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How did the man before language think?





saratdear
Before language was invented, how did human beings even think? For example, even if you are dumb, you can have thoughts like "I am going to do so and so today", but before language was invented, he cannot do even that, because words such as 'I', 'doing' etc., didn't exist. As far as I can think, 'thinking' as we does today didn't exist for him/her.

The only possible explanation I can think is that they have instinctive thoughts like 'danger', 'pleasure' etc. without being to express what it is. (Like animals do... they do not have the gift of gab but they still get along, right?)

What are your thoughts on this?
Afaceinthematrix
How do infants think before they learn a language? My guess would be that if you don't think in a language, you can probably think with images, experience, and instincts. Those don't require any language.
ocalhoun
How do animals think?

And, if you really try, you can think in other ways than language. I can tell if I've been online too much in one day if I start thinking in text, for one thing.
One example many here are probably familiar with is different types of puzzles. For many types of puzzles (like jegsaw puzzles, or the type where you try to assemble some object out of oddly shaped pieces) you have to think using spatial relationships and pictures in order to do it easily.
Another example would be artists. A good artist, be it a dancer, painter, or composer, would more often think using the medium involved rather than with words.
takashiro
"Spoken Language" or "Body Language", which do you mean?
I guess humans had communicated with body language before spoken language was invented. However, before body language was invented.... maybe they didn't need to communicate at all. Otherwise, language could be invented immediately.
fx-trading-education
I think that language is more a way to express your thoughts. So it comes more after the thought rather than before or simultaneously.
I would say that the thought comes first without any "support" and then it is materialised using one support. Language is one support and images or just action are others. (by action I mean that would want to perform some action and you will perform it without having to say in your mind the sentence "I want to perform this action")
DoctorBeaver
We also have to be careful to differentiate between thought and instinct.

Before language, man would still have felt the need for food. He wouldn't have had a word for it, he would have just feel it. He would also have known that that particular feeling meant he must find food. Again, he wouldn't have thought the words "find food", he would just have known instinctively what to do.

Now, what happened in a group of prehistoric people if 1 of them was injured and felt hungry? He may not have been able to go find food for himself. Somehow he had to let the others in the group know. Sign language was the answer. He possibly pointed to his mouth, rubbed his tummy, made eating movements with his jaw, or whatever. There would still be no words, no verbal language - but sign language is a language nonetheless.

But surely, by the time man reached that stage, he would be thinking - although without words - that he had to inform the others he needed food. That thought surely must have preceded the concept of making signs to convey his need.

Thought is not much use without language, and language is not much use without thought. So, it seems to me that thinking and language probably developed in tandem as a response to the need to communicate with other members of the group.

Commonly, modern man thinks in language (according to such as Chomsky) not pictures; although this is not always the case. Autistic Savants can sometimes be an exception - Kevin Peet being an example. He is a genius at maths, but he doesn't think numbers. Instead he sees colours, and those colours coalesce and intermingle to give him the answers to incredibly complex maths in an extraordinarily short time.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language is a straight-jacket for thought. That could indeed be true. Many times, our thoughts or communications with others are stifled because we can't put our thoughts into words. Misunderstandings are commonplace. How much better would communication be if we could send pictures & emotions to others instead of having to use words?
DoctorBeaver
DoctorBeaver wrote:
We also have to be careful to differentiate between thought and instinct.

Before language, man would still have felt the need for food. He wouldn't have had a word for it, he would have just feel it. He would also have known that that particular feeling meant he must find food. Again, he wouldn't have thought the words "find food", he would just have known instinctively what to do.

Now, what happened in a group of prehistoric people if 1 of them was injured and felt hungry? He may not have been able to go find food for himself. Somehow he had to let the others in the group know. Sign language was the answer. He possibly pointed to his mouth, rubbed his tummy, made eating movements with his jaw, or whatever. There would still be no words, no verbal language - but sign language is a language nonetheless.

But surely, by the time man reached that stage, he would be thinking - although without words - that he had to inform the others he needed food. That thought surely must have preceded the concept of making signs to convey his need.

Thought is not much use without language, and language is not much use without thought. So, it seems to me that although thinking probably preceded language, it is likely that the two would have largely developed in tandem as a response to the need to communicate with other members of the group.

Commonly, modern man thinks in language (according to such as Chomsky) not pictures; although this is not always the case. Autistic Savants can sometimes be an exception - Kevin Peet being an example. He is a genius at maths, but he doesn't think numbers. Instead he sees colours, and those colours coalesce and intermingle to give him the answers to incredibly complex maths in an extraordinarily short time.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language is a straight-jacket for thought. That could indeed be true. Many times, our thoughts or communications with others are stifled because we can't put our thoughts into words. Misunderstandings are commonplace. How much better would communication be if we could send pictures & emotions to others instead of having to use words?
Bikerman
Doc,
why did you post that twice - once with quotes and one without?
As the resident 'plagiarism checker' I'm pretty sure that your original posting was original....
Dean_The_Great
There are occasions when I'm brainstorming that I am thinking about certain things too quickly to have words go around. Sometimes there are words, but a lot of the times there are pictures or video-esque things flowing around my brain. I suppose without language you'd think like that most/all of the time.
saratdear
After reading all the replies, I have this opinion :

The reason why we think in language, or words, even if we're trying to think in pictures is because we've been using it since childhood. We know language, and it is in our subconscious to use it to communicate or think. So, if you are a prehistoric man who doesn't know language, then, images and instinct might be the driving force behind communication, right?
fx-trading-education
DoctorBeaver wrote:
We also have to be careful to differentiate between thought and instinct.

Before language, man would still have felt the need for food. He wouldn't have had a word for it, he would have just feel it. He would also have known that that particular feeling meant he must find food. Again, he wouldn't have thought the words "find food", he would just have known instinctively what to do.

Now, what happened in a group of prehistoric people if 1 of them was injured and felt hungry? He may not have been able to go find food for himself. Somehow he had to let the others in the group know. Sign language was the answer. He possibly pointed to his mouth, rubbed his tummy, made eating movements with his jaw, or whatever. There would still be no words, no verbal language - but sign language is a language nonetheless.

But surely, by the time man reached that stage, he would be thinking - although without words - that he had to inform the others he needed food. That thought surely must have preceded the concept of making signs to convey his need.

Thought is not much use without language, and language is not much use without thought. So, it seems to me that thinking and language probably developed in tandem as a response to the need to communicate with other members of the group.

Commonly, modern man thinks in language (according to such as Chomsky) not pictures; although this is not always the case. Autistic Savants can sometimes be an exception - Kevin Peet being an example. He is a genius at maths, but he doesn't think numbers. Instead he sees colours, and those colours coalesce and intermingle to give him the answers to incredibly complex maths in an extraordinarily short time.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language is a straight-jacket for thought. That could indeed be true. Many times, our thoughts or communications with others are stifled because we can't put our thoughts into words. Misunderstandings are commonplace. How much better would communication be if we could send pictures & emotions to others instead of having to use words?


I am not convinced that thought and language go so much together as you described.
For instance let's take the case of the "wild child" (I mean a child left alone after he was born and grew in the forest with animals). Would you say that this boy has just animal instinct and not thought at all because he has no language?
In my opinion it is not the case.

Even if the extreme case that you would be born alone on this planet (and then with no language at all, not even sign or body language needed because no communication needed) you would have thoughts IMHO.
saratdear
fx-trading-education wrote:
DoctorBeaver wrote:
We also have to be careful to differentiate between thought and instinct.

Before language, man would still have felt the need for food. He wouldn't have had a word for it, he would have just feel it. He would also have known that that particular feeling meant he must find food. Again, he wouldn't have thought the words "find food", he would just have known instinctively what to do.

Now, what happened in a group of prehistoric people if 1 of them was injured and felt hungry? He may not have been able to go find food for himself. Somehow he had to let the others in the group know. Sign language was the answer. He possibly pointed to his mouth, rubbed his tummy, made eating movements with his jaw, or whatever. There would still be no words, no verbal language - but sign language is a language nonetheless.

But surely, by the time man reached that stage, he would be thinking - although without words - that he had to inform the others he needed food. That thought surely must have preceded the concept of making signs to convey his need.

Thought is not much use without language, and language is not much use without thought. So, it seems to me that thinking and language probably developed in tandem as a response to the need to communicate with other members of the group.

Commonly, modern man thinks in language (according to such as Chomsky) not pictures; although this is not always the case. Autistic Savants can sometimes be an exception - Kevin Peet being an example. He is a genius at maths, but he doesn't think numbers. Instead he sees colours, and those colours coalesce and intermingle to give him the answers to incredibly complex maths in an extraordinarily short time.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language is a straight-jacket for thought. That could indeed be true. Many times, our thoughts or communications with others are stifled because we can't put our thoughts into words. Misunderstandings are commonplace. How much better would communication be if we could send pictures & emotions to others instead of having to use words?


I am not convinced that thought and language go so much together as you described.
For instance let's take the case of the "wild child" (I mean a child left alone after he was born and grew in the forest with animals). Would you say that this boy has just animal instinct and not thought at all because he has no language?
In my opinion it is not the case.

Even if the extreme case that you would be born alone on this planet (and then with no language at all, not even sign or body language needed because no communication needed) you would have thoughts IMHO.

Yes, you would have thoughts, but what would you "think" them with?

Actually, that gives rise to another thought : If you were born deaf and dumb and blind (so that you wouldn't be able to hear, speak and see language) would you be able to learn a language, and have your own thoughts?
ocalhoun
saratdear wrote:


Actually, that gives rise to another thought : If you were born deaf and dumb and blind (so that you wouldn't be able to hear, speak and see language) would you be able to learn a language, and have your own thoughts?

It has been done. But even without any language, you would still have thoughts. A thought could be considered connecting two (or more) different concepts, either by simple association, some action (another concept), or a more arcane relationship. Words are a convenient way to represent these different concepts, but they are not required; you can think of them by thinking of whatever sensory input you recognize them by.
mk12327
I noticed that most of the posts have a wrong opinion of "language". "Language" is a medium for communication, and it can take any form. As long as e same thing can convey the same message, it can be considered a form of language.

If you realised, facial and tone in voices can be a form of language too... For example, when someone uses a sacrastic tone to say something, we know that the message they try to come across is in fact the opposite. Likewise, if your colleague got asked into your boss office and you see that the boss looks fierce and angry, you'll most likely interpret that your boss scolded your colleague (for a mistake he/she made?).

Animals are better readers of facial and tonal expressions than humans. This can especially be seen in pets. When you are sad, they could see it through your facial expressions and come and cuddle with you. And when you shout it your dog for biting your favourite shoe, despite the fact that it doesn't understand "stupid dog, why did you bite my favourite shoe", it knows that it did something wrong. Humans, like us probably are good readers of such "language" before we knew written and verbal language. But now that we are too much into written and verbal language, we seemed to lose our observational power to notice facial and tonal expressions of language...
Bannik
we have always had a language in one form or another for all we know "UG UG" could have meant "food food".

thats all they needed
example

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirah%C3%A3_people

the piraha people use whistling as a form of language and thier language can be considered the most simple or basic language

so what i am saying is that we could always talk and communicate, not like children but really communicate, we were still dumb as a brick but i am sure we had ways to communicate
DoctorBeaver
Bikerman wrote:
Doc,
why did you post that twice - once with quotes and one without?
As the resident 'plagiarism checker' I'm pretty sure that your original posting was original....


Sorry. I meant to do an edit but clicked quote instead. I can't see how to delete it
DoctorBeaver
fx-trading-education - no, I am not saying a "wild child" would not have any thoughts. But monkeys & apes (early man included) are social creatures. They live and develop in groups. To find an isolated individual is a rarity and its development would not conform to the norm.
Chinmoy
you do not really need a language to think..try thinking by instances or by reflection...dont bind ur thinking to a language. You lose the flavour of thinking!Thinking is supposed to be free and open..
speeDemon
All animals had the same kindda thinking............ atleast in those times..........

All they thought of was instances, images, sounds, series of events, etc..

for example:

In case they had to think that : "I should'nt eat that fruit, last time I did so, it made me vomit"
They'll just look at the fruit, and throw it out of there grain basket or whatever!!

Sounds may signal being attacked, coming of the rain, blah blah..

Series of events such as...... hmm..... a volcano errupted (making a lot of sound), then the hot magma ran down the slopes, and fire balls fell everywhere....... they might remember such things and then whenever the sound of the volcano errupting comes again, they'll run!!

well, its a theory alright!
ocalhoun
speeDemon wrote:
All animals had the same kindda thinking............ atleast in those times..........

All they thought of was instances, images, sounds, series of events, etc..

for example:

In case they had to think that : "I should'nt eat that fruit, last time I did so, it made me vomit"
They'll just look at the fruit, and throw it out of there grain basket or whatever!!

Sounds may signal being attacked, coming of the rain, blah blah..

Series of events such as...... hmm..... a volcano errupted (making a lot of sound), then the hot magma ran down the slopes, and fire balls fell everywhere....... they might remember such things and then whenever the sound of the volcano errupting comes again, they'll run!!

well, its a theory alright!

So, thinking by sensory associations?
That would explain a lot (though not all) of it.
MiCKi
and
what did the man do before language think?
speeDemon
ocalhoun wrote:
speeDemon wrote:
All animals had the same kindda thinking............ atleast in those times..........

All they thought of was instances, images, sounds, series of events, etc..

for example:

In case they had to think that : "I should'nt eat that fruit, last time I did so, it made me vomit"
They'll just look at the fruit, and throw it out of there grain basket or whatever!!

Sounds may signal being attacked, coming of the rain, blah blah..

Series of events such as...... hmm..... a volcano errupted (making a lot of sound), then the hot magma ran down the slopes, and fire balls fell everywhere....... they might remember such things and then whenever the sound of the volcano errupting comes again, they'll run!!

well, its a theory alright!

So, thinking by sensory associations?
That would explain a lot (though not all) of it.


Ofcourse it would!
but well that is just an amature theory of mine, go on and expand it if you like!
deanhills
I think language came with education, and education was only possible when all the basic needs of man were met, i.e. need for food, shelter, safety, etc.

So I would imagine that at the time of no language our ancestors were pretty much be uneducated and fighting for survival for meeting their basic needs. Think the first thing that would appear in the eye of the mind in the morning when they woke up would be a picture of food. Perhaps chasing an antelope, or chewing on a bone, or some dried meat. At the same time pictures of and sounds that would reassure him/her of safety. Ears would be twitching. But yes, I would imagine that everything would be in pictures and instincts of self-preservation. Maybe those instincts would be even better developed than that of animals.
Bluedoll
What an interesting thought. What would we do without language? Are we talking about the local beer drinking guys at the hockey game?

It is relative to the species but if you are a village idiot then not much is going on in there regardless of language. However, assuming that a reasonable amount of thought exists in a man’s brain to begin with but he does not have a practical language then the question could be, does that impair the thought process?

All jokes aside it might in fact even make things clearer, less clutter.

I say men can think without language although good language is better.

Say we have a man that spots this really nice place for castle but requires moving some very huge rocks to make that happen. There is not a machine, tools or a computer available but with a series of picture drawings it might be possible to make a plan. He would be able to show other people how to make a very cool method of wooden cribbing to actually move the rocks by under digging, sliding and raising slowly by balanced counter weights without the need of language nor high tech machinery.

How would he think this through? Pictures. However after a while with this kind of reasoning going on simple sounds could also translate into more complex meanings. In fact, the study of early languages show us certainly how one word took on more weight than what we have currently in our language data base.

In our modern times, people with disabilities which do not allow them to communicate verbally, can sign. If we look at the act of signing not all communication is spelling out a word but movements that depict action.

If we could accelerate a rocket ship at or past 1g (limited by the what the human body could endure) which would require an inexhaustible amount of fuel, the spaceship would reach a very extreme speed. Even after several months, years, even decades our astronauts on board would not even get out of our galaxy the milky way. Considering, that there are over billions of galaxies like ours, it is save to say that the universe is pretty big. How could we express that thought in a simple sound?

Awe

See up awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Supercalistespicallyespadocious?
ocalhoun
Another question...
Is there such a thing as 'man before language?'
It may depend on your definition of 'man'... if we use a strict definition, then it very well might be that the first thing we would call 'man' already had a language from its ancestors. Apes, even 'lower' animals all have languages of sorts. But, supposing we use a loose definition that includes all the evolutionary steps towards being human...
I would guess that thought and language developed together, at the same time: that every time our ancestors had a new kind of thought, they immediately developed a 'word' for it.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
Another question...
Is there such a thing as 'man before language?'
It may depend on your definition of 'man'... if we use a strict definition, then it very well might be that the first thing we would call 'man' already had a language from its ancestors. Apes, even 'lower' animals all have languages of sorts. But, supposing we use a loose definition that includes all the evolutionary steps towards being human...
I would guess that thought and language developed together, at the same time: that every time our ancestors had a new kind of thought, they immediately developed a 'word' for it.

Good point ... so at the time when man was making grunts only, then the thought processes would have been on the same level. It was not thinking really. Then as the grunts grew into language, thinking started and developed accordingly. Makes sense.

I was thinking about the chimpanzee as well and what its thoughts would have been if it had been taken raw and before people would start to work with it. Maybe that would be a good simulation of starting with grunts only, and then evolving in tandem with its thinking.
manlear
DoctorBeaver wrote:
We also have to be careful to differentiate between thought and instinct.

Before language, man would still have felt the need for food. He wouldn't have had a word for it, he would have just feel it. He would also have known that that particular feeling meant he must find food. Again, he wouldn't have thought the words "find food", he would just have known instinctively what to do.

Now, what happened in a group of prehistoric people if 1 of them was injured and felt hungry? He may not have been able to go find food for himself. Somehow he had to let the others in the group know. Sign language was the answer. He possibly pointed to his mouth, rubbed his tummy, made eating movements with his jaw, or whatever. There would still be no words, no verbal language - but sign language is a language nonetheless.

But surely, by the time man reached that stage, he would be thinking - although without words - that he had to inform the others he needed food. That thought surely must have preceded the concept of making signs to convey his need.

Thought is not much use without language, and language is not much use without thought. So, it seems to me that thinking and language probably developed in tandem as a response to the need to communicate with other members of the group.

Commonly, modern man thinks in language (according to such as Chomsky) not pictures; although this is not always the case. Autistic Savants can sometimes be an exception - Kevin Peet being an example. He is a genius at maths, but he doesn't think numbers. Instead he sees colours, and those colours coalesce and intermingle to give him the answers to incredibly complex maths in an extraordinarily short time.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language is a straight-jacket for thought. That could indeed be true. Many times, our thoughts or communications with others are stifled because we can't put our thoughts into words. Misunderstandings are commonplace. How much better would communication be if we could send pictures & emotions to others instead of having to use words?



I agree, it is instinct. Not exactly thought
manlear
DoctorBeaver wrote:
We also have to be careful to differentiate between thought and instinct.

Before language, man would still have felt the need for food. He wouldn't have had a word for it, he would have just feel it. He would also have known that that particular feeling meant he must find food. Again, he wouldn't have thought the words "find food", he would just have known instinctively what to do.

Now, what happened in a group of prehistoric people if 1 of them was injured and felt hungry? He may not have been able to go find food for himself. Somehow he had to let the others in the group know. Sign language was the answer. He possibly pointed to his mouth, rubbed his tummy, made eating movements with his jaw, or whatever. There would still be no words, no verbal language - but sign language is a language nonetheless.

But surely, by the time man reached that stage, he would be thinking - although without words - that he had to inform the others he needed food. That thought surely must have preceded the concept of making signs to convey his need.

Thought is not much use without language, and language is not much use without thought. So, it seems to me that thinking and language probably developed in tandem as a response to the need to communicate with other members of the group.

Commonly, modern man thinks in language (according to such as Chomsky) not pictures; although this is not always the case. Autistic Savants can sometimes be an exception - Kevin Peet being an example. He is a genius at maths, but he doesn't think numbers. Instead he sees colours, and those colours coalesce and intermingle to give him the answers to incredibly complex maths in an extraordinarily short time.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language is a straight-jacket for thought. That could indeed be true. Many times, our thoughts or communications with others are stifled because we can't put our thoughts into words. Misunderstandings are commonplace. How much better would communication be if we could send pictures & emotions to others instead of having to use words?



I agree, it is instinct. Not exactly thought
Arseniy
I think they've thought with mixture of associations, colours, sounds, feelings etc. That were their imaginations of the world around them as they see it. And yes, that way of thinking is very similar to the way the children think.
Dark_Jedi06
Even with language, not all people think in terms of sentences or having "brain conversations". There are many anecdotes out there of people who think in colors, for example. My guess is that early man, as well as many animals, think with images. Recalling places they've seen or been. In the case of early man, he didn't have to say to himself "I'm going to go to that tree with all the fruit on it", instead he could simply recall what the tree looked like and go there, making decisions doesn't require spelling them out to yourself.

Or maybe he just thought in terms of grunts.

I'm not a scientist however, so this is strictly conjecture. Razz
Fake
question had the potential ..but it has been answered
We think with our mind, and then we put pictures together
guissmo
I observe deaf people and they just don't communicate through sign language with their hands, but rather with facial expressions and stuff. Maybe that's a good way to communicate and a more colorful way at that.
Afaceinthematrix
guissmo wrote:
I observe deaf people and they just don't communicate through sign language with their hands, but rather with facial expressions and stuff. Maybe that's a good way to communicate and a more colorful way at that.


But language isn't just audio... It can also include signs and words... Not all language is strictly oral (although many are/were)...
Dennise
The answer can be seen on cave walls and on rocks ...... symbols that represent images in the drawing person's mind. Over time, these symbols evolved into words.
ocalhoun
Dennise wrote:
The answer can be seen on cave walls and on rocks ...... symbols that represent images in the drawing person's mind. Over time, these symbols evolved into words.

Or did the words evolve into symbols?

We don't know if the ancient cave-painters had a spoken language or not.

(Though I would guess that since they were smart enough to symbolize things in pictures, they were also smart enough to symbolize things with words (sounds).)
shaggyfahad
language comes from thinking, thinking does not come from language. So you actually don't need language while you are thinking, you need language when you are ready to express your thinking in written, verbal or symbolic mode.
Bikerman
You sound very sure about that.
So, how do you manipulate the abstractions in order to 'think'? Example - I want to 'think' about planning a trip out to the seaside. I need to plan who and what to take. How do I manipulate the ideas of those people and things without using some form of language? How does my brain decide what I can fit in the boot, without me using some sort of symbolic reasoning to 'imagine' the scene?
Is my brain doing this in a completely abstract manner - just crunching numbers? That seems hard to believe - I'm certainly not aware of doing that, and I am aware of thinking of particular individuals and things...But even if it was, then numbers are a language too, aren't they?
A language is just a way to put a general label on things so that we can all agree what they are and we can echange more information about them. So we agree that 'TV' is an electronic device to receive 'moving picture' broadcasts, for entertainment. Can you think about a television without using some sort of symbol or word to represent it?

Just something to think about Smile
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
How does my brain decide what I can fit in the boot, without me using some sort of symbolic reasoning to 'imagine' the scene?

Imagining the scene is essential in that case, but language is not.

Odd, you seem to have provided a perfect example of a thinking problem that doesn't require language... nor is it even particularly helped by the use of language.


Or are we considering symbolic representation and language to be equivalent now?
stressball
like how i am doing now. think with my the other head
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
How does my brain decide what I can fit in the boot, without me using some sort of symbolic reasoning to 'imagine' the scene?

Imagining the scene is essential in that case, but language is not.

Odd, you seem to have provided a perfect example of a thinking problem that doesn't require language... nor is it even particularly helped by the use of language.


Or are we considering symbolic representation and language to be equivalent now?
More or less, yes. I would say that language is a subset of symbolic representation - one that has some general acceptance in terms of both rules and concepts.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
More or less, yes. I would say that language is a subset of symbolic representation - one that has some general acceptance in terms of both rules and concepts.

Therefore, you should be able to use symbolic representation without using that particular subset of it...
Also known as, thinking without using language.
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
More or less, yes. I would say that language is a subset of symbolic representation - one that has some general acceptance in terms of both rules and concepts.

Therefore, you should be able to use symbolic representation without using that particular subset of it...
Also known as, thinking without using language.

Why does that follow? What you would have would be a language, just not one which was universally (or even commonly) understood. Any symbolic representation is a language to some extent.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
More or less, yes. I would say that language is a subset of symbolic representation - one that has some general acceptance in terms of both rules and concepts.

Therefore, you should be able to use symbolic representation without using that particular subset of it...
Also known as, thinking without using language.

Why does that follow? What you would have would be a language, just not one which was universally (or even commonly) understood. Any symbolic representation is a language to some extent.

So,
A: language is a subset of symbolic representation
B: All symbolic representation is a language
Therefore,
C: ?
Bikerman
Language (as in a usable human language) is a subset of all possible symbolic languages which is popular enough to survive and useful enough to justify continued use.
Sign language, Chinese, Egyptian heiroglyphs, Sumerian Cuniform, Indian Sanskrit - they are all very different but, at the same time, share a meta-grammar which means that children can learn them (obviously vital).
lovescience
They probably do instead of speak most of the time.

They may do imitation around their surrounding for reason or enjoyment. Therefore, they may imitate sound around them to make music or for any purpose, like scaring other animals.

When the sound has its purpose, and is used from one people to another, it starts to become a word.

If you make a sound that has one purpose after another sound that has another purpose, you are trying to make a language.

When people have need and desire to make a language, brain is building up new frontier. Like we know brain has a region for language, the brain cell is continuously developing connection.
ocalhoun
Quote:

language is a subset of symbolic representation
Any symbolic representation is a language

I'm just trying to figure out the Boolean logic of what you're saying here...

A = language
B = symbolic representation

A is a subset of B. (ie. All A is B)
Any B is A. (ie. All B is A)

The only way both of these could be true is if they are both different names for an identical set...
But even then, what's the point of defining which is the subset of which?


...


And I think I'd go for a stricter definition of 'language'... One that included a stipulation that the specific form of symbolic representation must be able to be used to communicate information from one entity to another.
Ankhanu
It seems there are two functioning definitions of "language" being used at once;
1) language as words
2) language as a means of communicating concepts

The logic follows:
language (1) is a subset of symbolic representation
Any symbolic representation is a language (2)
Bikerman
Hmm, not sure about that. How does 'body language' fit into symbolism? Gesture, yes, but I think that 'symbolic' is too strong...
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
Hmm, not sure about that. How does 'body language' fit into symbolism? Gesture, yes, but I think that 'symbolic' is too strong...

Wait... so now there's some A that is not B?
*my head asplode*
Can we clear up one apparent contradiction before making another, please?
therimalaya
I think language and thinking are independent. Thinking is the process that is highly influenced by what perceived. Human still have instinct and they can understand the language of Nature although they don't have any language which we use today. Nature also have some kind of signal, gesture and language which can be understand by other things. This is just like the communication between the soul.

These are my very personal belief, I am a bit influenced by the a Novel "The Alchemist" of a Brazilian Novelist "Paulo Coelho".
pamsingh
Might be they don't need to express by words, just on situation they react...and that reaction causes them to speak or make sound its simple when a dog is speaking something we say it barking where as tht's there way of expressing same when a human being speak animal will not understand that, only humans will.
emanuel2
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
How do infants think before they learn a language? My guess would be that if you don't think in a language, you can probably think with images, experience, and instincts. Those don't require any language.

i also think that it is they would think in the same way as infants would. So I also would guess that they would mainly think in pictures and dream like happenings/experience.
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Hmm, not sure about that. How does 'body language' fit into symbolism? Gesture, yes, but I think that 'symbolic' is too strong...

Wait... so now there's some A that is not B?
*my head asplode*
Can we clear up one apparent contradiction before making another, please?

LOL...I'm just trying to do exactly that.
Certainly I stick to the observations I made about 'national' languages (spoken or written), but I'm simply not sure whether body language also has a universal 'meta' syntax in the same way. I do know that nodding and shaking the head are not 'universals' for yes and no, sticking a tongue out is not universally seen as an insult, and showing the underside of the foot is a deep taboo in some parts.
These are all gestural, to be sure. But to really throw things - I can communicate with my wife without any apparent gestures or sounds, simply because we know each other well enough to be able to interpret certain behaviours, or absence of them, as having a particular meaning. I suspect the same is true of any couple who have lived together for a long time. There is no overt exchange of sound or gesture, but information certainly flows.....
Daja
Have you ever felt like you knew the answer, but you couldn't find the words to explain/describe it? Or a feeling which you couldn't express? Well It's basically the same thing, the thought comes first, the brain processes it and then finds the words to spell it. Without language though we can't 'categorize' them.

You don't know how it'd be like because you've used verbal language your entire life, but it's actually quite simple. Now communicating with other people is a completely different topic.
fouadCh
saratdear wrote:
Before language was invented, how did human beings even think? For example, even if you are dumb, you can have thoughts like "I am going to do so and so today", but before language was invented, he cannot do even that, because words such as 'I', 'doing' etc., didn't exist. As far as I can think, 'thinking' as we does today didn't exist for him/her.
As far as I know, you can't think without using a language... In other words, your question is flawed... Homo sapiens sapiens was able to think because he acquired the ability to use a language ..
Now the really interesting question (at least in my opinion), that you seem to take for granted, is how he acquired it ?.. Because that's what gave him an edge on all the other species of the Homo genus, among them the Neanderthals... Besides been the vehicle of his cultural development ..

saratdear wrote:
The only possible explanation I can think is that they have instinctive thoughts like 'danger', 'pleasure' etc. without being to express what it is. (Like animals do... they do not have the gift of gab but they still get along, right?)
Sorry, but as far as I know, there is no such thing as "instinctive thoughts"... and what you're describing is nothing but basic reflexes of fight/flight and other sensory inputs.. that exists in all animal species...
Ankhanu
It seems to me that it would be the other way around, thought, and abstract thought would have to be in place in order to develop language.
Ankhanu
Davolutiion wrote:
i think he think with images..

That's my hypothesis as well.
firstroad
i am thinking of two ways...
the first one is that we couldn't think but we had our instincts like most animals do

the other one is that we had a language... but it was gouf mieaw etc...
zaxacongrejo
gestures and sounds that lead to a language
Ankhanu
zaxacongrejo wrote:
gestures and sounds that lead to a language

That's not thought, though, is it? That's the outward manifestation of communication, not the internal thought process.
jajarvin
When I could not speak, I thought, without the help of spoken language. Now that I can speak, my thinking is built on the language I use. As simple as that is my thinking.
LxGoodies
OP wrote:
Before language was invented, how did human beings even think?

My two cents on the subject Cool

Language itself could be fully hard-wired, no need for thinking.. ref Chomsky and strict rules,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generative_grammar

In this perspective, language is just a tool that humans (more general: higher life forms) have developed genetically, to express themselves. It is all means of (oral or non-oral) communication.

Suppose language serves communication. Does thinking require language ?

I don't suppose so. When thinking, communication is not needed at first. When a thought is still internal, or dream: it is just conceived, not structured (yet). It is an impression, not a finished concept (yet). As long as it remains incidental, not remembered or shared in any way, no language will be needed. As soon as a thought has to be reminded, or expressed to others, language is needed to "frame" or "describe" it.

Lx
tW_Studios
I believe they think with what is provided to them like sounds, images, feelings, emotions, smells. They still should need some point of reference, for us it's language, for them it might be other senses.
capricornis
Thinking does not necessarily imply using a 'language'. Languages change, even during the lifetime of an individual. One can have french as a first language, but then use english as their primary language most of their lives. In these cases one changes from thinking in french to thinking in english eventually. However, language itself is not necessary in order for one to have organized thoughts.

Thoughts can be purely sensory. Helen Keller put it best, IMHO, when she said (paraphrasing) that before she learned a language she was like a clump of earth, able to feel but unable to express those feelings or relate them to the future or the past. This is much of how animals exist, unable to conceptualize past and future, but always living within the NOW of their instincts and needs.
codegeek
I think language is just a symbolic representation of the things we perceive through our senses. Hence, even in the absence of language, a person can indeed have meaningful thoughts.

Let us take the example of someone who is born deaf. Obviously, he/she cannot perceive sound the way we perceive it. So, how would that person think of the various things around himself/herself? Obviously, such a person must think in images rather than sound. One could argue that there are schools which teach deaf people and these schools have special methods of communicating information to them, but before language was invented there was no such method even for the regular people.

Well, although that is true, the point is that language just points to various objects, and even in the absence of language those objects and images do exist and they are the building blocks of thought. One interesting thing to consider is what people who are blind as well as deaf from birth think about.
richandmaninder
Depends how narrow you define language. Animals can plan and communicate with a look e.g. hunting packs
Agil1ty
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
How do infants think before they learn a language? My guess would be that if you don't think in a language, you can probably think with images, experience, and instincts. Those don't require any language.


You think in what you experience, I believe words are added later
Blummer
It was something I've always thought about. And I wonder whether a need to express one's thoughts was the reason for inventing a language, or were there any other reasons...sounds a bit childish and silly, but this is what normally comes to my mind when I spend all day without any verbal activities.
tonberry
Blummer wrote:
It was something I've always thought about. And I wonder whether a need to express one's thoughts was the reason for inventing a language, or were there any other reasons...sounds a bit childish and silly, but this is what normally comes to my mind when I spend all day without any verbal activities.


Why childish and silly? Those are very interesting questions that intelligent and positively curious people ask. Nothing wrong with that Smile

That kind of question you'd have to ask evolutionary biologists because this subject falls into their domain of knowledge. Maybe cooperation? Or maybe sophistication?

As us humans got into larger societies, needs for advanced social constructs emerged and people got into closer proximity to other humans (including complete strangers) than ever before so as that contact grew, so had the language.

In order to dominate this planet (like we do now), we had to have advantage over competitive species to "take over" - we were more intelligent, able to use tools effectively etc. but in order to coordinate hunting better etc. advanced language was also the tool that could make it happen.

I don't think the need to express one's thoughts had anything to do with that though. The clarity of language probably reflects the clarity of the thinking and processing information most of the time so no gap to fill, no disproportion.
Insanity
I think some language is indeed hard coded into our brain before we learn actual language. It may not be language that we udnerstand as language today, but it would make sense to us in our minds.
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