TED Conversations

Gisela Giardino

Communication Designer, Photographer


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Is Language a) the defining framework, b) a bulk of building blocks, c) a function, d) all A,B,C... of higher cognition (> thinking)?

This question has advocates of each answer in all fronts. I wonder what do you think about it. Any further explanation to the question, please let me know. I look forward to replies from just "A", "B", "C"..., like a short multiple choice answer, to a full comprehensive and creative answers... and to why not, replies with more questions to feed the conversation! Thank you!


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    Mar 22 2011: Can you have a thought without language? Quite likely, language is an access and a fundamental precondition for thinking (higher cognition) to occur. But to answer your question, I think it depends whether "language" is referring to a collection of words, grammar, syntax, etc. (e.g. English, Mandarin, etc.), or it is referring to the phenomenon that someone eventually "gets" as language in the way that someone "gets" balance when they are trying to learn to ride a bicycle (and then once they have gotten language at that level, then they have specific languages that they learn - including linguistic languages and non-linguistic languages). When I try to answer the question, I think about something that has fascinated me for years.... that many multilingual people report that there are things they can think in one language but that they find very hard to think about in another language - or at least they have to initiate the thinking in one language in order to begin thinking about it in another. I've worked with people who cannot think of a solution to the challenge in front of them in one language, but when they talk to someone in another language, all of a sudden they have a solution, or at least a new pathway to the solution. Does that make the answer to your question a, b, c, or d?

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