought. And, if these things do not originate at the same time, do you mean within the development of a single individual or the development of a species. (although, as we know, evolution is not a progression, it is a continual series of adaptations...)

The thought bubbles in comic books imply that they are at least in co-existence. 

Just so you know, this has long been (and still is) debated by philosophers and like every philosophy question it has no real right or wrong answer. (Though apparently we have a lot of Piaget followers around here.)

Francisco, I mean actual language like we have. Communication between animals can never quite compare to our human languages. Plants can communicate too, does that mean they think? I doubt it.

Feral children (who were never taught any language) have very limited cognitive abilities. Same goes for deaf people who were never taught sign language. You won't find any functional human beings (similar cognitively to us) who do not have language.

I doubt thought can exist completely independently from language. I would say they go hand in hand. There's no proof that babies have actual thought - though of course they experience things, are capable of perception, of responding to stimuli, etc. Alex, in my opinion none of this indicates actual thought.

Old Piaget was a Swiss philosopher, among other things. He's known for studying and developing his own theory about cognitive development in children. Anyhow, he was of the opinion that thought precedes language and that language is just one of the ways we have of expressing our own thoughts.

Jmat: We do think in words...Haven't you seen the popular "what language do you think in" questions on here? (Again, I mean actual elaborate thought.) Could concepts/ideas even exist without language? Could we grasp them? I mean you could write 10 page essays on the topic -...some do-, it's hard to explain in a paragraph.

Yes, but perhaps some animals did not evolve the same language capabilities as us. Therefore, their congnitive development is not as tied to language development. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Some animals species do of course employ language. Cats, insects (in a more sophisticated manner than cats), whales, various primate species, maybe pretty much all species during mating rituals.

I say cats because I live with four domestic cats and always observe them. Their prey species also communicate. I can hear squirrels warning each other when one of the cats in nearby. rah rah rah rah rah.

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