Language and Thought

January 15, 2008
By Nick Sohutskay, Solon, OH

My cousin Maria is just learning to speak (she is just barely two). I recently had a conversation with her while visiting my out-of-state relatives. You know: the “what does such and such animal say?” type conversation. Before I went to sleep that night, I reflected on the day’s events. And suddenly, I realized something. Maria’s growing grasp of the English language is a testament to me of how language ties in with thought. Finally, she can express her own thoughts in such a way that an observer can understand, analyze, and provide his or her own feedback and input. That is what a conversation is, a simple sharing of thoughts. It is also interesting to note the way that children learn to speak. There are no rigorous school exercises, no formal instruction. At the very beginning, there is only a desire to make tangible one’s thoughts, and to be able to receive others, in turn. His conversation with my cousin really illustrated a point, that language is simple thought in a more substantial form, thought with weight, and not just airy brain waves, which are content to sit only in one’s mind. No, thought is the ability to take a brain wave and make it into a sound wave, to send it to another person, so that they might appreciate it themselves. Yes, language affects thought, and thought affects languages, but the truth is far deeper than that. In reality, language and thought are the same thing, the subtle workings of the human mind. My conversation with my cousin made me realize that she didn’t need to be taught to speak. She simply needed the desire to express her thoughts, people willing to express their own, and the ability to listen.

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